Trouble in Paradise: May 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

Non-fiction: Essential 90s (Stephen King's IT, C&C and Nirvana)

This video has been on youtube for a month -- I scripted five more videos that I will release from next week onwards. In this video I discuss the most essential cultural phenomena that define what it was like to grow up in the 90s. It gives insight in me as a writer and how I see the world.



Transcript:

Introduction: IT, C&C, Nirvana? Stay tuned for a gust from the 90s and how it relates to the hopes, fears and dreams of our times.
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Hi, my name is JdH and in this video I will discuss the most essential cultural phenomena that define what it was like to grow up in the 90s.
The three phenomena that I have selected stood the test of time, because to a good extent those works reflect and define who we are and they do for this reason there’s the dimension of entertainment, but there’s also what’s below the surface: they vastly work on an emotional level, because they give us something that makes us want to come back for more. 
Stephen King’s IT appeals exactly for that reason, because even though it’s a scary story, it’s also about growing up in 1950s America and it reflects the experience of growing up in any rural place in any era. It’s about the kind of friendship that you build as a kid in a small town, the kind of things you do to pass the time, and also the kind of warped way the imagination of young kids work. 
Command & Conquer, C&C…. Man, did I waste many hours playing that game and all the sequels…. There was this dual element that always got me coming back for more: you could either play the missions and quickly move on to the next level, or you could fool around and build a fortress which at some point caused the enemy to just give up. 
It was that element of fooling around that was part of the games’ appeal: to expand is a natural tendency and this game simulates that. It’s very 90s in the sense that it was during that era that we were almost being programmed that our lives are less about survival of the fittest and more about expansion. This game played right into that.

This [Nirvana] was one of the bands that I listened to a lot when I was like 16/17…. This one, Lithium, is one of my favorites…. It has the slow paced guitars and upbeat drums and the hoarse, screechy, insecure voice of Cobain. 
To me come as you areis their most iconic song and it’s very 90s, but it’s also a stretch too far it’s bad advise, because it basicallygives permission not to try too hard. But that’s only something that I see after twenty years: at the time there was just the music, the lyrics and the chunk of melancholy and teenage angst that floats around the whole thing. 
This is where it touches on one of the millennial predicaments: for many of us it took years to overcome this and to incorporate a very simple premise: To become successful in anything takes more than just being who you are, but it takes work, discipline and perseverance. 
So there you have it: three cultural phenomena of the 90s and some of my thoughts about it. What is your opinion? What is quintessential 90s and how does it affect our current times? Leave your comments below.
If you liked this video, you may also like my fiction: you can read a new story every week. For free.
Signing off, this is JdH speaking to you from the Caribbean.

Friday, May 24, 2019

ANTARIS - Destiny

The boy stuck around, first for a few days, then a few weeks, then a few months. He learned all kinds of things; how to fix an anti-grav hover-craft, the finer points of calculus, coding, and the design and AI of droids. On the other hand, he also learned more about the history: why people saw the need to go out and explore the galaxy back in the 2050s. Even though Antaris had been colonized over two hundred years ago, its history sometimes seemed in need of a larger narrative that stretches back further in time.


1

The time that deep space exploration really took off was a time when the global community seemed to be recovering from another economical crisis. The recovery was a hoax, like the whole economy itself at that time and the recession stretched out for the better part of the next fifty years. What had gradually happened since that pivotal year 2000 was that life had become more expensive for everyone who operated within the system. And since it’s sometimes impossible to see what’s going on when you’re inside something, there wasn’t anyone that took notice and was able to provide a narrative that people were willing to believe. 
There was a narrative though, but not a hopeful one and certainly not one that was geared towards the future in any long term. All over the globe populism started popping up, blaming some minority for the nations misfortune, but without any plans or visions for the future the traction that these populists generated was used by right wing politicians to promote their agendas. They easily lured the populists into a coalition under the promise of lowering taxes which would leave people with more money. 
Maybe the populists weren’t as cunning or they had never been aware of that simple credo that most career politicians adhere to – always exploit a good lie. The lower taxes were a lie and what in fact happened was that taxes were slightly increased, more taxes were introduced and all this money was used to make deals with large corporations, under the guise that they would employ people and generate wealth for everyone. 
It wasn’t what happened. These corporations only hired people that they could use and they hired cheaper workers from other countries, or they moved their operations abroad and they heavily invested in robotization of whatever they were doing. Any kid with a two-bit common sense could have foreseen that it was a sliding slope, but still people kept voting for populists. They preyed on sentiment and it kept working for the simple reason that it’s easier to believe that an evil minority is responsible for all misfortune, rather than the big brother that’s supposed to look after all of us. 
Or maybe people at that time had already become those empty vessels, brainwashed by too much television and too little literature and good fiction. Maybe they were sitting ducks that were willing to give their vote to anyone who tells a story that they can live with, a story in which they are the good guys and victims of circumstances, and that a solution is not hard work, perseverance and working toward a greater future, but instead the solution is removing some foreign entity. 
It almost brings to mind this politician on Rokset Island that used to barhop and buy beers for the hardcore clientele, while subtly angling for votes. When those same folks came by his office to hold this politician to his word later on, he simply pressed a button under his desk that alerted security of intruders. Officially it was illegal to buy votes with money or liquor and it even was a contradiction in terms, since at that time votes didn’t matter any more. The best deals were shady and made behind closed doors in smoky rooms between men that were blinded by power. 

*

Five decades after 2000 there was a new hope: the story of minorities no longer stuck – mostly because life had drawn to the big cities, which had become the dominant communities that were by definition mixed of many cultural groups that coexisted. The reason those metropoles worked was that there wasn’t one dominant culture like there had been before that demanded of minorities to give up their identity and to be assimilated. There were laws of course that were strictly enforced and those were the straightforward laws as they applied to any civilization. There were a few settlements outside of the cities where some bad elements flocked together, but they didn’t have much power in the way of numbers. 
Droids had become a reality and they had become servants in every capacity. They most notably served a function in providing healthy and nutritious food produce of labor intensive agriculture. They had entered the police force, entering bad neighborhoods and enforcing the law. They performed surgeries. And they were employed in space exploration. 

*

On September 1, 2039, the centennial of the beginning of ww2, basic income was instated in all countries that were part of the United Nations. The basic income in all those countries was exactly the same and at the time there was a temporary migration to countries where this basic income could be stretched further. 
The basic income had been possible, because of all the work done by droids, and because of the basic income, working weeks rarely stretched beyond 20 hours per week. This meant that the general population had a lot of free time. It became a time when people began searching for a larger narrative and very quickly the fascination with what lies beyond the stars caught on. 
Reaching beyond the stars took more than those 20 hours per week: it required dedication to the point of obsession. This spur had its effect on all levels of the global society and it was one of the first occasions that there was a unity that was more than a monetary agreement.

*

The short story was that more public money was spend on space exploration. A public fund was started with the same goal in mind. By 2060 the first shuttle with an army of 500 droids was send to Antaris to prepare for the arrival of 700 colonists by the year 2080. 
It was a leap though for those 700 souls. Because the space-ship neared the speed of light, the nature of time changed: it sped up. Even though two stable wormholes were discovered that cut the journey to less than a fifth of what it would have normally have taken. If they were to return to Earth via the same route, 200 years would have passed on earth, while they would only have aged 10 years. 

*

Cody Watts was born on January 5, 2300. He was the fourth generation of his family that was born on Antaris. 


2


Mack Daniels was in his early thirties and he had been working as an engineer for the better part of ten years. Over the years he had become disgruntled by the ultra-conservative attitude in most of the settlements that had been established in the early days. 
Most communities on Antaris rarely exceed 500 hundred individuals and they were spread out over the deserts, high plains, arctics and jungles. There were of course communications between settlements on the planets, but in all it was a stark contrast to the massive nature and the kind of energy of the metropole on earth. 
The only way that Mack Daniels could explain the ultra-conservative attitudes that he ran into in all of those settlements was because of a lack of input ideas, experiences, hopes and dreams. The ultra-conservatism is reactionary inthat it provides security despite the stuff that makes life interesting: because of the lack of new ideas it seems reasonable to assume that the past and the future would be much of the same thing. 
It worked for some and by much of the same token the individuals for which it worked might have been cut from the same cloth as those who eagerly voted for populists over two hundred years ago. For those who were not susceptible to ultra-conservatism things weren’t always easy, because in a way they were the same type of minorities against which those populists raged. The only difference was that back in those days, the majority was non-conservative (but ignorant) and the minority was extremely conservative. 

*

The first time that Mack Daniels had heard about Free Town he had dismissed it as just another story. The narrative was much like you’d expect it to be: a settlement that was started by a few disgruntled individuals that had enough of the conservative regime: an artist, a writer, a painter, a musician, a philosopher, a movie-maker and some wondering souls that hadn’t found their way yet. They simply wanted less rules and regulations, while carving out a life of their own. That, in so few words, became the only jurisdiction in Free Town.
It had been four years ago that Mack Daniels had heard the story. When he actually found out that it was a real place, it didn’t take him long to pack his bags and wonder off to that promise of a town. He didn’t have much that held him in any other place: he was a minimalist by principle, there were women here and there, but none that had managed to keep him in any place for long.
Time in Free Town was of a different quality and the two years that he lived there felt much shorter. That’s just how it is when we’re happy and at ease: things go smoother, included. As time he passed he also realized that much of the stories that he had heard were more fact than fiction: it was much like what Katie Tucker had shown Cody Watts when he had come walking in from the primitivist settlement. Free Town was welcoming to strangers and they had mostly one thing in mind: a free spirit and not too much rules and regulations. 
Then there were the stories about the parties out in the desert in that settlement that seemed to be build exclusively for that. 


3

Mack Daniels had reluctantly taken Cody Watts under his wings. His girl kept nagging that he should and that it was the right thing to do. It just didn’t seem that there was much to go on: a young boy of 18 that might have some technical skills. What Mack Daniels didn’t know was that it was more than some skills, since Cody Watts had undergone extensive engineering training in VR. He had passed all practical and theoretical exams, but what he lacked was real-life experience. 
Mack Daniels’ girl by the name of Colleen Sherman had gotten air of this young boy of 18. She had confirmed with another friend who knew Katie Tucker. Colleen Sherman figured that it might be good for the young boy, but that mentoring might also be something that Mack Daniels might enjoy. He had always been a man with ideas that were bigger than those of the average man. Colleen had figured that mentoring might help him to tone it down a notch. 

*

So you’re that snot-nosed little kid,” Mack Daniels said when the boy had come in and introduced himself.

Katie Tucker who had walked Cody Watts to Mack Daniels’ workshop whispered, “He’s just joking.”
He is?”
I ain’t,” Mack Daniels said and he gave the anti-grav hover-craft a good smack, “This goddamn piece of junk!”
Cody here build his own droid,” Katie says, “Rusty.”

Rusty took it as a cue and he jumped center stage yelling “He, he he...”
That’s cute,” Mack Daniels says, “Why don’t you hand me those pliers.”

Out of a pile of about twenty different ones, Cody Watts managed to picked up the right one. 
He can stay,” Mack Daniels says. 
Ok then,” Katie Tucker says, “You two have fun….”
You checked the coupling coil?” Cody asks.
No damage, no rattling,” Mack Daniels says, “The battery gives a steady hum, circuitry is not fried, so I figured that it might be the alignment coils.”
Or the stabilizer,” Cody says, “Although that’s a secondary system and you should have seen more action thus far.”
Right,” Mack Daniels says, cleaning his hands with a cloth, “I need some water first.”

Corrosion?”
The bigger problem is the dust,” Mack Daniels says. 
Possibly.”

Mack Daniels takes a few gulps of cold water.
My girl told me that you just came into Free Town.”
The journey,” Cody says, “I turned 18 a week ago.”
When you’re 18 you don’t know nothing,” Mack Daniels says, laughing, “When you’re 32 you don’t know nothing.”
What are you saying?” Cody Watts asks, “Knowledge is futile?”
Noooh….” Mack Daniels says, exaggerating, “I have seen too many folks those that just rolled into an easy engineering job right after finishing their VR-training and 6 months internship…. Then you just become this tiny part in this whole machine here on Antaris…. Then that’s it for the next fifty years.”

Cody Watts looks questioning.
A job is good,” Mack Daniels says, “Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not everything.”
Right,” Cody says, “I guess I’ll understand in a few years, huh?”
There are plenty that don’t….”
So then what made you come out to Free Town?”
I guess it’s all in the name,” Mack Daniels says, “I heard the stories for years wherever I was. It were these talks about a settlement out in the desert that was created by dissatisfied settlers from all over Antaris. What they basically wanted were less rules and regulations.”
A Free Town.”
Right.”


4

It was immediately clear that Cody Watts and Mack Daniels connected. It made the apprenticeship easy and they talked about much more than just engineering.
Why do you think that Antaris is still under military control?” Mack Daniels asked one day.
Safety?”
After two hundred years?” Mack Daniels says, “There hasn’t been a single hostile act. No revolt of the masses. No mass crime. No invasion from outer space.”
But still we are under military command.”
You get the picture, right?”
You mean: why there’s no democracy on Antaris?”
I can understand that they didn’t send career politicians here in the first place, because many of the problems on our home world were caused by bad politics but at some point politics are unavoidable to get a society that’s more than a research station in the arctics or a rig drilling for oil.”
Then if the military are in control, then they are ultimately the ones that can decide on the ruling and the faith of Antaris.”
You see my point….” Mack Daniels says, “Then the question is: why are they holding it off?”
Status quo?” Cody Watts asks, “Maybe people are content with the way things are?”
Because they were born into it and don’t know any better….?” Mack Daniels says, “No: too easy. We all have full access to the VR and movie archives. There’s more than enough evidence out there that military rule is not the preferred option.”
Then what?”
Then it’s the same question of motive: why are they holding it off?”
Maybe those in power like it the way it is,” Cody Watts says.
That, or they’re plotting something,” Mack Daniels says, “There’s only so much training, marching and parading that you can do.”
You think that something else is going on.”
Yes,” Mack Daniels says, “It’s like the colonization of earth back in history: conquest and conquer.”
Conquer what?”
Deep space.”


5

Mack Daniels usually talked about his theories little by little, because he knew from experience that what he ultimately believed was too much to digest at once. Unless it was one of those nights when drinks and stories flowed limitless and the boundary between reality and fiction seemed to go up in thin air. Because what he believed sounded more like fiction than reality and that in itself might be much of the reason why the military command had gotten away with so much for over two hundred years. 
Nights of boozing, fun and games were usually the nights that theories like those of Mack Daniels were discussed. In the minds eye those nights were all about the darkest hour of the night that seemed to stretch out without end into a kind of black hole. During nights like those, preferably after midnight and first having relayed the story of Cotton Charlie the story about that simple soul that was tormented and ultimately lynched by a mob that had initially paid to see him fight. That mob had first made him crazy and then murdered him in the most horrible way. After midnight Cotton Charlie could be summoned with a simple riddle. 
It’s one of those stories that just doesn’t work in the daytime, because it’s at night that our thinking changes. That’s where black holes come in and where it absorbs everything, even light itself. Our thinking patterns become unhinged from our everyday norms, we seem to be less tied in the present, but more connected to a sort of collective subconscious as it was theorized at the turn of the twentieth century by psychoanalysts.
The kind of story that Mack Daniels usually told well after midnight, or on the n-th time that certain things were discussed, was the story of what he believed was the motive for the military still being in control of Antaris. Over the years he had become more and more convinced that there’s a conspiracy going on: it is believed that the military is building a drone army in a facility on the nearby planet called Lithios. 
This planet is named after the element that can be harvested in abundance: lithium. This metal is used to build batteries and shielding of droids. Materials used to build the electronics and other parts are also harvested on that planet. The drone plant on Lithios doesn’t limit itself to droids, but it also builds space-ships that carry weapons of mass destruction. The conspiracy hangs on this thin thread that the military is just waiting for the right opportunity to engage in their imperialist conquest. 

Whyis usually the first question that people ask when Mack Daniels talks about the theory.
Motive, opportunity and means,” Mack Daniels usually responds, cooly, “To get bigger and more powerful.”
Again:why?”
I used to say: why not?” Mack Daniels says, and then he usually pauses mysteriously, “But I have come to believe that it’s inevitable, because we simply need sense and purpose in our lives. And I believe this is it in this day and age. Just imagine the opportunity: we conquer some alien worlds, give it a few decades and then we turn that conquest into an alliance where this historical move of ours will always give us the upper hand.”
No peace treaties?”
Nature doesn’t work like that. It’s more primitive and more raw. It has more to do with overpowering,” Mack Daniels says, “Then later on those treaties will follow.”
How do you know all this?”
By looking at the past and the fact that we haven’t changed all that much.”

*

Cody Watts had discussed the theories many times with Mack Daniels and it tended to make sense every time he heard about it. It was the combination of motive, opportunity and means combined with logic, history and a keen insight in human nature. 


6

The months flew by until there was a night when he was in bed with Katie Tucker. They were watching a movie and out of the blue she had sensed what Cody Watts was planning to do next.
You want to leave,” she said, without him having told her anything as such. 
“….”
You’re tired of me.”
Not of you.”

Cody Watts hesitates and he thinks: maybe that was on the tip of my mind all along.
You can come with me,” he says finally, “But I have a feeling that you won’t do that.” 
It’s ok,” she says, “You know where to find me.”

*

The next day Cody Watts prepared to walk to the next settlement. He gathered water, dehydrated food and the experiences of the last months that were recorded in the VR-logs. 
It was a mixed feeling to walk out of Free Town. In that town was the first woman that he shared a bed with, but it was also the town where he learned that there’s always more that meets the eye. 

The distance to the next settlement was over 200 kilometers and it would be more challenging than the first leg of his journey. For the next weeks he would sure balance on the brink of exhaustion and dehydration. There would sure be moments when he wanted to return to Free Town, back to the warm bed and the loving heat of the girl, back to tinkering with this and that, back to those endless nights out in the desert.
Then there was this nagging feeling that Free Town wasn’t the place to stay for too long. It felt more like an extended summer vacation and the girl had been his vacation fling.
The thought that hadn’t reached his consciousness yet was this: if there’s any truth to that droid army, then I need to find a way to stop them. Given Cody Watts’ skill and knowledge it should be possible; if he could get close enough. Science still hadn’t found a cure for the common cold and with droids becoming much more like us that might be exactly what could put sand in their engine. Then there was this dream that he had always had: to serve as a pilot in the military. 
V-tothe-I-tothe-R-tothe-U-tothe-S.

Friday, May 17, 2019

ANTARIS - The Journey

Cody Watts was used to the heat, because he had never known anything else. There was a point though when it was enough, even for him. By noon the heat was always hard to escape and at some point he noticed that the wind had dropped. It was as if he was walking in a hot oven. 
He felt that his body was evaporating water too quick: his strength was disappearing, a very subtle, light headache became more pressing and his mouth was getting dry. Rusty carried the water supply of 50 liters that he wanted to use as sparingly as he could, but at this point he needed to drink, and a lot. 
The water was still cool and despite the fact that he wanted to stretch the water supply, he soaked a cloth in water and tied it around his head. Rusty carried a hydrator that could extract up to 10 liters of water during the night, which in theory would be enough to drink, even on the hottest day. 


1

An hour before sundown they reached the settlement that was indicated on the map. Until he actually stepped into the place, Cody Watts couldn’t rule out that it wasn’t a mirage or a figment of his imagination. There were no permanent residents, even though it was build around a natural spring. 
Under the canopy there were a few cabins for those that travelled and either wanted to take a break, or were looking for shelter during the night to protect from whatever came out in the dark. 
None of the cabins were occupied and it didn’t look like they had been for a good while. That night Cody Watts hydrated one of the packs of food and he studied the map to see the journey that he had made that first day and how much distance he could make the next day. That first day he had walked forty kilometers in ten hours. The settlement that he aimed for was a little over a hundred kilometers from the oasis. It meant that he had three more days of walking ahead of him. 
That night he woke up because of a bird that was making a lot of noise. It went on for a good while and then all of a sudden all sound was gone. He figured that it was either provoked or attacked and eaten. During those few minutes he heard all kinds of sounds: galloping, rustling, sniffing. These sounds faded away quickly when the bird stopped and sleep kicked back in. 

*

The next day he walked 35 kilometers until he reached an abandoned mining facility. He set up camp in one of the buildings that hadn’t collapsed yet. 

*

The day after that he walked 40 kilometers and since he didn’t run into a good place to stay for the night – he stayed out in the open. He build a fire and he put Rusty on guard. It was the first time that he ever remembered to be sleeping out under the open sky. 
He had expected to be hearing the same noises of animals that he had heard on other nights, but instead it was dead quiet and there appeared so many stars in the sky that it seemed overwhelming just to think that each of those might have a good number of planets circling around them. 
From time to time he watched those science-fiction movies in which there are so many species that it’s hard to keep track of. It had always been the expectation ever since that first time that a rocket left earth and set out for distant soil that we would run into intelligent alien life on distant planets. 
The moon had been our first step out there for a little over five decades, then Mars for the next five and after that the hyperdrive was invented and space had become smaller and less lonely. It still was kind of the expectation that we would run into other species, but besides simple multi-cellular organisms on the level of bacteria it remained eerily quiet. 
Still, looking up from a desert into the wide open skies – it makes you wonder…. It almost makes sense that at that same time someone else, of some other species is looking up and having the exact same thought. 
The next day will be the last part crossing over to the next settlement. There’s about 30 kilometers left, which would make it the shortest distance that he would make. 
Cody Watts kept looking at the sky for about half an hour. The fire sounded reassuring and Rusty bleeped while on sentry duty. 


2

When the first structures were within sight Cody Watts lost track of how tired he was. Living in a primitivist colony -- it was a familiar feeling, but it wasn’t that for most people. Most people didn’t track the desert on foot, unless they absolutely had to. And even then they might wait for a few days to see if they could get air of a rumor of a transport going here or there. And even if that failed, most people would rather get into debt to arrange for transport themselves.
The older generation would probably say that the younger generation was getting lazy and weak. It was probably true, but what was also true was that the requirements for day to day live had become less demanding. In a way life on Antaris had become much like those last few decades before space-travel really kicked off. Back then people had lost track of who they were and what they were made of. Most people worked desk jobs that made people fat, weak and lazy. This shift had happened gradually and in a way people were lulled into this kind of lifestyle. Droids were build for all the tedious jobs that people no longer wanted to do and they also became affordable. 
At the time these office workers were called the Beasts of the Obese after life expectancy started dropping dramatically. It was then that exercise became a government priority. For this task new droids were designed that were both coaches when it came to exercise, but also when it came to a healthy lifestyle. 
Those droids didn’t stick around for long after a few incidents when a few people had gotten seriously injured after being trained by a droid. It didn’t take long for droids to go back to the way that had been regarded before and ever since: that of a servant of man. 


3

Who are you?” is the first human voice the boy hears in four days.
My name is Cody.”
And you came by foot?”
I did,” he says.

The girl hesitates, but she drops a bit of the veil that covered her face and left only a small slit for her eyes.
Katie Tucker,” she says. 

She seems about his age and her complexion is very light, which explains the veil. 
You live here?”
All my life,” she says, “Are you looking for someone? Family?”
No.”
Are you running from something?”
No.”

The girl shows a smile, while she walks to the shade of a tree. 
Then you just turned 18,” she says, “I heard that in some tribes it’s expected for boys to journey out when they turn 18.”

Cody Watts didn’t expect that she would know and it shows. 
I’m like the tenth this month?”
No,” she says, and she pauses, “The first ever.”
Then how did you know?”
Later,” she says, “You have to eat first.”

The girl takes Cody Watts to the local tavern and she orders a stew goat with baked potatoes to the side. While the boy eats, the girl talks and she tells him all about the history of the settlement. Like all settlements it couldn’t be older than a good two hundred years: that was the time that the initial space-ship had come in and settlements were designated.
A lot of planning had gone into that, but still being on a distant planet it was all very different from what any of the 700 passengers could have imagined. The initial plan was to build different settlements, based on skills, interests, character, temperament, personal politics and all that. One of those were primitivist settlements like the one where Cody had grown up: they tried to use as little technology as possible. There were droids though for the heavy work, but other than that most work was done by hand. The settlements were small with initially only 30 primitivists in each of the ten of these settlements. Their objective was to grow food for the entire colony.
All other settlements were mixtures of scientists and engineers whose task it was to develop everything from a simple aspirin to custom made military technology, preferably using natural resources. These settlements were also 30 and of those there were five. 
The biggest settlement was that of a military command and that one counted 500. It was a huge complex by comparison and many asked why a peaceful mission needed so much military power to begin with. The official reason that was stated was that all utilitarian tasks were run by the military: hospital, school etc etc.
We’re getting side-tracked,” the girl says. 
I don’t mind,” was all Cody knew to say and he though: I don’t mind at all...

In a way, all that was ancient history, since that was how it had all started out over two hundred years ago. What had happened first was that tasks for survival were carried out. After that all settlements started expanding and then it became clear that younger generations were not willing to either just work the military, farming, science or engineering. They were more culturally oriented and they produced a generation of musicians, writers, painters and all that. In other words: they didn’t want to have too much to do with the military forces. 
What happened was that new settlements were formed with more culture and freedom in mind. Life became richer and it started developing its own identity. 
So you plan to become an artist?” Cody asks. 
Maybe.”
What is your art?”
Later,” she says. 

*

The girl walks him to the local inn. 
Along the way he asks her why she does all this. 
You seem like a good guy.”

Those words stay with him that night and he can’t help thinking: what does a girl like that….


4

The next day she’s at his door at ten in the morning.
Tonight I want to show you something,” she says, “I’ll be here at8.”
Can you give me a hint?”
Something fun.”

She left him to himself for that day. After lunch he took a stroll around town. It was a very short stroll, because it was too hot and it seemed that most places of business or activity were closed. He figured that he must have caught them at the siesta.

*

That night the girl takes him out to a gathering in the desert. A transport shuttles them to the site in 30 minutes. The ride ends next to a structure of what looks like a dinosaur made out of metal. There’s also a large sphere. A decommissioned space-fighter (two seater). There’s a large statue of a man fighting a droid. A large owl made of wood. A space-ship.
This place is huge….” Cody says, “What exactly is going on here?”
You know how our settlement can be small,” Katie Tucker says, “This is our escapism. These shapes represent our stories, but at the same time they are made to make you think.”
Aha.”
Just imagine being here late at night, sleep-deprived and after a few drinks to take off the edge,” she says, “This is what I mean by art.”
To gain perspective….” he says, “I kind of get why you wanted to show me this….”
If you come here in the daytime you can see for miles and miles in either direction,” Katie Tucker says, “But it would be unbearably hot as well this time of the year.”

*

She walks him around and introduces him to everyone along the way.
Everyone knows you….” he says.
Well,” she says, “By now most should know you too.”

Katie Tucker pauses, and leans forward.
So Mr. Goodguy: what is your plan?”

For a moment he thinks about his next move, but this not the right time to make a play. She probably just means his big plan for the future.
I always dreamed of joining the flying squad,” he says and he has this feeling that his doubt is sounding through.
Why would they take you?” she asks, “You’re just a primitivist and you know what they say about the schooling of primitivists, right?”

Hearing herself use the word primitivist gets her riled up.
But I can learn.” 
Anyone can learn,” she says, “What you need is credibility, credentials, reputation, that kind of thing.” 
You’re trying to say that I ought to hang around here for a while?” 
We have all kinds of folks here: you can pick up some engineering skills, you can brush up on your calculus, you can read up on some of the great masters of the old world.” 
Why would anyone let me do that here?” 

Look around you, kid,” she says, “We all walked out of all the other settlements with something bigger in mind.” 
“….”
No restraints,” she says, “A free society.”

*

They go for a stroll and when they are at a dark spot away from all the action, she lets him taste a bit of the pie. He wants more, but somehow she keeps him off, even though she definitely has the same thought on her mind.