In Search of Civilization

Once upon a time, there was a monkey. This monkey lived near an old hermit who hid from society in the forest, speaking only to animals. The monkey listened to the hermit’s tales of civilized lands with fascination. More than anything, the monkey wanted to see civilization for itself.

One day, the hermit grew very sick. They told the monkey that it should follow its dream and search for civilization, then fell asleep, never to awaken.

The monkey grieved for a time, then took the hermit’s spare robe and their straw hat and set out for civilized lands. Disguised in this way, the monkey left its forest home.

Exiting the forest, the monkey found a dirt path, long and wide, which stretched far to the north and to the south. Knowing from the hermit’s tales that paths tend to lead to places, the monkey began following the dirt path north.

Before long, the monkey met a traveler, going south. “Hello there!” said the traveler. “Where do you journey to?”

“Civilization”, said the monkey, keeping the brim of the hermit’s straw hat low.

“Why then, you go in the wrong direction, my friend,” said the traveler. “The northern road leads only to the city of Verra, which is far from civilized. Go south!”

So the monkey turned and began traveling south, and the traveler soon left him behind, for monkeys have shorter legs than men.

It wasn’t long before the monkey met another traveler, this one going north. “Hello there!” said the traveler. “Where do you journey to?”

“Civilization”, said the monkey, keeping the brim of the hermit’s straw hat low.

“Why then, you go in the wrong direction, my friend,” said the traveler. “The southern road leads only to the city of Londe, which is far from civilized. Go north!”

The monkey considered this. ‘If the civilization I seek is not north, and it is not south, than perhaps it is east,’ it thought. So the monkey left the road and traveled east, away from the forest where it had once lived.

The monkey soon came to a great city standing by the edge of a lake. It was told by a passerby that this was the city of Yorn, the center of the civilized world. The monkey entered and gazed about it in amazement.

But the monkey soon discovered that civilization was no place for a monkey without money. Unable to buy food, turned away from inns and taverns, the monkey was forced to find an alley to sleep in for the night. But when it awoke in the morning, it found that the hermit’s straw hat had been stolen right off its head!

‘This civilization is not as civilized as it ought to be,’ thought the monkey angrily. ‘I understand now why the hermit left it!’

And so the monkey left the city of Yorn and returned to the forest, to live out the rest of its days happily, and never again thought of the wonders of civilization.

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Beauty and Promises

Beauty. Beauty is a vast arc of colors, splashed across the sky as though a scenic painter had, in a single sweep, added the finishing touch to the heavens. Beauty is a rainbow of colors, six or seven of them depending on who you ask, curving gently across the wild black yonder in a perfect band, startling in its stark contrast against the darkness of the night sky. Beauty is a double rainbow, two perfect, clear, bittersweet reminders of the promise to all mankind, the covenant that He made and then broke.

Promises. Promises are supposed to be sure things, things you can trust. From pinky promises made with your best friend in the back of a school bus to solemn vows sealed by breaking a wineglass underfoot, you should be able to trust a promise. You should be able to trust someone when they say that they’ll be with you until the end of the world. But I guess that if the world ends, promises like that don’t count for much anymore.

The world is ending now. The sky is already darkening in nuclear winter, save for the slowly fading light of the bomb. My partner is gone. They were working where the bomb fell. I survived, but I have no hope of living for long.

And why did I live? Is it because I’m one of His Chosen and my partner isn’t? No, that can’t be, no just God would do such a thing. But then, no just God would go back on His promise, either. And yet, there is the rainbow, still a reminder of the covenant that He made with Noah and all mankind, that He would never again destroy the Earth.

God wouldn’t do this. He made a promise, a beautiful promise, a thing you can trust. The only way that this could have happened is if we did this to ourselves.

The Narrator’s Folly

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Peter. He was a simple farm boy who lived with his mother in a small farm house.

“Why do I have to be a boy?” said Peter. “And it’s pretty redundant for you to say that I’m a farm boy and that I live in a farm house.”

…once upon a time, there was a girl named Petra. She was a simple lass who lived with her mother in a small farm house.

“Now it sounds like you’re saying I’m stupid!” Petra protested. “Come on, get it right.”

Why don’t you do it then?

“Alright then, I will.”

…Petra said smugly.

…Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Petra. She was a farmhand on the duke’s plantation, where she lived in a small home with her mother.

“How was that?”

mumblemumblemumble

“What was that?”

Just do the whole thing yourself, why don’t you? Clearly you don’t need me.

“Alright then,” I said with a smirk, “I will.”

This is the story of Petra, a pen, and the power of words. The place: the plantation of Duke Parker. The time:

Hm…

“Hey, when are you writing this thing, anyway?” I asked.

Aren’t you writing it now? said the Narrator sarcastically.

“Yes,” I said crossly, “and now I’m about to write you answering this question. So fess up.”

It’s 2016 as this story is being written. Will you stop confusing the readers and get on with things?

“They’re smart, they can figure it out. Now, where was I…”

The place: the plantation of Duke Parker. The time: a long, long time ago…

Dave Really Just Wants to be Normal

Dave was drinking in his favorite bar, idly considering starting a game of pool with some other regulars, when he noticed a hooded figure sitting in a dark, shadowy corner. ‘That’s odd,’ he thought, ‘this place has never had dark, shadowy corners before.’ He turned back to his drink and took a sip.

A few minutes later, he became aware that the hooded figure was watching him. Dave turned to glare at them and said, “that only works on people who want to get involved in whatever you’re offering. I don’t.”

“You are already involved, whether you know it or not,” intoned the shadowy figure in a voice that seemed equally likely to have come from a man, a woman, or a lizard.

“No, I don’t think I am,” Dave said. “Look at me, not being involved.” He turned back to his drink and downed it in a single long draft. He slammed it back on the table and saw, in the mirror behind the bar, that the hooded figure was now looming behind him. It seemed to have brought the shadows which had collected in the corner with it – the air around it was filled with a dark, swirling mist.

“You have no choice,” said the figure. “The Dark Lord is already-”

“I’m not sure you understand,” Dave said. “I’ve been involved with too many of these schticks. Defeated dark lords, rescued princesses, slain dragons, saved galaxies. I’m really quite over it. And if this Dark Lord of yours-”

“He is no Lord of mine-” protested the hooded figure.

Dave held up a finger. “I don’t care. I don’t care. If this Dark Lord wants to do whatever he’s doing, fine. I’m not involved. Find some naive kid to be your hero, that usually works.”

“The prophecy demands that it be you.”

“I seriously doubt it’s that stringent. Or even correct, prophecies are usually bunk. Just grab…” Dave glanced around the bar, looking for someone he didn’t like, “John over there. He’d love to rescue a princess.”

The hooded figure continued looming.

“John! Get over here, let me introduce you to hooded figure here.” While John approached, Dave slipped past the hooded figure and fled the bar. On his way back home, he dodged a group of even more ominous hooded figures, gave a pair of rather short young men directions to the bar, and hid from a mysterious old wizard in a trash dumpster.

Capgras

It had been a normal day for me, patrolling the barge and hoping for some excitement.  I was the sole security guard, and had grown quite bored over the past few days since leaving port. Nothing happened on this boat, after all. Why did they even need a security guard? It wasn’t as though the crates were going to get up and walk away, after all. So as I strolled around the perimeter of the boat, staring blankly out at the waves and occasionally glancing down the endless rows of crates, I hoped, desperately, for something to happen.

It was on one of the occasions when I had paused, glancing out to sea, that something did. A huge whale leapt from the ocean, cresting barely 50 feet away from me! I stumbled back in amazed shock and struck my head on the huge metal cargo container behind me, barely noticing the pain in my awe.

The whale did not leap again, and after a few minutes I realized that the back of my head was aching, a dull, throbbing pain. I touched my skull where it hurt, and found blood on my hand. I decided that I had better go to the tiny kitchen and get some ice for my head.

It took me a few minutes to reach the kitchen – although the living spaces of the barge were incredibly small, the cargo hold was immense – and when I did it was empty. I courteously knocked on the door frame when I arrived anyway, just in case. The chef didn’t like her kitchen being intruded on without permission.

The chef called for me to enter. Her voice was coming from… where? Oh, the walk-in freezer, the door mostly but not entirely shut. I went to swing it farther open, since I needed to go in myself to get an ice pack for my head.

When I saw the chef though, I had to pause, gaping in horror. It wasn’t the chef. It was some terrible creature, a horrible beast, an indescribable monstrosity that had clearly taken the form of the chef and replaced her. What happened to the true chef? Dead, most likely. Consumed by this evil being, perhaps, or thrown overboard while I was distracted by the whale. And I had hoped for excitement!

The imitation was nearly perfect. The false chef gave me the same faint smile that the true chef would, asked what I needed in the same voice, dumped ice into a bag and handed it to me with the same motions that the real chef would have used. But the small, cramped quarters of the barge had let me get to know the small crew very well, and I could tell with a great deal of certainty that no, this was not the woman I had met scant days before. This was an impostor. I had to do something. But what?

And then I realized why I was here. I had wondered why a barge needed a security guard at all, but now it was clear. The owner of the barge, the person shipping whatever was in the crates, Mr. Capgras – he knew. He knew that the crates were valuable. He knew, surely, that there would be those who desired their contents. He knew that the crew was at risk of… this. He had hired me to protect the crew. But I had failed to protect the chef. It was too late for her.

But at least I could avenge her.

I turned and stepped out of the walk-in freezer and swung the door shut, then leaned against it as the impostor shouted. It pounded against the door, but I simply waited, pressing the ice pack against my bleeding skull to dull the pain of my wound. The real chef would have wanted it that way.

Eventually the screams stopped. That had been harder than I expected, but at least it was over now. I had avenged the chef. Now she would be able to rest in peace.

But what about the other members of the crew? The captain, and the navigator? I had better go make sure that they were all right as well. And if they too had been replaced, well…

Influences

No work of art exists in a vacuum. All things have their influences. Although it would be impossible to identify everything which influenced me in the writing of Capgras, I do wish to pay tribute to those which I am aware of as well as to those I paid conscious tribute to.

Capgras was written as part of the NYC Midnight 2016 Flash Fiction challenge. The prompt for my group in this case was a story written in the horror genre, with the setting of a barge, involving the object of an ice pack.

Capgras was named after and inspired by a disorder called Capgras syndrome, where the sufferer believes that one or more other people have been replaced with identical-looking impostors. I learned of the existence of Capgras syndrome from an episode of Scrubs (Season 8 Episode 13, “My Full Moon”).

Dave Just Wants to Be Normal

A cloaked and hooded figure approached Dave as he walked down the street towards the movie theater.

“I know you think what you’ve got to say is very important and the fate of one or more worlds probably depends on it, but I really don’t care,” Dave said. “I’ve got to go see the new Moon Skirmish, so if you’ll excuse me.” He made to step around it.

The hooded figure stepped in the same direction, perfectly in step with Dave. “Quite right, Dave,” came a pleasant baritone from somewhere within the shadows of the hood. “The fate of multiple worlds – planets, actually – depend on your assistance. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the entire galaxy will depend on you in the coming days and weeks. I’m not an alien,” he added.

Dave raised an eyebrow. “Well done, good for you,” he said. “Everyone should strive to not be an alien. I myself am not an alien. But that’s a bit off-topic, Mr. Not-An-Alien. I don’t want to have the galaxy depending on a single person, that’s a bit heavy and I’ve done it already. I want to see a a fictionalized version of it in that movie theater, so…” he stepped in the other direction.

The hooded figure stepped with him again. “I really must insist, Dave. I’m sorry to prevent you from seeing this Moon Skirmish of yours, but as you say it is fiction. The reality is far more dangerous and certainly more important. And, as I said, I’m definitely not an alien.”

“A little advice for you, Not-An-Alien,” Dave said. “Talking up the dangers of something probably isn’t the best way to convince someone to join you. Unless they’re into extreme sports.”

“What are extreme sports?” asked the figure. “I’m not an alien, by the way.”

“Yes, I know. Extreme sports are activities for which one of the attractions is the high danger compared to other activities. Stuff like skydiving and bungie jumping.”

“Oh, I see. Well, will you come? Also, I’m still not an alien.”

Dave shook his head. “No, I’m really looking forward to this new movie.”

The hooded figured growled. “I must have you! The fate of the galaxy is at stake! And I’m not an alien!”

“Yeah yeah, I know. Listen, how about that guy?” Dave asked, pointing to someone walking out of the theater in full costume. “He’s clearly already seen the movie.”

“No, it must be you! Your father-”

“Blah blah blah, copyrighted term starting with j,” Dave interrupted as the hooded figure muttered under his breath about not being an alien. “Listen, just talk to that guy. Give him a shot. I guarantee he’ll be ecstatic to join you.”

“But-”

“And your whole ‘not an alien’ spiel doesn’t fool me. Methinks lady doth protest too much.” Dave flipped back the figures hood, revealing a perfectly normal human face, with perhaps a slightly unusual forehead. “I knew it! Alien, right there. Now go say hi to the nice nerd and take him to space.”

“Fine,” grumbled the alien, walking over to the costumed nerd. Dave, meanwhile, continued on the movie theater. It was a good thing he had left so much extra time before the film actually started, as before he got there he had to fight off a bounty hunter, give a robot directions to his former owner, and rudely tell off the mysterious old wizard who refused to believe he was looking for someone else.

Dave is Still a Normal Guy

This story was recorded by Kadeu on Soundcloud!


Dave was on his way to the post office to pick up a care package his mother had sent him, when a dragon suddenly appeared and roared at him.

Dave stared at it for a moment. “Do you have anything to say, or are you just going to roar at me?” he asked.

The dragon roared again, this time a little uncertainly. So Dave roared back. “Raar!” he shouted at it. “See, I can roar too,” he said calmly. “It’s not impressive. Find someone else to roar at.”

The dragon blinked, apparently quite confused by Dave, and began to growl. So he slapped it on the snout. “None of that,” he said sternly. “Bad dragon! No growling.”

Now it was definitely confused. Faced with Dave’s unending calm, the dragon flattened itself to the ground, and after a moment, rolled over to expose its belly.

“No, I’m not interested in being your boss either,” Dave told it. “Just go bother someone else, I’m busy.”

The dragon kept baring its vulnerable belly for a moment, almost hopefully, then seemed to resign itself that Dave wouldn’t be cooperating, and slunk across the street to roar at another passerby.

Dave, meanwhile, continued on to the post office, where he declined to accept delivery of an ancient magical artifact, ignored the pleas of the young woman who had taken the place of his reflection in the bathroom mirror, and convinced a mysterious old wizard that he was still looking for someone else.

Dave the Normal Guy

Dave had been walking down to the deli for his lunch break when the vampire leapt in front of him.

“I vill suck your blood and transform you into my eternal groom,” she declared.

“Oh, great,” Dave said. “That’s just fantastic. But could you not? I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

The vampire raised an exquisitely crafted eyebrow. “You don’t look like you’re doing anything.”

“Well, I am on my lunch break. But when I’m done I have to go back to work and continue the project I’m working on right now.”

“I’m sure it’s not important,” she said dismissively. “I need to you lead my army of darkness.”

“See, I’m sure that would be lovely,” Dave told her, “but I’ve been through stuff like that before and it never ends well. I’d really rather just keep working at the company. I’ve got a good thing going there.”

“But my love-” protested the vampire.

“And another thing,” he said sternly. “I’m not your love. I’ve never met you before today. I don’t even know your name.”

“My name is-”

“I don’t care what your name is, either.” Dave sighed and glanced at his watch. “Look, I’m sure you’re very nice, and I hope that your army-of-darkness thing works out. But this kind of thing happens to me a lot and I’m getting a little fed-up with it.”

“But vhere vill I find a new husband?” protested the vampire. “He must fit the ancient prophecy! You are the only one!”

Dave glanced around. “How about that guy?” he suggested, pointing.

“He doesn’t fit the prophecy,” she said crossly.

Dave shrugged. “Prophecies are usually bunk, I doubt it’ll make any difference.”

The vampire regarded him appraisingly. “He is rather handsome,” she admitted, turning back to Dave. “But I’m sure you’d be able to do it better.”

“Yeah, probably,” Dave admitted. “But I don’t want to. He has been staring at you since you stepped onto the street.”

The vampire relented. “Fine, I’ll try him. But if it doesn’t vork out, I’m coming back to you.”

“Sure, whatever,” he said dismissively. The vampire began walking towards the other man as Dave finally entered the deli to get his lunch, where he declined the inheritance of an ancient magical blade, refused to go defeat an evil warlord, and convinced an old wizard that he was looking for someone else.

Within a Glass Sphere

“Dr. Gammet, the data from the Hubble Telescope is finished downloading – I have it here.”

“Thank you, Higgins.” Frank Gammet took the flash drive that the young intern offered him in a long-fingered hand, and turned to insert it into his computer. “Isn’t this exciting, John?” he said to the screen. “Finally, images from the very beginning of the universe itself!”

“Oh, I suppose a little,” John Adelman said, his image carried from the other side of the planet to be displayed on Frank’s screen. “It’s not as though we don’t know what to expect, though.”

Frank shrugged as the data from the flash drive was transferred over to his computer. “When the Higgs Boson was found, that was exciting, wasn’t it? Even though it behaved exactly like everyone thought it would.”

“True,” John agreed. “I’m sure my brother will make an even bigger deal over this, though.”

Frank chuckled. “Just because Chris is the Prime Minister of England doesn’t mean he controls the press, you know. And they sensationalize everything anyway.”

“I don’t mean in the media,” the older astrophysicist clarified. “I mean in person. He doesn’t understand this kind of thing very well, will probably think that we’ll be able to make a new universe with this data or something silly like that.”

Frank chuckled, then fell silent.

“Frank?”

“Making a new universe…” he mused. “Now there’s a thought…”

“Frank, you’re babbling,” John said. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Just a little one, obviously, but…”

“Frank…”

Frank blinked, then smiled at John. “Think about it,” he said. “We have a better understanding of how the universe began than ever, with these new images.” He gestured at the images which now filled his screen, and would be visible on John’s as well. “What if it was possible to replicate it, only on an infinitely smaller scale? Something we could look at and watch. It would be an amazing tool for generations to come.”

John considered it. “Assuming it’s even possible, which is a big assumption…”

“I’ll grant you that.”

“Then it’s something that should be pursued.”

Dr. Frank Gammet and Dr. John Edelman spoke to friends of theirs, who spoke to colleagues, who began to form a group, and at the next International Astronomical Convention, three years later, the group presented their idea.

They were led to speak with members of the theoretical physics community, who began to ponder. Twenty years after that, the problem was passed on to members of the experimental physics community, who pursued and obtained funding for the project. It wasn’t long before construction began on the new machines needed for the experiment.

Finally, forty-nine years to the day after the Hubble Telescope’s pictures were delivered, an aged Dr. John Adelman pressed the button to begin the experiment. He dedicated it to Dr. Frank Gammet, who had passed away three years earlier, never to see his dream completed.

The massive machines hummed, the turbines whirred, and steam billowed from the spigots. Everyone’s attention was focused on the large glass sphere, three-meters in diameter on the inside edge and nearly five inches thick, within which the results of the experiment – a Big Bang in miniature – would be seen.

Nothing happened.

“How disappointing,” commented John after nearly a minute of silence, running a hand through his gray hair. “You know, I always did think this was a bit mad.”

The machine was dismantled, the giant glass sphere rolled into a basement. People tried to forget about the great, failed experiment.

Thirty years later, however, a janitor cleaning in the basement of Harvard University, where the sphere had ended up, noticed that it was glowing. In fact, there was a tiny pinprick of light in the exact center of the sphere.

A professor was called to examine it, then one of the physicists who had been part of the experiment, and they eventually declared that the experiment had not been a failure after all, that it had simply taken time for light to propagate through the edges of the little universe. The sphere was brought out and began to be examined.

It did not take long to decide, however, that little could be learned from the sphere. It was placed in display as a triumph of science, and occasionally people came not to stare at the slowly expanding pinprick of light within the sphere but to experiment. Mostly, however, the implications of an entire universe contained within the glass sphere was lost on its owners.


13.8 billion years later, within the glass sphere…

“Dr. Gammet, the data from the Hubble Telescope is finished downloading – I have it here.”

“Thank you, Higgins.” Frank Gammet took the flash drive that the young intern offered him in a long-fingered hand, and turned to insert it into his computer. “Isn’t this exciting, John?” he said to the screen. “Finally, images from the very beginning of the universe itself!”

The Halls of Extinction

Doctor Alex von Strikken, PhD, was one of the most well-respected scientists in the small and well-respected field of genetic engineering. He had begun his career in the relatively looked-down upon area of genetic tailoring, customizing people’s children for them as they grew in the womb, but quickly moved out of that distasteful area. Since then Dr. Strikken had been working in the government-run Species Revitalization Project, aka the Halls of Creation. He had been hired just in time to help put the finishing touches on the mammoth, and since then had assisted in recreating the dodo and the Tasmanian tiger. For the past three years, Strikken had been part of the Project Tyrant, the attempt to rebuild dinosaurs, so far unsuccessful but coming close to what was hoped to be a viable triceratops egg.

Dr. Strikken was known as having a gift for seeing ramifications, able to foresee with startling accuracy how genes interacted. Many laypeople assumed that genetic engineering was like using building blocks – just snap on a piece for wings, add an extra finger – despite the unimaginably greater complexity of DNA, despite the lack of actual instructions. DNA was more analogous to a parts list than a list of instructions. But for Dr. Strikken, it actually did work very much like building blocks.

Dr. Strikken was taking his lunch hour, alone, when the email arrived. His phone dinged softly to alert him, and the middle-aged scientist pulled it out, setting his sandwich down. Strikken scanned it, and his jaw dropped. “What…?” he gasped, the word sounding as though it had been torn from him.

The email read as follows:


To Dr. Alexander Strikken, PhD,

Your exceptional work on the Species Revitalization Project has nominated you for the Rebirth Correction Project. After a great deal of deliberation, you have been selected to be transferred to the RCP. Please report to your new workplace immediately. Your belongings have already been transferred.


It was unsigned, but came from the same address as his hiring notification. There was no doubting it.

The RCP, where problematic creations of the SRP and other genetic engineering projects, were corrected. Problems like the carrier pigeon, which had multiplied out of control after it’s rebirth. The bird had been curtailed with a carefully designed virus that gave its eggs a fifty-fifty chance of being normal or being sterile. When North-American bison had started to venture into populated areas, a parasite had been created to artificially give them a fear of humans. And there were worse things, animals and creations that hadn’t just been curtailed but entirely removed. The six-legged cats that had been so popular for a few years had soon become a plague, overhunting mice and rats and upsetting the ecosystem. A targeted virus had been used to wipe out all members of the species, and another had turned the birther cats into normal cats.

There was a reason that the RCP was called the Halls of Extinction. It was necessary work, but not pretty work, not publicized like that of the Halls of Creation. Not visible or loved by the public. In the Halls of Creation, thought Dr. Strikken, doing your job well meant seamlessly adding a new animal into the public’s lives. The Halls of Extinction did the opposite. Get rid of the dogs, all of them, before Bob and Jim and Susan notice the problem…

And that had actually happened, too, Dr. Strikken thought distastefully. A bioweapon had inverted the cultivated tameness and trust in humanity that had been bred into domestic dogs. It was an ingenious attack – the bacterium, carried by fleas, spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, and America, dogs changing from calm, happy pets into savage beasts overnight. Dr. Strikken had to admit, it had been necessary for the Halls of Extinction to create a counter weapon. But the virus they had designed had been far too heavy-handed. It didn’t stop at the infected dogs, in fact it didn’t even stop at dogs in general, and for the past seven years the world had been entirely without canines of any sort. It had been far too transmissible, and because it had been rooted in the reproductive system it had hit every animal that could reproduce with each other. From dogs to wolves, wolves to coyotes, across the whole family. Nothing left.

Strikken hadn’t been part of the massive project to replace the species, but he knew about its results. It had been quite frenzied. First, wolves and coyotes and all the rest had been cloned from stored DNA samples and released into the wild. Unfortunately, the counter weapon hadn’t died along with the canine family, just gone dormant within the flea population, and it resurfaced to wipe out the clones. New species had had to be engineered to take their place in ecosystems across the globe – mainly from panthers, but also from raccoons and even rats. The replacements still weren’t accepted fully by most of the public. Nothing had yet replaced dogs, and Dr. Strikken personally doubted that anything ever would – at least, not within the vastly extended lifetime of those who remembered them.

Strikken knew the necessity of the Halls of Extinction, he really did. But they had gone too far then, and ever since… it wasn’t just him, everyone distrusted them. No one wanted to work for them if they could avoid it, which was probably why Dr. Strikken was being transferred – they needed more staff, but couldn’t get any from outside. Still, Strikken refused to be cast aside like this. He had worked in the Halls of Creation for 17 years. This couldn’t be allowed. He would just have to speak to the director of the Rebirth Correction Project and convince him of it. And so, unhappily, Dr. Strikken walked across the road to the Halls of Extinction.