Boola Boola

Lulu
Ninety five.

Harriet
Okay, how many more grids left? And we haven’t covered the north side.

Lulu
I now understand that GIS is really sucky. There’s too much data, and none of it is live. We need access to several satellites and military grade software if we are ever going to get this done in time.

Harriet
Not necessarily. We could use drones and do the physical search that way. I mean, do you know anyone who could lend us a few drones?

Lulu
You mean, my father? If he agrees to lend us drones, which he won’t because this is just a game to promote Luke St James’s new blockbuster movie, how can we use them effectively, if we have only two sets of eyes?

Harriet
I have an idea. Come with me.

:::::::
….. ….. …..
:::::

Harriet
Hello, bitches.

Rori
What up.

Harriet
Drop everything and come with me.

Bart
All of us?

Harriet
Yes, all of you.

Heath
Yes, Princess.

Harriet
I’ll give you a free pass Heath, because you’re seriously into me. And I might throw some at you later.

Bart
What’s this all about?

Harriet
The new interactive game, “Find the Martian Spaceship” with “Find the Martian Boy” for Lamda Six. My darling, St Lucas, apparently came up with the concept himself.

Heath
Bad ass concept. I mean, it’s so simple and so state of the art. It’s got 3D animated aliens and did you see the ship designs? Too cool.

Lulu
Yeah, Icelandic runes were an unexpected artistic touch. I liked how they draw in all the world cultures we normally don’t get to see in movies.

Harriet
Guys! I’m in charge of the presentation.

Bart
The Martians’ face tattoos resemble Maori, which is extremely cool in itself.

Rori
Bart and I are playing right now. We’re betting on the North Pole.

Bart
We’re sharing the two hundred thousand dollar grand prize. I mean, Icelandic runes means, Lapland, et cetera. Big clue. Winners!

Josh
I have Nero’s econ mock exam tomorrow.

Heath
Pssht! He’s hot for you. Just do a strip tease to calm him down, and he’ll pass you with flying colours.

Josh
You know, you should really…

Harriet
Is anyone here going to listen to me?

Bart
I’m listening.

Harriet
I was thinking, we pool our human resources and split the prize money equally. Not that this is about money. This is about pride, people. Hansel! Join us.

Hansel
Hiya.

Harriet
I was saying, everyone is playing this new game “Find the Martian Spaceship”. You have heard of it.

Hansel
I have, and so has everyone who’s breathing. I just read that the launch announcement got thirty eight million retweets in the first four hours. The Lamda Six website’s crashed now, by the way. There are mirror sites popping up by the minute. This game is literally breaking the Internet.

Rori
Take that, Kim Kardashian’s butt! Although, physically, it’s like literally looking for a needle in a haystack. I meant the game, not her “asset.”

Harriet
Can I please just get on with my presentation? It is seriously like a preschool in here. As I was saying, luckily, I have a brilliant idea. Lulu and I have been using GIS software we borrowed from the lab to analyse the terrain in specific locations. We haven’t been able to come up with anything because, and this did not occur to us before, but we’re looking at archived images of terrain.

Heath
Right…that makes sense. But we can’t like, use satellites.

Harriet
No. We can use drones. Lulu’s Dad owns the world’s largest drone manufacturing company. She is on the phone with him right now. I don’t know what she’ll say to convince him, but we have to assume that she will get permission. Plus, we’re both geography majors, so it’s like, educational. It’ll be fine.

Hansel
I admire your confidence.

Harriet
Don’t condescend. Alright. Are we all together?

Josh
Isn’t it like, not cost effective to use drones? I mean, they’re expensive and the cost of operating them would be more than the prize money.

Harriet
Get over yourself, Josh. You’re still an under graduate. Who cares about the cost, people? We can’t let the Oxford team steal our glory. I found out this morning that they’re seriously organised. They have taken over a whole dormitory and are using it as a command centre.

Bart
No way!

Harriet
Yes way.

Rori
How do you know that?

Harriet
A certain geography professor has a crush on me from my short summer studies there last year. I think he was trying to impress me. We, on the other hand, are all over the place. Don’t you have any pride in your school? For the next seventeen hours, we will sweat and bleed to win the game. We use our superior assets, which are my brains, and your eyes and forefingers. It’s the perfect combination.

Bart
Yes, Princess. So, how does this work?

Harriet
First, let me explain why satellites won’t work. Remote sensing applications, that is the technical term for how satellites “see” things on the ground, have limitations. These are overpass frequency, timing and clear daytime skies. However, with drones, we can overcome all these limitations. Here’s how we will do that. While Lulu’s getting her Dad’s drones online, we need to become experienced observers. Let’s use the archived images to have an idea of what the terrain looks like normally. Then, we can see immediately what’s different about the location over the time period. We are looking at specific spatial patterns and how they change in time.

Hansel
What you’re saying is that while the Oxford team is wasting time looking at stale footage of the ground, we will be looking at the fresh, raw, real time information?

Harriet
Prexactly.

Hansel
Let me grab my laptop. You guys in?

Josh, Rori, Bart
Hell, yeah!

 

X

The majority of subscribers to this blog are men, so I write under a heavy cloud because I’m not actually talking about them. I’m talking about the types of men that women subscribers are talking about. So, you lovely gentlemen can relax.

I’ve been reading a lot of reflections and conversations around subscribers’ blogs and I realise that many women are on the same page. Instead of being mean spirited or competitive with each other over who can get the best boys, women who have certain relationship issues in common need to participate in more conversations with each other.

You know how you get, when you’re in a relationship and he’s your boyfriend and he’s your prized possession and you have that smug expression on your face? “Poor single women. They’re so sad and they have no sex lives.” They’re camels. I read that last comment somewhere on WordPress. How rude, as if sex were a “must do.” Asexuality is an orientation, too. And so is choice.

What I’m seeing on blogs is the backside of the promised reality. At the reverse of smug, self satisfied expressions, I see that women have been feeding and caring for some lunkheads. Our continued attention to certain personality types has encouraged these men to feel that choosing to be in a relationship with us is the best thing they could ever do to validate us as women. It is within their power to recognise us as desirable creatures. Our infinite patience with their indifference, emotional incontinence and wishy washiness has turned those types of men into rotten little beans.

I still can’t understand dating as a concept. Let me blame it on how I was raised. I’ve always related to men as people and not as a potential someone or other.

My ideal partner would be a culinary artist who is obsessed with making ceramic pots and works as a carpenter in his free time. Or, a surgeon who’s looking into patients’ insides all day and has lectures at mid week and asks me to read his papers before publishing them. Busy with his hands or mind, having real responsibilities. Zero time to muck about. Too tired to wreak havoc in my life.

When I landed on my planet, expatriate women didn’t even have conversations with men. They just had intercourse with any man that looked at them sideways. The expectation was, “I like you and I’m easy, so let’s have sex.” It was a bacchanal. Two expatriates (man and woman) are right now sitting about eight feet away from me. They are talking loudly about “sleeping with people” and awarding points. They must be miserable if they have to talk at that volume in a Starbucks with small children nearby. No decorum. Nothing has changed.

I was scolded by expatriate male colleagues who told me I’m confusing the two things: Sex and love. I’m not confused. You are living with your girlfriend so why are you asking to visit my apartment?

Those free and easy women are now having issues with the men they spoiled. These men are educated, articulate, wealthy and up to ten years older. They’ve never grown up because relationships were never something to work at. A girlfriend was a sex partner with whom he shared a home and a joint bank account. A wife was a long term sex partner, now platonic friend, cook and sock washer that he owed something for her waity perseverance. That something? The Ring.

These words are going to be hard to read, but a ring is not a prize. It’s an accessory. I want women to stop acting like the Ring is the best thing that is ever going to happen to us. We must stop giving control over our circumstances to the promise of the Ring.

I received my first Ring when I was twenty two. I immediately assessed its weight in carats. Didn’t like. I promptly handed it back but took it back again half a second later when I realized that I was going to hurt his feelings. It was a ring after all. Behind my refusal was a very insensitive statement he’d made before we became exclusive. He had hinted that he was planning to live in Europe and therefore the high point would be sleeping with European women. He apologised for that gaffe near proposal time, but I knew it was damage control. When he got on the plane, I handed the ring to my sister. She lost it at a party or gave it to a friend or something.

Then, a month later he said I should not feel stresses or strains or have personal problems because imagine I’m engaged and he’s calling from Europa every morning before my daily workout to say hello and blah… Whatever.

The next day, I moved into the university’s dormitory. A friend gave me her room because she was living with her boyfriend. Three months later, I had proposals from better prospects. They were variously, incredibly good looking; fit; delicious; kinky and adventurous; considerate; sensitive; emotionally connected; wealthy; educated; well travelled; aristocrats.

I turned them all down.

Time minus 29 hours 40 minutes

St Lucas
Storm, Marcus, I was pleasantly surprised you guys were even awake, much less working at four in the morning.

Storm
A client is doing a live interview in Melbourne at the moment, and we need to monitor all the media outlets here and in London. We tend to babysit our projects until they’re complete.

St Lucas
What did you both do to your hair? Marcus, pink looks beautiful with your skin tone.

Marcus
Thanks. I chickened out at the last minute. Storm, however, went hell for steel grey.

St Lucas
That’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen.

Storm
Thank you.

St Lucas
Well, you guys are professional, discreet and super talented magicians. Which is why I’m here.

Marcus
We’re listening.

St Lucas
This upcoming assignment is going to be the mad wood of mass marketing. But first, we need a sanctuary. We need a cone of silence.

Marcus
Got it. Turning off mobile devices.

Storm
Unplug the phone.

Marcus
I’ll set the windows to opaque. And…let us pray.

St Lucas
I need a publicity blitz the likes of which has never been seen. I need all eyes on this. I need everyone eating, drinking, dreaming this.

Storm
We’re with you. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess.

St Lucas
To that extent. Ladies, I want The Rapture. I need you to blur the lines between fiction and non fiction. It’s for an upcoming movie. But I want it to look like it’s not a movie.

Storm
Alright.

St Lucas
When I say “blur the lines”, I mean that elements of the campaign have to look real. If…someone …. an objective … statistician, let’s say, were looking at the data, that person should be convinced that this is real.

Storm
Alright.

St Lucas
The outcomes could be ordinary people lobbying the Government to release secrets. I want CSpan, PBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, CNN, BBC, Sky and Al Jazeera, did I miss anyone? Covering a controversy we engineered, twenty four, seven, three sixty five. Wars will cease fire to catch the latest details. I want so much noise about it that when the film comes out, people will not even know they were victims of an epic brainwash.

Marcus
Okay, right away I can think of a few things we can bounce off you.

St Lucas
Before you do that, there’s one more thing. And this is really important. I need all of this to happen in the next twenty nine hours and … thirty minutes. That’s why I’m here. I need the Wonder Twins.

Marcus
We’ve done this before, so we have an idea what you need. You’re saying you need a fake campaign to start a real one. Right?

St Lucas
Yes. Exactly.

Storm
We can do that. First, we need to understand exactly what we’re working with.

St Lucas
Alright. Look at these stills.

Style notes: How not to wear Prada

So, I saw a black Prada Saffiano handbag perched on a desk this morning. Sometimes, my office can look like a designer boutique. That worn and faded lap blanket that resembles your grandmother’s sofa cover, is from Mulberry, London, and those antique tea mugs with the quaint flowers, are from Wedgwood.

Prada Saffiano tote bagImage courtesy Pinterest.

On Monday, some of us were talking about the dessert, but one of my colleagues misunderstood and dug a Montblanc pen out of his desk drawer. He said he couldn’t be bothered filling it with ink through the converter. The three of us tried to jump him to get it. We were bickering quite loudly. And, I saw it first, so hands off.

The thing I wonder about when people spend a lot of money on name brand things (not fountain pens, or fine stationery: there is no limit to how much you should spend on those), is how come they don’t notice the other stuff?

I don’t care if you use a gold nib fountain pen and carry a beat up briefcase. That’s the way it’s got to be. I applaud you if your clothes are from twenty years ago and you’ve got a vintage Rolex on. What I don’t get is how come a woman spends so much on one handbag when she clearly should have spent a third of that on a full year’s wardrobe at the outlet mall just down the street.

Montblanc fountain pen and inkwellImage courtesy: Marcus Link

Seriously. I am proud to say that I own skirts or dresses that cost less than thirty dollars. I mess them up with food, paint, ink, more food, more paint, more ink. The cheap ones never die, by the way, wash after wash. I’ve got $12 wool sweaters I bought fifteen years ago at Uniqlo. They go right to the cleaners and return looking as good as new.

This is me talking about what I personally prefer. I prefer natural fabrics and I also enjoy synthetic fibres, as long as I don’t look flammable. I don’t want to collect silk shirts because I can’t wear them without fretting about getting raspberry sauce on them. My favourite skirt is charcoal gray, in cotton and it cost me nine dollars. It goes for formal and casual events with the right jacket. No one can tell I bought it eight years ago.

I have absolutely no opinion on whether other people should be paying a lot for clothes, so that’s not what I’m going on about here. My concern is about balance.

I am also one of those individuals who can resist a designer label if I don’t like the thing. I enjoy having the labels that most people can’t recognise from a first glance or from the logo. I pay attention to labels because sometimes people model counterfeit bags and shoes as if they were real, and I want to stare blankly at them while they’re trying to impress me with a fake Hermès Kelly bag.

Prada: Image courtesy fashion lover

I don’t believe that possessing designer labels is equivalent to having good style. Labels can sometimes encourage us to escape from the responsibility of carefully arranging ourselves. I’ve seen some awful looking things from Dolce and Gabbana and Versace and would never let them near my body, even when they were offered to me as gifts. “It looks awful, but it’s from that designer, therefore…” I don’t think so.

Easy bun hairstyles
Easy bun hairstyle from Gal Knows

But let me put it to you, women. What is the point of carrying a Prada bag when your sweater’s all stretched out and faded? Or your patterns and silhouettes are mismatched? Why have you got that $4000 bag and a very large scrunchie in your hair holding up what could have been a cute chignon? I’m sorry, but I just cannot with scrunchies. Please, someone, do something. Do you need a Prada bag, or did you need an extra two minutes to find a black ponytail holder?

A balanced style requires time, rather than money. I like the idea of rearranging a few items of clothing week in, week out, to get a brand new total look. Perhaps I am that way because I had to wear uniforms to school until I was seventeen, and after that to work in a bank. I enjoy the challenge of getting creative with limited items.

That’s what it means to have a personal aesthetic. Labels cost money, and they take time to acquire but in the end, they’re products. A designer label doesn’t always do a good job of cleaning up your presentation and it certainly shouldn’t.

 

This is Empire: Transcript – The Debate, Mars versus Earth

This is the transcript for the Empire episode Mars versus Earth (February 14, 2015).

Photo: Getty

Felix Baumgartner
A lot of guys they are talking about landing on Mars because they say we would learn a lot more about our planet here, our Earth, by going to Mars; which actually makes no sense to me because we know a lot about Earth and we still treat our planet, which is very fragile, in a really bad way.

Narrator
Some might argue that it’s a luxury to be spending money investigating other planets instead of solving Earth’s problems. Issues like the education of women; the extermination of whole cultures; religious extremism; insider trading and the manipulation of markets by a small group of power brokers; freedom of speech and religion; and the creation of new industries to accommodate the explosion in the world’s population. Global space exploration agencies, right now, say they are taking a step-wise approach. They are looking at our own solar system and the most likely places where we might find life. That’s why the ESA, JAXA and NASA Joint Cooperative Mars Mission group are so focused on Mars. On this special episode of Empire, we ask … How long? How costly? And how real are the promised benefits?

Marlon Bathsheba
This is Empire. Hello and Happy St. Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it is fitting that our topic today is the Red Planet, Mars. Welcome to this special episode, which we devote to a breaking news story. I am Marlon Bathsheba. Casey, let’s jump right into the discussion, as we are on a live feed in the wake of leaked documents concerning the ESA, JAXA and NASA Joint Mars Mission and satellite images hinting at this major joint operation in the Gobi Desert.

Dreier
Thanks Marlon. It’s not enough that the Mars landing was a complete success. It’s not enough that ESA, JAXA and NASA have gone almost 15 years without a major robotic mission failure. No, it always comes back to the tired questions of “can we afford this?” and “why should we pay for it?” Let’s go back to the Curiosity, which had a total cost of 2.5 billion dollars, yes, but it’s not like NASA went over to the Rover Depot, plucked the glamor model off the shelf and whipped out Uncle Sam’s credit card.

Marlon Bathsheba
People would say that you’re being defensive about the cost of the Mars Mission.

Dreier
No, NASA…well, I can’t speak for the other agencies… spread the cost of this mission out over eight years. The money spent went into salaries of highly-skilled engineers, programmers, managers, and independent contractors in over twenty states across the country. Things like the cost of rockets to Mars are included in that total, too, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the amount.

Marlon Bathsheba
Can we have your perspective, Dr. Rice? Can you start by providing us with some of the highlights of your previous missions, so far?

Rice
A lot of folks want us to tell them what the high points of missions have been. That’s really difficult to do because you have to think back over the course of ten years and that gets really hard to do. A couple things bubble up very quickly, but I think the most amazing highlight has been the journey as a whole.

Marlon Bathsheba
Forgive me for playing Devil’s Advocate, but it sounds as if you’re evading the question.

Rice
I’m trying to say that nobody knew that back when the Rovers landed in January of 2004 that they’d still be going after all this time. No one thought that this far our down the road that we’d still be operating, making discoveries and doing great science up there. I think it’s a testament to the engineers who built these vehicles.

Marlon Bathsheba
Dr Ellen Stofan says that missions to the Red Planet are a priority of the US space agency, and that the best way to search for extraterrestrial life is by setting up a permanent presence. What do you think the future holds, Dr Stofan?

Stofan
We know Mars had liquid water on the surface and we think that is essential to life. What we expect to find, certainly in our own solar system, are probably simple single or multiple-cell forms of life.

Marlon Bathsheba
Are you saying there is no intelligent life on Mars?

Stofan
Mars doesn’t seem to be teeming with life. I think we are better off looking at planets where there might be something alive and kicking. We’re not sure that condition exists anywhere else in our solar system. But certainly when we go out and look for habitable planets around other stars it’s something that we can start thinking about.

Dreier
Let me jump in here and say that Mars is close by and it makes sense to have humans operate and work on the surface. That’s part of why we are so focused on it.

Marlon Bathsheba
So, if this is the first definitive habitable environment outside of Earth, why is there no intelligent life on it? Would you like to speak to that, Dr Stofan?

Stofan
Absolutely. Absolutely. To get to intelligent life takes stability of conditions over huge long periods of time.

Marlon Bathsheba
We didn’t exactly engineer ourselves, did we? It sounds like you’re saying we did that.

Stofan
Actually, no, I’m saying that we’re focused on Mars as a very ancient terrain. We’ve always known that it is the place to go to. We’ve done a decade of mapping from orbit and we’ve tried places on the ground with previous rovers. All of this has been adding up to an increasingly positive situation and we are going to demonstrate it with this mission.

Marlon Bathsheba
Which brings me to the question, what does the future look like?

Rice
Over the last few years we have started to formulate the next mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. We know there is an ocean under that icy crust. There are plumes of water coming out of the cracks in the south polar region.

Marlon Bathsheba
Again, that question. What are the benefits? Joining the discussion is NASA Chief, Charles Bolden. Thank you for joining us. What is one word you would use to describe the challenge of colonising Mars?

Bolden
Hard. Mars is really, really hard.

Marlon Bathsheba
That sounds pessimistic, compared to what our panelists have just said. They seem to think Mars is just months, if not a year, away from being colonised by humans.

Bolden
At the moment, space agencies were currently refining technological development. We need a greater understanding of the human body and how it reacts to the conditions of Mars.

Marlon Bathsheba
Let me address these supposed leaked documents from the joint Mars project. It seems they are saying that you have no intention of colonising Mars, and it’s all a plan by the global banking system to line their pockets.

Bolden
We are realistic. Testing of our new technologies would have to take place on Earth’s moon before astronauts can venture further toward the goal of colonising Mars. We need a proving ground, and that’s our moon.

Marlon Bathsheba
So, there is no rare minerals extractives initiative on asteroids with plans to tamper with the stock price of rare Earth minerals? Yes or no.

Bolden
No. We are going back into lunar orbit with what we hope will be an asteroid or part of an asteroid, and develop some of the techniques. This does not mean that our Mars mission is bogus.

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Author’s note: The above transcript is a work fiction; however, it pulls material together from authentic sources that are available in the public domain. Each one is linked below. As with any work of art, reality and fantasy coalesce to present a believable story. The transcript does not purport to attribute statements to the quoted individuals in the forum depicted. It serves to create a current affairs context for this fictional story. The dates of the interviews quoted demonstrate the relevance of the story to our present day reality. Have we got our priorities on backwards? You decide. Thank you for reading. 

Text adapted from the following actual interviews:
‘Fearless’ Felix Baumgartner: Mars is a waste of money.
Curiosity Comes Cheap: Why the latest Mars rover (and all planetary exploration) is a steal.
Insider Interview: Mars Exploration Rover’s Jim Rice PhD talks 10 years on the Red Planet.
NASA’s ‘Astrobiology’ Interview with Mars’ Curiosity Chief Scientist.
Nasa chief says man must reach Mars – and expects to see a Brit on the Red Planet.
Nasa’s Ellen Stofan interview: ‘Our plan is to colonise Mars’.
Image: Getty, and from Muslims warned in Fatwa not to live on Mars, The Telegraph, UK.

How to be Hated? A SMART guide

I’ve never seen a guide for how to be disliked graciously, which is why I decided to write one. And here it is. First, SMART means to be Sombre, Masterful, Attentive, Respectful and Tyrannical with haters. I’ll explain each point now.

Sombre
Stay calm in the knowledge that not everyone likes you. Think about it. Should spammers, information thieves, burglars, backstabbers, narcissists, misogynists or misandrists pay attention to you and like you? Not at all. Accept it as a matter of fact and be grateful that the awful people stay away.

Masterful
Preparation is the key to mastery. Think of all the vile, cruel things haters will say to you and desensitise yourself by repeating them to yourself: “You’re a mean, evil, stupid, hideous, crazy, wicked witch.” Then smile when someone actually says this to you. Say, “That’s true, but how is that any of your business?”

Attentive
People who hate you will not be able to hide it well. Pay attention to inconsistencies. For example, a hater will say, “I’m allergic to dogs, so I can’t come to your house party” but will show up on Instagram cuddling five new puppies that are the same breed as yours. That’s a face slap to say, “Hey you, I don’t care what you think.” What kind of person goes out of their way to say that? A H8R. Remember, their “rules” only apply to you.

Respectful
The majority of people who hate you respect your human rights and won’t violate them. Thankfully, most people don’t talk about their disdain for you to your face, so you’ll never know it. Imagine that for every hater that tosses an insult your way, nine more Victoria Graysons have greeted you with a warm air kiss. Don’t play dirty, as it’s always the one who throws the second punch that gets to spend the night in a lockup.


Tyrannical
Just because you’re not acting like a gangster doesn’t mean that you’re a punk. In a battle, tyranny would be called “laying down suppressive fire.” People should know not to start with you. Say no or stop and mean it. That means being aware of your rights and exercising them. Do not worry about being nice if your rights are violated.

In summary, stay calm when faced with haters, and you will be calm if you prepare in advance. Pay attention to what others are doing and saying and be respectful even if they don’t treat you with respect. In case your rights are violated, take responsibility for your well being; take action. Tyranny could save your life.

Updated: 2016/02/09 @11.21 GMT. Images: Revenge and Scandal via Tumblr, Vibe Magazine and Giphy. 

Sixty

Image courtesy Craig Barritt via Getty Images

The other day, photos of North West screaming in the front row at fashion week were shared online. It’s interesting to me how people assume that individuals in the public eye are also sensible, wise people who think before they act. There might have been three reasons that North West was brought to the shows:

  1. Her father believes that exposing her to fashion at an early age will turn her into a legendary fashion designer.
  2. He wants to train her early, as he has already created a legacy to pass down to her.
  3. Her mother, after reading a lot of nasty comments about herself on Dlisted, Radar Online and Celebitchy, understands that her daughter is the only one of the three that will get positive attention, and is sort of using her as a human shield.

I think it is silly for a woman in her thirties to turn her bottom to a mirror and take a photo of its reflection. Posting it to Instagram is mad. It’s one thing to be admired by others, but at some point, a woman needs to grow into a self conscious being.

When I was in my early teens and twenties, I used to wear the tiniest shorts without thinking, “Hey, this is too short.” I wore see through mini skirts in floral chiffon to classes at UWI. And I was notorious for never wearing a bra. I had a drawer full of bikinis, and wore them to beach trips with my church family. I never thought, “Heeeey, I’m awesoooome.” I wasn’t thinking at all. I wasn’t self referential and that was mostly because Jamaican men do not cat call to women who are five feet nine inches tall and weigh one hundred and sixteen pounds.

Now that I’m all grown up, I tend to wince at the idea of wearing a bikini, and reserve the tiny shorts for tennis school. See through tops go over or under something.

Children need to be blasted with attention when they’re growing up. Those first three years are critical. You don’t have to eyeball the child, but just be there. For me, Saturday afternoons at two o’clock were the same: Racing news announcements were heralded on the radio with fanfare and on cue my grandmother has just come home from the market with a week’s worth of fresh produce. I still love the smell of fresh scallion. This is what a sense of security feels like. The child has to take his or her primary caregiver for granted while testing the world and finding his or her way in it.

The thing about having a large, round bottom and having people admire it loudly, is that you will equate constant praise and admiration for that one aspect of yourself as praise and admiration for yourself as a whole person. I feel that it is possible for a mother with this self addiction to lose her ability to become a free giver of care, love and attention to her children. “Whaaaat? You’re not admirationing me, and you have no net worth, so I will not make time for you.” Having a mother who refers to the population of people in her surroundings as “fans” might result in several things for Nori.

  1. Her mother will take credit for her beauty or smarts and use them to enrich her own franchise.
  2. She will work very hard to impress her mother, who will continue to actively ignore her. Ignori was the start of many more happenings to come. It was not an absentminded slip; neither was it a thoughtful car safety check. It was clearly a “me first and only” parade of the bottom. You can’t show your bottom when you’re walking out of a hotel lobby with photographers facing you. Can ye?
  3. Her gestures of support and respect will be received with a sense of entitlement. Instead of gratitude, she will be handed an ever growing list of unreasonable demands.
  4. She will grow into a woman one day. Her mother will see her as a competitor for admiration, and tear her down passive aggressively.
  5. When she gets to twenty something, she will meet nice men who adore her, and her mother will openly flirt with them to prove she’s still got it.
  6. She will reject nice men out of fear her mother will sabotage the relationships.
  7. She will eventually stop competing with fans for her mother’s attention.
  8. If her mother experiences financial hardship, she will tell her daughter to pay her back all the money she spent on designer clothes, plus the value of fashion week front row exposure and outings in front of an adoring press. URLs and images will be produced as evidence. If she has nothing to give, she will be manipulated into extracting it from her wealthy father.
  9. Her mother, feeling lonely, will try to get her daughter’s attention, only to drop her again when a new fan comes calling.

One day, Nori’s mother will turn sixty. On the morning of that day, she will wake up to overwhelming acknowledgement of the milestone on her social media networks. She’ll see active competition among well wishers to get her to notice them. As she rubs at the dull pain in the small of her back, she’ll wonder if her child will bother to call.

Rabbit out of a Hat

St Lucas
Hello, Beth.

Lilibeth
Mid stroke?

St Lucas
Yes, literally. I just finished ninety nine laps in the pool.

Lilibeth
Show off. Here is the thing. Your grey friend popped up. Scared the crap out of me just now. He’s for real. He is in a dark room somewhere, and he is unconscious.

St Lucas
So you believe me.

Lilibeth
Yeah. But there’s a glitch. I … my special … technique only works with people who know where they are. Which is usually the case with criminals, fugitives, and the like. They have plans and intentions, and I can see what they are going to do. I can be five moves ahead of them. It’s visual data, that I use and …well your friend is …unaware of our… ahm. He’s never been here before so, I can’t find him with visual data from his reference point. That means I have to do some actual sleuthing.

St Lucas
Right.

Lilibeth
Luckily, I have mad skills. But I’m going to need you to pull a rabbit out of a hat. You have star power. I need you to use your influence somehow to get every person on Earth with Internet access looking for your friend.

St Lucas
That’s…

Lilibeth
Just hear me out. You’re going to get them to look but, they can’t know what they’re really looking for. They have to think it’s real. I need all eyes on every agency in the world that could possibly have picked up your friend. I want them bombarded with requests for information. This is important because we can cross check patterns in the movement of data we have already collected for analysis at my base of operations, if we can get some serious amplification. It’s like injecting dye into a patient’s arteries when you’re looking for an aneurysm. I gather from their advanced technology that our Martian friends are monitoring us remotely. We need to shout loud and clear that we are looking for the child. What I’m saying is, in order to demonstrate that we’re busy working, I’m going to need you to start an information war, but on a global scale.

St Lucas
I get it. You have two brains, and I’m very grateful for that. So you want me to be in front of it?

Lilibeth
On the sides, but there. I don’t want anything in your past or present to overtake the situation. Your friend might be safe if we can keep the people holding him distracted for long enough. We need to either find his exact location or have him ourselves before his father gets here with those fierce looking people in the screen grabs. I need to get moving. It’s now time minus thirty hours.

St Lucas
The kind of operation you’re talking about will need more time than that, but okay, I have access to a few geniuses right here in New York.

Lilibeth
Rabbit out of a hat. Pull on it.

St Lucas
I’ll get on it, right now.

Lilibeth
Good, catch me up later. Siemus!

Siemus
Ma’am.

Lilibeth
Climb into bed with me… … … … … Why are you soft?

Siemus
I think it’s unprofessional to respond.

Lilibeth
Damned Navy Seals discipline school. Alright… Get out… Oh, and while you’re at it, get that fat-ass bitch on the phone.

Siemus
Which one, Ma’am?

Lilibeth
The half ton Disneyland squatter who bled all over my bed last week. I had to knead a full pound of flesh to find his disco stick. While he was rambling incoherently, he mentioned something interesting and I now know it’s going to help my client.

Siemus
Right away, Ma’am.

:::::  …  :::::
:::::  …  :::::

Lilibeth
Hello, Peter, my Loch Sex Monster. Baby, sweetie, honey, darling.

Joseph
Hi, baby, I miss you.

Lilibeth
I miss you too, baby. Ahm, I need your help. I’m doing research for a children’s book I’m writing, and I thought you could, like, you know, help me.

Joseph
Oh, that’s so sweet, baby. Sure, anything for you.

Lilibeth
Well, it’s about visitors from…I feel so silly saying this… other..worlds… And I thought your friend you mentioned, the one in Los Angeles, with the radio show, could have material for my project. Would you be good enough to, like, let me have his information? I mean of course, unless…

Joseph
No, no, no. It’s fine, I’m sure he’ll be so flattered that anyone’s paying attention to him.

Lilibeth
You know, everyone has value, even if we don’t agree with them.

Joseph
You’re so mature, baby.

Lilibeth
Thank you, baby. I have to go, because I have a meeting with my publisher. Can you text me the information? Please?

Joseph
Of course, honey. I love you, baby.

Lilibeth
I love you too, Peter.

Lilibeth

St Lucas
Good evening, Miss…

Lilibeth
Do not be fooled by the Givenchy slip. I have two brains. I needed to get here in a hurry, because… I was … doing something.

St Lucas
I apologise. And I thank you for coming here at such short notice.

Lilibeth
One more thing. Call me Lilibeth, Beth, Li, Libeth, Lili, bitch, baby, honey, sweetie. Just don’t call me Miss. Sorry, sweetie.

St Lucas
Actually, Libeth, my daughter is the client. I’m just here for supervision.

Lilibeth
What’s the problem, sweetie?

Sami
Daddy?

St Lucas
It’s okay, honey.

Sami
My friend is lost. I think he wanted to surprise me for Valentine’s Day. His father is scared. We have to find him…we don’t know where he is.

Lilibeth
I feel like I’m missing something.

Sami
He’s from Mars.

Lilibeth
You mean Xenu.

St Lucas
She means Mars.

Lilibeth
Are you kidding? Is this some Scientology conversion field trip?

St Lucas
Contrary to rumours, I am…we are…Catholic.

Lilibeth
Fine, then this is some Hollywood film experiment. I hope I’m not being pranked because I don’t care how much you’re worth, I will destroy you for wasting my time.

St Lucas
No need. Honey, show Lilibeth your phone. It’s the text message transcripts.

Lilibeth
Lack of punctuation and a familiar oddness about the phrasing. It looks like her friend is a Scandinavian who used Google’s translation software patched with Siri to communicate. Which means, he’s human.

Sami
He said their language sounds like Icelandic.

Lilibeth
This is interesting. I am Icelandic. See why I have this conspiracy theory going around in my head?

St Lucas
She and her friend communicated through Siri for a few days last year. Then, he suddenly stopped talking to her. Shortly after that, his father FaceTimed several times over the last year to say he is on his way here … screen grab… which is how I got involved, and I can vouch for the veracity of this document, but I’m an actor and therefore ….

Lilibeth
Woah… Greys. There are quite a number of grey people in this screen grab. I mean, this is great CGI. I saw Avatar. It was … Meh! Nah… Baby girl, why are you crying?

St Lucas
Honey, sweetheart.

Lilibeth
Dude, that’s mean.

St Lucas
I beg your pardon.

Lilibeth
You fed your child crap about aliens from Mars and now she’s a mess. Let’s say that I believe that you believe this is true. How do you know it’s not a prank caller trying to extort you for money?

St Lucas
Alright. I spent the last year questioning my sanity. I had phones taken apart, hacked and traced at Yale University’s Computer Science Department. I was determined to find and destroy whoever was harassing my daughter. Okay, there is no source of data. These …people… beings… pop up in any device. I replace a phone, the new phone turns on, like it’s being accessed remotely, with the full message history of every mobile phone I’ve ever owned.

Lilibeth
Fix it, Yeezus.

St Lucas
Now, you tell me, which phone company on this planet offers that kind of service? I didn’t expect you to believe her, or me, but … You are the world’s best bounty hunter, with a one hundred percent success rate.

Lilibeth
This is true.

St Lucas
I just thought you’d have a clue as to where we could look. The boy is about my daughter’s age. He’s spent a year scared and alone in a damaged spaceship, he can’t call home. He can’t turn back. His father estimates that he has crash landed just today, somewhere here on Earth. Naturally, he is frantic. We don’t know how to look for him. I don’t have access to things. I can’t just go to the State Department.

Lilibeth
Did you try Google Earth?

Sami
Yes. Daddy and I looked everywhere.

Lilibeth
Ahhh! God, I can’t understand …what’s happening?

Sami
Please help me find my friend?

Lilibeth
Do you know why I’m the best at my job, sweetie?

Sami
Why’s that?

Lilibeth
I cheat. I know the answer to the question before someone asks me the question. Then I pretend I don’t know, and get lots of money when I, you know, reverse engineer my way to the …

St Lucas
Are you kidding me?

Lilibeth
Do not judge me, Planet Xenu.

St Lucas
That… How… ? I just said…

Lilibeth
You want me to believe that some Martian kid got lost on Earth, but you don’t accept that I can see beyond seeing.

St Lucas
I’m not making this up.

Lilibeth
I want to warn you about the consequences of lying to me. I will see the answer to your goddamn question.

St Lucas
I promise you.

Lilibeth
I find out this meeting is part of a hidden camera movie promotion zap mama, I’m coming to your office, with my team. I’ll smash shit.

St Lucas
I swear to you, I would never bring my daughter into this, if this were some joke.

Lilibeth
Alright, I’ll make you both a deal. If your friend exists, if he exists, I’ll find him for free because I do not charge children. You on the other hand, Xenu, set that overpriced timepiece. According to these messages, we have thirty-six hours before your stalkers do something big. I will get to the bottom of this il-nana, and if you’re responsible… I need your phone on at all times. I don’t care if you’re mid stroke, stop and pick up. Bye, sweetie.

Sami
Thank you, Libeth.

St Lucas
Thank you, Lilibeth.

Lilibeth
Fuck you, later.

Emboldened

[This conversation has taken place after Rare Earth Investments and before the Unknown Phenomenon.]

Locker
I’m not sure what you’re driving at.

Millen
Our President has always said that he wants the Agency to engage with the world’s best scientists and engineers as we work together to push the boundaries of exploration. We are trying to achieve this with the Joint Asteroid Extractives Initiative. All we ask that you do in return for a seat at the table is to not disclose the actual source of the materials we are mining. Let’s be reasonable here. This is a golden opportunity for you, in terms of a…

Locker
Do you know why I am here? I was chosen as Special Liaison for His Majesty’s Treasury because I give of myself to my country without asking for anything in return, and most significantly, because I cannot be bribed.

Chief
I think, what he means is that we can help our agencies reach a mutual agreement. When I became Agency Administrator, the President charged me with three things. One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to study science and math. Two, he wanted me to expand our international relationships. Third, he wanted me to find a way to engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.

Millen
We can’t achieve any of these goals without bending the rules. Pushing the boundaries.

Locker
You’re making a reference to my wife’s religious background, which you assume you know, based on her country of birth. She’s Anglican, by the way. The Agency was established to get America into space. The idea that it was put there to help people to feel good about their past scientific achievements is the worst kind of group therapy, psycho-babble, imperialist condescension and adolescent diplomacy. The United Kindgom shall not brook condescension from a former colony. Therefore, I will not advise British Aerospace to join in any NASA led initiatives for Mars without factual, provable data. If you hadn’t said your President had told you all that, I’d make sure to demand your firing at the end of this meeting.

Chief
So, you’re saying that you can’t join us in this initiative?

Locker
You mean, His Majesty’s Government, of which I am a spokesperson.

Millen
Yes, that’s what we mean.

Locker
His Majesty’s Government is not in the business of lying to its subjects for financial gain. I don’t know how you run things in the United States, but you remember how we propped you up and then got skewered over Iraq? I will not let that sort of thing happen again on my watch.

Chief
This is not just about money or politics. It’s about giving people something to believe in. You know, I’m an inspiration for many black boys and girls in America.

Locker
I feel that you’re about to insult me.

Chief
I flew more than one hundred missions over North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during my career as a United States Marine pilot. When I was growing up, it was improbable that an African American could be accepted into the US Naval Academy. We had a dream then, thanks to Doctor King, and now, more than ever, we owe it to the world to build a New Dream.

Locker
Major, there is nothing in my profile to suggest I am a bigot. Therefore, I resent your implied characterisation of me. I am not swayed by your attempt at emotional blackmail. I may have been raised with a golden spoon in my mouth, but I joined the Armed Forces because I believe in human integrity. I thank my wife for reminding me every day. I aspire to her dignity and grace. At the very least I will not create a world of lies for my child to inhabit.

Millen
Look, no hard feelings, but think it over. We have rich incentives that …

Locker
And with that, Sir, I suggest you and your flunkie make a most precipitious exit from this office.

::::: ….. ::::: …. ::::::
::::: ….. ::::: …. ::::::

Author’s note:
This is a work fiction; however, please allow me to state that this script contains material from the following authentic sources, which are available in the public domain: C-SPAN Interview with Charles Bolden and NASA Chief Bolden’s Muslim Remark to Al-Jazeera Causes Stir. I used real statements in a fictional setting. This was not meant as a joke. In part, my intention was to use these convenient gaffes to demonstrate my disgust for people in positions of power who use race or minority status to emotionally blackmail others into agreeing with their statements. Race, religion or minority status are not arguments: “I’m African, Chinese, Catholic, First Nation, therefore you are obliged to agree with me and let me do what I want with you. If you don’t agree with me, it’s only because of my minority status.” I don’t think so. Just as a painter would use a real subject for a life study using his favourite oils, real statements were interwoven into this fictional piece. It is meant as social commentary. It does not purport to present factual information about the individuals whose words were used in the transcript. Thank you for reading. 

Sooner than at once

2014.02.14

[An approximate translation]

Xhi
Where is my CHILD?!!!

Ni
I checked his communication logs. He was talking to Si and Gi about children on Blue Star. He said he wanted to appear to his friend there. I don’t understand the meaning of this red glyph.

Xhi
Do not show that to me. If you are suggesting he physically went to Blue Star, he cannot commandeer a ship without anyone alerting us.

Ni
He’s highly capable. He is highly self reliant.

Xhi
He is still a child, who was in your care.

Ni
You’re angry with me. You blame me.

Xhi
I am not ready to be angry with you or anyone. Teleport me to the Docking Station. Ro?

Ro
Commander.

Xhi
Ki is missing. His nurse, Ni, thinks he might be on a transport ship headed to Blue Star. It is highly unlikely, but can you search every vehicle that’s been logged out in the last cycle?

Ro
I’ve found him, Commander. It appears that he has forged your authorisation codes.

Xhi
Normally, I would be proud of him, but I need him back at once. Tractor beams from the Friga Orbiter. Full power.

Ro
No effect, Commander. The ship is accelerating at an unpredictable rate.

Xhi
Override the console. Turn it around.

Ro
No effect.

Xhi
Open comms.

Ro
At this speed, there is a time delay, Commander. One half cycle. Send message anyway?

Xhi
Yes!

Ro
Commander, there’s a problem.

Xhi
What is it?

Ro
The transport ship Ki took… It was at the docking station for major repairs to … communication systems and … forward thrust adjusters. We cannot do a remote patch.

Xhi
How much time to intercept?

Ro
Unpredictable, Commander. He’s travelling at maximum velocity and will continue to accelerate due to the faulty adjusters. He cannot slow it down and neither can we. The transport ship is a projectile, Commander.

Xhi
He does not have the skill to fix it manually, assuming he even knows there is a problem. Ni, you know how he struggles to work on his own. He takes on too many tasks and does not accept help easily. He does not know his own limitations.

Ni
I know. I am sorry.

Ro
He’s had a quarter cycle head start, Commander. You might just be able to overtake him and use the tractor beams to slow him down. As long as he doesn’t get separated from the vehicle on entry into Blue Star’s atmosphere, he should be retrievable without incident.

Xhi
Ro, send this communication imprint to the Offworld Exploration Committee. My son is in danger and we have no time for resolutions.

Ro
Understood, Commander. Transport type?

Xhi
Right now, he’s a trusting [prepubescent boy], on his way to a star whose sentient inhabitants are extremely hostile to each other and especially cruel to offworld species. To rescue him, I am taking an armada. Our guests from the Ulura System are obliged to cooperate. Cancel their mining mission for Frá scheduled for later this cycle. I’ll need their advanced traction technology and the sheer size of their fleet to make a definitive show of force.

Ro
Yes, Commander. Preparing your core crew sooner than at once.

Ni
Should I come with you?

Xhi
Should you? Do you have somewhere else to be?!!!

February 13, 2014

Siri/Ki
Hello again. How are you.

Sami
Hello Ki. I’m happy.

Siri/Ki
What did you do today.

Sami
I went to Central Park.

Siri/Ki
Do you go to Central Park every day.

Sami
No, but I go outside every day.

Siri/Ki
What is your favourite protective equipment.

Sami
Equipment?

Siri/Ki
Yes, things to protect your body for going outside.

Sami
I don’t use anything. But sometimes people take my picture. Mother protects me.

Siri/Ki
I understand. You are seen by everyone. My nurse and my father protect me too. What’s this one. There is a lot of data.

Sami
It’s a heart. Heart means “love.” Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Many people do something nice for people they love.

Siri/Ki
Only that day.

Sami
Yes.

Siri/Ki
That’s sad.

Sami
It’s nice. You have to give presents to show you love the person.

Siri/Ki
I don’t understand. I never have presents.

Sami
I get lots of presents on Valentine’s Day. I feel happy when I get a special surprise. When my father is far away, he takes a holiday to hang out with me.

Siri/Ki
Hang out with.

Sami
Yes. Just talk, or play a game. Or eat.

Siri/Ki
That’s every day with Ni, my nurse. My father is working really far away. It takes two years to come home.

Sami
That’s sad.

Siri/Ki
It’s sad.

Sami
You can be my Valentine! I will make a special surprise for you.

Siri/Ki
I understand surprise. I am so very happy when my father does it. He sometimes arrives home two cycles early. Can I make one for you too.

Sami
Let’s make them now!

Siri/Ki
Yes. Let us.

Three Hundred

ccc4

Crimson swatch
in bolted mane
Pastel tethers
hide in vain

Carmine shadows
Round lyric hail
Damaged beauty
Hard as nail

Cayenne tassels
Shake the heart
Words pull closer
Worlds apart

Cast of letters
Come to play
Dance all night
Sleep all day

Come and drink
Of morning dew
Rest assured
Dreams hope renew

Calamity drops:
Just stop, no more!
“My blood was shed?
This is WAR.”

Pull it sir

Superbelle
I don’t like the furniture in here.

Waite
It was all handmade by Christian Dillon. He’s a furniture designer from Australia, now living in London. He’s quite talented. This entire set took two years to assemble and ship.

Superbelle
It looks like poor people’s old things. Belongs in the garbage or something. Back to what you were saying about media literacy.

Waite
Yes, I’m a journalist, so naturally I advocate for this.

Superbelle
Yeah, I know, I know. I may sound like a pessimist, but I object in calling media literacy as the approach to modern education. Education for me has also something to do with the learning and teaching and formation of values, as corny as I may sound.

Waite
I see. So you’re saying that media literacy is not necessary because we can’t learn values from it? You were humming a Justin Beiber song just now. It seems that a media literate person would refuse to support his antisocial behaviour, which would mean not buying, downloading or listening to his music.

Superbelle
Yes, I know I’m ignorant. I like being ignorant.

Waite
I’m not saying you’re ignorant…

Superbelle
I don’t want to hear anything negative about Justin. I was going to say that media literacy cannot police plagiarism.

Waite
You realise that media literacy has nothing to do with plagiarism, which was rampant ages ago? Education on morals and values would discourage or stop plagiarism. Also, online tools exist to catch people who do this, so technically, policing exists.

Superbelle
Alright, alright. What?! Did I hurt your feelings.

Waite
I’m a bit confused. I thought we were having a discussion.

Superbelle
It’s just that you were elaborating too much.

Waite
I’m not sure I understand, but… ahh… have you considered presenting your opinion at a conference on media literacy? I’m scheduled to chair one later this year.

Superbelle
No. I don’t have time for that.

Waite
Okay. And what would you like to do?

Superbelle
I am going to be a literature professor. I want to specialise in poetry. First, I am planning on getting my master’s degree.

Waite
Well, you’re thirty years old now, and you finished your first degree when you were twenty three. What are you waiting for? If it’s money, I am happy to pay. No strings attached of course. I assume you’re going to pursue studies in …?

Superbelle
No. I don’t want anything from you. I am satisfied with what I have. That’s using people. I just have some writer’s block.

Waite
It would be a completely up front scholarship grant from my non profit foundation. You’d have to apply, and we would interview you.

Superbelle
What do you mean… foundation? You’re not a celebrity.

Waite
That’s nice of you to say. Thank you.

Superbelle
I wasn’t offering a compliment.

Waite
Thank you, anyway. What was I saying? I feel that if a person has a natural talent for writing, the inspiration will always find its way to them. I also like to think of people as thinkers with varying degrees of confidence and various styles of expression. There’s too much pressure to “write something” if you call yourself a “writer.” Don’t you think?

Superbelle
Not following.

Waite
Okay, so … Alright. I’d like to hear one of your poems.

Superbelle
Can I borrow your iPad? This one was published on a website. It’s called “Mama.”

Perhaps, it would be better for you to make peace with the ghosts of your past, than for me to let you see that I often go to church, that I have high grades, that I do not go partying, that I do not have a boyfriend so that I will not be your ragged doll, who bears all the lashes of your revenge

Waite
It sounds really personal. Do you have a strained…

Superbelle
What are those?!

Waite
What?

Superbelle
Why do you have celebrity photos on your wall?! This one looks photoshopped.

Waite
You don’t recognise him? It’s Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al Gaddafi.

Super Belle
Are you a terrorist?!!

Waite
He let me photograph him when I met him in Paris. I’m still bitter about the way he was executed.

Superbelle
Sounds like you are one of those … persons. This looks like your degree certificate on here.

Waite
No. I never hang that up.

Super Belle
It doesn’t go with the celebrity pictures. It’s just so plain. You should throw it out. But, it says Columbia University. And you just said you don’t hang that up.

Waite
It’s not a degree certificate.

Superbelle
What’s a “Pull it Sir” Prize? Are you a comedian?

Waite
Well, that’s debatable…

Suction

An
Sir. We are receiving reports of seismic activity at coordinates 44°13’30.5″ N 97°32’40.1″ E. Aftershocks from a magnitude 9.5 earthquake. Our seismologists have located the hypocentre at three hundred and fifty kilometres below ground at 40°25’57.0″ N 116°34′ 56.3″E.

Bosco
Did you alert our ground patrol? Get me eagle eyes.

An
They’ve already made contact, sir. There’s nothing happening at the site to warrant our concern.

Chief
They’re eight stories below ground. What could we possibly see from up here?

An
Sir, I think you should see this. Some sensors are offline, but they didn’t trigger a distress signal prior to being knocked out. The crew were sleeping at last check, and we’ve had no other communication with them.

Chief
Is it possible we can just connect with them one way?

An
No, sir.

Bosco
If we can’t see them, that’s an automatic mission abort. Eject them.

An
I’m on that… Negative. The electrical systems have been compromised somehow.

Bosco
Tell the boys to start twisting open the can.

An
That’s not going to happen, sir. It was designed to withstand the force of three simultaneous overhead nuclear denotations, and an asteroid crashing directly on top of it. It’s the most advanced bomb shelter ever constructed. It is true that in case of an electrical systems failure, we would have to manually eject them. But that’s impossible topside, because the vacuum seal at the upper end, here, is designed to resist any attempts to break it from the top. This lower top section here needs to connect to it before the outer lock can disengage. We designed it that way to prevent someone from accidentally opening it. In emergencies, it is manually activated from the bottom end. Those sensors are offline. They’re safe in there, sir.

Chief
How could this have happened? Get me a geologist. While he’s on his way here, did someone hack us? We’ve been handing out security clearances like caramel popcorn, recently.

Bosco
I seriously doubt that.

An
I’m not sure how that would be possible, sir.

Bosco
Let’s not rule anything out, including sabotage from our own people.

Geologist
How do you do, Sir. May I take over? The seismic activity could have sent a shockwave over and that could have disrupted the electrical array. Or, you could be dealing with radioactivity from an underground volcano.

Chief
Theories are useless to me. I want to hear what you have to say beyond doubt. There is nothing active in that area. That’s why we chose it.

Geologist
Sometimes a seismic event can shift things around. Nearby, a vent could have opened up and sent a stream of neutrons over there, and those in turn could have disrupted the electrical circuits.

Chief
How do we fix that? Don’t shake your head, bring me the team of engineers who designed this billion dollar soup can! If they know what’s good for them, they will have a can opener ready.

Controller
What is our worst case scenario?

Bosco
Something tells me they are all happening at once.