Flaming Signals
Aymon de Roussy de Sales

Science has opened the crack in the universe through which the demons of old issue forth and life as we know it is extinguished.

The crew of the Argo journey to Mars, but they are products of the American culture and their values are anchored in the consumer society and war. On the voyage out their personalities alter due to seeing the Earth disappear and to prolonged immersion in virtual reality. The astronauts grasp on their mission becomes tenuous as their personalities change, and when they land on Mars their fantasies lead to death.

A Japanese spaceship is sent out to rescue them as well as claim Mars for Japan. Their virtual reality at times is inflamed by mysterious links to the vanished spaceship, the Argo. The Japanese crew know that the way to travel through space is with a zen mind. They meditate, practice yoga, and land on Mars to find the Americans dead. A dark poetic vision of the technological forces unleashed by the west.

Flaming Signals Journal: March 15, 2003

Sitting twelve hours in that Sun cellar was what did it, thought Willy Hazard,the parapsychologist. The unexpected event of the solar flare underlined the dangers of the voyage to Mars. The four astronauts were shaken having to hide in the shielded chamber of aluminum and paraffin. Fortunately for them, the solar flare had given them a warning signal, a burst of relatively harmless radio waves that traveled past the spaceship Argo at the speed of light, faster than the deadly particles in the flare which traveled behind them.

There were things in space which couldn't be imagined, invisible, chaotic waves that passed through their bodies without them being aware anything was happening. Commander Chester Bogart's tall, muscular body was tense: he kept pulling at his ear with his strong, rough fingers and his strangely charismatic face was set in grim determination. The cellar was illuminated by a bluish light, and Commander Bogart's eyes searched the emptiness of the cabin. No video or radio was in use,and the enforced silence gave them the uncomfortable feeling of being carried in a coffin. Willy remembered how disturbed Commander Bogart was, how he twisted his fist into his other hand and said, "We're going to plant the American flag on Mars." His voice was unforgiving. Beads of sweat appeared on his temples, his brow was knotted as he looked at the grey walls of the cellar. It was scary. "You need more than faith to get through to another world. You need to grab it by the balls!" He looked around at them, his lips thin and determined.

Willy squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to forget the demoralized image of the Commander, but with his eyes shut a new anxiety arose. He saw small points of fiery light ... was it in his head or from outside the ship? He marveled at the hallucinatory effects of space.

Willy recalled Razor Dog, the System Engineer's voice, strained and complaining when they monitored the burst from the Sun and left their stations and made for the Sun cellar. "That Sun's got my name on it." Willy remembered the black face sagging in the bluish light, Razor Dog's emotions draining out of him. He was lost without his computer and screen, his access to the World Net. Willy too felt the fear of the lack of communication, the online conversations. There was only themselves to talk to and he suddenly realized how alone they were.

They were out there, that was for sure. Razor Dog, his thin bony face and Eddie Murphy smile, looking for telepresence in crackled tape and black rays. "I have a punk soul," he once told Willy before they stepped on board the spaceship. But that had been seven days ago. Now, the astronauts sat in the Sun cellar trying to deal with a death threatening reality. It was frightening. Willy pictured the Earth and Moon as they hung in space against the stars. The two solid spheres pulled at him with a powerful and unshakable nostalgia. Here in the enclosed space with the blue light he felt totally cut off. From the cabin through the glare shield the astronauts could see the light of the Sun move with a peculiar beauty against the black depths (1). Out in space even the Sun was not familiar.

The silence of the cellar pressed in on them. Each was deep in his thoughts. The radio crackled in their earphones, a series of instrument read-outs from the Johnson Base in Houston. Their frozen faces looked at the solid green line move across their wristwatches. The green line showed their effortless drift toward Mars and away from the Sun, thought Willy. He hadn't realized until he was deprived of a computer screen how strongly he needed images for his mind. Willy listened to his body breathing and the short cracking sounds in his spine as the muscles in his body relaxed without the cohesion of gravity.

"It makes you feel insignificant," said Willy as he glanced up from his watch. "Man,it's the other side of Oz," said Razor Dog.

Commander Bogart looked at them but made no reply. His mission was to get to Mars. He would be glad when they were further out in space and away from the unpredictable solar flares.

Commander Bogart spoke brusquely. "We're ok! Everything checks out, and we are exactly on schedule." He turned in his seat to face them. His face still betrayed the hours of tension.

"That blast from the Sun isn't going to leave any warts on our hides," he went on. "The read-outs on our physical status said we are in good shape. That was a freak flare according to Houston, but we"ll keep a watch on the calcium counts."

"We only got 293 days to go," said Razor Dog with a sarcastic voice. His black face in the blue light looked as if it were painted in clay. Willy thought of Japanese masks.

"It's been like waiting out a jail term but without the crime," Razor Dog paused and spoke what was on their minds.

"You think we'll find those suckers on Mars. There's been no contact for a long time."

Razor Dog Jones was born in 1963 in Chicago. He was a leader in a street gang called the Scorpion Warriors. He had been arrested for murder and drugs and was doing time in the Illinois State Prison when he tested high in I.Q. and was sent to a computer animation program. He did so well he was allowed to enter a special hologram cyborg training slot, and, finishing near the top of his class, he was given early parole in 1988. He joined the military, studied advanced guidance systems, designed complex technical software for the Iran war in 1992 and with the failure of the first Mars mission was drafted for the flight of the Argo.

"We'll find them -- what's left of them," said Commander Bogart. "From the Mir II Space Station we got pictures of the space craft sitting there on the Martian desert. We'll be taking more pictures in a few days and we'll see what we got."

Commander Bogart was the oldest and the most experienced member of the crew. He was born Chester Lawrence Bogart in Bluff, Utah, in 1948, but he never liked to be called Lawerence. He had religious roots. He attended The Pillar of Fire Church, got interested in stunt flying, joined the Air Force, in 1968 saw action in Viet Nam and Cambodia, took a two year leave of absence in 1978, lived in Thailand, re-enlisted and in 1991 and 1994 commanded the famous squadron, "The Death Angels" on bombing runs on Baghdad and Tehran. Their motto was "Advanced and Getting Better." He was put in charge of the Mars rescue mission in 20003.

The fourth crew member was Gerald Brenan, engineer and expert in metallurgy and language. He was tall, intense with sharp brown eyes and he walked with a peculiar tilt to his gait.

"Those red sands are highly mineralized. They will probably entomb the bodies in a hard crust ... but still I can't wait to walk out there myself. It must be magnificent."

"Awesome," said Razor Dog.

"Something must have happened to them," said Willy. "On the tapes you hear them talking about the fires in the sky, and their voices are unnatural like they were high on something."

Willy Hazard, born in 1964, New York City, came from a prominent Eastern family. They were well-connected in business as well as society, but Willy spurned these advantages, had a rocky adolescence, showed a strong inclination to self- destruction, and became drug addict: in 1991 in a rehabilitation clinic he took an interest in the uncanny ability of some to perform "remote viewing". With his own resources he developed a small research firm that studied the potential of "Thought" and thought transfer. He became a leading expert in the field and was drafted into the Argo Mars mission.

"Maybe they thought they were back down on Earth watching the cities burn." said Razor Dog.

Commander Bogart moved his head into the light. His face showed anger."You sound like a Muslim. They say those suicide bombers have information from inside. You wouldn't be one of those guys who wants to give away the store."

Razor Dog's face was uneasy. He had not forgotten that inside the hull of the Argo were tapes which recorded everything they said. They had been going over just those kind of tapes from the spaceship that now lay wrecked on Mars.

"I'm just repeating the chat of the Net," Razor Dog replied. A shiver of paranoia went through Willy. You couldn't be too careful. The origins of their mission were murky, but they were definitely CIA and DEA. After the chaos of the '90s there had emerged a group of men, industrialists, militarists and spy masters, who formed a shadowy government that controlled the resources of the West. They were known as The Western Command. They orchestrated the "free elections" of Washington, Moscow, Berlin, London. Pitted against them were the terrorists and the Islamic State.

The first ill-fated Mars mission had begun with much fanfare and the stated goal of beginning the new millennium with the colonization of Mars and all the benefits that was to bring psychologically and materially to the exhausted western world. In the year 2002 A.D. The populations of the Earth were in panic after a decade of economic decay, hunger, the fanatical Muslim wars and the mutation of the AIDS virus. But the landing on Mars was never telecast, and, then, within twenty-four hours on March 8,2002, at 8:02 A.M., Came the joint communique from the combined Russian and American command that they had lost contact with the mission and that they were giving the three men and a woman the highest awards their governments could bestow on them for their historic and heroic journey. In the forlorn hope of rescue, the American and Russian governments had immediately announced that preparations for an already well along second mission would proceed with the highest priority. Even so, it had taken the better part of a year to assemble the second ship, the U.S.Argo. The Argo was to have an all-American crew, for only the Americans could mount such an accelerated space effort in the midst of a great global depression and the threat of war.

But Willy knew, as did Razor Dog and Commander Bogart, that this was not just a rescue mission. The growing strength of the Islamic State had not been halted, even though they had lost two brief wars. There was the continual destruction of western commercial centers by terrorists. The interlocking economies of the technocrats had proved to be a fatal weakness. The Western Command was gambling that they could use bases on Mars as well as the Moon as bargaining chips to end hostilities. If that failed, the Western Command would use its edge in nuclear weaponry to destroy the Islamic State. The resulting radioactive fall-out would make large portions of the Earth unhabitable, but the Western Command would retreat to their planetary colonies and wait for the radioactivity to subside.

"You were children in the 60's when I was flying jets in Nam. Those temple bells never rang better than when we dropped those bombs," grinned Commander Bogart.

Willy grimaced. These old WASPS with their macho attitude. They thought people out of a different gene pool were some kind of dirt. They were the saviors of the world if you listened to their version not the destroyers. Willy wondered what Bogart thought of Razor Dog. Not much was his guess.

"We got the readings we need on the Sun." Razor Dog's hands moved over his keyboard and he turned to face them. "It's all quiet."

"Quiet for now, the same way as when you fly over a blacked out city. You never know when its going to open up," said Commander Bogart.

"You ever think about how many people you killed when you were bombing Baghdad?" Razor Dog looked at the Commander, his face expressionless.

"When the infidel kills a Muslim, they go to paradise. I was just doing them a favor." Bogart looked at Razor Dog. "You ain't exactly a saint yourself."

Razor Dog shrugged. "I do what I have to do." Their eyes met in the narrow space of the cabin.

Willy felt discouraged.There was no intimacy or trust. Everyone was an island. "I'd better check the plants, see if that flare had any effects on them." Willy opened the white metal hatch to the Sun cellar. He was glad to feel the rush of filtered air. It was good to be moving around again to be away from the confinement of other people.

Willy made his way back to the fourth module of the Argo where the plants grew and the solar battery panels were located. The plants were kept in a centrifuge chamber, and more than half were specially engineered "hyperaccumulators" whose cells could extract high concentrations of iron oxide. He also wanted to check on the batteries power and see if they had been affected. As he made his way he suddenly found himself thinking about the Tim Leary days, and the sunshine acid which he had swallowed when he was a teenager. They said it had permanently damaged him.

Had that been the source of his peculiar ability? He had an emotional aversion to uniform time. He could not live by the clock. He instinctively felt there were different levels of experience in time. He could close his eyes and see that place of his childhood. There was his mother, Aurora. She was beautiful, the long black hair, the small face with her dark eyes, liquid and deep, looking at him. "The Giants are gone, don't be afraid," she had said, and he could hear the Indian raga music which she had played at the Bungalow in Millbrook, New York. She had played the music to him all that night while he was tripping. Afterwards, she had tried to explain it to him and though he could not remember anything distinctly of the experience, it always soothed him to listen to Ravi Shankar, and the Grateful Dead.

Later, when he was into drugs, he could escape back into that place, but by then he carried a lot of paranoia with him. People were against him. They insisted on his forgetting any desire to explore his childhood dreams. He had to function in society, be part of an organization. Mysterious giants haunted him. They had smooth, modern faces and penetrating eyes. Their bodies were on flame. They had mesmerizing powers of the mind. They were not real, of course, but he could not suppress them. With the frustrations of youth and the complexities of an ever-changing world he found solace with these giants.

With these thoughts, he made his way through "the node" and opened the hatch to the garden. A heady smell of earth and green plants greeted him. It was so forceful and different than coming out of the Sun cellar, and suddenly, he was in a time gone by, and Willy imagined the voice of his mother and he saw the Bungalow with its hunting room hung with deer's heads and the great fireplace beyond with thick rugs and the wooden panels and the gold portrait of George Washington in the library. "Why don't you be more like John Kennedy? He was a visionary, and a brave man," he heard his mother's voice speak to him.

Portraits had always fascinated him. He studied them to see how artists rendered the time they were made. The old portraits painted in oil were done in a time when the world was substantial. There was a richness and detail to the background in such portraits as if the profusion of wild life that existed then before the vast extinctions was reflected in the painter's eye.

The most famous modern portrait of George Washington Willy liked was Roy Lichtenstein's 1962 portrait copied from a Hungarian newspaper. The large, wide-set eyes and the taunt manly face had little to do with the actual fleshy look of the first president. Lichtenstein was looking to reproduce images to carry information about mass communication. He used powerful totems to show how the human face was packaged. He made the old media image into a replica of a photo flash, accentuating the unnaturalness. Willy thought about their own faces in the blue light of the Sun cellar.

Willy remembered that when he read about George Washington there were inconsistencies. Washington was a model who upon deeper inquiry exhibited a dark and secretive nature. He owned many slaves. He admired military men. He was a member of a secret society called the Masons, as were Jefferson and Adams. What was really behind George Washington's face?

As in modern times, there were conspiracies, sham truths, to keep people in line; in essence that's what Tim Leary had said all along. There's an imposed reality. Out in space Willy knew the Earth was a luminous globe. It was a super-reality, and the struggle over wealth, power, and land seemed totally irrelevant.

On March 21, 1964, Alan Watts and Tim Leary took a dose of "Heavenly Blue" to celebrate the Spring Equinox. The Dionysian festival of ancient Greece re-enacted. They took it in the old tennis house with the gabled, red tile roof and the stone porch, the painted eye over the doorway, the wooden gargoyles colored in day-glo. In the vault of the sky, the Hyades, a "V"-shaped group of stars, glowed with a renewed heat, and Tim and Alan silently spun back through the evolutionary past. Tim Leary walking outside howling at the Moon, calling to swift, dappled creatures with bronze hoofs and golden horns, calling back to a time when men and women spoke of the shadows of giants, and you could hear the wisdom of the animals as they came to sparkling streams to drink. Tim in Millbrook experienced a lost knowledge, rediscovering Shamanistic rituals. Everything in the rolling hills and beneath the sweet scent of trees was alive. Everything was connected. The pools of yellow chemical waste and the oil slick skies vanished. The mechanism of computers, banks and governments laid bare like open graves.

Willy found himself by the beds of hyperaccumulators, hemp, dogbane, ragweed, and cabbage. They were usually large for their kind. If the program to make the Dome area on Mars fertile was successful, these plants would be harvested as a kind of bio-ore. All around Willy other varieties of plants grew, grains, flowers, ivy. The Module felt different than any other place in the spaceship. There was a feeling of lushness, almost sensuousness which contrasted with the rest of the spaceship. Willy felt that being outside the garden was like being in an iron lung. With his fingers Willy examined the plants. There was an intimacy to the touch of flesh that was superior to that of the sensor gloves. Willy was relieved to see the plants had not been damaged by the ultraviolet rays: still he would have to run them through a bio-electrical test. Willy felt he was in touch with a deeper part of himself in the garden. It was a relief to be away from the ventilating systems, the tubes, dials and the clean white walls of the Argo.

Gerald Brenan entered the module where the garden was, "Yes, there is nothing like the smell of flowers to revive your spirits." Gerald moved with a looping gait like someone who did a lot of walking. Willy thought the spaceship confined his presence. He could picture him walking the Andulusian mountains (2).

"The smell of flowers in space ... they bring to mind so many images. I can't seem to stop myself from coming here." said Willy. "You have a need -- the need to be apart where a larger influence can take hold. You are like St. John of the Cross. He used to retire to a dark and confined place that opened onto a wide view. We are surrounded by darkness out here, you can feel it through the walls of the ship. Flowers are avenues for my thoughts," said Willy trying to come to grips with a mixture of emotions. He was trying to find solace in the garden after hours of anxiety in the Sun cellar. He had felt before a shared emotional bond with Gerald Brenan. He projected a sense of calm and detachment in the alien environment they moved through.

"The smell of flowers ... I always enjoyed the heavy fragrance of honeysuckle on the walls of villages in Andulusia," mused Gerard. "I can remember looking down from the hills at the flat roofs of Murtas, the smoke rising perpendicularly from its chimneys. The smell of the flowers mingled with the sound of the bells from the church." Willy could not feel a ripple of movement beneath his feet as they crossed millions of miles of space to the distant red planet. The silence seemed to shroud them and Willy looked out at the rows and rows of plants, their green leaves frozen under the florescent light. He could vividly picture the slate roofs of the remote Spanish village and the smoke hanging in the sky. It was not the first time that Willy had been made conscious of the power of descriptive words in space. It was part of a heightened psychic awareness which took hold of them as they moved ever farther from Earth.


(1)The deeper layers of the psyche lose their individual uniqueness as they retreat farther and farther into darkness.

(2) The quantum world and our large scale reality: some scientists suggest that a "cut" or discontinuity exists between the two. Quantum theory serves for a discussion of elementary particles and atoms but when it comes to the large, we need the world of Newton and Einstein. The problem is where to place the "cut." Is it hard and fast cut or does it move depending on the nature of the system. Brain transmissions broadcasting. The curious answer to some of it is we ourselves produce the results of measurements. But what exactly is the nature of this we?

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