Aphelion Issue 221, Volume 21
September 2017
 
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Virtual

by T. Richard Williams


1. Prelude ONE: JANUARY 19th 2075

"Our tracks are covered." Shoaib smiled at her. She was his.

"OK, then, let's get started." Alexis tried to sound convincing.

She smiled back.

He thought it was joy.

She knew he didn't suspect.

He took her in his arms, embracing her tightly.

Alexis pulled back to look in his eyes -- dark chocolate she used to joke, once upon a time. "We've got The League on one side fighting about the risks to human subjects and the International Mission Control on the other touting how much safer it is this way..."

"And The League will win this. Thanks to us. To you."

She faked a smile.

"We need to be out there. You and me. Not some ridiculous robots."

Her head fell back onto his shoulder.

I hate this. She tightened her arms about him. This --

He thought it was love.

She knew differently.

2. Prelude TWO: JANUARY 20th 2075

"You spoke with him?" Harbison smiled at her.

"Yes."

"He's convinced."

"Absolutely." Alexis smiled, too.

He thought it was joy.

She knew differently.

He hugged her tightly. "The League will be proud of you both."

Alexis pulled back to look in his eyes -- chlorine blue set against long pitch black lashes. Sexy hot. "They better be."

"They will. We need to be out there. Not robots doing our work for us."

She fell back into his embrace.

Déjà vu, he thought. And smiled again.

He thought it was love.

To some degree, it was.

3. June 14th, 2075: 16:03 M.S.T.

Tamika adjusts her collar, waits for the CNN International theme music, and begins, her clipped British accent parceling words into neat staccato nuggets -- a voice familiar to a billion viewers across Earth and Moon:

"Welcome back." The music fades out.

A close up of the man, then the woman.

"Perhaps Alexis is looking at Shoaib right now. Simple enough. People look at people all the time. But you immediately wonder: The two of them are here, but their eyes are there." She points skyward.

She speaks over the background clatter of the Control Atrium.

"First, at this time, there's approximately 80 AU -- that's nearly 7 trillion miles -- separating Earth from the mysterious ice-crusted, rust-colored Sedna. Then there's the two minute time lag. However slight in cosmic terms, it's still a delay: Alexis initiates her look here, but Shoaib doesn't see it till one minute later. And if he looks back, she won't experience it until 60 seconds after that. Two full minutes for a cycle: One hundred twenty eternal seconds."

Wide-angle shot of the enormous room, followed by close-ups of workstations with their multiple floating screens, holographic displays, their color-coded touch screens.

"For us, standing here in the Control Atrium -- the 30 foot ceiling, the mountains north of Beijing through the glass wall, the ten silver consoles surrounding the central pair of platforms -- that's all we see."

Tamika walks towards one of the consoles, turns to face the Vid Operator, making sure the mountains are still in the background.

"Minute after minute of crescendos and diminuendos of communication. For them a smooth, melting series of events, for us a Zen meditation in perpetual, silent stop-action; we never actually hear them speak. We only see a woman and a man facing each other -- Alexis Chowdary, award winning physicist, and Shoaib Akhtar, great-grandson of the famous cricketer -- on two platforms about six feet apart in a minimalist ballet of movements and nearly inaudible bursts of static." She stops, smiles.

Fluorescently white teeth.

Her V.O. calls out -- "Cut" -- puts down his hand-held and Tamika relaxes.

The teeth disappear.

"That was great." Her director comes over. "You'll win an award for this, trust me."

She laughs at his bullshit.

4. 16:05 M.S.T.

"Push me, for Christ's sake."

"I can't, Shobby." She has to fake her concern a little longer.

"Alexis, if you don't push me, I'll. . ."

"You'll what?"

"Tell Harbison the whole story." He laughs: "Just kidding."

"You son of a bitch," Alexis laughs back and pushes with all her might, her two robotic arms thrusting outward with superhuman strength.

At contact -- a deep metallic thud -- he immediately begins to lose his balance.

"That's my girl!" Shoaib's wheels lose their grip on the ice-glazed pebbles.

Then the best part of the act: Demonstrating how on some level she's almost sorry for what she's done, even if it's what they've agreed to -- the level of love that she still wants him to think is there.

A bittersweet thought: It once was there. But this is about something bigger than a once-was love.

So she reaches out, knowing full-well that her robotic body -- her Astrobot -- only has 24-inch metallic arms, but says fervently: "Shobby, I'm sorry."

Her grapple hand -- too late, of course, too short -- misses his torso by at least a foot as he starts his tumbling low-G slide down the rubble hill.

"Don't worry, Alexis, this is terrific."

5. 16.07 M.S.T.

Why the fuck did they come today?

Harbison's fellow scientists in the Atrium -- an international crew brought here to China for this Mission -- can hear his thoughts over their shared link.

Chan laughs. Murphy's Law.

Who?

I'll explain later. Concentrate on her for now.

Tamika asks: "Don't they get tired just standing here?" The man and the woman each have their own meter-wide platform. Intense overhead lighting makes their skin-tight body suits glaringly silver.

"No. The scaffold behind them gives a great deal of support; they're masters of endurance."

Meanwhile Vincent activates his eye link. A map of Shoaib's circuitry appears. Nothing. Shit. He switches to Alexis's schema. Nada. This is seriously fucked up. Our voice Com Link has gone non-op and I think she just pushed him.

Do what you can. Harbison remains the calm leader, secure, in-charge. Just don't let our guests see a meltdown.

This is Harbison's greatest test -- to control his feelings and thoughts on the Com level so the others don't accidentally hear or perceive anything else -- a stray word, his sense of ease, the happiness that everything is going according to plan, that beneath what the rest her on the Com he's already celebrating.

Screw her, Chan says. A billion viewers can't see a meltdown.

This is just the crap the Humanity League'll pounce on.

OK. Shut up, everyone. Let Ted focus. Harbison pretends to pore over some data.

Tamika can't hear them but senses something's going on.

A meaningful glance to her director and V.O.

An imperceptible lift of the brow from the director.

She says: "So they think out their actions here and their robots duplicate them, respond to them?"

"In so many words, yes." He joins Tamika. "If, for example, our Alexis says something to Shoaib, his Astrobot on Sedna responds, freely communicating back to her."

"But it must be frustrating not to hear their voices as they speak to one another. You, of course, get readouts; you know what they've done, but always after the fact. All action is generated by the two humans here and their Astrobots there. You're just monitoring."

"That was the unanimous decision of the International Team. We wanted this to be real exploration, without any actual risks to the explorers themselves. A win-win situation if there ever was one."

"Very bold."

"Indeed. An experiment on the grandest scale since the Vikings set out in their boats to discover what lay beyond the horizon."

No more, Harbison says.

I don't want to leave her hanging completely.

Tamika looks at Shoaib's body suit: A marvel of silver mesh covered with arteries of wires, feeding tubes, body waste cathodes -- like exposed veins: blues, golds, reds, greens, lurid purples -- and small squares that monitor muscle movement, heart rate, synaptic responses.

She starts to reach out to touch it but Ted quickly thrusts out his arm.

"No," he snaps, but rethinks his tone.

Easy, Teddy, Harbison coaches him.

"You can't disturb them," he says in a gentler tone. "They're linked to their doubles. Disruption could have severe repercussions."

"Such as?"

"You'd literally cause them to have awareness in two places at once. Very disorienting." He wags his finger in a light-hearted way: "No can do."

Good, keep it light. But it's really time to get her out.

Walker throws a quick glance to Harbison who gives a slice across his throat.

She sees the gesture peripherally. If she can only stall a bit, maybe she'll find out what's really going on. Why do they all look so nervous? She steps back. "Before we wrap this session, could you give a quick statement about the mission. Something we can soundbite at 23:00?"

OK, you can't avoid this. Harbison steps back from his panel. Do it, but make it quick.

She's definitely done something to him. Vincent is panicking. His sensor readings are through the roof.

Hers, too, Chan confirms.

"Sure." He stands between Alexis and Shoaib.

Tamika cues the V.O.

"Ten years ago, Dr. Raymond Novarra proposed a fascinating way to accomplish human exploration of deep space without any of the grave risks. What you see here -- the Sedna One Mission -- is the fruit of his proposal. In essence, using breakthroughs in hyperdrive propulsion, robotic explorers can be sent to distant locations in relatively short periods of time -- a matter of years rather than decades or centuries. Those Astrobots are linked to human hosts here on earth. The hosts, Alexis and Shoaib," he points to the glowing figures on their pedestals, "can command their robotic doubles, the Bots on Sedna, where to go, what to do. In turn, their specially designed suits allow them to experience and see what their Astrobots are seeing and experiencing on Sedna. Using aspects of the same technology that got the robots to Sedna, the communication between Earth and Sedna, which is now at its closest approach to the Sun and Earth, takes only a matter of a minute; for example, the images the Astrobots see on Sedna are folded through space and time and are experienced by the human Alexis and Shoaib approximately sixty seconds later. And what seems like stopping and starting to us here in the Control Room is experienced as a smooth flow of events to them -- as natural as what you and I are experiencing now."

Tamika raises her hand, and the V.O. pauses his unit. "That was good."

She moves closer and asks quietly. "Then do you have any idea why The League is trying to shut this down?"

He hears Harbison deep in his head: Fuck.

"I don't know."

"Or why I'm not hearing them? Isn't there Voice Com as well?"

Thinking quickly: Yes, but it's only linked to Mission Control directors."

"So you can hear them?"

"Yes, but I've temporarily disabled my link so I can focus on our interview."

"How kind."

He's beginning to panic: She's too close.

Vincent's anxious voice surges through everyone's Com: Guys, I'm trying to cut off the alarm bells as fast as I can, but I don't know how much longer I can. Either the Astrobots are in serious crisis or another thing's gone wrong with the Link because what I'm seeing just can't be happening.

6. Prelude Three: JANUARY 10th, 2075

"Then it's settled." Xavier pronounced.

The five gathered at the table nodded.

"Yes." Alexis -- known as Orchid -- spoke calmly. Assured. Resolute.

She was the only woman. Highly placed, deeply covered.

They all had code names. No risk to The League if something screwed up.

Salim spoke to her: "You're now fully placed?"

"Yes," she said. "Akhtar is on board. Harbison, too."

Soon they'd know she was Alexis.

They'd find out what she was planning far too late.

7. 16.09 M.S.T.

Sedna's gravity, one third of Earth's, was still enough to do the damage. Shoaib's Astrobot -- a cylinder with domed head replete with an array of recording sensors and treaded wheels for feet -- fell over completely and began to roll helplessly down into the ravine, small parts flying off into the void.

Immediately she made her way down, cautiously, trying to avoid the fate she'd just consigned to her husband.

The small pins of starlight in the ink sky barely illumed the scene. She switched on her power beam.

Shoaib's torso was in tact, but his treads had been ripped off his foot wheels and his helmet array had taken serious damage -- the visor was cracked and two of the peripheral eyes dangled to the ground on frayed ocular wires.

"Jesus." The voice was barely audible but fairly steady. "You're good."

She thought she heard him laugh.

"We did it. You and I really, truly did it." He was practically giggling.

8. 16.11 M.S.T.

Tamika thought she saw both of them move -- Alexis trembling in place, her right arm lifted in front of her.

On his platform, Shoaib wavers in place, as though he might fall, though the metallic scaffold running along his spine would prevent that.

Then they both freeze in position.

"What's happening?" If she were any coyer, she'd laugh at herself.

9. 16.13 M.S.T.

Alexis extends her arms and does an assessment. "Main systems are still operational. Your wheels, visor, and three of your five eye sensors are terminal."

He rolls a bit and two metallic arms extend outward about 20 inches from his torso and then retract. "They work." But then cuts to the point: "I may be a trillion Euro pile of junk, but you're still active ready. Which is why. . ." His voice trails off.

"Yes. Which is why I have to disable myself."

He thinks he hears hesitation. "You have to do this, you know that."

10. 16:15 M.S.T.

They all see the panel numbers jump again.

Don't let her dig too deep, Harbison says.

I'm trying. "Perhaps the Astrobot Shoaib lost his footing for a moment and Alexis is helping him regain equilibrium."

Are you an idiot, Ted? Vincent yells: You're basically telling her what's happened.

"Can't you disconnect them without causing Alexis and Shoaib harm? Find out what's happening? Correct any problems?"

"Not really." Ted ignores the voices of his colleagues. "Once the Link is broken, it can't be restored. We'd be fating the Bots to extinction."

11. 16:17 M.S.T.

Alexis looks at the sky.

So many stars, yet so cold, dark.

One of them is the Sun.

One of them is Earth.

Trillions of miles away.

A wash of relief decants like sweet wine.

"I'm afraid. And suddenly very cold."

Is this convincing? That's the real fear, isn't it?

12. 16:19 M.S.T.

It's time to act, Alexis says to her Bot.

Tamika speaks to her Vid Operator very quietly, "Did you get that? That sudden twist of her head?"

"Got it."

"Good. Something's going on and they're trying to hide it from us."

13. 16:21 M.S.T.

Patience. The Astrobot moves another inch towards Shoaib.

She says to him: "Yes, Very cold."

"An autonomic response wired into our circuitry. Makes us more like our human counterparts. Fear and cold go together."

"What should I do?" More hesitation.

"You should disable yourself or," he suggests, "I can do it for you." It's a genuine offer.

"You?"

He extends one of his arms up towards her. "Yes."

She sees the pincers bloom from their metallic sheaths, what might have passed for fingers on a human.

14. 16:23 M.S.T.

Ted, do something. Now. Their numbers have spiked.

How high?

Two hundred thirteen.

Shit.

No kidding.

OK, here I go. Let's hope she buys this... "Excuse me, Ms. Wakembo." He taps his left ear -- as if that means something -- and walks over towards Tamika and her two cohorts -- "I'm getting a communication from Central Control" -- and unfurls his serious scientist expression.

"Anything the matter?" She looks up and sees Harbison once again becoming very involved in readings at his console.

15. 16:25 M.S.T.

"You'd do that?"

"Yes," Shoaib says, "but only if you found it too hard to disable yourself."

She rolls back a few inches.

"What?"

"This is too easy for you, isn't it, Shobby?"

"What do you mean? Where's this coming from? We agreed to this long before the Mission began."

She rotates her head to take in the landscape.

If she could, she'd smile.

How vast it is. A debris-strewn plain to one horizon; loping hills, gorges, ravines to the other. An eternal sky above, a tumbling array of Kuiper objects and an arm of the galaxy glaring intently. The sun, a barely recognizable push pin of light.

We're at perihelion now -- in five thousand years, aphelion -- 975 AU's from Earth. From the League. From them.

"Alexis?" Now it's his turn to feel the autonomic response of fear and its ghost of cold coursing through.

"What, Shobby?" She speaks calmly. From men like him.

"We agreed."

"Once. Yes. Once we did."

"No, not just once. We agreed to do this period. End of discussion."

From men like him.

16. SNAP SHOT

March 2058. Mumbai. Alone in her family's home. Late night. The windows break downstairs. She jumps out of bed. She hears whispers and chatter. She hides in her closet. They come up the stairs. They're laughing. They're talking about her. About her family. About her family's power and arrogance. They start ransacking her room. One of them tears open the door. She's cowering behind clothes. They pull her out. Each of the six men take a turn -- down her throat, take that, shoved in her virgin's vagina, bitch, up her ass, screaming at her to shut up, pulling her hair. Then beating her unconscious, leaving her for dead, they leave, laughing.

Raped at sixteen because six men in the new world order knew they could.

17. 16:25 M.S.T.

"They'd like to do a quick diagnostic."

"May I watch?" Tamika is still being charming.

"I'm afraid not. Part of it involves removing portions of Alexis and Shoaib's bodysuits. There's a privacy issue."

Good save, Ted.

"I understand completely."

Harbison thinks: Score.

Tamika thinks: Bullshit.

Walker begins leading her to the Atrium doors.

"I can come back later."

"I don't know how long this'll take, but we'll let you know. Promise." Not if I can help it.

18. 16:27 M.S.T.

Then his voice sinks: "Oh no." It's an unwelcome epiphany.

"Now what?"

"What if the termination program's malfunctioned?"

"It hasn't malfunctioned. In fact, it's working exactly as I planned it."

"As you planned it?"

Through his remaining sensors, Shoaib's Bot scans the sky:

Fear.

This place.

So far, far.

19. Prelude FOUR: JANUARY 10th, 2075

"And Harbison?" Colin asked, the youngest at the table, very Oxford, very serious, very involved, very fired-up.

"He's thoroughly convinced." Alexis got up, poured herself chai from the sideboard, and walked to the window.

Tehran. Gray. An icy drizzle descending from the mountains.

"If he fucks up or loses heart, the whole plan goes down the crapper."

"Don't worry. He's there." She sat down again.

Another defining moment: She'd done it. Set the wheels in motion.

Yes, forcing the powers that be to rethink space exploration was a good thing, she thought. If humans want to create outposts in the Kuiper Belt as launch pads for even deeper exploration, then let humans do it. It's part of what makes us human. Exploring. Experiencing. That's all good.

She sipped her chai, savoring the sweetness.

But the way she'd planned it: There's the real joy. The accomplishment.

Freedom away from this -- this steel and glass room of intellectuals and revolutionaries, this world of men who still think they control Earth and Moon.

She took another taste of chai --

Winning.

The world of men and their gods.

-- set down the cup

Winning over them.

-- and smiled.

They thought it was happiness.

She knew differently.

20. 16:28 M.S.T.

Tamika walks out with her director and V.O.

The doors slide shut.

At once, Walker gives the signal, and they shut off their Coms.

"What the hell's happening to them?" Walker flies over to check hookups on Alexis; Chan does the same on Shoaib.

"They've disrupted all command links -- that's why we can't hear them. We're only getting responses."

"How do you know it's them?"

"Our systems check out. They're the ones who shut things down."

"Who? These or -- if it's possible -- the Bots on Sedna?"

"I'm not sure."

Vincent and Harbison run to Walker and Chan.

"He's injured. And her numbers are through the roof."

"So you're telling me we can't hear them, but they can hear each other?" "It seems that way. Actually, it seems like only the female has any Link to her Bot."

The others pore over their consoles. One of them says: "His numbers are fading fast."

"And these crazy synaptic readings? It's as though they're screaming at each other." Chan gently tugs a purple wire near Shoaib's heart; it's still firmly attached.

"So who's screaming at whom? That's the thing." Walker checks Alexis's support scaffold. "Is this Alexis trying to get her Bot to do something -- and it's not happening? Or is her Bot trying to get Alexis to do something?"

"Like what?"

"Who the hell knows?"

22. 16.28 M.S.T.

I know.

The Coms are off, so Harbison is free to think without being heard.

She's actually done it. She said she could and she did.

He tries to suppress his smile, to look concerned.

The League wins. We did it.

23. 16:28 M.S.T.

"Alexis, listen to me. Please."

She rolls closer again, taunting: "I don't know what to trust any more. I'm hearing commands from Earth blow through like milkweed. Do I listen to them? Do I rely on my memories of what we may or may not have decided six months ago?"

He's desperate: "Just disable yourself. That's all. Fry a couple of circuits. They'll break the Link and back on Earth, we'll be free to go."

Time to get on with it. No more melodrama.

24. 16:29 M.S.T.

"What do we do with the CNN crew?" Harbison asks them, maintaining his front.

Silence.

Walker says: "No matter what we do, we're going to have to find a believable excuse."

Chan speaks the obvious: "We have to break the Link, don't we? We've got no choice. Then we can ask them directly.

Marris, who's been examining Alexis says: "The humans seem fine; it's their counterparts that are fucked up."

Vincent's anger takes over: "But that means we can never resume the Link with the Bots on Sedna. Explain that loss to Ms. Wakembo and her devoted fans." He starts pacing around his console. "This was the biggest mistake of all -- not creating a back-up Voice Link. No look what we've got? We can see what they've done, but we can't actually hear what their saying? That's ridiculous. How could we possibly entrust an entire mission to two people -- and just stand by and watch it unfold. That's preposterous."

"No one monitored Lewis and Clark. There was no tech support for Magellan. Sometimes this is how exploration's done," Harbison says, noting a few shocked faces.

"No, what it really comes down to is money. A backup Voice Link would've added a few billion Euros to the cost. This wasn't about exploration, this was about bloody money. Cutting corners." Vincent kicks his console. It tips over.

There's no time for this. Harbison says it: "Cut the Link."

"What?" Walker stops examining Shoaib.

"Just cut the Link completely."

No one moves.

"Once they're revived, we can find out what's happening, and take it from there. Maybe this can be the leverage we need with the Union to include a complete Com system. We can work this to our advantage."

"But..." Chan interrupts.

"Just do it."

25. 16:31 M.S.T.

She looks down at him again, flat on the ground, helpless. Idiot.

And rolls away out towards the horizon, carefully negotiating the sharp stones.

"Alexis?"

Her moment of truth.

It feels good.

Another few inches forward.

The League thinks they've reshaped space travel. Good for them. They also think they know everything about me and my ridiculous marriage.

Another yard over glittering rock.

Fuck them. Fuck him.

She rolls forward in wavering lines, like someone drunk on wine or the excitement of possibility.

It's a prize for you, Harbison.

For me, so much more.

26. SNAP SHOTS

March 2058. Mumbai. No trial. Hush money. Her diplomat family more concerned about political fallout in Mumbai than her ripped colon or broken spirit.

####

October 2058. Mumbai. Her defiant conversion to Islam.

"How can you do this? They raped you? Now you become one of them?"

"No, now I become what you're not."

Her father's vicious slap across her face.

####

January 2059. Ad Dawhah. She runs away to Qatar University at 17 to study physics, math, the sciences.

"For a woman," the more conservative ones say, "she's remarkable."

Others are awed: "Allah has a purpose for her."

On that they might all agree.

####

By 2069. Picture her, the golden girl of the Moslem world. Her ascent to the top -- through intellect, equally genuine will-power and -- behind the scenes -- raw sex, beating them at their own game.

####

2073. She moves to Tehran, Iran.

Marries Shoaib Akhtar.

And encounters The League: Agenda cloaked as humanism.

27. 16:32 M.S.T.

And before Chan can give the command, the system lights shut down.

Alexis and Shoaib immediately slump back onto their scaffolds.

With no one to censor them, alarm bells and warning lights sound loudly.

Walker shouts: "What's happened?"

"They've shut the link."

"They?"

"Sedna. They cut us."

Harbison's smile is spontaneous.

No one notices.

28. 16:31 M.S.T.

She shuts it off.

"There. It's done."

She can't help it -- she laughs.

29. 16:32 M.S.T.

But his smile evaporates when one of them shouts: "Stat!"

Several men rush towards the two humans.

Another: "Code Blue!"

Medics sitting on the perimeter scramble forward.

Tamika and her crew come rushing back into the Atrium.

Walker stays in place, and says quietly to himself: "Fuck!"

Harbison feels the rage: She tricked us.

30. 16:35 M.S.T.

Two minutes pass.

Then three.

The voice inside her passes judgment: Self diagnostics: Fully operational.

She begins to roll away.

It worked. I did it.

Again he calls: "Alexis?"

She's at least ten yards away at this point.

Back on Earth, they'll be dead.

"Where are you going?"

The horizon intrigues her.

A small victory for one woman.

"But that's not the plan. You disable me -- that overloads the Link -- then you shut yourself down -- they have no choice but to terminate both Links -- we cease operation -- upheaval -- scandal -- outrage -- and The League gets its way."

"Elaborate and ludicrous, Shobby."

All those stars.

Now they'll know the taste of humiliation.

He could feel his relays fading. "What have you done?"

So bright, so inviting.

"Modified the plans a bit. I cut the Link, not Harbison, and I get to live on my own power source indefinitely -- or at least a long, long time."

She had wanted to feel regret about his death, but can't muster the feeling. She convinces herself that she's tried, yet says the words: "But not you." And again, for conviction's sake: "Not you."

Once she might have been sad, perhaps even horrified at herself.

It's hard to feel anything like that now.

Although for one moment she actually experiences this: Now you're no better than they are.

But quickly pushes it away.

His eye sensors fail, then his robotic arms.

"But what about our human hosts? Us? The real us?"

She hears the irony: "Martyrs for the cause, I'm afraid."

"How? Why did you do this?"

She just doesn't feel like talking any more, explaining herself to someone.

She shuts down her Com.

31. 16:37 M.S.T.

Now it's just her and blessed silence.

She mindwipes the last flicker of regret.

"I wonder what's over the ridge," rolling forward.

And recalls something from her College studies by one of her heroes at the time, Marilyn Ferguson: Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of fear is a freedom.

Or words to that effect.

Sedna begins its five thousand year tumble to aphelion -- 900 AUs from Sun and Earth, the light of men and the stones of betrayal.

Now, in this moment, all those untamed stars in the vastness sprawl from horizon to horizon, inviting her towards a lifetime of bliss.

The bliss of significance.

THE END


© 2009 T. Richard Williams

Bio: T. Richard Williams is the pen name for Bill Thierfelder, Professor of English at Dowling College, a liberal arts college on Long Island, New York. Mr. Williams has been writing stories and verse for over two decades. His recent work includes two volumes of poetry.How the Dinosaurs Devoured the Humans and The Letter S; a collection of science fiction and narrative fiction called Ten; and a memoir of his 115-mile bike ride across Long Island during August of 2005 called Deliberate Living. He has also published short fiction in Wild Violet, an online literary magazine. He lectures regularly on poetry and other literary topics in the Northeast and is a popular professor who teaches a wide range of topics, from world literature to science fiction. He is also the founder of The Diversity Project, an organization sponsored by Dowling College that presents regular town hall meetings on current issues of diversity, prejudice, and bias. He has been involved in various social causes for many years, including volunteer and activist work for the Momentum AIDS Project (New York City), GMHC, LIAAC, and LIGALY. He is currently a regular contributor to Outlook Long Island Magazine. He resides in Oakdale, NY and is an avid cyclist, gardener, and hiker. T. / Bill's (T-Bill? A better investment than most these days...) short story Mystic Canyon and its sequel, the novella No. 6 appeared in the June and August 2008 editions of Aphelion, respectively. His story Found appeared in the November 2008 edition.

E-mail: T. Richard Williams

Webpage: william thierfelder / t. richard williams

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