The history of the past evolves, via the history of the present, into the history of the future. It is the responsibility of every member of humankind to contribute to this process in some tangible way, so that the alpha may be enhanced by the omega. Susan Lindsay often dreamt about travelling to the stars, and now, in June 2394, she had been appointed to an assistant professorship at the University of the Sunrise on Qinsatorix, an Earth-like planet in the Aton solar system. To cap that, her kid brother Kevin would be working as a junior scientist in the same department, having recently completed his Masters. While Susan, who was by no means even a gamma-girl, thought that the stars were about to become her oyster, she was unsure whether theywould be flipping into a parallel universe or travelling to the back of beyond. Indeed, the elf-like Astronomer Imperial, perhaps the brightest alpha-diva in London and the leader of the highly-intellectual Wizard’s Circle, regarded the whereabouts of the sister planet as beyond human comprehension.
Susan was somewhat concerned by the brutal recent history of Qinsatorix. The hi-tech Icarians, who were the traditional inhabitants, had been invaded by the Apollos in 2285.The conquerors were a colourful mixed bag of silver-horned humanoids who maintained their own civilisation on the planet’s Inner Moon. As the Apollos did not have the nous to design battlecruisers, they descended in a fleet of hired cargo transporters and exterminated vast swathes of the planet’s population with poisonous gases. After commandeering the Icarians’ micro-analysis and communications systems, they ravaged their rich agricultural and mineral resources,
and ground the runt of their once-thriving society into the dust.
Susan was astonished that the repressive British had contrived to rule Qinsatorix even though they did not know where it was. One of their armoured divisions invaded the planet in 2353 after twelve cubic-headed Rottspsychers surfaced from under St. Paul’s Cathedral with eight hedgehog-like superhighway devices known as ‘cosmo-surfers’. The Rottpsychers’ primary motive was to regain control of the purse strings on Qinsatorix that they so disastrously lost to the Apollos in 2285. Nobody knew how their surfers actually worked, but humans had been teleporting to and fro ever since.
After the invasion from Earth, the Apollos were removed from the pinnacles of power, many were encouraged into middle management, and they were no longer permitted to trade on the Stock Exchange. Moreover, until the Emancipation Act of 2376, their females were forced into hard labour in the factories and gin distilleries, and the more precocious of their children were brain-frazzled and foot-flogged into conformity in the uranium mines. As Susan had contrived to pass a course in post-colonial theory, she regarded these measures as all too predictable. Indeed, she thought that the Apollos had been let off too lightly.
Susan had just graduated with a Ph.D. in Informatic Investigation (I.I.), an invasive discipline that, like Statistics and Pernicious Intelligence, infiltrated most subject areas. Her alma mater, the University of Atalanta, was world-renowned with a beautiful campus overlooking the southern shores of Lyonnesse; this much-fabled landmass had risen again out of the sea in 2153between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles, when a giant tsunami immersed Normandy after a meteor hit the Azores.
Although slightlyabrasive, Susan was regarded by many as attractive in her own
special way. By no means athletic, she was quite overweight, having lost the pretty
looks of her childhood during the overindulgence of her teens. She imagined
that, should she ever manage to slim down, she might become as beautiful as her
natural mother, whose locket she guarded on a gilt chain around her neck. As it was, she allowed her dark blonde hair to grow long and scruffy in the hope of concealing her chubby and rather pimply face.
Susan’s sweet dreams were occasionally disturbed by nightmares. And how terrifying this one was! The horrors of high school. The crushed snails in her pockets. The mouldy food left in her desk for the mice. Rejection followed by rejection and still more rejection. The stroppy PE mistress who pulled her legs in the air and forced her to do forward rolls over the gym horse. Her dazzling failures on the sports field. The teasing and bullying as she got fatter and fatter. And that cow with the sharp scissors.
“I’ll scratch your eyes out, you dozy bitch,” yelled Susan, as she squirmed around on her leaky waterbed.
“Wakey wakey, Miss Susie,” said a gentle, masculine voice.
Susan opened her eyes in alarm, but it was only Tujay, the golden-skinned slave
boy, who was venturing gingerly in with a plate of kipper and mash, and a beaker of
well-brewed coffee. He had been purchased by Susan’s adoptive mother, several months previously, after surfacing from the ancient interplanetary teleportation terminal under Atalanta Bay with very little flesh on his bones.
“Stuff me feckin senseless,” said Susan, wiping the sweat from her brow.
“No chance, Miss Susie,” said Tujay. “You’d jump with joy.”
Susan fantasized about forty-nine, and sighed.
“Put that codswallop on my lap, Tujay,” she said, “and come here and tickle my
As a member of the Kneppo tribe who’d once rowed their warships through
his planet’s archipelagos, Tujay was darker than most of his fellow Icarians and much
loved by the hens. His species rarely wore clothes, since they were thick-skinned
enough to scarcely feel the cold. However, the clean-limbed youth was a fan of Plymouth Argyle and wore their green team shorts to protect his modesty.
Given the opportunity, Tujay usually leapt onto Susan’s bed like a panther, and that morning was no exception.
“Can I have one of your chocolate rabbits, Miss Susie?” he asked, as he landed in a heap.
I’ve only got twelve left, pondered Susan, and I want to buy a silky bra before I visit the sweet shop again.
“I suppose so, you little sneak,” she said, “but don’t you dare snatch the one with the sugary tail.”
“May I ask you something serious?” asked Tujay, as he devoured a bunny girl
with engaging ears.
Susan spiced her mash with a sprinkling of pepperoni. Perhaps he wants to
moan and groan about the fate of the rest of his crew, she wondered, with a grimace.
“That depends what, poopy puppy dog,” she replied, rubbing the slave’s muscular thighs as far as she dared to reach.
“In last night’s Western Evening News, the heathens suggested that the Icarian exiles in Lyonnesse should be more harshly controlled. How could they do that to us?”
“It sounds eminently reasonable to me. Extract the juice, as Pericles once said.”
“But they want to intimidate us with muzzles, leg irons and meat hooks. Why’re
they doing this to us, particularly when we’re so endearing?”
Susan recalled a recent lecture by a bandy-legged Professor of Political Manipulation, which had substantially broadened her horizons.
“That’s how the whole feckin world works, Tujay,” she said, trying not to sound
patronising. “Our ruling classes get their rocks off putting down the plebs, the
pernicious peasants and the grovelling underlings. But the supercilious cunts regard
themselves as above the law.”
“How ridiculous! My ancestors sent their arrogant snooties to the Archipelago
of the Termites and made them burrow like moles for toxic crassium oxide.”
“All shit to them! But it’s largely a question of hard cash, Tujay. Our ever-
expanding empire exploits Icarians, Argo-Bolivians, Queenslanders and so on, while the money-boys line their pockets.”
Tujay gave Susan a piercing look and for a brief moment seemed to turn into an eagle, rather like the queer boy she had once bumped into in the Brazen Lights.
“The fools should take best advantage of our talents instead of abusing us so much,” he exclaimed, throwing a punch at the pink-spotted lampshade.
“Unfortunately, the mean fuckers are too pea-brained for that idea to even enter
their tiny minds.”
“Those philistines should treat us with more respect!”
“The precedents are endless, Tujay,” said Susan, assuming the airs and graces of the academic she was. “Throughout human history, cultured populations have been treated like vermin by their conquerors; for example, the Spartans put down their slave tribes, and the Spaniards put paid to their Moors, scorched the Aztecs, killed off the god-like Incans who’d populated Peru since antiquity, and melted down all the treasures.”
“How sad, and I’ve heard that the dandy doodles were even worse than you
Susan recalled the recent crushing British victories at Detroit, New Orleans and
Chesapeake Bay, and the ceremonial shredding of the Stars and Stripes at Fort Henry.
“We’re finally giving those creepy cowhands a dose of their own medicine,” she said. “Mummy is thinking of purchasing a cheesy farm girl with a big arse from Wisconsin to keep Daddy in check, or maybe even a slapper with sharp claws from Fire Island.”
Tujay frowned, and glared contemptuously through the window as a genetically-
contrived giant sparrowhawk dived onto the lawn and dissected a rabbit-sized mouse.
“But I took such massive risks before I teleported here, since I was expecting a far-better life,” he said. “I’d have been skinned alive if the Apollo Lizard guards had caught me escaping across the eastern deserts.”
“You’re no more unlucky than most of your people,” said Susan. “Many exiles were sold to our wealthy S and M bleeders and got ripped apart.”
“The poor wretches! But at least some of us were given our freedom.”
“Only a few hundred. They’re permitted to live in a special enclave in Atalanta
where we study your culture and history as academic subjects. Their library and museum provide wonderful resources for my research.”
“And what have they done to the Icarians who remain on my planet?”
Susan tweaked Tujay’s toes and massaged his shoulder blades as she drifted into her meditative state. She was startled back into full consciousness when Tujay craftily licked her neck.
“You naughty slave!” she exclaimed. “Kiss my tits!”
“Don’t be silly, Miss Susie,” said Tujay. “They taste like olive oil. Youch!”
“Yours taste like vinegar.”
“Please don’t do that! I’m not your husband.”
“You poor little diddums,” said Susan, with a grin, before adding, with as much
kindness as she could muster. “But I’m afraid that there’s not much hope for your
compatriots on Qinsatorix. Indeed, their situation has become even worse. Most of
them are now either enslaved or confined to ring-fenced cities.”
“Why didn’t any of us revolt? We’re a proud people.”
Susan was well aware that, while she liked Tujay as a plaything, she was not as yet sympathetic towards Icarians in general. She indeed recalled that thousands of Icarians on Qinsatorix had recently been ground into mincemeat and recycled for consumption by the Apollos, but that didn’t faze her too much.
“Please try one of these fudge lions, Tujay,” she said. “Aren’t they yummy?”
“You must tell me the truth, Miss Susie. Did many of us die?”
“Why do you have to be so frigging morbid?” replied Susan. “There was an uprising in Jericho only quite recently, but it was put to the sword. While your royal family and their hangers-on are still surviving in austerity on your Outer Moon, there’s little chance of them improving their existences either.”
“Oh no! But I’ll find a way of achieving my freedom; I really will.”
“Perhaps it would be better to just behave like a slave and survive like a bimbo.”
“Our poorer workers accept their lot and maybe you should too. Noses to the grindstone and knees in the shit, as they say.”
“But are your workers as downtrodden as us?”
“Not quite, though many of the rest of us get treated very badly too. Our absolutely hideous emperor has recently appointed yet another fundamentalist
government in Westminster. Our underclasses are as undernourished as the troops.
Even the middle class sick are neglected.”
Tujay massaged Susan’s thighs with Sexy Samantha’s Sensuous Spice and
poured warm sweet-smelling Delilah Oil into her tummy button.
“That’s despicable,” he said. “So do any of you get well treated?”
“Our over-nineties, long-term mentally ill, and surplus immigrants, I suppose,”
replied Susan. “They’re euthanized in style in our luxurious spas in Bath, Leamington and Harrogate. The zombies give them free vodka, champagne, skinny dips and optional flamenco dancing during their last few days. Before they get to descend the hydrochloric water slides into the unknown, that is.”
“How imaginative. And what happens in your other countries?”
“They’re just as bad, and Sudanese Sotonia and the Republic of Arabia are off
the feckin wall.”
“They can’t be worse than here.”
“You’re so naive, you silly bumbly bumble. The stupid peasants in those places get nitric acid and a hundred lashes for removing their socks or dancing in the streets, and beheaded slowly from the front for performing in magic shows.”
“Wowee! Maybe I should knuckle under, for the moment at least. My planet
was named after a scientist who was as cunning as your Daedalus. I’ll try to be
“Maybe Qinsatorix was super-intelligent. In the meantime, I’d throw away your Zarrot cards if I were you, just in case somebody mistakes you for a frigging wizard.”
“One of your Carpathian wizards was a shape-shifter,” said Tujay, with a smirk. “Maybe I’m one too.”
“Most of our spotty shape-changers are in God-damned Westminster,” said
Susan, with a yawn.
Susan took a sip of coffee and contemplated the Icarian issue further. Perhaps we’d
treat aliens more kindly if we learnt to be nicer to one another, she mused. But how can we do that, if we are also severely repressed by our rulers? I’d advocate improving society on Qinsatorix by restoring the Icarians there to some of their former glory, since they would then be likely to set a better standard for humans. In the meantime, I mustn’t try to enslave any more of the poor souls for myself.
Susan glanced affectionately at Tujay as he snuggled into her chest. He reminded her of the boy in blue shorts who’d given her a sneaky kiss during her first day at primary school, after she’d run excitedly around the playground feeling as if she’d emerged from the scary depths of the insides of her teddy bear. Her friendly teachers there cosseted her until she was eleven and encouraged her to believe in herself. But what were those insidious toddlers wearing red shoes all about? Their whispers that she was a different sort of creature had always bothered her. She never could understand what they meant or where they were coming from. Perhaps they were images from Outer Space, or maybe just figments of her imagination.
When Susan commenced her studies for her Bachelors degree after her
humiliating experiences at high school, she was still clumsy, prone to socially embarrassing gaffes and lacking in self-credibility. However, an amiable professor from St. Andrews, with a penchant for misfits, took her under her wing and her confidence improved somewhat from then on. Now twenty-three, Susan’s remaining arrogance and aggression counterbalanced her continuing feelings of inadequacy. She was still slightly socially inept and she’d only just been laid for the first time, by a
Cornish cable car driver with an inane grin. He chased her after she forgot to pay her
fare and they landed in an elderberry bush together. What a relief, she thought, even if
he could have been mistaken for an overgrown pixie.
Susan’s letter of reference from the University of Atalanta stated: ‘She is
slightly immature to be considered for an academic position, though the juvenile
influences of her brother are doubtlessly responsible for this. While still rough at the
edges, she is, nevertheless, a hard-working and highly-talented researcher. Her Latin is outstanding and she achieved top grades in intramural Statistics, Sociology and Psychology. She will doubtlessly grow in personality and character as she gains more experience of the ins-and-outs of academia.’
Susan and her kid brother Kevin were so close-knit that they frequently thought
in unison. Sandy-haired with a smattering of frecklesand just over six feet tall, the strapping twenty-one-year-old had a devil-may-care attitude. He’d seduced more than a few young ladies while biking to Penzance and through the sleepy hollows of Cornwall as far as the legendary Castle Terabil in Launceston. He performed as a cross dresser in talent shows and his acrobatic routines were popular with the ladies. An elderly doctor of fine arts once fainted at the sight of his muscular thighs and lace lingerie.
Susan and Kevin were natural siblings, adopted just after Kevin’s birth. Apart
from the initials A.V.C. engraved on the back of the locket containing her mother’s
portrait, the only information she possessed about their real parents came from
whisperings that they may have fled to Qinsatorix after some serious scandal in
London. Susan always felt sad to have been abandoned by such a beautiful woman,
particularly as her adoptive parents were so dysfunctional. Kevin wished that he had
a more-congenial dad.
While Susan was nibbling her kipper, she wondered about the influences of
emotion. Thank goodness, she thought, that her brother would be leaving Atalanta
with her, well away from that shady character and from their overwrought adoptive mother and her ultra-perfectionist ex-military husband.
While his sister was disposing of the fish bones, Kevin entered stage left in his
slightly-torn zee-fronts. He was followed by their Japanese bobtail cat Trithagoras, named after the lead singer of the Greek Triangles, who was tottering on his thin, bony legs.
Kevin was a proud member of the local Grisella and Gawain sub-culture, which was influenced by the nouveau-era facility of aura-scope xy-fy; the streams of quasi-information influenced both his vocabulary and the way he expressed himself. Some
people found this endearing, though others did not. He spoke with an accent that
blended Cornish and Devonshire with a touch of the Scilly’s.
“Where’s my hug, my preconocious ones?” asked Kevin, flicking his eyelashes like a rent boy. “Buenos dias, Tujay. I don’t want to miss out.”
“Keep your filthy hands off me,” said Tujay, with a mischievous grin.
“Stop wriggling like a conger eel then, you confounded hypocreep! I know what you’ve been up to.”
“Have you packed your bags yet, prissy boy?” asked Susan, as Tujay’s eyes gleamed like a tiger’s. “We’ve got a tumultuous day and we’ll be leaving first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Not yet,” replied Kevin, “and I’m going to take Trithagoras to el veterino first, to be put to death. It’s a good time for him to go anyway, as he’s getting old and sick. Say ‘bye’ to your scatty cat!”
“Poor, poor Trithagoras,” said Susan, wiping away a tear. “I don’t know what
I’ll do with him. He’s almost as cuddly as Tujay. I do hope that I’ll find an endearing
pet on Qinsatorix.”
“Perhaps I’ll fit you up with a two-headed python. Some of the more
sporkacious critters there are quite cute.”
“Could you possibly give my love and best wishes to my parents?” asked Tujay.
“They live in Petraeus.”
“If we can smash our way through the stone walls and barbed wire,” said Susan.
“That pit is supposed to be worse than confounded Bethlehem.”
Kevin playfully pulled Tujay’s ears while downing a mug of coffee, but when he tugged the slave’s hair and tickled his ribs, Tujay aimed a kick at his chest and
grazed his chin.
“I’ll tag along this afternoon to say ‘auf wiedersplatzen’ to Prof. Neyman,” said
Kevin, changing the subject. “He’s such a kindly old fronklefurter and his peaches of
wisdom aren’t altogether deadbeat. I bet that he has a blonde twink on his knee this time.”
Susan smirked and said, “The freshers all get their feckin legs split nowadays, and the professors get weirder and frigging kinkier.”
The siblings caressed each other very fondly while debating the nefarious sexual
practices that started in the music and history departments of the American Mid-West, though only an ancient professor of Saxon Art in Champagne knew quite when. This was thought, by some, to be during the late twenty-third century when thirty sports history students at UW Green Bay were cork-screwed simultaneously in the showers in Vince Lombardi Hall. However, what the Michigan Wolverines had to do to achieve a C in Orchestra during the wild and footloose 2150s was nobody’s
“I’ve heard that the flutists were flossed up and forced to suck rosebud together,
in tune with the trombone,” said Kevin, “while the buglers were superflagulated like
“What a naff way to earn academic credit,” said Susan, “and it isn’t at all
obvious how much our own silly undergraduates’ grades are bumped up while they
are being put down.”
“My mate Frank says that everybody’s grades get inflated anyway during the
Departmental Scrutiny Committees’ general ratcheting processes,” said Kevin.
“Those smart-butts only get what they’re asking for. If one colourful story is to be believed, a senior lecturer in divinity at Durham took six trainee priests from the top during a party in her flat, while a kink-brained Fellow of Wadham College Oxford put paid to two more in the kitchen.”
“What a tradition those bozos have.”
To Susan’s dismay, Kevin poured himself another coffee while reciting an old limerick about a Warden of Wadham who approved the folkways of Sodom.
“Really Kevin,” said Susan. “You should read Shelley or Byron instead of that sort of rubbish.”
CHAPTER 2: THE EVE OF DEPARTURE
Who are the sane and who are the insane? And how do they intertwine? That afternoon, Professor Isadore Neyman took time out to relax on his dark-blue armchair, while a black girl in a frilly dress wriggled on his knee and chattered away in French. Moderately good-looking and fast approaching late middle age, his long hair flowed over his shoulders, his imperious nose was slightly hooked and he sported an untidy, greying moustache. Born second generation Polish in South Kensington, he received his degrees from the Universities of Königsberg and Free Heidelberg. After a successful early career in Scientific Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, he was known, and at times revered, as ‘The Seventh Eccentric of Roanoke’. He was now the Dean of Informatic Investigation in Atalanta.
When Susan and Kevin left their house, their adoptive mother was chewing gum on the granite-hewn doorstep and moping into space. The siblings descended Divisidero to the Castro and skirted the edge of the campus, along the towering cliff tops. As they approached the ornate Chinese-style I.I. building, Susan took the opportunity to admire the picturesque Isle of Sarania in the middle of Atalanta Bay. That’s near the underwater teleportation terminal, she mused, and the Icarians often hide there when they surface.
Neyman’s secretary was from the nearby rustic village of St. Gumbo; her rosy face was slightly disfigured by her petted lip. She was weaving a omit cardigan on her dixie-frame when the siblings arrived but, doubtlessly knowing they had both recently
graduated, she showed them adequate-enough courtesy and ushered them into the
Dean’s modest office; its oval windows offered scenic views of the bay, the Cleopatra Lighthouse and the ocean beyond.
Neyman told the girl on his knee to come back later and said, rather tongue in
cheek, “I was just giving her a tutorial in Slavonic philology.”
“I’d like to teach her Druidic gymnastics,” said Kevin. “She’d go gawky-warky
performing the triple splits.”
“She’s good at them already. But let’s talk about Qinsatorix, guys. Perhaps I could kick off by saying that your silver-horned colleagues in the City of Lanterns are likely to follow our old traditions, while the human professors have acquired rather too many American habits, mainly during sabbatical visits to the Ivy League and California. It’s quite paradoxical really.”
“Do the humans there treat their students like naughty little jerks?” asked Kevin, licking his lips.
I do wish that Kevin would be more deferential to his superiors, thought Susan, and perhaps I should too.
“A touch more so than here,” replied Neyman, raising his eyebrows. “The undergraduates often have to beg in the worst possible ways for their grades. One esteemed academic even makes the girls lick the schmucko-oil off his feet, before moving upwards.”
“Way to go, Supernova Goddess!” exclaimed Kevin, with a chuckle.
recent scandals at Princeton and Harvard. A Professor of Econometrics made his graduate students paint his seven-storey apartment block and another told his research assistants to chauffeur his wife to and from Washington.”
“Two unfortunates in Trivoli had to stand on one foot for three hours for a B,”
said Neyman, “and then some.”
Kevin frowned impatiently.
“This is getting over-superbly boring,” he said. “How are my pompopretentious professors likely to torment me? I’ll be working half-time on an applied math project and half-time in archaeology. I hope that I don’t have to kiss sweaty boobs or whatever on that planet.”
“I don’t understand any of your trumped-up mathematics, you headstrong
rascal,” said Neyman, with a grimace, “but you’ll doubtlessly encounter the high-
flying archaeologist Dirk Charleston, who thinks that he’s the best thing to hit his
discipline since they discovered the treasures of Tutankhamen. The fool’s no oil
painting either, though he imagines that he’s still a radiant youth.”
“They all think like that,” said Kevin, sounding wise for once, “but what are his
“I wouldn’t describe them as great. His early research amounted to appraisals of
the megalithic yard, a fanciful unit of measurement that was dreamt up by the
otherwise meticulous Scotsman Alexander Thom when he was trying to explain the
construction of prehistoric stone circles. In the final analysis, a useless hypothesis, if
ever there was one.”
“Has it been superseded by a superior theory?”asked Susan.
“Yes, and it’s really quite simple. The star trekkers of that era just paced out their measurements with their feet.”
“Good for those jumbo dumbos, but how would you describe this mincing
Charleston chancer more generally?” asked Kevin.
“He’s as lazy as a snoozing aardvark, and over-dependent upon the work of his
postgraduates and research assistants. Unfortunately, he’s not at all unique in these
days and times. Take, for example, that Artificial Intelligence crank at St. Rupert’s
then took the credit. And there’re many more reprehensible professors around. ”
“Why don’t they just throw these blood-suckers out on their God-damned
ears?” asked Susan.
“It’s all a question of grant money, my dear. If they’re attracting large overheads
for their institutions, then they can get away with virtually anything as long as they
don’t disgrace themselves in public. But if they do, then their corrupt administrations get on their high horses and burn them.”
“What a flark for a lark,” said Kevin. “I’ll give them a wide berth.”
“No chance, and you’ll doubtlessly meet Desperate Dirk’s acolytes too. He
recently made them excavate the notorious Caves of Janek, the poor souls. To his
good fortune, a space cadet, who thinks that she’s telepathic, discovered an ancient fossil of a modern human. But their claim that it’s over three-hundred-thousand-years old is preposterous. It would imply that modern humans were on Qinsatorix long before they lived on Earth.”
“Perhaps humans first arrived here at our local teleportation terminal,” said Susan, “just like the recent Icarians.”
Neyman looked impressed; he wandered over to his mahogany bookcase, retrieved a large, red, gold-embossed volume from the top shelf and scrutinized a couple of pages, while Susan contemplated a roach that was scampering about the
floor and gobbling up a beetle. Upon his return, Neyman blethered for a while, but,
when Susan gave him a surly look, he refocused himself and explained that her
insightful hypothesis was first suggested by Professor Juan Torres of the University
of Madrid. There was, Neyman said, a statue of a female Icarian in the Atalanta Bay
arrival terminal, with green symbols resembling a Greek alpha and omega on its
Yahweh as ‘the alpha and the omega’, since he would exist from the beginning to the
“It says something like that about Jesus in Revelations,” said Susan, recalling
her Sunday School classes at St. Jude’s, “though his juicy boyfriend St. John may
have dreamt it up in his warped old age along with that feckin barking dog.”
“Some fundamentalists make a big deal of it,” said Neyman, “because the creation accounts in Genesis and earlier pre-Babylonian writings both claim that we’re all made in God’s image, male and female alike. One nutter actually thinks that Yahweh rode the first humans through the Atalanta terminal on four giant horses during one of his periodic trips to Earth, accompanied by some sycophantic Icarians.”
Susan gave the professor a quizzical look.
“Don’t the ancient writings imply that God is a mixed-gender humanoid who
created humankind in his or her own image?” she asked.
“Don’t say that to the bible-thumpers, young lady.”
Kevin chortled at that.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if God was a trannie?” he said. “I’d be more inclined to
believe in him if he strutted his stuff on The Dusty Smithers Show.”
Susan relapsed into a polite silence, and Neyman poured her and Kevin generously-filled glasses of cointreau. As she sipped her liqueur, Susan stared at the
awesome view of Isolde’s Rock and became lost in a fantasy about Tristan. But when
Kevin nudged her, she decided to change the subject.
“The Icarians have teleported to Earth for the past two-or-three millennia, if not
for longer,” she said, “and to places as diverse as the Central Americas, Europe, the
Middle East and China. The teleport routes seem to have been created by indefinable
forces, way back in time.”
“Their society was influenced in a wide variety of ways by their knowledge
about us,” said Neyman. “Higher-class Icarians speak in rather prosaic old English. Several of their lakes are dedicated to Egyptian pharaohs, many of their names are Grecian or Romanesque, and they’re expert at fermenting tasty Native American and Japanese wine.”
“How yummy,” said Susan, “and what frigging Gods do they worship?”
“You’ll be surprised to hear that they changed from a Zeus-like god to Nestorian Christianity after visiting the Chinese city of Chang’an during the eighth century. That’s why their ever-eternal Messiah occasionally manifests himself in physical forms, sometimes even as a woman. Perhaps we’ll meet him disguised as a bull during his Tenth Coming.”
“I hope that he doesn’t turn me into a bleeding goat.”
“You’re too kind for that. Now Susan, your Ph.D. thesis was largely based on
in-depth interviews of the golden qinsies in Atalanta. How do you propose to
continue your research when you take up your new appointment?”
“I’ll just dozy-mosey around. I am fascinated by many aspects of humanoid sexuality though. I’d like to study all their reproductive organs in minute detail.”
Neyman smiled, and pondered for several seconds.
“My Apollo friend Sybil Greenleaf is teeming with bright ideas,” he said. “ I’ll telewhiz your head of department. Perhaps he can persuade her to serve as your
Although Susan felt perturbed at the prospect of being advised by an alien
creature, she said, “Magic! Perceptive boffins are right up my street.”
When Susan started to somnulate, as was her want, the professor slumbered off
too and Kevin took the opportunity to peruse some of the Grecian art in his desk
drawer. However, Neyman moved into another gear when he opened his eyes.
“Now on to a particularly important topic, guys,” he said, grinning like a clown.
“My area of specialism. Insanity. There’s considerable debate, among those experts
who’re in the know, as to whether the larger prevalence among humans on Qinsatorix of chronic and group insanity is caused by the higher amount of argon in the atmosphere or by exposure to the challenging environments there.”
“Really, young man. I bet that you don’t even know what a grouped histogram is.”
“Sure I do. It’s a collection of shrinks.”
“Just as I suspected! You’re as daft as a postgraduate of mine who ripped off my
work on subjective histogram smoothing, before moving on to the Office of Official
Statistics and flattening the national housing data.”
“I’m not daft. Or thick. I just have a super-superlative sense of hyper-imagination.”
“Or something. As you mustknow already, long-term insanities include tripolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders, multiple personalities and time disassociation. I think that you should both read Craziness on Qinsatorix by a couple of my former boy-scouts in order to protect yourself against the humans you meet. Here’s a complimentary copy.”
“I’m dead scared of creepy psychopaths,” said Susan, “particularly the psychotic
ones. Those barbarians are out of touch with reality.”
“And there are a few drama queens like that on the world stage,” said Kevin,
with a snigger.
“You should also be wary of the ‘mind trolls’,” said Neyman. “They can
be as dangerous as the goblins on Bodmin Moor.”
“They sound like the sort of freak that I’d find in the Hot Pants,” said Kevin, as he thumbed through pictures of dozens of drugged-up mental patients.
“You might well do so, you crass fellow. I define a mind troll to be an
outwardly sane or mildly eccentric person who is nevertheless completely crazy
inside, sometimes in a general rather than a clinically diagnosable sense. They could,
for example, influence you in a series of apparently rational ways that, by a process
known as ‘mystification’, cause you to behave irrationally. Some of them are real
“My mate Frank is like that,” said Kevin, with a disturbed look. “He sometimes encourages me to act up like a deranged ostrich.”
Neyman chuckled slightly maliciously, and then spieled for several minutes
about a breed of econometricians known as ‘Omnesians’ who were mind trolls in an academic sense. Omnesians adhered to the so-called ‘Hiram Rockefeller Rules of Rationality’ which appear to justify monetary strategies but nevertheless invokea variety of crazy paradoxes that mislead both themselves and the investors.
When Neyman said that the Omnesians were a religious sort of Mafia, Susan added that their strategies, which still kept the economists’ knickers in a twist, blatantly ignored the a priori evidence collated by the Poles while interviewing their
farm workers and the suburban French.
When Kevin said that the Hiram guy sounded goopy-loopy, Neyman explained that Rockefeller was such a perfectionist that he usually checked his wife’s cooking for salt content before spewing verbal diarrhoea over their dinner guests and
dismissing her soufflés as being too creative.
“Perhaps his strategies contributed to the last stock market collapse,” said Susan.
“The silly assumption of never-ending fixed percentage growth in a chaotically behaving world economy didn’t help either,” said Neyman. “Anyroads, the authors of
Crazinesson Qinsatorix think that at least 5% of humans there are mind trolls but that
the actual figure may be far higher. Any human you meet could be masking this
“How would we be able to tell? People have masks within masks.”
Neyman gave Susan a strange look.
“Only if you can determine that their long-term behaviour is irrational,” he
replied. “In the short term, you’re at their mercy. So be careful with every human in
sight. Did you see that spider on the ceiling? They give me the creeps.”
“You’re as crazy as a demented beetleswinger yourself,” said Kevin, off the top of his head. “Spiders drive the Frogs bananas.”
“I’m perfectly sane, you impertinent ignoramus,” said Neyman, with a
disapproving glare. “There are no araignées in my belfry or bats in my plafond.”
Susan decided to add insanity to her list of potential research topics, in the hope
of discovering what makes mind trolls tick. Upon recalling a recent talk by a radical student activist with an egg-shaped head, she finally took the opportunity to say, “My generation is less concerned with continuous revolution, Professor, than with what structures to re-establish or create after the ongoing upheavals. Do you think that our
studies on Qinsatorix will provide us with any answers to this question?”
“History has amply demonstrated, my child,” replied Neyman. “That our
upheavals are never ending, in the sense that violent revolution is always occurring in
several places on our planet. Those hoping for global harmony together with
cohesive trade are therefore invariably left with the tasks of putting together the pieces of whatever institutional structures have been damaged and protecting the
remainder against terrorism and civil disorder. It would take an impossible level of
agreement and co-operation across our communities to create innovative social
structures when the world at large is so unstable.”
That professorial monologue left Susan feeling phased and Kevin looking most
As she and Kevin retraced their steps up Divisidero, Susan briefly contemplated the things Isadore Neyman had just told them about the once-highly-cultured Icarians, the crassness of religion, and potential problems on Qinsatorix with mystification and group insanity. She realised that, despite their zany form of Christianity, the Icarians were probably much saner than their British masters. Perhaps this could be used to general advantage, she thought, or maybe the golden ones will find a way of taking over when our leaders go as crazy as that Ugandan King of Scotland of yore.
That evening, the siblings finalised their travelling arrangements for the following day. Susan took particular care when pre-booking a couple of emergency packs, just in case they landed on an alien planet while teleporting through space. A party of school teachers had once been diverted to the Constellation of the Deers only to be trampled to death by a horde of charging minotaurs, and Susan didn’t relish a repeat performance.
Awhile later, the siblings drifted downstairs for a farewell dinner with their
adoptive parents, Susan was expecting a decent meal for once. But after Tujay’s mistress had ruined the pollock, he served up burnt half-full pasties and undercooked parsnips, washed down by sour claret from Trasko’s. Some sort of message, perhaps.
Not even grilled shark from the chippie, thought Susan, as she longed for a refreshing
glass of scrumpy.
After several minutes of strained conversation, Susan said, quite provocatively,
“I hope to discover our real parents on Qinsatorix. Perhaps my mother is as beautiful as ever. That would make life infinitely more bearable for me.”
“A slut and a shyster,” said Susan’s adoptive father, as his wife clucked her lop-
sided teeth and scowled in agreement. “You’ll do well to keep clear of that contentiouspair. She’s for the trash can and he’s a twisted nutcase.”
Susan’s guardians had made similar aspersions on several previous occasions and she’dalways managed to keep her cool, but now she now felt like flipping her lid.
“I always believed my mother to be a wonderfully-loving person,” she said, grasping the locket of her pendant for reassurance. “Far better than you feckin nutters, I hope. How many times have you screwed around the block?”
“You ungrateful harridan!” roared her adoptive father. “I only have my share of fun. My fair dues, indeed. I’m a much-decorated war hero, young lady. You should feel privileged that people of our quality took you in. That witch whored around like a bitch from Hell. We saved you from damnation.”
“You’ve got the quality of a midnight grave thief,” said Susan. “Why don’t you pull your greasy thumb out and tell us the full story?”
“No chance. We only adopted you because we got twenty grand a year plus
expenses to look after you both until you were eighteen.”
“And I thought that you were a bleeding philanderthropist,” said Kevin, most
neck and a delinquent pinko,” said his adoptive father. “If you hadn’t paid your way
out of your student grants after you left high school, we’d have thrown you both out
on your ears.”
Susan felt like puking her guts up and, when the homely Mrs. Lindsay picked
her nose and ate it, she almost did.
“And now it’s good riddance to bad rubbish,” said Mrs. Lindsay. “That’s
what I say.”
“Splunch you both sideways, you naffers,” exclaimed Kevin, as he retreated
furiously upstairs to read his book about the bullet trains of the South-West.
“Summertime on Qinsatorix, here we come,” said Susan, glaring angrily, “and
it’s goodbye to you cunts.”
After he’d finished reading about the Wadebridge to Padstow express, Kevin sat on
his unmade bed thinking badly about himself, not only because of how he’d been
insulted him over supper, but also due to his insecurities about his abilities. He, in particular, wondered whether he’d be able to hold down his new job, as Masters degrees in Scientific Inquiry were two-a-penny. With the exception of his twenty- lecture option on applied math, his unambitious mentors had focussed on teaching him how to press buttons on hypercom tops, though they didn’t sink to the level of Stretchford College, where the students got their buttons pressed for them, or Rapier Tech, where essays and theses completed by previous postgraduates were left on a shelf for recycling with the authors’ names ripped off. In short, he scarcely knew the
ABC of his postgraduate discipline, despite the exorbitantly high fees for his course.
Kevin would’ve preferred an outdoor life. Riding horses or saving children in
the surf, perhaps. He was also worried that on another planet he might be unable to
drink his favourite stout or eat beef stew or apple crumble dessert, and he agonized about having to put up with hopless ale, or pizza after damned cheesy pizza.
He realised that he’d miss out on his favourite cow pie, with its succulent horns sticking through the pastry. And what if they didn’t even sell Dandy comics on Qinsatorix? However, his bête noire was watching the bullfights in St. Ives with his adopted father. At least he’d avoid that.
While Kevin was worrying about losing out on Cyberman Quest, Susan
was dancing about her bedroom kicking the furniture in rage. When he heard her
banging, he wandered in, looking cute in his light green panther suit, just as she was
putting on her pink nightie.
“I saw you tom tom peeping last night, dear sister,” he said, giving her a Cornish
hug. “I knew when I was a flippin’ tad what you really wanted.”
“I’m sure that it’s just a childhood fantasy,” said Susan. “Perhaps we’re as wild
within our psyches as the multi-sexual Demons of Lundy.”
“I fancy wimmen,” said Kevin, “but the Viking goddess inside me sometimes
objects, in which case I feel the need to be cut right down to size by a butch hunk. I’m perfectly straight, of course, though I do have lovely lady-like legs.”
“They look like a gorilla’s, dear brother.”
“No they don’t! But above all I love you and want you, and only you, Susan,
though I simply can’t explain why I have such thoughts about my sister.”
“Perhaps our genes are twisted in the same diabolical way, Kevin. Maybe we’re
of local descent. The inbreeders around here have always been totally confused. Even
first cousins get married and they’re still producing village idiots.”