He'd move heaven and earth to protect his homeland...
were the new millionaires and billionaires of Neu Frankreich. These newly rich “Nouveau Riche” could see 72 hours into the future (and not one minute more). Their rise to power was as swift as their gift, which came from a mad French scientist operating in a secret lab in the Pyrenees.
You may think all mad scientists are German, but you would be forgetting Marie Curie. Not that she was any more of a "mad" scientist than Louis Pasteur. Getting radiated didn't make people mad, but that's another story.
I am Andorran, no matter what they call my homeland now. For centuries, “tiny” Andorra lay in the middle of the Pyrenees, minding its own business, staying out of global affairs. A small, landlocked, mountainous country squished between Spain and France, with limited natural resources, Andorra had avoided being at war for a thousand years. Not since Charlemagne came through to fight the Moors, anyway. Yes, Andorra did declare war on Germany in WWI, but none of our own were ever sent into the conflict.
It is true, the French are known for their prowess in the kitchen, not in the science lab, and known (but not renowned) for the way they surrendered to the Nazis instead of trying to fight them, leaving it to the Americans to shed their blood for freedom from tyranny. Forgive me if those Frogs (as the Germans called the French) remind me of that joke from our childhood: If you’re Italian in the kitchen, American in the living room, and French in the bedroom, what are you in the bathroom? A: European. (Or, "Russian," if you really need to go.) Almost as lame as the ol’ dare, “Say Lettuce and spell Cup.”
Do I sound ridiculous? I’m a mad Andorran, but mad as in outraged, not deranged. Let me assure you, absurdity is precisely what the new regime manifests and enforces. They’ve pissed all over a perfectly good country. (No, not France. Andorra!) The mad French scientist with his Visionaire machine was the grandson of a German soldier of World War II, hence the name change from France to Frankreich. Reich means rich in German, and frank means “honest” in English, but I tell you what, there is no honesty in the ruling class of Neu Frankreich.
The "Visionaire." Sounds like a retro car model, but it's not even cool to look at, like the Chevy Bel Air of the 1950s.
The people know how to put on airs, though. Visionaires are as ostentatious as millionaires across the ages, with their "let them eat cake" attitude, even if Marie Antoinette didn't really say those words after all.
Yes. I am weary of politics, journalism, stale history books that pass over the important places, like Andorra, and man's inhumanity to man. Women's too, to be sure, but I'm also weary of political correctness and the latest pronoun for one's chosen gender. As if I can keep track of Jackie Him-or-Her wanting to be known as "they," not him or her. The world's gone mad in so many ways, but it was always mad. Witch burnings, anyone? Wives as property? Exorcisms for the mentally ill?
Death and Taxes.
Nothing else has ever stood the test of time and social upheaval.
Call me a mad Andorran, but I am on the trail of an inventor who can help me reclaim my world. They call him Rama, “the little man,” and they say he is pure fiction, but I found an old novel with too many details in it for this Rama to be a figment of some guy's imagination. “Adjacent Fields,” by Charles Barouch, a bearded guy with 19th Century wire glasses and a Mensa IQ. He pretends to write fiction, but his author bio spills the magic beans:
Grounded in the real world, I write fiction.
There is something about reading about people who
see farther, sense more, and encounter more, which attracts me.
I want to share that 'the world is bigger' wonder with all of you.
Barouch had to be about a hundred years old by now, but I found him. Oh yes. The man was real. And so was the little inventor, Rama. Barouch denies it to this day, of course, but I have my ways.
Why hasn’t his teleportation device taken the world by storm?
Barouch’s novel opens with Rama demonstrating his amazing invention, the Adjacent Field, at a conference of potential investors, who witness cargo vanishing from one pad and reappearing on another--but they cannot grasp the technology or see its potential until a reporter in Rio swaps microphones with someone in New York, then Hong Kong. The unplanned microphone swap is “graspable." Within a week, the inventors have a privately traded company with six hundred stockholders. Not long after that, our protagonists are in jail on suspicion of finding a way to trade goods without paying taxes.
Too much truth here lurking in the guise of fiction.
I hired my favorite private eye, Veltina, who’d appropriated her name from a Guy T. Martland novel. She got the dirt on Rama. He was real, and he still had his teleportation devices. Like Bruce Wayne with the Bat Cave, the little inventor who’d been charged with dodging taxes was operating from a secret hideaway--trafficking his teleportation devices off-world, to a planet so far from our galaxy, no earthly government could touch it.
We confronted Rama and convinced him weren’t out to blackmail him or expose him to the IRS. All I wanted was to free my homeland, and France as well, of those Visionaires. They were scheming to take over the planet with their crystal-ball readings of stock-market futures. (Ok, the “whole planet” part may or may not have been true, but Veltina is nothing if not convincing.) These Nouveau Riche were worse than the tax-grabbing villains in Barouch’s novel. And they weren’t the “Share the Wealth” type of rich people. They looked into the future for signs of political turmoil and where to invest money. They didn’t look at the human side, the working class, the displaced persons, the tired masses huddled outside their Forecasting devices. Anyone the Visionaire bots identified as a rabble-rouser would mysteriously disappear or die of "natural" or "accidental" causes.
Appealing to the humanitarian side of Barouch, who continued to deny that Rama is real, I made a pitch for my homeland. We were never about power or wealth. We just didn’t want France, or Neu Frankreich, taking over the world. It was the Nazis all over again, minus the concentration camps, but hey, if the Visionaries somehow got hold of those Adjacent Fields (and I wouldn't put it past them), they might start teleporting unwanted humans across the galaxy.
Rama never showed his face but we found ways to communicate electronically (no, I'm not revealing my sources here), and he was quick to agree: Those greedy, self-serving Nouveau Riche had to be stopped. Rama teleported himself and some of his machines to Andorra, and we started plotting. Rama had been teleporting actual people to other planets--not just immigrants seeking asylum from war-torn nations, but bored, rich Millennials seeking adventure, felons wanting to start over in a new world, and visionary (not Visionaire!) business entrepreneurs. The trick would be to advertise teleportation as a tourist attraction, a status-symbol vacation for those Nouveau Riche.
We sold tickets. We packed the most powerful enforcers of the regime into several devices. Where would we send them?
To a beautiful, shining, futuristic city. Just not on planet Earth. Their stay would last longer than 72 hours. Girl, you know the reason why, as those 20th Century Beatles once sang.
Would their Visionaire devices figure this out?
And if they did, how fast could we escape?
Veltina understands how bots rule the internet (cats, too, but who do you think invented bots?). Even the Visionaire machines were only as smart as the humans who’d programmed the bots to run the algorithms to predict the future. The bots could see the shining city and all its potential wealth. They just weren’t wired to recognize how many light years away it was.
The Visionaires filled the ships. They knew what to expect: One press of a button, and their flesh would dematerialize. The teleporter would send the precise atomic configuration of the human to another location and reconstruct it there. They’d be transported to any location instantly, without crossing a physical distance. They could see themselves rematerializing in a beautiful city. They just had nothing in their circuitry to alert them that this city was far, far from Earth.
The mad French scientist who’d designed the Visionaire vaporized along with his most influential minions. He still had support personnel and allies left behind, but with diminished numbers. Most of the high-ranking, rich SOBs were heading to the party. There was one particular component they could not foresee: This was a one-way ticket.
But Rama (and Barouch, the Rama Denier) were already visionaries, long before some gadget led to a new ruling class of entitlement and oppression.
I figured Rama would dismantle the Neu Frankreich regime, restore France, and maybe operate his Adjacent Fields out in the open, but that only goes to show how useless my own forecasting skills are.
But, hey, we flushed the Nouveau Riche into the far reaches of the Galaxy. Rama went back to his trafficking operation, Barouch kept writing "fiction" (my ass, it was all fiction!), and the news media were in a frenzy of conspiracy theories about what had become of the Visionaires.
I retired to my little tobacco farm in the “tiny” country of Andorra. With Veltina. Rama lined our pockets, out of the sheer goodness of his heart, even though we feel we owe him for the favor of flushing those sneaky-rich Visionaires from our beautiful world.
You never know, even if you know the future, what Big Things lurk in small packages.
Artwork by Mad Uncle Studios
Who is Charles Barouch?
Sam Bellotto Jr asked me to review Barouch's debut novel for Perihelion Science Fiction. Good call, Sam! Barouch has written short stories for years and is a publisher as well. You can find a full list of his in-print writing here.
I've reviewed two of Barouch's books here at Steemit:
Why am I saying Rama is real??
A: Because this story, like Barouch's "Adjacent Fields," is FICTION!!
What prompted me to write it?
A prompt from @bananafish!
The Prompt I am looking for a fictional story set in a world where people are able to make fairly accurate predictions 24-72 hours into the future.
A special thanks to @gwilberiol, @dirge, @tristancarax, @theironfelix, @raj808, @brisby, @maverickinvictus, @cyemela, @marcoriccardi, @hidden84, @calluna, @oivas, @ntowl, @f3nix, @felt.buzz, @khasa, @vdux, @blueeyes8960 and @sidequest who's precious delegations make these projects a reality!
Thank you for the contest--I wrote this just for fun. Not to evade taxes. Not plot a military coup. Honest!
I'm going to POST this, fresh off the press, without looking back! Will I turn into a pillar of salt? Or just submit an unpolished, unfinished story to a contest I only entered for the sheer fun of it?
If you are not familiar with the daily freewrite prompt and the many wonderful writers who produce amazing 5-minute (or sometimes much longer) Freewrites, go to @mariannewest and look for the prompt. The graphics look like this: