CONTRARY BRIN: Aficionado Part II

          “Idiots!” Hacker’s father used to grumble, each time he veered the agile craft to avoiding colliding with some day-tripper who didn’t grasp the concept of right-of-way. “The only ones out here used to be people like us, who were raised for this sort of thing. Now the robofacs make so much stuff, even fancy boats, and everybody’s got so much free time. Nine billion damn tourists crowding everywhere. It’s impossible to find any solitude!”
          “The price of prosperity, dear,” his mother would reply, more soft-heartedly. “At least everybody’s getting enough to eat now. And there’s no more talk of revolution.”
          “But look at the result! This mad craze for hobbies! Everybody’s got to be an expert at something. The best at something! I tell you it was better when people had to work hard to survive.
          “Except for people like us?”
          “Exactly,” Father had answered, ignoring his wife’s arch tone. “Look how far we have to go nowadays, just to have someplace all to ourselves.”
          The old man’s faith in rugged self-reliance extended to the name he insisted on giving their son. And Hacker inherited — along with about a billion New Dollars — the same quest. To do whatever it took to find someplace all his own.
          As blurry vision returned, he saw that the space pod lay tilted more than halfway over to its side. It’s not supposed to do that, he thought. It should float upright.
          A glance to the left explained everything. Ocean surrounded the capsule, but part of the charred heat shield was snagged on a reef of coral branches and spikes that stretched far to the distance, filled with bright fish and undulating subsea vegetation. Nearby, he saw the parasail chute that had softened final impact. Only now, caught by ocean currents, it rhythmically tugged at Hacker’s little refuge. With each surge, the bubble canopy plunged closer to a craggy coral outcrop. Soon it struck hard. He did not hear the resulting loud bang, but it made the implant in his jaw throb. Hacker winced, reflexively.
          Fumbling, he released the straps and fell over, cringing in pain. That awful re-entry would leave him bruised for weeks. And yet…
          And yet, I’ll have the best story to tell. No one will be able to match it!
          The thought made him feel so good, Hacker decided maybe he wouldn’t take everything, when he sued whoever was responsible for the capsule malfunction. Providing the pickup boats came soon, that is.
          The bubble nose struck coral again, rattling his bones. A glance told him a hard truth. Materials designed to withstand launch and re-entry stresses might not resist sharp impacts. An ominous crack began to spread.
          Standard advice was to stay put and wait for pickup, but this place would be a coffin soon.
          I better get out of here.
          Hacker flipped his helmet shut and grabbed the emergency exit lever. A reef should mean an island’s nearby. Maybe mainland. I’ll hoof it ashore, borrow someone’s phone, and start dishing out hell.

          Only there was no island. Nothing lay in sight but more horrible reef.
          Hacker floundered in a choppy undertow. The skin-suit was strong, and his helmet had been made of Gillstuff — semi-permeable to draw oxygen from seawater. The technology prevented drowning as currents kept yanking him down. But repeated hits by coral outcrops would turn him into hamburger meat soon.
          Once, a wave carried him high enough to look around. Ocean, and more ocean. The reef must be a drowned atoll. No boats. No land. No phone.
          Sucked below again, he glimpsed the space capsule, caught in a hammer-and-vice wedge and getting smashed to bits. I’m next, he thought, trying to swim for open water, but with each surge he was drawn closer to the same deadly site. Panic clogged his senses as he thrashed and kicked the water, fighting it like some overpowering enemy. Nothing worked, though. Hacker could not even hear his own terrified moans, though the jaw implant kept throbbing with clicks, pulses and weird vibrations, as if the sea had noticed his plight and now watched with detached interest.
          Here it comes, he thought, turning away, knowing the next wave cycloid would smash him against those obdurate, rocky spikes.
          Suddenly, he felt a sharp poke in the backside. Too early! Another jab, then another, struck the small of his back, feeling nothing like coral. His jaw ached with strange noise as someone or something started pushing him away from the coral anvil. In both panic and astonishment, Hacker whirled to glimpse a sleek, bottle-nosed creature interposed between him and the deadly reef, regarding him curiously, them moving to jab him again with a narrow beak.
          This time, he heard his own moan of relief. A dolphin! He reached out for salvation… and after a brief hesitation, the creature let Hacker wrap his arms all around. Then it kicked hard with powerful tail flukes, carrying him away from certain oblivion.

          Once in open water, he tried to keep up by swimming alongside his rescuer. But the cetacean grew impatient and resumed pushing Hacker along with its nose. Like hauling an invalid. Which he was, of course, in this environment.
          Soon, two more dolphins converged from the left, then another pair from the right. They vocalized a lot, combining sonar clicks with loud squeals that resonated through the crystal waters. Of course Hacker had seen dolphins on countless nature shows, and even played tag with some once, on a diving trip. But soon he started noticing some strange traits shared by this group. For instance, these animals took turns making complex sounds, while glancing at each other or pointing with their beaks… almost as if they were holding conversations. He could swear they were gesturing toward him and sharing amused comments at his expense.
          Of course it must be an illusion. Everyone knew that scientists had determined Truncatus dolphin intelligence. They were indeed very bright animals — about chimpanzee equivalent — but had no true, human-level speech of their own.
          And yet, watching a mother lead her infant toward the lair of a big octopus, he heard the baby’s quizzical squeaks alternate with slow repetitions from the parent. Hacker felt sure a particular syncopated popping meant octopus.
          Occasionally, one of them would point its bulbous brow toward Hacker, and suddenly the implant in his jaw pulse-clicked like mad. It almost sounded like the code he had learned in order to communicate with the space capsule after his inner ears were clamped to protect them during flight. Hacker concentrated on those vibrations in his jaw, for lack of anything else to listen to.
          His suspicions roused further when mealtime came. Out of the east there arrived a big dolphin who apparently had a fishing net snared around him! The sight provoked an unusual sentiment in Hacker — pity, combined with guilt over what human negligence had done to the poor animal. He slid a knife from his thigh sheath and moved toward the victim, aiming to cut it free.
          Another dolphin blocked Hacker. “I’m just trying to help!” He complained, then stopped, staring as other members of the group grabbed the net along one edge. They pulled backward as the “victim” rolled round and round, apparently unharmed. The net unwrapped smoothly till twenty meters flapped free. Ten members of the pod then held it open while others circled behind a nearby school of mullet.
          Beaters! Hacker recognized the hunting technique. They’ll drive fish into the net! But how —
          He watched, awed as the dolphins expertly cornered and snared their meal, divvied up the catch, then tidied up by rolling the net back around the original volunteer, who sped off to the east. Well I’m a blue-nosed gopher, he mused. Then one of his rescuers approached Hacker with a fish clutched in its jaws. It made offering motions, but then yanked back when he reached for it.
          The jaw implant repeated a rhythm over and over. It’s trying to teach me, he realized.
          “Is that the pulse code for fish?” He asked, knowing water would carry his voice, but never expecting the creature to grasp spoken English.
          To his amazement, the dolphin shook its head. No.
          “Uh.” He continued. “Does it mean food? Eat? Welcome stranger?”
          An approving blat greeted his final guess, and the Tursiops flicked the mullet toward Hacker, who felt suddenly ravenous. He tore the fish apart, stuffing bits through his helmet’s chowlock.     

    Welcome stranger? He pondered. That’s mighty abstract for a dumb beast to say. Though I’ll admit, it’s friendly.

read the conclusion of “Aficionado” …here.

See the exciting video trailer of EXISTENCE

== Only now… ==

Here’s that rant lagniappe about… (shudder)… Star Wars… specifically “The Mandalorian.”

In Vivid Tomorrows I talk to those who care about plot, character, and logic in self-consistent and morally not-depressing science fiction universes. And by all those standards – except visual pyrotechnics – alas, the Star Wars universe (which started so well in the first couple of flicks!*) comes out dismally opposite to Star Trek, all the way down to basics like belief in people and the ‘allegory of the ship.” . . . But sure, okay, I keep seeing raves that “the Mandalorian is great! No, really David. All your gripes about the insipid stoopidity of Star Wars (except the 1st two flicks) have been solved!” 

Okay then, I watched an episode or two and tuned in and watched this site’s entire extended run down of the history of Mandalor and all the cults and betrayals and sword fetishes and revenges and revenges for revenges, crossing 1000 years up to “today.” And I have to admit…

…that I had no idea it could possibly be this bad. Oh, sure I take it as given that Disney hired good set and costume designers and background musicians and (above all) effects wizards to make each individual scene pop! But in a macro plot rundown you don’t have all those distractions from the pure fact of an utter maelstrom of truly vile characters, being relentlessly dumb and wreaking vast, vast harm upon dullard populations of trillions of sapient beings and their families and children, all for the same moronic reasons, over and over and over again. Populations who NEVER wise up or engender a better generation that learns one damn thing. 

What is the one redeeming trait that I can see coming out of the cannabis fog that clearly fills the Writers’ Room for this series, or any SW spinoff? At least the glorified mass murderer Yoda (the most-evil character in the history of all human mythology) doesn’t seem to be around anymore. 

If any characters in that cosmos ever woke up, they’d know the real villain wrecking the galaxy and the hopes of 100 quadrillion denizens… 

… and that villain is whoever it is who’s shining a Lobotomy Ray across the entire galaxy. 

Here’s that plot recap…

…and you can compare it to the 20 minute quick scan of Star Trek by the same guys

But perhaps I’m wrong! Can YOU name a plot arc in Wars in which anyone does anything actually smart that helps? Certainly not poor, good-but-dim Luke. (I did once catch the way cool riding-monster-who-fight-each-other episode. Went into a lobotomy trance and enjoyed it! Is THAT the trick to enjoying Star Wars? Drugs?)

* PS … ROGUE ONE was also a great flick! Clue to why… no Jedi! And an actual plot with a trajectory of sacrifice and hope!

Source link