REPORT A PROBLEM
“I’M SORRY, what?”
“What were you thinking?”
— “What does it matter? They’re my thoughts.”
“No, I just didn’t hear. I wasn’t paying attention.”
— “It doesn’t matter. Whatever I was thinking, they’re my thoughts.”
“I understand that. I just wasn’t paying attention. What were you thinking about? Was it—"
— “What the hell difference does it make? That’s what you’re not getting: I was just thinking my own thoughts. OK? You think your thoughts and I’ll think mine.”
“Was it about space?”
— “It doesn’t—"
“Oh, space. Flying in space. That fantasy. OK. Never mind.”
“Just doin’ my job.”
“’Gentlemen!’ This was his salutation, you know? He had us there, we in our wool suits and leather seats, our hands to a man clasped on the wide mahogany table his great-great-grandfather had steamed over from the Orient, and he barked, ‘Gentlemen!’”
“The arrogant bastard. He—"
— “Excuse me.”
— “Mahogany-veneer, surely.”
“I beg your pardon?”
— “You said his great-great-grandfather—"
— “…From the Orient.”
— “But those are Ikea legs.”
— “I have dreamed that room, the conference room. I don’t mean to…”
“What are you suggesting?”
— “Mahogany-veneer, perhaps, as those are Ikea ‘Krille’ legs, $12.50 apiece, with casters."
— “Me, sir?”
“Yes! Fetch these crates up to Dr. Savanna Malaire, fifth floor rear, and I’ll see you’re thanked.”
— “But those could house an African elephant apiece! Full-grown!”
“Loxodonta africana, quite right: their bones, hair, and entrails, at any rate. Come now: a bit less dawdling.”
“A proper thanking waits at the finish.”
— “You’ve got … one hundred seventy-six of the coffins, sir!”
“Ah, a counting lad! We had one of you at school. You’re not by chance related to Rudeger Chinyap of Hatblock-Derby, are you?”
— “Rudeger is me eighty-eighth cousin, sixth, on me Mum’s!”
“AND THIS is me with Nolan Ryan.”
“Do you know who Nolan Ryan is?”
— “A baseball player?”
“OK, yes, he used to pitch for the Texas Rangers and now he’s involved with the front office of the Astros.”
“His kids are Reid, Wendy, and Reese. You never met them.”
“Remember we played baseball?”
— “You and me?”
“We did once. Me, you, and your brother.”
“Actually, he pitched for the Mets, Angels, Astros, and Rangers. Reached the Hall of Fame in ’99. Ryan did.”
— “Can we have pizza for lunch? Please?”
“I GOT ANOTHER.”
— “Shit, I’ll say.”
“He’s a big one.”
— “He’s in both bands. You locking?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Locked. Wait… Here.”
— “Zero interphase!”
— “I’m jealous.”
“Feeding him through H.E.L.E.N. She’s… “
“This must be a record!”
— “It is! Point nine nine five; alpha bravo! Look at him! You got all of him: the subject, his local, his familial, his full cultural/contextual… You can read the damn books on the shelves where he grew up!”
“Look! That’s where he’s broken!”
— “It’s just…”
“H.E.L.E.N’s loving this.”
— “Check out how he pushes friends away! Fantastic self-sabotage!”
“Just another day at the office.”
“I FLOATED in their inside-out space and they spoke: clicks and pops followed by what sounded like bitter disagreement among emergency klaxons. The air weighed on me at great pressure. My eyes and ears … nausea. I fainted, then woke in the ambulance: technicians Trent and Mitchell, and the driver and another person. Can I go home?”
— “Not just yet. We want to be sure of a few things first.”
“May I borrow your phone?”
“I’d like to let my wife know I’m all right.”
— “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Get some rest. I’ll [klaxon] [scent of cotton candy].”
L: “So that's our proposal. Can you do it?”
J: “Um. Probably.”
[Murmurs of excitement.]
L: “Well, what would you require? We’ve already built the scanning and recording apparatus. You would wear it as a … as a sort of backpack. Dr. Banks, show him the prototype.”
J: “No need; I’ve worn it.”
L: “You … you have?”
L: “I don’t … well, no matter. Will you do this for us? Visit PG 1302-102 for the entire collision; document it by steps of —"
J: “I’ll do it for you on one condition.”
L: “Anything. Anything within our power.”
[Murmurs of assent.]
J: “Two weeks’ damn vacation when I get home.”
"GIVE ME an easy one."
— "Like, lob it?"
"No, a little difficult: a nice little challenge. Something fun."
— "Well, what do you really want: I mean—"
"Just find a word."
— "OK. Astrobiology again?"
— "OK. ‘Second Announcement for the Workshop on the Potential for Finding Life in a Europa Plume.'"
— "Do you really want to do this now? You feel exhausted."
— "‘Blah blah blah… high velocity…. workshop will be followed on Feb. 19-20 by a meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group that will also be held at the Ames Research Center.' Oh! Perfect, right?"
"You know me so well."
“MY GOD! Hi! John!”
“So good to see you!”
— “Thanks. You too.”
“How have you been? Did you just get back? Have you been back for a while?”
— “I got back a week ago and I’ve just been enjoying, you know, relaxing.”
— “I’m thrilled to be here. Everyone has been so awesome. You know, it’s…”
“We all missed you. We’re all so proud of you.”
— “Thank you. I missed you guys too.”
“How long are you staying?
you staying? You can’t be. You’re going back out again, right?”
— “If they need me to. Probably. Always a giant meteor or something to deflect.”
“WE FIND one in a generation. Sometimes two. We do not know if there has never been one alive at a given moment.”
— “Why not?”
“We read no interruptions. Calendars are neither universally adopted nor true; it’s just something we know when we have something to know. When we have nothing to know we don’t know it.”
— “I see.”
“A sect of ours finds the potential for gaps — absorption lines — most intriguing: most spiritually and intellectually stimulating.”
— “Not you?”
“I respect the mystics — the diligent, responsible ones — but no: I don’t think it works by discontinuity. What would be the point?”
EYE MADE MYSELF! A coffee with BRANDY INIT. In it. Tonight.
But that’s nit — nit? — not what (not. what.) I want to say. Nooo. No, I want to say how marveleous (marvelous!! I know, you software you!!) how… um… wait. How. Marvelous. That. I want to know how marvelous that. No…
I want to know how marvelous THAT. (Something something something something.)
Why isn’t this falling apart together? Like of a piece, monsieur (agh! Autocomplete spellecheck! Agh with auto capitalization!)
In the end (!) it was the brandy that did it. Brandy Q. Reynoldswrap, Esq. He’ll take the case.
"Oh… migod. This rocks."
— "Can you handle it?"
"I think so. Am I up? Am I flying?"
— "Ask JARVIS! Or call up the HUD!"
> "Good afternoon, sir. You are indeed at altitude. One thousand meters… One thousand ten. Shall we slow, hold, or perhaps descend? You are encroaching on Federal —"
"Bring me down! Bring me down!"
> "Of course, sir. Here is our tactical view..."
> "Switching to optical. Where would you like to land?"
"Back at Tony’s, please."
> "Proximity alert. The Hulk is closing rapidly."
"What? On us?"
> "Returning to tactical. Shall we attack or evade?"
> "Propulsion offline."
"I haven’t watched television regularly since
I don’t know what the hell anybody’s talking about."
WHICH REMINDS HIM:
The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, Hill Street Blues.
Which makes him sad: Cosby, Fox, Colasanto, Larroquette.
SO HE TURNS YOUNGER:
Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy.
Which also saddens him: Not
AND HE RUSHES BACK FURTHER:
Let’s Make a Deal. Flip Wilson. I Love Lucy.
(His own tweet: “TONIGHT: Lucy worries Ricky's mixed up with saboteurs after she finds an atom bomb under his bed; Ethel falls for Fred's older brother.”)
AND SO, AS I AM ILL, I QUOTE FROM MYSTERY MEN:
Casanova Frankenstein: Ah, the old Disco Room. Just as I left it.
Tony P: You been locked up for twenty years, Casanova. A lot of things have changed since then.
Casanova Frankenstein: It must have been hard for you, Tony, the way times and styles have changed... hearing the people say that disco is dead...
Tony P: [Snapping] Disco is not dead! Disco is LIFE!
Casanova Frankenstein: Yes, Tony! That is the passion I remember! Stick with me, Tony, and you will dance again... when I rule this town.
AND SO, AS I REMAIN UNCOMFORTABLY ILL, I QUOTE AGAIN FROM MYSTERY MEN. GOTTA LOVE JANEANE GAROFALO IN THIS:
Bowler: Have you ever heard of Carmine the Bowler?
Shoveler: Have we ever heard...
Blue Raja: Cor blimey, miss; don't tell us you're the Bowler's daughter!
Mr. Furious: I seem to remember there being a little controversy around his death.
Bowler: That's right. The police said it was an accident: He'd come home late one night and fallen down an elevator shaft. Onto some bullets.
Blue Raja: You know, I've always suspected a bit of foul play.
Bowler: As have I.
MORE THAN 100W BUT I AM ILL SO
TO THE RULES. MORE FROM MYSTERY MEN:
[Rescuing Captain Amazing from Casanova's weapon of mass destruction]
Captain Amazing: Now flip the second toggle.
[Having already flipped on his instructions once]
Captain Amazing: What do you mean?
The Bowler: Flip the toggle twice?
Captain Amazing: No no no, don't do that, just flip it again, now, one time! Flip it.
[To Mr. Furious]
... Does he understand what I'm asking?
Mr. Furious: Hold on a second. Captain, exactly how many toggle flips
are involved in this procedure?
I just - I - Seven!
[A little hysterical]
[The weapon begins to hum ominously and increasingly loudly]
ILL, SO NOT POSTING REMAINDER OF 'TOGGLE FLIP' SCENE. ALSO EXCEEDING 100W TODAY. (PLEASED I GOT TO GOOGLE 'BILL THE CAT' FOR A SPELLING ON PREVIOUS ENTRY):
[The Blue Raja's mom walks in on him, in full costume, rummaging through her silverware drawer]
Jeffrey, what are you doing?
I'm, uh, I'm just... I... I...
[shifts to British accent]
I'm a superhero, mother.
An effete British superhero, to be precise. The Blue Raja is my name, and yes, I know I don't wear much blue and I speak in a British accent, but if you know your history it really does make perfect sense. I am pilfering your tableware because... I hurl it. I hurl it with a deadly accuracy. The point is, your boy's a Limey fork-flinger mother, hard cheese to swallow I know, but there it is. What will the bridge club think?
MYSTERY MEN! FEVERISH! POSTING ALL IN A BUNCH!
VIOLET: You need more forks? // These belonged to your great-great-grandmother. I was saving these for your wedding day. But, from the looks of things, that day is probably a long way off.
BLUE RAJA: Mom, you're taking this incredibly well.
VIOLET: I've always known you were special but I just never realized how special.
BLUE RAJA: I'd better get going. I've got a city to save.
BLUE RAJA: Yeah?
VIOLET: Do the accent.
BLUE RAJA: 'I'd love to stay and chitchat, but I fear I must away with me: Our metropolis is in the clutches of madmen.'
VIOLET: Jeffrey? Cheerio.
BLUE RAJA: I really should get going.
BLUE RAJA: Thanks, Mom.
MYSTERY MEN (1999)(KAFF!)
[The other heroes try to help Mr. Furious regain his anger-fueled super powers.]
Come on, somebody do something! We need him!
Okay, let's do this: You're a very furious man. Do you understand that?
No? Well, you've got a lot to be furious about, and I'll tell you why. You're not well-liked. You're, uh, abrasive and off-putting. You try to say pithy things, but your wit is a hindrance... so therefore nothing is provocative; it's just mixed metaphors. Now doesn't that make you angry? Does it infuriate you?
Well, it should! Are you angry? Come ON, man!
Your penmanship is atrocious!
You dress in the manner of a male prostitute.
[Bowler indicates her agreement]
A. GO ON, ASK HIM.
B. I will, I will. Don’t push.
C. Is somebody there?
C. It’s OK.
A. Go on.
C. Are there two of you?
A. It’s us, sir.
C. Oh! Hi! Come on over. I was just finishing up a letter. Would you like to see?
C. OK. This is paper, right? And this is what we called a typewriter. It’s a machine. The one feeds into the other, like so, and these keys here imprint the letterforms above, like so. All in sequence, one after another, until…
C. It’s OK. That was just a bell. It means this line’s nearly out of
A. THE MAN MADE MATH. With his hands.
A. I saw it.
B. He made math…
A. …with his hands.
B. OK, what; he counted? On his—
A. No! He made math! I’m—
B. I don’t understand.
A. Higher math! Dimensions! Spaces! Times!
B. You’re really not making any sense.
A. Things fit into other things. There were delays. There was this, like…
B. I do not understand in the least.
A. OK. Look: You and I can count on our fingers.
B. And toes.
A. Yeah. Fingers and toes. Right?
A. Well, he made math. He did things. There was… It was explosive and silent and infinite and pure.
A. Or something!
A. WHAT’S THAT?
A. Is it a bill?
B. No, it’s a statement. I get these statements.
A. From what? For what?
B. I’ve been getting them for years. I never open them anymore.
A. Is it something we have to pay?
B. Nothing like that.
A. It seems to bother you. Does it?
A. Can I see?
B. Please don’t open it. Here.
A. What’s this?
B. Their logo.
A. Ooh, embossed.
A. Are you OK?
B. It’s just a statement of my potential. How much I use.
A. Your potential?
Five percent. I’m 46 and I use five percent of my potential.
I thought it would be cold.
Is it going to hurt? You can tell me.
— It shouldn’t. No one’s reported pain yet. You’d be the first.
— Second thoughts? It’s not too late.
— OK. Have a seat. The bench is against the far side of the tank, facing me.
— Easy. Make your way.
If I sit I’ll be submerged.
— That’s the idea. That’s how we pattern you. Found it yet?
I’ll be able to breathe?
— You will. I want you to relax. Feet into detents, sit comfortably, hold the poles, and breathe naturally.
Very good, Leon. Your heart rate is elevated, so I want you to sit there for a little while thinking happy thoughts. You described to Miranda a happy place: a glen you’d visited in youth. I want you to revisit this place in your mind. Perhaps you encounter Abigail there. Very nice. Keep your gentle grip on the poles. Lovely. You hear the reassuring, distant surf. All is well. There is a picnic basket. Abigail is there with you. Very good. What is it today, ham sandwiches? Wine? Here you may drink wine, Leon. Enjoy. All right, now prepare for vertex insertion.
Leon, you are doing very well. Your heart rate is ideal for the next phase. I want you to take one very deep breath, calmly, and hold it. Very good. Exhale fully. More. Empty your lungs. Now another very deep, full, inhalation. Ahh. You’re doing very well. Hold it. Hold it. Exhale. Very good. Resume normal breathing. You did very well. Does it taste like cotton candy? That’s right: You’re enjoying a day at the seashore. You’re doing very well. I’m going to step aside momentarily to consult Dr. Morlecchi on a matter to do with carbon dioxide. Continue breathing normally.
Leon, you have been in suspension for one hour. Does it feel like less? I am told the perception of time inside is unreliable. Two hours now. Leon, you have been inside for five hours. Can you hear me? Keep your grip on the poles; this is easy for you now. You have been circulating for 12 hours. Good evening, Leon. Mr. Softell will monitor you for the next two days as I have been called to the capital. Freak. Good morning, Leon. Take a deep, filling breath now, please. Very good. Good evening, Leon. Would you please gently exhale today?
Leon, a military man has stopped by. I do not want you to worry. Hello, Leon. Take a deep breath, if you will. Hold it. When I say the word “yellow” you are to release it, not before. Good afternoon, Leon. I have just eaten an orange. Leon, the sun today is richly warm and shining saffron. Hello, Leon. I have been reading a magazine with Dr. Yelland White’s picture on the cover. Urgent:
Leon, release your breath. You must exhale. Good morning, Leon. Do you feel this current? Increase? Decrease? Yellow. Ah, very good. Very, very, good. Please breathe naturally.
We’re not supposed to be in here. Shut up! Check it out. Yeah? That’s him. Where? In there. Smells like shit. I don’t see anyone. He’s dissolved. What? They dissolved him; he’s this goop. What do you mean? Is this the kind of shit you want going on here? What do you mean, like acid? He’s dead? He’s alive. He can probably hear us. That’s sick. We have to get proof. What are they doing that for? It’s their experiments. They’ll do it to all of us if they can. Should we — No! Put that back. Let’s tell the others.
I WANT TO SEE HIM.
— Mrs. Pelletier.
I want to say goodbye. Properly this time.
— It’s too late. He’s on board.
How is he?
— He’s very well. You can watch the launch from here but then I must ask you not to return. He won’t be able to communicate with you. It’s for your own good I say this.
— He’s not human anymore.
That’s right. He’s not. He’s … he’s fine. I promise you.
— The terrorists broke in…
They did no damage. Not really. Office equipment. They were stopped well short of the tank. Please, Mrs. Pelletier. Let Leon go.
ONE HUNDRED applicants accepted. Nine survived transformation. Three survived injection and bonding. Two survived our command uplink and launch. The ship — the crew — have been aloft for 52 years of continuous flight and operation, all hale and hearty and contributing enormously to our understanding of our Solar System. Today I am delighted to report we have reached the edge of the G Cloud and are beginning survey of Alpha Centauri Bb, which has us in its influence. I have here a message from one of our pilots, Leon Pelletier: “Break out the bubbly.” Let us take that to be a good sign.
WE DO NOT know whether the Terrestrial has landed. It will be impossible to know until communication is re-established. I do not know if that will happen within our lifetime. I would like to look up there and see it now, feel my way into the data as I have done daily for the bulk of my career. The information is unavailable.
— But monsieur, how can this be? There are failsafes. Their every breadcrumb echoes.
This is a human endeavor.
— Then you say this is pilot error?
I said no such thing: I said simply that this is a human endeavor.
The Tip Jar