Even sitting cross-legged in my little cave, hunkered down, hankering for home, I can feel the ship shaking. Instantly, I am booted back into my mechanical body, but it’s all different. My head is spherical, so I can see in 360 degrees, which is very strange, and instead of a cylindrical tube, my body is a squat pyramid shape with wheels at the base. At least I’m mobile. Somehow I manage to focus my eyes and ears. There’s a fire, and smoke. The ship is rocking back and forth. We’re under some kind of attack. Did we lose the appeal I wonder? Is that Nazi youth gang punishing us?
Not likely, since they’re still here. The anti-capitalist Planetary Federation guys are standing in front of me, faces pressed to the glass window looking outside. They’ve changed costumes and they all look worried. This time their uniforms look even more familiar.
“It’s time to shut you off, capitalist,” one of the females says, walking over to me.
The ring-leader approaches me with his squidlike remote in his hand. “Say hello to the All-Being for me.”
A ball of laser light appears in the middle of the room. It crackles and sizzles, gathering energy. Some kind of bomb. One of the 4Com_Jeffs is there and he throws something into it which makes it fizzle and fall to the ground. It eats through the floor, leaving a gaping hole, and a horrible sucking sound that stops after a moment. With a slurping noise, the floor slowly repairs itself like a wound closing.
“Rotten Berry’s dream!” the big guy shouts like it’s some kind of curse phrase. “That was too close. Where were we? Oh yes.” He turns to the 4_Com_Jeff, whose feathers are blue. He looks like my buddy 3_Jeff. “We found out you were keeping this thing crunching for you in simspace. That’s not what we’d agreed, you skin. I hope you got what you wanted out of him, because I’m turning it off once and for all.” With imperial authority, he lifts that muscular arm of his to point the squid at me.
“Roddenberry?” I shout, everything suddenly connecting—the uniforms, the casual olive green tunic, the names, the swaggering cowboy attitude, this talk of rotten fruits. “Are you talking about Gene Roddenberry? The creator of Star Trek? Is that where you guys got the Federation stuff?”
The room turns into a giant murmur. After all this order, it feels nice for me to unleash some pleasant chaos. The big man who’d worn the Captain Kirk tunic hushes them with a hand and then speaks.
“The Trek-text! Of course,” he says, revelation spreading across his features, warming his face like sunrise over the desert, “that was Of Your Time. You know of the much-beloved Trek-text?”
There’s a quote I love by William Gibson, the science fiction author who invented the term cyberspace and envisioned in advance perhaps clearer than any other person the Internet and virtual reality. In the quote, which came I think from an interview, he says that science fiction authors don’t predict the future, they create it. They give people the raw materials for their visions of utopia, which they follow and, like God’s word, logos, His breath of life, make manifest with their brains and teams and hands. His works and terms and visions deified by journalists, cultural studies scholars, inventors, and technophiles alike, of all people Gibson should know it.
“Know it?” I answer. “Are you joking? That was one of my main research fieldsites. You got the logo wrong, by the way. But I can teach you the Vulcan salute.” I raise my hand. It looks like a hedge trimmer, so I put it down. “Maybe another time.”
Seemingly subdued now, even subservient, Triumph-of-the-Will-boy seemed to have changed his tune entirely. “You know about the Planetary Trek? Um, s-star trek. We had no idea. We have only fragments of fragments. Since the ban, of course. But we always knew it was non-capitalist source spring, pure, a vision of a better way.” He’s practically bowing to me, great emissary of Star Trek’s future perfect distant past. I feel a little like Threepio in Return of the Jedi when the Ewoks decide to make him their king.
We all jolt as the ship accelerates away from the battle. I see the moon tilt through the window, then recede suddenly, in frame-grabbing gulps. A loud explosion sounds in one of the areas of the ship above us. Lights are flashing.
“At a business school?” one of the Planetary Trekkers asks me. “Really? They let you do that at a business school?”
This is starting to sound too much like my real life. “What do you want to know, guys? I can tell you lots about Trek and fandom and Roddenberry. Name it.”
4Com_3Jeff interrupted. “Actually, we have an emergency, the sunkickers are moving to their next stage, and we’ve got to join the chase for them.” While he’s talking, he walks over and waves a small transparent square over a translucent patch in my pyramidal robotic flesh. Information floods in.
It seems like there’s a lot going on here. The sunkickers is slang for the Radical_X movement, a group of marginalized but well-supported apocalyptic religious rebels who want to cleanse the solar system of humanity. They’ve been working for the last twenty years or so to develop black hole-like bombs that can destroy things on a planetary scale, and they’re bound and determined to blow up Earth’s sun as a final suicide gesture that will wipe out the solar system, more or less. Sunkickers with a booming black hole boot.
It all brings me back to the past, to what I’ve lost. It reminds me of al queda, of the fall of the Taliban and the Tora Bora terrorists, the American-English invasion of Afghanistan. I wonder how all of that will turn out. Or did turn out six hundred years ago. I wonder if they struck again. Maybe these sunkickers are their distant descendant, still bent on suicide bombings and finding bigger and bigger targets as technology gets better and better, still trying to spread the carnage around, kill innocents, make everyone scared and miserable. Screwing with these twenty-seventh century terrorists might not be in the same lofty realm of utopian meandering, but it was a familiar cause I could sure sink my teeth into. But what could I possibly do to help?
“Wait, wait,” said the Federation representative. He turned to me, and smiled, an inadvertently vicious looking thing. “Tell me professor,” he unctuously inured, “what can you offer us from the Trek-texts?”
I had to think about it for a couple of seconds, my mind very clear amid the smoke and fire and the jolting freeze-frame travel of the Luna ship. “I think I can give you some guidelines about what Captain Kirk would do,” I say. We sit down, and for two hours straight we discuss strategies from Classic Star Trek episodes. The bluffing of The Corbomite Maneuver, episode 3, Stardate 1512.2. The grand, all-or-nothing gambling spirit of The Gamesters of Triskelion, episode 46, Stardate 3211.7. The self-imploding logic of The Changeling, episode 37, Stardate 3541.9. The treachery and spycraft of The Enterprise Incident, episode 59, Stardate 5031.3. The interdimensional antics of The Tholian Web, episode 64, Stardate 5693.4.
I have no idea whether any of it was of use at all. Probably not. But it was an animated conversation, one I could never forget. They left beaming, and all charged up, like believers after an audience with the Pope, or CEOs after consulting with Tom Peters. And away they went. I followed their ship, which was docked on the other side of us, as it took off to confront the sunkickers on their way to kill the sun.
With a break in the action, I have a chance to finish writing the article.