Thursday, 28 November 2013

Four Worlds of Earth

When I lived in a share-house, I used to walk everywhere and occasionally I would walk up Enoggera Road, the main drag around Red Hill. There was this sign along that road, actually on the corner of Enoggera Road & Ashgrove Avenue, beside the slip-lane, which always caught my eye.
At one time the sign had obviously said: "FORM 1 LANE", telling the cars to merge, but one of the kids from the local school had scribbled the letters 'P' and 'T' around the last word so that the sign instead read: "Form 1 PLANET".
That always stuck in my mind, because it makes absolutely no sense. It sounds pretty, but it's just hippy nonsense. This is already one planet, it's not like we live on Mars or Jupiter - Earth is a single celestial body. Not only that, but the letters were the wrong size. If you're going to the effort to graffiti a sign, do it properly, man . . .

But also, I could sort of see what this lazy poet was trying to say. It's about unity and coming together, throwing out prejudice and becoming one world. It's enough hippy-dippy saccharine nonsense to make me puke, but it raises an interesting point, which leads into the word of the day.
Something that a lot of people seem to forget, or don't seem to act upon, is the fact that Earth is not just one world . . . it's four. The Word of the Day is 'WORLD'.

World /werld/ n. 1. The earth or globe, considered as a planet. 2. (often cap.) A particular division of the earth: The Western World. 3. The earth or a part of it, with its inhabitants, affairs, etc., during a particular period: The ancient world. 4. Humankind; the human race; humanity: The world must eliminate war and poverty. 5. The public generally: The whole world knows it.

Lately, there has been some upset between Australia and Indonesia. Basically, Australian Intelligence Services were found spying on Indonesia, in particular by tapping the phones of some prominent politicians (and their wives). Indonesia responded by stopping Australia from sending a boatload of asylum seekers back home. It's a bit of a mess.
Also, quite recently, I saw an episode of Q&A - a live program where guest celebrities, mostly Australian politicians or journalists, sit on a panel and are asked pertinent questions by the public - which visited India and discussed both local topics and topics about the relationship between India and Australia.
In both of these instances, there was a lot of back and forth about how the country that wasn't Australia was (to put it mildly) not very good. All these topics about sexism, corruption, eve-teasing/rape, people-smuggling, classism, economic downfall & poverty, were brought to the forefront.

Now some of this is fair enough, especially on Q&A, the show is about bringing up these topics. My issue is, in these discussions and news stories, it seems to me as though Australia is judging these countries on Australia's terms, which is not a very open-minded view.
You see, some people believe, for instance, that Australia need not apologize to Indonesia for phone-tapping because 'Indonesia commits worse atrocities daily'. I've even heard some people say that Indians shouldn't bring up how racist Australians are towards migrants, because we're not as sexist as India.
To be clear, I think that Australia shouldn't apologize to Indonesia, because talking about Intelligence Operations within earshot of the media is considered gauche. But that's beside the point. The point is, it's very rude to judge these countries on our terms, because when we're not exactly sitting on an even playing field.
Because the fact of the matter remains that Australia is a first world country, while India & Indonesia are not. Each country develops at their own pace. Australia is a very young country, but we have the heritage of England and a partnership with America, connecting us as a member of the Western World as well as the First World. Meanwhile, Indonesia and India are Third World Countries. I would argue that India is a Second World country, but that's a matter for debate . . . oh no wait, this is my blog, so what I say goes!
India is totally Second World!

But I should explain myself a bit here . . .

See, "Third World" & "First World" as terms were introduced during the Cold War, and they relate to which side people were on. First World was America and its allies; Second World was Russia and its allies & Third World was Everyone Else.
But the Cold War is over now (at least, that's what they want you to think), so these terms have been vying for a modern context. A lot of people still view it as: Capitalism = First World; Communism = Second World & Everything Else = Third World, but that's fallen out of favour. Because as time went on, people noticed that Third World countries tended to have little to no industry, poverty & a crappy economy. At first it was a stereotype, but eventually people started to use the term "Third World country" as a synonym to describe "poor & underdeveloped country". This has gained prevalence in the modern world to the degree that the terms no longer concern themselves with politics or the Cold War, so much as cultural and economic growth as well as industry.

This is why India is considered Third World, it was once socialist, but it has been liberalising its economy for the better part of two decades now and it was a part of the "everyone else".
But I prefer the terms First, Second & Third World to refer to socio-cultural growth and economic stability (as opposed to socio-political affiliation) for three reasons:
1) Because the Cold War is over (at least, that's what they keep telling me)
2) We already have terms for these ideas. NATO/Communist Bloc/ Non-Alignment Movement for the separate three; or just pick one of the myriad of terms for Economic Systems. to describe separate countries.
3) It allows for the concept of a Fourth World.

If you accept, rather than political affiliation, that the system is:
First World - Strong Industry, Vibrant Culture & Stable Economy
Second World - Fair Industry, Stilted Culture & Poor Economy
Third World - Little Industry, Backward Culture & Failing Economy
then this leaves room for the concept of:
Fourth World - No Industry, Hunter/Gatherer Culture & No Economy

This accepts the concept of natives and aborigines; stateless, poor, tribal cultures that are not a part of the World Economy or Global Stage. Isn't it preferable to use terminology in such a way so as to be inclusive?
I think so, hence why I use it that way . . .

But I'm starting to ramble, so getting back on topic - accepting this system of classification for countries (which, of course I do, I just suggested it) Indonesia is Third World and India is Second World.
So, I believe, It is wrong to judge these people by First World standards. I'm not saying we have to look down on them - I certainly don't. Because this isn't caused due to idiocy or accident. It's a natural step in development, and these countries are still growing, it takes a lot of time for such legacy to die down. Australia's had a leg-up from the help of those already dominating the Western World, we skipped over that, but Mother England went through its darker period as well. So to judge these people by saying "you commit atrocities", etcetera is the same as demeaning someone for their inability to run, despite having a broken leg. It takes time for countries to develop and India is moving very fast, when you consider how much has happened in recent years. During that Q&A panel in India, when someone was talking about rape in India and Sexism - one of the panelists said essentially:
"This is all true, we are sexist; but we are way better than we once were."
It's true, India is developing and (as Moviebob so oft says):
  "Sunlight is a great disinfectant."
By allowing people to see the negative side of their culture, India is working on those negative aspects. While I have yet to see it from Indonesia (mostly due to my own disinterest) I'm sure Indonesia is growing too.

However, neither of them are there yet. India is better now than it once was, but it's not there yet and I think it's wrong to use that as "ammunition" on the global social or global political stage, and it certainly does not excuse our own failings.
As for Indonesia, this phone-tapping thing is the perfect example of First vs Third World. Indonesia is one of Australia's allies, but we are keeping a close eye on them because we can't tell what they're going to do. The government does not feel safe - not just for its own sake but also for Indonesia's. After the Bali Bombings, it's understandable that Australia would be worried about safety in this diverse, little archipelago.

[Does that excuse our Intelligence Agencies spying on our ally?
No . . . the fact that it's an Intelligence Agency excuses spying on our ally. This is a different issue altogether, which I might cover in a later blog post, but in simplest terms - what else do you think we keep this stuff a secret?]

In this Global Stage, where not only countries but people are interacting across their borders, it means that we need to learn to speak on fair and equitable terms. But a huge part of that is coming to understand and accept our differences. We don't have to say that India's sexist legacy or Indonesia's religious violence are good things, but we do have to recognize that, in time, these issues will be dealt with; we should offer support not vilification.
Australia may be first world, but that doesn't mean we're better people; I believe it's the best country in the world, but as a people we just have different problems that require our attention.
Perhaps if we give them the chance to grow, we wouldn't need these different words for us all; perhaps we could finally Form 1 Planet.

In conclusion, I apologize if this is a bit wishy-washy. It's Summer and the Heat is getting to me, and I'm becoming exhausted from writing, after Halloween & Duke Forever. But if nothing else, keep this in mind:
Every country is growing, from the first world through to the fourth. Just because we have a better economy or less poverty doesn't mean we're "done" growing, as a country. It just means we've got different work to do.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to form my own country - Quintaria - based in the Fifth World; With Counter-Productive Industry; Anti-Culture & a Negative Economy . . .

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Cyberspace

<< < Chapter Four > >>

Anise wandered back and forth beside the centre console, pacing nervously as the Duke leant down over the couch, inspecting the Inspector.
  "It looks to be radiation sickness," says the Duke, placing his hands on the policeman's chest. "Ultraviolet, electromagnetic . . ."
  "Can you help him?" asks Anise, concerned.
  "Of course. Radiation is a simple plaything," says the Duke, gripping into Edison's jacket with each hand, "I just hope it hasn't done too much damage . . ."
Clenching his eyes shut, the Duke starts to groan and tense his muscles.
"Come on, come on!" he barks, gritting his teeth.
  "What's going on?" asks Anise.
  "I've just got . . . to extract . . ." Suddenly the Duke jumps back. "Ah-Ha!"
The Duke holds two clenched fists towards the ceiling then, as he opened his fingers, the skin on his hands began to glow a brilliant yellow, filling the console room with magnificent sunlight. Then, after his skin had faded to black and the room dulls, he begins flicking his hands in the air and blowing on them to cool them down.
  "What the hell just happened?" asks Anise.
  "I absorbed most of the radiation from his body," says the Duke, panting slightly, "then expelled it as visible light and thermal energy."
  "Right . . ." mutters Anise, "Y'know, I keep forgettin' that you're an alien."
  "Honestly?" inquires the Duke, wiping his hands on his jacket, "even while you're standing within the Console Room of my spaceship?"
  "I guess so," says Anise with a shrug. The Duke smiles.
  "Now, he should recover momentarily. Although, due to his exposure to such heat, I must assume he's dehydrated . . ." says the Duke, heading for the elevator. The doors open automatically, so he steps inside and turns to face Anise. "Watch over him, I'll return promptly."
The doors close and Anise watches the man lying on the couch. She's was a little wary of cops, since they often ruined the fun of a night out, but she respected what they did for those in trouble and felt obliged to treat him in kind. She steps over and crouches beside him, taking the peaked cap off his head and placing a hand on his shoulder.
  "It's gonna be alright. We'll take care of you, now," she whispers.
Officer Edison rouses from his state with a slow, deep breath and starts to sit up on the couch, leaning his back against the armrest.
  "Hey, slow down. You're recoverin' from radiation, that's gotta be serious."
  "Who are you?" asks the officer, frowning and peering at her through half-closed eyes.
  "My name's Anise. I'm Duke's . . . guide."
  "Anise," says Edison, grabbing her arm, "This place is incredibly dangerous."
  "It's alright, now. Duke will take care of you."
  "The Duke? How do I know that I can trust him? How do you?"
  "Because I . . ." she stops herself and changes her answer, "because he saved the world."
The elevator door opens again, and the Duke steps out; in one hand he held a small, clear plastic bag filled with water, in the other a shiny metal goblet decorated with blue stones. The Duke wrings out the plastic sachet into the cup as he steps over.
  "You must be parched. Here," he says, passing the goblet down to Chester, who takes it and looks at the contents.
  "It's merely water," says the Duke. "Drink it all, I don't like having water within the console room, these instruments can be sensitive."
Edison glances at him suspiciously, before quickly draining the cup.
  "Thanks," says the officer, handing back the goblet.
  "Right. Now, can you tell me how you got aboard my ship?"
  "I got here after I walked into the elevator, on the Bishopsgate construction site? Don't you remember me? I talked to you."
  "Remember you? That was a very long time ago, Inspector," says the Duke. "How did you find your way here?"
  "Someone lead me here, on the radio. Some recorded voice told me to find the 'hearth', then it told me to find you."
  "The hearth?" mutters the Duke, then he turns and heads over to the console. "I think I've heard just about enough of this."
  "What is it, Duke?" asks Anise, as the Duke adjusts the controls, spinning dials and arranging vectors on a panel.
  "We're taking the Inspector back to Earth, right away."
  "Hey, now, wait a minute!" calls the Inspector from the couch, "I want a few answers myself!"
  "He's still healing, Duke," says Anise, "You want to get rid of him?"
  "I won't have stowaways on my ship . . ." growls the Duke, yanking the ignition lever.
The centre column shifts and turns with a heavy grinding noise. The entire ship quakes and wavers, rumbling and whirring as it travels. Edison held tight to the velvet couch in panic, but Anise just leaned casually against the wall, familiar with the timeship's fluctuations. With a clunk and a thud, the Duke replaced the lever and the ship came to a shuddering halt.
The Duke adjusts the controls and, with a ding, both the console room door and the exterior elevator door open, allowing a chilly gust to whistle through the place. The Duke walks back to the couch and looms over Officer Edison.
  "Now, get off my ship."
  "Who do you think you are? Giving orders to a policeman?"
The Duke grabs Edison by the lapels of his high-visibility jacket and lifts him off the couch.
  "I'm the Duke of Rathea," dictates the Duke. Dropping Edison onto his feet, he shoves him towards the door.
  "Duke, stop it!" yells Anise, "Why are you doing this? He's done nothing wrong!"
  "You don't understand," the Duke grumbles,  not turning to face her as he pushes Edison into the lift lobby, "he has to go."
The two men enter the ship's elevator lobby and Edison was about to step out into the blustering snowstorm outside when he turns back to the Duke.
  "You're sending me out into a snowstorm?"
  "If it weren't for her, I'd do much worse," the Duke mutters so that Anise couldn't hear. Edison turns again, and lifts his foot to step outside when alarm bells start to ring.
  "Oh no, not again . . ." says Edison at the echoes of the alien klaxon.
  "The Cloister alarm?" Duke says to himself, stunned. Ignoring the policeman, Duke heads back towards the console and reads the screen. The alarm wasn't terribly loud, but it was very persistent.
  "What's that sound?" asks Anise, moving to stand beside the Duke.
  "The Cloister Bell. It means 'danger', Anise. Terrible danger." The Duke moves around and looks at one of the other screens. Anise couldn't understand the twisting circles and symbols on the screen, but they made the Duke frown. "there's an extra-terrestrial technology signature, very close to our position."
  "How close?" asks Anise.
  "Seventy-three metres," says the Duke, "but there are also two terrestrial life-signs. Bipedal, probably human, in a complex less than thirty metres away."
  "Do you mean the observatory?" calls Edison, from the doorway. Anise and the Duke turn to see him pointing off into the distance.
  "If there's an observatory over there, then yes," says the Duke, curtly, before he turns back to Anise. "We'd best see to that first, to make sure they're not in danger and guarantee that we're not stepping on anyone's toes again."
  "Uh, Duke? Speaking of toes . . ." says Anise. grabbing his arm. The Duke looks down to see Anise's bare, olive-skin feet.
  "Oh . . . we can't have that. I'll get you some footwear, one moment."
Anise follows Duke into the elevator lobby, where he closes the console room door behind them and the elevator 'moves', shifting and rumbling while the outside door remained still, the alarm still blaring in the background. 'Wardrobe', says the computer once the elevator stops and it opens the doors to reveal the grand, multi-storey, walk-in wardrobe, but the Duke's eye was drawn to a sword lying on the floor.
  "You can go in and find some appropriate shoes," says the Duke, leaning down to pick up the sword, "don't take too long . . ."
With a huge grin, Anise gleefully runs inside to find shoes.
  "Sorry, that was me," says Officer Edison, quietly, pointing at the sword. "I pried the doors open with it."
  "I will deal with you once this danger has been abated," says the Duke with a sigh.
  "Hey, I didn't mean to stow away on your  . . . ship thing," says Edison, frowning at the exterior of the ship, which was currently an angular silver box, designed like a windowless, outdoor elevator. "If anything, it kidnapped me!"
The Duke jabs the sword in Edison's direction, not as a threat but to keep the officer at a distance.
  "I don't care if it chewed you up and spat you out," growls the Duke, looking serious, "at the end of the day, you're a man that walked through an infinity and came out the other side. That makes me very uncomfortable . . ."
  "How do I look?" says Anise, making the Duke lower his sword as they both turn to face her. She was wearing a small pair of ankle-high pink, sheepskin ugg boots.
  "The pink and the blue clash a bit . . . " mutters Edison.
  "You look perfect," says the Duke, leaning the sword against the wall just inside the door. "Come here."
Anise walks over to stand by the Duke, then he closes it with the hidden panel.
  "I'll be back for you later . . ." Anise whispers to the closed Wardrobe door as the elevator lobby "moves" again.
  "Right, let's go," says the Duke as they step out of the ship to join Edison. "You, you're coming with me."
  "Why?" asks Edison.
  "I don't want you loitering anywhere near my timeship . . . and, this is obviously a dangerous situation. There's safety in numbers."
It was windy and the snow was making visibility an issue. But through breaks in the curtains of snow, some buildings could be seen in the distance so the three of them start heading across the uneven ground towards the observatory.

  "Geez, it's c-cold . . ." whines Anise, crossing her arms, as they neared the buildings, snow getting caught in her hair, "where are we, the North Pole?"
  "Hawaii," says Edison, pointing to a car a few metres away that was covered in snow, "I can see a rainbow on that license plate and only Hawaii does that, as far as I know. We must be on top of a volcano."
  "And how d-do you know th-that?" asks Anise, shivering.
  "That's the only place that it snows in Hawaii," says Edison. Anise nods, folding her arms tighter, her lip quivering from the cold.
  "You're so cold, Anise. Why didn't you get a jacket from the Wardrobe?" asks the Duke.
  "It t-took me long enough to f-find the sh-sh-shoes . . ." she stutters, sheepishly. The Duke shakes his head with a slight smirk and removes the leather coat from his shoulders, revealing a tight, black, short-sleeve shirt that hugged the contours of his toned arms and chest. He wraps the leather coat around Anise, which hung down to her ankles due to its length.
Without the leather jacket on, Anise got a good look at the Duke's body. He wore grey and black herringbone, straight-leg, wool trousers. On his feet he wore what looked like a pair of dusty, leather desert boots, but they had thick soles; were threaded with metal wire; had tarnished metal caps around the heel and the toe & had a pattern of metal studs around the edge. But she mostly noticed his arms. He wasn't ripped, but there was obvious strength in those arms.
  "I feel warmer already," says Anise, "Thanks, Duke."
They walked amidst the buildings of the observatory, past parked cars and headed towards the largest building of the lot. In the distance were some short, domed buildings that looked like they housed space telescopes. The Duke had intended to head inside the largest building, but there were already two men in winter coats standing outside chatting, so the Duke approaches them,
  "Excuse me, gentlemen," says the Duke, approaching the men, "I'm the Duke and I need your help."
  "What are you doing up here?" asks the shorter, Asian gentleman, genuinely surprised.
  "I need to know what is going on here," says the Duke.
  "Uh . . . climate change monitoring," says the other man, a tall, skinny man with thick glasses and a ginger neckbeard, "why?"
  "There's some form of dangerous, extraterrestrial technology, approximately ninety metres that way," says the Duke, pointing back to where he and his companions had come from. "I need to know what it is."
  "Uh, there's nothing over there," says the neckbearded man.
  "Well, there's a crappy old storage facility," corrects the Asian man, "but it's empty. It's all made of asbestos, no one goes in there."
  "Does anyone know what the building contains?" asks the Duke.
  "I'm pretty sure it's empty. They probably would have it demolished but it would be expensive to dispose of the material."
  "Wait a minute," interrupts Neckbeard, "uh, did you say extraterrestrial. As in alien?"
  "Yes," says the Duke, "How do we get inside the building?"
  "It's locked up," says the Asian man, "we don't have a key."
  "Alright then. I'll need you two to vacate the area, this could get dangerous," says the Duke, turning to his companions. "We need to head back to the ship, then over to the storage facility."
  "Back to the ship?" says Edison, "What for?"
  "Because I think I might need my tools . . ." says the Duke. He walks past the partygirl and the policeman, heading for the Elevator and the two of the quickly turn and follow suit.
  "Uh-hey, Wait!" calls out the neckbearded scientist from as he and his associate hurry after the trio. They manage to catch up quickly.
  "Who are you people?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "We're travellers," says the Duke, "we're here to help."
  "Well it's, uh, kinda obvious you're British, but what are you doing here?" says neckbeard scientist.
  "Not all of us are British . . ." mutters Anise.
  "We're passing through," says the Duke.
  "What's this 'alien' technology?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "I can't be certain until I see it for myself," says the Duke, "it could be almost anything."
  "Uh, then how do you know it's alien?" says Neckbeard scientist.
  "My sensors detected a number of metal alloys that your society won't have the ability to replicate for another three hundred years," says the Duke.
  "How could you . . . uh . . ." the neckbearded scientist falls silent as they near the sound of the Cloister Bell, then he and his associate stare at the silver box as the Duke heads inside.
  "What the hell is that thing?" asks the Asian scientist.
  "It's trouble, that's what it is," says Edison.
  "It's Duke's ship," explains Anise. "the Lift."
  "What's your name?" Officer Edison asks the neckbearded scientist.
  "Oh, uh, I'm Professor Neville Saunders," replies Neckbeard.
  "Steven Hajikoma," offers the Asian scientist absent-mindedly, still staring at the Elevator. After a while, the Duke locks the ship behind him and steps out of the ship carrying a small metal box in his hand, about the size of a bread bin with a small handle and a retractable lid. He sees the scientists and he stops for a moment.
  "What are you two still doing here?" asks the Duke.
  "You're, some kind of street magician?" says Steve.
  "No, he's, uh . . . an alien," says Neville, "this must be some kind of . . . teleporter."
  "I remember explicitly cautioning you gentlemen to evacuate to a safe distance," says the Duke.
  "'Explicitly' is pushing it . . ." mutters Edison.
  "Silence, Inspector," warns the Duke.
  "I also remember you saying to me that there was safety in numbers. Shouldn't we all stick together?"
The Duke glares at the policeman for a moment before turning back to the awestruck scientists.
  "Gentlemen, if you want to stay safe, stick close to me," says the Duke, stepping forward and snapping the scientists out of their bewilderment. "There's work to be done, and I can't guarantee your survival, but if you're coming with us: do as I say; expect the unexpected and don't touch anything!"
Both of the men nod.
  "Yes sir," says Steve. The Duke steps past him and heads around the ship towards the great whiteness beyond. The other four head after him, following the Duke to the abandoned storage facility.

Seventy-three metres was a long way to walk in a snowstorm, and by the time the five of them reached the storage facility, they were all coated in their own
layer of snow, sprinkled over them like white pepper. Despite the cold and the loss of his jacket, the Duke seemed unaffected by the cold, and when he stood before the green, metal door, he tried the door once before  he kneeled on the ground in front of the squat, one-storey building and placed the metal box he'd been carrying in the snow before him. The wind blew over the facility at an angle, so the four humans stood close to the door to avoid the wind and snow as the Duke fiddled with his equipment.
  "What is that thing?" asks Anise.
  "This is a toolbox, Anise," says the Duke, opening the little roller door and fiddling with the loose equipment inside. "I've got all the necessary equipment for dealing with rogue technology. Chronometer, spare battery cells, electron crank, plasma hammer . . . where's my screwdriver? Ah, yes!"
The Duke jumps to his feet holding what looked like a butter knife with a bulky, metal handle.
  "And a tremor saw," says the Duke, clicking a button on the handle and the little tool starts making a whining noise. The Duke turns to the door and presses the thin, blade-like end to the metal. Instantly, the whining noise turns to a buzzing and sparks start flying as the knife cuts through the metal. The tremor saw cuts like a hot knife through butter, except with more flying, orange sparks; in just moments, with four cuts in the door, the duke creates a large rectangle in the metal. The edges of the metal rectangle were still glowing hot when the Duke gave it a shove, dropping the severed piece inside and creating a new entrance to the facility large enough for the five of them to enter.
For a moment, the five of them said nothing and stared into the blackness beyond the hole in the door, held by curiosity and apprehension as the Duke switched off the blade, picked up the toolbox and replaced the tremor saw inside it.
  "You're really going in there?" asks Steve, sounding scared.
  "Of course," says the Duke, "if you're prepared to help us, then follow. If not, leave. This is the point of no return, so decide now."
Without hesitation, the Duke then steps into the darkness. Anise follows straight after him and enters a dark room that smelled stale and musty. Officer Edison follows right after them.
  "You know, in my line of work this is called 'breaking and entering'," says Edison, as the two scientists step through the hole behind him.
  "In my line of work, this is called 'saving the world'," says the Duke, "if you take issue with that, I'm not interested. But if you want to assist, then find me the light in this place."
Edison steps up to the Duke, takes the flashlight from his belt and turns it on. The Duke looks mildly impressed as Edison shines the flashlight over around the walls, moving the circle of light slowly so they could see everything. The walls were a drab white, the carpet an industrial grey-brown and the whole place was cold and dusty. There was a reception desk to the side, with some kind of dusty logo on the front panel and dead, rotten plants sitting in forgotten pots. Behind a glass door, there were stairs heading down. With Edison and the Duke leading the way, side by side, the group heads down into the dark.
  "This isn't a storage facility," says Steve. "If they wanted to store equipment in here, they wouldn't carry it down the stairs."
  "Then what is it?" asks Anise.
  "I dunno. This place has been around since the sixties, it could be anything."
  "It could be, uh . . . some kind of military base," says Neville
  "Why would the military build a base near an observatory?" scoffs Edison.
  "They could have been observing space for aliens?" suggests Anise.
  "Uh, this isn't that kind of observatory," says Neville, patronisingly, "but the military built the roads that lead here, after Pearl Harbor. They might have used it as, uh, like an outpost or something."
  "These theories are all very fascinating, but they are ultimately pointless," says the Duke, in a low voice, almost a whisper. "I suggest we all be quiet, stop making wild guesses and instead face the task at hand."
  "We're investigating a strange building," says Edison. "Figuring out its purpose is a part of the task at hand!"
  "That's not investigation, that's assumption," whispers the Duke, even quieter as they step onto the lower landing and head down the hall. "You're assuming that you can even understand this facility; you're assuming the function of the building even matters & your assuming that the enemy we face isn't listening to this conversation . . ."
The group falls silent as they continue down the hallway. They come to a stop as they get to a four-way intersection. Before them, there was a short hallway with an empty cork messageboard on the right wall, a door on the left and a corner turning right. Edison slowly peeks the circle of light around the corner to the left. There's nothing but a closed door down a short hall. They check down the right hallway and see a much longer hallway that leads to another intersection. There are two closed doors, one on either side of the hallway, and a row of filing cabinets along the left wall.
  "Which way do we go?" whispers the Inspector. Before the Duke can answer, something peaks out from behind the filing cabinet. It was small, but the light reflected off its shiny exterior.
  "Is that a rat?" asks Anise, sounding frightened.
  "No . . ." whispers the Duke, slowly taking the laser spanner out of his trouser pocket, not once taking his eyes off the silver critter. Suddenly, the little thing whips out from behind the filing cabinet and moving like a toy car, it turns and heads towards them making a very quiet mechanical chirping sound. The Duke points his spanner towards the thing, but before he could act, Officer Edison pulls his gun.
Bang!
The silver critter is knocked back about a foot from the force of the shot, and lies on its back emitting white smoking.
  "Ow . . ." mutters Anise, holding her hands over her ears.
  "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" yells the Duke.
  "I stopped it," says Edison, holstering his gun. "Is that what all the fuss was about? A metal mouse?"
  "That's much too small; the ship's sensors picked up something much bigger. I was hoping I could deactivate it with this," says the Duke, holding the prongs of his laser spanner in Edison's face, "to, perhaps, learn something about it."
  "You didn't tell me that! You just said 'expect the unexpected'."
  "I didn't believe that your first reaction to the unexpected would be to fire a weapon at it!"
  "Stop it," says Anise, in a harsh whisper, stepping between them. "Aren't we supposed to be keeping our voices down?"
  "No," says the Duke, "this machine doesn't seem to have any audio equipment, we don't have to be so quiet. Besides, the Inspector here just fired one of the loudest handheld weapons I've ever heard! If anyone or anything was listening, they'd already know: We're RIGHT Here! Come and get us!"
Still cranky, the Duke heads over to the smoking corpse of the little cyber-critter and kneels down. After looking it over for a moment, he picks it up in his hand.
  "What is that thing?" asks Steve, finally speaking up.
  "An insectile, cybernetic automaton with some form of inorganic, motile supercilia for locomotion," says the Duke, standing up to show the others.
  "I dunno what 'super sillier' means, but it looks like a silver prawn," says Anise. The creature was silver and square, with a segmented body, bristles in its underside, small antennae and two crystalline eyes, although one had been shattered by Edison's bullet. The Duke points his laser spanner at it, which emits two little pinpoints of green light as he scans the creature with it.
  "I believe it's . . . dead." says the Duke, raising an eyebrow.
  "Look, I'm sorry I killed the cyber-rat," says Edison.
  "You did what you had to," mutters the Duke, "but don't worry, not all is lost. It's still functional."
  "I thought you said it was dead," says Anise.
  "It is dead. It has an organic component that is now deceased, thanks to the inspector. But the electronics, circuits & most of the mechanisms are fine."
  "Uh, are you saying that little caterpillar is a cyborg?" asks Neville.
  "It was, now it's nothing more than meat in a silver shell," says the Duke. He fiddles with his laser spanner and points it at the little creature's remaining eye, then the spanner gives off a blue spark. Suddenly, the little robot starts wiggling and making a soft, regular beeping sound, that sounded worn out, broken and sad. The Duke places it on the ground, and it begins to slowly wriggle down the hallway.
  "What did you do?" asks Edison.
  "I set it to 'Retreat'," says the Duke. "it's dead, but it can still move, follow commands and use its basic programming. It just has no intelligence."
  "Like a little zombie . . ." says Anise, watching the robot wiggle along.
  "Yes, and this little 'zombie' is going to take us back to where it came from, so be on your guard," says the Duke putting the spanner back in his pocket, then he stops and turns to Edison. "Try not to shoot anything."
Edison shines his light on the little silver bug so they don't lose sight of it as it slowly leads the way down the hall. With the Duke and the inspector in front, Anise in the middle and the professors taking the rear, they followed behind the robot as a group, just a few metres behind it. It turned left through the intersection, crosses an open doorway; then they take a right turn, go down the hall and enter what looks like a break room, with a kitchenette and lockers; then down another hall, with closets along the side. Finally, they stand before a blue door with a cloudy window which was sitting ajar. The robot creature meanders around through the gap and disappears from sight when the group stops.
  "This must be it," whispers the Duke. Taking the laser spanner out of his pocket again, he reads the sign above the door, "Computer Lab Three."
  "Who goes first?" asks Edison.
  "Light the way, Inspector," says the Duke, taking a step back. Putting a hand to his holster, without removing the gun, Edison steps forward and pushes the door open with his foot.
The first thing they see is the dead, little, robot critter resting in the middle of the floor, motionless. Edison shines his torch around the room. There were two rows of tables, one either side, each with three old computers, six in total - with CRT monitors, keyboards and all - set up and all connected with a mess of wires under the desk. There were no chairs at the desk, instead there was a single study chair in the room, a cruddy, brown, flimsy chair, which was facing the door, and wrapped with more wires. It looked a little odd, but the room looked very ordinary, until Edison shone the light on the ceiling.
  "Oh my god . . ." utters Steve. The ceiling was covered with wires. Amongst the mess, motherboards, strange machinery and shards of silver metal were woven into the wiring. There were also strange pieces of equipment hanging from the weave: What looked like a metal boot; broken pieces of plastic, some kind of lantern; segments of a broken, little cyber-critter &, just above the study chair, what looked like some kind of helmet. The helmet looked like a cylinder with a two circles cut out where the eyes should be and a trapezoidal shape cut out from the bottom part of the helmet where the mouth might be. On both sides of the head two metal plates with stepped edges were clamped to the cheeks and on each plate, two black pipes, like handles, were attached and connected to a peak at the top of the helmet, where a small hole was cut into the metal.
  "What is all of this?" asks Edison.
  "I don't know," says the Duke, moving towards the study chair, "whatever this is, it's incomplete."
  "Uh, where's the rest of the chairs?" asks Neville, stepping into the room. Steve and Anise waited just inside the door.
  "It's probably part of the ceiling, now" says Edison, shining his light over the tangled wires, "I wonder what's sticking it to the ceiling . . ."
The Duke inspects the chair, in the darkness, then turns around.
  "This all seems relatively harmless," says the Duke, "It appears to be some kind of network; however, it's using simple Earth technology. It doubt it has the capacity to hurt anyone."
  "What's that?" asks Officer Edison, pointing to the ceiling where he was shining his flashlight. The Duke looks up, but as he does something wriggles out from the wires and drops from the ceiling onto his shoulder. It was another small, cyborg critter. The Duke swats it away with his spanner hand and it lands on its back, wiggling its bristle-like legs impotently. But then, three more critters drop onto the floor. The closest one leaps onto the Duke's leg. Edison pulls his gun.
  "Don't shoot Duke!" Anise screams. The toolbox clatters to the ground as the Duke drops it to grab at the cyber-critters, but two more jump onto him. He puts his spanner in his pocket and swats the creatures away with both hands when he gasps in pain. One of the critters on his chest bites into his skin. The Duke falls back into the study chair from the pain.
As soon as he does, all six computer monitors light up with green code. Then, all of the wires holding the strange helmet aloft suddenly extend and the helmet drops directly onto the Duke's head. The Duke grabs at it with both hands, until he eyes of the helmet glow a pale blue and the Duke falls limp. Edison shines the torch on him.
  "Duke . . . Duke?!" screams Anise. But the Duke doesn't respond, he slouches in the chair, with two cyber-critters biting into his chest and shoulder and the strange helmet on his head, the others could only see his mouth because of the the trapezoid-shaped cut on the bottom edge of the helmet.
More cables siphon down from the ceiling around the Duke, with some strange equipment attached to it. Suddenly the Duke sits upright and grabs one of the items, which looked unmistakeably like a laser pistol.
  "Look out!" screams Edison. He holds his gun at the ready, pointing at the Duke, but he doesn't fire; it was still the Duke, after all. The Duke fires a beam of light from his pistol, and it hits Neville Saunders in the head. Forehead smoking, Neville falls face first onto the ground. Anise screams, but Steve grabs her and pulls her outside as the Duke fires again. It fires down the hallway, hitting no one. Edison was about to run, when he sees the toolbox on the ground. He grabs the toolbox and runs with his head ducked low. The Duke fires at him and hits his left shoulder, which emits smoke as he runs out the door and out of the line of fire. Steve was holding Anise as she knelt on the floor, looking terrified.
  "He shot you!" she screams, "the Duke shot you!"
Edison brushes his shoulder, flinching slightly when he touches the smoking material of his jacket.
  "My stab vest protected me," he says, "calm down. We need to get somewhere safe."
  "He shot Neville right in the face," says Steve, shocked.
  "No, Duke wouldn't kill anyone," says Anise. "Those things did something to him, but I don't know how . . . What the hell is going on?!"
  "I have no idea . . ." says Edison. He helps Steve lift Anise to her feet and they head into one of the computer labs.

Inside his own mind, the Duke slowly opened his eyes, but he could barely see. He was in a dark place. He was kneeling on the floor, and that spot was lit by a circle of light, coming from somewhere above him. He could see the hard floor beneath him, but with the glaring, white light and the pitch-black darkness he couldn't tell what colour it was. He tried to stand, but before he could move more than an inch, the force that held his arms pulled tight. He was chained to the ground via tethers that bound his wrists.
However, when he turned his head to see his hands, the Duke saw it was not a tether of chain or rope, but of light; orange chains of light and smoke bound his hands, and the other end of these bindings reached out and disappeared within the thick darkness. The Duke struggles for a while against his light-chains, every time they grew taught they started to glow brighter and humm. After a while, he gives up.
  "This is impossible," says the Duke, looking at the chains, "akinetic bindings require a generator and computer system the size of a T.T. Capsule, and that would make more noise than a Marinian creeper. So, unless I'm mistaken - which is blatantly ridiculous - this isn't real."
The Duke stares off into the blackness.
"Did you hear me?" mutters the Duke. "I said this is impossible. I'm not talking to myself, here! This obviously isn't real, but I didn't put myself here, so someone else is in control. I want to speak to whosoever is in control!"
As the echoes of his voice fade, a circle of spotlights silently lit up around him. There were sixteen in total, and each was identical to the one that shone upon the Duke, each ten metres away and spaced equidistant from its neighbour. Within each stood some kind of statue. Each was humanoid and hewn in silver, but they were featureless. Smooth, blank faces with no fingers or toes, like simple, metal mannequins. They were all facing Duke, in the centre of the circle.
Suddenly, flickering out of the nothingness, a face appears before the Duke. It was a metal cylinder with a geometric face of two circles for eyes and a rectangle mouth. Either side of its head, pipes like handles connected to its temples and wires rolled down into the neck of its body. As the body also compiled into existence, the Duke could see it was very odd. It didn't suit the head at all, instead it was a brown duster jacket that was covered in ash, scorched around the edges and smoking slightly. Underneath, there was a vest, wool trousers and a neckerchief, all dusty and burnt, and through the scorched holes in the clothing, he could see a skeleton, also charred, wrapped around what looked like pieces of a burnt ham roast.
  "You aaaare the . . . Du-ke." states the creature in a harsh, buzzing, robotic monotone; it seemed to be having trouble with its pronunciation.
  "Yes, I'm the Duke. What are you?"
  "I AM . . . innnn conTROL." barks the thing, leaning its face closer to the restrained man.
  "Control of what? What is this place?"
  "Vir-tual reeee-ality. An arti-fic-ial consTRUCtion with-in yourrrr mind."
  "But why have you brought me here? Is this a prison?"
  "Yourrrr IMprison-ment was . . . necess-ary, Weeee have . . . ta-ken conTROL of thiiiis brain and yourrrr PHYsi-cal form. Yourrrr brain shall serve as ourrrr . . . Pro-cess-sing uNIT."
  "My brain? This is all within my mind?"
  "Yes. Forrrr . . . an inCALcula-ble duration, weeee have been dis-con-nected frommmm . . . necess-ary memory-eee caPAcity. With yourrrr brain, we shall finally have theeee caPAcity to reeee-new ourrrr POPulace."
  "Never!" screams the Duke. "This is my brain, my mindspace! I won't let you take it."
  "This iiiis no lon-ger yourrrr mind-space. We are innnn conTROL."
  "As long as I can still think for myself, you can't stop me," says the Duke, menacingly. "I'm only going to tell you this once: Get out of my head, before I make you."
  "With your memory-eee caPAcity we even conTROL un-reeee-sponsive neural a-natomy. Our capa-bil-ities are un-PAralleled. We haaaave alREADy be-gun consTRUCtion of ourrrr first sol-diers," says the creature. It takes a step back; as it does, the air around the cylindrical head fills with complicated, orange code and indecipherable geometry. The code archs through the air and enters one of the silver mannequins at the edge of the circle, which then steps out of the light and disappears into the darkness.
"Proba-bil-ity of your esCAPE and reeee-tali-A-tion iiiis . . . NEGligi-ble. This is not yourrrr mind-space now, Du-ke. This is ourrrr CY-ber-space . . ."

Inside Computer Lab One, Anise, Edison & Steve were sitting and waiting. Anise and Edison were watching cyber-critters push against the closed door, as Steve fiddled with the file cabinet in the corner. He grabs a file and puts it on the desk beside a much larger pile of files and looks over it using the light from his smartphone.
  "Look, another I.S.C. file," he says, seeing the letterhead. But he sighs when he opens it and sees rows of blacked-out lines. "This is useless too."
  "There's nothin' in there about robots? Or a helmet?" asks Anice, looking up.
  "No. All I know is a meteorite hit, and they investigated it. I'm guessing these must be censoring the part where they brought it back here and found an alien robot inside."
  "Right, that's not going to help us, so we need to make our own plans," says Edison. "So, let's plan. How do we get the Duke out of that helmet?"
  "We could cut the power," says Anise. "It's the computers, right? That will shut them off."
  "It's no use," says Steve, pressing the power button on the nearest computer without the computer turning on. "There's no power down here. That thing must generate its own, somehow."
  "I was thinking about rushing in and disarming him. That lasergun is the only thing stopping us from getting that helmet off his head."
  "He'll shoot yer!" says Anise slapping him in the arm, "are you daft?"
  "It takes him a moment to aim, and I'm wearing the vest."
  "What if he shoots you in the head?" asks Anise "You're not doing that . . . but what about this thing?"
Anise picks up the toolbox and opens it, looking inside in the light of the torch.
  "We don't know what any of this stuff does," says Edison.
  "What about this?" Anise says, picking up the tremor saw.
  "The blade is less than four inches long, what can you do with that?"
  "Duke said this had everything you need to deal with alien technology. It's got to have something that can help."
  "Yeah, that's why I grabbed it; but I've already looked in there. I don't know what this stuff does, let alone how to use it."
  "Why don't we get out of here?" says Steve. "He's stuck to the ceiling, he's not going anywhere. Let's get out and call the police."
  "I'm not leaving him," says Anise.
  "We'll come back for him, with police."
  "What do you think they're going to do?" asks Edison. "I'm the police, and I don't know what to do. It's like some kind of screwed up hostage situation, where the hostage is also the captor. Then there's all those cyber-rats running around. I wouldn't want to get bitten by one of those things . . ."
  "Then how are we supposed to save Duke?!" screams Anise.
  "I don't know," says Edison. "Maybe we can't . . ."

Inside his own mind, the Duke was straining against his shackles of smoke and light when he drops his arms, breathing heavily. He glances up at his captor. The cyberleader was watching him, silently.
  "What are you looking at?"
  "Yourrrr at-tempts to esCAPE are point-less. Why-yyy do you conTINue to fight?"
  "Because I still can," says the Duke. "I will fight for my life."
  "Weeee do not want to END yourrrr life. Ourrrr on-ly goal is to re-move yourrrr bioLOgi-cal weak-ness-es."
  "I don't want you to remove my 'weaknesses'!"
  "That iiiis an ilLOgi-cal reeee-sponse. You re-ly on yourrrr e-mo-tions to make DEci-sions. We can reeee-move that de-sire, we could perrrr-fect you."
  "My emotions are my life, they make me who I am," says the Duke. "Without fear, I would have died with my people. Without anger, I would never have learned to fight back. Without empathy, I would destroy galaxies, I would be a monster! And without love . . . without love, I would still be alone. Forever lost on an empty world . . ."
  "Yourrrr response is ORganic. AniMAL," says the creature, leaning over the Duke. "With perrrr-fec-tion comes greaTERrrr . . . under-stan-ding. Yourrrr e-mo-tions ma-ke you IRRa-tion-al."
  "Fighting back is not irrational."
  "Yourrrr chains are vir-tual. You can-not brea-k themmmm . . . it iiiis IRRa-tion-al."
  "I know the chains are unbreakable," says the Duke. "This isn't real, your inside my mind; but I'm still inside it as well. That means that some part of me is still under my control; it means that I can fight back. And since this is all in my head, then this is a mental battle. A battle of wits. So I've already won."
  "I AM . . . innnn conTROL!" shrieks the cyberleader.
  "In control of my brain, perhaps, but not my mind!" The Duke pounds the ground with both of his fists, and the shackles around his wrists sizzle out of existence. The Duke stands and steps towards the cyberleader. As he does, the blackness fades away and is replaced by bright marble. "You may have trapped me here, but if that's to be the case, then I've got the advantage. This is my mind. My battleground!"
The Duke marches up and gracefully sits on a marble throne with rich, blue cushioning as it and the dais it was built upon came into existence. All around him, a great tall room with bright, stone walls and a smokey grey and white chequered tile accumulated into existence.
As the Duke stared at the cyberleader with a victorious grin, the wall behind the throne filled with weaponry, regalia & a royal blue tapestry with silver hemming and details as well as a golden symbol of what looked like a stylized sea-creature; something between an octopus and a jellyfish.
  "I am in control," says the Duke, "now, get out of my head . . ."
The cyberleader glances around for a moment, before more code emits from its helmet that fills the air. Around the Duke's throne room, the silver mannequins reappear, each standing in its own spotlight.
  "This iiiis your 'ba-ttle-field'?" it asks.
  "This is mine, my home. I am in control here!"
  "This reeee-ality is a REPre-sen-ta-tion of your PLAnet, from with-in yourrrr T.T. CAPsule," says the cyberleader, "This is NOT conTROL."
  "I am the Duke of Rathea, and this is my home," says the Duke, "You have no power here!" The cyberleader walks over to the elevator doors.
  "You hide with-in this TIMEship, Du-ke. This is yourrrr bioLOgi-cal weak-ness. Look uPON yourrrr ba-ttle-field." With a flicker of code, both of the doors to the throne room open to a burning land. Outside the doors, there was a raging fire, whorls of flame blazed the scorched earth, and the sky was filled with smoke and darkness, there was nothing but fire and smoke.
  "No!" screams the Duke. He stands and makes for the door, but he's suddenly stopped as the orange chains appear around his wrists. They grow tight and the Duke is pulled onto his knees before his throne, staring out at the burning wasteland.
  "You haaaa-ve no POwer here. Yourrrr e-mo-tions be-tray you. They are weak-ness. WithOUT them, yourrrr world would not burrrrn! With perFECtion, you could haaaa-ve save-d them . . . "
With tears in his eyes, the Duke looks upon his burning world and whispers,
  "I'm sorry . . ."

Edison held a strange device in his hand. It looks like half of a bicycle pedal-crank, but it was smaller and the "pedal" part was replaced by a rubber handle. After fiddlign with it for a while, he places it against the monitor and, holding the base, he turns the handle making a steady clicking noise. He does that for a few seconds before giving up and putting it back in the Duke's toolbox.
  "That doesn't seem to work at all . . ." he says, reaching inside the box. He takes out another tool. "this must be the plasma hammer."
  "How do you know that?" asks Anise.
  "Well, it looks a bit like a hammer . . ." says Edison, holding it in the light. Indeed, it looks reminiscent of a claw hammer. The tool had a metal handle about fifteen centimetres long and slightly curved, with the bottom half covered in black, ergonomically molded plastic and a small studded spike on the end. Instead of the 'claw' for removing nails, the hammer had one curved blade with a serrated underside and the face of the hammerhead was replaced with a small, metal cube, five centimetres on each side and bevelled on the edges. "I wonder how it works . . . I would love to try this on one of those little cyber-rats."
  "Wait . . . where did they go?" mutters Anise, looking at the door.
  "What?" asks Edison, looking at her.
  "Those thingies. The cyber-rats. They're gone . . ." says Anise, pointing to the space under the door. "They've been trying to get in ever since we came in here. Where did they go?"
The three of them are silent, where there's a soft sound like a hollow thump above them. Edison puts the plasma hammer back in the toolbox and shines his torch on the ceiling, but can't see anything.
  "Is that them?" he asks, but Anise shushes him. They can hear a soft pitter-patter sound, like soft rain on a tin roof.
  "The air conditioner!" Anise shrieks, pointing, at a grate in the wall "they're in the vents!"
  "Out!" yells Edison. He opens the door, gun in hand and once he sees that the hallway is clear, he ushers the other two out. Anise grabs the toolbox and runs out the door. There's a dull pop as the vent pops off the wall and three critters tumble onto the floor. Edison runs out, slamming the door behind them in time to hear each critter slam into it with a bang.
  "That was close," says Edison.
  "Oh no . . ." says Anise, tearfully. Edison turns to face her, but someone else in the hall catches his eye. It was Neville. At least, it was Neville's body. The hole in his forehead was blackened around the edges. There was a cyber-critter latched to his neck, and along his arms and legs there were pieces of metal. Some pieces were thin and piercing his skin down to the bone, other parts were rigged or bolted on like some kind of armour or metal skin. But his whole body was peppered with metal, and there were even some stray wires sticking out from his skin in places. It was walking towards them, slowly and mechanically, from the end of the hall.
Edison doesn't hesitate, he raises his gun and fires a round in Neville's chest. Anise flinches, but Neville doesn't. The bullet goes straight through his heart, but he continues heading towards them.
  "Oh crap . . ." says Edison, "fall back."
  "But, it's Neville . . ." says Steve.
  "Neville is dead," says Edison, grabbing Anise by the shoulder to get her attention, then the two of them start moving back. "Now, fall back."
  "Neville? Is that really you?" asks Steve. As he does, Neville stops just two feet away. "It's Steve."
'Neville' raises its arms and electricity shoots from its fingertips. Steve convulses on the spot, then collapses backwards his head hitting the ground with a sick, hollow thump.
  "God damn it . . . Fall Back!"

Standing before the Duke, the cyberleader leans down, staring at its prisoner with hollow eyes.
  "Reeee-LIN-quish yourrr mind, Du-ke . . . surrrrr-en-der com-plete conTROL . . . you will beeee perFECtion . . ." speaks the cyberleader.
  "Perfection?" asks the Duke.
  "Yes. We will reeee-move all of yourrrr weak-ness-es. We will perrrr-fect you and . . . con-vert this PLAnet."
  "You don't understand, do you?" asks the Duke, with tear stains on his face. "I will never surrender my mind to you. This is not perfection."
  "No painnnn. No fear. No DEath. It iiiis perFECtion," says the cyberleader.
  "And what will you do with this 'perfection'. What will you do next?"
  "Con-vert this GAla-xy!"
  "And then what?!" screams the Duke. "What if you converted every single, living thing in this galaxy? No pain, fear or death; just cyber-people."
  "We would perFECT the u-ni-VERSE."
  "Then what? What if there were no one else in the entire universe to convert? Let's say you achieve this cyber-utopia . . . what would you do once you achieved it? What happens after perfection?"
  "We . . . weeee would . . . we-" the cyberleader's head judders for a moment, and the voice makes a scrambled, inhuman buzzing and crackling sound. Then it pauses for a moment. "This will . . . reeee-QUIre more . . . me-mo-ryeee . . ."

Edison and Anise were heading down the hall, with cyber-zombie Neville limping after them, when suddenly he stops. The pair run a bit further, until Edison glances back with the torch and sees that it's stopped moving, he slows down to a stop.
  "Hold up . . ." he says, grabbing Anise by the arm, "Look, it's stopped."
  "What does that mean?" asks Anise, holding the toolbox to her chest. Edison takes a few steps back towards the creature, flashlight shining on its face.
  "It's eyes are closed . . ." he mutters. The thing was standing there with both arms limp by its side. Edison steps towards it, flashlight held over his shoulder, ready to use it as a weapon at short notice. He closes the gap between him and the cyber-zombie, Anise following close behind. Then, less then a foot away, he reaches out a hand and pokes it in the chest. The cyber-zombie rocks back and forth on its heels, but otherwise doesn't react.
  "It stopped," says Anise, "maybe Duke's stopped as well!"
  "That's jumping to conclusions."
  "Well, then let's find out," says Anise. She starts walking back down the hall towards the computer labs. Edison follows her.
  "Anise, are you crazy? What if the Duke's just like Neville? What if he's some kind of zombie?"
  "Duke's alive," says Anise, as they walk past Steve, collapsed on the ground. "I'm not giving up on him."
As they walk towards Computer Lab Three, they see something through the darkness. The doorway is lit up by a soft, dark blue glow around the door frame, where some kind of light-strips had been stuck all around the frame and floor creating a rectangle of light. Edison goes ahead and peeks through the doorway. When he doesn't get shot at, he tries to tap the doorframe with the butt of his torch. As soon as it hits the threshold, the entire doorway flickers with power across an invisible membrane.
  "It's literally a forcefield . . ." says Anise, looking at it. Edison shines his torch through the doorway to see the Duke sitting in the chair, arms limp by his sides and laser pistol in hand. "He's not movin' either, we've gotta get in there before he wakes up again."
  "Uh, hello," says Edison, tapping the forcefield again, making it spark with electricity, "forcefield. How do we get in there?" Anise drops the toolbox on the ground, opens it up and retrieves the plasma hammer.
  "What about this?" she asks. Edison takes the hammer in his free hand and rolls it around in his hand as he turns to the forcefield.
  "It can't hurt to try . . ." he says. He pulls back his hand and slams the face of the hammer into the forcefield. Fzz-BOOM! Purple electricity crackles across the surface of the forcefield as the entire membrane shines a brilliant, bright white. Blue sparks spurt around the corners of the rectangle as the light begins to fade. Edison swings the hammer again. Crk-bzz-BANG! The forcefield begins to fade in places and the rectangle of light starts to dim.
  "It's working!" cries Anise. Edison slams the hammer into the forcefield again. Crack-KOOM! The forcefield "pops" with an echo like thunder as the forcefield breaks. Wasting no time, Edison runs up to the Duke and rips the laser pistol from his hand. He places it on the desk and smashes it with the hammer. Ka-BOOM! A ball of purple lightning erupts from the face of the hammer. For a split second, the space around the gun implodes, with a force like a black hole, the size of a tennis ball, the gun diminishes into the tiny space before the force ceases and drops the gun, now crumpled into a sphere of crushed metal.
  "I love this thing!" yells Edison.
  "Duke? Are you in there?" asks Anise, running up to the Duke, and grabbing the 'handles' either side of the helmet, "can you hear me?"
  "Wait! Be careful," says Edison, "that could be latched into his brain or something . . ."
  "Well, it'll be better than leaving him inside of it," says Anise, lifting the helmet slowly. The helmet resists slightly, until it gives a slight plucking sound and comes loose. Once she lifts it from his head, Anise looks over the Duke, who had some small holes cut into his forehead and a piece of metal along his cheekbone, with little blue lights and snapped wires coming out of it. Anise peels the metal off his face and cups the Duke's head in her hands.
"Duke? Can you hear me?"
The Duke starts to rouse, opening his eyes slowly.
  "Where am I?" he asks.
  "The computer lab, come on" says Anise, she grabs the cyber-critter that's attached to his chest and rips it off, making the Duke clench his teeth and groan in pain. "I'm sorry Duke, there's just one more."
Anise grabs the other critter on his shoulder and rips it off. The Duke doesn't flinch this time. Anise looks at the things in her hands. Their bristly legs had dark blood on them, but they weren't moving at all. They'd shut down along with the rest of the machines.
  "I'll destroy them," says Edison, holding up the plasma hammer. He grabs the the 'helmet', severing the wires with the claw-blade of the hammer, and places it in the table. "You get the Duke out of here."
Anise nods, drops the machines on the desk and helps the Duke get to his feet. He was unsteady on his feet and very heavy, but she manages to get under his arm and help him out of the door. As they step out into the hallway, they can hear Edison hammering away at the equipment in the computer lab. Anise glances back and sees purple electricity sparking as Edison smashes computer monitors, cyber critters and the helmet. He smashes the helmet again and again, and the purple electricity accumulates until the metal starts to glow and - BOOM!The helmet vaporizes and knocks Edison off his feet with the concussive force of the gas expansion. Edison falls onto the carpet outside the room, landing on his back. The sound makes the Duke look up and take notice.
  "What's going on?" he asks. "Is it the cyborgs?"
  "No, it was Edison. He's destroyed it all," says Anise, she was already holding up the Duke, so she just watches as Edison gets to his feet and picks up his torch.
  "Wow! I didn't realize it would do that," he says, brushing himself off, then he realizes he wasn't holding the hammer. "Huh . . . I must have dropped it when the helmet exploded."
Suddenly, there's a loud cracking sound and the ceiling inside of the computer lab caves in, spilling loads of rocks and ice onto all of the computers. The trio move out of the way as quickly as they can while dust and debris flies out of the doorway. After a few seconds, the rumbling and crumbling ceases, and they look back upon the damage.
  "Oh damn it," says Edison, walking over to the doorway; picking up the Duke's toolbox, which had been left beside the door. "Now I'll never get it back."
  “Is he alright?” asks the Duke, pointing to Professor Hajikoma, lying on the floor.
  “Oh my god, Steve!” says Anise. “Edison, come here!"
She helps the Duke to lean on the wall as she bends down to help the poor scientist, cradling his head. “Steve, are you alright? I’m so sorry . . .”
The Asian scientist opens his eyes and peers up at Anise, frowning.
  “Ow, my head . . .” he groans.
  “Thank god, we thought you were dead!” says Anise, helping him up. She gets him to his feet, then gasps when she looks at her hands, there was blood on them. “He’s bleeding! Edison, help me get him out of here!”

The four of them escape from the underground facility into the bright light outside, and Anise uses Steve Hajikoma’s phone to call for help, heading into the open air to get a signal. After she's done, she joins the others at the doorway to the Lift, where the Cloister Bell had ceased ringing. Anise hands the phone back to Steve, who was sitting down in the snow.
  "The ambulance will be here in about half an hour," says Anise.
  "Then we need to make ourselves scarce,” says the Duke, rubbing the wounds in his own head. “The threat has been neutralized and if we hang around people might start asking questions.”
  “What about the alien robots? And Neville Saunders? Won’t that make people start askin' questions?” asks Anise.
  “Someone kept it secret before; someone will keep it a secret again . . .”
The Duke turns towards the Lift and steps inside. He unlocks the door, turns towards his companions and asks, “Are the two of you coming?”
  “What, me as well?” says the Inspector, “I thought you didn't want me on board your ship.”
  “You did well today, Inspector,” says the Duke, nodding to himself. After a moment, he looks up and meets the Inspector’s eyes, “I apologize for that. I was too harsh on you before. You helped to keep myself, and Miss Trevino, in one piece.” Anise runs past the Duke into the ship, and the Inspector follows. As Edison steps into the elevator lobby, the Duke places a hand on his shoulder and whispers in his ear, "but if you try anything untoward, I will throw you out of these doors into empty space . . ."
The two men head into the ship and the door closes behind them. After a few seconds, the ship makes a heavy whirring, scraping sound, vworping away into nothingness. Steve looks at the empty square left in the snow and rubs his head.
  “Where the hell did they go . . .?”

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Idle Eyes

Something that I have never really understood is fanaticism. I mean I like a lot of franchises and movies from Doctor Who to Harry Potter, I like a lot of these shows, but I don't consider myself a "fan". Because fan is short for fanatic, which was originally a term for a devoted follower of a religion, someone who was loyal to a fault. These days is just means "an enthusiastic follower", but I still don't consider myself a fan of these shows any more than I'm a fan of chocolate. I like it and I tell other people they might like it, but I put more effort into writing and romantic pursuits. I just don't have the time or effort to care that much about something (or someone) that doesn't have any real impact on my life.

The worst part is, this isn't a semantic issue, there are people that are literally enthusiastic, euphoric and unconditionally devoted to certain celebrities; films; franchises; writers; books; television shows & artists. We've normalized the concept of fanaticism, this obsession with art, to the point where it's starting to concern me. The Word of the Day is: 'IDOLIZE'

Idolise = Idolize /'uydəluyz/ v.t. To regard with bling adoration or devotion.

To be clear, let's take a look at the root of the problem, the word: 'IDOL'

Idol /'uydl/ n. 1. A statue, etc., worshipped as a god. 2. Bible A false god. 3. Any person or thing blindly adored or revered.

There are too many fanatics in the world today. There are so many that we've started to segregate them, and class them in a hierarchy of madness. There are those that watch and appreciate, and they aren't fans at all so much as 'the target audience' but they often call themselves fans anyway. Then there are the newbies, and if a franchise is large enough they'll have a term for them (Newvians for new Doctor Who fans, Trekkers for new Star Trek fans, n00b for new gaming fans) which are often used derogatorily by the more knowledgeable fans. Then there are the hardcore fans, which often have a name all to themselves, like with so many TV shows:
Star Trek has its Trekkies; Doctor Who its Whovians; Babylon 5 has Babblers; Stargate its Gateheads; Glee, Gleeks; Quantum Leap, Leapers; LOST, Lostralians; Heroes, Sidekicks; Torchwood, Woodies & My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has Fillies (& Bronies).

Now, a lot of these fandoms have their own quirks and quibbles, but generally they talk amongst themselves about favourite episodes and characters; discuss the drama and plotlines; speculate on the magic and mystery of the show & (in extreme cases) write disturbing fanfiction.
Now, these kinds of fans don't bother me so much. They're still a little full-on since they seem to put so much effort into these fantasies, but overall they're harmless. Because even though they are fanatic and fantasizing about something to an unusual degree, the thing they're obsessing over is already fantasy. If you love or hate something that doesn't really exist, it effects your life (and those around you) but the show/book/movie itself doesn't care. If someone says they wish they could marry Harry Potter or that they think Dean Winchester should totally get in on with Castiel, then it doesn't matter because what they're talking about is already fantasy. Even if it's weird to me, it's not doing any harm. It's victimless.

However, fictional worlds aren't the only thing that people obsess over or idolize. There are those that are fanatically obsessed with the musicians, celebrities & tv personalities, to the degree that they too have a collective noun:
One Direction has its Directioners (although I call them Oneders); Benedict Cumberbatch has the Cumberbitches; Justin Beiber his Beliebers; Malcolm McDowall has Malcaholics; Beyonce has Beyhives; John Barrowman is followed by Barrowmaniacs; David Bowie has Areaologists; Tom Hiddleston has Hiddlestoners; Chris Brown has no shame; Nicki Minaj has Barbies; Helena Bonham-Carter has Helenaists; Lady Gaga has Little Monsters & Ke$ha has Animals.

These are but a few of the many names of fandoms that adore and idolize real celebrities and these people scare me. As in, if I learn that someone I'm talking to is a fanatic for a celebrity, I try to back away slowly until I've gained a good running distance.
As an example, I'm going to use Loki - from the Marvel Cinematic Universe - because Tom Hiddleston has his followers, so the Loki Fanatics (collectively known as Loki's Army) give me the heeby-jeebies, but they're still mostly safe. Not to mention, Tom Hiddleston is having way too much fun in this scene, but I want you to watch this clip from the San Diego Comic Con where a hall of almost six and a half thousand people are in the presence of Tom Hiddleston, in-character as Loki.

Ironic that, in-universe, Loki is fighting to control humanity, yet when Hiddleston appears in character before a screaming crowd they spontaneously begin chanting his name, and as one fall silent when he raises a single finger to his lips. That's both a sign of Tom Hiddleston's stage presence as well as the blind devotion of these people.
But the reason I wanted you to watch the clip is for the screaming. I'm sure many people have heard the term "hordes of screaming fans" before, but I have never understood that mindset that it requires.

I get that these people are very passionate. But screaming? Really? How is that a good way to show your passion. To be clear, I'm not talking about what I would call "crowd-noise", just everyone sort of going "yeah" or "woo!" at the same time. That's, effectively, the same thing as applause, just the audience letting the one on stage know that you appreciate them, as a a collective group.
When I say "screaming" I mean the desperate squealing, pleading & professions of love from the people in the audience and the people that yell so loud it hurts. Who does that?

I haven't mentioned it yet, but I've actually got a girlfriend now and have done for almost two months (which means I've officially completed all three of my news year's resolutions for 2012). The reason I bring it up, beyond the fact that she's constantly on my mind, is that, as much as I love her, I don't scream at my girlfriend. Not once would I consider walking up to my Beloved and - to show my devotion - squealing in her face or crying or jumping up and down or waving banners while shouting.
Admittedly, that is a personal relationship it's a little different from the relationship between celebrity and audience, but the principle remains. That principle being: I don't scream or cry when I see her because she's a human being.
No one I know enjoys it when someone screams at them, especially if it's a stranger. So, why do fans do it? Well, I have a theory . . .

See, I think that the word idolize is very apt because an idol was, originally, just a statue that represented something more (just check the definition). It was just a statue, a thing, an object. An idol looked like someone, but the idol itself is not alive and it doesn't have feelings, it's merely the figurehead.
So, considering the way that people seem to be able to scream at celebrities and fantasize about them without considering the feelings of that celebrity, I can't help but feel like, to celebrity fanatics, their celebrity might as well be a statue, or in the very least they treat them less like people and more like things. Because it doesn't matter what the celebrity does, they will continue to see them as this idealized concept of a supreme being.
In this way, the word idolize can be seen as similar to the word objectify. If hardcore fans thought of these people as people, they wouldn't treat them the way that so many do. That's how you can tell the difference between an agreeable audience member and a fanatic; the fans are the people that can get angry when someone tries to change their perception of their idol.
When celebrities commit a crime, their fans defend it. When celebrities say something stupid, their fans justify it. When celebrities are wrong, their fans agree with them.
Fanatics don't think of celebrities like objects, but they don't think of them like humans either. "To err is human" and hardcore fans don't allow their idols to be flawed; they refuse to believe it even if they see it with their own eyes. There's a reason it's called blind devotion.

There is a problem with this mindset. It's delusional for one, nobody is idyllic and to think otherwise is to believe a lie, it's mentally peculiar. But more than that, these are real people with feelings. Obsessing about someone without their permission and idealizing them to the degree of supremacy is just a few steps removed from erotomania or stalking. And there are a lot of cases of celebrities that hate talking to fans and they hate paparazzi because of the degree to which they invade their private lives.
Now, I'm not saying that this means that celebrity fans are all stalkers! There are actual mental disorders to identify that kind of thing, and fanatics are not that. I don't like this fanaticism of real people because it encourages a similar kind of unrealistic thought process, that's not to say that they're the same thing. In cases of stalking, it's the celebrity that is the victim, but for fanaticism I see it as the fans themselves that are the victims, because they are inflicting themselves with this unnatural mindset towards another person.

So, what does this mean for fans? Does that mean that the Absurd Word Nerd thinks that all idolization is unhealthy?

Well, no. Because there's something very simple that you can do to stop from being an obsessive fanatic: humanize the object of your idolization.
There are good, beautiful, kind people out there that are celebrities and the key word to remember is people. I appreciate Tom Hiddleston myself, that's why I used him as an example. But I won't ever scream about him.
I just think he did an impressive job of acting as Loki, he's an attractive man [citation: my girlfriend] & from interviews he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I don't see any more than that because that's all there is to see.
Even if you do enjoy that euphoria of being swept up in a celebrity's mythology (as some celebrities encourage, such as Lady Gaga) and treat them like some kind of god, then I'm fine with that too - so long as you always remember that they're human beings and deserve to be treated like one.

At the end of the day, both idolization and demonization have a degree of dehumanization, we remove that element of empathy so that we feel less guilty about letting out emotions take over, be they positive or negative. Yet, if you could see these celebrities as actual human beings, with scars and flaws and idols like the rest of us, then you'd be much less likely to act so childishly around them.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to run off and join Loki's Army. Long Live Lord Loki!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Subtle Style of Sentences

Something that bugs me, (just a little bit), is when people compare books to movies. It's the same as comparing lemons and bananas. Sure, they're both fruit, but one of them will turn your milkshake into a sour porridge. So sure, books and movies are both good for storytelling, but they do so in very different ways so it's silly to compare them.
What's been bugging me (a little bit) lately is the idea that stories are not a visual medium. Now, I'm sure some of you might be thinking "The Word Nerd's lost it", as unless we're talking about picture books, then written stories don't have much to look at; but hear me out.
Of course, compared to movies, writing doesn't look like a visual medium because it doesn't wiggle pictures in your face or (for the most part) use colour at all. It's just words on a page. However, I'm going to talk about the ways in which writing is a visual medium, and how knowing this can improve your writing. The Word of the Day is: 'ITALIC'

Italic /uytalik/ adj. 1. Relating to a style of printing types in which the letters usually slope to the right (thus, italic), used for emphasis, to separate different kinds of information, etc. ♦n. 2. (often pl.) Italic type. 3. (cap.) Of or pertaining to Italy, especially ancient Italy or its tribes. 4. (cap.) A branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

In an earlier post, I've talked about ergodic literature, which is a style of writing that requires more effort from the reader because the writing is written all over the place. If
the words shift about the place or change colour for some reason,
then of course it could be considered a form of visual expression. But, I'm not talking about ergodic literature, rather how those principles apply to all forms of writing.

No matter what we write, the way it is written affects the way we read it. Changing the colour or orientation is a very blunt way of doing that, but what about italics?
We've been trained, through time, that when something is written in italics it has some kind of emphasis. Words that are italicized means something different to the same words when they're not. Because of that, when I read italics, I read them emphatically.
The same can be said of emboldened words. I see those words as either more serious, more important or more dramatic.

But I figure, at this point, I'm just preaching to the choir. Writers know about italics and bold. I use them so often on this blog, to make these words read as though I were speaking them, that it's a given at this point. But those are NOT the only way in which words are a visual medium. In fact, they're one of the minor examples of visual expression. The most important visual tool in the writer's shed is:

Space.

Paragraphs, white-space, page breaks. People actually read white-space, not in the same way that you read words, but they do interpret whitespace.
  "It's the reason why new dialogue is written on a new line with a gap beside the margin."
It's the reason why most chapters of a book start on a new page. It's the reason why the title of a book (so often) has its own page.

When there's a lot of space, people read words differently, and this is actually one of the things that really bugs me about online writing.

When writing fiction, either fanfiction or stuff in blogs, a lot of people put a space after nearly every sentence (thus illustrated).

It annoys me for two reasons. One, LOOK at all this wasted space! If I ever wanted to print this out, I would be wasting half of every page!

Second, it makes me feel like the writer has a stutter. Like they need to stop and take a breath every time they say something.

It depicts a lack of clarity of thought, in my opinion. When you write in full paragraphs each time, it shows the reader that you have a flowing train of thought (even when you didn't). A new paragraph means something new. In fiction, it can mean there's a new scene that's being played out; it can mean there's a new concept to be explored; a new thought process. So when writers do this online, it looks amateur (seriously, check out some fanfiction.net, most of them do this space-per-sentence thing). This style looks like the writer had to stop and think before every line. Don't get me wrong, you're allowed to stop and think about every time, it's not like I sit down and splurt out entire blog posts in one fell-swoop; but just as puppetry is better when the audience doesn't see the strings, writing is better when the audience doesn't see your stop-and-start thought-patterns.
Also, symmetry is often related to beauty, and in this case I find it very true. When a page continually hugs the left margin, it looks ugly to me. So it's a good idea to write in full paragraphs all the time - even if you're not worried about wasting paper - so that the words are spaced across the entire page. That way the words look clean and more cohesive.

Just recently, something else was brought to my attention that needs addressing.   I only heard about it in a recent xkcd comic.   It seems as though there is a portion of the Internet, and society at large, that thinks you need to put two spaces after each sentence while writing online.   I imagine that these people are aping the style of handwriting whereby sentences have a "finger" of space between them, something I have never understood.   But no matter what you believe about writing, let me explain something to you.   I don't care what the rules say, because that's not the issue.   The fact remains, when I read writing with more than one "space" after each full stop, it looks to me like your writing is full of holes.   Literally.

Another thing that bugs me, when it comes to writing, is something I call the sentence-hook.
These are caused when sentences are written just long enough for the final words to sit one line down.
I'm trying to illustrate it within the blog, but it's difficult as the pages are wider than I expected.

See, within the writing, I consider these sentence-hooks like little hiccups. The eye reads words from left to write (in English), trailing along. So when a word sits on the left side, it forces your eye to stop a second on the left margin. It stops the way the words flow. So often, these are easy to fix. I've found myself adding extra words, removing page breaks or rewriting sentences altogether to avoid it, because I find it annoying when I come across it while reading so I try to avoid it for my readers when I write (although not always).

Now, I could spend this entire post whining about poor writing practices, and visually unpleasant writing, but I won't. Instead, I want to direct this towards something more positive.
To all you NaNoWriters, and my fellow writers in general, I'm not pointing out these little issues just to whinge. I'm pointing these out so that you can identify them and utilize them. Paragraphing, spacing, sentences, italics, bold & underlines all affect the way that your writing looks and reads.
Once you recognize that, you can use these to make your writing look better.

  Or use it for effect.

Once you start to master these, you can move onto some of the more advanced typography like kerningtracking; recto/verso; leading; raising; lowering & all kinds of tricks that you can try with your word processors at home.
Because writing is a visual medium, and it can even be a great one; if only more writers would put the effort in to make their words beautiful.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'll be writing some more beautiful words.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

One Percent

In Australia, there are quite a few outlaw motorcycle gangs. I don't want people thinking we all live on Anarchie Road, but there are quite a few. Not only have some American motorcycle gangs immigrated here such as the Bandidos, but we have our own homegrown gangs. There are the Comancheros, who are at loggerheads with the Australian branches of Hells Angels; the Finks (who've either joined forces with or have been absorbed by the Mongols) & the Rebels, the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in Australia, which was founded in my hometown of Brisbane. There are many other gangs I didn't bother looking up.
This isn't common knowledge or anything, I did some research for this post to find out about the gangs, but all in all, I'm working on what my family has told me as well as what the news says. From this, I know that police have been cracking down hard on motorcycle gangs lately, due to perceived escalating crime. The most prevalent activity includes a Gold Coast Bikie Brawl involving many police officers and dozens of Bandido gang members & the hospitalization of a 13-year old girl, who was hit by a stray pellet when some alleged members of the newly formed "Brothers for Life" motorcycle gang attacked her family home with a shotgun, looking for her brother.

This is all pretty nasty stuff, but for the most part I don't worry too much about it. I don't worry because, as much as the news makes a big fuss about it, ninety-nine percent of the time, motorcycle gangs are pretty harmless. The Word of the Day is: 'BIKIE'.

Bikie /buykee/ n. Australia, NZ A member of a motorcycle gang.

Each motorcycle club has some kind of symbol or "patch" to identify themselves, as well as mottos, colours and traditions. The Rebels Motorcycle Club patch depicts a confederate flag, a skull wearing a hat and a blue label that says"1%". This One Percent symbol is a reference to a comment supposedly made by the American Motorcyclist Association:
  "99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens"
The Rebels, as well as many other outlaw bikie gangs, call themselves "one percenters", identifying themselves as that outlying percentage of motorcyclists that willfully break the law and so they use such symbolism in their self-decoration.

The reason why I use it for the name of this post is because I also feel that 99% of the time, bikie gangs fight amongst themselves; 99% of the time, innocent people don't get hurt. Sure, these gangs offer drugs, illegal prostitution and commit other such crimes, but the people involved in this kind of thing, even if they're not a part of the gang, are still criminals. So I don't much care what outlaw gangs do.
I'm not saying that these bikies should be free to do what they want, there's a reason these things are called crimes and police deal with this kind of thing when it occurs. I think the legal system deals with this issue rather well as it is. If an outlaw motorcycle gangster commits a crime, the police deal with it, that works for me.

But the problem is that politicians are getting frustrated. They know that these gangs commit crimes, but they can't just arrest everyone because they can only put someone in jail after they've committed a crime and it's too hard to separate the crooks from the bike enthusiasts.
They are known as "outlaw" gangs (anecdotally) because they don't follow the recommended constitutional template that the government provides for social organisations, and most motorcycle clubs either engage in (or turn a blind eye to) criminal behaviour, but that doesn't make them all criminals and you can't arrest all 200 members of a bike club if just a few of them are caught committing a crime (even if you're certain that the gang will commit more crime).
Also, if a crime is small enough, the criminals will get out of jail (or post bail) and join the club again pretty soon, so police feel like they've got a real fight on their hands that they can't win with good police-work alone, so instead they're trying to allow for a form of nasty, unconstitutional police-work. That's not hyperbole, they're trying to implement some new laws that are flat-out unconstitutional, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Basically, they're using this bikie brawl and the hospitalized girl (and a slew of other big-ticket criminal activities committed by bikers) as a battering ram to burst open the floodgates of legislative change. They're using these examples of bikie crime to scare the public and wake them up to this criminal activity in the hopes that people will fear bikies enough to stand behind some new laws that politicians want to put in place (not that we can do anything about it, as it's a high court decision; but they're politicians, they want us to know anyway). These laws, as they tell us, will make it illegal to be a member or associate of a motorcycle gang, and would identify outlaw motorcycle clubs as criminal organizations.

Now this seems like a good idea at first, but there's a couple of problems. Firstly, they don't tell people what these laws will actually do. I was told by one News outlet that the laws were designed to make sentences longer for crimes committed by criminal organizations; another said that they wanted to make it possible to ratify outlaw motorcycle gangs as illegal criminal organizations & yet another said that they wanted to make it illegal for criminals to congregate. Nobody is letting me know what these laws are capable of, even if they are instituted.

Luckily, my father is an attorney and he's had a look into what these laws can do. Basically these laws (proposed by Anna Bligh) are Anti-Association Laws, which would allow police to collect evidence and present a case to the parliament with the intention of declaring an organization as "illegal". Once an organization is declared illegal as ratified by the parliament, it would then place members of that organization under very strict laws that can take away many of their rights:
It may be illegal for members of an outlaw organization to fraternize with other members that have committed a crime or associate with them; it may be illegal for any member to hold certain jobs, enter certain places or possess certain items and could even make it illegal for them to use a phone or access the internet; it may give the police powers to hold certain people in their custody without disclosing to the perpetrator what evidence they have & members of these outlaw organizations would have their personal information (such as birth date and home address) available on a register for the public to review at their pleasure.

The problem with these laws is all in the name: Anti-Association. In this country (and most others) you have the right to be friends with whomever you want to or to associate with any person that you like. Of course, it's illegal to work together to commit a crime, but if your best friend commits a crimeon his own you are still allowed to be his friend. That's in the Australian Constitution, the right to Associate with whomever you so choose. That is why these laws are having so much trouble being passed - they go against our own basic, constitutional rights to associate.
Not to mention, while we keep calling theselaws  anti-bikie laws in the news, nowhere in this proposed law do they mention the word "bikie", "motorcycle" or "motorcyclist". These are for any organizations that commit crime.

These aren't anti-bikie laws, these are police powers to restrict the constitutional rights of anyone that associates with a criminal.
For that very reason, the lawyers of the Hells Angels have challenged these laws and, in a just world, they will succeed. I want to stop criminals as much as the next policeman, but I don't want to do so by taking away the freedoms of innocent people (even if their friends are crooks), which is exactly what these laws would allow.

One example (jokingly) given was that of the Catholic Church. Due to the prevalence of paedophilia and obstruction of justice within the Catholic Church, a case could be put forward to deem that organization illegal.
Of course such a claim would never be passed, as it would have to be ratified by the parliament and they don't have the balls to do that, but the claim has merit. Organizations like the chapters of Girl Guides; Alcoholic's Anonymous; Scouts Australia & the WA Farmer's Federation could be persecuted by these laws, as would any business, organization, club, association or incorporation.
Now, I'm not saying that all of these clubs would be deemed illegal under these laws, most of them wouldn't, there needs to be evidence against them for them to be ratified by the parliament. However if it were discovered, for example, that there was a dog-fighting ring being run by members of the Girl Guides, and they were ratified as an illegal organizaion, then everyone (over the age of 16) who was a part of or associated with that chapter [or potentially the organization at large, but I'm not sure how broad the laws are] would be persecuted by these laws and have their rights taken away by merely associating with the criminals involved.

See, the thing that a lot of people seem to lose sight of is that crime is illegal. When someone commits a crime, the police investigate in the hopes of finding the perpetrator and bringing them to justice, regardless of whether they are an "outlaw" motorcyclist or not. Being the member of a gang doesn't mean you won't get caught, there is already enough power to stop criminals. These laws don't exist to stop criminals, they exist to discriminate against people and to punish those that have not committed a crime.
Luckily the Australian Police Force intends on being very light-handed with these laws and they only plans on using these powers to stop motorcycle gangs, youth gangs and other criminal organizations. If these laws are allowed to pass then most of the time - one might even say 99% of the time - these laws would be used for good. But I'm very worried about the other 1% . . .
Tom Fitzgerald, a former judge and an opponent of these laws, spoke to the media and said this of the laws:
  "History teaches us that claims that repressive laws will reduce serious crime are usually hollow and that laws which erode individual freedom and expand a state's power over its citizens are fraught with peril."

Thankfully, I don't think these laws need to come into power anyway. These laws will probably not pass, but either way police won't be able to stop it. As has been pointed out, if someone is already a criminal, what makes you think they'll care that they're "committing a crime" by having a drink with their mates?
I predict that, anti-association laws or not, police are going to hit hard for a while and put some folks in jail, to scare the bikies into staying out of the public eye. If cops can teach bikies "When you go too far, we go too far", then maybe bikies will try harder to police themselves so as to avoid inciting another political flare-up like this and this should scare them back into a manageable level of crime (or at least make the media shut up about it).

At the end of the day, while it's taken to mean "outlaw motorcyclists", a bikie is anyone that rides a motorcycle. I live in a family of bikies. Just this weekend, my brother earned his learner license for a motorcycle, which means that everyone else in my family (my two older brothers and my parents) own motorcycle licenses and most of them own some form of motorbike. One day I would like to get a motorcycle license, although another stupid law says that you need to have a car license first if you live in Queensland.
As such, I know that there are a lot of laws that discriminate against motorcyclists and a lot of police treat motorcyclists more harshly. What I'm saying is, there's already enough discrimination against motorcycle riders that we don't need to implement "anti-bikie" laws to give the police more of an excuse. After all, the word of the day is "BIKIE", not "CRIMINAL".

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time I'm going to see if I can start up my own outlaw bikie gang without a motorcycle or a license.