Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Free Government Money

Everyone has their story that begins “I was following my old life and suddenly I heard Captain McBain announce First Contact with the Siirians.
“ Some people became religious, some people became scientific, some people headed for the hills and some people rolled out the red carpet. I became greedy. I knew the governments of the world all wanted a share in history. It’s what governments do. They wanted to get the most bang for the cultural exchange buck. And there was going to be so much exchange between two space fairing civilizations it would make the discovery of the New World look like a farmers’ market opening on Saturday.
So my ad was in the oneirocast stream within an hour. You may have even dreamed it yourself. I put it out there even before any government announced the grant monies. “Have an idea of how we should trade/interact/make friends with the Siirians? Well your government wants to hear from you. They want to GIVE you FREE money to develop your idea and our kit shows you how to do so.” The dream ended with a mega-flash of sex and success images. It was crude but I wasn’t a classy guy. Every brain tuned into the excitement of First Contact, which meant thirteen billion brains on twelve worlds, autosomatically absorbed it.
The next our computers buzzed with queries. Governments were even asking us how we could help them. God bless the Siirians and their shiny carapaces.
I didn’t really care what idea these people had for setting up interactions with the crab-like race. I heard some of them from time to time as some member of my quickly growing staff would tell me.
Arrange a jazz festival for the two species
Arrange a contest between the two species for the best protocol to use when discovering a third species
If the Siirians dream link their oneriostream with ours
Open the Nobel prizes to Sirrians, get them to open their prize system to us
Hold joint Science Fiction conventions with them
Set up an Extra –Solar Writer in Residence in all of our main universities, and get the Siirians to do the same. If could get the crabs to teach Freshman English there would be a great meeting of the minds.
Then an odd thing happened. Bart Chang contacted my firm. I knew Bart from way back -- we grew up on Bradbury City in the Martian Republic. We even went to the same High School. He was the class weirdo. When we were doing simple things like learning to do oneirocasts or simple nanotech or reformed economics, he was reading “The Fall of the House of Usher.” His senior project was building what he called the Lovecraftbot, a device for handwriting long letters. Roy actually walked into our office and asked for me.
“Rex, you old dog. I knew you were behind this. I remember your style in dreams.” “Bart, long time no see. So what brings you here?” “I’m here to buy your services. I have the best idea ever for dealing with the Siirians.”
I didn’t like the shiny look in his eye. He had had that look a few times back in High School. Creeped me out.
“Well,” I said, “We’re more than happy to sell you a grant application kit.”
“I want more than that.”
“Well we do sell a special enhancement package. We will go over your grant application, and make it look very professional, check for any errors in the process and otherwise make it as palatable as possible for the officials.”
“That’s it. You were the best bullshitter I knew back on Mars and I need your expertise.”
“I’m flattered I think.”
“Here’s my pitch. I have been looking over vampire legends. What is the vampire didn’t suck our blood, but information – contextualized memory? What is we sent humans that could suck the Siirian mind clean and come back full of whatever is really going on behind those multi-faceted eyes?”
It was no doubt the most insane of the proposals, but I figured my job was to remove money from fools by selling them my kit. Of course I agreed to get right on it, and frankly I was glad when Bart left my office.
A consortium of three governments bought it. The North American Alliance, the Japanese Empire, and the Ganymede People’s Republic all saw merit in the Dracula scheme. Bart was thrilled and credited it all to me. Sadly the project was very hush-hush
Bart surprised his sponsors by already having mind- vampires. He had been using them for industrial espionage. They had been wiping minds on the twelve worlds for about six years. They really liked it. Bart had been right with his vampire model – not only the spies somehow nourished by the process they drew sensual pleasure from it as well. It wasn’t till First Contact came around that Bart had thought of a patriotic use for them. But like I say everybody’s story starts with First Contact these days. The only question was whether their minds were too different than ours, perhaps horrible and dark.
The three governments had little trouble getting Bart’s vampire in place. His name was Jeffery Sassoon. He was going to Knight Station as support personal. He would hook up to the station computer every night and do its dreaming for it. A crappy menial job. After a month he would brush against a Siiriain scientist suck out the contents of his mind and go home. Burnout on the station ran high; there would be no suspicion.
I had begun to admire he could run much better scams than me.
He arranged for me to be there when spy returned home. We waited nervously as he left his ship. He looked awful, deep black circles marked his eyes. He trembled as though sick to his stomach. Finally after an agonizing walk across the tarmac, Bart asked him, “How did it go? “
“It was awful,” he said, “A mind is a terrible thing to taste.”

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