THE LUNATIC AT LUNATECH
© 2000 Melissa K. Michael
THE LUNATIC AT LUNATECH
by Melissa Katherine Michael
I first met Rinda D. in 2045 while doing my post-doc
work on Irritable Body Syndrome. UCLA admitted me into their Neurological
Space Disease program and in that year, they had funding to send
those of us with appropriate theses up to Lunar One to do research.
Luckily, there was a worker there with a diagnosis of Irritable
Body Syndrome: Rinda D.
She greeted me at the spacelock, where shuttles docked and unloaded
people and cargo, wearing a loose-fitting gray worksuit. She was
my main interest yet I couldn’t help ogling the huge hangar,
never having been out of the US before, much less off-planet. The
rocket journey had been thrilling, but the changes in motion and
gravity had led to acute nausea at times, despite the medicine I’d
taken, so while it was fascinating, it hadn’t been very enjoyable.
Now, with Earth-normal gravity under my feet, I couldn’t control
my roving eyes. I wasn’t alone, none of the other passengers
could either, the lot of us gazing around wide-eyed at the cathedral-like
entrance like so many third-world refugees in LA.
She had the typical spacer crewcut although I was pleased to find
that all the living and working sections of Lunar One’s main
complex were maintained at Earth-normal gravity. She shook hands
with a firm, self-assured grip and a pleasant smile. Sculpted light
artwork glowed overhead making me think of Lunar One’s slogan:
Space Age Heaven. It felt surreal, everyone smiling pleasantly past
souvenir kiosks, coffee and snack shops, an information center,
and even a small First Aid Booth; all decorated in that tacky silver
‘space’ cloth. I could almost hear Eno’s “Music
For Spaceports”, while only a few feet away the eternal vacuum
of black space/time waited to swallow us all.
When we passed through the concourse and into a plain white-walled
hallway, I was able to study Rinda’s face. It’s youthfulness
was marred by telltale lines at her eyes caused by intense chronic
pain. They were sunk back as though from deep exhaustion and darkened
as well by lack of hope. She had a strong chin for a woman. It was
femininely curved, but I got the first impression from her chin
that this woman would never let something as trivial as chronic
deep pain interfere with her work, her life. How did I know so surely
that that was the focus of her life? Hers was the keenly intelligent
countenance of a undaunted revolutionary explorer.
And also I saw in the firm clean lines of her face the will to never
let the violent rages of IBS gain control of her actions, not even
for a moment.
Already, I was fascinated by how someone with IBS must experience
the world, what she must feel, how she must perceive things as differently
from me, from everyone around her; for IBS is characterized by an
intensity of emotional depth unimaginable to the normal person,
a kind of reverse autism (where a person experiences so much intense
sensory input while emotional input/output is severely curtailed.)
With IBS, an acquired disease currently thought to be caused solely
by stress, emotional input/output is so great and of such intensity
that the person sees a whole realm of motivations and feelings and
judgments in the least motion or nuance of another’s bodily
or verbal communication and their response is overblown to try and
convey the rich intensity of their own feelings. This on top of
the stresses of life and work in a space station, constant pain
throughout the whole body, frequent bowel problems, skin rashes
and allergies, insomnia, and a host of other symptoms, made Rinda
D. an absorbing subject of study.
She seemed a bit wistful, as she settled me in my private cubicle,
saying with a sardonic smile, “I wouldn’t have an irritable
body if I had a room like this.”
“What don’t you like about your room?” I asked.
“The five other people I share it and the bathroom with. Can
you imagine, six women together and they lock me out of the bathroom
that has two stalls and two showers sometimes, because they’re
shy?” She met my eyes with the kind of glare that would be
deemed a challenge coming from a normal person. For someone with
IBS, I knew it to be merely an overblown expression of irritation,a
way to insure she didn’t miscommunicate, afraid that I would
misunderstand her angst.
“Definitely irritating,” I sympathized.
She frowned at her dilemma then led me on a short tour of the space
station and lunch in the service cafeteria where I would take all
my meals. Permanent workers ate in another section. I noticed she
stared at everyone intensely as if drinking in their souls through
I was hoping to begin my career by pinpointing some organic cause
for IBS the way neurotic diseases in the last half of the last century
had been considered mass hysteria for a decade then found to have
an organic cause. Hypoglycemia in the 1970s was thought by many
otherwise competent professionals to be a fashionable disease; to
be the modern woman’s way of fainting dramatically, until
the pancreatic overload was verified
Then there was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the 80s, again thought
by medical doctors to be a form of hysterical neurosis until it
was traced to the Epstein-Barr Type II-A virus. And likewise in
the 90s Fibromyalgia or Chronic Pain Syndrome was found to be caused
by a Rheumatic virus. In the 01s it was premature aging that was
finally linked to hushed-up toxic chemical spills. In the 10s .
. . I guess it never stopped. IBS happened to be the latest in a
long line of diseases the medical profession was afraid to confront.
After lunch we went right to the office I was to be allowed to use
for the six weeks I would be observing her in specific, and life
in a lunar work environment in general. I had seen the file Lunar
One’s physician, Dr. Medrow, had on her before my flight,
but wanted to cover the basics with her on the off chance he’d
missed anything significant.
“I do fine when I’m left alone,” she began without
any prompt from me. “But I’m never left alone to my
work, and this frustrates me no end. I can’t sleep at night
from the tension and the sense of failure--”
“Failure?” I interrupted her. “But you’re
the top in your field.” We faced each other across a large
desk taking up half the space in my office. At that point in my
career I was impressed at the generosity.
“But I could be accomplishing so much more,” Rinda said,
scrubbing at her short brown hair with one hand, a sort of nervous
affectation, “if I was simply allowed to utilize my time to
“Explain it to me. Tell me all about your work.” I was
looking for causes, and intended to leave no stone unturned, including
the most obvious.
“Do you know about VR simulations?” she asked, her eyes,
not quite predatory as a hawk’s, but missing not a detail
either. “We use it in our research. It’s the main tool
in what I do.”
“I’ve used it some for study but I do my research with
live patients.” I paused and tried to smile reassuringly.
She gave a sharp crooked nod then said, “We’re developing
an instantaneous transmutation device.”
I choked on my breath.
She looked alarmed. “It’s not classified!” she
cried in utter dismay. But she recovered her composure when I recovered
my breath. It was then I noticed that her leg jiggles constantly
because it had stopped during that moment of panic. It started up
again, vibrating furiously as though some demon had hold of her
ankle and was shaking it like a jackhammer.
“We’re so close!” she said with emotion. “I
can feel it. But it’s like something is working against us.
It’s so frustrating. We should have had it two years ago!
But Clinch says I’m imagining things when I bring it up at
the quarterly evaluations. I’d say I feel like I’m on
the moon except that I already am.” She laughed weakly.
“What do you mean?” I asked, sure that this was the
crux of her problem, and afraid she was merely exhibiting paranoid
neurosis--a complete waste of my time and my university’s
“It’s like I’m the only one who sees anything
wrong. Like everyone else is insanely accepting setback after setback
as successful progress.” Her face conveyed distress. She was
quite an animated speaker.
“We have the physics, the mathematical theory, and a lot of
design parameters. My job, along with three other developmental
materials engineers is to find the materials that will make it work
without transmuting the device itself in the process.” She
leaned forward resting her elbows on the desk and gestured with
her hands. “We have to create those elements. That’s
where the VR comes in. To create isotopes of real elements and compounds
in a lab would take tremendous expense and time. Then each would
have to be manufactured into a working model of the transmutor;
another huge outlay of money, time, and effort. So, instead, what
my department does is run simulations of the finished transmutor
in VR and learn from our mistakes.”
She raised brown eyebrows to ask if I was following. I nodded.
“I may run anywhere from five to twenty-five experiments at
a time, mostly simple permutations of a basic idea, whether it’s
a variation in the material or the structure of the finished transmutor.”
She paused and leaned back in the padded seat and looked to the
ceiling. A hollow ache of longing rolled slowly across her face
before she spoke again.
“When I’m hooked up there is so much sensory input from
the programs that I lose all sense of my body and its pains.”
I nodded. This was the whole point of VR, yet I found myself affected
by the serenity of her expression. The excitement of facing these
rigorous challenges took years of strain and worry off her face.
“It’s all just raw, scientific, unemotional data soaring
past me. It almost feels like it’s soaring through me.”
She bounced excitedly in her seat like a child recounting a day
at the fair. “Six hours go by for me like six minutes. It’s
intensely disappointing when it’s time to shut down. I get
this rush of depression. It seems all these pains that I didn’t
feel for the last six hours are determined to make up for lost time
by bashing me.”
“What kind of pain?”
“You name it. My feet ache and burn, like I’m walking
on hot spikes. It’s all worse when I lay down at night and
try to relax.”
“Nothing nonaddictive does a thing. I’ve tried everything:
acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen sodium, ginfa silicate; everything
over the counter. Medrow won’t give me the good stuff.”
By that I knew she meant the endorphinomones prescribed only for
“My legs feel like they have shin-splints all the time. My
knees ache. I thought I had arthritis for three years before I went
to Medrow the first time. He said it wasn’t. No swelling,
no redness, nothing on the blood test he did do. Sometimes I wake
up in the middle of the night with a charley horse in one thigh
or the other. My glutes and hams feel cramped right now. I guess
it’s from so much sitting. Even though I do an hour everyday
on the no-impact bike. My lower back kills me all the time. Sometimes
I feel like a sharp shooting pain down through the hip. I thought
I had sciatica. Still do,” she grumbled sourly as if distrusting
“Okay. Elbows,” she said stretching her arms out. Her
right elbow gave a huge crunchy sounding pop. “I think the
muscle tension puts unnatural stress on the joints even when I’m
trying to relax,” she said by way of explanation.
“Did that hurt?”
“The pop? No. That was relief. It aches all the time. My whole
body aches all the time.”
She rolled her head around eliciting strange and loud pops and cracks
from her neck, then she pulled her shoulders back and arched her
upper back, thrusting her largish breasts forward to the accompaniment
of crinkle crunches from her upper back. “Sometimes I get
a sharp stab in my upper back, but mostly it’s just my neck
aching. I used to think I was holding my head wrong in the VR unit,
until Medrow said Irritable Body Syndrome.”
“Not much. No more than normal.”
“What is normal?” I asked, my eyebrow rising of its
own accord. Like a headache, the excessive constant pain she felt
throughout her body was real, but not measurable in any scientific,
quantifiable way. Thus IBS was lumped in with a broad spectrum of
She smiled. “A few a month, I suppose. They’re never
bad, so I don’t pay attention to them. It’s the other
stuff that bothers me. And it all seems to gang up on me in the
middle of the night. I guess it’s because my focus isn’t
captured by external work, so that magnifies my perception of the
body’s pains. Either that, or as the body relaxes, the pain
really is increased.” She looked at me hoping for a definitive
explanation. But I was studying her because I didn’t have
one. Because the world didn’t have one.
“Oh yeah, and my breasts are sore and tender all the time,”
she added as if in afterthought.
“The outside,” she said, touching herself under the
Tender, swollen lymph region could indicate infection or a stressed
immune system. Maybe we’d find a virus yet.
“Describe a typical workday to me,” I requested.
She scrubbed at her head with both hands for a moment with her eyes
closed. Then as her eyes focused on mine I felt a psychic penetration
as though she could easily discern my inner motivations and opinions
of her, perhaps better than I could. Had I been studying IBS so
long that I was imagining things?
“We’re developing a totally new computer architecture
and the building materials to construct it. Very intricate, and
mentally demanding work. To be manufactured and used in a gravity-free
vacuum. It takes fifteen minutes just to get into the system, another
15 to figure out what I did in the previous session, and another
15 to decide what to accomplish this session, then I need to work
uninterrupted for 4-6 hours, sometimes 10 or 12 if I can swing it.
But my coworkers and supervisor are constantly disturbing me. I
get more done than anyone else. Just imagine what I could do if
left alone. I’d never dream of interrupting anyone else as
they do me so casually.
“I’ll show you how ludicrous it is.” She gripped
my hand painfully and dragged me out the door and down the hall
to see a notice posted on the outside of the research section door.
Do Not Disturb, it read in bright red. Underneath, she jabbed a
finger at the line that said, Under no circumstances is the Materials
Engineer to be disturbed while in Working Mode. I have to play by
that rule for them but nobody does for me.” Her glance begged
“Have you spoken to your superiors?”
“Yes. Numerous times. It’s like they don’t hear
what I’m saying. I’ve said it in plain English. I’ve
even put it in writing. They thought I wanted more pay. I don’t!
I just want to do my job!”
Whereupon she burst into tears.
“I’m sorry.” She wiped at her tears impatiently.
“They’re like water faucets that get stuck on. I know
it sounds like a paranoid schizo, but they’re sabotaging my
work. Sometimes I can see their glaring malice, especially Jennifer.
With the others, I see only the depth of their unfeeling, uncaring
She was right. It did sound more and more like simple paranoia.
But what about the pain?
“I can’t sleep and when I do, I wake up with stabbing
pains that feel bone deep, But Dr. Medrow could find nothing physical.
Of course, he didn’t do any real tests. He just fobbed me
off on a shrink.”
“And what did the shrink say?”
“I didn’t go.” The emotion, the barely-checked
virulence of her gaze, caused me to shiver and step back involuntarily.
In all my days of research and practice I’d never been around
such an active and strong-willed IBS patient. Usually they were
washed-out husks, simply images of their former vital selves, debilitated
by the chronic pain and lack of sleep; the intensity of their war
with their emotions wearing them down to battered nubs.
She looked down quickly and took a deep strangled breath. Then another.
“I know you’re here to help me,” she whispered.
“I just hope that you can.”
“I’d like to observe you at work and see if I can catch
an interruption that sets you off into a spell,” I said trying
to assure her of support. “Is there some way I can sit and
watch without being seen?”
“I want you to come in with me,” she answered and handed
me a VR helmet. “So that you’ll get the full sensation
of an INTERRUPT.”
She helped me into the boots and gloves before asking if I had heart
problems. “It’s not braggadocio to state that I am the
fastest operator on Lunar One. You’ll piggyback on my signal,
kinda like being a passenger in a car, okay?”
“Just speak normally and I’ll hear it like we’re
in the same car together.”
I put my helmet on and waited briefly. Then we began moving and
I could see. It felt like waking in the morning, the usual sensation
of a program booting up. Soon we moved along Lunar One’s sundry
security checks. Rinda chatted amiably with the watchdogs and security
personnel, her rainbow-hued Court Jester-in-mid-leap icon a stark
contrast against their navy/gold Badges and black S’s. I looked
down to see my own icon but I was invisible. No wonder Security
passed me without a glance.
“It’s not just to keep out the competition,” I
heard Rinda’s voice and assumed she was addressing me, “but
there’s a whole sub-culture up here”--by that I knew
she meant: in space--“made up of hackers and spacers who just
want time on a real computer. Without paying, of course.”
The Jester turned and winked at me.
“Our concepts are public, but the nitty-gritty details are
top secret. I’m showing you because I’m sure you won’t
understand what you see, much less remember it, beside the fact
you’re not an industrial spy.
“Here we are,” she said and we passed under the blue
neon LunaTech arches and began picking up speed.
I’d been admiring the data bits to either side of the main
stream, walls of little sparkling on off off on on on off off diamonds,
when I realized they extended far into the distance not only before
and aft, but also to either side, over and under; three dimensionally.
I had an image of the immensity of bleak, open, eternal space; chock-full,
just crammed with information.
I heard Rinda’s chuckle in my mind’s ear.
“Yes, that’s the existing technology; holographic memory.
We’re looking for something a bit more drastic. N-dimensional
storage, you see?”
The enormity of Rinda’s project hit me like a rocket blast
as we whizzed away and the diamond bits became a dim blur. I was
conscious of traveling far faster than I ever had in a car. We cornered
an intersection, a program level branch node, and I swear I felt
g forces and some nausea.
“Sorry,” Rinda said. “I’ve told them again
and again to take that out.”
“What’s it for?” I asked weakly, trying not to
clutch my stomach and failing to not stomp a nonexistent brake.
“If you overload, you get bumped out and have to reboot. I
say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ Put a blinking light
or a netcop on a dragon, or something useful. I know the limits
and I’ve never been bumped off yet. Not once.”
After a few more hair-raising turns and one stop at a security check
where Rinda supplied a password we came up to a cartoon laboratory.
“Here’s my desk,” Rinda answered.
There was a blinking icon of a black Juggernaut with huge round
white eyes and a big red smile resting on the bright green desk.
“Jagannatha,” Rinda said. “Juggernaut is the British
mispronunciation. His parents are Hare Krishnas.”
I saw a rainbow-gloved hand reach out and swat the little deity.
“What did you screw up this time?” Rinda asked in a
voice soured as if for a stage production.
A man’s face appeared on the cartoon screen on her ‘desk’.
“Nothing,” it said with a warm smile. “Got a good-looking
iteration,” he paused dramatically, “if you want to
What I had suspected was bleed-through of Rinda’s sensations
and even emotions was confirmed by the quickening sensation of my
left leg jiggling. I’d never had that habit and so knew that
my perception of Rinda’s slight increase in anxiety was true,
“Well. Give me the address already,” she growled, yet
I could tell that she was pleased that her colleague was asking
her opinion of his work.
“Yes, Your Nastiness,” he said with a smirk and was
replaced with a stream of code.
“Ready?” Rinda asked after a moment.
I nodded, wanting to question her about her relationship with the
coworker, but I chose to let her proceed with her demonstration.
We dove through the screen on her cartoon desk and into a marvelous
workplace full of running experiments. Without bothering to explain,
she led me through subatomic worlds where I recognized muons and
mesons and bosons and gluons dancing and swirling around us, playing
out the incomprehensibly complex experiment she had set up to search
for her transmutation elements.
With a grunt of satisfaction, we roared off down a data stream to
another part of her work area where a huge flat royal blue plate,
big as an airport landing field was surrounded by black and silver
“Let’s add a little lead,” she said and suddenly
a mountain of gray-black metal covered the plate. “And see
if we can get a little gold.”
I heard merriment in her voice. With a flash and a bang, the lead
disappeared and a smaller mound of sparkling gold rested in its
“This is a simulation, you realize.”
I chuckled in answer, delighted by the display and amazed by the
concept LunaTech was trying to attain.
“This is one of my best simulations. And it would work in
real life, too,” the Jester quirked a smile at me. “If
only nickel had a stable isotope at atomic number 528.” I
joined in her weak laugh and we were spinning and zooming off to
another experiment when I saw a brick wall looming before us.
I cried out involuntarily but there was no way to slow down. No
way over, under, or around it.
“Flinking son of a--” Rinda managed to shout as we crashed
head-on into the obstruction.
My whole body ached faintly and my neck especially. Perhaps I’d
tensed up. I felt dazed as though I’d really been in an accident.
I thought I heard voices and pulled my helmet off.
“For the love of God!” Rinda shouted, beside herself
with rage. I was glad I no longer had the emotional bleed-through
provided by the piggyback link. She vibrated and shook with emotion,
her body jerking and bouncing with each syllable. “How many
times have I asked you not to do that? Nothing, Jennifer. Nothing
you have to ask me could be that important! Why the flink can’t
you enter through an icon like any normal person?”
Jennifer faced her nonchalantly, tossing blonde wavy hair over one
shoulder. Unperturbed by Rinda’s outburst, she said, “I
brought your mail,” and handed Rinda a small package.
“You brought my mail?” Rinda whispered in total disbelief
without accepting the package. I saw that she was shaking from her
head to her toes with suppressed emotion. “You jerk the suicide
switch,” her whisper quickly rose to a yell, “while
I’m on the clock, to give me my flinking mail?”
“There’s a packet from Earth. I thought you’d
appreciate it.” Jennifer placed it on the console and turned
to stalk haughtily away but Rinda grabbed her upper arm.
“No, Jennifer,” she said slowly as if trying to impress
upon a child, “I don’t appreciate it. It’s against
our company rules. Don’t. Ever. Do. It. Again.”
Jennifer left without comment.
Rinda slammed her helmet into the nearest wall. I ducked as bits
of plastic flew about the cubicle. The helmet, now 8000 credits
worth of ruined electronics, bounced then rolled on the floor. Rinda
slumped against the wall crying bitterly, her chest heaving with
“Rinda?” I called, cautious not to touch her. During
an IBS spell, there is a sensation of fire along the limbs.
Heck, there was a sensation of fire along my limbs, too. I felt
like I’d just been in a high-speed car wreck where the drunk
who’d caused it walked away unharmed and scot free.
“It’s all right,” she answered in a strangled
whisper. “I don’t beat my head against the wall anymore.
Only the helmet.” Then she whirled and ran for the door.
“Where-” I began.
“Sick,” she said and clutched her stomach as she lurched
down the hall to the bathroom.
I wanted to confirm the validity of Rinda’s claims, so I spoke
with her supervisor, Mr. Clinch. He praised her marvelous skills
and admitted that the coworkers usually went to her with problems
because she could solve them so efficiently and still get her work
done on time, 40% more than any other engineer at LunaTech. And
it saved him so much time and botheration.
“Don’t you think that it’s stressful to her, and
thereby lowering her productivity?” I asked, amazed at the
“Her productivity is so much higher than norm, it doesn’t
matter. It’s like having a second supervisor for me. Sure,
she seems stressed out, but aren’t we all at one time or another?
Nothing a trank or a good lay won’t cure.” He nudged
me with an elbow and a jocular grin which I pointedly did not return.
“She’s the type to be stressed out no matter what her
environment is. Whether they interrupt her work or not.”
“I saw the sign that said such interruptions are against company
policy,” I stated.
“That’s for visitors, not coworkers,” he answered.
I shook his hand and took my leave, reminded of Sylvester the cat,
with Tweety-bird’s feathers hanging from his smile.
Rinda D. definitely had IBS, possibly along with some paranoia disorder.
The disturbances in her schedule and the lack of privacy in her
living arrangements, the overall stress in her lifestyle and workplace,
were causing pain and sleeplessness, and a nearly constantly irritable
Not that these factors are causes in and of themselves. Anyone else,
indeed everyone else, in the same situation was thriving on the
close living conditions and stress-filled work conditions, but Rinda
had, perhaps, a genetic predisposition to be negatively affected
by these conditions. Or perhaps, she had some rare virus or nutritive
deficiency, or even some kind of blow to the head resulting in some
sort of brain damage or alteration. I had to find the cause of IBS
and she was my best chance. A gift from heaven. The first step was
to get a firm clear picture of her physical and mental brain.
I asked her to take two weeks off for isolated observation. She
laughed hysterically for some minutes, slapping her thighs and bouncing
around my small office, then agreed heartily, saying her coworkers
would now be forced to learn to get along without her.
Her observatory intensity of emotions, and emotional perception
of others was far greater than normal. And thus far, she was able
to recognize it as abnormal and to control it. I’d studied
case histories of a number of people with IBS who were fired because
they were simply too unpleasant to have in a normal workplace. They
constantly barked and sniped at coworkers and complained about their
boss and their physical pains and the various conditions of their
disease. If they were especially skilled or talented, their disagreeable
behavior was sometimes overlooked until it invariably grew to physically
violent proportions, the patient becoming overcome with rage and
destroying property or attacking a coworker.
I kept seeing an image of Rinda smashing that helmet into Jennifer’s
face rather than against the wall. Was that my own anger at Jennifer’s
lack of human compassion? The woman obviously antagonized the situation
on purpose. Or was it a premonition?
When I asked Rinda specifically about her rages she said, “Sometimes
I get these really destructive urges when someone interrupts my
work with a question that he knew the answer to. But I bite back
on it and do the no-impact gravity bike for an hour every day.”
We sat in her isolated room having our daily meeting. “I get
these totally vivid, graphic, gory, detailed images of pushing them
through the airlock, locking them in the clothes dryer, or the toilet
and reversing the sewage, and at that instant in time, it’s
like I really want to do it. I plan out exactly what steps it would
take. After the time on the bike I feel much more serene.”
I reminded myself that this woman had never once acted on any of
those impulses. “Tell my about your sleep.”
“I don’t sleep more than two hours at a time. Get up
to pass water and stretch. Usually it’s the shooting pains
that wake me. Shooting down my back and legs.”
Her body displayed the mental anguish as pain, that she refused
to release in any other way.
She was enthusiastic when I proposed to run some tests. I ran a
simple MRI and CATscan of her brain just to get started. I noted
abnormalities and called in a second opinion to be sure, not Medrow.
The base psychiatrist had enough neurology to read the scans. There
were tiny growths all over her cerebral cortex, or the layer of
gray matter over most of the brain. Before revealing this stunning
fact to her I wanted to find out more about what they were. So I
spent a night skimming my database and found six cases of brain
spurs, all detected only in advanced stages, after they’d
done irreversible damage. All in extremely violent criminals. The
spurs, as the outgrowths of brain tissue were called, were very
advanced and had pressured the brain case and damaged several areas
of the cerebrum. I dug deeper into the sketchy files and found that
to a man they all had classic IBS. In addition, not only were they
all violent criminals, but they were also criminal geniuses, like
the Japanese serial killer who was supporting himself with donations
from his victims’ families by being part of the organization
trying to find him.
Could it be this easy? Could I really have found the organic cause
of IBS this easily? But what caused the brain spurs in the first
place in an otherwise healthy intelligent person? And even more
daunting, how to prevent and cure it? This thesis, if I could manifest
and write it would insure me a career in neurology research for
The six advanced cases were operated on as a last resort, the growths
so huge, the brain so impaired, that
I began to speculate on cause and effect. Pressured by performance
anxiety, or work-related (crime-related) stress, could it be force
of will, when the subject literally forces his brain into new ways
of thinking, that the brain responds by growing? Like that funny
money case in South America where an illegal drug kingpin knew the
police were close to apprehending him, but by creating a credit
company he disappeared and continued crimes for five more years
before getting apprehended and diagnosed as severely insane.
Natural spontaneous brain tissue generation! If my hypothesis was
correct, I could be world-famous, renowned for ages!
I observed Rinda for two weeks. After three days of very disturbed
sleep, she seemed to relax and slept for 12 hours, every day. Was
this simply catching up on sleep she’d been missing or was
it a permanent change she needed to make in her lifestyle? She wrote
furiously on a notepad, ate her meals leisurely, and added another
hour to her light-to-medium workout on the no-impact bike. One in
her “morning” and one in her “evening”.
I theorized that the growth in brain tissue was due to a desperate
psychic need to achieve and since this need was ever increasing
and never satisfied by success, the spurs would only keep growing,
therefore it was imperative that she change to a less demanding
and stressful lifestyle. Her psychic situation required peaceful
sleep and uninterrupted work.
Surgery was not recommended because the spurs saturated the brain.
To remove them would almost certainly cause damage, a risk not at
all warranted in this case of someone who was still functional.
Rinda completely refused my recommendations, since, of course, that
would require she terminate her present job which she finds immensely
fulfilling despite it’s aggravations. I asked her to let me
observe her in isolation for two more weeks and was strangely surprised
by her lack of reluctance. I thought she would be missing her work
but she seemed to enjoy the entertainment console, spending hours
each day with the VR helmet the room provided. At the end of the
third week of observation I walked in to say hello and have our
daily meeting but she was writhing wildly on the bed, the covers
twisted about her legs, her shirt ridden up to just below her breasts,
her head and hands immersed in the VR equipment. I went out to the
floor nurse and asked if she could find out what was going on with
that entertainment module, afraid of the disastrous effects of an
INTERRUPT when we’d made such progress in only three weeks.
She checked it then raised a disturbed face to me. “It’s
linked into LunaTech. I don’t know how, but that’s what
the status shows. Shall I cut it?”
“No!” I said hastily. I thought Rinda had agreed too
easily to her continued confinement. What was she up to? I returned
to her room. It didn’t look as though she was performing her
usual experiments on materials. Then I noticed the spare outlet
to the console. This had been a double room. I ran to the closet
and found the spare VR helmet, sitting down before I put it on and
Immediately I wished I hadn’t. Colors streamed by me so fast
I thought I was falling down through an active psychedelic volcano.
To think, some people buy programs like that for fun. Then a huge
pair of iron-bound, oak doors slammed shut in front of me and instead
of stopping, I rushed headlong and burst through, shattering the
wood on its hinges.
“Nothing can stop me, Jennifer. I know this system like the
back of my hand.”
Ohmigod! I thought, was Rinda wreaking some kind of horrible vengeance
against her hated coworker within the computer?
“Jeepers! Doc, is that you?” I heard Rinda’s Jester
voice though I could not see her, so focused was her attention on
what came streaming toward us.
“Yes,” I replied, dizzy from the nonstop rollercoaster
ride. We rose over instant mountains and fell down valleys, barreling
through sudden lakes, roaring through sudden clouds. Bursting through
door after sudden door slammed in our faces.
“Go ahead and pull the suicide, Jennifer,” Rinda sneered.
“Set off an alarm anyone can trace,” she laughed a high
With an inhuman burst of speed Rinda launched her Rainbow Court
Jester icon at the fleeing Marilyn Monroe and wrenched its head
off with a slice of her starwand. Under the mask the wavy blonde
framed face of Jennifer looked up in dismay.
“I’ll just take this,” Rinda said and wrestled
a data packet from Jennifer’s grasp, “And see you in
court.” She laughed and we were on our way, but not back the
way we’d come. We cruised the sparkling diamond data stream
at a slow pace stopping at security nodes to post a big red neon
star which locked each one behind us. The security gates were getting
bigger and more intricate and the black S guard icons looking fiercer
on this infoway. We journeyed into a new part of the LunaTech system.
But no one said a word as the Jester posted the red star and passed
“Straight to the top, I always say,” Rinda laughed as
we pulled up in front of an ornately-carved marble, sky-high gate
marked only CEO.
“Who goes there?” boomed a voice meant to threaten,
from somewhere above us.
“It’s just me, Dorothy,” Rinda said with a giggle.
“And Toto, too.”
“Hey,” the voice died quickly from a roar to a normal
tone and a bright yellow Woodstock stuck its head out a round opening
at eye-level that had been a carving in the door. “Rinda,
dammit, how did you get my password?”
She only laughed in answer, a gay, carefree sound I’d never
thought to hear from her.
“Got something you should see. Found Jennifer Washburn snooping
round my files and sabotaging my experiments. Tweaking my programs
so they wouldn’t work. She’s locked in her room right
now. And you might want to send Security to see what Mr. Clinch
and his flunkies have been up to lately.
“Are you serious?” LunaTech’s CEO asked in horror.
“As a heart attack,” Rinda answered.
Rinda immersed herself in work after that and refused me all but
a cursory meeting before I had to leave. We didn’t know what
was going to happen to her. She adamantly refused my suggestions
to change her lifestyle to include fresh air and sun, more sleep,
fresh foodstuffs; all of which meant quitting her job and returning
to Earth, although a lunar lifestyle is plenty healthy for most
She assured me that a lot of her irritability was leaving since
she could perform her life’s work uninterrupted and unsupervised
for the moment. Of course the physical pain was increasing, but
she assured me she could handle it.
She wished me well and asked for a copy of my thesis when I’d
finished it. I had a lot more research to gather and after examining
20 more cases of IBS I found a definite correlation with brain spur
growth and won the Neurological Fellows Insight of the Year Award
and 10,000 credits.
Two years later she called me over the Earth/Lunar One Microwave
Relay in a panic.
“I did everything you said, but they’ve gotten worse!”
She’d quit work and married a coworker, then become some kind
of successful artist. They’re insurance flew me up there to
see her. Her piece of the transmutor gave her a sizable income with
which she was able to buy time on LunaTech’s computer system
for her artistic endeavors.
“What’s up?” I greeted her, then as an afterthought,
What ever happened to Jennifer?”
Rinda smiled. She looked much improved, her eyes were relaxed and
bright. Her hair had grown and her wrinkles were much less pronounced
from what I remembered, her skin smooth and creamy.
“Oh them,” she said and rolled her eyes. We sat in the
living room of the spacious compartment she shared with her husband,
Jagannatha, who still worked at LunaTech.
“Jennifer, Clinch, and three others were convicted and sentenced
to five years for conspiracy and industrial espionage and their
employer, Solar Electronics, has been thrown out of space engineering.
They’ll never leave Earth again. Any of them.”
I nodded in satisfaction, then got down to business. “What’s
“I’m becoming obsessed with my artwork,” she said.
Her brown eyes looked at me heartsick.
I lifted my eyebrows.
“After we got . . . I got, the patents on three working transmutors,
I quit and just slept for a month. Then I got these creative urges.
It started out as little scenes within the new N-dimensional memory
system. Then they began working themselves into stories, full-scale
fantasy worlds. Right away there was a market for them. Between
that and the transmutor patents and Jagannatha’s income, we’re
doing great, financially.
“But it’s too much. Every waking minute I see these
images. I can’t stop myself from working them out into a finished
design. It’s like I’m compulsive. Every waking moment
I have to be working on this. Oh. I sleep twelve hours a day still,
and exercise one, and eat plenty of fresh foods. But I’ve
never experienced such a force on my mind. It’s like the pressure
I used to feel before, only more pronounced. That’s why I
think the spurs must be growing.”
“Did the pain go away when you left LunaTech?”
“Yes. And that’s the funny thing: even though I’m
feeling all this mental pressure. The pain hasn’t come back.”
I did a thorough physical along with some brain scans.
They came back negative. Not only was there no further growth, but
also, the previous spurs were completely gone.
“Be happy,” I said when she looked discouraged by the
news. “I think the key is the rest you’ve been allowing
yourself to get. Your force of personality and drive would have
come out in anything you chose to do. Without the pressures of work,
you’ve healed your naturally over-creative brain by resting
“But the result . . .” she began uncertainly.
“Is positive. You do good challenging work without interruption
and get plenty of rest for your Irritable Body. The stress you had
before triggered an enormous resource of creativity that might have
killed you in your previous situation. At present, the creativity
is still there but you’ve adapted to it. I’d say that
as long as you get 12 hours of rest each night, you could even go
back to work.”
She looked at me doubtfully.
“The spurs are gone!” I said triumphantly. “Or
if it makes you feel better, just imagine they are virtual brain
Now that would make a thesis!
of page ^