Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Subjects This Month: Children of the Sex Gates, Dogs driving cars, Book reviews, Rogue Program, There Ought to be a Law, Gun Control, Close Call, Poverty, Body parts going wrong, Valentine’s Day, State of America: return to medical care, Things Could be worse, Excerpt from Children of the Sex Gates, Excerpt from Rogue Program
Children of the Sex Gates
At last I finished and have had published a sequel to my original Sex Gates Novel (not the trilogy with Jeanine Berry but the novel as I wrote it to begin with and is my preferred version. The title is Children of the Sex Gates and as you might suspect it involves a couple of offspring of the original protagonists. These teens naturally get into trouble just like any other teenager but it turns out that they’re not your regular teenagers. Unsuspected powers begin emerging…..
State of America series: The state of America ain’t so good. One of the biggest reasons is our truly ridiculous system of medical care. I’ve covered this subject previously but the situation is worse than even I thought! To understand just how freaked up it is, I urge everyone to find a copy of the Mrch 4th issue of Time magazine and read their feature article on Medical care in America. It is so messed up that I couldn’t bear reading more than a portion of the article at one sitting. Neither could my wife Betty. She got mad while I got disgusted, both of us mainly because our so-called leaders insist on not fixing the problem but only making it worse. Obamacare won’t do much other than refuse to allow the insurance companies to put limits on the dollar amount of coverage. However, that will drive up premiums to the point that it might beggar some families or force them to just pay the fine for not getting insurance.
Right now medical care is eating up 20% of our GNP, at least twice as much as any other industrialized nation and our results are not nearly as good. Many third world countries have better infant mortality rates than us!
So what’s to be done? I outlined one possible approach in my September 2011 issue of Bainstorming but there are others I’m sure which would work as well. Unless you’re dealing with a math problem there is usually more than one answer or solution to a problem. If you don’t care for my solution please try to think of one that’s as good or better and forward it to Congress. Talk about it with your friends and neighbors.
Do whatever you think best to get some changes made because friends and neighbors, unless something radical is done about this huge drag on our national character, on our economy, on financing of other problems and on our future, I can see the end of The United States’ present standing as a great nation. It’s up to you to make your voice heard, loud and clear.
Things could be worse
Things could be worse, though. How about if Shiela Jackson Lee were President? If you haven’t seen this woman on TV it isn’t for her lack of exposure. Any camera within twenty miles of her and she comes running, sticking her face in front of it and spouting off about something, whether it makes sense or not. Politicians act stupidly enough without being camera hogs on top of it.
Dogs driving cars
In my book, Doggie Biscuit, I told how Biscuit got me in a lot of trouble by learning to drive my truck. Here’s proof that dogs actually can drive!
The two books, Boundary and Threshold by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor are a couple of the best science fiction novels recently. There may be another one in the series coming, too!
I read a lot of my own books during several periods of illness the last couple of months, including the last two books of the Williard Brothers series, Three For The Money and Space For Sale. Then I read Alien Seeds.
Also read my recent Apertures Trilogy, in order: Apertures, Apertures Two: Allies and Enemies and Apertures Three: A World Lost and A World Gained.
And I read my most recent offering, Rogue Program, which consists of an expanded and revised version of Savage Survival and its sequel all in one big book.
I read three oldies but goodies again. Paul Anderson’s Tau Zero, The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer and Rogue Queen by L. Sprague De Camp.
Since I’ve been ill a lot lately with some weird, recurrent episodes of fever, chills and muscle aches but no respiratory involvement I‘ve been reading a lot. I re-read the Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham. I would urge everyone to read these books where a naval task force from 2021 is accidentally sent back in time and lands smack in the middle of the Battle of Midway in WWII. What is striking about these books is how well the author contrasts attitudes from the early 1940s with those uptime. We don’t think about it too much but these books really grab your attention as they show how prejudices and how women were treated back then and a decade from now in the future. It’s hard to believe we really acted like that back then and thought nothing of it.
And finally, I read all the Honor Harrington books again, arguably the best science fiction series ever written.
Rogue Program, the big book that includes an expanded and revised version of Savage Survival and its sequel has so far had all five star reviews! Of course Lyda Brightner is a character anyone will like. Try it for a long nail-biting reading experience!
There ought to be a law
Ordinarily I’m for less regulation rather than more and for individuals taking responsibility for their own affairs rather than letting Government doing it for them. Payday Loan Companies in Texas and some other states need regulating, though. Poor people borrow money at exorbitant rates of interest then if it isn’t paid off at the end of the month or the next payday, it is “rolled over” and the same interest must be paid again. Some people wind up paying many, many times what they originally borrowed. Believe it or not. A person may borrow, for example, a hundred dollars then through no fault of their own be unable to pay it all back when due. They pay the interest again and again and may wind up repaying thousands of dollars for that original hundred dollar loan. There are even laws against including that money in bankruptcy proceedings! Once a person has paid 100% interest on the loan that ought to be it. No more. Then they can pay off the original amount. Or some such regulation. Whatever, no one should be caught in the binds of those companies for prolonged periods of time.
The government can’t control our borders, drugs, or even the country’s finances and yet they want to try controlling guns? Seems to me with the Government’s record of “controlling” anything, trying to control guns is a sure prescription for more of them on the street and in the hands of nuts!
One sunny day I stepped out the back door and a copperhead coiled on the outside floor mat struck at my leg. I was wearing house shoes with no socks. The snake hit just above the hem of my jeans. One inch lower and it would have got me! I beat it to death with my cane which I keep right by the door for when I go walking. Brrr. Too close!
Our government has spent trillions of dollars trying to cure poverty. We still have about the same percent of the population living in “Poverty” as 50 years ago when the first great “War on Poverty” began. As the Bible says, “The poor will always be with us”. The best way to cure poverty is hard work and thrift on the part of individuals.
More body parts going wrong
While getting a chest X-Ray the results showed my thyroid gland is enlarged. Don’t know what that is about. I had an ultrasound and haven’t heard anything so maybe its good news. I saw the doc the 8th of February but not my regular doc, who was gone. There is a small nodule but now I have to wait until March to find out about it.
I checked into having some tooth implants. Very, VERY expensive. I could afford the implants for my lower teeth. Unfortunately where I need them is my upper jaw and I‘d need a best seller to afford those. Readers, get busy and buy lots of my books! Write reviews! Tell everyone about me and my books! I need new teeth!
I’ve always been absent minded. It has been a standing joke in our family since I was a little kid not even in school. Unfortunately, it is getting worse in my old age. I’ve bought Betty something for Valentine’s Day three different times. Oh well, she’s bound to like some of it.
Excerpt from Rogue Program
Draper calculated and decided Lyda must have become a caffeine addict before reaching her teens, just as he had. At least they did have that one thing in common, if little else. Already, reports had reached him of their extraordinary reflexes and physical prowess and made him wonder just how many other changes they were still hiding.
“Good. Now then, since you’ve been introduced to the ones who weren’t present at our last meeting, shall we begin?”
“Yes, Mr. President, but before we do there are a couple of tasks you may want to give General Wrangler.” Lyda turned in his direction. “Tomorrow morning at the earliest but perhaps a day or so after, General Miles intends to make some changes on the Korean peninsula. General, I’m sure you’ve been notified of the North Korean buildup?”
“Yes, I most definitely have. It appears that they are preparing for an attack on the South very soon. We’ve been warned to stay out of it on pain of nuclear weapons being introduced. In fact, President Draper has already instructed me to carry out reprisals against the North should they make good on their threat.”
“I believe we can help you in this matter, General. You can forget about the nukes. They will be unable to launch effectively. Also from the center of Seoul and a radius of five miles in every direction, any artillery shell will explode harmlessly. We’ve put a shield over the city and a cap over every place they have nuclear weapons. You might warn residents outside that five mile radius to clear the area, though. They won’t be protected. We’ll notify both South and North Korea the instant the shields go into place but we would appreciate it if you would speak to the Russian and Chinese leaders and let them know the situation.”
“Good! General Wrangler will certainly take care of that detail. Was there anything else along those lines you need to tell us about?” President Draper raised an inquiring brow.
“Yes, there are a couple more situations. You might turn your attention toward the Middle East once North Korea has been reprimanded. Israel will present a final map of its boundaries that meets our approval. The Palestinians will then be able to declare a state but without Gaza, which will be absorbed by Egypt. We expect somewhat of an uproar in that area but be at ease. There won’t be a war. If anyone from Gaza or Lebanon tries to send a rocket barrage toward Israel it will be punished and we’ve warned Israel not to retaliate if it happens but to let us take care of it. And finally, we intend to remove the Aziz brothers from the Iraqi leadership. I believe that will meet with your approval.”
“It will indeed.” President Draper shook his head. “We spent a trillion damn dollars on that country and the Aziz brothers are what we got for it. General Wrangler, if you would, please…no, let’s let Ms. Merdoff take care of notifying the appropriate governments and parties concerned. That’s really her Duty. Ariel, I’ll fill you in on anything you miss but I believe you really need to take care of those calls now. Tell any of them who insist that I’ll be available for short dialogs after six o’clock.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Merdoff said reluctantly as she stood to leave. It was easy to see that she would have much rather stayed with the others at the conference.
“You seem to be intent on the little nations. Have you forgotten the Kashmir border between India and Pakistan? That’s a trouble spot,” General Wrangler said triumphantly, as if pointing out a huge error on Lyda’s part.
“Some of my Advisors are already talking with those two countries. We believe the problem of Kashmir can be worked out fairly soon without any violence,” she told him, then resumed her conversation with the President.
“Now then President Draper, our sources inform us that your heart is really not in very good shape. We’d like you to volunteer to have your body changed publicly so it will be very apparent to all that we weren’t kidding when we said we could give a long and relatively illness-free life to everyone. Several other leaders in various areas of the world will also be asked to volunteer for demonstrations. These will prove our point while we begin helping you set up what we’ll call HL Clinics. Health and Longevity. As quickly as possible we’ll have mass treatment facilities available for those who are prepared to work with us but I’m afraid it will come sooner for some than others.”
While Lyda was speaking, Draper was wondering how in hell they had managed to access his medical records. If ever there was an advocate of patient confidentiality, it was Dr. Franklin Stuart. He certainly wouldn’t have given up the records voluntarily.
“Can you tell me a bit more about it?”
“There’s really not much I can reveal since it’s not my primary field of interest but I’ll be happy to tell you what I do know. It is a two step process. First you will receive an injection to kill all the senescent cells of your body which can’t be salvaged. That alone will give you the appearance of a more youthful body and will actually improve some of your physiological and anatomical processes that have gone awry due to the senescence of some cellular components. After your body has adjusted to the first phase you’ll receive a series of up to a dozen more injections that will cause more changes to the cells of your body. Part of the series will add more telomere length to your cells and also induce your remaining senescent cells to produce telomeres again so that they will be able to function as they once did. Others will revive your immune system. And there are several other processes I’m not familiar with, some still under trial with human volunteers. Understand that I’m more interested in physics and electronics than anatomy and physiology so I don’t understand a lot of what our bio labs are up to. I can tell you that all processes we will use on you and selected others will have been tested on human volunteers until we’re certain they work. Essentially, you will look more like you’re in your middle thirties instead of your late fifties and your additional lifespan…we don’t know yet, but it will definitely be much longer, well over a hundred years. Possibly up to a couple of hundred but we’re certainly not guaranteeing that much.”
President Draper chuckled. “Considering the state of my health right now, one hundred will do nicely. Alright, you’ve got a volunteer. When will we schedule it?”
“We’ll notify you soon,” Lyda said. “In the meantime your heart will be monitored just in case. Now then, there’s another subject we need to discuss.”
“I can guess. The sudden shifting of enormous amounts of money from other bank accounts into a new bank in Switzerland. It appears that some of the drug lords in South America have found themselves bereft of funds and quite a number of them have been found dead. Imagine that!”
“Too bad, huh? Have you had any complaints from hedge fund managers, insurance companies, CEOs, stockbrokers and so forth?”
President Draper grinned mischievously. “Strangely enough, we have. I take it that they really shouldn’t be complaining?”
Lyda became deadly serious. “As a matter of fact, any of them who do question the disappearance of their money should be reminded of what happened to Elias Courtny and Stephen Bagsworth. One of them got in a hurry and ran directly out on a busy highway. The other accidentally fell from a tenth floor balcony.”
“I’ll certainly refer any complaints to the Attorney General along with those reminders. Thank you.”
“You might also pass the word that crooks annoy us no end. We really have no patience with them. If they can’t learn from examples then we’ll figure they can’t learn at all,” Lyda said emphatically. “Now that we’ve disposed of all the immediate business let’s--”
“Wait just a damn minute!” Earl Effinger, Speaker of the House shouted. “You can’t just go around killing citizens any time you take a notion! There’s such a thing as the rule of law!” His perpetual frown grew additional lines.
“I don’t recall anyone mentioning any killings, Earl,” Carolaci White interjected, “All I heard was something about missing drug lords and accidental deaths.” She well remembered the ghetto she had worked and studied herself out of. She held an abiding hatred for drug dealers, pimps and scam artists.
“That’s all I heard,” Draper agreed. “Settle down, Earl. Can’t you accept that the world has changed and it’s not going to change back?”
“Good. We’d much rather talk about the future than the past,” Lyda said mildly.
“Fine, Ms. Brightner. What else do you have to tell us today?”
“Well, as you know, there are only five thousand of us and we can’t be everywhere at once nor can we spare the time for a lot of other endeavors that need to be started. The money which mysteriously disappeared from so many accounts wound up in a bank that we control. It will be re-invested in projects that will ultimately benefit Earth. We intend to use it to begin building a city on the Moon as well as an industrial complex in space. To that end, we want to bring many of the brightest scientists, engineers and craftsmen up to join us. It will be a permanent move but everyone whom we select will be given immediate access to the new medical treatments. They’ll also be living and working in a gravity field the same as Earth and eventually they’ll be allowed visits back to Earth if they desire or bring their families to the Moon. In short, Mr. President, this will be the first step toward moving a great deal of heavy industry of the type that causes pollution into space but first we’ll have to build machines and instruments to make the ships that will travel in the solar system. We also plan on constructing power broadcasting stations in space so that petroleum can be used for purposes other than transportation. Oh, there are all sorts of goals we have in mind but again, we can’t do it with just us. We need help.”
“Really?” Thomas Fitzsimmons said. “You’re asking us for help?”
Lyda could practically see the President’s Chief of Staff shifting his opinion of the Survivors in general and she and Gavin in particular. “Yes, certainly. Of course there are conditions, as there usually are for anything really valuable. In the words of some very smart men, ‘There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch’. TANSTAAFL, for short.”
“I’ve heard the expression.”
“Good, then you know how it works. Now what we need you gentlemen and ladies to do is get busy on our requests because it won’t be all that long until we announce the beginning of the Consolidated Government of Humanity, which will have its own military to enforce its laws. Good health will drastically reduce medical expenses. No national armies means way less expenditures for fighting each other. And a greatly reduced bureaucracy will make government much simpler. You know what we want, so get to work on it.”
Excerpt from Children of the Sex Gates
The afternoon Messilinda was to arrive I took special care to look my best. After having my hair and nails done that morning I ate a light lunch then changed into a pair of pale red snugly-fitting slacks and a short-sleeved cream-colored silkskin top and an open vest the same color as my slacks. I had suede boots that were covered by the flaring bottom of my slacks. My hair was gathered into two loose sections held by tiny light green scarves. My face was made up but not done to the extent that most women seemed to prefer. All I used was eye shadow, lip gloss that matched my vest and a very light blush. I took Tay at her word when she said that was all I needed for now. I did wear ruby ear rings and matching bracelet that served as both a purse alarm and a knife just in case. I always carried my small automatic pistol on my person whether I was home or not. It was always possible an assassin might get me but I didn’t intend to make it easy. The vest hanging stylishly open was perfect for my gun in one inside pocket and a spare clip in the other. A special touch on the bracelet would automatically detach it from my wrist and snap it out into a razor-sharp knife. And I had been seeing Ting, my martial arts teacher, two or three times a week. It had been much easier than I thought it would for my smaller body to use the same offensive and defensive moves after a few practice sessions. Mr. Ting told me to keep practicing and I’d have no problems.
“You look great, Jackie,” Taylora told me.
“Thanks, sis. I’m trying.”
“You’re succeeding. Too bad Messler is coming as Messilinda instead of his male part. You’d have him drooling like a hungry puppy dog.”
“Maybe she’ll change when she sees me,” I said and laughed. I put out the makings for coffee and left it handy then there was nothing else to do but wait. She would be arriving in her private jet and a limousine leased in advance would be waiting to bring her to our home.
While waiting I realized it had been a long time since I’d seen Messilinda. I had seen and talked to Messler a few months ago but he had been in a great hurry and was too busy with Mom and Dad to give me much attention. He or she always had something going on. A person can build a pretty hefty empire by working on it for over a century. His business ventures were almost always successful, sometimes wildly so. It caused a lot of envy besides him being a seconder and many thought he took unfair advantage of his seconder status to succeed. I didn’t believe it because neither Dad nor Mom did. He was simply a high grade genius with varied interests and unlike many of the richest persons around he was concerned with the status of our country and the world. Some said his business sense had kept the nation financially viable despite the worthless politicians who only knew how to spend money, not make it. I didn’t know about that but I had read where many politicians and business executives asked him for advice. I also knew his Space Industries company was hugely successful. It not only manufactured spaceships but had interests in developing colonies within the solar system and on planets of a few nearby stars.
“She’s here,” Tay said, glancing at the screen that relayed the scene from the parking area by the side of the house.
“Great!” I got up and hurried toward the side door to greet her. I’m not sure who was the most surprised, me or him. I had been expecting Messilinda and he arrived as Messler instead. And although he knew I had gone through the sex gate in Ruston after the attempt on my life I don’t think he had visualized how I would appear as a female. For a long moment we simply stood there at the entrance and stared at each other.
He was dressed in casual clothes, soft jeans, boots that looked like real leather and a white shirt with a denim jacket that probably cost what that wardrobe I had bought on my first shopping trip with Tay did. I figured he carried his weapon in his jacket, same as I did when I wore one. I remembered then that he almost never was seen in formal clothes, just the opposite of how he dressed as Messilinda. When I remembered that I didn’t feel quite so nonplussed at having dressed up to meet her, even though it turned out to be him.
“Um, Mr. Scribner, please come in. I’m Jackie, formerly Jack in case you don’t recognize me.”
We shook hands and I led him inside and on to my den.
“Yes, I had already learned of that attempt on your life,” he said, “and by the way, the body of Norman Neilson was recovered yesterday. He was nothing more than a cutout who gave the real culprits enough information to have the bomb ready for you. Unfortunately, the ones we’d really like to apprehend are still at large.”
“I can have coffee ready in a moment or there’s something a bit stronger if you’d like,” I said while I thought about what he‘d told me about Neilson.
“Coffee will do for now. And please call me Messler. That’s for my friends when I’m male. I’m usually called ‘Linda by those close to me when I’m in that persona. Speaking of, I apologize for surprising you by coming here as Messler rather than Messilinda. I decided on it after I heard you’d had to go through a sex gate and were female now.”
“Actually, I’m glad you did, sir. I’m still getting used to life as a woman and I can certainly use the practice.” I started the coffee and was very carefully keeping my mind blank as I got out cups, found that he took his coffee black like me, then poured for us. All the time I could sense him observing me as I moved around. The memtop conformed perfectly to the contours of my breasts. I caught his appreciative look as the sides of the vest swung first one way then the other, letting him get a good view. I liked his attitude because he plainly wasn’t leering or ogling but simply observing my face and figure and obviously liking what he saw. It was nice to learn that living well over a century hadn’t lessened his appreciation for the female form. His attitude made me feel good. I’m sure my expression showed it as I sat down on the small couch that was at right angles to the seat he’d taken.
He sipped the coffee then set the cup down to let some of the heat dissipate. “You’ve got a better mind shield than I thought you would have, Jackie. It’s very unusual.”
I stared for a moment before replying, thinking of the implications. “You know some other children of seconders who have gone through a sex gate?”
“Yes, but you’re a bit different. I’m not sure why, though.”
“I thought there must be at least a few others. But how am I different?”
Instead of answering right off he asked a question. “You’re not much past eighteen now. Were you able to pick up thoughts of others before your recent mishap?”
“I found out I had that ability a week or two before I turned eighteen. I take it that’s usual for children of seconders?”
“Yes, but only if both parents are.”
That explained why Tenn had no ability.
“I see. But you said I’m different. Can you tell me in what way or is it some kind of secret?”
He smiled and looked at me with wise old eyes from the body of an eighteen year old man. “It’s a secret only from those who don’t have the talent. And you’re different not so much in kind but in degree. In other words you have the ability I’d expect of an offspring of two seconders who had also become a seconder. So far there’s only one of those. I’ll tell you frankly that I had planned to only stay the couple of days I promised Lee and Rita I would, just to be sure you and your sister and guest were getting along okay. Now, though…would you mind spending a longer stretch of time with me?”
“This is moving kind of fast for me, Messler. How about if I give you a tentative yes but no firm commitment?”
“Good enough. And I guess you know that what I just told you about seconders and children of seconders is not to be repeated to anyone except your folks unless I tell you differently. Will you promise me that?”
“Not even Taylora?”
“No, not even her other than the fact that you can both sense surface thoughts of others. Promise?” He looked very, very serious.
“Yes, sir, I promise.” I had already decided that anyway so it was no big thing. However, his relaxation was visible. I decided that whatever I had turned into must be heap big medicine, especially since he thought he was concealing his surface thoughts from me but wasn’t. I had already decided that first, it was just a normal way of life for him, being around other seconders so much and second, that there were things he knew that he didn’t think I needed to know yet. I didn’t know what they were but if he ever let a thought loose about his secrets in my presence I would be a party to them, too.
“Good. Thank you. And please dispense with the sirs. I really don’t care for formality in most cases, especially while looking like a teenager.” He grinned.
I’m sure I was tense with him at first, especially keeping some of my talents to myself but he had so many years of experience at putting people at ease with him that I soon relaxed and began enjoying his company. Like Dad, he seemed to know something about everything.
“Would you like me to help you bring your things in, Messler? I have a guest suite ready for you. I just happened to think that you might want to freshen up a bit after your trip.”
“That would be nice. I could use a shower and then a bit later I’ll take all three of you young folks out to eat if you’d like that.”
“Well…I’m sure we’d all enjoy it but if you’d rather stay here I think that between the three of us we can produce a pretty good meal for you.”
He agreed so readily that I deduced he was only being polite in asking to take us out to eat. That suited me. We could talk a whole lot easier and wouldn’t be bothered by pazzers or casual acquaintances who saw us with the famous Messler Scribner and stopped to say hello, as if they knew us intimately. I really dislike hangers-on like that.
Along with one of my guards we brought his light luggage in to the guest suite I had fixed up adjacent to my own. Why there? I didn’t know and had no intention of questioning my motives. For all I knew I might be setting up an opportunity to get laid, but I seriously doubted it. So far I hadn’t had any desire for sex with a male, even after that night with the woman hadn’t been as satisfactory as I thought it would.
While he was refreshing himself I called Tenn and Taylora to my suite and we planned the menu. Nothing elaborate but we managed to come up with small Cornish hens, dressing and a side dish of candied corn with a dessert of thawed cheesecake that a local restaurants made and sold in boxes on the side. It was better than anything like it in New York and I don’t care what the snobs say about New York cheesecake.
A good wine relaxed everyone then Taylora and Tenn took a subtle hint that I’d like to talk to Messler alone and left at a reasonable time.
While I was doing a last bit of clearing up, Messler looked over my paper books and the catalog of those I had ready for downloading to a reader. Despite periodic ominous predictions about the industry dying off it was still publishing several hundred thousand titles a year and a good many were still being released in print editions as well as electronic.
Messler sat back down and sipped at the coffee laced with a dollup of brandy I’d offered him. I had some, too but had gone very lightly. I had already learned to take it easy with liquor despite the pills to prevent hangovers. I didn’t want to get a drinking habit. Or any other kind of dependency for that matter.
I had been waiting all evening to ask a single question and finally got it out. “Have the folks sent any word back yet?”
“Just a couple of routine progress reports. Everything on the ship is functioning normally and they’re making better time than they thought they would. They’ll be in contact for about six weeks yet. Would you like to send them a message or let them know what happened to you?”
I thought about it for a moment then shook my head. “No, they have enough to think about without worrying about me. Time enough to get them used to me being a woman when they get back. Dad told me the trip might take a year or so. Is that still what you think?”
“More or less. It really depends on what happens as they get near the anomaly. It there are no problems they’ll make recordings, do their investigations and head on back to Earth.”
“And if there are problems?”
He shrugged. “Jackie, let’s not borrow trouble. I wouldn’t have asked them to go except for the fact that they are the best qualified crew I could find. Donna and Seyla insisted on being included with Russell.”
I thought of another thing I wanted to know, badly. “Did Russell ever remember that paradigm inspiration that allowed him to take that awful chance on a sex gate the second time?”
Messler knew immediately why I was interested. “You’re not too pleased with being a woman, I take it?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “I feel like I’m dressed up to be in a play or something like that. And I haven’t got past the idea of sex with a man yet. I’m afraid it won’t feel natural for me and I’ll have to live the rest of my life like that.”
He rubbed his chin in thought before commenting.
“I wish I could tell you he did remember but no such luck. However, he did tell me before he left that he had some ideas and would work on them during the trip. Russell is a formidable intellect, Jackie. He’s one of the most intelligent persons I’ve ever known, although your Dad comes close.”
Messler smiled. He didn’t have freckles but the dark red hair made him look younger even than the approximately eighteen years old that people emerging from the sex gates came out as. “Your Dad is extremely intelligent. So are you, for that matter. Neither of you is interested in specializing, though. You dissipate your intellect by trying to learn about everything under the sun instead of sticking to one specialty, like Russell with physics.”
While I was thinking that one over he mused for a moment then continued. “I’d like to test you again soon and see how you compare with what we found when you were fifteen. I suspect the results will show some major differences after your trip through the sex gate.”
“What did they find when I was fifteen? No one ever told me.”
“Really? You should have asked. You and Taylora and all the children of seconders have brain patterns with unique configurations, especially the way your synapses are multiplying way more than normal for teenagers and in patterns never seen before. And yours in particular was much higher in the number of synapses than anyone else we tested.”
“But what does that mean?”
He shrugged. “Ask me an easy one. We don’t know yet other than all of you have inquiring minds and memories that are close to being eidetic.”
I thought about it. He was right. When I chose to I could fix a fact or a set of facts in my mind and remember them from then on. On the other hand, the books I read for pure enjoyment, mostly fiction, and that were exceptionally good could be stuck back on my shelf or stored in electronic format and read again in a year or so. I got almost as much fun from the second or third reading as from the first. Anyone who didn’t re-read their favorite books weren’t true readers in my opinion.
I glanced back at Messler. My mind had gone elsewhere for a moment or two. I grinned sheepishly. “Not really. Just thinking of how I re-read books sometimes.”
“So do I. As for some of your thoughts, you may think they’re wild right now but hang on to them, especially if they don’t make sense to normal people. It may turn out later that they’ll come in handy.”
I remembered how sometimes I’d say things to ‘Tina that she would frown over and ask me what the heck I was talking about. Maybe Messler had a point.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” I said from out of the blue.
“You can always ask. I don’t guarantee I’ll answer.”
“Fair enough. Where did the name Messler come from? I haven’t heard it before and when I tried researching it I couldn’t find any facts about it as a first name.”
He laughed. “I’m not really sure. There are quite a number of Messlers listed but like you, I’ve never seen it used as a first name. Other than in our family of course. It’s been a first name for centuries and no one remembers why now. But see what I mean? You and your Dad both are always wanting to learn new things and they don’t always apply to anything in particular.”
We talked for quite a while longer but never on any subject of importance to world affairs except the way seconders were viewed. They had never been trusted nor really accepted and still weren’t. The government had generally let them alone publicly while away from media pazzers they were often pulled in by one or another of the security agencies and questioned. Messler was of the opinion that some governments were actively encouraging their elimination, using cutouts that couldn’t be traced back to the source.
“It seems like anything really new is always viewed with suspicion if I’ve been reading my history right. I wonder why that is? Doesn’t it seem counter-survival to you? After all, look at all the new inventions and innovations that have made life so much easier over the centuries.”
Messler’s expression became sad-looking. “It’s people who are different that upset the masses so much. Look at all the problems Blacks have run into since the Europeans began serious exploring back in the fourteenth century and afterward. Had the Africans been on an upward cycle of technical progress it would have been the Europeans who were turned into slaves and drudges.” He shrugged. “Humans are contrary and not often fully rational in many ways but I guess you knew that already. I once thought the advent of the sex gates would help us appreciate the differences in other cultures, not to mention the opposite gender, but it hasn’t worked out that way. The only positive change I’ve seen is with seconders who can swap their sex as often as they wish.”
“I wonder if that young entity that was responsible for the sex gates purposely made it so hard to become a seconder?” I said.
“Almost certainly but the so-called experts have as many explanations for it as there are experts. One for each.”
I laughed even though it wasn’t all that funny.
Messler raised a brow at me. “My own thought is that it’s so hard because seconders are the future of our species. According to your Dad, most of the sex gates will hang around for thousands of years, but gradually disappear. By the time they do, we should have the technology to either duplicate them or build something similar. At least I hope we do. As it is there are so many of them that no nation feels threatened but if we still haven’t united earth by the time they dwindle, there will be wars over their control.”
“Is that why you sent the new expedition out?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Maybe most astronomers have forgotten but allowing for the movement of stars in the meantime, it’s in the same region where that little entity offspring got the bright idea of creating them to begin with. I was wondering if it came back even though the parent entity said they were leaving.”
Messler looked at me curiously. “You know, you’re one of the few persons who has taken the time to figure that out. And you’re only eighteen. What will you be like in anther couple of decades?”
I was embarrassed. “It seemed simple enough to me. But is that the reason?”
“It’s certainly one of them, but not all. There is something going on in that region of space that someone or something apparently doesn’t want us to interfere with. It could be that bratty immature offspring of the entity your Dad talked to, or rather communicated with. It wasn’t talk as we know it, which I’m sure you’re aware of since I’m also sure you’ve read your Dad’s book.”
“What if…well, one ship has already been lost near there. What if Mom and Dad and their friends get into trouble?” I didn’t like that thought at all.
“Hopefully, they’ll have sense enough to approach cautiously and turn back if they sense any major problem. I can’t give you any more assurance than that. But I think I’ve had enough discussion for tonight. It’s been a very busy week and I need to get a good night’s sleep. Thank you for an excellent dinner and some very entertaining conversation. We’ll have to do it again.” He stood up and so did I. “Any time,” I said and meant it.
I walked toward the door with him.
Before he opened it he turned back toward me. Without any hesitation he placed his hands on my waist then bent down and kissed me on the lips.
I was surprised enough that my immediate reaction was to begin reaching up to put my arms around his neck. They got as far as his shoulders and stopped. The kiss lasted longer than a few seconds but much less than a minute. He performed the act ass casually as if he always said good night to friends that way. I doubted it, though. More likely the confidence he’d gained in a hundred years living as a man then also learning how the opposite sex felt was the reason he acted so naturally. My lips had just began to part when he raised back up.
“Good night, Jackie. We’ll talk some more tomorrow.” He opened the door and was gone, leaving me standing there trying to decide if I was offended or not. I wasn’t but I didn’t know what I felt. I walked back to my bedroom and changed into a nightie, the kind that slips over the head and terminates just about at the knees. It was a satiny material that caressed my body beneath it in a way that almost forced me to feel feminine in a way that’s hard to define. It took a while to get to sleep. Most of the time it was the image of Messler that kept me awake. That and wondering if Mom and Dad and their friends were going to have problems in space.