"The question is: Can modern, intrusive technology and liberal
--Alvin Weinberg, Director, 1955-71
Oakridge National Laboratory
The sharp exclamation of pain came from the middle-aged man at
the head of the line. He started to suck his thumb rhythmically
as he moved out, MoneyCard in hand. It was Gerald's turn next.
It was March of the year 2001. Gerald, Dot and the twins were
standing - with Mrs Wainthrop - in the line at the local branch
of the Bank of England, which - according to the newspapers - had
now been renamed the Bank of Britain. The sign outside still
showed a black horse - logo of the bank that actually owned this
building, before Wye took over and stole all their money.
They'd come today, despite the long queues, because Wye's
broadcast had made it clear that old-fashioned coin and note
money would cease to be legal tender on the last day of March,
and should be converted at the banks into a MoneyCard balance.
Dot was complaining again, that she'd said they should have
registered their bank accounts months ago, but would he listen...
As he stepped forward, Gerald could see two hand-shaped
impressions on the counter in front of him. At just below eye
level was what looked like a pair of binoculars on one of those
odd multiple hinges used for angle-poise desk lamps, and on the
wall beside him was a printed list of instructions, given in two
dozen different languages.
Gerald quickly read the English version, which was at the top of
the list. He adjusted the binoculars so that they fitted closely
over his eyes, then placed his hands into the two impressions on
the counter, fingers spread apart.
There was a sharp stab of pain in the ball of his left thumb,
and a quick - almost unseen - flash of bright light in his eyes
before a mechanical voice said, "Next, please, Gerald."
Gerald stepped aside, where he signed his name, then was quickly
photographed, to allow the rest of his party to go through the
same procedure of identifying themselves with the bank computer.
Once they had all passed through, even the twins, they each took
their bank books, cheque books and cash money to the row of
machines along one wall of the bank. Each machine - as well as
the by-now-familiar MoneyCard input port - had a slot for a
cheque or the title page of a savings book to be inserted, one at
a time, and a number of slots for coins and notes.
Gerald placed his Card over the raised area, pressed his thumb
to the plate, then checked the screen. He found that all of the
bank accounts he owned had already been combined into a single
account. Next, he started feeding the coins and notes into the
machine, one at a time, watching the balance of his MoneyCard
account increasing all the time until he ran out of cash.
There was a faint smell of burning paper inside the bank that
day, as every note was cremated by the machine as soon as it had
been identified and credited to a Card account.
And all the while, bank staff stood by, ready to identify any
notes or bank account numbers which the machine's optical
character recognition devices had trouble with. For the most
part, they had nothing to do.
When the entire family had converted their cash to a MoneyCard
account - the twins emptying their piggy banks into the machines,
one tiny coin at a time - they left the bank and wandered to the
local supermarket to do the weekly shopping.
Along the way, Gerald hurried past a pair of street beggars
sitting in a doorway. Normally, he would have given them some
change, but now...well, he'd have to stop and transfer some money
from his MoneyCard account to theirs - if they had one. And if
they didn't, there was no way he could give them any money.
The shopping took nearly an hour, with Mrs Wainthrop wandering
away and the twins running about and shouting - sometimes
stopping to suck on their still-sore thumbs - until Dot put a
stop to that.
When they reached the checkout, Dot was astonished to see that
the queues were miniscule, compared to the usual queue on a
The reason for the lack of any queues was soon obvious when they
saw that the bulk of the shoppers were using MoneyCards to pay,
as they themselves were going to. Once the total was given, the
customer placed her MoneyCard onto the familiar rectangle, typed
the amount then pressed the thumbplate.
A special queue, far longer, at the far end of the line of
checkouts was labelled 'Cash, Cheques, Direct Debit and Credit
Cards.' That queue was moving fairly slowly, letting out a faint
groan whenever somebody produced cash, which had to be carefully
checked for forgeries.
Every coin and every note was checked, one by one, before being
accepted by the supermarket. This was necessary because, with the
advent of the end of any possible market for forged money, all
the most careful fakes had been showing up all over the country
ever since Wye's announcement.
The first casualty of the new MoneyCard system was the banking
system. This casualty was all-but-negligible, however, since the
major banks had already been destroyed in favour of the
centralised Bank of Britain.
However, MoneyCards - and their associated bank accounts - had
necessarily been granted to those who had not previously been
allowed to have bank accounts - such as the homeless and those on
All notes and coins had been converted into electronic balances
in the central banking computer - with backups scattered over the
country, and double-checks in the form of an internal record kept
by the MoneyCard itself.
Soon, people had no need to visit their banks at all - and the
branches were sold off or re-modelled as temporary homes for the
homeless while more permanent homes were being constructed.
Problems were caused for street beggars - even those people who
might have tossed a couple of coins in their direction now found
themselves hurrying past, unwilling to take enough time to
perform a full MoneyCard transaction.
Since the government, under Wye, wouldn't intervene directly,
pressure grew for charities to step in - with Wye pledging to
match, penny for penny, every donation. So long as his conditions
Combined with the house-building programme, this helped many
people to leave the streets and to be re-trained - or, as it was
in many cases, trained - the latter being one of the conditions
imposed by the Dictator. This course was taken in parallel with
another of Wye's programmes - the universal provision of high-
quality childcare services.
Those services, for children under the schooling age of three
years, were provided on the same basis as the rest of the
educational system - even to the extent that expenditure per
child was all-but-identical. Funding for such childcare was
provided via a deferred-loan system - to be repaid when MoneyCard
accounts were in healthier state, regardless of whether that
state might be reached within a month, a year or several decades.
The most usual course of re-training - for the impoverished, the
homeless and those parents now freed to (re)enter the workplace -
was as a teacher, since that was now the third-highest paid
occupation in the country, the first two being research
scientists and development technicians.
When Wye took over, one of his early actions was to treble the
salary of teachers of some specific subjects - the sciences; all
languages, ancient and modern; and the five subjects newly-
introduced at primary school level: marketing, philosophy,
comparative religion, sex education and media studies. The latter
four were now compulsory subjects at all ages and all levels of
The second casualty of the MoneyCard was tax-dodging, since all
transactions by MoneyCard - and all transactions were by
MoneyCard - automatically had fifteen percent deducted and
diverted into the government account. There were no exemptions,
and no higher or lower rates of taxation for any goods or
payments, and thus no loopholes to be exploited by unscrupulous
The Inland Revenue was informed, by the 59th Flapper, that its
services were no longer required, and the Treasury dissolved into
its new role as a collector of statistics. Later on, as computers
increasingly took over this task also, the Treasury - as a branch
of the government - disappeared altogether.
Perhaps even more startling, however, was the third casualty:
the crime of mugging. After a few weeks, potential muggers soon
caught on to the idea that the only way to steal money was via a
MoneyCard. And that left a record in the central computer that a
blind policeman could follow.
Literally - since special MoneyCards had been circulated which
used braille to label their keys and had a second display, below
the LCD, which read in braille as a line of raised-and-lowered
With every new technology, however, new crimes are born.
"We've got one," Harold said, not without some satisfaction. He
had been called to the central computer room at the Network
control centre in Birmingham because one of the SNAFU alarms had
The SNAFU alarms had been designed to trigger when the computer
observed something suspicious in the incoming signals - in this
case, an unusual pattern of signals had been detected.
More specifically, the same signal - with minor variations - was
being transmitted many times in rapid succession from different
sources around the Network.
The Network was set up to handle this kind of attempt to
overload it, and had automatically sent requests to all of the
surrounding booster links to ask them where the signals were
coming from, not trusting the location identifier in the signal
itself to tell it where they were coming from.
Harold was unsurprised to find that all of the signals - despite
having codes which identified their points of origin as widely
diverse - were actually arriving along a single path of the
The central computer kept up a facade of sending "waiting"
signals to the apparent origins of each signal, while it busily
tracked it, booster link by booster link, through the Network.
Within five seconds - quick in human terms, but an eternity in
computer terms, particularly in this computer's terms - the
signals were traced to a single origin point, and a name and
address automatically sent to the police nearest that point.
Harold hurriedly put on his jacket and commandeered a helicopter
to take him to the point of origin. He wanted to meet this
bastard, and radioed ahead to the police station to tell them not
to use sirens, and to merely hold everybody at that location
until he got there.
When he arrived, two hours later, he found a seventeen year-old
girl sitting, sulkily, in the back seat of a police car.
Harold ignored her for the moment, walking instead into the
house. Inside, he found a strange-looking box connected to the
Network terminal where a MoneyCard would be expected to be.
Careful not to touch the box, he examined the terminal itself.
Satisfied that this was the origin of the rogue signals, he
disconnected the terminal from the Network by the simple, low-
tech expedient of ripping its cable from the wall.
"Arrest her," he addressed the police officers in the car, "On a
charge of attempted murder (Network)."
The police stared at him in disbelief. After a moment, one
asked, "What charge?"
"You heard me," Harold repeated, "Attempted murder (Network)."
This time, you could hear him pronounce the brackets. Harold went
on, "It's a new crime, only on the statute books for a couple of
months, and it carries the same penalties as attempted homicide."
"For hacking?" the girl said, in disbelief. She started to cry,
noisily, and one of the officers absent-mindedly passed her a
handkerchief. "I didn't mean any harm," she said, once her tears
dried a little, "It was only hacking."
Harold looked stern for a moment, "Only hacking. Do you have any
idea what could have happened if that little box of tricks of
yours had worked? If the Network had been overloaded with useless
She shook her head, saying, "No - but...well, it was only
"Think about this while you're in prison," Harold went on,
"Every hospital, every police station, every fire station - all
of the emergency services in the country rely in some way on the
Network. If it goes down...Well, I'd rather not think about it."
"But...that's crazy!" cried one of the police officers, "You
mean that all of the country's eggs are in one basket?"
"Yes, sort of," Harold added, "In fact, there are so many
failsafes and backup computers in the system that...well, let's
just say that a million-to-one shot would be a sure thing in
comparison to the chances of the Network going down."
"But it could happen?"
"Well, yes - but the entire country could slip into the sea in
the next minute. That would be more likely, by the way," he
"So why the all the fuss if I couldn't have done any harm?"
asked the hacker.
"Because," Harold said, "You didn't know that you couldn't
succeed. All you thought about was having a bit of fun and trying
to crash the Network - no thought for the consequences.
"I don't know about you," he asked the policemen, "But I think
an attempted murder charge is letting her off easy. Just consider
what would happen in every hospital and fire station in the
country if all the 'phone lines went down at the same time. To
say nothing of the power and water lines, if the cables
overloaded and burned through."
With a grim look, thinking of the scenario Harold had described,
the police officers booked the hacker on a charge of 'Attempted
Murder (Network).' Two months later, when she stood trial, she
pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty - mainly on the evidence
of Harold Baines, who had dissected the box he had taken from her
Bearing in mind her age, and the fact that this was the first
case tried under a new law, the judged passed-down a sentence in
the middle of the range allowed to him: six years.
The arresting officer, thinking of Baines's words, still thought
the sentence was too lenient. The public, once the implications
of what she had tried to do had been explained, and had sunk in,
agreed with him.
"Ethics change with technology."
One major result of the universal use of both the Network and
MoneyCards was the eventual removal of the 'work ethic.'
A great many people now worked from home, 'telecommuting' via
their home terminals. This practice spread as more and more
business was conducted via the Network, and manual labour
increasingly came to be performed by remote-controlled machines.
And the Network terminals at workplaces were usually identical to
those in people's homes.
In fact, it was fairly common for the home Network terminal to
be far superior to those at work - particularly in the first two
years, when Wye's 'bonus' was in operation.
Now that more people were working from home, and everybody was
paid via their home terminal - rather than by cheque, cash or
giro - it was difficult, if not impossible, to tell who was
employed and who was unemployed.
As Wye's programme of scientific research bore fruit, and the
wealth of the country as a whole increased, even the economic
differences became smaller - and gradually the divide between
'bread winner' and 'state scrounger' vanished, as there was no
way to tell the two apart without checking the central computer
records - which virtually nobody was permitted to do without the
explicit permission - given by thumbprint and, later, by a retina
scan - of that individual.
That lay two decades ahead, however. More immediately, a second
new crime 'created' by the MoneyCards did not have such a
straightforward technological solution as the first.
This crime was named 'ThumbTheft.'
"Okay, hand it over, grandma!" the speaker was one of a gang of
acne-cratered teenagers, and he was holding a knife to the
elderly woman's throat. She passed him her MoneyCard quickly, as
people had been advised to do.
The punks ran off quickly, down to the local off-licence, where
they hoped to spend some money before the Card was reported
stolen. Before going in, they checked the balance of the Card -
pushed the "Balance" button then sweated a thumb against its
thumb-plate. A message scrolled past on the LCD, "This is not
your MoneyCard. There will be a short delay while I obtain your
Card's balance from the central computer."
"Shit!" the leader of the gang threw down the Card and they all
ran for it.
Two hours later, the Card was reported stolen. A check of the
central computer records immediately showed a balance request
from somebody using that Card, and obligingly provided the name
and address of the thief.
"Okay, hand it over, grandma!" the speaker was one of a gang of
acne-cratered teenagers, and he was holding a knife to the
elderly woman's throat. She passed him her MoneyCard quickly, as
people had been advised to do.
Then the head punk added, "Now hold out your right hand,
grandma. This will only hurt for a moment." He grasped her wrist
with one hand, and quickly sliced off her right thumb. A hand
over her mouth choked off her scream of pain before she fainted.
The stolen thumb was rapidly flayed to provide a rough covering
for his own thumb, allowing the punk access to the stolen
The punks ran off quickly, down to the local off-licence, where
they hoped to spend some money before the Card was reported
stolen. Before going in, he checked the balance of the Card -
pushed the "Balance" key and then pressed the thumb-plate with
his disguised thumb. He laughed in delight when he saw the
Thumbtheft was committed by accosting somebody and stealing
their MoneyCard. In addition, that person's thumb was cut off and
flayed to form a close-fitting sheath which fitted over the
criminal's own thumb.
When pressed to the thumbplate of the stolen MoneyCard, the
thumb-condom - or thumbdom, as it came to be known - allowed the
criminal to buy items using the stolen Card, at least until the
Card was reported as stolen.
Many thumbthieves were arrested, simply by their continuing to
use the Card for too long, and more were arrested simply because
they had used the thumbdom to transfer the balance of the stolen
Card to their own MoneyCard. As soon as the Card was reported
stolen, a check of the banking records showed the transfer and
they could be immediately identified and arrested.
Once the problem of thumbtheft became apparent, Wye announced
that every transaction made using a thumbdom was void, and money
illegally transferred would be automatically returned to the
victim or - more usually - to the victim's next of kin.
Despite this powerful incentive, thumbthievery was rife for
almost two years - long enough for the words 'thumbthief,'
'thumbthieve,' 'thumbtheft' and 'thumbdom' to make it into the
It did not vanish until it became common practice for people to
check for a thumbdom by rubbing their customers's thumbs with
their own before accepting payment, giving the alert if a
thumbdom was being used.
By the time retina-scanners were introduced as further, then
replacement, identity checks, the custom of thumbrubbing had
become so firmly entrenched that it survived as a way of sealing
a sale, even after a simple thumbprint was no longer used to
prove a person's identity.
"The belief in coincidence is the prevalent superstition of
the Age of Science."
--Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, Illuminatus!
It was the fortieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's flight in
Vostok - the anniversary of the first ever space flight, short as
it had been - and the Great Dictator had declared a national
holiday, Gagarin Day, to be held every April the twelfth, in
honour of the first human space traveller.
Wye was relaxing, playing chess with Deborah. The game wasn't
going too well for the General, so he was actually quite relieved
at the interruption when her husband burst into the room -
looking more excited than either of them had ever seen him
"They've done it!" he shouted, "They've done it!"
The General leapt to his feet - 'accidentally' knocking the
chess board over, and receiving an amused glare from Deborah for
his pains - to ask, "Who're 'They' and what have they done?"
"They - They've done it!" Graham repeated, more excited now, and
babbling in his joy, "It's been done - they've done it!" he
"Now, now. Calm down, Graham," Wye took his arm, and led him to
a chair. He managed to get him sat down, while Deborah brought
over a cup of tea for her husband.
Once they'd managed to calm Graham down a small amount, he said,
"It's been done," he tried to ignore their further calming
noises, going on, "Space flight! We've got a ground-to-orbit
"Huh?" Wye and Deborah said, stunned into stupidity for a
When the fifty-ninth flapper came into the cabinet room five
minutes later, to check out the strange noises, he found the
three of them leaping and dancing and shouting for joy - large,
stupid-looking grins of ecstasy plastered over each of their
"Flapper!" called the Dictator, "Can you ask Estelle Demot to
get here as fast as possible, please. No - scratch that, it's no
emergency. Just ask her to come over, will you?"
The flapper nodded acquiescence, and - feeling more than a
little relieved to be leaving the madness behind him - hurried
out of the cabinet room to make the 'phone call.
Estelle arrived shortly. "I think we all deserve a first-class
meal, all four of us. How say you?" shouted Absolaam Wye, the
same stupid grin still plastered on his face.
Everybody called "Aye!" then Estelle asked, puzzled, "What are
The meal was a success - delicious consomme, rich venison, well-
hung grouse, smoothly beautiful chocolate mousse and wine beyond
belief, all washed down with liberal helpings of champagne.
Afterwards, Deborah and Graham wandered up to their bed, and
Estelle and Absolaam hurried towards theirs.
Closing - but not locking, he knew they wouldn't be disturbed -
the door behind him, Absolaam led Estelle quickly to their bed:
'theirs' by mutual agreement, made months before but never
They exchanged kisses, scarcely breaking to draw breath, as they
each undressed the other - not taking their time, but speedily
discarding clothes to left and right.
Once bare, and still kissing, they reclined together on the bed.
Absolaam ducked his head to Estelle's breasts, moving down
between them and pausing only to suck slightly at her downy
stomach, blowing gently and causing goose-bumps to appear on her
His head, his mouth, descended further to her thighs, drawing
between them to probe, delicately at first, then with more force,
his tongue entering her as it had so often before, nudging her
clitoris gently as his tongue worked its wonders.
Estelle let out a soft moan, then clasped Absolaam's hair with
her right hand, drawing him deeper and deeper until he had to
tilt his head at a sharp angle to be able to breath at all.
As he felt her stomach muscles contract slightly, he redoubled
his efforts, holding and raising the twin globes of her buttocks
to keep a firm grip on her anxiously gyrating hips.
When Estelle came, Absolaam lapped - cat-like - at her lips,
drinking the warm fluid as though it were the finest nectar of
the gods of Olympus. He raised his head to hers, his mouth to her
mouth, and they exchanged a kiss, she tasting herself on his
tongue, and revelling in it.
His penis, hard - the veins along its length throbbing and the
foreskin stretched back so far that will-power alone kept it from
Estelle reached down and carefully, deliciously, unrolled a
condom along his length before he tried to slowly move it into
position. At first, Wye moved his hips too quickly and his organ,
swaying from side to side, banged back and forth between his
Then, Estelle reached down to grasp him and guide him into her -
his sudden urge to thrust forward and deeply held in check, for
the moment, by her hand alone.
Then, her hand returned to his buttocks, pulling him forward as
quickly as he had wanted to move. His balls banged against her -
causing him to gasp in mild pain - as Absolaam thrust forward
then backward, forward then backward, in and in and in and in
Absolaam heard rather than felt himself coming - heard it in the
quick gasps of his lover as she responded to his straining
muscles faster than he could ever do - heard it in his own ragged
breath - heard it in the rustle of silk sheets as he expended
himself within Estelle, and fell back - they both fell back -
Within a very few minutes, the General was asleep.
"You're sure that this will work?" the General asked.
He, Graham and Deborah were in Ecuador, where they had bought a
large tract of land to which they had conveyed the prototype
ground-to-orbit ship, Phaelon, ready for its test launch.
The reason they'd built in Ecuador was because of its location.
Being, as its name suggests, on the equator, it was an ideal
launch site - the Phaelon could get an extra boost from the
rotation of the Earth, which they couldn't get off the equator,
and so could use less fuel when launching.
The date was July the twenty-first, 2001 - planned to coincide
with the thirty-second anniversary of the first moon-landing in
"We're pretty sure it'll work, Dictator...sorry, 'Absolaam'...We
just want this test to make certain," Daniel Petri, the Phaelon's
designer, replied, "After all, this ship's engine in quite
"It's just..." Wye stumbled to a halt, then began again, "Well,
it looks so odd, you know?"
"I know," Daniel said, "Space craft designs are usually fairly
uniform. With Phaelon, though, I redesigned the exterior myself
to reduce wind resistance on lift-off as much as possible. She's
not too pretty, but..."
Deborah interrupted, "I can't agree, Daniel - she's beautiful!
Much more attractive than the phallic rockets used previously."
"Why, thank you, Deborah," Daniel took a bow, "The design, far
from being phallic, is more like a pyramid, as you can see."
As Daniel went over the changes to the Phaelon's design, both
exterior and in her engines, Graham, Deborah and Wye simply gaped
at the ship as though it was the most beautiful sight they had
Of course, she was.
At least, she was until ten hours later when, pre-launch checks
out of the way, the Phaelon lifted from its launch pad. The
movement was graceful, despite the ship's bulk, and the engines
Two loud booms were heard, in quick succession, from where they
stood, half a mile away, but that was the only sound - nobody was
speaking, and nobody was looking anywhere but at the Phaelon as
she rose higher and higher, piercing the sky, a vapour trail
outlined starkly against the blue until it merged with the clouds
far above, roiling and tossing them, mixing and churning, until -
through the cloud layer - Phaelon was invisible to the naked eye.
The four - Daniel, Wye and the Greenes - hurried quickly inside,
into the control room where they could monitor the craft's
progress. The first words they heard inside that room, the first
words they'd heard uttered since the lift-off, came from the
speakers in the corner, "Phaelon to Ecuador Control, we have
attained orbit. Say again, we have reached orbit and are in free
The cheers in the room were deafening after the earlier silence.
"The main item tonight," the news anchor said, "Is that the
first British space craft, Phaelon, launched from Ecuador and
reached orbit one hour ago, at seventeen sixteen local time -
that's twenty-two sixteen, GMT. Both the Phaelon's pilot, Eunice
Johnson, and her Co-pilot, David Bowman, are said to be fit and
"Captain Johnson sent a short message back to Ecuador ground
control from orbit..."
The image changed to a photograph of a thirty-one year old
brunette, captioned with her name, Eunice Johnson. Her face was
handsome, but the most captivating aspect were her piercing hazel
Her voice was heard clearly, though there was some static
interference, as she said, "Forty years ago, Yuri Gagarin made
the first space flight. Thirty-two years ago today, in the year
that I was born, Neil Armstrong made the first moon-landing.
"Who would have dreamed then that mankind would go to the moon,
come back and then - after a very few years - just stop."
Eunice Johnson's voice grew even stronger as she said, with
determination, "This time we go on - out to the rest of this
solar system, then onwards and outwards. To the stars!"
Dot and Gerald sat for a moment, before Dot said, "I think it's
Gerald, surprised, turned to his wife and asked, "What is,
"Spending all that money in space when there's so much good it
could do right here on the Earth."
"Like what, dear?"
"Well, like medical research, famine relief - that kind of
"But, love, the space program in the old days had spin-offs that
have helped in those things."
"Like what?" she asked, interested despite herself.
"Let me think," he said, "I was reading about this recently. Ah
yes," he stood up and wandered over to the terminal, "If I look
up the Apollo program then I'm pretty sure..."
"No - just tell me. If these things are so important, then I'm
sure you'll be able to remember them," Dot snapped.
Gerald sat down again, "Okay, love. Well, lightweight crutches
and surgical appliances were made possible because of materials
developed for the space program. The microchip came out of the
space program - it was needed to reduce the weight, and increase
the speed and efficiency, of the ships's control systems.
"Hmmm. Those are both debatable, but...Of course - satellites!
Weather satellites to identify areas at risk from droughts,
hurricanes, monsoons, and what have you, and to help protect
crops and - if they have to - evacuate people. Communication
satellites to keep isolated doctors in the third-world up-to-date
with the latest techniques to help them to save lives.
"And what about metals? They're getting more and more expensive
all the time, because they're getting harder and harder to find
and mine. Satellites help locate them, of course, but send a ship
to the asteroid belt and we could bring back a chunk of nickel-
iron a couple of miles across. Then there're drugs that can only
be manufactured in a vacuum or in free fall.
"There's lots of things, love - so many that I can't tell you
"What do you mean, you can't tell me - you're my husband!"
"Yes, love, but I mean things that haven't been invented yet.
Things that we can't do on Earth, but might be able to make and
use out in space."
"Now that's fairy tales," Deborah said, dismissively.
"Maybe - but how would you describe a computer before
electricity was harnessed? There were no words, but never mind...
"What about lebensraum - colonies off-Earth for the human race
to expand into. This planet is getting crowded, love. And even if
it weren't, I think it was Heinlein who once said, 'The Earth is
too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its
eggs in.' There are so many things we can use space for, love.
"And one of the most important things might be for space to
"And what sort of life would it be, I wonder, all cramped and
things floating around - I wouldn't like it I'm sure," Dot added.
"About every fifty million years or so, love..." Gerald trailed
off, unwilling to go any further.
"No - go on, what were you going to say?" his wife demanded.
"Oh, nothing," he said, and settled back to watch the rest of
"Every so often," the General said, "There is a mass extinction
of life forms on the Earth. The trilobites, ammonites, dinosaurs.
What causes these things?"
"I don't know," Daniel Petri said, "But I know what the theories
Wye nodded, "So do I - and the most disturbing theory involves a
close approach - very close - by a comet.
"That's not the main reason - but it's one of the biggies - why
I want self-sufficient off-Earth colonies established as soon as
"Heinlein," said Daniel, absently.
"Robert A. Heinlein once said something like, 'The Earth is too
small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its
eggs in.' That sounds like what you're saying."
"It is - now get on it," the General replied, adding, "I'd like
to get some kind of colony established within the next decade, if
that's possible, even if it's only a luna base."
"In the meantime, we carry on with the space station?"
"Yes - the space hotel goes on as planned," Wye thought for a
moment, "Oh, and you can probably count on a little extra revenue
coming your way from the sale of unused cargo bay space in the
Phaelon's future flights."
"Against Stupidity, the Gods themselves contend in vain."
--Friedrich Von Schiller, The Maid of Orleans
1800 hours, GMT, July the twenty-second, AD 2001, was the time
scheduled for the final broadcast from Phaelon before it made its
return to the Earth's surface.
Television cameras in Ecuador ground control were beaming their
pictures live to every television set in the British Isles, and
beyond, as General Wye talked with Captain Johnson.
"Wye to Phaelon, are you receiving me?"
"You should say 'over,' Dictator," a young technician whispered.
"Ah, yes. Sorry - I forgot. 'Over.'" Wye added.
After a split-second delay, Eunice Johnson's voice was heard,
"Phaelon to Wye. Receiving you. Looking forward to going home.
Wye grinned. His face was not turned towards the camera, since
he was more interested in the Phaelon than in publicity shots,
but the overjoyed twinkle in his eyes was still visible to the
"Wye to Phaelon. And we're looking forward to seeing you back
soon, Eunice," he paused before remembering to add, "Over."
A strange voice cut into the transmission - one less obscured by
static than Eunice's, yet not originating inside the control
room, "This is the leader of the British Liberation Army," the
voice proclaimed, "In protest at the dictatorship being enforced
on the British people by so-called-General Wye, we have planted a
bomb aboard the Phaelon, timed to explode one minute from now.
"So perish all who aid this self-proclaimed dictator." The voice
The shocked expressions of everybody in the control room were
plain to see - none more shocked and appalled than Wye himself,
as he shouted to ask if anybody had traced the source of the
transmission and called to the Phaelon, "Search everywhere on
board - tear the ship apart if you have to. Just Find that
The explosion, when it came, could not be heard. The blip on the
telemetry display which showed the Phaelon's position simply
vanished and Captain Johnson's voice transmission cut off in mid-
sentence. There was a bright light in the sky, but only for an
instant and only as bright as a star - it was barely visible to
the naked eye.
All in the control room, and all across the British Isles, there
was a dead silence.
"This is my fault," the Dictator said in his television
broadcast immediately following the explosion, "The explosion of
Phaelon, and the murder of her crew, is my fault.
"I did not set the bomb, but I know who did. You know who did.
They call themselves the BLA - the British Liberation Army.
"I have tolerated them up until now, because I thought that we
knew what their activities were. I thought that we would be able
to stop them from doing anything dangerous ever again. But I was
Tears formed in Wye's eyes, coursing down his cheeks in anger
and sorrow, as he repeated, "I was wrong - and the crew of the
Phaelon died because of my over-confidence. Captain Eunice
Johnson and Commander David Bowman have died, thanks to my
"Murdered by the BLA."
Wye slammed his clenched fist on the control board, punctuating
every word with a crash as he vowed, "They will pay for this."
Wye turned to face the camera full-on, and said, "I had intended
to tell you this later on, when those of you who are Christians
were beginning to have doubts about what your religion stands
"I see now that I should have told you straight away.
"If you check the published accounts of the Roman Catholic
church in Britain and the Church of England, you will notice that
those so-called religions diverted a total of thirty million
pounds into two companies - Anglo-Egyptian Holdings and Low Tech
"If you then use your terminal to check the accounts of those
two companies, you will see what I knew several months ago. But,
dammit, I did nothing about it," Wye hit the control panel again.
"You will see," he went on, "That those two companies have only
one purpose - to funnel money through to another concern, wholly
owned by five people.
"The five leaders of the BLA.
"I urge you to check these facts for yourself - the accounts
have all been published previously. Satisfy yourself that nothing
has been doctored.
"Then think what you want to do about those two religions.
"As for myself: There are just under three hundred known members
of the BLA. They are all being rounded up as I speak, and they
will be tried on charges of treason, murder and conspiracy to
"I repeat," Wye was crying again, and pounding the desk as he
went on, "the fault here is mine - I undoubtedly should have
taken action as soon as I learned who was funding the BLA - the
Roman Catholic church and the Church of England.
"I took no actions then, and now those murdering bastards have
killed two of the finest people," Wye choked back a sob.
"The space program will go on," he said, with determination in
his voice, "It will go on, despite this callous murder."
He nodded his head, and the transmission ended. Wye, however,
continued sobbing for a very long time.
When he returned to Britain, Wye's first action was to remove
his lingering doubts as to whether Estelle had known of the bomb
on board Phaelon. All checking by MI8 showed that she had not
known, and nor had the rest of MI7, while Graham's personal
checks made sure that MI8 had neither known of nor engineered the
Nonetheless, Estelle was dismissed from her position on the
grounds of incompetence. Wye liked her very much, but two people
- two astronauts - had died because of her department's
incompetence. Her incompetence. He could not - and would not -
permit her to carry on after that.
His second action was a little more dramatic. To the Dictator's
amazement, he received a formal, extremely public, and - most
surprisingly - unprompted request from King William. The king's
request was simple: having learned of the links between the BLA
and the Church of England, he asked permission to formally
renounce his position as head of that church.
William's motivations were very different from the public
perception of them. Whereas the public thought that his action
was motivated by a desire to show solidarity with the British
people in their grief, he was - in reality - more concerned with
distancing himself as far as possible from the terrorists who had
murdered his father. After all, the IRA hard-core were now the
cornerstone of the BLA.
When Wye gave his permission to the young king, his decision was
applauded - except in the Anglican church itself, which was
damaged more by this breaking of its last ties to "The
Establishment" than by its connections to terrorists.
Later, Wye attended the trials of the members of the BLA - the
greatest mass trial seen since Nuremberg. When the verdicts of
"guilty" on the charges of treason, murder and conspiracy to
murder were returned by the various juries, Wye breathed a sigh
He had few qualms when he saw the judge pass sentence - Wye had
insisted, and made clear before the trial, that every guilty
verdict would receive a sentence of execution.
"You can't do this, Absolaam," Deborah said, sentiments echoed
by her husband.
"Why the Hell not?" Wye replied, angrily, "You saw what those
bastards did. They murdered this country's first two astronauts.
I can't let them get away with that!" he slammed the desk with
his fist, spraying dust into the air.
"We said," Deborah said, quietly, "That this would be a non-
violent government. Violence only when absolutely unavoidable -
that's what we said."
"Goddammit, woman! How the fuck can we continue to be non-
violent when bastards like them are killing our friends?"
"Do you insist on carrying out those death sentences?"
"Then you can have my resignation now," she went on, calmly.
Deborah rose to her feet and started towards the door. Her
husband was torn briefly, but then he, too, rose to follow her.
"Deborah!" Wye cried, in anguish, "Graham!"
Deborah stopped a moment. Without turning around, she asked,
"What is it, Dictator?"
"Damn you - alright!" Wye said, through clenched teeth, "You
"No executions - I'll commute the sentences to life
imprisonment," the Dictator replied, through clenched teeth, "Are
you satisfied now?" he added, bitterly.
"Yes, thank you, Absolaam. You won't regret this decision."
As she and her husband returned to their seats, they heard the
sound of Absolaam Wye's sobbing.
In September of the year 2001, a team of geneticists were
working on the recently-revived human genome project - attempting
to understand the genetic basis of the mechanisms by which some
cancers are initiated - when the project leader began to show
symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
A check showed a microscopic tear in his protective clothing,
and rapid work on the substances he had been working with
demonstrated a close link between diseases of the human mind and
that particular family of chemicals.
Work on blocking the action of those organics proceeded at a
breathtaking pace - the project leader, fearful of a
disintegrating mind, deciding to act as a human guinea pig to
test suspected antidotes. By the end of October, his Alzheimer's
went into remission as a result of the ingestion of an artificial
protein - one which does not occur naturally.
The chemical discovered was, after further testing for side-
effects, released for general human use six months later.
When Mrs Wainthrop started her course of stonalin - the drug,
because of its effects on the memory, had been named in honour of
Albert Einstein - her short-term memory failures almost
immediately ceased to take place.
And she gratefully began her training in biochemistry.
"I am fearful of an overly organised church."
--Charles M. Shulz
During the trials of the BLA membership - which included two
dozen clergymen - the most frequently accessed files in the
British Library were the company records and the published
accounts of religious bodies. Those records were also the subject
of an in-depth piece and - later - a bestselling book by the
Guardian's Carolyn Mayes, and were covered by too many television
documentaries and Sunday supplement articles to mention.
Almost immediately, attendance at the Roman Catholic church and
the Church of England fell - to less than one thousand and five
thousand, respectively - all across the country.
Wye made a decision to provide funding only to religions who
could demonstrate - using the "ID" button on their MoneyCards -
at least ten thousand worshippers. That decision, combined with a
natural reluctance to take up a collection via MoneyCards,
reduced the congregations of those churches still further.
By the end of the year, the BLA - with both its funding and what
support it had gained from the public cut off - had effectively
ceased to exist.
The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches lay in virtual ruins -
their worshippers having converted en masse to different
Christian denominations. Those that had bothered to convert at
And, by the end of the year 2001, the building of Phaelon II had
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.