"If you can't learn to do it well, learn to enjoy doing it
LOVE, DEATH AND AN AMERICAN CAR
by Bryan H. Joyce
A Tale From The Tavern At the Edge Of Nowhere
With space and time being the size they are (too big), it's not
surprising that some stories get lost in memories. Usually they
turn up again to haunt or tantalize; sometimes, again and again
and again; always when you least expect it.
The night in the Tavern had been a lively one. I did not have a
minute to myself all night. The nearest that I got to a
conversation was when some guy joked about my pure white hair.
Potentially an interesting question, but I just didn't have the
Later, two time travellers got talking about causality violation
and ended up in a very heated argument about cause and effect.
Quickly the fists and boogers started to fly. The bouncers came
in to bounce their skulls. A few of the bystanders got clobbered
just for good measure.
As Big Joe (king of the bouncers) always said, there's no such
thing as an innocent bystander.
Understandably, this spoiled most folks' night out. The bar
cleared out fast, leaving only the regular hardened drinkers. It
would take more than a fight to put them off their drinks.
I had just finished cleaning up the bloodstains when a familiar
short figure lurched into the the bar. He tripped over the leg of
a broken chair and nearly dropped the lumpy, soccer ball-sized,
brown paper package he was carrying. Alburt Greshin. His anorak
and silly walk brought back memories of one of the strangest
stories I'd ever heard.
Although I was pleased to see him, I gave a mental groan for I
knew that after a few drinks he would tell the story again. And
again, and again!
"Yo! Hello, stranger. Not seen you in here for a while, Albo!"
He carefully put his package on the bar and jumped up onto one of
the taller bar stools.
"Not been about, Tony boy. Been on a management course. The old
boy's retiring soon."
Who he meant by the 'old boy' I couldn't remember. Think that
Alburt was still doing a bit of private investigating the last
time that I saw him. When was that? Six months ago? A year? More?
He slapped both my shoulders and I slapped both his back.
"Who would have thought it? The old bugger must be nearly into
the middle of his second century by now." I said.
"More like his third. Start the bombs flowing, buddy!"
"Still doing the dick-tective work?" Without waiting to be told
what to pour, I started to pour out his drink. Three fingers of
Polish White vodka; another two of barley wine and a dash of
lemon. For the final touch, an olive. Does this guy have a self
destructive streak in him, or does he have a self destructive
streak in him?
I tried one of Albo's 'bombs' once. It made me sick almost
instantly. Yuk! I can't stand olives.
"Yup. The way things are going, I'll someday end up owning the
company. It's been one step up the ladder followed by another and
another and another. Cheers!" He threw the drink back in a single
gulp, swallowing the olive whole.
Now that he'd been jump-started by the vodka and barley wine
he'd need something to soothe his throat. I poured out his beer.
"How'd married life work out?"
He didn't answer for some time. After gulping anything
containing a lot of Polish white vodka, it is advisable to hold
your breath for at least a minute.
"Great, Tony boy. Just great!" He coughed. "Sammy's just as
lovely now as the first time I laid eyes on her. If it had been
up to me, we would have been married years ago. Things have never
"So you're finally getting ahead in the world?"
"Yeah, you could say that!" He grinned, gave a laugh and patted
the brown paper parcel. "Ahead, ha! Ahead, that's a good one! Did
I ever tell you how I met Samantha?
"Probably," I sighed.
Don't know how he'd managed it but he'd found an excuse to tell
his story again. He usually waited until he was drunk to tell it.
He'd broken his own record.
"It was nearly five years ago. I was unemployed and of no fixed
The reason for my state was that I was one of the victims of the
HOLKELIN tests. The so called synchronicity drug. It left me with
what they still call enhanced senses. It's amazing, isn't it?
Science invents a drug that allows people with "the gift" to
develop it, but would they officially admit that extra sensory
perception exists? Would they hell!
Anyway, I couldn't put up with all those thoughts belonging to
other beings inside my head 24 hours a day. For nearly a year I
lived out in the mountains of Scotland as a hermit. Eventually
the effects of the drug weakened to the point where I could only
use the so called enhanced senses if I really concentrated.
It was then that I went back to civilization. Three years later
and I was practically still living on the streets. These days
that's not actually a bad place to be. I imagine that it was a
different story before the human race learned to control the
weather. Even then, back in 2080, weather control was very nearly
In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, the people who do
such things were so good with the weather that it was about then
that they started to terraform Mars.
Think that the bevy must be reaching my brain cause I'm getting
side tracked already. Where was I? Oh yes....
I'd just turned thirty and had been getting very depressed
lately. I needed to get a home, a job and settle down with
someone nice and raise a family. Not very likely at the moment.
No permanent home would be coming for at least another six
months. I'd spent the last few months living in bed and
breakfast-land courtesy of the DHS. There were not even any
females about worth focusing my thoughts on.
Life was really getting me down. What I needed was a goal to
work towards. One Thursday, I found one. Her name was Samantha
She was sitting behind the wheel of a large bright red American
Salamander that was parked in the shadow of the DHS building.
What she was doing hanging about outside the dole I couldn't even
begin to guess. She smelled of money. Even if bankruptcy had
recently struck her, she would not need to sign on for a long
long time. That Salamander could easily go for a megabuck in a
quick sale. More, if the money wasn't needed in a hurry.
Ground effect cars like the Salamander were much in demand by
millionaire playboys as toys. Indeed, they were the only people
who could afford to buy them. Sleek, ceramic bodies designed for
speed not looks. Zero to a lifting speed of 40 miles an hour in 7
seconds. Slow, but once in the air, the cruising speed was 80
miles an hour on ground effect. If licensed for it, the
Salamander could jump from ground effect to full flight.
I've heard that when in full flight mode they could only just
make the 200 mile an hour speed mark but that the efficient cold
fusion pile and regenerative ramjet engines could hold that speed
for days. Wonder if it's true?
I slowed my walk and curved my route to have a closer look at
the beautiful car. I hadn't yet realized that the driver was far
better looking than the vehicle.
The car looked deceptively fragile and inefficient. This was a
manufactured deceit for the Salamander has been dubbed the
world's safest car. The roof, wings and side walls were retracted
- she would have been crazy to have the car shut up in this
programmed hot weather, though it was probably well air-
conditioned - but, if danger threatened, then the car could fold
in seconds into an armoured tank of shining red ceramic laminate.
I really didn't expect someone of her obvious social status to
speak to me. When she did, she took me by surprise.
"Could you tell me the time?"
Her voice was almost too feminine. Mellifluent in the true sense
of the word; her question stuck in my brain like sugar smothered
I was shocked into silence by her voice and her unexpected good
looks. Approaching from the back of the car, I hadn't seen much
of the driver except her closely cropped red hair. Now I was
suddenly aware of a beauty that, in my eyes at least, matched the
smooth fragile look of the car.
For a short while, she stared at me with those gorgeous baby
blue eyes. Then after wrinkling her small (cute) nose she
nervously asked the question again.
"Do you have the time?"
"If you've got the place?" I wanted to say. She would giggle. I
would grin and the ice would be broken. Didn't a car like that
have a clock?
Waiting for a reply, she sucked momentarily at the side of her
well rounded bottom lip. The tight, pale lemon T-shirt that she
was wearing was low cut. The movements of her bosom as she
breathed was intoxicating. Ashamedly, I realized that she was
breathing too fast. I was making her nervous.
"I...er, I...yes, sure!" I mumbled, amazed at the nervousness
that I noticed in my own voice. Fumbling at my wrist, I
eventually found my watch button.
"It is 11.15 A.M." it said in the voice of some star from
antique movies. Think she was called Madonna. Tacky I know, but
it was a present from my youth.
"Oh, he said to meet him here at 20 past." Her long dark
fingernails clickity-clicked in annoyance on the lighter red of
the car door. "I thought he was late. The clock must be fast
again. Thanks for your trouble."
"No trouble. Any time."
Please, who are you? Do you know you're lovely? Will you go for
a drink with me? Are you married? I had a strong urge to reach
over and run my fingers through her short hair. Then gently hold
her chin whilst I kissed her ever so softly on the lips. What was
wrong with me? I'd never felt like this about anybody before?
I stood there a few seconds clearing my throat and trying to
summon up enough courage to say something. God, was she
magnificent! I was a wimp if I let this beautiful creature go
without fighting for her.
I was in trouble. My powers of speech were too far gone to help
me out of this one. Without realizing it, my jaw must have swung
open. I was almost drooling by the time that I came back to my
With hindsight, she must have been projecting very strong
emotions which my enhanced senses were picking up and affecting
me. For a second I toyed with the idea opening my mind and
reaching out to her. That was not a good idea. Peoples' private
thoughts are an off-putting chaos best left alone. The nicest
person alive can appear like a raving loony in their thoughts.
You'd be amazed how much sexual stuff flicks through nearly
everyone's thoughts almost constantly.
They can be having an in-depth conversation to me about buying a
new bin whilst their thoughts might be something like, "I wonder
if he's gay or straight?"
It's difficult to judge people by their actions when their
innermost thoughts are hammering at you non-stop.
My stare made her shift position with embarrassment. I hoped
that she didn't have "the gift". Its not for nothing that it's
known as the synchronicity drug. She suddenly clasped her hands
"Well, like I said thanks."
As the car folded shut I sobered up and realized that I'd been
staring at her cleavage. My eyes sliding all over her body,
examining all the available curves.
You blew it, Albo!
Red faced, I wimped off into the nearby DHS building to sign on.
Inside, I joined the nearest queue and listened to my senses. My
blood was pounding in my veins like molten lava. I was sweating.
There was a lump in my throat and I felt sick.
What an idiot! What a prize idiot! Why didn't you ask her for a
drink? Go back now and do it. How do you expect to end up with
kids if you can't even do something as simple as asking her out?
You've done it lots of times before with other women. What made
it suddenly so hard this time? You silly sod! Please, oh please,
oh please, oh please God let me die right here and now. Make the
ground open up and swallow me! Oh God, I need to get drunk fast!
After a few moments of observation, I started to calm down
realizing that I was in a condition to be compared to shock. No
one could hear the beat of the blood in my ears but me. My wild
thoughts were mine and mine alone. There was no one else about
with the gift.
By the time I'd reached the front of the queue, 20 minutes
later, I was feeling much better. My compu-cred card was renewed
and I had money to last me another week. I could afford to get
drunk at least once a week and it looked like this week's session
would be starting in a few minutes.
That reminds me, this beer is too wishy washy. Gimme another
Ahhh, that's better!
This story is probably sounding like a load of sloppy crap to
you. It sounds like a load of sloppy crap to me and I'm in it.
I've tried to describe my feelings as closely as possible. If
anything, I've played them down a lot which is just as well
otherwise you'd probably be sick. Yes I know, shut up, Albo your
ruining the story. Where was I? Oh yes...
I hadn't expected to ever see her ever again so when I left the
building I was amazed to find that she was still there. I mean,
her car was still there. For no logical reason I assumed that it
was still occupied. Perhaps I had just wished it was. It was
still closed up and was now sitting in the sun light as the
passage of time had made the shadows grow ever shorter.
I should have gone straight to the pub and not looked back but
the molten lava had came back and shouted NO! This was another
chance to grab the bull by the horns. From out of the Twilight
Zone popped that old joke into my head. Do cows have bells
because their horns don't work? I almost gave in to an insane
urge to giggle.
You're losing it, Albo!
I licked my lips and smoothed back my hair - stupid, as although
I couldn't see through the mirrored windows, she could see out -
and tapped at the drivers window.
For a moment I thought that the car was empty. Then with the
soft whir of a motor, the window slid down.
She looked as if she had been crying. Her eyes were damp and her
cheeks were streaked with tears. In my mind's eye, I reached out
and wiped a tear from her cheek and lifted it to my lips. Then
"Oh, there you are!" Came a rough masculine voice from behind
"Huh, indeed. There I am searching the dole for you and you've
already met Samantha by yourself. The synchronicity drug?"
"Probably?" I was confused.
The voice belonged to super sleuth Samual T. Sponge. He grinned
his perfect smile. He looked, as usual, to be in his forties. I'd
heard on good authority that he was well over a hundred years
old. At the moment, his hair was black and short. He had a thick
moustache. Last time I'd seen him he'd been blonde and long
In actuality, he was bald and never needed to shave because he
had had all his facial hair roots removed decades ago.
I had known him for nearly two years. As a last resort, he would
sometimes pay me to go to the scene of a crime and use my
enhanced senses to pick up latent vibrations of the events that
had happened. It was money for old rope. He didn't believe in
extra sensory perception. Why did he listen to me then?
"Whatever crap gets the job done, gets the job done." He told me
a long time ago.
"C'mon. Get in the nice big red car. I've got a quick job for
you. The usual rate of payment." He said quickly.
"Negotiable," I said.
"Thought that was the usual rate of payment?" He opened the back
door and got in.
"The usual then." I smiled and followed him.
Don't know why, but Sam was an instantly likable character. I've
never tried to open his mind and I don't think that I ever will.
He just gives off good vibes. He makes me feel good about myself.
That doesn't happen too often. When it does, I won't spoil it by
trying to analyse the reasons why. I know this much, its not my
gift picking something up because he makes nearly everyone feel
like that. Think he must have a bit of the gift himself and
projects it instinctively.
In the back of the car he set the scene for me. The young woman
was called Samantha Mercury. A silly name that I found strangely
appealing. Her uncle, Dr. Richard Thrum, was a scientist. He was
rich. Very rich. He worked for no one but himself. His latest
project would make him the richest man on the planet, if he could
pull it off. A super conductor that was 100 percent stable at ANY
His lines of research had lead him in to avenues where no one
else had ever contemplated going. In the past, he had made enough
discoveries in other areas to gain the respect of the scientific
community and had almost doubled his fortune doing so.
His superconductor theory was straight out of the fiction of the
last century. Stasis fields had to be the perfect super
conductor. His matter freezing experiments were preposterous.
Even if by a miracle he could permanently freeze the electrons in
their orbits and stop the protons and neutrons from vibrating,
nobody believed that he would have created the perfect
superconductor. Superconductors still relied on quantum nuclear
forces. If the matter was totally 'frozen' how could the quantum
forces still operate?
Much to the amusement of the scientific community, he had
"conveniently" discovered discrepancies in current quantum theory
that allowed his theories more elbow room. This time he was way
out of line. People had begun to think that he was out to lunch.
Or rather, that HAD been the general way of thinking. Recently he
had begun to get results.
So interesting were the results he released, that a very large
multi-conglomerate had tried to buy him out for one billion
creds! He wasn't interested and told them so.
Nearly a week earlier he had disappeared along with a lot of lab
equipment. Think that I remember hearing something on a newszine
about a mad scientist going missing. That was obviously Dr.
"What do you think?" I asked Sam. The back of the car was
partitioned off by a sliding panel of armoured glass. There was
no way that Samantha could hear us. Where was she driving us to
"I think he's dead. There was signs of a lot of violence and an
annex was being built at the time. The electrically drying ferro-
plascrete floor had been put down that day."
"So, a slit in his throat and thrown into that Olympic swimming
pool sized area of wet 'crete. That's what I think. Somebody ran
a current through it and his body is as safe as in the Bank of
England. You're my last hope. If you can't pick something up then
all that 'crete's coming up."
The car stopped and the three of us got out and went into a
tower block. The lab was in the basement. The lift doors opened
out onto the largest underground work floor that I had ever seen.
Every square inch was taken up with some sort of electrical
equipment. How anyone could tell that some of the equipment was
missing I'll never know. I couldn't see any uncluttered floor
space at all.
From the main lift, the annex was in the right hand wall. It was
only a quarter of the size of the first room, but massive in its
own right. The instant that I stepped over the threshold I began
to feel very odd. My skin felt as if it had a small current
running all over it and I felt as if I was about to have a panic
"You look uncomfortable. You feel something?" Said Sam.
"Yes. It's very strange. It's like, er, like, oh I can't
describe it!" I said.
"It's like someone is in torment. Not in the past. Right now. A
massive intellect being tortured. Think that I better sit down
for this one."
I sat down on the cold floor and leaned against the wall.
Closing my eyes I began to concentrate on relaxing my body. I'm
more receptive when I'm relaxed. After a few minutes, I opened my
mind and reached out. Something grabbed at my mind and took
control of my body.
"I'M ALIVE!" It screamed painfully through my lungs. My brain
was overcome with an incredible amount of information....
The time when my sister Jackie sat on a wasp. (I don't
have a sister?) It was her fifth birthday. She was having
a ride on my tricycle when it stung her.
On her twentieth birthday she borrowed my ten-speed racer
and went for a cycle in the nearby countryside. On the way
back she sat on a wasp. (What's a wasp?)
I remembered the time when I was seven. I found out that
IT was true. The most horrible thing that could happen to
a male was really true! You really did have to touch a
girl with your whatsit when you were married. How awful!
I'd rather devote my life to science. (I hate science?)
Then I remembered all those good times when I was about
seventeen and Mary Rush had proven that it wasn't awful at
all. Sigh! (I've never known anyone called Mary Rush?)
I remembered Samantha Mercury being born to my sister.
Jackie died without ever seeing the baby. The baby nearly
died too. Samantha you didn't mean to kill your mother! I
love you! (So do I!). Your daddy was a one night stand and
he doesn't even know about you. You're too small to be so
alone in this world. I'll look after you for ever.
I cried when the dog got cancer and had to be put down.
(I've never had a dog?) Next was the day that I won the
Nobel prize. Samantha's a woman now. When is she going to
meet someone and get married?
....I was drowning in someone else's memories.
Suddenly, the memories were gone. Fragments remained like the
memory of a dream. I opened my eyes. I was lying in a bed. The
room was dimly lit. There was a mask over my face and a drip in
my left arm. I knew that I was in a hospital. I felt safe. All
that had just happened was confusing. Only one thing was certain.
The infatuation that I felt for Samantha was gone. It had been
converted into love by the other person's memories that had been
whizzing through my head. I felt as if I had known her for most
of my life.
"I love you, Samantha." I whispered. I closed my eyes again and
slept for a long time.
When I eventually woke Samantha was by the side of the bed
holding my hand. She smiled like an angel and offered me some
water. When my head had cleared a bit, I realized that Samual T.
Sponge was sitting on the other side of the bed. He told me what
One night Dr. Richard Thrum was working late at the lab by
himself. He did that most nights. Three men broke into the lab
with the intention of killing him and stealing his project data.
Not straight away. First they had to have a bit of fun. After a
bit of torture they pushed his head into the chamber of his own
matter freezer and turned it on.
Richard Thrum's theory was proved correct. His head turned into
a superconductor. Now that his head was also a frictionless
surface, the rest of his body separated from it in a massive gush
of blood. There was no way that the perpetrators could hide the
evidence of all that blood, but they tried anyway.
The body and head went into the ferro-plascrete. An hour of
current and the crime was well hidden. The head of the good
Doctor was superconducting his thoughts. He was alive in there
and thinking thousands of times faster than normal. In the week
in which it took to find his body, he had lived several
lifetimes. In his thoughts, He perfected the matter freezer and
other devices. He spent the equivalent of several decades stark
The thing that brought his sanity back was when he thought up
the idea for psionic mechanics. He invented a device that could
transmit and receive thought waves without the user having to
have any of the gift.
Then I wandered in and opened up my mind to him. His massively
powerful superconducted thoughts were enough to take my mind and
body over completely. Where I went to, I don't know. Perhaps I
went into some sort of hibernation.
Deprived of all his senses for so long, he had gone wild at the
input he received from my body. Ignoring everybody he used my
body to construct the psionic device. If anything had happened to
my body he would have been stuck alone inside the limbo of his
superconducting head forever. This was his only chance to build
the device and he wasn't going to waste it.
Bit by bit, Sam and Samantha got the story from him as he worked
at a furious speed. Richard was aware of the way I felt about
Samantha and told her about it. He didn't realize that the love
he saw in my sleeping thoughts was put there by his own memories.
Samantha didn't know me from Adam, but she was willing to give
love a chance. Days later, when Richard had finished with my body
and gave me back control, I was so physically exhausted that I
collapsed and nearly died.
Two weeks after I left hospital, I moved into Samantha's
apartment. It wasn't quick enough for me. Thanks to her Uncle, I
knew her better than herself. And the rest, as they say, is
"What ever happened to Richard?" I asked.
"I was hoping you would ask that Tony. He is bored with science
and wants to be left somewhere where he can talk to a lot of
people with interesting stories to tell." Said Albo.
"He could do much worse that stop off here."
"That's what I thought. Here take this and put it on. It's that
psionic device I mentioned. Its adjustable." He gave me an object
which looked like a silver locket on a chain. I put it on.
"I better be going now. See you another time." He said, winked
Then it sank in. He hadn't said that last sentence at all. It
had been transmitted straight into my brain by the locket. I took
the locket off and examined it for a while. It was made of a
silvery shiny stuff as smooth and cold as ice. Too smooth.
Perhaps it was made out of that superconductor stuff he had told
me about. What did he mean, adjustable? There's no buttons or
switches on it.
Alburt Greshin had left several minutes ago. I noticed that he
had left his brown paper parcel behind. I gave a grin as I
guessed what was in it. I opened it and placed the slippery
object contained in it on a high shelf above the mirror at the
back of the bar.
Later a short black man walked in and ordered a Surfboarder.
There wasn't any fresh cream. He took it without anyway.
"Hey, what's that shiny thing?" he said nodding.
"A mirror." I said just to be irritating.
"Don't be daft! That creepy thing above it on the shelf."
"Oh that! That's the head of a scientist. Want to talk to it?"
(c) Bryan H.Joyce 6/11/91
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.