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How Dystopically Futuristic

The aliens arrived at least a year before I was given my luxury condo with a magnificent view of Earth in the window and a lock on the door.

I had refused to help the aliens with... whatever it is they wanted -- at least partly because they wouldn't tell me what they wanted -- so they'd given me a choice: prison or death. I chose the lesser of two evils, and refused to leave without my dog Floribunda. So Flori and I had been spirited away from my lonely underground bunker/household and we'd been in this weird shipboard prison for at least two months.

There was something about the walls of the place that flattened out even my telepathy. I think it was meant to completely suppress it, but I don't think they knew the extent of my power, so I could still feel and "hear" the minds on the ship beyond my walls. I was grateful for the suppression, though, because being around so many minds unprotected would have driven me mad fairly quickly, and we all know how productive that is.

I did, however, hope for a short while that maybe some para would happen to fly through my narrowed field of transmission and I could pass on what little I had found out. But then I recalled that Ruth and the rest of the Gold Stars had been off on some farflung space mission for at least the last six months, and they were the most likely "good guys" to be found in orbit.

I worked very hard to make the aliens believe they'd completely contained my mind in these bare white walls. Since it was clear from the first that the aliens themselves were skilled telepaths, this required a lot of self-discipline. Luckily, it became clear pretty soon that they really didn't understand the human mind. I couldn't understand their minds either, but that didn't worry me too much. There were non-telepathic humans on board whose minds I could understand, and they were working with the aliens. Some of them were telepaths -- and by definition (Class 10 means, in the government's books, "off our charts and easily the most powerful para of that class known to be in the world"), they were less powerful than I am. Some of them were other types of paras whose power I couldn't immediately guess, and I didn't go digging, so as to avoid detection. Some were just plain jane humans.

Flori didn't like the ship, and so I spent an inordinate amount of time with a large brown Pit Bull glued to my leg or lap. She drooled a lot and was very, very stressed.

So there I was, watching the Earth turn under us, Flori curled into a ball on my lap, when my door chimed. It chimes once per day, first thing in the morning, when the cleaning robot comes through. All my food -- and Flori's -- would appear mysteriously in the small pantry next to the kitchenette where I could do a modicum of cooking for myself with a set of saucepans and cast iron frying pans that would do credit to many kitchens. It required that I bust out my rusty skills, of course, but I managed.

So the door chimed out of time, and I said, "Come in," because I figured that anyone walking the halls could walk in anyway, and it was too much trouble to pry the dog off me and go be polite or something. Because, really, why should I be polite to my jailers anyway?

What rolled in looked like an unholy fusion of my mama's 1950s-era sea-green-and-gunmetal Hoover upright vacuum cleaner and a massive beauty salon sit-down hair dryer. The vacuum cleaner bag expanded and contracted, for all the world like someone breathing. The hair dryer hood was all closed in and dark, so there was no seeing whatever was inside. I could feel, though, that there was a mind in there, one I couldn't decipher at all, so this was not a robot.

"Greetings," it said in a tinny, stilted voice. "You are Renata Scott, yes?"

"I am Renata Scott, yes," I said. Flori attempted to hide behind me in the chair. I sat forward some and let her. "Are you seriously telling me that a species that can build this ship and wish food into my pantry can't make a decent imitation human voice?"

The vacuum cleaner stopped rolling toward me, and the voice said, still tinny and stilted, "The other humans we interact with prefer a less fluid vocalization."

"I prefer you to not sound like some bad BBC-alien knockoff," I said, putting as much boredom into my voice and mental emanations as I could.

There was another pause, and then a rich, mellifluous male voice said, "Is this preferable?"

"Yes, thank you," I said, impressed despite myself.

"Thank you for expressing your preferences so clearly," the alien said, and I thought there was some relief in there. "You are the greatest mind on this world, and we would rather have your respect than ridicule."

"Flattery," I said, "will not get you far. You obviously don't value my mind that much, since you threatened to kill me if I didn't consent to be locked up."

"I regret that you were contacted first by one of our more aggressive families," the alien said. "I was to be the liaison with all humans, due to my experience and research, but... plans changed."

"So you've been researching humans," I said, leaning back against my dog and crossing my arms, not willing to play "good cop, bad cop."

"Yes," the alien said, almost eagerly. "It has been a longstanding project for my family, you see..."

"Maybe some other time," I interrupted, "you'll tell me all about your sciencey science of science. But right now, I'd like to know why you're here." Yes, I'm rude. It was my only advantage, if advantage it really was.

… Okay, it just made me feel better.

The alien paused again, and I suspected it was studying me, or making notes in its lab notebook or something.

"We would like," it said hesitantly, "to know if you would be willing to cooperate with us yet."

"That depends on what you call 'cooperation'," I said. "I am not down with mind control, and as far as I could tell from what was going on down there two months ago, that was exactly what you were up to."

"There are other humans cooperating with us," it said. "They are knowledgeable about human minds and reactions, and therefore, we allow them to pursue our ends by their means."

I gave the vacuum cleaner the side-eye and stayed quiet.

"Your abilities show what your species is capable of," it said finally. "We would like your assistance in helping your species reach greater heights."

"You will forgive me if I don't believe a single bleep of your speaker system," I said.

"Yes, of course," it said. I doubted it could really "get" sarcasm. "Please consider it, though. I am not permitted to give you more details until you indicate your willingness to cooperate in a manner the other humans find convincing."

"Oh, we'll get real far then," I said, thinking about some of the human thoughts I'd overheard.

The vacuum cleaner turned and rolled to the door. "Goodbye for now."

"Do you have a name?" I said. "If you've studied humans so much, you know we like to have names to call people. Or we make up our own."

It seemed to consider, then said, "Our names are private, but... you may call me 'Joshua'." And then it let itself out.

I hauled the dog out from behind me and wrapped my arms around her. She was, of course, shivering like the big old coward she is. Comforting her gave me something else to think about for a while.

---

Author's Note:

For those of you who check out the source of every title, today's episode title is from the song at the climax of the musical, 2010: Our Hideous Future, a show in which a good friend of mine, Julia Lunetta, plays the MC, the evil AI who has taken over Earth. The show is unbelievably geeky, unapologetically queer, and funny as hell. 2010 is in what is very likely its final tour of shows. If you are in or around Salem, MA, Providence, RI, or Brooklyn, NY? MAKE TIME TO GO.

No, seriously, if you are a fan of Wonder City, you NEED to see this show.

Barring scheduling hiccoughs, I'm going to try my damnedest to be at either the Salem or Providence show. Extra bonus points if you want to meet me!

And if you aren't in the Northeast? See if you can get your local college or queer theater group to put it on, because the creators would LOVE to see that too.

The soundtrack is on Spotify. Just search for "our hideous future". The music is worth it. And I don't say this lightly -- I say this as someone who is very picky about musical theater, okay?

Don't forget to vote for Wonder City Stories at Top Webfiction!








Date: 2012-06-28 12:01 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Interesting! (And scary.) I hadn't thought about aliens, and I should have.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-06-28 09:38 pm (UTC)
contrarywise: Glowing green trees along a road (Default)
From: [personal profile] contrarywise
Well, that would explain it!

Date: 2012-08-10 06:54 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
YEP! As soon as Renata said "aliens" I was like oH MY GOD IT'S THAT PERSON WHO WAS TALKING TO IRA THROUGH JOSH'S COMATOSE BODY YES PERFECT OK THINGS ARE BECOMING CLEAR.

I still can't contain all my feelings. FIX IT, RENATA! *reads on*

Date: 2015-04-21 01:25 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
You know I keep meaning to come back and catch up on WCS and I haven't yet, but this reminded me to finally do it! Thanks!

Date: 2012-06-29 01:46 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Dang. I *really* wanted to blame that guy I love to hate.

But seriously, this is very odd.

- Kriz

Simon of Space?

Date: 2013-10-02 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"Our names are private, but... you may call me 'Joshua'."
don't know if it was intentional but that was a nice shout out to simon of space if it was.

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