A collection of science.., p.1
A Collection of Science Fiction Gems, page 1
A Collection of Science Fiction Gems
A Collection of Science Fiction Gems
David K Scholes
Copyright © 2016 David K Scholes
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: 9781541104310
Table of Contents
Virtual Reality Traveller
The Change Field
All in a day’s work
Ground Team Report
The Shooting Gallery
The Real Dream World
Multiverse Jumper Unit
(Not so) Brave New World
Dumbed Down World
The most powerful man on Earth is an alien (aka Alien Equalizer)
Help from another Dimension
Return of the Benefactor
Virtual Reality Traveller
“It doesn’t actually take you to other worlds, dimensions, or realities,” he warned us. “It just provides a virtual trip to places of your choosing. Unless of course you press this big yellow button here. Then you actually get transported to the place you are only visiting virtually.”
With that the salesman pointed to a bright yellow old fashioned style button. It looked out of place among the otherwise sophisticated instrumentation. It was well contained inside a formidable looking metal grid. Also there was a “press only in an emergency” sign near it.
“If you press the yellow button then the company disclaims any and all liability for the consequences,” said the salesman.
“Why do you even have the button there then,” enquired Joy.
“If something should go wrong in the virtual reality travel and you should inadvertently end up on another world it might get you back here. You get Earth back on a virtual reality visit then pressing the yellow button should get you back here. No guarantees of course,” he smiled.
I wondered if they were actually daring us to press the yellow button. If we virtually experienced a world we really liked and might be tempted to actually go there. Even stay there.
Joy and I took a step or two backwards and took in the whole virtual reality traveller.
It was big compared to most virtual reality machines. A metalloid matrix inside a scarcely visible sheath of energy. A large robotic shape overall. Inside the metalloid matrix there was a comfortable amount of room and provisions for two people for a while. Hard to say exactly how long.
“It looks more like a late model battle droid. Such as the type used in the Dleene wars,” observed Joy. I nodded realising I knew there was something familiar about the thing.
“Well, if we accidentally end up in some god forsaken place and the yellow button doesn’t work I guess we could do worse than be piloting something that at least looks like a Dleene war battle droid,” I laughed though not very convincingly.
“Of course you can go virtually anywhere in this, virtually,” the salesman said. “To any of the worlds, dimensions, or realities charted by Earth or its allies.”
“Which allies?” asked Joy.
“All of them,” responded the salesman “including the Dleene,” he turned somewhat furtively to see Joy’s reaction.
“Ooohh!” was all she could say. We both knew the Dleene and some others of our allies would have charted many more worlds than Earth ever had. It was beginning to look like we could go almost anywhere. Or at least an awful lot of places.
“I think we’d like to have a trial run,” I replied. “Virtually speaking,” I added chuckling inwardly. My attempt at humour eliciting no discernible reaction from the salesman.
Joy and I had ourselves a wild ride. Without even leaving Earth. All were virtual reality visits and yet it all seemed so real. As if we were actually there. We lost all sense of time, as we moved from world to world, and could have been at it for hours or even days.
Finally though we ended up, virtually, in a world deep in the Dleene Empire which proved to be not quite as inviting as we had expected. In fact the place was downright grim. Like something plucked right out of the Dleene wars.
“This is as good a time as any to end the virtual reality travel,” I said to Joy shuddering a little. We went to step outside of the virtual reality traveller expecting to see the salesman but initially we were not able to. Then when we finally could leave the traveller it was obvious that we were actually on the forbidding Dleene world. In the flesh not merely in virtual reality. “Time to find out if the yellow button works,” I said. “This is an emergency.” We dialled up Earth as a virtual reality destination and it came up all right. Then I pressed the yellow button and absolutely nothing happened. I pressed it again then really hit the thing with the same result. We could visit Earth virtually but physically we were still stuck on the Dleene world. Desperately I hit the yellow button time and again without result. It wasn’t taking us physically to Earth.
“I knew the damned thing would never work,” I yelled “it’s probably just a dummy switch or something. Well let’s hope this virtual reality traveller really does also double as a battle droid because from the look of what’s up ahead I think we are going to need it!”
“I thought the damn war was over,” replied Joy starting to tremble.
“That couple’s virtual reality traveller disappeared,” said the sales assistant. “I guess something took their curiosity and they couldn’t resist hitting the yellow button then?”
“No, I don’t believe so,” replied the salesman. “I think there was one of those occasional accidents. The computer shows it was a Dleene world they were visiting virtually when the accident happened.”
“What do you mean?” stammered the sales assistant.
“You know exactly what I mean,” responded the salesman.
One month later the virtual reality traveller that looked a lot like a late model battle droid was back parked in the lot. With much of the metalloid matrix damaged and the energy sheath long since gone. More than a little the worse for wear and with no human occupants. The separate fail safe mechanism (if the yellow button didn’t work) that always eventually, with the emphasis on eventually, returned them to Earth had finally cut in.
“You, uhh, you did tell them about the fail safe? Didn’t you?” enquired the sales assistant.
“I forgot,” replied the salesman apologetically “and I never thought they’d need to know. I mean how often does that actually happen?”
“We could contact the Dleene,” offered the assistant ‘just to let them know what happened.”
“Over just two of us mere Earthers? Not likely,” replied the salesman. “When they first disappeared I wiped clean any records that the couple ever came to our display rooms. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“He’s on the Universe list,” said the enigmatic entity.
“My son only lived for 2 days,” I replied astonished. “Though he survived my wife who died soon after giving birth to him.”
I thought briefly of some of the ramifications of this revelation.
Then the entity showed me the surprisingly detailed 3D entry for my son. Billions had read it already. As I read the tribute to one who had lived such a short time a growing inner warmth helped reduce my pain.
There was a two dimensional footnote to my son’s entry. I thought I understood it but the implications barely seemed possible. I saw that my wife’s entry on the Universe list had a foot note also. Though quickly scanning some other entries I saw that most did not contain footnotes.
“Have I understood the footnote correctly?” I enquired of the near omnipotent entity.
“Yes,” he said “in another reality your son is alive and well.”
“Can I see him?” I asked trembling and realising I had asked the unaskable.
For an entity whose mind was as powerful as his the Coordinator of Realities took a while to reply.
“You may view him from here, from this reality,” he said. “Not any time you like, just a single viewing now.”
I viewed a small boy who was in every way identical to what my son would have looked like were he still alive. A boy who in my mind was and at the same time was not my son. The boy was alone playing quietly. He looked just a little sad.
“Where is his Dad? Where am I in that reality?” something had prompted the question a sense that something wasn’t quite right there.
”Dead,” said the Coordinator bluntly.
“Can I go and be with him?” again I asked the unaskable “and be his father in that reality?” I just blurted it out. Until now I had considered alternate realities to be only a theoretical concept.
“We were hoping you might ask that question,” replied the Coordinator.
“We?” I asked
The Coordinator of All Realities smiled.
“Didn’t I mention it? The boy’s mother, your wife is still alive in that reality.”
“How soon can we leave?” I asked.
I day dream a lot. This can lead to some good ideas but mostly it leads to a load of old rubbish. At least that’s what I used to think.
We didn’t know about the telepathic net back then.
I got wind that something was up when I received my first ever Universe Credits. Credited to my nominal account at the Bank of Earth. By an organisation called Galactic Ideas with a motto “you think them up – we transform them into something practical.” There was a short note accompanying the credit transaction to say they had made use of my idea for real people to slowly emerge as flesh and blood from their holograms rather than just teleport in. It seemed that it made for a more dramatic entrance. They mentioned that I’d been granted a limited short term patent for the idea.
I made a note to follow up on exactly who Galactic Ideas were and exactly what they had done with my idea. That was before the Universe Credits started rolling in.
Suddenly there were all sorts of Universe Credit payments being made into my account from all sorts of organisations.
“The whole thing seems to be getting out of control,” I said to a forensic accountant friend of mine Lennox who specialised in off world business. “That’s why I want you to look into as many of these organisations as you can.”
Funny thing was our poor backward old Earth and its inhabitants seemed to be full of “convertible” ideas that were being picked up by legal and not so legal entities all over the Galaxy and beyond using the telepathic net. This plethora of useful ideas ended up elevating our status as a world slightly just as it increased the net worth of some of our inhabitants. Myself among them.
“Many of these organisations that paid you are genuine legal entities,” advised Lennox. “What you may not like,” he continued “is what has resulted from the practical application of some of your ideas. Several of them have had rather nasty military applications among other things.”
I was not happy with that at all. I mean I was comfortable with some daydreaming of mine being picked up via the telepathic net, turned into a useful application by someone and earning me money. However the thought that there might be aliens, a lot of aliens even, being killed because of some fanciful ideas of mine was, well, horrifying. I mean what could I do about? Stop thinking altogether? What about my dreams and nightmares. I assumed they too were all picked up on the telepathic net.
“You do know don’t you, where most of the ideas are coming from here on Earth at least,” asked my friend. “From your lot, you science fiction writers mainly,” he continued confirming some suspicions I’d had.
“Someone’s making a lot of money out of your ideas and those of certain other Earthers as well,” said Lennox. “I mean I suppose you only provided the ideas and they did all the work to convert them.”
“Supplied unknowingly, unwittingly and without my agreement,” I interrupted.
“I rather suspect that your acceptance of all those Universe Credits deposited in your account will be taken as some form of agreement on your part,” replied Lennox. I sensed a distaste entering his voice.
It turned out that the whole ideas market, Galaxy wide, was becoming highly sophisticated. Even if the ideas from the lesser worlds seemed as though they were being stolen. Galactic laws, regulatory authorities, types of contracts, financial instruments were all in the process of being established.
Still in the end, all of that, all the money I’d earned, all the money other Earthers had earned, the increased status of our world, it all counted for nothing.
An attack on Earth had begun in a manner that had once seemed impossible and unthinkable even given the much more advanced technologies that we shared the Galaxy with.
“They’ll finish us off in a few days” said Lennox “the idea was picked up on the telepathic net by one of the non legal entities, so that we don’t even know who our attackers are!”
“In any case where on Earth did they get the idea for an attack like that?” he enquired.
“I’m afraid it’s an idea of mine,” I stuttered “in a story that I haven’t yet published!”
“Did you get paid for it?” asked Lennox with a look on his face of utter disgust.
Our pacification mission went well. Casualties were an acceptable 0.1% of the super urban conurbation pop. Through molecular manipulators and re-arrangers we restored about 75% of the overall property damage. Population compliance level was raised to an unheard of 96.3%.
Later our off- world mil-interv ran just as smoothly. Of course neither high casualty rates in the rebellious indigenous population nor extensive property damage were too much of a concern for us.
It was almost too easy, almost!
“You performed well,” said my unit commander a mark 5A droid “courage above and beyond the call of duty and all that.”
“They were only virtual reality simulations,” I tried to hose his excessive yet perceptibly mechanical enthusiasm down a bit.
“Sometimes – when you are in there – it can be hard to tell the difference,” the droid persisted. “You went equally well in the urban pacification scenario and the off world mil-intervention scenario. No, I think my boy that you are ready for the real thing now – for actual combat!”
I bristled even at the thought. “Hey – it was just entertainment for me, admittedly at times some pretty hairy entertainment – but basically an interactive virtual reality game for all of that. That I paid for the privilege of playing too,” I added.
“You turned out to be a lot better than you thought you would be eh?” my interactive virtual reality commander continued. “You do realise anyone scoring higher than 85000 in two combat simulations can be called up involuntarily.”
That was news to me and a puzzled look must have shown on my face.
“Oh!” he replied “perhaps you didn’t read the fine print
I realised then I wasn’t going to be able to get out of it. Curse me for scoring so well in the game. For even entering it.
It was true what my old unit commander, correction interactive virtual reality unit commander, had said. That once you are in there in combat it can be hard to tell the difference between reality and virtual reality. My early real combat missions seemed pretty much like the virtual reality simulations. Relatively easy.
There was the physical toll of course despite all our advanced equipment. Yet the R & R spells helped a lot. Our senior partners in the Galactic commitment, and just about every one was senior to poor old Earth, spared no expense. Healing energy baths, yielding force field type cushion recliners, fantastic levitating wheelless wheelchairs. Wonder drugs to bring us safely down from the wonder drugs we had been fighting on. Other wonder drugs to take us safely back up again.
Still it got harder. A cumulative tiredness that the R & R couldn’t quite overcome. Physically we probably could have gone on longer but the mental weariness got to you.
As Earth’s manpower shortage became ever more serious the authorities, under pressure from above, kept lowering the physical standards and raising the upper age limit for combat recruits.
Our senior partners, the Vrell, the Spleeth, and the Dhleene among them had not been bothered about the price tag. Just as long as Earth did their dirty work for them and their own citizens were spared.
We continue to fight on – the old men and sometimes old women of Earth. Most of us now know that we will not see our home again.
I do not care to think of the consequences for Earth when we can no longer keep up our end of the Galactic commitment.
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