Posted: Oct 4 2008, 10:59 AM
This story is based on a live story idea that Marten posted here. This story raises the question, it does not answer it.
I received an e-mail today from one of the Writers, named Beth:
I need your expertise in the social sciences. I wrote an Age and, well, there are people on it. I don't know
what to do with them. Can you please come by my office tonight so that you can see them.
Beth was a graduate student at the University, but over in the Biology department. We had served together on the ethics review board for research conducted at the University, but I knew her better from an Age we had complied a report on for the Guild of Maintainers.
I knew that she had begun to learn how to Write several months ago; I recognized her username on the Guild of Writers forum. I did not realize that she had progressed so far as to create an Age. I quickly replied to her e-mail that I would help her. I called my wife and told her that I was eating out tonight with a colleague. My wife sounded disappointed, but I did not do this often.
When I reached Beth's office that night I found her distressed. â€œHenry, I am so glad you are here. I need your help.â€
â€œI know you mentioned that in your e-mailâ€ I replied.
â€œI was trying to create a world where we could harvest compound F-34S, â€œshe began. â€œI could describe the compound well enough and I described the rest of the landscape rather generally, you know somewhere nice to go harvesting. I guess I was not specific enough.â€ This seemed to her to explain things, but I found it quite unsatisfactory.
â€œWhat effect did not being specific enough have?â€
â€œPeople, Henry, peopleâ€, she said looking at me as if that was a dumb question.
â€œPerhaps I don't grasp the Art. Don't you have to Write people inâ€
â€œI had thought so too, but apparently they are part of the randomness of the Link.â€ I guessed that was possible.
â€œOkay, let me see them. I brought my gear for making observations.â€ I said. Sadly, what I had was mostly for showing off to the undergraduates and not my best gear. That was at home. Still, it would do. She pulled a Descriptive Book out of her desk. She offered me the linking panel.
â€œHold on, do you have the maintainers approval? It is stable?â€ I said.
â€œClearly, I've been there. How else did I see the people,â€ she said.
â€œDo you have a linking book back to here?â€ I said, trying to be mindful of everything that could go wrong.
â€œI have a descriptive book back to this room in my Age.â€ nodding a pushing the descriptive book closer to me. I reached out my hand to the moving image of the plains surrounded by mountains. As my fingers made contact with the linking panel I felt the tingling rise up my arm and over my whole body. There was darkness, then a rushing and I found myself standing in the middle of a wide green plain. A river flowed nearby in the direction of the overhead sun. It was a very earth like age and I was in a region similar to the temperate grassland of the prairie of North America or the pampas of South America.
Beth burst into existence next to me. She looked around to get her bearings. â€œVery earth-likeâ€ I commented.
â€œThere are phrases that the Guild of Writers have to create very earth-like Ages.â€
â€œI don't see any people,â€ I said.
â€œLuckily they didn't appear too close to the link in point.â€ she said. â€œUnluckily, they appeared right where I described the compound to appearâ€ That seemed an odd coincidence to me. â€œLet me show you what success I've had though.â€ She led me down to the river and dipped some sort of sampling instrument into it. She let the water drip onto some paper she had and the paper turned from white to green. â€œSee, the compound is in the water. I Wrote that,â€ she said, smiling proudly.
â€œWhat is this compound again?â€ I said.
â€œIt is F-34S, it is a compound with remarkable healing properties when used on animals and probably humans. It does not exist in nature and it is expensive to create in the lab. By Writing this Age I have provided a means to substantially advancing the quality of medicine. Imagine healing from surgery in half the time it currently takes.â€ There was no greed in Beth's manners, but I knew that soon someone would realize what a profit could be turned from this. We could address that later, I needed to see the native inhabitants of this Age.
We followed the river upstream for about a mile. Turning a bend we slowed our pace and climbed up the nearby rise. The village was laid out near the river. I pulled my field glasses up to my eyes. It appeared to be what would be categorized in the three-age system as a bronze age civilization. The houses were permanent, and fields spread out around the perimeter of the village. I saw no signs of horses or roads or anything to make me think that they would ever chose to travel too far, including down towards the site of the Link-in location. My initial analysis was that these people should not be a problem if Beth wanted to link in and harvest this compound from the river near the link in point.
â€œSee where all those fields of cabbage or vines or whatever are, that's where I wrote for the compound to appear.â€ She seemed disappointed, but I was excited. She had Written for these people a source of food with natural healing properties. Sure it mean that she could not harvest it from there, but she had given these people a great advantage.
I increased the magnification of my field glasses to get a better look at the plants. They were not cabbage or vines. They looked more like cornstalks that had rotted and fallen down. Horror gripped me. The crops were blighted. I reduced the magnification on my field glasses. I now realized that there were no people working the fields. Two people emerged from a house carrying a bundle between them. It was person sized. They walked over the next hill and returned a minute later empty handed.
â€œThis is bad,â€ I said.
â€œI know, we can only harvest from the river,â€ She said, not aware of what I just saw.
â€œNo, much worse. Your compound is the result of a crop disease. Look through my field glasses. Those are not vines in their fields, those are diseased dying crops. The rain water washes your compound down into the river. I am guessing that your compound required domesticated, food producing plants to suffer a specific disease, which ruins the food part and leaves among the decaying stalk the compound you seek. These people are dying because of what you Wrote.â€
The horror of causing the deaths of these people broke over her face. â€œHow responsible am I? What should I do? â€