"If everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane."
Arthur Bloch, Murphy's Law
THE FAIRY FELLOWS MASTER STROKE
PART TWO - THE MASTER STROKE
by Bryan H. Joyce
A Tale From The Tavern At The Edge Of Nowhere
Approximately 100 days later.
It would be fair to say that I settled in quickly. As is often
the way with a new job, at first, I was slow and made a lot of
mistakes. No one seemed to mind too much. I was rather scared of
aliens for a while. The bird-men turned out to be okay -although
rather vain. They were the only aliens who actually came from
somewhere I'd heard of. They came from a planet that circled
Arctaurus. Luckily, the customers were mostly human.
I don't think that there is much point in going into lengthy
about my duties or the bar its self. Bar work is the same the
Universe over; Serving drinks, dealing with drunks, working odd
hours and cleaning up vomit. And that's just the good things!
This bar room is not particularly different from any other bar
room. It is about eighty feet wide and perhaps three hundred long
- rather larger than most. The three hundred foot of mirror which
lines the back of the actual bar is broken every twenty or so
feet by doors that lead into the back stores and kitchens etc,.
The back eighty or so feet - looking from the main door -is
partitioned into booths that can hold eight people at a squeeze;
more if the tables are folded. Lighting is very subdued here.
Just the place for lovers to hide and stare into each others
eyes. Pity we rarely got them in here. Finally, at the very back
are the sleeping booths. These are affectionately known as
"Coffins" by the regulars. They are over seven feet long and
about three wide and high. Although the bar room has a high
ceiling, the sleeping booths are stacked three high. From a
distance, the wall behind the partitioned tables looks like a
mausoleum wall. Instead of brass plaques, the doors had windows
Tonight is fancy dress night in the Tavern. The bar is more
crowded than usual. I'm dressed as Robin Hood. I've got on green
tights, a green jacket and I'm excited. Very excited. I've just
realized how I can save the life of my beloved Sarah. I can do it
without braking the laws of time - not that there are very many.
Earlier this evening I was in conversation with a rather drunk
woman from the twenty-fifth century. I cannot remember her name.
She was plain looking with the most astounding legs I've ever
seen. The subject of the conversation was Kirlian fields and the
way in which the soul stays with the body throughout all
"To start with," the woman with the incredible legs said. (She
was dressed as a black and white cat.) "The Kirlian field isn't
the soul. It's just an effect caused by the presence of a soul.
No one can detect a soul yet. Give me another Traffic Lights."
I mixed her drink badly and the colours blended together into a
yucky mess. She didn't mind. Just shrugged, sipped at it and
continued her tale.
"We all have a longer life than we think. The soul can jump
between realities. Let's say that your anti-grav failed,...."
"Your anti-grav failed," I irritated - I'm good at that.
"...but you survived the drop only to be rushed into intensive
care. Somewhere about then, reality branches into two or more
paths. In one path you die from your injuries. In another you
manage to survive. Your soul will follow whichever reality is the
more probable. In this case, your death is the most probable so
your soul follows that path until you die. If conditions are
right, the soul goes on to some other place."
"You mean Heaven or Hell?" I said.
"Who knows? If the conditions aren't right the soul jumps into
the next probable reality line and attaches its self to your body
in the reality where you didn't die," she smiled and lit up a
synthi-joint. "Good huh?"
Her smile did something to me. It was every bit as appealing as
her legs. Suddenly, I felt very sad and in need of a cuddle. Even
although the Tavern was pretty busy, I felt very alone and
"What if there is no other reality for the soul to go to and the
conditions aren't right for it to go on?" I said.
"It becomes a ghost, of course," she sneered as if I was very
"If we only have one soul, what about all the other time lines.
There is bound to be other alternate time lines about with copies
of both of us in them. Do they have souls or do we have them?"
"Your being daft now. You told me that you already know about
pretend souls and partial's. When the time lines split, the soul
travels on the most probable time line whilst a pretend soul goes
on any others. If the alternate time line is a strong one, the
pretend soul will eventually become a partial which probably will
develop into the full blown thing at a later date. See?"
"Right," I said.
"When you arrived here at the Edge, you probably only had a
pretend soul cause something pretty dramatic must have happened
otherwise you'd never ever have ended up here. You with me?"
"Still," I said.
"By now it's grown into a full one again or been replaced by the
original from your dead copy in the alternate time line. Maybe am
wrong! Maybe it was inevitable that you'd end up here no matter
what happened! Am I making any sense or am I just drunk again?
Does anyone care anyway? More importantly, are there any
I fumbled about under the bar and got a bag of Unicorn Horn
shaped pretzels, poured them into a dish and gave them to Miss
"Thanks," she said and licked at the tip of a pretzel in an
uncomfortably suggestive manner. Actually, it was not really all
that suggestive. It was just wishful thinking on my part. At the
back of my mind all I could see was her legs. Legs which I had
only glimpsed for a few seconds as she entered the room and
crossed to the bar. Oh, hurry up and go to the powder room so
that I can look at them again!
"It all sounds very convenient. Don't get me wrong, I'm not
calling you a liar, but it all sounds a bit fishy to me. How did
you come by this information?"
"It's a matter of history. You can check it out. This scientist
guy built an artificial soul...."
"If no one has detected a soul yet," I interrupted, "let alone
seen one, how could he build one?"
"I'm not the bloody scientist! You want to hear this or not?"
she said indignantly, blowing smoke into my face.
"Okay! Okay! Sorry. Please continue. I didn't mean to offend."
"You better not have. Right then, er...what was I saying?" She
was beginning to slur her words.
"A matter of history," I said.
"Oh, right! This artificial soul was made for an artificial
intelligence that existed inside a computer matrix. It was a copy
of the scientist's own brain pattern with artificial thoughts
added. It was set up so that the thought patterns were not
conscious. Like it was living, but in a coma. Follow?"
"Why?" I said.
"Patience my dear. We're getting there. It was a question of
morals. If the copy of his own brain stored in the computer was
given an artificial soul that later developed into a real one,
then it would be alive. It was not moral to kill a perfectly good
mind just for the experiment. See what I mean?"
"Yup," I agreed.
"When the artificial soul developed to a real one - and it did -
The intelligence was copied to a second computer matrix. The soul
stayed in the first matrix until it was shut down. Effectively,
the artificial intelligence was dead. The soul left the first
matrix and locked on to the second matrix which was a copy of the
mind that had been killed."
"Hold on there! Have I got this right? Your saying that in your
century, a human mind can be copied into a computer matrix and it
continues to live? That the soul moves to the matrix on the
"Well, er yeah? That sounds about right. Provided that the copy
in the computer matrix hadn't had enough time to develop its own
"How'd cloning technology work out? Could a body with an empty
mind be grown and the computer copy of the mind moved into it?" I
was suddenly very excited. Something was beginning to form at the
back of my mind. The traditional light bulb was waiting to pop.
"I see what your getting at. Yes. Its been done plenty of times.
You'd have to record the person's brain patterns before or at the
moment of death."
The master stroke!
"Thank you!" I leant across the bar and planted a big wet one
right on her kisser and hurriedly left the bar.
"Wait! Any chance of a large bloody Mary?" she called after me,
but I was gone. Solid gone.
Working fast, I called in a few favours. Within the hour, I was
climbing out of the Tavern's time hopper carrying a large
portable computer. I still wore my Robin hood outfit, but had
also put on a white artificial beard so that a certain person
would not recognise me. I left the computer in the field beside
the hopper. Both were water-proofed so their was no danger of the
rain causing short circuits.
I hurried to the roadside to check the lie of the land. Oh no! I
had arrived later than I thought! Not too far away was a speeding
automobile. Without thinking, I panicked and jumped up and down
The car sped through a large puddle drenching me. Without
pausing to watch for the inevitable, I ran back to the time
hopper, collected the portable computer and ran for the top of
the hill. I did not see the crash, but I heard it. It was not
very nice. I shuddered at the deja vu.
I ignored the dead steer lying half on the road half on the
grassy field and went straight for the still figure nearby. It
took me a great deal of courage not to look at the dying body of
Sarah Brown. I put the sensor band on her head and started the
memory dumping process.
There was a strong smell of gasoline in the air. I knew that the
automobile would not explode, but the fumes from the gas could be
harmful. Just to be on the safe side, I pulled the other three
from the wreck.
I did not feel at all strange when I pulled Tony from the wreck.
I was too worried about Sarah to be unnerved by the oddness of
the situation. I dragged them all away from the wreck and went
back to check on Sarah.
The computer had finished recording her memories. I cut a lock
of her hair off with a pair of small folding scissors which I'd
brought with me specifically for that purpose. There were no
romantic reasons for this action. I needed a sample of her DNA. A
sound made me look away. It was Tony. He was trying to sit up.
For a few seconds he looked at the bone sticking out of his flesh
and fainted again.
Sarah Brown's body was defiantly dead by now. I carried her mind
back to the time hopper. If the conversation I had heard earlier
had been correct, the real Sarah Brown was now in the computer.
It was not just a copy. When she had died, her soul had either
went on to the eternal place - unlikely - or was now in the
computer with her memories. I lifted the time hoppers seat and
placed the computer into the space beneath. Elated, I lowered the
seat, got back in and turned the machine on and....but wait!!!!!
What had I forgotten? This had all happened months ago by my way
of thinking. I felt confused. I think that I was suppose to jump
forwards, just over a year, to Scotland, but why?
I couldn't remember why. Nevertheless, I guessed at the co-
ordinates and pulled out into the time lanes. Oh, yuk! I hate
this grey cocoon that surrounds the time hopper. It makes me
travel sick. Wasn't there a way to make the field transparent so
that I could see where I was going? Yes there was. I had read the
handbook a few weeks ago. Ah, yes! I know what to press.
Obviously, I pressed the wrong buttons. The time engines cut out
and the craft hung powerless several feet above a clearing in a
forest. Perhaps it was a side effect of the decaying time field,
the time hopper bucked like a wild thing and threw me right over
the safety rail. I was lucky because the ground broke my fall.
That's not as stupid as it sounds. If I hadn't been interphased
with reality properly, I would have fallen through the ground and
kept on going. Not that I'd be alive for long -the air out there
would have been intangible too. I think my hat came off when I
hit the ground. Then I blacked out.
When I came to, I was back in the time hopper. I could tell that
we were moving because of the greyness. A familiar figure beside
me looked as if he was going to jump overboard.
"Don't," I called, "Don't do it. I don't know what will happen,
but it might be rather nasty,"
After a few uncertain seconds, he withdrew his leg and dropped
onto the seat beside me.
"What's going on? Who are you?" he mumbled, obviously very
frightened. I was a bit worried myself, but at least I knew what
was going on. Well, sort of! Perhaps I should lie to him? I don't
remember much about this bit the first time round?
"Er, I can't remember, but my head hurts. Who are you?" I
"Tony Wheelbough," he said.
"I know!" For some reason the whole situation struck me as
suddenly very funny.
The rest of what happened you already know. It was exactly as
the first time only the vantage point was different. We arrived
at the Edge Of Nowhere. I transferred to the other time hopper
taking the computer with me. Tony was looking rather confused so
I told him to go to the help booths.
Moments later and I was back at the Edge of Nowhere. This time
in my own time line. I gave the memories of Sarah Brown and her
lock of hair to the appropriate person - Doctor Mary Cope - who
returned to her own time to where the new body had been cloned
three years ago. She sent the lock of hair back in time to her
self so that the cloning could take place and began the transfer
of the memories into the three year old result of thatcloning.
The computer memories were erased and the soul jumped to the new
Sarah settled into her new body okay, came back from the future
to the Edge Of Nowhere, fell in love with me all over again,
married me and lived happily ever after - except that that was
not quite the way in which it happened. It might have worked out
that way in the movies, but this was real life.
To start with, her new body looked only about 15 years old -
pretty good since it only took three years to grow it. Call me
old fashioned, but I felt extremely uncomfortable touching it.
The Sarah that I'd know was a woman. This was the body of a
child. She too was also uncomfortable with her new body, though
not in the same way as me. It was the way in which she moved that
bothered her. Everything, even a human body, needs to be run in.
Her new body just didn't "feel" right. Her legs felt wrong and
the balance was off. On top of that, she had a bad case of
"future shock". Months passed before she could except what had
happened and learn to enjoy life again. Trouble was, there was
far too much to enjoy for my liking. How could our relationship
grow if there was that many new things and people in her life
that I never occupied her thoughts any more?
Eventually, I couldn't handle things any more and had to talk
about it. The talk lasted quite a long time. There was no
argument. It was quite tender really. Quite sad. In the end we
decided to split - she decided to split. I couldn't decide
anything. Perhaps it really was for the best? She got a job in
the Last Restaurant and works there still. Sometimes we meet and
"We can still be good friends," she said.
"Yeah, course we can," I lied.
She may be able to be friends, but I could never be. Not now.
She had taken my heart and broken it into tiny pieces. Fragments
of love scattered through time. Very bloody appropriate! What was
I to do now?
When the current of love batters you, sometimes you just got to
lean into it, other times you got to go with the flow and see
what else turns up.
So that's my story. Another story of love and death. I suppose
it's pointless in the end to anyone but me, but you had to ask
and the telling has helped me to understand my life a bit more.
"But, what was the master stroke? " Do I hear you ask? Back when
I started this memoir, I would have been tempted to say something
dull like, "It all was!" but now I know what it was.
I never leant into it. I went with the flow. That was the real
(C) Bryan H.Joyce - 27/Feb/92
Final version - 25/April/92
This version for ST NEWS 27/Aug/92
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.