JD and I were at El Chico last night having a serious conversation and it eventually led to me thinking about the future and how I probably won’t be here for the fun stuff.
I’m talking colonization and androids and virtual reality and cybernetics and aliens – all that stuff.
It’ll get here, eventually, and you won’t be here either. I think that’s why we, as a species, seem to want to make everything happen the way we want: we know that everything we make a part of our lives will be bigger and better on the other side of the temporal fence, and we get E.T: The Video Game.We get bitter about it, and decide to just complain about anything new, or anything outside of what we’ve spent thousands of hours wasting time on for rank or gear or sparkles.
I wrote about five more paragraphs about video games, unicorns, fascist fashionistas, and hipsters, but I deleted them when I realized I was becoming the monster I’ve sworn to slay.
I’ll just say to the creative types out there in the video game, movie, music, and literature fields: You decide what makes up the universe in your head, not the spectator you’re making it for. There is no right way to create, and there is no wrong way to make something yours. Ignore the forums.
If I were the Doctor, I’d teach you a lesson, too.
Doctor Who: Red Right Hand
1. History Lessons
“Funny story, this,” the Doctor explained as he leaned out the door of the TARDIS. He held on tightly to the door frame and extended a small paper tube towards a billowy pink substance, just outside the blue police box. Below him was open space, an endless sea of stars.
“There was this Sontaran I knew that was a terrific gambler,” he said, moving the tube in circles as the pink substance clung to it in lumps. “Could never let a bet go by him. Made a horrible warrior, and I suppose that’s why they exiled him.”
Behind the Doctor, Amy and Rory, his two companions were bent over the small screen of Rory’s phone.
“Still, being a Sontaran, he couldn’t help but want to battle something, so he builds a small strikeforce of mercenaries and starts taking over systems, one by one.” The Doctor continued his tale as he swirled more of the pink fluff around the tube. Once that tube held a significant amount of the fluffy substance on it, he secured it by sticking one end into a pocket, then he began with another fresh paper tube. “Naturally, I couldn’t let him do that any more so I offered him a wager. I told him I could create a nebula made completely of cotton candy – ridiculous doesn’t even begin to describe the odds against me, and he took the bet. The stakes were that if I won, he would retire from marauding, and if he won, I’d stop giving him problems.”
The two companions burst out in laughter behind him. The Doctor, assuming they were listening to his story smiled and prepared for the ending to his tale.
“And so, one supercharged matter replicator set to infinitely replicate replicators replicating replicators replicating cotton candy placed in stasis right at the center of a sun going supernova was all I needed,” the Doctor said, gathering a final bit of fluff. In one motion, he pulled himself into the TARDIS, shut the doors, and held two generous clouds of pink cotton candy before him. “And voila! Goodbye Sontaran, and hello cotton candy for all!”
Both Amy and Rory were rolling on the floor laughing. The Doctor beamed a toothy smile at them, pleased with the reaction his story had garnered. He soon realized, as his smile turned to a frown, that the two companions’ mirth was coming from something else.
“Look you two,” he said chidingly. “I’m showing you a fantastic marvel of the universe, that I happened to have created I might add, and you’re bent in half over a phone not even paying attention.”
“What Doctor?” Amy asked, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Cotton candy!” the Doctor shouted. “It’s a nebula you can eat!”
“Oh right, sorry Doctor,” Rory apologized, taking the cotton candy that was offered. “It’s just one of my mates posted this insane video.”
“May I see it?” the Doctor asked, seemingly interested.
Rory handed over his phone. “Just hit play. It’s absolutely hilarious, Doctor. You’ll love it.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will love this,” the Doctor said cryptically, pacing back towards the TARDIS doors. He watched the video for a few moments and as the video ended he expelled a brief, “Ah.”
“Well? What do you think?” Amy queried.
“It’s a poor woman smashing grapes then falling off a raised platform,” the Doctor stated flatly.
“It’s brilliant, right?” Rory said, still chuckling to himself.
“Rory,” the Doctor said, opening the TARDIS doors to reveal the Cotton Candy Nebula, “this is brilliant.”
Turning towards the doors, the Doctor wound up. With a throw that would make a professional cricketer take notice, he launched Rory’s phone into space where it quickly began to gather a cloud of cotton candy around it.
“Doctor!” the companions shouted in unison.
“What did you do that for?” Amy said bitterly. “Where’s your sense of humor?”
“Where’s your sense of perspective?” the Doctor countered angrily. “Hello! You’re in a time machine. You’ve got infinite wonders, astounding possibilities, amazing sights to behold out these two simple doors and you’re giggling over a video of slapstick garbage.”
Quickly, he stalked over to the two companions and took the cotton candy from them – Rory was in mid-bite. “You don’t deserve these,” he said, stalking back to the doors and chucking the tasty treats back into the nebula.
“Doctor, you’re being childish,” Amy said, with a hint of a smile.
“I’d say he was being rude,” Rory quipped. “That was an expensive phone.”
“Oh, come on, Rory,” the Doctor replied. “You’ll just buy another the first chance you get. It’s how things work down on Earth. Buy this technology, then buy the next version next year, then the next, and on and on. I don’t understand how you two can be exposed to … ” The Doctor made exaggerated gestures towards the TARDIS console, the nebula outside, and the room surrounding them, ” … this! And you still are slaves to pop culture.”
“Oi, now that’s a bit harsh,” Amy responded defensively. “I happen to think my likes are very untrendy and original. I happen to think Radiohead’s awful.”
“Hey!” Rory snapped, jabbing her in the ribs.
“All beside the point,” the Doctor said. “As is continuously the problem with species delving into advanced technologies, your society is not maturing at the same pace as the science. If you were, you’d have been past crotch shots and people tripping decades ago.”
“Speaking of not maturing at the same pace, its hard for us to tell if we’ve matured at all with you shaving years off our lives in the blink of an eye,” Amy said sarcastically.
“That was necessary,” the Doctor replied. “And I gave you a huge birthday cake for it, from the greatest bakery in the universe. And, once again, that would never have happened if Rory here had been paying attention to the giant signs that said, ‘Don’t mix the gunbunnies’!”
“Doctor,” Amy said, frowning. “He said he was sorry.”
“‘Sorry’ is not good enough anymore,” the Doctor scolded. “It’s time I taught you both a lesson.”
“What is this? Primary school?” Rory asked.
“Apparently so,” the Doctor snapped. Without another word, he launched himself purposefully to the console and began inputting coordinates.
“Alright, Mr. Grumpyface. Where are we going?” Amy asked.
“You’ll see,” the Doctor said, and threw a lever initiating their next jaunt through time and space. The ship jerked, and both Amy and Rory were propelled into their seats roughly.
“Oh,” the Doctor said grumpily. “Might want to hang on.”
Hundreds of light years away from the Cotton Candy Nebula, an armored spaceship touched down on a heavily guarded landing pad outside the Receiving Department of a vast underground complex on the asteroid Kelvax. In space, above the ship, the twin stars Ularus and Getis shone brilliantly – their combined red and yellow rays reflecting off the massive ship’s polished hull. As the ship vented gases into the thin atmosphere of the orbiting rock, a giant spherical shield began to block out the stars as it moved to cover the landing pad. Red spinning lights strobed in time with a blaring alarm as the environmental shield closed over the ship and the precious cargo it held.
After several minutes, the red lights turned to green, indicating the environment in the shielded landing area had been equalized with the rest of the complex. Two columns of heavily armed guards jogged out of the complex to surround the ship’s access ramp in a semi-circle as it slowly began to descend. Facing out from the ramp, the guards activated their weapons and took defensive positions, awaiting the the transfer team to disembark and alert for any signs of trouble.
With a dull thud, the ramp settled to the landing pad and a detachment of twelve armored guards from the ship escorted a man in rich robes to the Receiving Area. The Kelvaxan guards parted to allow their honored guest to pass. Another contingent disembarked shortly after, this group even more heavily surrounded. Two guards in the second contingent carried between them a large black box.
The man in the expensive robes spoke briefly with a Kelvaxan official, who then waved the entire group and their cargo through the security portal leading into the depths of the complex.
The group passed through several more security checkpoints without incident as they approached the core of the asteroid and Central Control. Eventually, the heavily guarded group reached an ornate set of wooden doors at the end of a long narrow hallway. It was at this point that they were made to wait while a senior guard entered the doors to secure clearance for them.
After several minutes, the guard returned and indicated that only the man in the expensive robes, the cargo, and its two guards would be allowed through. The man nodded his understanding, and after a subtle hand gesture, the rest of the guards that had acted as escorts took up positions along the hallway, weapons at the ready.
The man stepped through the doors, followed by the guards and their cargo, and into an expansive room with vaulted ceilings. On the wall to their left hung the mounted and stuffed heads of hundreds of alien species, some wild and some civilized. Some represented species advanced enough to have breached the frontier of interstellar travel, while other represented species long extinct. On the opposite wall were shelves of books, from floor to ceiling, broken intermittently by computer consoles – presumably holding databases of writings no longer available in hard copy. Throughout the room, tables and glass cases held artifacts from thousands of cultures across the galaxy.
At the far end of the room, at an old wooden desk that looked more like a relic than anything functional, was seated a wrinkled old man in a tweed suit. The old man was bent over a large tome, a magnifying glass mounted over his right eye. As if not noticing the arrival of the group, he continued to peruse the page before him until the man in the expensive robes and his two guards stood before the desk.
Without looking up he spoke, “Ah, Lord Trelonde. I trust your journey was uneventful.”
The man in the expensive robes snapped his heels together smartly and bowed his head. “We are grateful for the escort ships you sent to meet us at Feldett III, Curator Heems – though I doubt anyone but yourself would see the value in the artifact I’ve brought you.”
“Quite,” the Curator said, looking up at the other man. Smiling, he gestured to the tome in front of him. “Any idea what this is?”
Trelonde gazed briefly at the book and did not recognize the language it was written in. “I’m an avid collector of rare artifacts, Curator Heems, for certain, but I am not an expert on ancient texts such as this, however.”
Heems rose from his seat and shut the book. “Five million years ago, Warlord Walthus Vex wiped out an eighth of the sentient species present in this galaxy at that time.” Heems removed the larger lens from his eye and placed a pair of round spectacles on his nose. “A vicious tyrant, he took what he wanted, including mates. Sex and species didn’t matter to him – his species was the Royn, who all have adaptive reproductive systems and can mate and create offspring with any living species. This book is a detailed record of every creature he coupled with in that conquest – and every creature that died birthing his Royn progeny.”
Trelonde made a face of disgust.
“It’s really quite interesting. The Royn are also empaths. He was able to experience what they felt while forcing himself on them and wrote it all down. This is the twenty-seventh volume of four thousand. The illustrations are very graphically detailed,” Heems said with a smirk.
“Now about this piece you’ve brought me, Lord Trelonde,” Heems said, moving around and approaching the black box. “Are you able to verify its authenticity?”
“It’s authenticity is not what makes this piece worth collecting,” Trelonde explained, a strange look on his face. “It may be an original – it may be a clever copy. That’s not the point. I can guarantee you’ll never see anything like it in your life.”
“Cease the pitch,” Heems said impatiently. “Show me the piece or leave this asteroid. I don’t have time to ponder the possibilities and improbabilities of life.”
“As you wish,” Trelonde replied with a brief bow.
Heems ushered them over to a low table and relocated a few relics from its surface to other tables. Trelonde nodded to the guards and they carefully set the black box on to the empty surface. The guards each removed keychains from their persons and inserted their respective keys into locks on either side of the box. Lastly, Trelonde pulled a key from within his robes and inserted it into a larger locking mechanism on the front of the box. At Trelonde’s signal, the three men turned their keys and the lid to the box popped open with a hiss. Briefly, visible clouds of gas billowed out and dissipated.
Trelonde opened the lid completely and stepped back for Heems to inspect the contents.
Curator Heems had donned a pair of latex gloves and reverently stepped forward to the box. The inside of the box was lit with soft glowlights and for a moment Heems simply stared at what lay inside, the light reflecting off his round spectacles. He then took a deep breath and reached into the box. Carefully, he removed the ancient device from its velvet cushion and held it at eye level.
The American-made 1986 Model Speak & Spell appeared to be in mint condition.
“Very nice,” Heems said. “But there’s still the question of its authenticity.”
“I assure you, its authenticity won’t matter once you see what it does.”
Heems turned a skeptical eye to Trelonde. “It still works?”
“Turn it on and find out, Curator Heems.”
Heems scoffed at the relic collector and pressed the button marked “ON”.
Four musical tones sounded, indicating the device was active. After a pause, the device’s screen glowed green as words appeared. A synthesized voice spoke the words as they printed.
“Good day to you, Curator Heems,” it droned.
“What gimmick is this?” Heems demanded, narrowing his eyes at Trelonde. “I’m not a collector of cheap parlor tricks.”
“This is no trick,” the device said aloud. “You are being given a priceless gift.”
Surprised, Heems regarded the ancient Earth toy in his hands. “For all intents and purposes, it appears authentic. The coloring is accurate. The speech synthesizer is very close to the original, but I suspect its been tampered with. Artificial intelligence module installed?”
Trelonde stood silently regarding the Curator – waiting.
Heems turned the toy over in his hands and examined it closer. “I won’t give you full value unless I can verify its authenticity, and expect a deduction for the electronic tampering that’s been done to it.”
“As it said, it is a gift, Curator Heems,” Trelonde said, his smile waxing cryptic.
“Hmph,” Heems huffed. “I’m still going to open it up.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” the Speak & Spell commanded.
Heems eyes seemed to glaze over and his mouth opened as if he were about to say something.
Then Heems spoke: “I’ll do no such thing.”
Trelonde’s smile widened maniacally.
The wheezy, grinding noise stopped and the TARDIS materialized with a thump.
“Right,” the Doctor said, moving to the doors. “Stay together, no touching each other, and more importantly no touching any of the pieces unless given explicit permission.”
“What is this place, Doctor?” Amy asked.
“You are about to step into the oldest and most extensive museum in the universe – the Kelvaxan Reliquary. It is here that I intend to show you that your gizmos, your apps, and your social networking tools are just the detritus on the surface of the deeper technological potential of Earth. First, I’ll introduce you to my old friend, Curator Heems. He should be able to get us into some of the more exclusive exhibits.”
The Doctor grasped the door handle. “Maybe then you’ll learn when and where to show proper respect to the wonders of the universe.” He then added with a smirk, “Especially me.”
The Doctor threw open the door and stepped out backwards, his arms open in welcome as he backpedaled out the TARDIS.
“My friends,” he declared, “welcome to future history!”
The first things that Amy and Rory noticed as they stepped out after him were the thirty-seven laser rifles that were trained on them.
“Doctor,” Rory said hesitantly.
“I know, its a bit much to take in at first, but your senses will soon level out.”
With a flourish, the Doctor spun around with the intent to march purposefully forward into the vast museum. Instead, he marched purposefully into a laser rifle.
“Ah,” the Doctor said. “Not the sort of respect I had in mind.”
(to be continued … )