Sex and Fear and Power, all packed into one holster!, screams the banner at the Applied Psychology fair. On the podium, John St. Kilda is preparing to hold forth to hundreds of hushed people, and almost as many microphones.
John St. Kilda is something of an overnight success story. From a mysterious background somewhere in Europe, he had risen to fame when he arrived in California and set up Kilda Global Solutions, attracting considerable investment with nothing more than bizarre claims about mind control. Stories about his past were many and varied – his funds came from Nazi treasure he found in Europe, his trademark bowler hat concealed a horrific injury, he was an alien bringing his mind control secrets to earth.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” he begins. His voice has touches of many accents, held in check by an expensive education. “I know you were all surprised when, nine months ago, I claimed to know the secret to mind control. You watched, bewildered, as I attracted financial interest despite the evident absurdity of my ideas. Now, on behalf of myself and all at KGS, I am proud to present the result of that nine months of effort.”
Carla Lewis is pushing through the crowd, using her briefcase as a weapon. Soon she stands at the front, close enough to pick out the individual hairs in St. Kilda’s eyebrows, and within reach of the mysterious object on the table next to him.
“We’ve been working with the brightest scientists in all fields – hundreds of psychologists, quantum physicists and surgeons – and together we have revolutionised human society. I have on this table our prototype mind control device.” He waits for the gasp to die away.
“I should explain, though, that the device has its limitations. We may have cured cancer and colonised Europa, but we still do not fully understand the brain.” St. Kilda takes a moment to smile dramatically. “The device can only really control minds at the most basic levels, using the two most basic human impulses. Fear... and sex.” A light laugh from the crowd, as KGS suits wheel a large TV screen behind St. Kilda.
“Nonetheless, we predict even such basic methods will prove revolutionary. In the right hands, it could be used to control the vicious animals that have taken over the western deserts.” A CGI clip comes up on the screen – a pack of claws is running towards the lights of Las Vegas, growling for blood, but is turned back whimpering by a single man waving a small pistol at them. “War could end completely!” Another clip comes up – a group of Coalition soldiers use the gun on some AK47-toting rebels, who immediately start embracing each other as the soldiers laugh.
“Now, I notice today we have a representative of IST with us.” He turns to face Carla. The screen stops mid-video and switched to a still picture – a news bulletin from last year bearing the words IST HEAD SAYS ST. KILDA ‘MAD’. St. Kilda stares at Carla, a smug smile playing across his face. Could he really be this stupid?
“Perhaps, Ms Lewis, you would like to participate in our first public demonstration of the device?”
Yes. He could.
“With pleasure,” she replies, drawing a small cheer for good sportsmanship, or something.
“In that case,” says St. Kilda, “it is my very great pleasure to present... SEX and FEAR – and, by extension, POWER – all in one holster!”.
A suit directs Carla to stand in front of St. Kilda, while he picks up the small white pistol from the table behind him. “Now, Carla – since I’ll be controlling your thoughts I think I can use first names – I’ll use the device on you, and this screen behind me will show everyone what you’re thinking. I’m afraid we’ll be starting with fear, Carla.”
He’s quite a showman, so she makes a show of being nervous. He readies the gun (the screen shows him flicking a selector switch from OFF to FEAR), takes aim at the back of her head, and pulls the trigger.
Carla feels a sudden jolt of energy in the back of her head, swiftly replaced by total dread. She can still see the crowd, but now they’re turning into something else. They’re screaming and covered in blood, and each one has the face of someone she knew. Then they seem to recognise her, and start shambling up to her. They’re clawing at her eyes, and then it all goes black. She can see the house where she grew up in Nevada. Now there’s a pack of claws about to break down the door, and everyone she ever loved is inside -
But at this point, the fear hallucination stops. St. Kilda has let go of the trigger, and Carla is suddenly aware she is on her knees and screaming. She slowly gets up and looks around. The crowd are where they were, looking slightly surprised but basically the same. She turns round, and St. Kilda is smiling reassuringly. There’s an image of the old house in the desert on screen, but it’s fading from the screen as quickly as it is from her mind.
“Are you ready for the next part of the demonstration, Carla?” She nods her assent, and the screen shows St. Kilda’s thumb flicking the switch from FEAR to SEX. Carla hopes this will not be too degrading, as the jolt rocks her brain again.
This time, the crowd are significantly improved. They are all smiling, tanned and attractive, and all seem deeply in love with each other. They’re kissing and caressing, shedding clothes with great speed. Soon there are breasts and penises everywhere, and the presentation, which was probably pretty boring anyway, has given way to an orgy. She feels a hand on her shoulder, and turns round to see John St. Kilda. But he looks younger now. His chest is toned and muscular, and his impressive biceps are folding her into him. He’s still wearing the hat, but nothing else except a pair of tight boxers that bulge against her -
And it stops. She looks up to find John St. Kilda old, scrawny and fully clothed, looking at her with a faintly bemused expression. Her fantasy St. Kilda is fading away on the screen, and she realises just how far removed from reality he was. And is that... porn-film wah guitar fading out? Yeuch.
Carla pushes away from St. Kilda, and gets a vulgar cheer from the crowd. “Well,” he says. “I think that proves the efficacy of the device beyond any doubt.” To her embarrassment, Carla realises she has a hand down her skirt, and a growing wet patch.
Not that it matters. Now the device has been proven effective, she can simply use the IST TimeJumper to snatch it before the presentation begins. That, she thinks, would be a far bigger embarrassment.