Not All Of What Follows Is True

A recurring journal of mixed veracity.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Dalton came round from half-stupor to the noise of the waves slapping at the hull. He'd been lying flat under sunshine for the better part of an hour, brain disengaged, his back heating up from the deck. Sprawled as if drunk. His left hand fumbled for his shades, but clumsily, and he swept them glasses from where they'd been on his forehead. The shades clattered onto the deck. Dalton rolled over and propped himself on on elbow.

Fourier was by the wheel in the boat's cockpit, messing around with a bundle of cables -- fibreoptic flex for the satellite rig. The wire was giving Fourier a hard time, slipping from his hands and resisting all his attempts to collect the bundle into a coherent mass. Dalton called out to him. His sun-dried throat croaked out his name. Fourier stopped for a moment and turned to look over the little windscreen that shielded the wheel.

"Nearly time," said Fourier, "Get yourself a drink."

Dalton got up and walked over on swaying feet to the plastic water-tank by the prow. Essentially, it was just a thick plastic bag with a tap in it. The water was lukewarm from the ambient temperature, but Dalton drank it anyway. He lurched a little as the boat jigged benaeth him on a small swell in the waves. Off to starboard, in the distance, Dalton could see an atoll. He was pretty sure it was the one they'd stopped at the day before. There was a small trade station there with a diesel pump. Now it was just a crooked protrusion, encroaching through the line of the horizon into the deep sky. Far enough away for them to be undetectable. At least, that was the theory.

There was a clatter and a thump behind Dalton. He turned around to find Fourier placing the dish on the deck and plugging it in, messing with jacks and leads. About a foot and a half across, the little array tilted and swivelled at the press of a button, lining itself up with an orbiting body far beyond view.

"It's time", said Fourier, "The uplink's ready."

Dalton checked the lights were all green on his terminal, a black ceramic box no larger than a deck of cards. The tiny LEDs dutifully came on one after the other in the right hue. Dalton plugged the nine-pin jack into the relay box, then sat down cross-legged. His fingers were sweaty now. He tried not to think about that. He had to concentrate. He felt for the sockets at the back of his temples and pushed the user-end plugs in with a click.

There was a moment of recollection then. A flash of a time when people and buildings seemed much bigger, then a strange sensation of numbness and falling. He took a deep breath. He'd mentioned the sensations - different each time - to Fourier. Fourier had said he should think about having some treatment to check on his interface sockets. That the mental imagery could be the result of an incorrect connection with the plugs. The plugs stimulated the same parts of the brain that created dreams in sleep, said Fourier, and if the interfaces were going wrong it might lead to lasting damage.

But Dalton couldn't afford new surgery, and after a while he'd stopped mentioning it to Fourier so that he wouldn't talk about it. Dalton was nowhere near as worried about side-effects as Fourier was. But then he had been on medication for the last two months to combat his hypochondria.