Saturday, December 29, 2018

WONDER---Swalllows and Amazons & How To Love the Universe

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom (Overlook Press) Sometimes I yearn for  a kinder gentler place. In this 1930s classic (comparable to Harry Potter in its era) I found adventure sailing with  four English children--during WW2. The oldest, age 12, Captain John, commands a 14 ft. sailboat with Susan, his first mate, able seaman sister Titty and seaman Roger, the youngest. They sail across a large lake to a wooded island and camp out, without adult supervision. Unimaginable in modern parenting, their mother encourages them by leaving them alone.

But she does check on them to bring treats with baby Vicky or hears news from adults, when Captain John picks up milk from the "natives." Their voyage of exploration begins with permission from their dad at the front, an enigmatic telegram:  BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN. Does father think they will drown or that they are not duffers?  Mother clarifies that dad knows John can handle the boat taught him last summer.

John, though doubtful he will remember, takes the responsibility seriously as does first mate, Susan, who helps him navigate and eagerly plans their food. They call their ship The Swallow and the idyll begins.  They have fair weather, find a cove and claim their camp, though it does seem someone may have been there in the past. Imagination is the wind in their sales, as young Roger plays he's a ship and Tittie dives for pearls. She references Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, writing in her journal of visits by "quaint natives" (her mother) as well as real islanders who make charcoal.

Imaginary adventures give way to the real thing, as one day they spot  The Amazon,a white sailboat with a pirate flag and two girls wearing red hats. Friendly rivalry is inevitable, especially when the girls raid Captain Flint's (their uncle) houseboat  and The Swallow is held responsible.  As the two ships vie for capture, there are real pirates on the houseboat. Before the summer's over, The Swallow and The Amazon join forces to solve a mystery, there's a dangerous night sail, Captain Flint walks the plank, and Tittie finds buried treasure. What a summer. I enjoyed their company.

HOW TO LOVE THE UNIVERSE: A Scientist's Odes to the Hidden Beauty Behind the Visible World By Stefan Klein (The Experiment, the  This book is the most mind-bending book I read in 2018. I can't describe it without including the chapter headings.

1. The Poetry Of Reality--A rose makes us aware that nothing and nobody stands alone. The more we know about how things in the universe relate to each other, the more mysterious the world seems to us.

2. A Marble in the Cosmos--The Earth rises over the moon and we see the universe as it is being born. Much greater spaces are concealed behind the visible cosmos. Reality is quite different than how it seems to us.

In this book the more science you know, the more awe inspiring nature appears. "The scientist's sharp eye even revealed things that at first seem ugly or repulsive to us. The fading of the rose is a symbol of decline, but if you look closely, you can see the hip growing deep within the withering petals, Each seed of the rose is a miracle of its own, because in each tiny kernal, the complete embryo of a rose is waiting for the moment it can soak up water, expand, break out of the husk, and stretch out its seed-leaves to the sun."

This is ecstatic, wise, wonderful writing by Klein, who studied physics and analytical philosophy, completing his doctorate in theoretical biophysics, before turning to writing to "inspire people with a reality that is more exciting than any thriller."

Read this book to be amazed at the world, as you may have been as a young child. There is a thrill of discovery in these pages, along with the unsettling adult feeling that we know nothing. Humility can be awe-inspiring. Loved this book.

S.W.   Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

War Memoirs--Afghanistan Noir, BLINDSIDED BY THE TALIBAN and IN THE RED ZONE, post-Saddam Iraq


Let us talk about that most crazy and foolhardy of  free lance journalists, brave ones who cover wars and in our time the "forever wars" of Afghanistan and Iraq. Vietnam a different story, body bags being loaded on planes, front and center on the six o'clock news. People were riveted-overloaded by daily body counts like a dark casino jackpot ever rising. Until it was enough, and Americans--old and young, liberal and conservative, veteran and resistor, surged in the streets to end that war. That old coverage gets little play now but then the numbers were enough. (Today, without the nightly network focus, would it happen?)

This post is to celebrate this rare journalist in the present, when our wars merit scarce network attention and coverage is often but a distanced reminder of what is going on far away --the horrific daily reality of war.  But there are news outlets who occasionally run stories by journalists enbedded with soldiers and their allies, working inch by inch-year by year--to wrestle peace from overwhelming destruction.  Now that Trump has pulled troops out of Syria, how long before the Taliban's retaken that ground? Will our allies, the Kurds, survive? Will coverage be shown?

I am not a fan of  war memoirs but in 2007, my friend Steven Vincent, a free lance journalist, went to Iraq to cover the war on terror. I saw him in New York and asked him why he was going back, he wasn't a career war journalist. Was it the adrenoline thing, feeling alive in the middle of death; a search for truth in destruction--personal issues?  Steve mentioned help for a friend. But before he left, he wrote an OpEd in The NY Times about local corruption. Soon after he was attacked, his friend got out. He left his  memoir In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq described as: 

"an American journalist's account of his daring solo expeditions through post-Saddam Iraq, is a vivid, frank, and unforgettable portrayal of the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. An eyewitness of the 9/11 attacks, Steven Vincent went to Iraq to experience the daily realities of life and death in the crossfire of the war on terror. His report is essential for understanding America's enemies and allies in the critical but confusing struggle against radical Islam."

Carmen Gentile is another kind of freelancer, a veteran war journalist who covered Cairo in the 90's, unrest in the oil rich Niger Delta, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--embedding with soldiers on the front line. He's written for The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, though most outlets weren't doing a lot of war coverage, when USA Today agreed to send him back to Afghanistan. That was the trip he should have lost his life, he explains in his remarkable memoir Blindesided By The Taliban: A Journalist's Story of War, Trauma, Love and Loss (Skyhorse Publishers).

Gentile has to be the Philip Marlow of freelance journalists and his memoir is a kind of war noir, about one man's intolerable and ridiculous survival in extreme circumstances. Here is a guy who is struck in the face by a rocket powered grenade and survives. With humor and irony, he looks at the horror and idiocy of  his life before and after the near fatal attack. There's the dark humor of his comrades and  awful crawling heebie jeebies about going to the bathroom, when any movement spells death. And like Chandler's Marlow, he wonders why he's always putting himself in the way of bullets. 

A reluctant philosopher embedded with young soldiers half his age, Gentile probes why he's alive  when  helicopters evacuate men who won't make it to the hospital. After he's hit, he sees the shocked looks of others, wondering what's left of his face--his eye, before losing consciousness. Awakened after emergency surgery, Gentile questions the trajectory that got him to this place, lucky to be alive with a mutilated face. Self critical, in and out with meds, he  wonders what flaws inspired this nebulous career and his "perfect" woman to break off their engagement--by email.

Between multiple operations, state of the art experimental surgery to rebuild his eye, he finds some solace with another woman--while questioning what good he's doing her. He also plots a post  recovery rendez-vous with a lost love. Though painfully aware how passions override his judgement, Gentile's recovery is not negotiable.  Despite the welcome oblivion of painkillers, for weeks he must live looking down, unsure how and IF he's to go on. 

He recovers, facing truth and consequences. One day he finds Lucille, his aged motorcycle, and with one good eye takes a freezing ride to the Florida garage he calls the "Failure Cave"to figure out his life. Suffering flashbacks, he decides to cure himself by going back to Afghanistan. He embeds to the site of his most extreme trauma for MORE! And a few more embeds after that.  In the beginning of Blindsided By the Taliban, Gentile quotes  a friend who said "my greatest achievement is getting shot in the face." But he lived to do mind boggling work, looking through a sure and steady lens. 

Recommended for anyone who wants to know about the daily grind of war in Afghanistan and what it means to be a journalist embedded in the front lines. An outrageously honest, surreal and darkly funny memoir.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Prince of Orange County by Kareem Tayyar a YA for basketball lovers of any age

There are books that confound their genre and The Prince of Orange County (Pelekinesis) is not a formulaic  "coming of age" story but one that redefines the idea of what that means. From "Catcher in the Rye" you get  the bittersweet end of childhood fantasy lost in the torturous crucible of adolescence, with "Huck Finn" you do have a similar awakening to adventure and life, and you hope the hero will come to terms with the adult world. In The Prince of Orange County, the hero, at age thirteen, is already living a dream that just may happen.

Thomas Kabiri's "got game," meaning BASKETBALL, and is already playing with the big boys at his local playground court in southern California in 1986.  He can steal that ball and shoot and sling the "BS" with the other mavens in the local park. But it's not idle talk that his precocious skills might land him in the big-time--if he plays his cards right and grows to be more than 5'2". His moves have won games and earned the respect of his elder court buddies.

They are an odd assortment, from Bianchi, a guy never at a loss for words and girls, to Mississippi Rod with his natural glide and secret history of misfortune. Bianchi protects Thomas when he's dealing with players twice his size but no one censors talk about sex and drugs and, most of all, rock'n'roll. Thomas has come alive to music, whether it's his mom's Joni Mitchell or his own beloved Prince. He wants to hear more, and now he's got a whole summer!

Thomas the part-time player is about to go full-time. He's got his early morning paper route and has to be home at 6 for dinner with his eagle-eyed mother, otherwise hoops and adventure can fill his days. He tries not to think about his dad, who had to leave for Iran. Thomas' world also contains Mr. Roth, a legendary coach who gives tips with special sandwiches at his deli and Earl, a former star player from the East he meets on his paper route. Earl's from the big world of major teams. The fact he sees potential in Thomas as a player and a person is transformative.  When Earl takes him  to Tower Records, Thomas is bowled over by the history of all music, there for his selection.

Earl's reason for being there becomes a secret mission for Thomas, which takes him on a forbidden trip to Los Angeles, where he experiences the viccitudes of first love with a runaway (unlike himself) on her own quest. As Thomas tracks down a missing link from Earl's past, his world broadens to the basketball courts of L.A. and then beyond basketball. He learns about adult relationships, the emotional work and basic kindness crucial in friendships and romantce. He also experiences a sense of mortality. A complex world that awaits him--if only he were sixteen!

As Thomas' summer of adventures draws to a close, he's now thinking of basketball as an entry, a portal, to all the complexity that makes a life--flow on and off the courts.  Though this book is set in the 1980s, it's timeless funny and true. I completely enjoyed Kareem's journey in Orange County. Recommended for YA and adults, who can remember a certain summer when the world of adventure spread out before them.

Author Kareem Tayyar is a poet and novelist, as well as a Professor of English in Huntington Beach, California. He is a recipient of a 2019 Wurlitzer Fellowship for Poetry. This book is distributed by SPD (Small Press Distributors)


Friday, December 7, 2018

Climate Change? PARADISE GARDENS NEW Audiobook--begins when Earth can't support human life. Chap 1-2 here.

NEW 2019 An audiobook of PARADISE GARDENS! New! Audiobook on Audible. It’s a collaboration between wonderful actress Nicole Greevy, brilliant at all the voices. More like radio play than reading. Here is free 30-day trial offer.…/Paradise-Gardens- 

Code is: .RB6JB2EB3TFWJ

Pelekinesis is the Publisher of Paradise Gardens, which is available at SPD Books
(Note Amazon takes 60% of every sale.)

If you buy at another distributor, please make sure it is the Pelekinesis definitive illustrated edition. If you have interest but can't afford a buy, leave a comment here or on Paradise gardens FB page and I will respond. Thanks.

(I apologize the formatting on blogger for columns is not great for me to post chapters, FB has as well.



Chapter 2,  File Cabinet  database

If a cautionary tale has a function, it raises consciousness of what can happen—to ward it off. This novel may be the equivalent of shamanic practices, where a tribe wards off  disaster by transferring negative energy to an object. Perhaps negative visualization has a similar function and Paradise Gardens can purge our fear, change dark “unthinkable” visualization to a positive future. It is a passage.  

But the Corporate Business Estates are here now., why I am publishing chapters from the  2017 New Edition of Paradise Gardens.  The vision begun in Reagan's 80's  is reality in Trump's 2019. I have updated (and illustrated) this book to make it the best possible. . 

Thanks! Susan W

Chapter 2 Illustration
The Sheraton Hotel elevator bank

Chapter   1

Year 3011, Underground, the United Business Estates

First Came Superstition
Janet McCarthy wasn’t proud of her compulsion to cross-reference her life with the horoscopes in women’s magazines but she no longer hid it. Her boundaries were within sanity. Horoscopes in monthly magazines were one thing, tabloid Jean Dixon blurbs quite another. Just a human need for entertainment, she told herself, a diver- sion from her tough responsibilities as claims adjustor at Rudimental Life, the chief underwriter for the United Business Estates. Horoscopes gave handy archetypes, a way to understand your life within a time period. Com- forting outcomes that were not entirely in her hands.
Janet’s business decisions often set precedents for pol- icies of the Estates, because she could be clear-cut about claims that were ambiguous. She was  unusually skillful at reconciling facts within the limitations of policies, except for the Robinson case. She couldn’t figure out why. The facts were similar to many claims that crossed her desk. It was the particulars that were disturbing: the man’s appearance, the date of the accident, the sequence of events. And this nagging feeling of familiarity with a complete stranger.
A little discipline, she admonished herself, switching on her computer terminal for another look.
Robinson appeared a hard-working man in his 40s with light-colored chamois gloves hooked into his belt. He wore a tentative smile and thinning hair pushed back for the camera. He looked solid, except for the chance accident that brought him to her attention.
Seven years ago Robinson had been injured on his job at a cement factory in South Bend, Indiana. He’d been mixing ceramic components but the substance used as a catalyst had been substituted for a binder used in larger quantities. Robinson had been in the way of the explo- sion; a single error, a lone victim, no witnesses—too convenient? Coworkers had corroborated his wife’s story about increasing lapses of memory following the acci- dent. A month afterward he disappeared. She was peti- tioning the United Business Estates for widow status to receive the benefits of Rudimental Life’s insurance policy for Average employees. Injury on the job leading to death was a legitimate claim for payment. And the result of Robinson’s injury—his possible brain damage—was rel- evant, though unproven. But all too often in the U.B.E. the consequences of such damage, alleged amnesia or another disorder, meant disappearance not death.

Janet should have informed Robinson’s wife that if her husband had been killed on the job there would be no question of her eligibility. She didn’t have the heart for that, especially when the facts contradicted her hunch that Robinson was alive. (Abandoned wives were sad parentheses in any report.). Janet brought Robinson’s image into closer focus. She noticed two dots, which she guessed weren’t dust. Magnification confirmed what she suspected—a tiny scar resting above the eyebrow and one on the side of the wrist. The first was half-moon shaped, the second a vertical line. Neither was listed in his file under the heading, BODY MARKINGS. Yet both were significant indications that his personal plastics work, surgery required for employment, had lagged behind the accident.

It was probably one in a series that had marred his body, yet allowed him the floating status prized by mem- bers of the Unconnected. Seizing false identities, these illegals damaged operations within the Estates, before dis- appearing with an untraceable condition. They cheated the U.B.E by subverting labor pools and increasing the tithe burden on the public. Janet just knew Robinson was alive and wouldn’t mind nailing him, if it weren’t for his wife. Why should she suffer for her husband’s treachery? And why did Janet care?

EQUIVALENT OF DEATH, Janet typed. The sentence dismayed her. She knew the claim was false, the tip of a small but growing threat to the U.B.E. Robinson’s wife was probably involved. So why did was she letting them off with a simple denial of benefits, instead of investiga- tion?

There was the odd coincidence that the date of the accident, seven years ago last spring, was also the  date of her first “peak” experience as an employee of Rudi- mental; the first day she felt connected to her job in the significant way desired by the U.B.E. There were the scars she could have described without  magnification and the peculiar sense of déjà vu she felt about Robin- son’s whole appearance; as though he were a good friend masquerading in some clever costume. It was incompre- hensible that she felt sentimental about him. Janet’s psy- chologician might have an explanation though she would resist that call. Autonomy might be a regressive instinct but she stubbornly retained it; deep as DNA and beyond reprogramming.

A cheery female voice chirped Rudimental’s lunch- time theme. She would finalize the Robinson case after her break. Janet put her screen to sleep and opened her refrigerator drawer. She removed a tuna on rye, along with her horoscope chart and an envelope of raw copy from her life and popular magazines. She bit into the sandwich mechanically, thinking she couldn’t help her attraction to astrology, a fact her new boyfriend, Michael, seemed unable to accept. “When did you start reading horoscopes and why?” he asked repeatedly. “It violates the rationalism so vital for your occupation.”

Her superstition had become an issue in their relationship. She had to find a reason that would satisfy him. It wasn’t easy. How could an aristocrat understand her needs? Michael had declared his loyalty the U.B.E. in the usual rituals but he was unhindered by the will of    an estate. He chose  his occupation, while she was merely  a professional dreaming of a future without continual overtime.

Janet laid out blocks of copy. The stars had ancient descriptions of personalities like hers. Why couldn’t Michael be more tolerant? After all—she almost blushed—he was unorthodox about more dangerous compulsions. Why pick on her horoscope?

“You live like an Indian staring at the moon,” he said, when she first confided her secret. “You’re too passive, just letting things happen. Wake up, Janet! How can you call an escape a system for living?” Janet was sorry she had revealed herself. She liked his muscular legs, which looked more than cosmetic. She liked his genuinely crooked teeth and the way he smiled not trying to hide them. She didn’t want Michael to think she was flakey. New York men were touchy. You took your chances.

She had decided to sleep with Michael on their third date, in harmony with his forecast for romance. They had turned up Bleeker Street on the way to his apartment. If he proved too weird, she could always leave. But things would probably be okay. Michael came with fine refer- ences from their mutual friend in the records department. Even so, walking on his arm that first night, Janet felt paranoid. In front of a parrot store, she noticed a girl with waist-length blonde hair looking fixedly at a pair of million dollar love-birds. The girl’s pure profile was inter- rupted by a growth of beard. She turned and displayed the stub of an arm. The freak was wearing a gingham dress over a lace-trimmed petticoat.

Michael was unmoved. Freaks were not all that uncommon. Even average people were no longer dis- playing an expected surface appearance but some hidden opposite. Ambiguity was no longer just an intriguing aspect of personality. Janet wished she knew Michael better; wished she knew the safe precincts—taboos negotiated warily by competent family psychologicians. Michael did not fit the ordinary personality profiles.

“I think I’ll call it a night,” she said half-way up Bleeker Street.
“You have no reason to be chicken,” Michael said, “I’m a decent human being.”
“Please explain.”
Michael kissed Janet on the lips, insistent on emo- tional connection. His intensity shocked her, hinting at the forbidden forms of sex. Sleeping with someone was one thing, direct contact quite another.
“I’m Caucasian,” Michael said, “I’m educated and I make money. I live on Earth in a functional, if not extrav- agant place. I like women, you in particular, and want to sleep with you. My tastes are not quite missionary but neither are yours, I imagine.”
Michael ran his hand lightly up her side, ribs to armpit, careful not to wander to her breast—not without the right equipment. Janet was relieved. He could be trusted to keep within the legal boundaries for safe sex.
“I travel. Tonight, tomorrow, next week I’ll be around. After that, I can’t say,” he said, seeming genuinely rueful.
Janet surprised herself by kissing him hard on the mouth, implying all the risks he had allayed. “I find it difficult to accept the implications of my feelings,” she said. “If you’re not around much, it’s all right.”

Old habits die hard, Janet thought in retrospect, knowing why she had disregarded the sexual bans. Her past may have been reconstructed but her emotional ori- entation remained primitive. She hated the stultifying price of conformity in the U.B.E. So in a moment of illegal intimacy, she had confessed her horoscope com- pulsion placing her professional integrity at Michael’s mercy—a man she barely knew!

How had this happened? She was a marital floater, who had remained uncommitted for years! Human resources had erroneously sent men attracted by the maternal, compassionate aspects of her personality profile. Most applicants wanted less emotional, more aggressive—she didn’t know what these men wanted. She did know she wanted Michael. Why did she have to decipher her life from the oblique advice in women’s magazines?
Janet knew commercial slants. “Bizarre” was silverspoon oriented for the chic businesswoman socialite. “Glimmer” focused on lateral career and apartment moves for the young working woman. Myself focused on phys- ical development and emotional swings of middle-level careerists, while “Copula” combined sexual and redec- orating know-how. Janet’s weeded out romantic hooks, marketing ploys and her own wishful thinking, when she interpreted her horoscope. She was left with “Spruce up your appearance,” “Pay attention to family matters,” “Attend to household chores,” and “Humor a loved one’s demands.”

Janet hoped for coherent direction for her life. GOD DOES NOT PLAY WITH DICE, the motto over the portals of Rudimental Life, offered little inspiration. If there were patterns for existence, only Einstein could read them, she once told her psychologician. She was seated cross-legged on a pillow, her eyes closed in medi- tation, when she confessed that she wanted to believe in the U.B.E.

In a gentle voice he had asked, “When did you develop a need for inner conviction?”
“I don’t know there was a specific time.”
“Past emotional content is key to your devotion to Rudimental Life. I know it was traumatic when…” he led her with a compassionate voice.
She opened her eyes onto his  white  robed  figure. His shiny head was bowed. Mesmerizingly, he intoned “oom.” The sound transported her back to the witnessstand, when she testified. Her family was humiliated by the spectacle. The benches were full.

What was she saying? Her mouth was open, her face ashen with emotion but she couldn’t make out the con- tent. Public testimony followed the consolidation of the corporations under the U.B.E. How could such a charged memory be so indistinct? She let herself drift further on the psychologician’s chanting. A focus came. She had run away from an estate and been apprehended. With incredible despair, Janet recalled words of sad inevitability:

“Information does not make us free. Enlighte nment did not bring about economic fulfillment. We are happiest when our work is fulfilling. I have lost my previous expectations for life and will handle my assignments with grace. I discard my existential ambiguity and grant my psychologician the burden of spiritual uncertainty. Never again will I run away from responsibility.”

After a nebulous interval, she returned to the stand, swore her support and regained her family’s slot at Rudi- mental Life. She told her psychologician about a dis-  tant feeling of despair, something incommunicable to Michael. He would simply point out that if she  liked her job, she would have fewer doubts to lose in planetary movements.

Most of her colleagues were happy, opting for mobility through internal or lateral moves. They broadened their skill bases and passed options to their offspring. The strategy was not only rational but fulfilled the spiritual aspiration for self-improvement cherished by all profes- sionals, except Janet. She had more confidence in her cryptic method of divination.

Janet copied these actions onto white labels. The last was infuriating. How dare he probe her family background, former lovers, apartment history, occupational base, and even her financial destiny?

Who did he think he was to question her life? He had no need of fantasy. An ancestral stockpile of uranium was the foundation of his independence. His family was an individual subsidiary estate. What could he know of the pain that went with a muted personality? She only dared to do this work manually, under her computer’s slumbering eye.

Janet positioned her labels onto her chart of the cosmos, remembering the trauma of her first surgery. She had donned youth, the official employment mask, and dutifully schooled herself in optimism. Plastic had given her a new face but her soul was anachronistic. When rebellion crept into the Estates in fashionable compul- sions, was she willing to embrace the first superstition that came along?

Michael had too much freedom to believe in fashion. She would have less to explain, if he was old enough to put himself in her shoes! It was hard to tell. She was in her 50s and looked 25. Michael, who looked 40, might be 20. Most people couldn’t afford to match their faces with their psyches until retirement. Professional aberra- tion or not, Janet would have to ask Michael’s age. Then she would know how to answer his query.

Before pasting the labels onto the chart, Janet scanned for discrepancies between her actions and cosmic pro- gressions. Tonight the process stimulated a bizarre link between her horoscope and the Robinson case. CUT YOUR HAIR brought to mind a vision of Robinson’s thinning hair.

How could phrases trigger fragments of a memory she didn’t possess? Was she simply imagining the case history in an unusual, if frighteningly vivid way? She was over- excited about Michael. Was she projecting personal anx- iety onto her professional identity? She must resolve their conflict tonight!

No confrontation was worth this insanity. CALL YOUR MOM ON HER BIRTHDAY evoked a discus- sion, in which Robinson said it was time for him to dis- appear. TAKE CLOTHES TO THE CLEANERS ticked off visions of chamois gloves and work clothes. Janet pasted the labels onto her chart, focusing on Michael’s reality. He wouldn’t use her confession about horoscopes to his economic advantage. He didn’t have to with his own estate. Objects had been plentiful for so many gen- erations he actually believed a man’s life should merit something greater than himself.
Dealing antiques allowed him to combine an exciting quest with the merits of history. Michael was definitely noble, not a man you met through human resources referrals. Janet didn’t want to alienate him but NO APOLOGIES, not for her horoscope or any professional maladjustment!.Why was she so worried about Michael? Had the Robinson case unnerved her? It was not an unusual claim, except for her sense not just that it was fake, but that it held some personal importance.

FORGET IT! Janet propped her finished chart against her terminal. Her course of action was clear. She and Michael would be naked their bodies encircled. She would relate her reasons for doing horoscopes. He could laugh at her idiocy, if he liked. It wouldn’t matter. In that cozy locus, she’d intuit his true feelings.

Year 2250, The Earth’s Surface
Chapter   2

Year 2250, The Earth’s Surface

The Selling of Paradise Gardens

If Madge Chilton wasn’t sure she was alive, it was  clear she wasn’t dead. The problem was a matter of per- sonal style and professional necessity. Being pleasant and agreeable was the stock and trade of public relations. Who cared about the emotional burn-out after decades of calculated pleasantness—her real personality mourned like a memory? Eject self-pity, she thought, crossing the eerily deserted lobby of the crumbling New York Sher- aton. You can’t afford it. Wasn’t it her reputation for equa- nimity that helped her win Paradise Gardens?
Madge reached the peeling brown and gold enam- eled elevator doors and hit the Up button. Where was Security at 9:30 Sunday morning? The conference was at ten. Greenfield was expecting her to deliver his guests in good condition. No easy teleconference for this job, the content was too sensitive. Why they needed outside PR and Greenfield had chosen her when he could have had anyone. “Cracker-jack,” he said. Big agency quality yet small enough for the personal touch. Small is right, she thought, examining herself in a mirror beyond re- silvering. She pressed the elevator button and took a last professional look.

Only 5’3” but she could inspire confidence. Madge’s dark brown pageboy bobbed around her jaw line in a precise curve. Her neat dye-cut features were also pre- cise, a theme echoed throughout her thin body encased in a vintage Chanel-like suit. And the  look  needed little maintenance. She made a small adjustment to her pageboy wig with scarcely a thought for the once rare, now not all that uncommon allergy that led to hair loss. Otherwise, she was amazingly intact for thirty-five, espe- cially for those working in non-corporate environments in the late 2250’s.

The elevator banged to a sharp halt a foot below the floor line. So much for the twentieth century, she thought, climbing down onto a powdery gray carpet. No longevity to synthetics, she tsk-ed. Madge pressed “Empire Room,” hoping the elevator could find it. Madge checked her purse for her elevator kit, the pocket acetylene torch and nylon cord for impromptu hikes between floors. She also found her contract with the Sheraton, which spelled out their obligation to supply security, digital display listing the meeting, easel signs, projector and screen for power point, pitchers of drinkable water. They also were to receive a box of physical press kits for corporate honchos and Human Resources.
Behind the softly thudding door of The Empire Room, Madge saw folding tables, her box of kits, a few empty pitchers. Well the security and signs were a bust and once again, she’s have to hunt for AV equipment. With the collapse of digital media in the late 2030’s, revival pro- jectors and screens were at a premium. The sudden series of sun flares that collapsed the grid were called the hand of God by vigilantes, who destroyed skeletons of systems that remained.

Technology became invisible, private and rudimentary in an unconnected world. With scarce access to materials and suppliers, cities had emergency systems for every day and husbanded energy within guarded compounds. She had paid the Sheraton to insure the risk.
Madge wheezed, spotting dust-laden drapes and, poking out behind them, a projection panel. Her throat tightened. An inhaler was in her purse.

Quick puffs took her over dubious rugs to the ladies room. She sat on the floor, sprayed into her mouth and breathed. Eyes closed, she willed the relaxation mecha- nism to take over her body. Once again she reviewed her pitch. Imagine Paradise Gardens. If you can’t leave the City, go underground! Discover a business situation where you’re completely the boss, on your own estate. No outside interfer- ence at all!
Her throat was open, she was breathing easier now, the pitch ran smoothly through her brain.
An initial investment and monthly fee are a small outlay for a uniquely stable environment. What you leave behind:

Madge paused to spray more medicine. Now came the visuals. New York City at rush hour. Close-up on boarded- up subway toll booths and sealed Metro-card swipers. A long line of employees give a transit policeman corporate tokens. He deposits them in a locked box guarded by another transit employee. Tension, as each passenger is allowed through the gate. Another close shot of the policeman’s rifle. Close to the barrel, a ragged derelict raves about putting “Public” back into transportation. The policeman looks at him indul- gently, relaxing a microsecond. The derelict blows up the sta- tion and takes the box. Close on the derelict’s arm sans rags. Revealed are undisguised tattoos, ritual scars distinguishing a gang-man.
Then recognizable images with impact, Madge thought. People blanked–out, transit blow–ups, a gang takeover of the subway, a carpool abduction. Though cor- porate Human resources departments encouraged  the use of helmets, a means of processing such trauma, the effect was not complete. Subliminally, many people knew what was going on. And the higher echelons, the corpo- rate planners and strategists Nate Greenfield had invited, probably didn’t use the device. The reminder would be powerful.

Madge got up from the floor. She felt well and confident about her pitch for PARADISE GARDENS. As long as the equipment works, her last affirmation, before exiting the bathroom to return to the lobby and meet Nate. She found lobby lights and behind the reception desk some old cardboard. From her purse, she took a cherished old-stock felt-tip and lettered “Empire Room,” when she realized someone was behind her, Nate creepily smiling away. His sense of humor, she thought with irri- tation. Someday, maybe never, she would tell him he smiled like an ecstasy cultist.
“New York’s an open sewer,” he greeted her.
“See Paradise Gardens,” she responded, “Eden under- ground, an environmental throwback to a time that never was.”
“Funny,” said Nate. “Anyone would be convinced.
There seems to be a personnel issue?”
“And missing equipment, I want to take a look around.” Madge threw the manual lock behind the reception desk and waited. No siren or flashing lights. She might have been a nihilist for all they cared. Nate was smiling but with a shade of concern.
“Security is good here despite what you might think,” he said.
“Is that a fact?”
“I would not have signed otherwise. I gave workshops here.”
Madge taped the sign to the front of the reception desk.
“They are still rated the best in New York,” said Nate.
“There are clever honchos who moved their headquar- ters to Montana thinking the air was still pure.”
“The desire to live. We resuscitated it in Empowerment seminars. Pivotal work, you must know The Enlighten- ment Group?”
Madge handed him her marker and cardboard. “We need another sign,” she said, instead of her belief that empowerment was an insidious  ideology;  It  appealed to retro New-Age techies. Madge had never been crazy about retro anything. Then she saw the light.
Beyond the front desk was a small fluorescent-lit cor- ridor. An inner office, behind a Plexiglas divider, held a beige-looking woman staring at an ancient P.C. Madge knocked on the divider. The woman’s eyes stayed on the screen. Her hands reached for what Madge hoped was not a weapon, perhaps a security button?
“No signs in the lobby,” Madge said.
“Maintenance is not here on weekends. I’m back office not hospitality,” the woman stated indifferently.
“We contracted for items for our conference in the Empire Room, 10 AM?”
“Our clients bring their own staff,” said the woman. “Isn’t that what you are?”
“You have fifteen minutes to supply the items speci- fied or I invoke the stop-payment clause.” Madge held up a corporate payment card threateningly.
The woman laid a revolver on her computer table. Bored, she recited, “The second half payment is due before the client leaves. You can guess the enforcement capability of our security staff?”
“Do you have any?” Madge challenged. 
“I’ll get your contract,” said the woman.
“Paradise Gardens,” said Madge, taking it out of her purse. The woman flickered vague recognition.
“I will publicize your non-delivery of services to all existing media outlets. The Sheraton could close. No cor- porate protection, you’re on the street.”
With clear resentment, the woman accessed the con- tract. She revolved to face Madge. “We got one man and he’s at lunch. I can get you cardboard…”
“I found that,” said Madge with real menace. “Where’s our digital display?”
“People risk coming here, you think they won’t find the Empire Room?”
Madge turned her back in answer. A monitor would record a shot. Would the woman risk it? The voice that called was conciliatory. “When the electronic display broke, it was too hard to get fixed. We have movable type for the lobby sign but not all the letters. If you keep it simple…”
“Someone will meet me at the front desk now?” “I’ll page maintenance. He’ll come when he can.” Madge walked. “I’ll pay when he does.”
The woman regretfully chimed, “Don’t know why they promise you things.”
“Idiocy,” Madge said to Nate waiting at reception. “You do better  encouraging the best than threatening the worst.”
“Spare me the platitude?”
“Motivating people is about sensitivity. My work shows you can change lives by changing thoughts.”
“I am among the unenlightened,” said Madge.
“I was a graduate student in psychology when I first took empowerment training. I gained enough confidence to change course and become an urban planner. I lis- tened and heard an inner voice. For me, helping people meant planning better places for them to work. I believe there’s a social destiny embodied in every building. Office buildings should respond to more than a corporation’s image or physical needs.”
If the trouble was all within, why are things so bad on the outside, Madge thought but only nodded; glad when a purposeful man approached the reception desk. “Are you looking for Paradise Gardens?” she inquired brightly.
“Exactly,” said the man.
“I’m Madge Chilton, this is Nate…”
“Michael!” Nate interjected. “You are the first to arrive. Michael Thorpe is a solo entrepreneur.”
“Lone wolf in this group,” said Michael.
“Many of us started that way. Madge is my PR person and a complete joy to work with.” “Can she say that about you?” asked Michael, with a wink to Madge. “Nate does pontificate. I can’t believe I’m voluntarily subjecting myself, except he’s got a track record for being prescient.”
Charming, Madge observed and handsome but I’ve never heard of the guy. She must have written pieces on or for every major player and organization, even connected entrepreneurs. This guy was below the radar.
“We’ll go up,” said Nate, ushering Michael toward the elevators. “Madge has to see a man about a sign.”
Madge watched them enter the elevator, wondering about the strange connection, as a largely built well- suited executive with a flushed face was upon her. “Para- dise Gardens, do you know where it is?”
“Empire Room, Nate’s there.”
He extended his hand. “Jack Hagley, EMI Corpora tion.”
“Madge,” she said, briefly taking it. “Side elevator.”
She pointed her finger in the right direction thinking, EMI, a significant player. Hagley has a tailor on salary somewhere. Perhaps Nate had met him while pushing Empowerment? The program was big bucks in the inspi- ration business during the first downsizings in the 20th century. An HR darling, Counseling was more cost- effective than retraining employees or retooling factories. When the individual felt entirely responsible for his fate, a dead-end life was obviously a failure of motivation. No longer did employees blame their companies or the gov- ernment. They blamed themselves. And, if they blamed their stars, astrological counselors abounded. The begin- ning of our end of the end, she thought. So many cor- porations went under, dinosaurs sinking into the swamp. Nate’s invitees were the survivors.
A man in shabby Sheraton shirt and overalls appeared with a tray of type.“We used to have a display…” he began apologetically.
“The type fits the directory?”
“Sure but it’s time-consuming to make words.”
“A very hands-on proposition,” Madge agreed, soon realizing he was unable to spell with the available letters. She arranged the type on his trays, thinking of Scrabble. On this job she was certainly earning her fee.
At last, she was on her way back to the Empire Room with a group of executives, lightly pitching Paradise Gar- dens. The men needed little convincing. They knew the world would not be a better place to live, at least in their lifetimes. Even she was becoming convinced, wondering if Nate could get her a job. Then she got hold of herself. As long as I can pay my co-op’s security fee.
Outside the Empire Room, Nate signed in the new guests. “What about the power point?” Madge whispered. “Functional,” Nate grimaced. “Wait five minutes for stragglers.”
Madge compared the sign-in sheets to her RSVP list. Here were familiar names of CEOs. All men, in fact, all white men with the exception of two Asians and one Hispanic. Where were the women who once assumed themselves equivalent to such men? Self-employed, if fortunate enough to be connected to a corporate entity; how else could a single mom raise kids and still eat?
Late 21st century was the last time moms, who were welfare recipients, stayed home with their kids. before sterility became the means to a government check. Now there were no checks; not even heating fuel for those Unconnected to any corporate entity. Some were des- perate enough to burn their homes around them. Nate better have ordered my limo, Madge thought with a jolt of paranoia. She didn’t feel like picking her way through the Midtown bonfires. Her co-op was a safe haven but she had to get there. Not yet.

Softly, Madge let herself into the darkened Empire Room. On the wall panel was an overhead view of a sub- urban shopping center. It zoomed down inside to a sur- gery center and its crowded emergency room. People tightly held paper slips. An anxious woman clung to hers. Repeatedly, she asked what number had been called, as she comforted a sick child. Suddenly, that image cut to   a miraculously pristine Fifth Avenue; completely empty.
“Where are the people?” asked a resonant voice  Madge recognized as Michael Thorpe’s. “On the business estates of Paradise Gardens,” Nate answered. “At lunch hour you’ll see inspired employees walking this avenue.” Behind him was an artist’s rendering of immaculately attractive people cheerfully strolling on Fifth Avenue.
Sequence three was a simulation of Central Park underground. “The way our founding fathers intended it,” Nate intoned, “a luscious panorama of hedges, trees and lawns. The air is so clear you can make out shapes   of individual trees.” Close-up was a pond transparent to the bottom with sparkling clean water. “Our architects have created a dream come true. Paradise lost is regained, but commitment is crucial. Major construction will be complete in ten years. You may think we’re rushing but the surface will not be able to support life even in our reduced state.”
Nate turned on the lights and motioned Madge to the lectern. “Employees prefer one fixed payroll deduction for housing over the rollercoaster speculation of market and interest rates,” she began pragmatically. “Ownership of an equivalent unit in Paradise Gardens is a desirable swap. Paradise Gardens is a living situation you control but you must make commitment a priority.”
Am I communicating, she wondered, staring into expressionless faces. Only Thorpe  looked  something and that was hostility. She expected also skepticism, which came from a young Asian man. Perhaps Indone- sian or Japanese, she guessed. “Isn’t an underground city extreme? Aren’t you exaggerating the demise of the surface?” he asked. She had a scripted answer but Thorpe didn’t wait.
“Everyone acknowledges that life on the surface is doomed but how can cities underground coexist with the earth’s magnetic core? We’re talking about an iron core with magnetic fields that reverse. How do you make that habitable?” Then, addressing the Asian man, “Do we need to discuss the obvious; unbreathable air, undrink- able water, lethal untreatable viruses and flus?”
“Your government hasn’t the will and mine can’t act alone,” said the man.
“We have no control over city governments and the Old Fed, whether the government’s garrisoned them- selves or not,” said Nate from his seat, eliciting some laughs.
“Abdicated their authority,” said the man. “Why should my company have to pay off your local drug war- lords?”
“A living situation you control is not an idle slogan,” said Madge soothingly. “We’re talking about business as government. That’s what you purchase. And Michael, our engineers have more than a vision. You can see the prospectus.”
Now the man looked enthusiastic. “My country is working on a bubble over our islands. Isn’t this similar?” 

“The United Business Estates is a Federation of Cor- porate Businesses. Our  motto is,  ‘If  you  can’t  leave the city behind, go underground.’ Each business is its own country. But we govern together.”
Hagley stood up. “Nate, we expect more than a guar- antee we can do business underground? We want to know why your plan is the best option for our organiza- tions and our markets.” Hagley sat awash in clapping, as the anxious men proclaimed him their spokesman.
Nate exchanged places with Madge at the podium. “You’ve protected your own property and employees. You’ve even accepted gang members into your security forces. But you are still hostage to  the  surface. What are your markets but employees and allied companies? Resources are precious and hard to transport. You can call this a cyclical problem, say that renewal is coming. But the truth is you’ll eventually be polluted from within or overrun.”
This was Nate’s story to sell, Madge reminded herself. He was at the podium. Her job was to pitch facts. She was doing everything within her persuasive power but success was not her responsibility. . Keep your profes- sional distance. All hail competency and collecting my fee, Madge thought, though she was willing these men to share Nate’s profound gamble.
Truth was, Madge couldn’t do a job without emotional involvement. She had to find an emotional con- nection or her pitch wasn’t convincing. Often the process left her emotionally vulnerable. An artistic approach, one you couldn’t buy just anywhere. She would reward Nate’s confidence, if it killed her.
Thorpe was on his feet. “How are you going to build this underground without collapsing the surface? If you do, considering its toxicity, we’ll be in worse shape than before. What about a blistering mass of fast-turning iron for our new sun? How will we live among intense mag- netic fields?”
Nate was the senior authority humoring the young challenger. “We’re going as close to the core as possible and our reinforcements will hold and act as a barrier. There’s risk but consider the plans and personnel. Our team includes the experts responsible for the cities inside the Alps. We have plans built by the Swiss military.”
“Shangri-La, Eldorado! Is Paradise Gardens our last escape fantasy? We’ve pursued myth to the ends of the Earth and now you want to go underground. I had hoped for a reality-based solution,” said Thorpe with palpable disappointment.
“The solution is drastic but so is our situation. We are not a responsible species. Can anyone think otherwise?”
A motion from Nate and Madge turned off  the lights. The wall panel displayed a dramatic montage; fires raged on city corners, gangs occupied abandoned office buildings, turf wars between anarchist/nihilist/ fascist gangs and the nonideological tribes dedicated to drugs of ecstatic, hallucinogenic and narcotic properties. Sequences finished with familiar sights;: trashcans burn- ings, swastikas and anarchist graffiti, beggars crowding sidewalks, skylines in flames.
“Cities vary, though locales are frighteningly the same,” said Nate. “To build Paradise Gardens we need more than your money, your private security forces and their willing support. We must also enlist the Uncon- nected who would sabotage us. S.O.R., Save Our Race, is the name of a media campaign that will garner support for Paradise Gardens. It’s in the hands of my competent colleague, Madge Chilton.”
Madge saw Thorpe at the door. She could not have a walk-out before her pitch. “Michael, won’t you hear me out?” she asked.
Politely he paused, hand on the door. “Frankly, I don’t have the financial resources for this investment or faith it’s the way to go. I can’t imagine why I received an invitation.”
“You’re in uranium and precious metals,” said Nate, “a successful entrepreneur.”
“Because of my relationships with the surface,” said Thorpe.
Nate’s tone was respectful. “Your company stockpiles rare but essential commodities. You acquire them from impoverished nations and sell to the highest bidding corporation. Increasingly, it must be difficult for you to travel to buy goods and actually receive shipments. Soon your buyers will be underground. If you join Paradise Gardens, we can ensure the survival of your business. Your customer base will not deteriorate and you’ll have protection for your excursions. Eventually, you may even extract resources from the core itself and perhaps sell to the surface.”
Michael was unconvinced. “Ten years to begin our future, said Nate in great earnest. Only Paradise Gardens is offering one.” Michael sat in a chair close to the door. Nate nodded and Madge began.
“We  preserve the human races by segregating them by race. Enforcing sexual abstinence within each group allows us to create a new Eden. You may ask what about people of mixed race? Are we racist? Think again. The retroviruses are the tip of the iceberg of diseases out there. Most we cannot identify. All we know is that they are environmentally derived. Some are airborne, others passed through sexual contact. They manifest differently in each race, though no studies have determined long range effects in each gene pool. Without such studies, our new society is doomed. The underground will be seg- regated so the next generation can be disease-free.”
“If I understand you,” said Thorpe, “racism and fear are the basis for your underground?”
“Fear is fact. We offer hope. No place or person is  safe now. Like Noah’s Ark, we preserve the best of the Earth’s races. The beneficiaries will be the first generation to come of age in Paradise Gardens.”
“You are also discriminating in your choice of employees. Does God direct your choice?’” Thorpe added sarcastically.

“Anyone can be tested for lethal disease. If they are clean, they can join the underground, If not accepted, some of their genetic code can be donated. We are offering immortality and employment. S.O.R. is a rallying cry for public acceptance of Paradise Gardens. The departing corporations offer protection to all participants.
Jack Hagley stood up. “My employees constantly request transfers to safer places, but there’s nowhere left to go.”
“Exactly,” Nate quickly followed. “The fed govern- ment is suffering rigor mortis. Local authorities can’t hold communities together. They are barely collecting taxes.”
“We’ll know they’re dead when that stops!” Jack hoarsely chimed-in.
“My colleagues talk of building underground,” said the Asian man.
“My future will ensure not just your existence but the future health of your enterprise.”
“We are the ark in the storm,” finished Madge. “In your press kits is a guide to commitment based on the size of your organization. We have included a range because diversity is our object.”
While the audience looked at materials, Madge looked for Nate. He had pulled aside the heavy drapes and was absently gazing out the window. They had appealed to the representatives of the last corporations. Nate needed their support: money, private security, loyalty; yet each rep was concerned with the fate of their own organiza- tion. He had given them no hope of survival in the same form, Madge worried. Every organization must become an estate on Paradise Gardens.
He caught her glance and signaled they should once more exchange places. As she passed, he smiled and whispered, “Thanks for saving Thorpe. I like the man…”
“Becoming a business estate is like becoming a sov- ereign country,” Nate began. “The governing center; the soul of our linked nations, are my psychologicians. More about them later. First the preservation of your invalu- able organizations.
Trust was the stumbling block, thought Madge. With the public contempt of psychology, couldn’t he have found a better name?
“We stress the autonomy of your organizations,” Nate reassured his audience. “The borders of each estate will approximate your size and projected growth. You reveal to us your goals and resources, products and services you have in development. Our common database determines the workforce necessary to produce your goods and con- sume them. Growth with consistent gains over time is the result.”
“Let me get this straight,” Thorpe interrupted, “You will be producing people as a facet of corporate planning?”
“We will be safeguarding the marketplace.”
“Why do you want my company, when you can make me superfluous? Especially, when you can produce people to satisfy corporate needs?”
“You’re a risktaker and somewhat unpredictable. Since the beginning of time, human beings have desired to minimize danger and maximize their physical well- being. We can plan to eliminate danger, but we need your genes to keep us vital. History will be sprung on us but we must also plan.”
Thorpe got up from his seat with resolve. “Any plan that includes the manufacture of people is not for me.”
“Take your materials,” said Madge. “You might change your mind. Consider overcrowding in a world without S.O.R., a movement and a name for diseases we must contain”
“Nate, I can’t in good conscience oblige. Planned diversity isn’t my idea of nature.”
“Can you in good conscience leave? How far will nos- talgia take you? People have been privately cloned for a long time.”
“Another reason life expectancy diminishes. It’s not just disease,” Michael Thorpe shot back. Softly, the door thudded behind him. Though cushioned by the powdery carpet, it resounded in the silent room. Nate surveyed faces, waiting for other dissenters.
“May I show you what enables us to proceed with Paradise Garden?” Madge was already killing the lights, activating the wall panel.“It may look like a vintage filing cabinet on wheels, but it’s a supercomputer capable of retaining the genetic infor- mation of the human race and the requirements of your cor- poration. Not just projections of how many individuals will be needed for your work, but the qualities of those individ- uals and the number of people essential to consume your products.”
“That means,” said Hagley, “that we will not have to respond to unexpected change?”
“Yes. And profit will be predictable. Ultimately, the economic process will become self-sustaining and you will be free to use your organizations for higher pursuits.”
“Where do the psychos come in?” asked Hagley. “Psychologicians,” said Madge clearly. “A computer cannot save civilization,” said Nate, “but it gives us hope of survival. It will contain the best of our thought and a means to continuance. It’s monitored by specialists we call Psychologicians.”

“Do you have another agenda?” asked a thin blonde man. “Businesses want prosperity forever. You’re offering it and then saying there’s something beyond that, a new faith in a database? We ask that you leave our religion alone or count the Mormons out.”
Hagley laughed. There was nervousness in it. The other CEOs hung on his words. “Faith in decline? Nat- ural process? You can go outside and see nature in its death throes.
“Jack,” said Nate in a comforting voice, “history repeats itself but never in the same form. Our society will be based on economic stability, but it will be enlight- ened. Excellence achieved through perseverance; levels of quality to strive for, and rewards at each level. Materi- alism will not be the only arena for excellence.”
Dancing around it, Madge thought. We have them right where we can sell it.
“The Psychologicians are a special class of advisors to the United Business Estates. They’ll combine the thinking of our best philosophers, priests and ministers, psycholo- gists, psychiatrists, ethicists, social workers, and econo- mists. From the mix of these very different disciplines will come an overview of penetrating depth and wisdom. These special advisors will work with you to determine the practical direction of our world.”
Hagley’s face resembled Thorpe’s before he walked out. “Are you the first of these great leaders? The pro- gram I can buy. The rest I don’t understand.”
Stick to the text, Nate, Madge silently willed. Nate paused and looked out to see the eyes following his words. They were slow and clear. “We’re not an apoc- alyptic cult. The Psychologicians oversee the database. They’re a specially trained class of people who  clarify the objectives of the UBE. As the needs and  desires of the estates change, they alter existing programs. A world with minimum of conflict cannot be achieved without a governing ideology.”
“What about the separation of Church and State?” asked the Hispanic man standing. “Are you just going to write that off?”
The blonde man also stood. “In our Church, we rec- ognize faith as a positive force in business.”
“Nate, you’re asking us to take a lot on your word,” said Hagerty with an edge.
“Our database can preserve the best of us: our sci- ence and art, our philosophy and history, the basis of the world’s religious and secular enlightenments. Our new world will be based on the old, that’s all I guarantee.”
How thin is the line between megalomania and ide- alism, wondered Madge, especially when dealing with a visionary and his utopian experiment? Yet she believed in Nate though he was probably influenced by the Empow- erment Group. He aroused that kind of trust, even in the powerful men in the Empire Room. Unconsciously they had formed a standing semi-circle.
It was a crucial moment. Nate, know when it’s time to back off, she willed silently. 
“I want to know how you plan to subdue the surface,” interrupted the Asian man. “I don’t intend to sacrifice my whole defense force.”
“Unfortunately,” said Nate, “that’s a risk we’ll all bear, until the S.O.R. campaign gains us public support. Our defense teams will cooperate so no one organization is overburdened.”
“I’m not interested,” said the Mormon. “We are against the religious homogeneity you describe. It would dilute our moral base.”
“Our database will preserve the common ethical basis of all beliefs, your Prophet, Christ, Buddha and Mohammad. We will preserve the ethics, patriarchs, practices, and belief systems of all major religions.”
The Mormon was unconvinced. “I want a ban on psychology ,workshops in diversity training, self-knowledge through therapy, and other such programs. Besides being ineffective, I believe they’ve contributed to our current disintegration.”
“Enlightenment through service is a creed we can all adhere to,” answered Nate. “Excellence and high perfor- mance will be character traits of all Superior employees. Think about employees with the best traits of  your  most valued people. Please consider that each estate can choose not just the kind of worker desired, but religion and political ideology. Only agreement has to be tolerance for the governing body of Psychologicians.”
“I’m not getting your values,” the Mormon began angrily.
“Love, children, knowledge, respect for authority; a life of enlightened action with the best values of tradi- tion.”
“And this miracle will be accomplished by your database?”
“In the U.B.E, we marry secular materialism with the emotionally galvanizing effect of religion.”
“There are many kinds of pollutants,” said the Mormon, leaving the Empire Room.
“You are currently fighting to keep your companies alive, let alone your product lines,” said Nate, surveying the room. “Customers die, potential ones are not born, and so ends the means of consumption.”
“We know the problem!” said Hagerty, irritated. “I’m not breathing the air or walking the streets. Count me in.”
“Good,” said Nate. “I ask all of you to think carefully. Can you contribute to a vision beyond your immediate needs? If not, the U.B.E. will soon repeat the errors of the surface.”
“In our world,” Madge clarified, joining Nate at the lectern, “demand does not exceed need. There’s a symbi- otic relationship between the amount of goods produced and people. Each receives according to use and ability and is positioned in life at the best level to make use of them. And he can pass his advantages on to any offspring he may merit within the system.”
“Can you assure us it is the best option for the future?” asked the Asian man.
“That depends on our ability to monitor the database. Each corporation will exist on its own estate and operate within its sphere of influence. The psychologicians work with you. Our collective needs will produce the most stable, prosperous society possible.”
“Won’t superior human beings make my business obsolete?” asked another man Madge recognized as a CEO from a pharmaceutical giant.
“No,” said Nate. “Our Superior employees, like our Averages, will recognize a higher order, but they’ll still be human. They’ll purchase cosmetics.”
“What about hair restorer? Will any be bald?” asked the same man, to a laughter Madge found very welcome.
“Without a doubt pattern baldness will make it through some gene combinations,” said Nate.
“Your employees,” Madge added, “will be people of both Superior and Average abilities; workers and con- sumers of future products. Their betterment and your profits go hand-in-hand. Let us leave you with a final image.”
Nate turned out the lights and projected an archi- tect’s rendering of life on an estate. The camera panned bright sun-filled corridors with glass floors and chrome ceilings. On glass balconies, attractive employees in col- ored tunics walked back and forth with easy athleticism. “Total psychological adjustment complements perfectly formed bodies. Ideals match.”

“They’re inhuman,” objected a voice Madge thought she recognized. “Are they capable of letting loose, acting outrageous, making trouble? It’s our nature to rebel against constraints.”
“If there was such a need, they would be capable,” answered Nate.
“We’re talking about a natural process, rebellion, right? A way to differentiate the self?”
“In adolescence, yes,” said Nate, “but don’t you think we’ve suffered enough from that freedom? It’s cre- ative, but consider the part unfettered individualism has played in the demise of our surface. We fanned it for sales, but forgot the downside, the frustrated nihilism that’s brought down our cities.”
“Eros-thanatos, human drive for sex and death. I can’t see how you can breed that out of the genes,” said the same voice, emanating from a shadowy figure visible in the slightly open doorway. Madge turned the lights on Michael Thorpe.
“It is natural selection,” challenged Nate. “Destructive levels of the drive will be bred out, but we can’t go on without it entirely.
“He’s right,” said the Hispanic man. “What’s creativity but the instinct to destroy in order to start over? We are starting over, but this time we won’t destroy ourselves.”
“To that inspiring idea,” said Nate. “May I conclude that I look forward to seeing you all in Paradise Gardens.”