Hemp fuel powers her rocket pack, her hemp twine will ensnare you, her hemp-woven body armor shields her from harm — but since that bulky armor hides her shapely figure, she’s known to the world as Hempman!
Dr. Len Carteret was a physicist and not an athlete, let alone a track star. So when asked to run — even for his life — by the helmeted, armored stranger who offered Len a new life in another reality, he simply couldn’t rise to the occasion … not with all the snow from a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter slowing him down.
When Len’s fallout shelter was discovered by his sick, starving neighbors, word spread fast, and before long, a mob was out for his blood. Whenever one of them managed to get within striking distance of Len, this so-called “Hempman” would rope their feet up with twine, but this could only be done for so long since they numbered in the hundreds.
And even though Hempman was literally flying via a jetpack, it evidently wasn’t powerful enough to support the weight of more than one person, its wearer, for very long (being overweight didn’t help Len either). This meant Hempman would have to continually double back and retrieve Len before the zombie-like hordes of famine-stricken survivors of World War III caught up with him. This also meant they had yet to clear the radiated area which was causing electro-magnetic interference with Hempman’s reality-jumping technology.
“I-I’m sorry,” Len panted, “go back to your — ‘Hemptopia’ without me. I should’ve drove less and walked more before the war.”
“C’mon!” Hempman yelled back over the increasingly audible, desperate cries for food and/or escape gaining on them from behind. “Don’t give up! Just another quarter of a mile!”
Without bothering to say he couldn’t make it, Len simply collapsed. Hempman then ceased to hover above him and landed besides the scientist amidst the radioactive snow. In the forearms of that hemp woven body armor were artificial spinnerets which spun strands of hemp fiber — and after firing a couple of lines around Len’s torso, Hempman took to the air and began to pull. Hard. “I may not have enough hemp fuel to carry your fat ass,” Hempman sardonically thought out loud, “but I can at least drag you.”
Eventually, the physicist and his savior had reached the perimeter of the interference, which wrecked so much havoc with Hempman’s instruments. Relieved beyond words that a certain remote control had finally decided to start working again, Hempman imputed directions to be sent “home,” and as a result, a white, shining hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum was temporarily opened. It closed right after Hempman pulled Dr. Len Carteret in and disappeared all together by the time their mutant pursuers caught up with them.
Once Len awoke, he eagerly looked around for any signs of the utopian lifestyle Hempman described when they first met. He’d been told of an alternate 2012 in which poverty, bigotry and atrocity were abolished on Earth thanks largely to decades of widespread use of industrial hemp and the first sign of such a life came in the form of the beautiful woman who stood over him in the nude. As he was coming to, Len also noticed his clothes were being hurriedly removed by this same woman — an even better sign, Len thought.
Len then noticed something familiar: The helmet and armor of the Hempman who saved him from post-WWIII America were sitting in the same box his clothes were being thrown in and it occurred to our scholar that this naked beauty and Hempman were one and the same. “Where am I?” Len groggily asked.
“We made it, Dr. Carteret,” the woman in her birthday suit answered, “I’m Marilyn Janeway. Welcome to Hemptopia.”
Len scanned his surroundings with narrowed, cynical eyes, “the great society I left everything I know for — is an all-white rubber room?”
“Decontamination, Dr. Carteret,” Janeway explained as she took off the last of Len’s clothes, “this is the stripdown room. Next we need to go to the washdown room and then the examination room, where we’ll spend a couple of days–”
“Days?!” Len exclaimed. “But I was in a fallout shelter when the bombs fell. The only time I left it is when you came along and–”
“No more than a week, don’t worry.” Janeway continued. “After they make doubly sure we’re not sick, I’ll show you that — ‘great society,’ as you put it.”
Len blushed, and when he did, it showed all over. “S-Shouldn’t we, uh, be in s-separate rooms? S-Since you’re a, uh–”
“One of the many differences between your world and ours,” Janeway grinned, “here, the sexes are equal.”
Though the culture shock was something to deal with, Len had to admit he liked being able to lean over and catch glimpses of Marilyn Janeway showering in the washdown room. It was the closest he’d ever come to personally seeing someone nude who also happened to be as pretty as she was. Simultaneously, Len felt horrible since he hadn’t been even remotely skinny since junior high; Len wasn’t obese, but the odds of her finding him attractive were very slim, no pun intended.
After being issued generic white robes to wear, Len felt even more horrifically self-conscious when the doctors in radiation suits asked if he was hungry while Janeway was within earshot. As they took swab samples between Len’s teeth and gums, the doctors audibly debated whether he should go a day without food so the resulting fast would cleanse his system of any lingering radiation. This hurt Len even more, but Janeway didn’t seem as though she was really paying much attention since similar questions were being asked of her.
Subsequent to much discussion, the doctors decided they should be flushed out with juice rather than be given solids, so several bottles of some sort of fruit puree were brought in. It wasn’t long before Len had to urinate but, like prison, the examination room’s one toilet was in plain view. Sensing his discomfort, Janeway turned her back to Len and silently waited for him to catch the hint. Once he did, Len eventually, trepidatiously approached the toilet, and to further take his mind off the lack of privacy, Janeway tried to distract him with conversation. “Dr. Carteret, I’m usually briefed on the histories of the alternate realities from which we rescue dissident scientists, but in the case of your reality, I was only told there had been a nuclear war.”
“A ‘nuclear holocaust’ would be more accurate.” Len was finished sooner than anticipated and fastened his robe with its rope belt.
Marilyn Janeway finally turned to face Dr. Len Carteret again, “I’m curious, who threw the first punch, as it were? How did the hostilities start? Why was there a nuclear holocaust in your reality?”
“The short answer is ‘Human nature,’” Len fanned his hand dismissively, “the first Human skeletons were found with spears embedded in them–”
“Actually, Doctor, I was hoping for something more specific and less stereotypical,” Janeway’s tone of voice hardened and darkened, “don’t condemn Humanity because of what some ignorant, prehistoric primitives did and don’t condemn the entire Human race because of the actions of a spoiled elite — unless, of course, that nuclear holocaust was started by all seven billion of the inhabitants of your Earth? Did every single household have a missile silo in its backyard?”
Len frowned as his face reddened with embarrassment. Saying the words “Human nature” seemed akin to shooting himself in the foot insofar as his chances of getting to know the lovely Janeway better. “I’m sorry, you’re right. It was — if they were all to be counted — only a few thousand at the most who had anything directly to do with what happened.”
“So, what exactly happened?”
“Before you brought me — here,” Dr. Len Carteret looked at the blank, white walls around him, “you told me everything here is made out of hemp. Well, where I came from, everything was nuclear. As you said when you — suddenly appeared — in my bunker/laboratory, my revolutionary work in cold fusion is what attracted you to me …” Len tried to accent the word “attracted” to see if that’d have any subliminal effect, but if it did, he wasn’t able to tell. “Unfortunately, most of the fusion in my world is hot. Whereas I’d found a way to achieve nuclear fusion at room temperature, everyone else was still using huge reactors to generate enough heat to make nuclei fuse. In fact, those profiting from the use of reactors did everything they could to discredit me so my discovery wouldn’t render them obsolete.”
Bringing this up almost brought a tear to Len’s eye since it prompted him to recollect all the harm that discreditation campaign caused. “T-They all but ruined me … As far as the war is concerned, the irony was all those nuclear reactors were perfect, giant targets for terrorists. I warned them — even as they were destroying my reputation — ‘suicide bombers don’t need nuclear weapons when you’ve got over a hundred nuclear power plants across the country,’ but they wouldn’t listen. And then, The Apocalypse …”
“So these ‘terrorists’ started it?” Janeway’s head cocked to one side inquisitively.
“Yes and no,” Len answered, “it turned out those terrorists were once on our side. The government had cut some Faustian/Machiavellian deal with these rabid religious fundamentalists, but after the deal was done, America betrayed them. So it could be said the American government started the war with its betrayal.”
In the three days the physicist was in the examination room with Marilyn Janeway, Dr. Len Carteret thought he’d lose his mind. He paid very little attention to Janeway’s constant, almost propagandistic descriptions of Hemptopian life outside the examination room’s walls and had to fight the instinct to stare at the parts of her body that hospital robe didn’t conceal. Finally, on the fourth day, Len broke, “I’m in love with you.” Janeway grimaced in chagrin and sighed. “Dr. Carteret, I have noticed the way you’ve been looking at me, but I’m sorry; I’m really not interested.”
Len lowered his head. “It’s because I’m — fat, isn’t it?”
“Dr. Carteret,” Janeway took a deep breath before continuing, “my personal tastes in men — and women — aside, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to get involved with the people I rescue from hostile realities.”
Broken spirited, Dr. Len Carteret slumped to the ground in utter defeat. Janeway then slid across the sterile hospital floor in order to lay a consoling hand on his shoulder. “Doctor — Len, if it’s companionship you want, just wait until they release us. Prostitution is legal in our world, and if you want something more long-term, take solace in this: You’re an invaluable scientific mind with the ability to safely fuse nuclei at room temperature. You’ll have women storming the gates just to see you.”
And just like that, his spirit fused back together again. The next day, they were released, and Marilyn Janeway took some time off to give Dr. Len Carteret a tour of his new Hemptopian home.