Episode 3

HempmanHemp 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!


“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
–Fyodor Dostoevsky

NASA employees were forbidden to speak to the press about The Day After Tomorrow — a 2004 disaster movie about an ice age caused by global warming — because White House officials were concerned NASA’s comments could discredit a president who refused to treat sudden climate change as a serious threat. However, Reggie Haskell was the exception to this rule. As a result, he found himself imprisoned on trumped up charges soon afterwards.

Dismissed throughout his career, only Hemptopian scientists — peering into parallel Earths as they often do –saw the potential in Haskell’s designs for interstellar life support systems. In order for an overpopulated Hemptopia to truly master space travel, the mystery of how to safely recycle oxygen within a starship or space station had to first be solved, so Marilyn “Hempman” Janeway was sent sideways in time to retrieve Reggie. And when Hempman appeared in his jail cell offering escape from an alternate reality in which Al Gore won the U.S. presidency in 2000 and invaded Iraq on behalf of Occidental Petroleum (the Gore clan owns a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of Occidental stock), Haskell zealously seized the opportunity.

The acquisition of Reggie Haskell proved to be quite a boon. He taught Hemptopian engineers how to prevent gases like ammonia and acetone — which people emit in small amounts — from building up to dangerous levels and brought Hemptopia’s fledgling space program that much closer to the stars. Alas, when Marilyn Janeway decided to pay the increasingly popular technician a visit, she was surprised to find him despondent. While bent over a rack of test tubes in his laboratory, Haskell lamented, “I asked your ‘Refugee Retrieval Program’ to show me an alternate reality where Bush won instead of Gore and you know what I found? Very little difference. Something called Halliburton is in Iraq, but other than that, everything’s the same. 9-11, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay …”

“Well, you have nothing to worry about,” Janeway smiled assuredly, “only R.R.P. agents like myself go to dangerous timelines like that. The reason why we’re opting for space colonization instead of trying to inhabit another version of Earth is because the temptation is too great to–”

“–my point,” Haskell interrupted, “is that your so-called utopia is just another reality … Made up of flawed Humans with twisted impulses, and no matter how enlightened you claim to be, there’s always a snake with an apple somewhere.”

“Mr. Haskell, have you even left your lab since I rescued you?” Janeway put her hands on her hips. “I’d say it’s high time you took a tour of your new home.”

Janeway led Haskell to a huge pavilion where a gigantic statue of Paul Robeson stood. “America’s first black president,” she beamed, “no sooner was he sworn in did the Second Civil War begin, but after the north won, again, slavery reparations were paid out and–”

“–yeah, yeah,” he cut her off, “I heard about this already. So there’s no more poverty or police brutality and everything’s made out of hemp, but what about free speech? I was thrown in jail because I pointed out that Gore only pretended to care about the greenhouse effect. What would happen if an Earthling — sorry, ‘Hemptopian’ started talking trash about Robeson here? Or wore an anti-hemp T-shirt?”

Janeway was utterly incredulous. “Why would anyone want to do such a thing?”

“Answer the question!”

“Nothing,” Janeway started to get irritated, “we’re a free society, believe it or not.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Haskell spat and stormed off.

It took a couple of months, but Reggie Haskell managed to rustle up the remaining handful of capitalists and imperialists in all of Hemptopia. He organized a demonstration outside the offices of the New United Nations in Paris, France, which called for a revival of Wall Street and the installation of a military-industrial complex. There were a few angry hecklers, but for the most part, the spectators simply ignored or laughed at Haskell’s rally.

He was even invited inside to talk with the U.N.’s Secretary-General, Norman Thomas — a tan, brunette of indistinguishable ethnicity who spoke with charismatic eloquence: “At first, I thought this was all a prank, but when I found out who you were, Mr. Haskell, I called the R.R.P. and they sent–”

At that moment, Marilyn Janeway stepped into view and this prompted Haskell to groan. “For the love of … Are you stalking me or something? I mean, I’m grateful you saved me from an Al Gore America and all, but–”

“–if that’s the case, why are you trying to recreate it?” Janeway demanded. “Why did you ally yourself with those throwbacks outside?”

“To see if it could be done!” Haskell stomped his foot for dramatic effect. “To see for myself just how ‘free’ this so-called democracy really is!”

Norman Thomas’ office wasn’t palatial, but it was just big enough to allow for a hushed, private conversation — so he discretely gestured for Marilyn Janeway to follow him until they were out of earshot. “Is this man insane?”

“Well, sir, he was in prison when we found him,” Janeway mentioned, “so maybe he’d been there long enough for it to have affected him.”

“The R.R.P. tell me you’re due for some shore leave …” Thomas stroked his bearded chin thoughtfully. “… as a personal favor to me, I want you to keep an eye on him. The space program says he’s invaluable and Hemptopia’s getting more crowded every day, so this is a top priority.”

“Yes, sir,” Janeway dutifully responded, “I think I know just what he needs.”

The Refugee Retrieval Program also consists of a support group made up of other dissident scientists from various realities. Since Haskell probably wouldn’t have attended one of their meetings of his own accord, the R.R.P. arranged for them to meet in an office adjacent from Haskell’s lab. “What’s this all about, Janeway? In order to earn that house of mine, I’m supposed to be working … Aw, man … Who are these people ..?”

“Everyone here is just like you, Reggie,” Janeway explained, “they all had trouble adjusting to how much better Hemptopia is than what they were used to.”

Haskell sighed and rolled his eyes upon realizing he’d been set up, but eventually acquiesced nonetheless. During the initial introductions, a visibly trembling black man began to stammer, “I-I came from a world where the C-Confederacy won the War ‘Tween the States and I w-would’ve surely been killed for p-paying a white lady a compliment if Miss Janeway here hadn’t s-saved me …”

“It’s quite all right, Tobey.” Janeway humbly fanned a hand dismissively. “Your knowledge of cotton has made our space suits so comfortable; our astronauts have said it’s like wearing nothing at all.”

“W-When I first got here, I r-ran and hid whenever one of these white l-ladies said two words to m-me,” Tobey continued, “but I’m d-dealing with it … I’m dealing with it …”

“My name’s Myron Simonofsky — on my Earth, it was the Nazis who won on D-Day, and boy, did that make the difference, let me tell you,” a elderly man wearing a yarmulke asserted, “the sick irony is, it’s a good thing I had to spend so much time working on those ovens, because now I make sure these hemp rocket nozzles don’t overheat, you know?”

“I’ve had enough of this …” Haskell shot to his feet and stormed off. Once he bolted out of the office, a woman from a timeline in which women never won the right to vote called him a bitch.

Another couple of months went by, and contrary to the Secretary-General’s order, Marilyn Janeway gave Reggie Haskell a wide berth, but when she looked in on him again, he was loitering outside of a restaurant, wasting free food — on purpose. “What in the name of all that is holy and sacred are you doing?”

“I’m testing this policy you people have,” Haskell made sure the carton of milk he had was poured dry before finishing his sentence, “this whole ‘food is a right’ spiel.”

Janeway shook her head in disgust. “How colossally inconsiderate of you … By the way, the space program said you haven’t shown up for work in days.”

“Well, I’m also testing Hemptopia’s commitment to abolish homelessness,” a coy, snide grin crept across Haskell’s face, “surely y’all won’t let me end up on the streets?”

“No, Mr. Haskell,” Janeway furrowed her brow in angst, “but if you quit your job, you’ll have to move out of that house and into a free, studio apartment.”

“A studio?” Haskell got in Janeway’s face and glared. “What? Don’t the unemployed warrant at least a one-bedroom apartment?”

Janeway fists clenched in indignation, but they remained by her side, for the time being. “Mr. Haskell, what exactly do you want?”

“To prove that Humanity is fooling itself if it thinks it can ever truly improve,” Haskell’s voice raised an octave in order to attract the attention of passerby, “Gore, Bush … Hemptopia, Hitlertopia … It doesn’t matter; it’s all the same!”

“If that was true, someone like you would be in jail by now.” Janeway countered.

“And that’s another thing!” Haskell turned to the small crowd that had gathered. “Sometimes, I can’t tell if you’re a bunch of hypocrites or just plain naive: Rather than admit that crime is inevitable and must be dealt with, you let criminals roam free so long as they wear electronic ankle bracelets and chew on these — leaves…?”

“Over the years, we learned that a lot of the crime you claim is ‘inevitable’ is actually due to an addiction to the body’s own adrenaline,” Janeway elucidated, “so yes, we do require the few convicts left in the world to take an organic substitute; an all-natural adrenochrome.”

“But what if you had more to deal with than the occasional case of arson, assault or abduction?” Haskell sounded both challenging and menacing. “What if you had a murderer in your midst, what then? Would your glorious Hemptopians still cling to their lofty principles? Let’s find out!” In an instant, Haskell lunged into the crowd and randomly snared the person closest to him. Before Janeway could react, the neck that person, Mr. Brad Boyer (a husband and father of two), had been snapped.

Aside from “free love” — as well as a lack of sexual diseases — the abolition of poverty and the death penalty were the primary reasons why Hemptopia suffered from overpopulation (ten billion worldwide). Before the untimely demise of Brad Boyer, a historian would have to research America’s Second Civil War in the 1960s — the last major armed conflict on the planet formerly known as Earth — in order to uncover a similar murder.

So it was democratically decided that Reggie Haskell would be marooned on a remote island in the South Pacific — where he’d spend the rest of his natural life alone, since Haskell clearly couldn’t trust any other Human being besides himself …