Raymond Flint, known to millions from his radio shows and books as Rational Ray, walked to the window and gazed down at the milling crowds in the street outside his building. His once fairly secret address was now besieged by the legions of the dumb. Bearing crudely made signs and bellowing barely-literate nonsense, they had become a daily irritation in the life of this quiet and unassuming science advocate and former martial arts star.
To many of his fans he was something of a superhero, a label he rejected, on the grounds he was neither super, nor especially heroic, but they seemed to need him to be one, so he was rather stuck with it, for now. The tagline Bruce Lee with a PhD also made him cringe, but it had become a catchy slogan for many.
He strained his eyes in the afternoon gloom to make out the latest batch of placards –
Deport Alian lizerds and fags!
Save our Sun frum soler vampies!
Homeopaths for Jeezus!
He sighed, stepping away from the partially boarded up window. ‘Looks like they’ve got a few new loons in their ranks today, Spark.’
Spark, his trusty robotic companion and aide, looked up from his repair work. ‘Damn right, Ray. Seventeen new dipshits today if I’m not mistaken. Their spelling hasn’t improved much.’
There were Klan members in robes and Scientologists, conspiracy cranks and crackpots of every stripe, marching and protesting and looking for someone to blame. Anyone but themselves for the choice they had made at the ballot box, or the man they had elected. Between them these forces of religious zealotry and paranoid unreason had singled out science as the enemy. It had become dangerous to reveal your employment in any scientific or medical field. Labs and clinics had been burned, universities attacked and science book publishers closed down.
Ray scanned the headlines and media feeds. ‘I see the Illuminutty are on the attack again. It seems that crazy shit about wind turbines using up all the wind and solar panels exhausting the sun is on the rise again. Reports suggest they’re planning more demos and attacks against a number of sustainable energy suppliers and start-ups.’
‘I’m worried as fuck,’ said Spark, enjoying the latest upgrade to his natural language software. ‘I don’t know how we can turn back this tidal wave of ignorance. The level of stupidity with these halfwits is quite beyond the limits of my AI I’m afraid.’
Across America, the hardcore evangelists were waging a war of their own, burning copies of science text books in the street, along with copies of the Quran, comics and anything else that didn’t meet with their approval. Strangely they left the porn alone.
Secular America and the science community fought back tooth and nail, but at times it seemed they were fighting a hopeless battle against a vast latter-day Goliath of the gormless.
Since the shock victory of President Trump three years previously, things had gone from bad to worse, both at home and abroad. With a new cold war brewing on multiple fronts and a calamitous global economy in meltdown, things looked bleak. A new dark ages seemed imminent, as the forces of extremism on all sides of the theistic and political divides made ever more insane threats against one another. Liberal America’s worst fears seemed to be coming true.
The US Muslims and undesirables internment camps broke several international conventions, yet still their populations grew daily. The snatch squads of black-clad military cops roaming the streets in armored vehicles sent a chill down the spines of those who knew their history. Many cities were on curfew and gangs of heavily armed vigilantes in several states spread further fear and panic.
As always ethnic minorities and foreigners became the scapegoats for most of the country’s problems, along with anyone deemed an enemy intellectual. The wave of religious fundamentalism and anti-science hysteria had reached frightening new heights.
What was to be done?
A text came in from Salma, aka Reason Gal. She was out addressing a demo of militant flat-Earthers and creationists, who’d taken up an almost permanent spot outside the New York Hall of Science in Queens. They were there demanding maps be redrawn and all textbooks featuring a spherical Earth or evolution science be replaced with their own.
They’d got wind of a meeting taking place inside, with guest speakers including Neil deGrasse Tyson and several other notable authors and figures from the science and secular world. Outside, the mood was getting ugly.
Making little headway here, Salma’s text read. Dialogue impossible. Why do we bother?
Ray could sense the despair. A feeling he knew only too well. Hang in there superstar, he texted back. He thought of adding a smiley face, but decided against it.
He looked up once more at the quote pinned to his noticeboard:
“You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”
Robert A. Heinlein
Suddenly there was a loud crash, as yet another rock came flying through the window. It had a piece of paper tied to it. The barely legible writing said:
Fuk u Rashinal Dikhed.
‘I think I’m winning them over,’ said Ray, grinning. ‘It’s certainly spelled better than most of their previous messages.’ He glanced at the growing pile of notes in the recycling bin.
A police siren wailed in the distance. The hubbub of chants outside briefly faded, carried off by a brisk Autumn breeze.
Another text from Salma – Getting hairy down here, could use a bit of backup..
Ray put down his South Park coffee mug and stretched his stiff back. ‘I think it’s time Rational Ray went to work Spark. Get the gear ready, we’re going on a little expedition.’
Down on the street, Ray and Spark, dressed in the ubiquitous uniform of hooded tops and sweatpants, hoped to slip past the throng unnoticed. Of course it was harder for Spark to blend in – his size, his face and rather mechanical gait were a bit of a giveway. The hiss from his hydraulics didn’t exactly help.
‘It’s that Rashunal guy and the robot,’ screamed a very large, red-faced demonstrator bearing a sign that said God hates sciance & Kweers. ‘Get ’em!’
Ray looked at Spark grimly. ‘Shit, looks like clobberin’ time again amigo.’
Spark threw back his hood, ‘Let’s fuck-up some numbskulls,’ he said with a grin.
Ray dodged the big dude’s massive fist and dropped him with a swift roundhouse kick to the back of the head. He landed with a thud. Two protesters grabbed Spark so he juiced them with a quick blast of 50k volts to convince them it wasn’t such a good idea.
With the rest of the angry mob closing in, Ray and Spark fought their way to the Tesla and managed to get away with just a broken rear windshield and a few more dents.
‘Jeez, we gotta find a new place to rent,’ said Ray. ‘Let’s go find Salma.’
Copyright J.Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.