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!
"Life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers. I think the Human race has no future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space."
–Professor Stephen Hawking
"Hell is full of good intentions or desires."
–Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091 - 1153)
There are an infinite amount of timelines hinging on Earthly events alone (not to mention those stemming from the split decisions made by beings from other intelligent worlds), but on the Earth where hemp was never criminalized via conspiracy, Professor Stephen Hawking still resided in Cambridge, and unfortunately, still suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. However, the Hemptopian version of Prof. Hawking ingeniously devised the means by which countless alternate realities could be viewed or explored (thanks to a redistribution of wealth that allowed such research to be adequately funded).
Within Hemptopia's scientific community, the professor was who Marilyn "Hempman" Janeway answered to – and en route to a meeting at his office, she passed by a mini museum of sorts; a display of several historical artifacts like an iconic highway sign ("Don't Leave a Tree Stump, Make Paper Out of Hemp!") and an antiquated cartoon mascot, "Chiba Chiba," who was created to teach the populace not to smoke marijuana while at work/school or operating heavy machinery – all made obsolete by decades of social progress ...
Though Hawking was always attracted (as most straight men are) to Janeway, this was one time he dispensed with the usual coy remarks about her beauty and got right down to business: "How many people are there on Earth, I mean, Hemptopia?"
"Ten point five billion at last count," Marilyn Janeway rattled off from memory.
"Try fifteen billion."
Hearing that stunned Janeway and prompted her to do a double take. "T-That's not possible, professor. We'd hear about it; we'd be able to tell–"
"–a select few of us have known for years," Hawking interrupted, "and we're letting you know because your rescue of persecuted scientists from less enlightened Earths is now practically legendary; you're the best of the best, so you of all people should be in on what we're planning next."
Marilyn Janeway blushed, but shrugged off the compliment. "Well, everyone knows the scientists I rescued are being tapped by the Space Program–"
"–the Space Program is a sick joke," the professor cut her off again, "there's no way we're going to be able to get enough people to some domed lunar colony – let alone a terraformed Mars – before we hit twenty billion worldwide." Prof. Hawking paused and rolled his eyes in frustration before continuing. "Don't get me wrong, you've done a great job; you advanced the Space Program further than anyone else has, but there are far too many unanswered questions: We still haven't found the 'Holy Grail,' as it were: A timeline with someone who figured out how to recycle oxygen or fly a ship faster than the speed of light – and putting colonists in suspended animation won't work since no robot can be trusted with all the impromptu maintenance that'd be required during long trips ..."
It didn't take long for Janeway to deduce what Hawking was implying. "Professor, didn't we all agree from the very beginning not to ever use sideways time travel to colonize other Earths? Remember when you warned us of 'imperial temptations', as you put it? You said we'd be sorely tempted to conquer other, weaker versions of ourselves."
"It's too late, Marilyn," the professor's head lowered ever-so-slightly in shame, "it's already begun. There's already a top secret project called New China. A couple of years ago, hundreds of thousands of Chinese started moving to an Earth where the so-called 'black death' of the 1340s swept past Europe and wiped out every last Human being on the planet. Don't worry, we've long since had the cure for bubonic plague and it could easily be said that we're not actually conquering that version of Earth because the plague conquered Humanity first."
"It's an empty world," Hawking seemed to be pleading at this point, "an empty but fertile world which would've gone to waste had China not–"
"–it's still wrong!" Marilyn Janeway angrily slammed her fist onto the professor's desk. "It goes against everything we've fought so long and hard for!"
"I was afraid you'd feel that way," Prof. Hawking wheeled his chair towards a flat/wide TV screen embedded onto the adjacent office wall and activated it remotely, "because this is your next assignment."
Dutiful to a fault, Janeway reluctantly took a seat. With folded arms and a sour expression on her face, she listened as the professor described the most abhorrent timeline yet: On February 20th, 1998, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan prevented U.S. President Bill Clinton from waging war on Saddam Hussein by cutting a last minute peace deal, but in the timeline Janeway witnessed on screen, Annan simply stayed at home that fateful third weekend of February and all Hell broke loose as a result ...
... America bombed Iraq in April of 1998 – and since Iraq was no match for America, Iraq bombed Israel in retaliation, which gave Israel an excuse to arbitrary attack each of its neighbors. Iran then successfully called for a crippling oil embargo that sent the world spiraling into an abyss. By 2013, the Earth of this timeline was reduced to cannibalism, rape gangs and Satan worship (the latter having replaced Islam, Judaism and Christianity in terms of influence).
After the briefing, Marilyn Janeway almost vomited.
"Our plan is to, well, invade – for lack of a better word – this alternate reality." Hawking sighed. "Clearly, these people not only wasted but ruined their world, so we figure they don't deserve it any more. We want you to lead the charge."
"B-But we're a grass roots collective," Janeway asserted, "our decisions are supposed to be democratic and I can't believe we'd ever vote to be invaders!"
As if on cue, all three hundred members of the Refugee Retrieval Program appeared en masse outside of Prof. Hawking's office and most of them could be seen through his window. Those who were field agents like Marilyn Janeway wore their helmets and hemp-woven body armors in solidarity while a few dozen intermittently scattered throughout the crowd held up signs which read, "Say Yes, Janeway!", "Lead Us to Victory!" and "Save That World!"
The Professor frowned. "The decision's been made – democratically, no less ..."
Fortunately for the Hempmen under Marilyn Janeway's command, the stable wormholes Hawking is able to open not only travel sideways through time but can also appear over a variety of geographic locations. Because of this, Janeway had one form near an especially hilly community (specifically, the Presidio in San Francisco) so her contingent could maintain the high ground, a strategic necessity. From their base, they expanded outwards like a spiral over the course of a year and either taught the remnants of civilized citizenry to grow/process industrial hemp or fought Satanic marauders who had reverted to barbarism.
For the most part, the sight of armored individuals literally flying via hemp fueled rocket packs was usually enough to keep those who pillaged the vulnerable in line, but all it took was one exception to this rule for things to go horribly wrong. Early on, all of Golden Gate Park had been turned into a massive hemp farm and the job of Marilyn Janeway's top lieutenant, Jean Seburg, was to oversee it. Unfortunately, according to a cryptic message Janeway received late one night, a rape gang had captured Seburg. That message included a map and the demand that food be brought in exchange for Seburg's release, but Marilyn Janeway soon learned it was also a trap set for her.
"From one leader to another," the gang's kingpin leered rapaciously while Janeway and Seburg were being forcibly stripped of their armors at gunpoint, "you can appreciate the need to break both of your spirits – on camera, no less – in order to make sure your people finally learn who's in charge of this world. One high ranking officer wouldn't be enough." Turning to his subordinates in attendance, the kingpin called out, "Get ready boys! We're having us an orgy tonight!"
With Jean Seburg thoroughly surrounded, Marilyn Janeway found herself at a loss as to what to do – until one of the more incompetent gang members made the mistake of treating her armor's hemp twine spinnerets like a toy. The gangster accidentally sprayed twine all over himself, and during the confusion this caused, Janeway proved herself a virtuoso of martial artistry by unleashing a whirlwind of kicks and punches – rendering opponent after opponent unconscious. Seburg quickly followed suit, but she lacked Janeway's fighting prowess, which accounted for her being shot and severely wounded by the gang's kingpin. Absolutely infuriated, Marilyn Janeway then lunged at him and broke his neck in the heat of the moment. Standing over the kingpin's lifeless body, Janeway's hands visibly trembled. Consumed with remorse, she practically had to be dragged out of the gang's lair by her injured lieutenant before reinforcements arrived. "I-In all my years as 'Hempman,' I never had to kill anyone before ..."
While no Hemptopian had a (serious) problem with Marilyn Janeway's impulsive act of vengeance, Janeway herself couldn't get over the precedent she inadvertently set. After the formation of the New United Nations in Paris and the conclusion of America's Second Civil War, the death penalty had finally been abolished, so to honor the reverence for life Marilyn Janeway was raised with, she resigned and spoke out against the colonizing of alternate realities. Even after massive protests – spurred largely by her stellar reputation – eventually led to the abolition of such colonization (with the sole exception being New China), Janeway remained in retirement and self-imposed exile until an offer was made that she couldn't refuse.
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!
While required classes in feminism at the grammar school level went a long way towards diminishing instances of rape, what ultimately made sexual assault a thing of the past in Hemptopia had been a quantum leap in culture: Instead of ballet or horseback riding, Hemptopian women insist on mastering the deadliest of martial arts and Marilyn Janeway was no exception.
Resigning from the Refugee Retrieval Program in order to clear her head, Janeway returned to the mountaintop temple of Master Mushin – the blind, ancient sensei most responsible for the fighting prowess she's renowned for. Given how remote Master Mushin's temple was, it took traversing the better part of Tibet, but oceanographer Doctor Duane Ballard eventually found the woman paradoxically known as Hempman.
Through that temple's porous front gate, Dr. Ballard could see Janeway singlehandedly spar with several of Master Mushin's best students. Without so much as a bead of sweat, she took down expert after expert until her slim, petite, shapely form was the last one standing. It was only when Master Mushin abruptly entered the fray did Janeway begin to exhibit some exertion. Despite his blindness, he fought her to a standstill until Dr. Ballard had been discovered from afar. "Am I the only one who smells a stranger in our midst?"
Upon being invited inside, Dr. Ballard humbly introduced himself and asked if Janeway could be spoken to alone. She reluctantly agreed, but stood and did Tai Chi exercises while he wearily sat and made his case: "I'll get right to the point: I have a dangerous mission that only someone of your caliber has any hope of accomplishing."
Janeway sighed. "Why am I not surprised?"
"I've come a long way, so please hear me out," Dr. Ballard furrowed his brow in frustration, "until we can colonize the moon, Mars and beyond, Hemptopia's Oceanography Program, or H.O.P., has been building offshore cities. Alas, even those are filling to capacity, so we've been trying to construct domed cities at the bottom of the ocean. It sounds like science fiction, but then again, so does venturing sideways in time to parallel universes where industrial hemp is banned."
"Your point, Dr. Ballard ..." The impatience in Janeway's voice was palpable.
"Every time we send a probe or a manned expedition, it comes up missing," Dr. Ballard's tone became remorseful, "we lost a lot of good people – and since you're famous for rushing where angels fear to tread ..."
"You want me to see what happened to all your probes and people, is that it?" Janeway stopped exercising and glared at Dr. Ballard. "Well, let me tell you something–"
"–she'll accept." Master Mushin interrupted.
"Master!" Janeway found herself torn between indignation and submission. "How can you ..?"
"Marilyn, if you can fight me to a draw, there's nothing more I can teach you," Master Mushin flatly stated, "and the other students are tired of being your personal punching bags – it's only a matter of time before you do them harm; before there's a serious injury and since the nearest hospital is miles away from here ..."
Janeway often visited alternate timelines in which Earth was run (into the ground) by the oil industry, and while there, she occasionally saw structures called "oil rigs" or offshore drilling platforms. It initially unnerved her on the flight back to Europe to see a similar structure off the southwestern coast of Portugal, but Dr. Ballard promised that any similarity was strictly superficial. "Even from this distant, bird's eye view, Avalon is beautiful."
"Avalon, eh?" One of Janeway's eyebrows raised above the other as she smiled for the first time since leaving Tibet. "Are you expecting the return of King Arthur?"
"We were going to name it Atlantis, but we didn't want to tempt fate since Atlantis sank," Dr. Ballard mentioned, "besides, Avalon is where Arthur was said to have healed from his wounds and I rather like the idea of this place being thought of as a source of healing. Overpopulation has taken its toll on Hemptopia and I'd like to think that building these glorified marinas has helped – at least somewhat ..."
Following Janeway's landing in Avalon's only airport was a heroine's welcome and a grand tour of this coastal cosmopolis. "Despite being a separate nation-state in and of itself, just about everything you see was derived from hemp in some way," Dr. Ballard explained, "ultimately, it's no different than any other part of Hemptopia."
"I assume the hemp you need is grown in hydroponic bays?" Janeway inquired.
"It certainly saves time," Dr. Ballard nodded with a slight grin, "otherwise, we'd constantly be going back and forth to the mainland."
The morning after that first celebratory day, Janeway tried on the aquatic armor she was to wear. Unlike what had been donned during her tenure with the Refugee Retrieval Program, this armament was far heavier. "For added strength and resistance to moisture, phenol or urea was co-condensed with the usual hemp protein," Dr. Ballard pointed out, "in case you're wondering why it's so big and thick."
"On my very first mission for the RRP, what I wore covered up my – feminine wiles," Janeway reminisced with a blush, "as a result, everyone in the timeline I went to assumed I was a man, hence the name, Hempman."
"Well, let's hope 'Hempman' can solve the mystery of those missing probes and lost explorers!" Dr. Ballard declared in an overdramatic fashion, but then frowned when it was clear he had irritated her.
After rolling her eyes, Janeway finished suiting up, dived from the edge of Avalon and into the Atlantic Ocean. Once a series of preliminary tests had been completed, she delved even further until the dark of the deep was as encompassing as the pitch black of outer space.
"The lights are functioning," Janeway radioed in, "and this rocket pack works as well as my old one, but–" She never finished that sentence; her transmission was suddenly cut of, and thanks to the armor's lighting, the cause of radio silence could be clearly seen.
Seen but not easily believed: While Janeway relied on a state-of-the-art suit of armor to exist this far underwater, she faced a pair of Africans – each of whom were only adorned in ancient Grecian clothing and seemingly breathing with ease. In addition, they both wielded tridents, which were still sharp despite being rusted with age. Fortunately for Janeway, years of intense training kept her from becoming skewered, but evasive maneuvers only helped for so long. Since an unearthly physiology would be required to keep from being crushed by deep sea pressures, she found herself up against not one but two superhumans.
Even after the Africans were disarmed courtesy of Janeway's martial artistry, each punch delivered by them left dents in that armor – and given their strength, it would soon be breached ...
Back on the furthest periphery of Avalon, Dr. Ballard was fraught with angst as he continually tried contacting Janeway via radio to no avail. "Damn it all!" He would curse in-between attempts. "If I lost a bona fide heroine like her too, I'll never forgive myself!"
Just as a large crowd had gathered around Dr. Ballard's small crew, what was left of Janeway's heavily damaged armor slowly bobbed to the surface, albeit with a great deal of help. Helped ashore by a handful of Europeans who were also scantily clad in archaic Greek frocks, Dr. Ballard and every other assembled resident of Avalon gaped wide-eyed in awe. "By all that is holy and sacred – Dr. Livingston, is that you ..?"
"In the flesh, or should I say, gills," an elderly gentleman of British descent answered as he stepped to the fore, "due to our new condition, we can only breathe air for brief periods of time, so we shan't stay long."
"What do you mean, gills?" Dr. Ballard's head cocked to one side in confusion. "And what happened to Miss Janeway?"
"She'll be fine," Dr. Livingston assured as he pried opened Janeway's battered armor with his bare hands, "she had a run in with our neighbors, but we intervened before they could turn her as they turned us."
Noticing the bewildered looks all around him, Dr. Livingston resumed elucidating. "It's quite fascinating, really. It would seem that the Atlantis of legend actually existed – so when slave ships sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, the Africans who preferred suicide to slavery and threw themselves overboard were turned into Atlanteans. Evidently, if an Atlantean ever French Kisses a Human, an instant, permanent transformation takes place, and after centuries of ethnic miscegenation, everyone in Atlantis has become dark-skinned – present company excluded, of course ..."
"We thought you all died," Dr. Ballard was relieved to see a disoriented Janeway stagger from her armor, "after the probes and your expedition disappeared–"
"–yes, well, we've been meaning to tell you what happened," Dr. Livingston shrugged ashamedly, "and to warn you not to encroach upon their territory by building cities on the ocean floor. Since most of the world is made up of water, you'd think there's more than enough room for everyone, but their memory of slavery is still fresh, and as a result, they're wary of sharing the seven seas. Not to worry, though, they don't seem to mind offshore marinas like Avalon ..." In the distance, dozens of Africans in Grecian attire emerged and impatiently swam in place; awaiting the return of those they recently transformed. "... oh, my. Time to go; we'd be completely lost without our guides. Besides, it's getting increasingly harder to breathe, so ..." Without so much as a backwards glance, Dr. Livingston and his party eagerly rejoined the Atlanteans and dove out of sight to unknown depths.
While spitting up the salt water she almost drowned in, Janeway listened as Dr. Ballard reiterated what his mutated colleague had told him – and taking that as a sign, Janeway decided to give the Refugee Retrieval Program one more chance. Given what happened in Avalon, it became abundantly clear to her the future of Humanity was ultimately amongst the stars, not beneath the waves ...
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!
"The concept of an infinite number of parallel worlds may be one of the strangest examples of comic books getting their physics right ... The notion of an infinite number of parallel, divergent universes was seriously proposed as an interpretation of the equations of quantum mechanics. To reiterate: Some scientists believe that the concept of parallel universes is a serious, viable construct in theoretical physics. Current theories indicate that if such alternate Earths exist, they would be more like those described in the Marvel Comics universe, where slight changes in a character's history (such as those presented by the Watcher in stories such as 'What if Gwen Stacy Had Lived?') lead to diverging worlds."
–Professor James Kakalios, from his book, The Physics of Superheroes
Hemptopia boasts many splendors: Art Deco, its seamless blend of the natural and the technological – not to mention the fact that it went decades without a major armed conflict ...
... but what separates Hemptopians from most of their counterparts on other versions of Earth is how they've mastered the technology necessary to venture sideways in time. And while Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) gained fame for popularizing science with his television series, Cosmos, on a world in which hemp was never criminalized, he became just another technician assigned to survey infinity itself.
After a sabbatical meant to mend a spirit that was broken when she had (accidentally) taken a villain's life, Marilyn Janeway returned to duty, but opted to limit herself – at least, at first – to monitoring alternate realities.
"What are you doing in my customized chair?" The elderly Sagan queried. "I just turned 76 and an old man like me needs his back support."
"Sorry, Mister Sagan," Marilyn Janeway (known on occasion as Hempman) turned away from the monitor she had been sitting in front of for the better part of an hour, "I guess I lost track of the time."
"What could possibly be so engrossing?" Sagan glanced over Janeway's shoulder and frowned once he saw for himself what enthralled her. "Not this again. Marilyn, you're only torturing yourself."
"It's no less tortuous than going to a parallel Earth where the French Revolution never happened," Janeway said as she stood so that Sagan could sit, "or the one where Gandhi remained a lawyer in England and didn't return to India."
"Except those trips were made to recruit engineers for our lackluster space program so that Hemptopia won't be so overpopulated," Sagan dutifully reminded, "there's nothing that these people can do for us."
Janeway's lovely face reddened with indignation. "What are you saying? That the only way we can help a less enlightened timeline is if it has a scientific genius in its midst?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know," Sagan raised his voice, "now if you'll excuse me, I have to backtrack the sequence of events on Earth-8472 so I can finally figure out why everyone there is still in robes and speaking Aramaic in this day and age."
Despite the advice she had been given, Janeway continued to think about those who suffered from cancer and other debilitating diseases at a place called the Cannabis Alliance – a clinic/community center that offered its patients medicinal marijuana on an unfortunate Earth where the War on Drugs raged on with no end in sight ...
... and that's when it occurred to her: "I can't transport any of those patients here," Janeway mused to herself, "we're already at fifteen billion, but what if I transported something to them?"
As of late, the Cannabis Alliance was increasingly besieged – either from frivolous lawsuits, denial of licensing or discreditation campaigns, but the latest police raid discovered and destroyed its hydroponic garden. This soon left the holistic hospital without any trace of the very herb it was supposed to be dispensing.
However, at the alliance's lowest ebb, a helmeted individual adorned in leathery armor abruptly appeared amidst a bright light, a sonic boom and a sharp blast of wind. Through a breach between worlds, the armored stranger strode forth with a huge sack under each arm. With several victims of AIDS as witnesses, both sacks were unceremoniously dumped onto the floor and thousands of cannabis buds spilled out. In addition, there were bricks of hash as well as small vials of resin.
"Keep this a secret," a voice distorted by that armor's helmet ordered, "if you can share; if you can keep from fighting one another over this, I'll be back with more." And with that, the strange visitor activated a handheld device, opened a second interdimensional portal and vanished into it.
"Who was that?" A feeble, skeletal convalescent wondered out loud.
"Did you see that big hemp leaf on his chest?" Another invalid mentioned. "As big as Superman's 'S' or Batman's bat? He's probably a new superhero called Captain Marijuana!"
"That's the worst name I ever heard," a third infirmed person chimed in, "I'm calling him Hempman!"
Over the course of the next couple of months, Marilyn "Hempman" Janeway continued to covertly ferry pound after pound of home grown herbage and hashish. However, while equitably sharing the bounty she had brought wasn't a problem, her unintentionally sensational appearances soon became the stuff of legend. Desperate as those illness sufferers understandably were for someone to believe in, they couldn't help but whisper rumors of a savior. Eventually, word of Hempman spread until an informant told the police that the Cannabis Alliance was still in business because of a masked trafficker, and before long, a trap had been set.
When Hempman next emerged from an aperture in the space-time continuum, an undercover operative within the Cannabis Alliance she was assisting as of late – disguised as a sickly hippie – had to first overcome his astonishment before covertly signaling for backup. "Jesus H. Crikey," the spy's eyes widened, "I must have gotten a contact high, because what I'm seeing is straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster."
Unaware of the snare that laid in wait, Hempman deposited yet another colossal satchel filled to the brim with sinsemilla. "I only wish I could do more. I wish I could actually cure these diseases you're suffering from."
"Believe me, Hempman, you've done enough," a cancer survivor affirmed.
"Hempman?" The helmet-altered voice sounded mildly surprised. "You know, this is the hundredth Earth to call me that? Well, I don't suppose there's any harm in telling y'all I'm really–"
At that exact moment, members of a SWAT team forced their way into every orifice of the Cannabis Alliance and surrounded Hempman. What followed was the most vicious physical contest anyone in this dimension had ever seen beyond an arena. Either she singlehandedly dealt out a brutal onslaught, which rendered most of those policemen insensible, or they found themselves helplessly bound with strands of hemp twine emanating from her bracelets.
And even though SWAT vastly outnumbered their prey, the hemp fueled jet pack strapped across Hempman's back ensured the strategic advantage of being able to literally hover above them and attack from afar.
However, being under siege – and in such close quarters, no less – prevented a transversal return to Hemptopia. What's worse, tear gas canisters had been fired into the alliance once it was clear that batons – or bullets, for that matter – held little sway against someone who could fly, fight like Bruce Lee and instantly bind one in a cocoon.
"This is not what I was hoping to inhale while I was here," an AIDS patient nearly vomited as he wearily staggered away from the asphyxiating scene. In fact, except for the Hempman and that SWAT team – both of whom had protective helmets – the Cannabis Alliance was all but deserted by this point.
"You're a bunch of savages!" Hempman shouted in frustrated disgust. "Look at what you've done! You wrecked the one place where these people could go for some relief for their pain!" Like a rocket, Hempman then plowed past a crowd of approaching officers and took to the air as soon as a path was clear. As expected, SWAT shot at this aerial target, but to no avail.
"I can't let it end this way," Hempman lamented while flying through polluted skies, "this trip simply can't be in vain."
After having flown far enough away from the decimated alliance, by chance, Hempman unwittingly soared over a nightclub known as Déjà vu, which was notorious for its lusty, scantily-clad adult entertainment, but just as a condescending sneer was about to creep across the face under that helmet, a very familiar figure exited the establishment.
"Dear Lord, can it be ..?" An astounded Hempman came to a landing near an erotic dancer who could be the identical twin of Marilyn Janeway. "You there! Who are you?"
"M-My stage name is Mary Jane," the startled stripper stammered, "who the fuck are you? And why are you dressed like a 1930s Saturday morning serial?"
To answer Mary Jane's question, Hempman removed that helmet and revealed an indistinguishable visage. "I'm Marilyn Janeway, and believe it or not, I'm your counterpart from a parallel universe. On this world, hemp was illegalized in 1937, but on my world, that terrible event never happened. In fact, everything I have on is made out of hemp."
"Crazy cross-dressing bitch," Mary Jane spun on her heel and stormed off, "you're out of your fucking mind. I don't care how much you look like my ass."
"No, wait!" Janeway laid a hand on her doppelgänger's shoulder. "I can prove it! Watch!" With the touch of a button on a remote control, she opened a luminous entrance to Hemptopia, which sufficiently held a stunned Mary Jane's gaze, but the sideways time traveler didn't step into it quite yet. "I'm sure the police in this dimension is still looking for 'Hempman,' so before I go, listen to me very carefully: I came here hoping to make a difference but it all went to Hell. Except if you – if we exist in this place, then there must be a chance. I beg you: Find out about the Cannabis Alliance not far from here. Help it, somehow. End the madness of this so-called Drug War of yours once and for all!"
The Hemptopian version of Carl Sagan scathingly chastised Marilyn Janeway since he happened to be on monitor duty during her retreat from the otherworldly police. As it turned out, those secret-yet-benevolent visits to the alliance didn't go unnoticed, and as a result, she was punished by being denied access to "white hole" technology for a year. In addition, an official reprimand had been entered into Janeway's permanent record.
Fortunately, Janeway had been allowed to spend that time relieving the aged Sagan insofar as scanning the infinite branches that comprise the multiverse – and while this meticulous work is tedious to some, she used it as an excuse to check in on various versions of her counterpart, Mary Jane.
In one timeline, Mary Jane callously dismissed the advice a certain stranger in armor had given her and resumed stripping until she was found dead; the latest in a series of Jack the Ripper-esque murders.
In a second timeline, Mary Jane ceased to dance, helped rebuild the Cannabis Alliance and eventually became a nurse.
In a third timeline, Mary Jane remained at Déjà vu but also dressed as a superheroine she created called Hempwoman, canvassed in the streets and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the cause of marijuana decriminalization; the bail of many a jailed activist was paid by her beauty.
In a fourth timeline, Mary Jane simply went on a lengthy road trip to "find herself" after having been so shaken by the sight of a woman who can fly and eventually chronicled her travels in a novel.
"Oh, well," Marilyn Janeway sighed and shrugged as she studied these divergent realities on screen, "three out of four ain't bad."
Nick Fury: You've been asleep, Cap. For almost 70 years ... You gonna be okay?
Steve Rogers: Yeah. Yeah, I just ... I had a date.
–from the movie, Captain America (2011)
Given its quandary with overpopulation, Hemptopia (a version of Earth in the multiverse where marijuana and industrial hemp were never forbidden) often sends agents sideways in time to recruit scientists with an expertise in interplanetary colonization. However, the vast majority of these geniuses hail from dangerous universes. For instance, an agent named Marilyn "Hempman" Janeway once rescued a physicist from an alternate reality where the church still burned heretics at the stake and had to contend with a horde of sword-wielding dullards.
Hence the necessity for Agent Janeway to regularly ensure her mastery of the martial arts. In a gymnasium, she sparred with a pair of partners in order to prepare for confrontations with multiple opponents.
After these adversaries charged her simultaneously from different directions, a Capoeira "butterfly kick" floored them both, and lackluster as they clearly were, it was some time before their composure returned.
"Come on, you two! Men haven't been dominant over women in decades, but this is ridiculous!" Janeway taunted and yet she still panted a bit. "Hank and Dean, indeed ... Your names should be Weak and Lean!"
"Speaking of how things were decades ago," a shaken Hank changed the subject to spare himself further embarrassment, "did you hear about Oliver Law?"
One of Marilyn Janeway's eyebrows rose above the other. "Well, I know what every Hemptopian schoolchild learned in history class: Commander Oliver Law was a dark skinned man who led America's first ethnically integrated battalion during the Spanish Civil War and died one of its greatest heroes. What about him?"
Dean answered for his associate. "You're not going to believe this, but Oliver Law is alive ..." He was pleased by Janeway's stunned expression since her astonishment gave him an opportunity to recuperate from that workout. "... they actually found the man frozen in a cave!"
Marilyn Janeway was dismissive, to say the least. "That's not possible. This isn't Rip Van Winkle or Buck Rogers."
"As someone who explores infinity itself, your mind should be more open," Hank sardonically remarked before inquiring, "by the way, when are you going to approve our applications to Rip [a common euphemism for the Refugee Retrieval Program]?"
Momentarily setting aside the historic news she just heard, Janeway grinned and cracked her knuckles. "As soon as you can last longer than thirty seconds with me in a fight."
During a tour of Hemptopia meant to acclimate him to the early 21st century, the recently revived Commander Oliver Law was understandably treated like royalty while he marveled at all the revolutionary developments that transpired since he's been in suspended animation.
This afrocentric adonis was tipsy because of the revelry over his discovery – and the marijuana brownie he had been given certainly made him feel welcome ... "Y'all will have to forgive a 114 year old man for tearing up," the commander admitted to being overly emotional, "but the last thing I remember was Jim Crow and the Depression and now you're saying there's world peace?"
"We're not just 'saying' it," elderly as she was, the United Nations Secretary-General Catherine Spence laid her wrinkled hand on Commander Law's shoulder not only to console but for support, "we're demonstrating it – and I'm old enough to remember 'the bad ol' days' myself, but of course, I'm obviously not as well preserved as you."
Once it stepped outside the Museum of Martyrs and into the streets, the Secretary-General's entourage soon found itself surrounded by ordinary citizens – most of whom were unaware of Oliver's revival ... "It's a tad crowded," the commander mentioned.
Catherine Spence's security parted that crowd and cleared a road as she sighed, "yes, well, that's the price we pay for peace: Less atrocities means less space to walk along. We are doing something about this congestion, though. If you'll follow us, you can see for yourself ..."
En route to the Refugee Retrieval Program, Secretary-General Spence explained to Commander Law its policy of scouring realities for those possessing starfaring expertise since the peaceful Hemptopian timeline lacked a blood-soaked background in ballistics. "Actually," she elucidated, "if you weren't so valuable, I'd suggest that a soldier of your caliber join Rip."
Despite his excess of melanin, Oliver Law still visibly blushed. "Valuable? Awww, shucks, Madam Secretary, if I can be of any help, you just let me know ..."
... and that's how Commander Oliver Law met Agent Marilyn Janeway. Scantily clad as the latter was because of a (not so) strenuous exercise (with Hank and Dean), a slim-but-shapely physique – combined with porcelain skin which was verboten during segregation – prompted the former to completely forget about a spouse long since deceased (Corrine Lightfoot, sister of Communist Party leader, Claude Lightfoot).
Because Hemptopia's Refugee Retrieval Program often hosts the best of its scientific community, the following news was easily passed along ...
"We've analyzed these test results of yours, Commander Law," Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson – a chemical technician in this universe – addressed the living legend, "and that ice you were in was only half of the equation. The other half must have been gas that was inside, since there's traces of an unknown, enzymatic compound in your bloodstream."
"G-Gas ..?" The commander stammered – given his preoccupation with the beauty of Janeway ...
Professor Tyson either ignored or didn't even notice Oliver's ogling. "Imagine the possibilities! Our space program has thus far focused on faster-than-light drive, but what if we simply kept colonists asleep the same way you were, commander? I think it's worth investigating."
"That's a great idea," Catherine Spence – Secretary-General of the United Nations – sounded enthusiastic, "Marilyn Janeway here is our finest agent; there's no one better to serve as your escort if you'll be so kind as to lead her to where you were discovered."
Outwardly, Janeway nodded that she'd accede, but inwardly, the way Commander Law leered made her uncomfortable.
According to history, on July 9th, 1937, Commander Oliver Law died a hero's death leading a charge against the mutinous General Franco's forces during the Spanish Civil War – specifically, at the Battle of Brunete, near the border of Madrid ...
... but a strange twist of fate permitted him to withstand being frozen in a cavern for over seventy years and Agent Marilyn "Hempman" Janeway was ordered to determine whether a mysterious miasma also helped preserve the commander. The theory being, if this gas could be harnessed, it would vastly assist the space program of an overpopulated Hemptopia by allowing colonists to sleep agelessly through their lengthy journeys across the stars.
"So how exactly did you end up here in the first place?" Janeway queried while she was led alongside the infamous Mosquito Hill, where historians assumed Commander Law fell in battle. "From what I gather, you were wounded and carried out on a stretcher."
Denied even the permission to glance at an enticing Caucasian woman by the bigotry of the early 20th century, Oliver's desire for his Hemptopian escort was most apparent. "How about I tell you all about it over dinner?"
"How about now?" Marilyn insisted as she gritted her teeth.
Sensing Janeway's angst, the commander relented his amorous pursuit and sounded as professional as possible. "Well, I had taken one in the belly, and so, the stretcher-bearers hauled me a mile away from the front," he unconsciously felt at a scabbed abdomen, "I remember asking for water and a comrade ran ahead in search of some. Ten minutes later, this kid comes back going on and on about how there's ice underground. Because it was summertime, the other stretcher-bearer didn't believe it at first."
Lagging behind due to a lifetime in a laboratory, an out-of-shape Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson hustled uphill until the physically fit Marilyn Janeway and Oliver Law finally halted at the entrance of this wintry subterrane. "Of course," the exhausted professor said, "bedrock caves are thermally insulated from the surface, which would explain why it was so cold in the middle of July."
"It's coming back to me now ..." The commander reminisced. "... since it had been so hot, the stretcher-bearers wanted to cool themselves off while an icicle melted into a canteen so I could have something to drink, but one of them was clumsy and accidentally let my stretcher slide down there ..." His ebony finger pointed at a labyrinth which wound its way down this cavern's deepest, darkest recesses. "... to keep from being cursed out for losing me, I guess they must've found another nigger's corpse and claimed it was mine."
"Nigger ..." Professor Tyson mused. "... now there's a word I haven't heard in a long, long time."
The professor trepidatiously stepped inside this hollow so he could collect samples of its gases, but found none – then Marilyn Janeway chanced upon and mistakenly released a gas pocket that emitted a burst of blue fumes, which instantly rendered her unconscious ...
"Agent Janeway!" Tyson noticed Marilyn's sudden collapse onto an ice-slicked ground and her subsequent descent into an abyss before the commander had.
"I got her!" Without hesitation, Commander Oliver Law heroically dove after the fallen agent and into the icy, winding funnel where she tumbled. Once he grasped her (albeit barely), their rapid, downward slide was slowly-but-surely stopped by him firmly planting his boots into the frozen terrain.
"We're going to need some rope here, professor!" Law called out while he cradled an insensible Janeway.
Not only did Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson return to civilization with an invaluable vial of the sedating vapor to experiment on, but the commander added to an already-legendary reputation when word spread of that gallant feat performed in those catacombs ...
... but the agent saved from danger wasn't used to being rescued. In addition, she didn't want to be the object of Oliver's affections, so after her awakening, Marilyn immediately sought out Hemptopia's most famous champion. "Come to see me about having dinner, sweetheart?"
"No," Janeway stated plainly, "I'm not interested in dinner or dating or anything of the sort. I'm very grateful for your help, but this isn't the 1930s and an act of chivalry doesn't entitle you to – me ..."
A tense moment of silence had passed. Then Commander Law narrowed a pair of furious eyes and glared before he snarled in a feral manner, "I see ... All these years; all this so-called progress, and a white woman will still turn her nose up at a colored man! I should've known ..!"
"That's not it at all!" Marilyn Janeway exclaimed, but by this point, the commander stormed off in a fury.
Between Hemptopia's overpopulation and Oliver Law's celebrity status, privacy was a precious commodity. Ironically, the heartbreaking anger over being rejected blinded the commander since plenty of his fans would've deemed him romantically viable had he only stood still long enough ...
... instead, a frustrated Commander Law ventured far and wide – searching for a secluded woodland where he could brood.
"You're a hard man to find, commander."
Whirling around, Oliver perceived a craven, sniveling individual who agitated his instincts, but he ignored the warning within him demanding that this stranger be evaded. "... and you are ..?"
"Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste," this suave voice contained a hint of menace, "my name is Kiraly and I'd very much like to talk to you."
A day later, this manifesto was broadcast across the mass media of Hemptopia by hijacking a satellite: "This is Ryan Kiraly. They called me mad at the university when I suggested forced sterilization for anyone who violates our much-vaunted-but-seldom-obeyed 'one child rule' and that baby showers be banned since pregnancy shouldn't be celebrated in an overpopulated world. Well, it's bad enough there are fifteen billion Humans on the planet; it's bad enough the Hemptopian Space Program is a sick joke, but now we're embracing Humans who should've been dead decades ago ..!"
Kiraly's camera honed in on him until he stepped aside so that a bound-and-gagged Commander Law could clearly be seen on screen angrily struggling in vain against his restraints.
"... that's right, I captured your greatest hero, Hemptopia! If you ever want to see Oliver again, adhere to my demands or I'll reduce our population the old fashioned way ..."
After typing onto a nearby computer, Kiraly grinned in a sinister fashion – and then, on another continent entirely, a nursery in a hospital was destroyed by the blast of an incendiary device ...
"... I'm dead serious, people! Forced sterilizations for 'one child rule' breakers! Ban baby showers! You have one hour!"
There are countless versions of Earth across the multiverse, but only a chosen few value Human life more than Hemptopia does, which was why the loss of a Chinese hospital's nursery (several seriously injured doctors and one hundred dead toddlers) at the hands of a madman named Ryan Kiraly had been considered the worst atrocity since Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht (after that point in Hemptopian history, Hitler and Stalin turned on each other until their regimes exhausted themselves) or America's Second Civil War – circa the early 1960s – over the election of President Paul Robeson.
In addition to concern for the welfare of a captured Commander Oliver Law, every Hemptopian parent wondered whether their children would soon be murdered by Kiraly, so because this populist society had eschewed any traces of a police state for decades, it fell upon the United Nations to end this terrorist threat ...
... the U.N., in turn, then enlisted Agent Marilyn Janeway from the Refugee Retrieval Program. "You've fought your way out of a lot of dangerous situations over the years," Secretary-General Catherine Spence addressed a woman known on occasion as Hempman over the phone, "I don't need to tell you what's at stake here. That bastard Kiraly must be stopped by any means necessary."
A slightly disturbed Janeway winced at this. "With all due respect, Madam Secretary, that sort of desperation has caused more harm than terrorism itself. I ... I killed a man once – in the heat of battle and by accident – but I'm still dealing with that and for our world; our very way of life to be worth fighting for, desperate measures must be avoided no matter how desperate the times are."
"You have your orders, young lady," the secretary-general barked before their conversation ended.
After muttering under her breath, "I didn't vote for you anyway," Janeway donned her armor and entered the quarters of Aaron Swartz (who's just as much a computer programer in this universe as he was in others), "please tell me you were able to track Kiraly's signal ..?"
"Not completely," from behind a keyboard, Swartz shrugged his shoulders ashamedly, "Kiraly wasn't on the air long enough for me to get a solid lock, which was probably the whole point – from what I'm seeing here, I can guess ... guess which city he's in."
Manhattan had been Hemptopia's most congested metropolis and its dense populace/infrastructure offered the perfect shelter for a terrorist who's gone underground. However, the same means by which Kiraly interrupted the airwaves to spread his detestable message were used against him.
"This is Marilyn Janeway from Rip [a common euphemism for the Refugee Retrieval Program]," so said a pre-recorded broadcast that was observed by nearly every television viewing New Yorker, "Ryan Kiraly is hiding somewhere on the island of Manhattan – and while I'll be flying; personally searching for that baby killing psychotic, we still need your help, people! Here's a picture of him ..." In an instant, the countenance of a grotesque miscreant replaced Janeway's face. "... if you see this worthless bastard, call Rip or the United Nations, but don't try to arrest Kiraly yourself. He's considered armed, dangerous and completely out of his damn mind."
"Oh, really ..?" Kiraly rhetorically inquired from his secluded lair and then glanced at a restrained Oliver Law. "Well, commander – it seems your friend needs to find out how I was able to bomb a hospital on the other side of the world ..."
With a mouth silenced by restraints, Commander Law could barely murmur his protestations as a series of insect-esque drones slowly rose from Kiraly's laboratory and took to the skies over New York.
A dozen agents from the Refugee Retrieval Program flew in formation behind Marilyn Janeway courtesy of 1930s style rocket packs fueled by biodiesel, but no sooner had they flown over Harlem did the killing begin.
One by one, agent after agent had been blown out of the sky by Kiraly's vermin despite their best efforts to distance themselves from these mechanized, self-detonating assassins. From a worm's eye view, that aerial battle was thrilling, but Agent Janeway hated to witness the demise of so many comrades as she narrowly outmaneuvered her inhuman pursuers.
As the last survivor of this massacre, Janeway found herself torn between the promise of justice and a desire for revenge, but not wanting to be a hypocrite – especially in light of what she recently told Secretary-General Catherine Spence – ensured that her integrity would remain intact (at least, for the moment). "Kiraly ... I swear by all that is holy and sacred ..." The woman known as Hempman angrily grumbled.
Though most of those robots had destroyed themselves by intentionally colliding into agents, a couple were still aloft and had honed in on Janeway.
"Agent Janeway, this is Aaron Swartz," the computer programmer extraordinaire radioed, "I've got good news and I've got bad news."
"Aaron, honey, I'm being chased by big metal bugs that self-destruct on impact and I just watched my entire squad get wiped out," Marilyn lamented as she soared over New York with a pair of robotic killers after her, "don't make me pick which I want to hear first."
"The bad news is I can't shut down those – things from here," Swartz regretted to inform, "the good news is, some dude named Al Sharpton just called and said he saw someone fitting Kiraly's description drag a sack the size and shape of a person into a basement apartment early yesterday morning. I got the address ..."
Within his inner sanctum, Kiraly smirked and talked to a secured Oliver Law. "I may have you tied and gagged, but I know you can still see those explosions on my screen, commander! It's a shame this has cost me so many of my drones, but it'll be worthwhile so long as Janeway is dead–"
"–she's just fine."
A fist dressed in leathery armor abruptly struck Kiraly's jaw and dislodged his bridgework in the process – this blow also sent him sprawling onto the floor ... "Now stay down, lest I be tempted to take another life."
Once Marilyn Janeway had freed Commander Law, the first query she heard was, "how ..?"
"Let's just say the Statue of Liberty's face is going to need one Hell of a makeover," the agent explained, "I flew straight towards it with both of those robot bugs right behind me, but then I veered away at the last minute and they crashed into ... I just wish property damage was all that ... I can't believe they're all gone ... Montgomery, Patterson, Norris, Weems ..."
Sensing Janeway's anguish over those lost allies, the commander attempted to comfort her with an embrace, but she recoiled. "Listen, about the other day, I'm not some racist princess who's been raised to be afraid of dark skinned men. It's just that – well, you're Oliver Law; an icon, a legendary figure, and that's very intimidating, to say the least. I don't mind my women being dominant, but the men in my life – no matter what color they are – always have to be submissive. Do you understand?"
Commander Law cocked his head to one side. "What do you mean, your women?"
"I'm bi-sexual," Marilyn Janeway said with pride, but once Oliver's bewilderment was noticed, she grinned, "welcome to the 21st century."
As a scientist raised on classic television such as Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, Doctor Mae Jemison dealt quite well with the culture shock of being transported from her home dimension to one where the mass use of industrial hemp was the case for decades. The Art Deco architectural design seen through a nearby window – not to mention a penchant for early aviator attire – all indicated that this society's tastes had stagnated at some point in the late 1930s. "This place reminds me of a Saturday morning serial – except everything smells like weed ..!"
"Welcome to Hemptopia," Marilyn Janeway removed her armor's helmet immediately after their interdimensional arrival and revealed she was as much a female as the good doctor, "we stopped saying 'Earth' years ago."
Mildly stunned, Jemison's eyes widened while she declared, "saved by a white woman! If only those skinheads could see you now!"
A faint grin was seen on Janeway's countenance. "Well, you won't have to worry about racist attacks here," then a hint of regret could be heard, "except I was so busy fighting them off that I never really had a chance to ask if you're willing to live here."
"Are you kidding?" The doctor rhetorically queried. "Of course, I'll work for your version of N.A.S.A.! Don't you dare take me back to that nightmare!"
Their laughter echoed throughout the nerve center of Hemptopia's space program and turned the heads of curious passerby in the process. Then the ebony inventor mentioned something to her ivory savior that altered its fate forever: "Never thought I'd be working on a flying saucer."
Marilyn Janeway sounded confused. "A flying what?"
"You know, like Roswell ..?"
A blank expression had been Janeway's only response.
"I don't believe this: You people can open wormholes, but y'all don't know about Roswell's saucer ..." Doctor Mae Jemison mordantly commented and then began to explain. "... in the summer of 1947 – least, in my timeline – a U.F.O. crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. The military claimed it was a weather balloon, but most folks believe it came from another world."
"Aliens ..." Marilyn Janeway uttered with a sense of wonder.
"According to the conspiracy theorists," Jemison continued, "the saucer is still inside a hangar in Area 51. If you're serious about colonizing the stars, I'd get a hold of it."
The good doctor was escorted to an enormous series of computerized monitors where the barrier separating alternate realities is pierced and their inner workings are visually perceived by several observers. "This is how we found you, Doctor Jemison," Janeway explained, "sometimes it takes months of study just to see if there's anyone with the sort of expertise we're looking for."
A stunned expression revealed how obvious it was that this displaced scientist had been in awe, however, even an impressed Jemison mentioned the extent to which such surveillance disturbed her. "It's a little Orwellian, don't you think? Secretly spying on people ... Hope y'all weren't watching me while I was on the toilet."
Again, Marilyn Janeway's expression was one of confusion. "Orwellian ..?"
Doctor Mae Jemison smirked before lightheartedly inquiring. "George Orwell? 1984? Big Brother? None of these things ring a bell?"
"I imagine our history in general – and our version of the 1984 in particular – was very different than yours, doctor," Janeway innocently commented.
"That's not what I ..." the doctor nearly corrected, but opted not to "... oh, never mind. Can these screens show us the past?"
Marilyn Janeway nodded in the negative. "No. We can only go sideways in time."
"Uh huh ... Then locate a place in Nevada called Area 51," Jemison instructed, "that's a top secret military base where all the conspiracy theorists insist a flying saucer is."
An hour later, Hemptopian technicians managed to hone in on this installation's infamous Hangar 18, which according to their particle cameras, actually held an extraterrestrial vessel. "Well, dip my black ass in honey and feed me to Denzel Washington! It really exists ..!"
Ignoring yet another reference to someone from the doctor's version of Earth, Janeway turned to an incarnation of Carl Sagan and said, "if this is real, it could solve all our problems."
"Indeed," Sagan agreed, "assuming its engine is some form of faster-than-light drive, Hemptopia would be able to colonize Mars, Alpha Centauri or even Vega in our lifetimes."
"Y'all gonna steal it, aintcha?" Doctor Mae Jemison seemed more amused than threatened by the prospect of this.
A frustrated Marilyn Janeway gestured towards the nearest aperture with a clear perspective of outdoors where hordes of commoners innocently minding their business were surveyed with dismay. "We don't have a choice."
"As you can see, Doctor Jemison, we're dangerously overpopulated," Carl Sagan chimed in, "and unless we can colonize other planets, and soon, food riots and mass murders will occur on a regular basis before the 22nd century. It's nothing less than a testament to our sharing of resources that we haven't had to start rationing already."
Given the extent that the terra firma in Jemison's home dimension had been dominated by an entity known as "the military-industrial complex," Janeway studied the history of hitherto unheard of organizations such as the C.I.A. and the United States Air Force.
"Know thy enemy ..." The Hemptopian agent groaned as she wearily researched these sinister cartels for the better part of that night.
Insofar as her target, it didn't appear on any government map and it's permanently off-limits to both civilian and military air traffic (pilots risk disciplinary action if they accidentally stray into Area 51's airspace). Radar stations protect the area, surveillance is supplemented with the use of buried motion sensors, its guards are armed with M16s and any unauthorized personnel are quickly expelled. Deadly force is authorized.
"Now remember," Sagan reminded Marilyn Janeway prior to her departure, "when you find the 'flying saucer,' just attach this homing device ..." The agent was then handed a transponder. "... onto its hull and we'll open up a big enough wormhole for you to push it through."
"Push?" Janeway sounded incredulous. "Doctor Sagan, that thing is huge!"
Hemptopia's most esteemed mind sympathized but remained firm. "It's the only way. Between the increased strength of your armor's exoskeleton – and how lightweight we theorize the saucer's metal is – you'll be able to pull this off if you're airborne; if the jet pack on your back is blasting at full thrust. The good news is it only needs to be pushed a little bit."
Marilyn Janeway winced in advance of the pain she's certain to endure. "Even with all that, I'll have the worst hernia of all time afterwards – I still say a fleet of agents should accompany me ..."
Carl Sagan frowned and countered, "you'll have that new hallucinogen weapon we've devised on your side. Besides, the larger the force, the more likely someone could be captured, and from what Doctor Jemison has told us, if those savages were ever able to cannibalize our technology, the consequences would be disastrous."
After her nocturnal arrival in Doctor Mae Jemison's primitive timeline, Janeway silently hovered over Nevada's barren terrain before rocketing towards a few innocuous airstrips in the distance under cover of darkness – and yet, despite how stealthy she had been, armed guards were still alerted to her presence ...
With a deafening siren – not to mention the snarling of trained canines – in the background, soldiers ordered her to land and surrender, but Marilyn Janeway hurled minuscule capsules in their direction. Each of which emitted emerald fumes upon impact and rendered nearly every sentry wildly-yet-happily delirious with kaleidoscopic visions almost instantly. Even the canines hallucinated.
Colonel Kiraly has been committing mass murders as a servant of the American Empire ever since "Operation Phoenix," in which the C.I.A. secretly – and without the benefit of any court – slaughtered twenty thousand civilians in South Vietnam simply because they were (erroneously) assumed to be Stalinists. Since then, the malevolent colonel was placed in command of Area 51, given his penchant for that which is Machiavellian ...
... but the sight of an armored intruder who literally flew left him torn between astonishment and exasperation. "What the Hell ..? Lieutenant! What's that gas this guy just doused our boys with?"
"I don't know sir," the base commander's subordinate answered.
"Well, find out!" Kiraly barked. "I want whoever he is caught, questioned and locked up with the rest of our guests!"
Janeway soon learned for herself what Colonel Kiraly meant by "guests" – before she reached the hangar where a flying saucer was said to have been since 1947, this Hemptopian noticed dozens of cells imprisoning seemingly ordinary citizens ...
"Help us!" an elderly lady shrieked from behind her bars. "I'm Doctor Judy Barry! I invented a bio-restorative formula that can make forests out of deserts! I've done nothing wrong! None of us have!"
A neighboring prisoner – Doctor Edward Alistair – used this opportunity to describe what he discovered. "She's quite right," his British accent might've been endearing were it not for the dire circumstances, "we're scientists, not terrorists. I for one perfected the process of using sonoluminescence to create stable bubble fusion; bursts of light from imploding bubbles in liquid, if excited by sound, can produce unlimited amounts of electricity without any residual pollution whatsoever. I built a reactor that could power a city for a whole month with a single glass of water, but as soon as 'the men in black' saw that it worked, they shut me down, threw a bloody sack over my head and–"
"–I've heard enough ..!" Though this went against the exact parameters of Hemptopia's mission, Marilyn Janeway tested the enhanced strength of her armor by prying open dozens of iron prison entrances, and thus, freeing these prodigies who were sequestered in the name of perpetuating planned obsolescence.
With nearly a hundred abductees noisily following her, Janeway's assignment became all the more arduous since she had to defend the innocent and fend off a legion of sentries simultaneously. Fortunately, between dispensing pellets of that Hemptopian hallucinogen and a mastery of the martial arts (reinforced by strength-enhancing armament), this utopian agent continued to persist without a single loss of life on either side.
"Keep your mouths and noses covered!" Marilyn Janeway insisted. "If you breathe any of my gas, you'll have to be carried and I can't fight all these men with one hand!"
"Could've fooled me," the youngest scientist seemed impressed by his rescuer's prowess, "if anything, it looks like you could give Batman a run for his money!"
During a brief respite in the conflict, Janeway hastily explained, "I don't know who 'Batman' is. I'm from a parallel Earth where hemp was never criminalized, so my history is very different than yours, and I hate to say it, but the only way I can ensure your safety is to take you back with me."
The response to this was almost unanimous and best expressed by the youngster. "A world where hemp is legal? Fuck yeah! Sign me up!"
Unfortunately, the aforementioned conversation had been discerned by Area 51's security cameras and listened to in Colonel Kiraly's office. "Parallel Earths, eh? Interesting ..."
Upon entering Hangar 18, Marilyn Janeway momentarily marveled at the sight of what was assumed to be a cosmic conveyance, but a metallurgist imprisoned for her formula which transformed lead to gold (and placed capitalism itself at risk) expertly examined its exterior. "Unless the aliens shop at Home Depot, this is a fake."
"Of course it's a fake; a decoy to distract rubes, like you, in case anyone ever gets this far," a smarmy voice was heard over a loudspeaker inside the hangar, "we cannibalized the real Roswell saucer years ago – where do you think the stealth bomber came from ..?"
While the assembled scientists trembled since they recognized the discourse of their captor, Janeway bravely demanded to know, "and you are ..?"
"Colonel Kiraly," the base commander answered, "you may have knocked out – or doped up – most of my troops, but a lot more are on the way, so why don't you 'stand down' and tell me all about how you're able to travel to parallel Earths?"
Marilyn Janeway grinned in a vindictive fashion. "How about I show you instead?" Since there wasn't any point in transporting a counterfeit craft, she simply opened an enormous portal to Hemptopia and ordered the former prisoners to enter in a hurry, so when the colonel's cavalry had arrived, the last of those scientists escaped sideways in time to a far better world.
"Uh, sir? Did we just let him get away with all our prisoners, I mean, advisors?" From the comfort of a commander's office, Kiraly's underling, a lowly lieutenant, dared to inquire.
"Son, I was running 'black ops' in the jungles of North Vietnam before your parents even met," a conceited Colonel Kiraly crowed, "I pride myself on being a master strategist. For instance, that bogus saucer wasn't the only trick up my sleeve – I assigned a 'plant' to be in a cell along with our 'advisors' just in case something like this happened ..."
Meanwhile, in another dimension ... "There are over fifteen billion Humans on the planet, but instead of a spaceship, you bring back some more Humans," Carl Sagan admonished, "I take it you had a good reason for doing this?"
Utterly exhausted, Janeway wearily staggered in search of a shower. "It'll be in my report – first thing tomorrow ..."
Hemptopia's latest refugees mingled with those commissioned to acclimate them to its peaceful society and one conversation in particular sounded ominous, to say the least: "I wish I knew why aliens would visit that savage version of Earth and not ours," Sagan wondered out loud.
"You answered your own question," the youth who compared Hempman to Batman chimed in, "they came to us out of concern because we had just split the atom and dropped not one but two nuclear bombs on Japan."
An intrigued Sagan interrogated, "how do you know this, young man?"
"Oh, just a guess ..." The youngster smirked.
Jeremy Kern grinned when he evasively answered Carl Sagan's question, but Hemptopia's version of the celebrated astronomer wasn't entirely convinced that this recent refugee from a hostile alternate reality could be trustworthy. "So, what did you say your area of expertise is? Physics? Engineering?"
A sneering Jeremy retorted, "actually, I didn't say, Mister Sagan – and might I say it's nice to see you alive ... In my world, you died of pneumonia back in the 1990s."
Taken aback by that report of his counterpart's departure, a stunned Sagan relented, but only slightly. "Well, unless you're a scientist, you'll be refused a house of your own; unless you're able to make some contribution to our space program, you're just another charity case and will be treated as such," with a curt gesture, he summoned an assistant, "take this young man to the Alger Apartments on the offhand chance that there are any vacancies."
However, before Jeremy Kern could be escorted to a studio apartment, Carl Sagan grasped him by the arm for a moment. "I'll be keeping an eye on you."
Once he was settled in, and alone, Kern produced a palmtop computer in order to rapidly type a series of e-mails ...
"Colonel Kiraly, this is Agent Jeremy Kern. When you assigned me to pretend to be a prisoner, the understandable assumption was that any escape attempt would be reasonably close to home and I'd be able to lead the military to any escapees, but since I'm typing this from a parallel universe of all places, I wonder if you'll ever receive these messages! Nevertheless, I'll continue to do my duty; I'll gather as much 'intel' on this hippie paradise as possible and see if I can somehow make it back to our world.
"As best as I can deduce, this is a place where the entire infrastructure has been based on industrial hemp for decades. At the risk of sounding like I'm suffering from Stockholm syndrome, I must admit to being a bit impressed: The tree huggers in charge have somehow managed to sustain a fully functioning social democracy (a la Scandinavia, not Stalin) without any atrocities to speak of.
"Yes, parallel universes or alternate realities do in fact exist, and in this one, half of the warfare of the 20th century never occurred, which certainly accounts for the excess populace (it's nothing less than a Biblical miracle that I got an apartment without a roommate), but rather than simply solve their overpopulation problem by moving to, say, an empty version of Earth where life was wiped out by a disaster or whatever, the Hemptopians – as they call themselves – are irrationally afraid of being seen as 'imperialists' (an often heard word around here), so they've been venturing to other Earths in order to find scientists with the initiative one can only find on worlds where struggle inspires discovery. This is why that armored woman (yes, he's a 'she' and her name is Marilyn Janeway) invaded the base: Hemptopia wants to colonize its version of Mars, but since it lacks the ballistics that were a direct result of 20th century conflict, it's in desperate need of a NASA; an equivalent of Chuck Yeager. For instance, I got on what passes for the internet around here, and in this world, Robert H. Goddard made some gains in rocketry, but ended up just another hedonistic pothead.
"Aside from never having had a Holocaust, a Hiroshima, a Vietnam or a Nine-Eleven, this place being a colossal welfare state certainly accounts for why Hemptopia's overpopulation is akin to Charlton Heston's Soylent Green, and since the Hemptopian work day is only four hours long, these streets are always packed with people ... The first societal idiosyncrasy I noticed – during my search for a proverbial snake in the garden – were the Earthworms; people who'll literally tunnel holes for themselves so they can take naps, read, listen to music, and of course, smoke weed – all to avoid a crowd ... A walk in the park can easily mean falling into such a hole, as I found out the hard way.
"A close second is the disdain Hemptopians have for pregnant women (suffice to say there hasn't been a 'baby shower' here in years). For instance, when I moved into this closet-sized apartment, a lady had been bullied because of her belly; a handful of loudmouth kids had demanded that she show them some sort of permit to get impregnated (Sarah 'Death Panels' Palin would get a kick out of this). The lady was humiliated because she was simply obese, but these delinquents wouldn't believe her, so I felt the chivalrous need to intervene, but before a single punch was thrown, someone wearing an armor similar to Janeway's arrived and the little bastards scattered.
"Believe it or not, what dissent there is is handled as amicably as any libertarian would (ironically, even though civil liberties are cherished, privacy is limited due to the multitude of people), but the Religious Right would absolutely despite it here since science is held in the highest esteem. Because of the emphasis on space, there's immense pressure on children to explore the stars – and because Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were the last major sci fi characters this version of Earth embraced, Hemptopian culture reflects that; Art Deco architecture and Amelia Earhart aviator outfits as far as the eye can see ... My theory is their history defers from ours at the point when marijuana was demonized in the 1930s, so they've stagnated since then. At least, stylistically speaking.
"An aspect of Hemptopia that isn't stagnant is its astonishing advances in 'sideways time travel,' courtesy of the Hemptopian answer to Stephen Hawking, who is amazing; not only is he far healthier than ours, not only were the barriers between alternate realities breached by him, but his 1987 invention of the white hole (the opposite of a black hole) has also allowed Hemptopians to teleport themselves from city to city! That's right, in nearly every major metropolitan area, there are enormous arches (almost the size of Saint Louis') ordinary citizens regularly walk, take a plane or drive their cars through to ... Wherever in the world they desire! Colonel, I personally strolled from London to Manhattan in a matter of seconds!
"Instant globetrotting for commuters certainly alleviates overpopulation's effect on traffic. However, due to the amount of electricity necessary to operate these gateways, power outages are frequent, and God help you if you're in the midst of transit when that happens. Over the years, dozens of lives were lost (as in, presumed deceased but possibly simply missing) because of what's called 'molecular scrambling,' and before you ask, sir, no one here has the head of a fly. In fact, as ethical – or anal – as these people are, I suspect any attempt at such a cinematic experiment would be met with abject public humiliation (a common deterrent) or the worst of Hemptopian punishment: Exile to an uninhabited island (think Tom Hanks in Cast Away), as was the case with some asshole named Reggie Haskell (long story).
"This transport of the masses is loosely based on the same dimension jumping Marilyn Janeway employs. However, only her R.R.P. (Refugee Retrieval Program) are permitted to enter alternate realities, which makes it a science police, of sorts (something to keep in mind). Rest assured, Colonel, I did my best to take pictures of this 'arch tech' without attracting attention, and if ... if an e-mail can cross the distance between this universe and ours, you'll see them for yourself, sir. Semper Fi."
Utterly exhausted after her liberation of Area 51, Marilyn "Hempman" Janeway felt entitled to a respite, so she decided to spend a weekend in Australia of all places since its milieu of koalas, kangaroos, boomerangs and aborigines always fascinated this special agent.
Emerging from an enormous portal that teleported her (as well as several others, since this sort of international transit is a public service) almost instantaneously from Manhattan to Darwin, Janeway wandered along a picturesque harbor before leisurely exploring Mindil Beach and its Sunset Markets.
While listening to the ingenious populace play their didgeridoos on those golden, Australian sands, Marilyn Janeway was recognized by a male/female set of twins. "I don't believe this," the feminine twin stammered, "you're the woman who saved Oliver Law and caught Ryan Kiraly!"
Since only his voice was heard during her most recent adventure, Janeway wondered whether the Colonel Kiraly who ran Area 51 was merely another reality's version of Ryan Kiraly; the genocidal madman she apprehended (they certainly sounded similar) – as if that particular surname is synonymous with malevolence ... "I'm Marilyn, and thanks, but it was a team effort. Besides, a lot of good agents were lost that day."
Then the masculine twin chimed in. "Oh, you never have to tell twins about the importance of teamwork. I'm Erik Emory and this is my sister Erin."
A bisexual Marilyn Janeway had been torn between determining which twin was the most gorgeous, so she opted to let fate itself select by waiting until one of them made a romantic maneuver towards her. "Nice to meet you – two ..."
Erin glanced at her brother prior to suggesting the following: "We would be honored if someone from the RRP [Refugee Retrival Program] would take a look at our research."
"I'm sure an agent of her caliber is on assignment," Erik balked at his sister's eagerness.
"Vacation, actually ..." Marilyn blithely replied.
"Perfect!" Erin Emory exclaimed. "Our facility is in Faraway Downs and getting there is half the fun – the best sightseeing in the entire Northern Territory, I guarantee it ..!"
Out of an understandable desire to conserve energy, those arches are only for teleporting Hemptopia's citizenry from city to city, so Marilyn Janeway and the twins drove a ramshackle vehicle over a hundred miles across the outback. During this lengthy journey, Erin often pointed out mountains and rock formations, which were bizarre, nearly otherworldly in appearance – their sheer grandeur, along with an equally surreal landscape, was inspiring as well as disturbing ...
Intermittently throughout a tour of Australia's splendor, Janeway was also told about that project the Emory twins were working on. "Part of me is a bit hesitant to say this, since you've spent so long – and gone through so much, from what I gather – finding scientists who'll build us starships," Erik remarked, "but we're on the verge of a discovery that could make the RRP obsolete. Instead of taking weeks – if not months or years – rocketing to another planet, imagine simply teleporting to the moon and even Mars as we currently do from Australia to America to Antarctica?"
When Marilyn Janeway envisioned Hemptopians transporting en masse to lunar colonies and beyond, a childlike sense of wonder consumed her. "Unlimited range," she sounded awed before pondering an ironic concept out loud, "if your planet to planet transporter works, it'll be mean far more than obsolescence, it would've meant that 'Rip' never should've existed in the first place. For so long, we've believed that Hemptopia was supposedly too – bohemian; too dainty after decades of decadence to invent what we needed on our own, but here the two of you are ..."
Then Erin penitently shrugged her shoulders. "Admittedly, we had help insofar as that goes and you'll see what – or rather, who – I mean soon enough."
That dilapidated conveyance belonging to the Emory family eventually reached the isolated estate that is Faraway Downs, a cattle ranch which was converted to a laboratory complete with its own particle accelerator. "Well, I see now why y'all can't afford a better car! This is extraordinary ..." Janeway joked before an elderly aborigine in the distance was noticed. "... is he a physicist?"
Erik smirked. "In a manner of speaking. His name is Nullah and a case can be made that he's responsible for the white holes you travel to parallel Earths through, our transport arches, all of it."
"Thirty years ago, Stephen Hawking visited Australia, met Nullah by accident and began learning firsthand about the aboriginal belief in the Dreamtime; the concept of the past, present and future existing simultaneously, as one," Erin enthusiastically elaborated, "it's the basis of Australian mythology and the very technology we take for granted."
An astounded Marilyn Janeway was introduced to the aged Nullah – who had been lighter-skinned than most of his brethren – and commented in a distinct accent, "I see how crowded the world is, so I sing Hawking to me," he either ignored or forgave the incredulousness seen in Janeway's expression and continued unabated, "my people step in and out of Dreamtime to take short cut. My grandfather teach 'em me when we go walkabout and then I teach 'em Hawking."
Rather than insulting Nullah with analytical queries insofar as how much of what he said should be taken literally, Marilyn Janeway listened instead, and over a barbecued dinner, she had been enthralled by the thrilling tale of his early years; of how a rancher's murder sparked a perilous rivalry with a livestock monopoly and culminated with him being falsely imprisoned by racist missionaries. "See, I not black fella. I not white fella either," the eighty-four year old Nullah elucidated, "them white fellas call me mixed-blood, half-caste, creamy. I belong to no one."
A fascinated yet disconcerted Janeway was speechless for the better part of a minute until she finally stirred herself enough to converse. "I am so ... amazed by the life you've led. I'm also relieved that there hasn't been a case of racism since the Second American Civil War in the 1960s."
"That's nice to know," with all the stealth taught to him by military intelligence, a man in his twenties sneaked behind Nullah and pressed a pistol's nozzle against the ancient shaman's cranium, "because this old bastard will make the perfect hostage since he's so important to you."
Concerned that an overreaction could worsen this situation, Marilyn Janeway calmly held a hand upwards in order to prevent the Emory twins from attempting to intervene. "You were one of the people I rescued from Area 51 – why are you doing this ..?"
"Lady, you didn't rescue me," Jeremy Kern snarled menacingly, "I'm an agent on assignment and it's time for me to go home, so the Wonder Twins better open a portal back to my version of Earth or Nullah here gets sent to Dreamtime the hard way."
"Overpopulated as this parallel Earth is, I can see why y'all picked this spot," Jeremy Kern nonchalantly mentioned even as he held a hostage at gunpoint known as Nullah – an elderly aborigine whose spirituality inspired the development of Hemptopia's teleportation, "Faraway Downs is pretty – well, far away from civilization, get it? Any way, aside from peace and quiet, being this isolated also means no one will fuck with me, so you two better get to work on sending me back home! Now!"
Erin and Erik Emory – twin geniuses experimenting with opening portals for planet-to-planet transit (as opposed to the city-to-city or country-to-country commuting Hemptopians usually employ) – instinctively turned to one another with confused expressions and then faced their guest. "Marilyn, what the Hell is he talking about?"
Marilyn Janeway noticeably bristled at the thought of an otherwise pleasant vacation becoming an incident to be dealt with. What's worse, her armor and weapons were back at headquarters, but she still sounded confident. "Evidently, this barbarian is from one of the more hostile alternate realities I've visited and his desperation suggests he wants to turn over some stolen Hemptopian secrets to his superiors," Janeway keenly discerned Kern's motivations and the villain's expression indicated she was more accurate than not, "since it'd be suspicious if a recent defectee asked the RRP to be returned to such savagery, he must assume that something can be done for him here ..."
Then it occurred to Erin what that miscreant wanted, so she summoned her courage and declared, "mister, we're unable to go sideways in time. Even if it wasn't illegal for anyone other than the Refugee Retrieval Program to do so – and it is – we simply don't have the technology or even the expertise necessary."
After drawing back the hammer of his revolver, Kern sternly warned, "well, for the sake of this witch doctor of yours – or whatever his ass is supposed to be – I highly suggest you find a way to defy your precious science police!"
"I not doctor," an insolent Nullah explained, "I galapa; I magic man and you a bad spirit."
"Like I said, whatever," a grim Jeremy Kern responded.
At that point, Erik Emory became aggravated enough to raise his voice and threaten the intruder. "I see why Janeway called you barbaric! I oughta beat some respect for intellect into your primitive arse!"
In order to scare Erik, Kern fired a round at the defiant physicist – missed on purpose, but only barely – and resumed aiming his firearm at that native he kept captive after the male Emory submitted. "Who's gonna beat what into who, now?" Jeremy dared. "Yeah, that's what the fuck I thought ... I got plenty of bullets, so for the last time, get started! Mary Jane here knows which Earth I'm from, so ask her!"
Despite the twins' vast intelligence, even they were wondering whether it's possible to operate their interplanetary transport arch without the benefit of an entire team supporting them. Then again, Kern's lack of scientific acumen might grant an agent of Marilyn Janeway's capabilities an opportunity, so to stall until Nullah was safe, the Emorys inwardly decided to slowly plod along and pretend to be industrious.
Meanwhile, Janeway endeavored to negotiate. "If you're serious about this, you should have a younger and healthier hostage, such as myself," once this was said, she addressed the indigenous person in question, "no offense, Nullah."
The aborigine understandably strained since a gun had been pointed in his direction, but he still grinned. "I no mind, Missus Boss."
"First of all, I'm the only 'boss' around here," Jeremy Kern snarled, "second of all, don't try to con me, lady! I saw the way y'all were going on and on about how influential this asshole is!"
"I am curious," Marilyn Janeway changed the subject to defuse this tense situation, "why not stay here in Hemptopia? If you kept quiet; if you didn't draw any undue attention to yourself, you could've lived the rest of your life in a world where poverty, bigotry and atrocity has been abolished."
"Here's a better question," Kern retorted, "where do you get off invading other Earths and depriving them of their geniuses? How are you any different than a thief?"
Janeway rejoined. "Where did your Area 51 'get off' abducting and imprisoning them?"
The rhetorical queries of Marilyn Janeway and Jeremy Kern went unanswered as these adversaries narrowed their respective eyes and angrily glared at each other for the longest – that is, until Kern's patience was exhausted ... "I may not be much of a scientist, but it's been four hours, and it didn't take Thomas Edison that long to screw in a light bulb, so the Wonder Twins better be ready or else."
While still held in a headlock as he had been throughout this conflict, Nullah was unceremoniously led by an armed Jeremy Kern into the Emorys' laboratory – where a gargantuan archway's interior shimmered with ethereal power ... "All I see is white light," Kern sounded nervous, "where's Nevada? Where's Area 51?"
"That's why we call it a white hole and not a black hole," Marilyn Janeway entered and answered before either Erin or Erik could, "what you're seeing is the arch's event horizon. You'll have to actually walk through it to see your destination."
Then Kern went from aiming at the shaman to training his weapon on Janeway. "You walk through it first, Mary Jane. Consider yourself my canary in the coal mine."
Instead of stepping inside, Marilyn Janeway confronted her opponent. "Before I do – before we go – you're going to strip naked."
This statement stunned everyone present and titillated an amorous Jeremy Kern. "Why, Agent Janeway," malicious sarcasm permeated from him, "I never knew you cared!"
"Don't flatter yourself," an enraged Janeway stated, "I know somewhere on your person must be a photo or a blueprint of Hemptopian technology and I'm not, repeat, not about to let you leave with it! The last thing the multiverse needs is an Earth like yours possessing sideways time travel!"
All too eager to return with valuable "intel" for the empire he served, Kern panicked and attempted to aim at Marilyn Janeway, who used her martial artistry to wrest his pistol from him, but as fate would have it, not soon enough to prevent a stray shot that hit the Emorys' machinery.
"That bullet just shorted out the computer!" Erin warned over the roar of sparks flying randomly along a delicate circuit board. "We're losing cohesion!"
Subsequent to quickly retrieving that revolver and shooting Janeway in the leg, Jeremy Kern ran into the dimension-spanning entrance even as it sputtered in and out of existence. "Well, that's my cue! So long, suckers!"
"No!" Wounded as she had been, Marilyn Janeway was only able to helplessly witness as Kern vanished with an unknown amount of Hemptopia's secrets and that infuriated her immeasurably, to say the least. "Damn it all to Hell!"
On bent knee, Erik laid a hand on the fallen Janeway's shoulder in a consoling manner. "I wouldn't worry about it, Agent Janeway – due to all the damage that bastard caused, there's no telling where in the multiverse he'll end up ..."
Jeremy Kern emerged from the arch in a dark forest consisting of sentient trees, which reached out with their branches to capture him, but they failed to since – in addition to being honed by training – his reflexes were understandably spurred by fear. Then the agent noticed a road made of gold that led to an emerald citadel in the distance, and once it dawned upon Kern what must have happened, a sinister mind was hopelessly lost. "Somewhere," he sang as the last traces of sanity slipped away, "over the rainbow ..."
This episode is wholeheartedly dedicated to the cast and crew of the 2008 movie, Australia. Crickey!