Friday, December 7, 2012

Newsmen tortured?: Woolgathering at the Mint

Clearly it was time to back off and look this entire doomed enterprise over from all the angles. Something I normally don't do, especially when my mind has been scrambled by bad acid and a puppeteer armed with a Sinclair molecule chain and a grudge.
Roaming through the halls of the Mint, and then the tunnels of Tweedle-Dee, there was plenty of time to think over What It All Meant, for good or ill.
What the hell were we actually doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming through these tunnels and up and down these escalators in some kind of drug frenzy, or had I really come out here to write some kind of Story?
The important thing was to cover the story on its own terms. Leave the other stuff to NEWSWEEK -- at least for now. On my way down the escalator, I saw my old nemesis the NEWSWEEK reporter, hunched into a hyperwave booth, the alligator-woman close by, talking over the line to some robot on the other end, spreading the news -- or lack of it, so far -- throughout Known Space:
"Yes, the racers are sleeping, the 50 Million Stars' prize money is locked in a safe, and it will be a couple more days yet before we know who's the victor at this biggest of all interstellar races...."
And so much for all that. Bored, I circled the hallways of the Mint. Glanced at the front of the asteroid's newssheet, THE DAILY DEE -- the Kzinti were kicking up trouble again. And there was another rash of puzzling suicides on Mount Lookitthat. What's the puzzle? If I'd been stuck there I would've offed myself, too.
Peeked briefly, quietly, back into our suite, where Nessus crouched in the bathtub like some kind of brown, two-headed frog. He filled the whole tub, with parts of his three legs somehow hanging out over the sides. But he had, thankfully, drifted off to a troubled slumber -- kicking and screaming the entire way, no doubt. He was gonna have a helluva headache in the morning....
I decided to just ignore that nightmare in the bathroom. And the earlier one in the main room of our suite. There was a helluva lot of wreckage there that was gonna have to go on our Room Service tab, Ghod help us. And who the hell was gonna pay for that? Not me, baby....
It didn't have to turn out like this. I flashed briefly on making a run for it -- just grabbing the Skydiver and leaving Nessus up to his necks in green water in our suite's bathroom, heading out for parts unknown, Out There, where there were still plenty of mysteries and I wouldn't have to spend every waking moment having to EXPLAIN them to millions of waterheads Back Home....
My life wasn't always like this. Ten years ago, back when I was piloting for Nakamura Lines, I thought I had the universe by the tail and all of Known Space at my fingertips. It was a great time to be alive. There was always some kind of wild craziness going on somewhere. And by Ghod, if I couldn't FIND any, then I'd sure as hell stir some up! Even if I backed away and ran for cover right afterward....
It was the kind of peak that has never come again for me. Shortly after, it all went south and I got sucked into this slimy, degrading journalism gig, a terrible job for any man with more morals than your average pigfucker.
But Back Then was a special time. It might even have Meant Something. Hard to say for sure, even at this late date. But I believe there is a point in each man's life, in each generation, where the talents and skills and sense of humor of all sentient beings combine together in a kind of flash -- when everyone knows they're riding on a wave -- the New Wave, perhaps -- and nothing can stop them, for good or ill.
Every generation, every person, has a moment or a time like that. You never know how long it's gonna last. But for me and those around me, we knew we were IN THE MOMENT, there was a fantastic universal sense that what we were doing was RIGHT, that we were winning. We were riding the crest of a beautiful wave -- we would prevail, without a shot being fired. There was no need to FIGHT -- we'd win because we were right.
Well, maybe I was just young and stupid. I was foolish, maybe -- I did some things I regret. But I sure as hell ENJOYED myself, even if the things I did put me on a path that led directly here.
But go to any viewport in the Mint, and look out into the stars. See all that mist and sparkle out there? Look real close, and you can almost see where that wave we were riding finally broke, and then rolled back....

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