So just who is this Kevin Miller guy anyway?

I’m an amateur magician, novelist, poet, satirist, self-appointed pundit (aren’t they all?) on the social networks, and teacher. I’ve more than one hundred published crime, horror, fantasy, & SF stories & poems to my credit. Cemetery Dance said my “Rain on a Stranger's Eyes” was “a solid noir masterpiece with chilling irony.” Publisher's Weekly called “Stealing Klatzman's Diary” a “morbidly amusing caper with a Shakespearean body count.” Some of my stories have appeared in Chimeraworld #6: New World Disorder, It Came from Her Purse, All about Eve, and Barren Worlds. I'm a member of the West Suburban Writer's Circle.

As Edgar watches

As Edgar watches

Friday, August 29, 2014

"I live by example. "

(In response to my post mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King and Bradbury and my creative friend.)

" I live my own way. I live every day attempting to do good and to benefit others by example. I believe we should all learn to listen more and attempt to find similarities in our life experiences. I am not oblivious to current events, yet I reject the sensationalism and media bloat that society imposes on us. I read, I practice working on improving situations every day. I find solutions. I may be quiet about this. I live by example. "

Friday, March 14, 2014

SEX, DEATH, & THE FUTURE - Chapter Sixteen: A Song Called “The End of Innocence” Made You Sad – A Song Called “The End of Guilt” Made You What?

Sanderson was right of course. He was right about a lot of things. He went about his usual duties and he did a lot of media interviews, expressing his opinion about the Ch’athos. I easily got another job after President Fenkfren fired me off of Project Tempo. Boniface College, in a Chicago suburb, had been cranking out one genius after another, pushing the horizons in computer science, chemistry, physics … They had also minted young minds that became the concern of the FBI and Interpol. “Ethics and Philosophy of Science” was the course Boniface was anxious to get up and running. It meant millions of dollars from foundations with money to burn and a preoccupation with making the world of tomorrow a better place.
Elmore Hamilton the dean hired me. He wore black slacks and a black suit jacket, a golden shirt, and a big floppy tie with jade and sallow stripes. His shaved head was oiled.
“Can we talk about your parents, Dr. Sierra?”
“I’ll talk about anything, if it means helping me get his job, Dr. Hamilton.”
“Oh, you got this job.  I’m just not sure how often I’m going to get an opportunity to talk to one of the daughters of Manuel and Reva Sierra.”
“There was nothing unusual about them,” I said.
“Oh yes?”
“Lots of married couples serve in the military, and a lot of times, well sometimes, they are both scientists.”
“And maybe the maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and maybe it does. If we taught Psychology of the Results of Parenting I’d beg you and your sister to let yourselves get hired by Boniface. No, Dr. Sierra, I’m thinking about the Region-Thrall Scope.”
I leaned back. “That was a joke, and I’m amazed you know anything about it.  That was something my parents talked to me and my sister about using on us when we fought.”
“I’m sure it was. It was also the name of a project that your parents worked on for a year, at least.”
That surprised me. I didn’t want to look surprised. Although he had told me the job was mine, I’m not a reckless person (boy are you going to have a hard time with that one a little later on) and felt that looking startled was a rookie move in front of my soon-to-be-boss. In these circumstances, I usually get a cup of coffee. There was none in that office. There was however, a mini-fridge stuffed with bottled water. Hamilton had gotten one before he started the interview. If I needed a beverage at that moment I needed more than water.
“How did you …?”
“Part of my research for my PhD … you’re getting a what-might-have-been look in your eyes, Dr. Sierra.”
“The Region-Thrall Scope … eliminates the emotional engine of war and violence … or suspending it at least … Why didn’t it go forward? Was it a cost issue?”
“You bring up a cost issue?” He grinned. “Are you sure you worked for the government?”
“Yes, but with all due respect, Dr. Hamilton, you haven’t.  Sometimes costing a lot of money can be something that doesn’t matter or something that kills a project or an initiative, depending on the politics of the moment. So why not make the Region-Thrall Scope real?”
“You’re a bright woman, Dr. Sierra. Think about it for a moment.”
I did.
“They had a containment problem that they couldn’t lick.”
“That’s it exactly.” Hamilton shrugged. “I think that sounds like a pretty sweet setup. Flick a switch and knock out of anybody within the vicinity any desire to wage war and commit any other type of violence. However, the Pentagon wasn’t thrilled about the idea of putting itself out of business. And I like to think I got great research skills, but I am just a guy … There’s data out there about the Region-Thrall Scope, but the bits that could make it work has been scattered and buried God knows where … By the way, I don’t believe the rumors about you having anything to do with Project Tempo.” If there was really such a thing as having a poker face I was doing my best to keep it. “Again, yours truly, research guy. Worldwide, there’s at least a hundred other people who are just as qualified to run something like Project Tempo. Some sneaky covert op types put out those rumors about you because one government is a devious, so anything like Project Tempo, with a dozen plus governments … I mean, good Lord.”
My first couple of weeks back in teaching the feeling of feeling of nurturing active young minds refreshed me.

     A young woman with as much writing tattooed on her arms as the first page of most of the papers I wrote as a Frenchman had a lot of questions about the readings I assigned by Michel Foucault:

     “This has something to do with morality, Dr. Sierra?”
     They put in me a classroom that was like a mini-auditorium. The acoustics of the place were such that a student asked me anything as I sat and stood on that mini-stage and I could hear them easily. If I wanted to say anything in return (and I did, trust me) I had to boom out my reply like an actor doing Hamlet in the Grand Canyon.
     “Not the way I would define it, or I suspect the way you would, Janiqua. Foucault doesn’t have any interests in the metaphysical aspects of ethics and morality. As a scientist, I’m way over my head if I try and fully engage metaphysics.”
     “We’re certainly not going to leave it alone,” Chason said. He wore one of those bowler hats, an old European fashion then fashionable with young men in America. I remember that Pinchbeck and Gordon, the two Project Tempo security men who had to clean up the mess with “the subject” being in the wrong place at the wrong time … they had worn bowler hats, the last I saw them.  “I notice you got us slogging through Aquinas’s Summa Theologica in a few weeks.”
     “Yes, well, if this was going to be easy for me, Boniface College wouldn’t be paying me, and this wouldn’t be a job,” I said. “Foucault views ethical concerns, ethical decision-making as a way of taking care of yourself, of building and maintaining an ethical identity.”
     “Without God,” Quixote Smith said with a frown. He wore a T-shirt with an enormous image of General Sanderson’s head on it. Since the leak about Project Tempo and the Ch’athos, the general had been doing every more media interviews than usual. Concerns about the Anastrophe pirates and their island that they could pilot through the ocean and that their community now counted among their number members of the Lunar Mob added to Sanderson’s image as the tough and wonderful dad who could Take Care of Everything.
      “Man, Aquinas is coming,” Aquarius said. He had beautiful long dark hair, a Fu Manchu mustache, and an eye patch, and a three-piece gray suit. “Hang on, okay?”
     Quixote Smith smiled, spread his hands, and tried to sound less angry. “I’d make a lousy lawyer. I had plenty of friends in the military devoted to their job, and to God, and I couldn’t find a way to make those two in fit in my head. I got out of the service because if you can’t make it make all sensible to yourself don’t have a job with that much responsibility.”
     “I’d like to change the subject,” said Veronica Nash. She always wore jeans and T-shirts and thick lipstick, but never any other form of makeup. Today she wore a Hilda Adams, Girl Detective t-shirt. “I took this class because I thought given its name I thought we would talk about nothing else besides the Ch’athos. It seems to me that that we’ve covered anything else except them.”
     I look around the room.
     “Anybody else feel that way?” I asked. “No wait. Better question. Anybody else know anybody who feels that away, people who aren’t in this class?”
     Janiqua looked around the room. “I think we all do.”
     “I hope I’m not speaking out of turn, Dr. Sierra,” Quixote Smith said. “But I’m getting the impression you don’t realize how much the clock is already running on the issue of the Ch’athos.”
     “Well, five to fifty years before their arrival,” I said. “I mean – if we are to believe the leaks.”
     Quixote Smith made a dismissive gesture. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about how America – the world – is responding to this, and on top of that of that how the governments of the world are responding to all this being made public. The British Parliament and the Japanese Diet have been meeting every day for, I guess it’s been a month now.”
     “Yeah,” Veronica Nash said. “And the whole thing with all those politicians is that it’s all been closed door, not open to the public at all.”
     I may have raised an eyebrow at that point. “Oh?” That I didn’t know about.
     “A teach-in …?”
     Hamilton and I sat in his office. Behind his desk, he worked the word-processing controls on his sleeves and on his chest, preparing a proposal for a foundation bankrolled by a computerized genetics corporation.
     “It’s discussions and lectures. It’s a marathon session. There was one in 1965 U of Michigan about Vietnam. Someone did it in 2010 over the Web about climate change issues. I don’t have to explain that this is about … This would be about the Ch’athos and Project Tempo, if you agree to it. Do you?”
     “Why are you asking me if I agree to it?  The Board of Trustees largely leaves me and the president of Boniface College alone. Something like this doesn’t happen unless the board of trustees all nod in agreement.”
     “And that’s a problem? That’s not do-able?”
     “Wow, Dr. Sierra. I really don’t know. I’m far from the first one to note how bloody quiet and … under-reactive was the respond to the number one blockbuster leap/revelation of the century was. Well, maybe the world has been waiting for somebody brave and stupid enough to be the first to stick their necks out about our blue and green friends waiting for us on the other side of God knows how many years.”
My father died before my mother. I think there was something stereotypically male in that – that dying was the last thing on the “to do” list and there was no point in putting it off any longer than necessary.
     One of the many reasons why I wasn’t as brave as Mona was that I was the one that saw Father before the funeral home took him away. Before the cremation, after life had finally fled, there were a lot of ways to describe Father’s expression.
     No. That’s wrong.
     There was only one way to describe that expression, and it’s that it was the face of a man who was anything but “at peace.”
     My memory of Mother in the last couple of years of her life was that she was afraid to stand up and she was really, really afraid to sit down, like I or fate or the universe or something was going to yank the chair or the couch away at the last moment.
     After my baby Victoria died, her part in the larger story of the Worldwide February Mystery Baby Deaths, after my marriage broke up, after Father, after Monica’s NFL career took off, I moved back in with Mother, to the accompaniment of much head-shaking and hand-wringing of my uncles and aunts and cousins.
     And all this as a way of saying that I had a certain understanding about fear, because it certainly wasn’t courage that motivated me to organize a teach-in at Boniface College about the Ch’athos and Project Tempo.
     “Yeah, I got a question,” said a young man in a soccer uniform. He sat in the fifteenth row. He held up a phone. I think it was a Chimera, but I couldn’t tell from the stage.
     We were in the college’s Theater Department auditorium. They had done an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink production of The Tempest just last month. So me and the other three on stage wouldn’t look lost, I had the red velvet curtain down and we were doing the whole thing with a podium and chairs sitting on what my more artistic friends told me was the apron.
     “So what’s the deal?” the young man asked.  
     I had asked my shady friend Shrub for tech to neutralize all digital, networking devices. The set up was behind the curtain and hidden in a light in back of the … here comes another one … the house.
     “It was my idea,” I said.
     “How’d you pull it off?” the young man in the soccer uniform asked.
     “Yeah, well, that’s going to be my little secret,” I said.
     “Okay,” the young man said. “I’ll settle for why.”
     “Since the 1990s, human civilization, human culture, has been playing out in the digital, networked realm,” I said. “Whatever the Ch’athos may or may not be they are a re-set button for all of us. He will not be the same after we encounter them, face to face. That takes a certain type of stillness, clarity, directness, and I’m sorry but everybody uploading live video to the blogs about whatever we are going to do here I think will just confuse the issue.
     “I don’t know …” the young man said.
     “Good God,” Craig Paxton said. He wore another one of his colorful sweaters, this one orange. He had often spoken in private to many of us about switching careers. “Dr. Sierra is only asking that we stop playing with our toys for a few hours. I don’t agree with her reasoning, but I say we give it to her.”
     Eckhart Tosh wore a rumpled shirt with his glass case in one breast pocket and five pens in the other breast pocket. He worked at getting a career as novelist and playwright started. “I don’t think anyone has a talking points checklist about Project Tempo and the Ch’athos, so could we pursue this? I’m hearing from our young friend in the audience that anything not on record in digital, networking media lacks … authenticity. Right out of the gate here, Dr. Sierra is challenging that idea.”
     “Well,” Emmanuel Goldstein said. He had a cowboy hat sitting in his lap.  He had, as far as I knew, no special feeling for cowboys or westerns or anything like that. He just liked the hat. “As long as we’re putting words and ideas into the mouths of the audience, here’s another one: modernity. I think what Dr. Sierra is doing with this little tech ban is challenging definitions of modernity that have been all over the place since the end of World War II, and the many, many, many wars this country decided to go fight in the past twenty years. When we start to get, in some quarters, a global nervous breakdown about the Ch’athos and Project Tempo, I’m sure what is going to be happen here is parts of the human race wanting to re-negotiate it’s deal with modernity.”
     “You do not re-negotiate your relationship with Christ and God!”
     That was a voice new to those of us on the stage.
     “Excuse me?” I said. I looked around.
     A large, pale young man stood up in the audience. He wore a windbreaker, zipped up. “I said, ‘You do not re-negotiate your relationship with Christ and God!’”
     “Christa,” Craig Paxton whispered. “I don’t like where this is going.”
     You don’t like where this is going?” Goldstein whispered in reply. “Fatty down there sounds like he’s about to shove Jeeeeeezzzzusss down this Jewish boy’s throat.”
“Nobody panic.” That was another whisperer, Tosh, and oh great this was a great example of vigorous open dialog in a free society. We were a bunch of whisperers on a public stage. “This might not turn into anything.”
     Another large young man stood up in the audience. “That a private conversation you four are having up there, or can anyone of us join?” He wore a sweatshirt with the Boniface College logo on it. Before any of on stage could reply – and I don’t know if anyone had a reply – I know I didn’t – Sweatshirt Guy took off his sweatshirt revealing a T-shirt with a Kirk Douglas chin, Paul Newman eyes, and Al Pacino in The Godfather, Part III hair.
     In other words, it was the face of General Vincent Sanderson.
     I looked around. I didn’t see Quixote Smith, who had been wearing a General Sanderson t-shirt in class the other day.
     “If you got a question to ask, a real question instead of excusing them whatever, ask it.” That was Veronica Nash, also sitting in the audience.
     “You need to shut up, little girl,” said the windbreaker. He took off the windbreaker, and guess whose face was on the t-shirt he wore underneath?
     “Hey,” Veronica said. “Listen to me, you … rude child.” (Holy shit, I thought. Parenthetically, Veronica and the guy who had little girl’d her looked like they were pretty much the same age.) “I wrestled in high school. Join me in the gym after this and let’s work out a few things.”
     “Okay,” Paxton said. “Here’s how this works. If this gets bad enough, Christa, get back stage, pull the plug or whatever on that gear your sketchy friend provided for this little shin-dig, and get campus security over here fucking ASAP.”
     “And why are they not here already?” Goldstein asked.
     “Somebody thought they would ‘discourage a free and open dialog.’” That was Tosh. He was always polite, but boy if what he gave me then wasn’t a glare I don’t know what is.
     “Center yourselves around the elimination of evil!” That was twenty new voices, at least.
     In case you forgot, reader, that was a key phrase from the debate between the Reverends Hooper and Chadroost, specifically something said by Hooper.
     Call me a silly optimist. At least fifty more large, pale young men stood up, all wearing Sanderson t-shirts.
     I got out of my chair, went to the podium, and turned on the mike. “Look, let’s have a real dialog here and not something else.”
     “Center yourself around the elimination of evil!”
     “This is stupid.” Goldstein, like everyone else, was no longer whispering.
     “And when the Cha’athos do get here,” I said. “Can we truly call what they’ll find a civilization?”
     I guess the fifty-two members of the Sanderson/Hooper Club must have loved that, because that’s when they took out the billy clubs and the antique tasers.
     I got off easy: a black eye and a chin scar. One of the male nurses in the ER offered to drive me home and who was I to say no?
     At this point I lived above a pizza parlor. Maybe an hour or two before dawn he told his car to shut itself off in the gravel and sand parking lot.
     His name was Azarias. He wore a funky old black suit jacket over his ER scrubs. He had an oval face, silky and short and shaggy hair and warm brown eyes. I know, a contradiction with the hair, but go with me here.
     “So,” he said.
     “So,” I said.
     How did his supervisors even let him get away with this, walking away from his ER shift to drive a patient home?  If I wasn’t some kind of farm league celebrity before, I guess I was now after the teach-in riot. I guess there was this crap floating around the world that said the rules were different for celebrities. Certainly this was something Mona had complained about.
     “So,” Azarias said, again. “You want me to come up stairs?”
     Oh fuck.
     Or rather – not fuck.
     Azarias was maybe twenty-two years, which made him old enough to be my son, if I had a male child when I was his age, that had survived the time of the Worldwide February Baby Mystery Deaths.
     I guess a different sort of woman my age would be flattered. I wasn’t a different sort of woman. I was me.
     “No. Thank you. Good night.”
     When I got into my apartment, Tessa padded up to me, looked up, and said, “Ugh.”
     “‘Ugh’? That doesn’t even qualify as a word, so it’s not part of your one-word thing, is it?”
     Tessa wasn’t hungry, didn’t need a snack, or a belly rub.
     She took a few steps in the direction of where I presume she had come from, the couch, and collapsed on the rug and started to sleep before she was halfway there.
     Whatever, I thought. A touch of the sociopath is charming in cats.
     I plopped down on the couch and put in a call to Sanderson on my phone video wall.
     He said hi, I said hi, and I gave him a quick, clipped, just-the-facts account of the teach-in riot.
     “Wow,” he said. “That’s awful.”
“Are you proud of yourself, general?”
“Am I proud of what, doctor?”
“You’re going to seriously play it that way?”
“I’m quite busy, as I am sure you are. If you have something to say, come right to the point. You think I ordered this, this riot?”
“My impression of you from our previous encounters is that you think I’m smart. Do I have that right, general? Or am I off base?”
“You’re right, doctor”
“I’m right. Oh good.  Then please don’t start acting like I suddenly became an idiot.”
“I’m not following you, doctor.”
“I was never going to say you ordered this attack. Neither did Rev. Hooper.”
“Then you think … wait, that I inspired this?”
“Bingo. I think about that about you and Hooper.”
“Now if you’re thinking of pointing the police or the FBI at us …”
“Glad you credit me for at least thinking, general. I don’t doubt your professional know-how about what specific damage a thousand different types of guns and bombs can do. Well, if you’re a stranger to all this … awfulness, let me introduce you to the fact that words can inspire, heal, entertain … and hurt, general. Words can hurt a lot, if they inspire the right type of awful actions.”
“Are you done?”
“You’re a grown-up. You could have hung up on me when I said ‘hi.’”
“That would have been rude. I wanted to wait until you were done.”
I paused.
“I’m done.”
“Goodbye, doctor.” He broke the connection.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

SEX, DEATH, & THE FUTURE_Chapter 15: The Personal Touch

The Theater Tor San Argent in Forgan, Wyoming was technically not inside the city limits. It was just outside, a giant, part–assembled puzzle box of concrete and bulletproof glass painted in garish, huge stripes of indigo, ginger, and emerald. It was just outside the city limits and it attracted everything from foreign orchestras, American rock bands, and Mexican rap groups. The parking lot was a little country unto itself, I thought absurdly about the size of Rhode Island, until the East Coast Disaster Zone swallowed all that up … Rhode Island and company. The nine versions of the Internet, the one million American TV networks, the hundreds of foreign TV networks, the millions of legal and underground ad hoc lattices stitched together from Chimera users, Automaton users, and other consumer bases, all had people there, there neo-Gothic, Psychedelic-Traditionalist, pre-post-horizontal-plastic-modernism logos floating and flashing in holograms, animated T-shirt designs, or pieces of cardboard woken up with colored Magic Markers and flashlights. In the crowds leading up to the entrance I saw a dozen men dressed and in makeup to look like H.G. Wells. I saw young couple painting their faces purple and green or purple or green, the ethnic colors of the Cha’athos. I saw an old man wearing a worn, tattered RAY MCCLURE FOR PRESIDENT t-shirt. Some shaggy person standing, I think, on an honest to God soap box tried to convince a small crowd that the pirates on the artificial, steered island – and their lunar gangster allies – were emissaries from God, here to provoke the Apocalypse. Somebody watching this scene within the larger scene of the crowds going into the theater said something about how Anastrophe was stopped still in international waters and that if it got just five miles closer Fenkfren would … There didn’t seem to be any agreement about that in the crowds. Maybe she was going to send in the Marines and kill and capture everybody. Maybe she would think they weren’t worth that much effort and would send a single plane to take care of the whole lot of them, like it hadn’t taken much more than a single military helicopter to squash Maxwell Nicodemeus and his adventure in foolishness.  Somebody was selling for a penny each posters for the old movie The Guns of Heroes, the film that had killed Fenkfren’s husband when the whole family visited on the set, and had altered the poster to make it look like the President was dithering about the whole issue of the Ch’athos. A college girl in jeans, t-shirt three sizes too big for her, and jeans, and sneakers, accompanied by two men twenty to thirty years older than her each of them holding briefcases hit people up for money for a documentary about the February Baby Mystery Deaths. For Victoria, for me, for Victoria, for me, for me, for me, I wanted to give her all the money in the world, I wanted to give her my soul, if I had one, if anyone had one.
     I wore a less ambitious version of Mona’s ignore-I’m-a-celebrity outfit – way big dark glasses, a fedora, and sweatshirt that made too much of the fact that I had tits. I was using my big old clunky purse and made the entirely inappropriate for the occasion feminine gesture of wearing too much Raskovink–Yggdrasil lipstick.
     Inside, I sat in medium-priced seat, not one of the hardcore type who paid three digits to be in the first dozen rows, and not the crowd that had paid nickels and dimes to buy a seat so high up and so far from the stage it might as well had been in the sky outside.
     The debate was emceed by a clunky looking robot made of a series of metal boxes, still barely man-shaped, and painted pea green. Through a cheap speaker he insisted everyone call him 1955 Michael David James.
     “So Rev. Hooper doesn’t object to a robot being a master of ceremonies for this debate?” Rev. Chadroost asked.
     “I object to a lot,” Rev. Hooper said. “As I have and will explain. But I don’t object to 1955 Michael David James.”
     “Rev. Hooper,” the robot said. “By mutual agreement, you are to begin.”
     “Thank you.  My argument is simple. Readers of Scripture who even put the smallest amount of effort into examining the text will find not even a hint in God’s plan for other worlds of sentient beings. The animals are mentioned, of course. Despite their amazing accomplishment, devoted Christians must consider the Ch’athos as little more than sophisticated animals.”
“I had no idea Rev. Hooper was Amish,” Chadroost said.
“That’s not what –-“
“It’s true that the Ch’athos isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Of course they aren’t. Who would debate this point?  Do you want to know what else isn’t mentioned in the Bible? Aspirin, DNA, E=MC2, movies, quantum mechanics, rockets, telephones, televisions, and x-rays. That’s just off the top of my head.  The scientists in the audience could make the list a lot longer.  If we’re going to dump out open-heart surgery and the Heimlich maneuver … neither of them mentioned in the Bible, remember … I’m wondering what else is going to go back on the shelf?”
“May I reply?”
“Please, Rev. Hooper. We both have all night or until one of us gets bored.”
“The Rev. Chadroost is taking my words out of context.”
“How am I doing that?  You said the Ch’athos isn’t mentioned in Scripture, nothing like them is mentioned in Scripture, so we at must think of them as very clever monkeys.”
“You don’t think of them as human, surely?”
“Yes, well, we’re going to have to re-visit some previously settled issues in our language, Rev. Hooper. The Ch’athos aren’t animals, in the sense that word has ever meant anything, and they clearly aren’t human. However, they can reach out to us, telepathically, and someday in the future in person, from light years away. The cleverest monkey in the history of this planet hasn’t been able to do that, Rev. Hooper.”
     The telepathic contact with us, before the Project Tempo trip into the future and the first encounter with the Ch’athos … that had been included in the leak from Mona’s ex-boyfriend. (I’m getting the use “leak” wrong here, aren’t? Despite having associates like Shrub, I’m clumsy as an underground/outlaw person.) I had, however, managed to keep Dylan Lang’s name out of official Project Tempo records, although Sanderson and his circle knew near everything about my former student. 
“Does Rev. Chadroost equate cleverness with virtue … or even trustworthiness?” Hooper asked.
“I don’t.” Chadroost said. “Neither do I equate cleverness in those who are new and strange to us with wickedness and the fearful.”
“I don’t see how my caution … anybody’s caution … is a flaw!”
“Then you might well be in the wrong long line of work, Rev. Hooper. Christianity when it first came to the Earth in the person of our Savior was a radical, new, subversive idea … and in many ways it still is.”
“Does a liberal like Rev. Chadroost claim full ownership of Christianity?”
“As a liberal, the only thing I claim ownership of is liberalism, never the Christian faith. Can you make a similar claim for conservatism?” She paused, waiting for a reply.
     As you maybe have gathered by now, the robot 1955 Michael David James was rather crap as an emcee. As the silence lengthened, Chadroost looked at the robot. Hooper, pointedly, looked away.
     “If Rev. Hooper would care to reply?” the robot said after the moment of silence got longer.
     “What I care to do is none of your business, machine.”
     Chadroost picked up the slack.
     “Like Rev. Hooper, I am a Protestant. I witness the Word and plan of God in part through a fellow Christian, the Catholic Giordano Bruno – 1548 to 1600 AD. Besides getting into trouble with the Inquisition for his support of Copernicus’s ideas, Bruno got them angrier by arguing that God, in giving life to the cosmos, created a ‘world soul.’”
     Hooper pounced on that one.
     “And you embrace this idea of a ‘world soul’?”
     “I hadn’t thought much about it until recent events about the Ch’athos,” his opponent said.
     “The very phrase reeks of paganism, Rev. Chadroost!”
     “Oh, please tell me you are going nowhere near endorsing the actions of the Spanish Inquisition, Rev. Hooper – even by implication!”
     “If a policeman shoots a man dead for jaywalking I condemn the policeman, but I certainly don’t endorse the jaywalking!”
He must have realized how excited, how angry he sounded, and looked. He shut his eyes for a moment and took a few deep breaths. He opened his eyes. “Rev. Chadroost.”
     “Rev. Hooper.”
     “You admit to the reality of good and evil, surely.”
     “I’m not a friend of moral relativism, Rev. Hooper.”
     There was a long silence after that.
     “Excuse me – I’d like to ask a question.”
     That was a newish voice.
     I looked around.
     The young woman I had encountered outside who wanted to do a documentary about the February Mystery Baby Deaths … she and the older men in suits were sitting a few rows from me and now she was standing up and a question boomed out of her tiny body.
     “Eeeehhhh,” said the robot 1955 Michael David James.
     “Well,” Chadroost said. “To be fair to Rev. Hooper this isn’t the format we agreed to.”
     Hooper made a dismissive gesture that looked positively imperial. “I’m not afraid of an open dialog with the public. If I was, I wouldn’t be here.”
     “Um, okay …” the robot 1955 Michael David James said. “But why don’t you tell us all who you are? You know, just to be polite.”
     “I’m Jurnee Rodgers, Jr.” A lot of people stared at her. I hate to brag – no, don’t want to lie – some brags I love - and wasn’t one of those present who stared at Jurnee Rodgers, Jr. when she introduced herself. “WHAT!? You can check with my lawyer here.  My legal name is Jurnee Rodgers, Jr.  If you have a problem with a young white woman naming herself after an elderly black Presidential advisor … If anyone really wants to argue about it, I first insist on getting my boyfriend Jurnee Rodgers II first who can’t be with us tonight.”
     “Please ask your question, dear,” Chadroost said.  “I mean – Jurnee.”
     “Yeah, okay,” the young woman said. “To get right to the point: What the fuck?”
     There had only been a bit of applause, laughter, and booing up to that point.  The public utterance of “fuck” got a loud cheer from at least a dozen people, even before they knew the context.
     “Such language isn’t necessary,” Hooper said.
     “Mercy,” Jurnee Rodgers, Jr. said. “The cartoon version and the real thing is the same thing with you, isn’t it?”
     “If you could make a question a little more specific, de- I mean Jurnee?” Chadroost asked.
     “The entire East Coast of this country went to hell - and I hope you’ll give me that word, Rev. Hooper,” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. said. “That wasn’t a punishment from God or the mischief of demons. That was a couple of different Presidential administrations – including the supposed sister who now sits in the Oval Office – doing nothing to prevent or cure damage from violent weather, mismanagement of environmental issues, or an economic system that rewards brokers and such for how clever their Moon Base or Mars Corporation real estate deals are, rather than someone working their ass making hamburgers or driving a cab or teaching math to house, feed, and clothe themselves and their families.”
     “Nice speech,” Hooper said with surprising irony and dryness. “Didn’t I hear a rumor about a question?”
Jurnee Rodgers Jr. ignored him. “Maxwell Nicodemeus and his so-called ‘rebellion’ was possible because we got a country – no, a world – in which the rich get everything and the non-rich get nothing. Nicodemeus went from the second category to the first in the blink of an eye.  It would have been lovely if he set up a charitable foundation – but stupidly, callously run world isn’t creating a lot of people generous of spirit. So: To what bloody end and purpose the international time travel project like Project Tempo – instead of the governments of the world providing real solutions to real problems?”
     “Jurnee,” Chadroost said. “Have you thought about what this means? Being able to travel into the past and into the future?”
     “I take it you’d like me to be impressed,” the young woman said.
     “I know I am,” Hooper said. “But not the way you are, or my colleague sharing the stage with me.”
     “Anyone want to hear my opinion?” asked the robot 1955 Michael David James.
     “No,” said the two reverends and Jurnee Rodgers Jr.
     “I got a cousin,” the young woman said. “No big deal. A lot of people have a cousin. Maybe a lot of people even have a cousin who is a math genius, like mine.  But for a long time he wasn’t impressing me, because of his lousy hygiene and eating habits, and he let fear, bigotry, and disrespect run his life. He finally took care of all the essentials and now the math genius stuff finally impresses me.”
     “But dear,” Chadroost said. “With Project Tempo every problem could be solved.”
     “Because no mistake would be permanent,” the young woman said, but she didn’t sound like she believed it.
     “Yes,” Hooper said. “I’m probably the most unscientific person in this conversation but even I understand that much.”     
     “Then who learns?” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. asked. “Who would learn anything?  Study the news downloads. Some of the dumbest people in the world are the wealthiest, because they can make mistakes with no consequences. Imagine that you win, that you both win. Project Tempo has all the bugs worked out of it – the international Project Tempo. There are still a few countries that execute. They’d convict anyone who they thought who was kind of maybe guilty, because what difference would it make? If they got it wrong, they could always go back and un-execute somebody.  Sounds a blessing and a miracle, I know, reverends, but from where I’m standing it sounds like another version of hell. Execute somebody, and bring them back. Execute somebody, and bring them back. Execute somebody, and bring them back.”
     “Well, that’s not going to happen in the US,” Chadroost said.
     “Yes well, lucky us,” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. said. “But in the past thirty years this country has tripled number of wars it has fought then in the previous thirty.  Imagine a US government that can correct any mistake, make it so it never happened, and whatever would be left of caution would go out the window.”
     I liked Jurnee Rodgers Jr. but I like you sometimes got with people that confident she was being narcissistic, but I wasn’t about to get to my feet and enter the conversation. The universal wave function owned an objective reality and wave function collapse was of a piece with unicorns and leprechauns. If Project Tempo didn’t start with the many-world interpretation then there was, as I saw it, no way to make the mathematics work. As it was, the math had these bumps and potholes all over the place. I was sure that one day that situation would prove to be a huge pain in the ass.  
     “I’d kill Hitler if I had a chance,” Hooper said. “The Holocaust would never had happened. I’d kill him even if he was blindfolded and tied up and helpless on his knees in front of me.”
     “Does Rev. Hooper have anything against the nation of Israel?” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. asked.
     “Good God no. Just the opposite.”
     “Because I don’t see how Israel happens if the Holocaust, as monstrously evil as it was, happens first,” the young woman went on. “One hell of a lot of human living happened before I was born, and I know that Zionism was once, long ago, quite a controversial political/religious movement, with more than a little resistance to its goals. Now, of course, that sounds like saying at one time there was someone against air.”
     “Does Miss Rodgers say that evil is necessary?” That was the robot 1955 Michael David James. Apparently he wasn’t enjoying being locked out of the conversation.
     “I … I don’t know,” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. said. “Maybe I am. But it feels weird to say something like that.”
     “Perhaps Rev. Hooper and I should share with this audience and the world are general ideas about evil,” Chadroost said.
     I always thought it was some kind of stupid joke when people talked about snorting with contempt, but that’s just what Hooper did at that point. Then he said: “I appreciate that this is clash of philosophies, a clash of approaches, Rev. Chadroost, but what we think of the impending arrival of the Cha’athos, what we think of Project Tempo, what we think America and the world should do about this issues is the matter at hand. You speaking and I speaking to our ideas about evil is airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky nonsense.”
     “Okay,” Chadroost said. “I’ll go first.”
     “Go first at what?” Hooper wasn’t usually a happy man but now he looked less happy.  “I agree to certain limited terms and now it sounds you are trying to switch those terms around.”
     “What ministers of the Lord do is make progress,” Chadroost said. “They should not run out the clock and wait for a cavalry of angels to arrive. Therefore, the clergy should commit to dialing down the presence of evil in the world … even if by ‘the world’ we now extend ourselves to Moon Base 9 and beyond. Every inch in correct direction is progress. The smallest step forward is victory.”
     “Well,” Hooper said. “It appears that my colleague is guilty of one sin and one sin only - lack of ambition.  I am not so small in my goals to be concerned about ‘dialing down evil.’  Anyone committed to the Gospel of Christ should center himself – or herself – around the elimination of evil.  If it takes another hundred years to get there or another thousand years to get there, then so be it.”
     “I’d like to ask a question,” 1955 Michael David James said.
     “Rev. Hooper and myself would love to hear your question,” Chadroost.
     Hooper didn’t look like he agreed.
     “Actually my question it’s just for Rev. Hooper,” the robot said. Hooper frowned. The robot added: “Well?”
     “I’m trying to decide if that’s fair,” Hooper said.
     “Everything that the human species has done up to this point,” Chadroost said. “All the mundane miracles of science, technology, and the bravery of ordinary people. “And yet we still have poverty, crime, war … Oh boy do we have war. I’m sure, Rev. Hooper that you can deal with our robot emcee taking a few extra minutes to think up a question just for me.”
     “Oh, I am dying to see where this is going,” Jurnee Rodgers Jr. said.
     So was I, but I wasn’t going to put it that melodramatically.
     “Rev. Hooper,” the robot said. “If your goal is the elimination of evil from human worlds, then what is the purpose of Heaven?”
The helicopter landed when I came out of the auditorium after the debate.
     “You have a way of making an entrance, general.”
     “You’re fired off Project Tempo, Dr. Sierra.”
     “And hello to you too.”
     He pulled a cell phone from his uniform. “The President is ready to talk to you about it, if that’s what you want.”
     “That’s awful generous of her, but I don’t think that’s necessary. Besides, the last time I talked to her obviously didn’t do any good.”
     He put the cell phone away.
     “That’s not a gloomy expression I see, is it, doctor?”
     “I don’t know,” I said, dryly. “You got a hand mirror I can borrow? No wait. I’ll use your reflector sunglasses. Stand still so I can get the angles right to check my expression and powder my nose.”
     He was smart enough to hear my sarcasm and wise enough to ignore it.
     “I was the one to encourage her to check before she made her decision.”
     He had me on that one.  “Check what?”
     “That would have an academic position to fall back on. If we’ve done our research right –”
     “People like you always do your homework, general.”
     “-You should just have to go through your usual list of contacts.”