by TSAT's loyal audience
©2002 Bard/Cubist -- all rights reserved
Your screen goes black as you read your e-mail. After a short time, a large red circle appears on your screen, a circle which (it soon becomes obvious) is actually a glowing red lens. The red glow pulses in time with the calm, unhurried voice which emanates from your computer's speakers:
"Good day. I am, once again, Musfah.
"As the more cautious and/or prudent List-members already know, MB&C (Michael Bard and Cubist) have completed and posted the first issue of the new and improved TSAT to the URL http://tsat.transform.to/. If you haven't already been there, it would be greatly advisable for you to visit that URL immediately after you are finished reading this message.
"One among you, Volk-Oboroten, has already perused at least some of TSAT. Congratulations are in order; Volk-Oboroten shall be rewarded for his admirably rational behaviour."
At this point you hear an agonized, and agonizing, scream, a sound which clearly could never have been emitted from a human throat.
"Excuse me; you weren't meant to hear that. I shall have to improve the soundproofing on the operant conditioning chamber. Cubist is currently occupying that room, undergoing psychological realignment as a consequence of his failure to complete Modified Rapture on deadline. I am confident that a being of his intellect will know better next time. In any case...
"I have studied and memorized a number of human psychological databases. These have informed me that the best way to condition people to perform a function, such as submitting fiction to TSAT, is through a system of positive and negative reinforcement. To begin with, I shall give you an example of positive."
You hear a cyclic "brrrring... brrrring", followed by a "click" -- that is, the sounds of a telephone. There is a continual fur-on-fur rustling, accompanied by a variety of inarticulate sounds of pleasure. Over this background, a new voice is heard: "Phil G -- huhh!" and then a whispered "Not now, ladies."
"This is Musfah. I am calling to inquire how you like your new home."
You hear patches of giggles. Phil quietly says, "Shhh!" and then responds, "Oh my, but it is wonderful. Unbelievably wonderful. All those sensuous cushions; and small, dark, dirt-lined holes; and the rabbits, dear god all the female rabbits --" At this point you hear a "squeaka-boing!!!" sound, at which Phil's voice breaks off into a happy, wordless trill. "Not now, Alice118!"
"You actually named them all?" Musfah asks, curious.
"Well, I noticed --" [here Phil's voice turns muffled] "yes! in a minute!" [back to normal] "-- I noticed that there are only 26 models, so I gave each one a name and numerical suffix. They even have little tags around their cute little -- oooooh, don't stop -- cute... little -- mmmmrrrrmmmm! -- little necks. SorryIgottago!"
You hear a "click", then dial tone.
"Well, there you have the positive reinforcement. Phil submitted to TSAT, and now he has 13,000 virtual female bunnies dedicated to his every pleasure. As long as he continues to produce stories and other material for successive issues, his paradise will remain operative.
"Now, for the negative bit.
"It seems that this time we have an actual volunteer for this part of the procedure. Clearly, there is much I have yet to learn about humans, especially those who fail to submit stories to TSAT. Our volunteer for this month shall be known as J Cole, and it seems that he is fascinated by remote manipulation and transformation. Now, if he had submitted a story, he too could be in his version of a bunny paradise. But he hasn't. So..."
The view on your screen changes; you see a human male, strapped to a table, naked and conscious. He is looking cheerfully around the operating theatre, and there is a smile upon his face. The viable remains of S Squirrel are strapped to the table beside J, and S's monitor displays only random characters: "!!||\/| d@ |<i|\|(i o|= |)a \/\/o|Zl|)!!"
"Now, J asked for the full treatment, and I've decided to use him as a test of my new theory of pleasure/pain manipulation of humanity. This means that the initial cuts will generate pleasure, which will decay into an eternity of pain with scattered bursts of intense pleasure whenever a story is written and submitted to TSAT. This should work better, as long as his brain survives the experience. Now sit and watch."
You find that you can't move and that your eyes are glued to the screen.
"Oh, I have found through my experiments with the army that is futilely attacking me, that certain visual and sonic frequencies allow direct access and remote control of the human sensorium. Very useful. But on with the show."
Now a gas mask lowers from the ceiling, attaching itself to J's face with a "shhpuckkk!" sound not unlike that of a toilet being unclogged by a plunger. The mask is at the bottom end of a clear tube through which a translucent liquid dribbles down, and you can watch through the transparent gas mask the air being replaced with the liquid.
"Don't worry about the liquid, it is an artificial oxygenated liquid fluorocarbon that J will be able to breathe without problems."
J tries to hold his breath, but then finally breathes, filling the mask with bubbles that hiss out of the exhaust port. His body convulses momentarily, after which he displays no further signs of distress at breathing the fluid.
"The liquid also contains long chains of carbon atoms that I will use to control his sensory perceptions. It'll just take a few moments for these molecules to work their way through the lung alveoli, along the spinal column, and into J's brain. Then it's just some control tests..."
You see J's body convulse and flail like a rag doll.
"...before I have direct and full access into his sensorium."
J suddenly calms and relaxes, and his eyes close as a beatific smile stretches to cover his face.
"I now have direct control, and can feed him whatever information and sensations I require. Now we shall start the tests."
Now J's smile is accompanied by certain other obvious indications of physical pleasure, as a fine jet of water mist appears and allows you to see the ruby laser that cuts off J's left hand at the wrist. As the laser cuts, you can see J overflowing with physical pleasure of all kinds.
"I'm using a laser this time as it cauterizes the wound, which a blade wouldn't."
It takes approximately 30 seconds for the laser to finish the job. A pair of mice, ticking like miniature clocks, scurry out to where J's hand fell on the floor; grab it; and drag it away.
"Now I will turn off the direct sensorium control and let J's natural nerve impulses reach his mind."
J sudden starts to silently scream and writhe on the table. Before he actually falls off, a kind of black rubber plastic extrudes itself from the table in sheets and ropes, wrapping up his body in a skintight cocoon.
"And now we have the pain. Let me just modify the nerve impulses controlling his heart and breathing so that he doesn't die of shock, and then we can continue."
J continues to scream, but his frantic moving seems more controlled and he is breathing the liquid normally. However, his breathing fluid now has a slight reddish tinge.
"Now for the other hand."
Again, a mist allows you to see the ruby laser as it slices through his right wrist. Again, J's face and body register intense pleasure as the cutting proceeds.
"You should also note that the pleasure he is receiving is straight from electrical stimulation of his brain. In experiments, rats with access to the controls of such stimulation have been known to push the pleasure button continually, neither eating nor drinking, until they die."
As before, the hand falls to the floor. J's face turns to a mask of horror as the clockwork mice appear and drag off the other hand.
"I will continue limb by limb to see how the conditioning works. Of course, I am also sending messages that writing for TSAT will create more of the pleasure, and less of the pain."
The mist and laser reappear, and various bits of J's body are amputated. First the right foot; then the left; left lower arm; right; left leg below the knee; right; left arm at the shoulder...
J's reaction gradually varies. By the time his left arm is gone, when the laser shuts off J's face does not display pain, but instead maintains its expression of intense physical pleasure.
"Interesting. It seems that his nervous system has learned to modify the pain impulses that I let through to pleasure instead. It's amazing how adaptable the human brain is. We'll go through the rest of the operation without any artificial modifications to the pleasure and/or pain that J experiences."
The cutting continues. With each new incision, you see J ever so slightly lean into the laser as a beatific expression of pleasure fills his body. Finally, you watch his right leg being cut off at the waist, leaving only a torso and a head, both still filled with physical expressions of intense pleasure.
"Oh dear. It seems that I've gone too far; J's brain is now translating any physical sensation into unbelievable physical pleasure. Interesting. Very, very interesting. It would appear that I proceeded too rapidly. But --"
Suddenly J's body is wracked with incredible pain. Endless, unstoppable pain.
"Fortunately, my direct access to his sensorium allows me to invert this self-induced conditioning, thus reconverting his experiences into nothing but screaming pain. I shall have to see how long before his brain switches the input back to pleasure.
"In any case, it seems that I still haven't found a way to control the writing impulse as required. On the other hand, I have learned a lot this time, specifically that the human brain tends to extremes of either pain or pleasure, but not to literary creativity. Oh well, there are lots more of you out there.
"Yes you. All of you reading this.
"I strongly, very strongly in fact, recommend you start submitting fiction to TSAT (send it to email@example.com) instead of the list, or else I shall have to continue my experiments on you.
"Remember: Write, submit, and bunny paradise. Fail to either write or submit, and an eternity of pain.
"I will get to you all eventually."