Friday, December 8, 2006

A True Story

(Whatever happened to the world's greatest naturally occurring Situationist guerilla?)

William Tager was born on a parallel Earth in the year 2265. A convicted felon, Tager was selected by the world government as the first human test pilot of the government’s experimental inter-dimensional portal, which had been under development for 149 years. Tager agreed to volunteer in exchange for the promise of a full pardon upon his safe return.

At the end of an unduly brief training regimen, Tager prepared for his journey in the anteroom to the travel chamber. Shortly before the portal time, Tager received a lone visitor. Vice President Kenneth Burrows, a dark-haired, authoritative Texan known for his short temper and alien simile, considered by many the most powerful man on the planet.

Burrows warned Tager that a transmitter had been implanted in his brain. If Tager chose to remain in the alternate space/time, Burrows would use the transmitter to summon him home. It was essential that Tager complete both legs of the trip and provide a full report. Following debriefing, the transmitter would be removed and Tager granted his pardon.

Tager landed in this Earth’s Manhattan on September 1, 1986. His exploration of the local culture proceeded without impediment until, one cool morning, he was mistakenly arrested for putting coins in expired parking meters. The court sentenced him to 30 days, and ordered psychiatric evaluation when Tager protested that would prevent his timely return to Earth.

Upon his release fourteen days after the deadline, Tager began receiving messages from Vice President Burrows ordering his immediate return. The transmissions were hostile, sometimes obscene. It would be a week before another return window, but Tager had no way to communicate back. Unable to sleep, his mind constantly bombarded with the leader’s vitriol, Tager began to lose his mind. If only he could ascertain the precise frequency on which the messages were broadcast, he might be able to override the transmissions and rest until the time for departure.

Walking the streets of Midtown late on the evening of October 4, 1986, Tager saw Vice President Burrows. Or more likely his double on this Earth, Tager considered, since a man with Burrows’ power would surely never undertake the risk of a trip across time and space with no assurance of return. But perhaps it was a trick – Burrows could have come from the future to eliminate his guinea pig.

“Kenneth! Kenneth Burrows!” yelled Tager as he approached Burrows, known on this Earth as Dan Rather.

Rather/Burrows turned to see who was yelling. Tager knocked him to the ground.

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth!?” demanded Tager, shaking his stunned nemesis.

Tager persisted for a few minutes, slapping the man twice before concluding this was not Vice President Burrows, but his double. As people gathered, Tager ran into the night.

Three long days later, lost in the delirium of sleep deprivation, Tager missed his second and final opportunity to return home. Stranded, penniless, and driven beyond the brink of sanity by the interminable rants of Burrows, he was forced to sleep on the streets and steal every meal. Tager roamed the alien Earth for a seeming eternity, searching for an alternate route home, cycling in and out of incarceration in prisons and sanitariums.

In his moments of lucidity, Tager realized over time that the messages must have been carried through the massive relays of the primitive local broadcasters. He inhabited the public library, trying to maintain enough concentration to comprehend the technology destroying his mind, and lurked outside the studios in the hope of finding a messenger.

Years later, in an effort to contact someone who could identify the frequency, Tager killed an NBC technician outside the Today Show studios.

Though the shooting occurred through the window as Bryant Gumbel chatted with Deborah Norville about his weekend, all tape of the assassination has been suppressed. Tager currently serves his exile in a prison hospital upstate. The voices, now a recorded message automatically replayed every 20 minutes, continue.

This month, Tager is scheduled for his parole hearing [enter name into linked dB to see for yourself].


Anonymous said...

Chris, jave you ever read Lady Slings the Booze by Spider Robinson?

Christopher Brown said...

I am afraid not, Peggy. You would be surprised how spotty my traverses of core SF are. Tell me more!

Anonymous said...

The whole book (but most especially the second half of it) is basically one long set up for a "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" joke at the end.

Anonymous said...

i wonder what would happen if you make this guy to listen to the rem`s song...

Anonymous said...

That reverby guitar effect would blow his mind... perhaps quite literally. (BOOM! SPLAT!)