Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walnuts, Part I

By Peter Semple

2150 was the year the walnut trees died. It wasn’t just the earthbound ones either. All the transplants on Mars and Luna died off too, like someone had flipped some strange, absurdly-labeled switch.
No one knew why.

2175 was the year Russian scientists announced that they had managed to restore an entire grove of walnut trees. Walnut-lovers rejoiced, but there was a catch. Russia wasn’t doing this for charity.

By 2176, Russia held a stranglehold on the world walnut trade. They could charge anything they wanted, because there wasn’t any competition.

I, Philip H. Scrout, intrepid adventurer, bionic man, and world-class time-traveler/problem solver, was about to change all of that. You see, the walnut trees weren’t supposed to die. My superiors suspected that someone sent a genetically attuned supervirus back in time again. Thankfully, the last one only targeted Chihuahuas. Walnuts now…that was too far. In the future, a serum made from walnut tree bark saved mankind from a devastating plague. The death of the walnut trees created a future in which the Russians were the only ones to possess the serum, ensuring a thousand years of Communist Tyranny. Central Command wasn’t about to let that happen. I wasn’t about to let that happen.

I arrived in Prague on the 4th of June. I had it on good authority that a rogue Russian agent was about to hand off a suitcase full of whole walnuts into the hands of a Czech mobster known as Timmy. No one had ever seen his face or heard his voice, but it was rumored that he traveled around in a strange hovertrain and never stayed in the same place for very long. My mission was to intercept the suitcase and deliver it into British hands.

The man with the suitcase was in an aircar, moving quickly toward the outskirts of the city. I was cloaked and clinging to the top of the aircar for dear life. At the speed we were moving, the wind would have inflicted some serious damage, had I not been wearing my skin-suit. The suit made me invisible and protected me from just about anything. It also talked, which is never a desirable function in a suit.

Sir, have you realized that your blood pressure is a little high?

“I hadn’t noticed.”

Well, you may want to do something about that. Things like that can kill you, you know.


You could have a heart attack or something. What would I do without you, sir? A poor empty suit, completely free of a disgusting paras—I mean, devoid of an owner!

I’m sure the thing’s planning my demise. I’ve warned Central Command about it, but they don’t seem to think it’s worth the cost of reprogramming. “Budget cuts” or some such nonsense.
I ignored the suit and focused on the landscape unfolding ahead of me. The city had given way to small towns, farms, and rolling plains. Suddenly, the car stopped, nearly throwing me off.

We waited there for several hours before anything happened. Then I saw the hovertrain. It was a huge, chrome monstrosity, and it was coming this way. My mark grabbed the suitcase, got out of the car, and began walking calmly toward the train. I got down and followed him at a distance.

The train must have been going about 80 kilometers per hour, and it wasn’t slowing down. Just then, the briefcase man did something I did not expect. Slowly, calmly, he walked up to the train and dematerialized. Poof!

That doesn't seem fair said the suit. Maybe you should try! Take me off first, of course.

“Shut up,” I said. “We’re going to do this the hard way.”

I have implants that allow me to do things normally outside the human range of possibility. One of them involves running quite fast.

I started running, and the landscape around me gradually became a blur as I ran faster and faster. I reached the train’s caboose, grabbing onto the railing and heaving myself aboard.

There was no back entrance, so I made one. That was when the alarm sounded.

*  *  *

Find out what happens next week!

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The Institute for Circular Reasoning by Peter Semple is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.