Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blue Sky Metal Dreams


The day started like any other, cold shower, soggy toast, luke warm coffee, and all the things that reminded me of why I did what I did.
As I punched up through the stratosphere, heading for the LEO way station known as “Brizillianwax” because of its shiny bald backside that always pointed at the Sun, I wondered for the hundredth time how to break the cycle – work, little pay, Life, too many expenses!
I had enough fuel for one and a half trips, and then that was it – have to sell the rig for what ever I could get, and slink off into the sunset like so many before me.
The commercial Space market had offered so much promise at the start, big NASA contracts, satellite launches worth millions, in-orbit repair and maintenance, the outer worlds were our oyster!
Then some twelve year old had invented the Space elevator, and suddenly getting stuff up and down cost less than a $1 a kilo, and all us “early adopters” who had mortgaged ourselves to the hilt buying reusable rockets and space vehicles were faced with a continual discount race just to stay alive.
This trip was a classic example – SMS in the middle of the night, open contract, 5 minutes to bid, lowest bid wins, no guarantee of anything other than a full load back down and payment on survival.
As the rocket motors cut off, and weightlessness settled into the cramped cockpit like a foggy blanket, I searched the near sky for anything radiating in any bandwidth.
One of the joys of Low Earth Orbit flying was the sheer volume of detritus zooming around with gay abandon in eccentric orbits, just lying in wait for an unsuspecting victim to smash into an make their day.  NASA claimed to track all of them, but everyone knew that anything smaller than a half-centimeter fragment didn’t show up on the scans, and since the last disaster that had taken out the Russian Space Station when an out-of-control automated supply vessel had rammed it at seventeen thousand miles an hour, there were now another few zillion pieces of space junk out for revenge.
As we arced over into our initial orbit path, I called the station, just to see if they were awake.
“Bravo-one-niner, shuttle papa-victor-ten-ten in the grove, request attachment.”  Up here, static was a thing of the past, what with digital everything controlling everything and everybody, twenty-four-seven, fifty-two.  The silence was absolute, as most of the communication these days was computer to computer.  Human beings very much played a supporting role to the machines, because the sheer economics of commercialized Space dictated the lowest cost option wherever possible.  The only reason slugs like me and a very few others had a gig at all is that the automatics couldn’t launch on demand yet, because the requirement didn’t pay enough!
Even my docking would be automated, with me sitting in the seat like so much baggage, because if the truth be known, very few people at the top trusted human beings to do more than take out the garbage, which is what my trip was all about.  Radioactive waste back to an earth station for reprocessing, something the big boys didn’t want anywhere near their precious automated space planes and shuttles.
Which defied logic, if you think about it, if you don’t trust someone why give them the worst possible cargo to do with what they liked?
I could sell it to terrorists, make a bomb with it, drop it on a few million heads as I streamed in to land, the possibilities were endless, my imagination ran riot for a few seconds, until a dull mechanical voice cut into my musings.
“Shuttle papa-victor-ten-ten you are locked on, docking time zero-niner-four-five, track Blue-seven, confirm dead hands?”
“Papa-victor-ten-ten affirmative,” I replied, holding my gloved hands up to the constant scanner every ship had as a matter of course.  In this game you were on camera one hundred percent of the time, no exceptions, because in Space you were as trusted only as far as they could see you!
In the distance, the silver blob that was “Brizillianwax” flared into view as the Sun pushed up over the Earth’s horizon.  On my heads-up display a long blue line showed my path to the landing bay, so all I had to do now was sit back and relax, and pretend to enjoy the scenery.
I started to think about how to change the pattern that was inexorably swallowing my options as each minute ticked down.  I had applied for a thousand jobs, all through the highly computerized systems that now controlled everyone’s future, but had only had the one reply.
And a very short one at that.  Face to face via a secure video link tomorrow morning at ten hundred hours, my side to be from a physical location that I could only reach by surface airtrain with a lot of effort.  This in itself suggested a perchance for security, and an almost complete lack of understanding about surface conditions on the Earth at the moment, because since the North Koreans had gone ballistic, literally, over one third of the world was uninhabitable, for around the next twenty five thousand years, or so we were told.
The comms booth was in the middle of Australia, which was fortunate, because my destination with my highly radioactive and publicity-shy load was the Gibber Desert, where a massive decontamination and storage facility had been built, to deal with cargos exactly like mine.
From the landing and decontamination area the video booth was only a three-hour ride, and luckily I could take an “on-demand” airtrain and get there before the appointed time providing everything in the next four hours went to plan.
On my HUD the space station loomed like a big bright ball of fire, and around it I could see a frenzy of activity as Russian, Chinese, French, Iranian, USA and Indian pods, rockets, and space planes docked and undocked, in an orchestrated electronic ballet beyond any human ability to control.  The tolerances were just too tight, again driven by pure economics, because now more than ever before, the more you could do in the least amount of time, while minimizing your energy spend, the more dollars fell straight to the bottom line.
If you were at the right place on Earth, you could see a continuous line of flaming space craft entering the atmosphere a few minutes apart, splitting off at the last moment to their ultimate destinations like a fiery line of invaders, leaving their twin sonic booms far behind as they carelessly burnt up the sky.
The problem the Earth faced was too many people, even though over three billion had died during the “Peninsular War”, as it was euphemistically called, compared to the volume of arable land used to produce food that had been irrevocably lost.
Since the oceans had caught up with our stupidity in mismanaging climate change, nearly half of the worlds food basket was now under water, creating an economic and social pressure on the rest of the world like never before.  20 sq. meters of dry land sold for over a million new dollars, turning the majority of the world into squatters, tenants and wage-slaves.
Which was why Space had become so important so quickly, because it had been discovered back in the twenties that seed crops in hydroponic systems under zero gee or micro gravity as it was called, could produce sixteen times their yield by volume in one tenth of the time that they could manage on Earth. So a whole new economy based on getting up to and back from massive food-producing space stations had evolved in less than thirty years, to the point where what little land was left down on Earth either had reclamation infrastructure, space infrastructure, or was radioactive and uninhabitable.
In front of me, a giant arm suddenly reached out, and in-between puffs from my nose thrusters, locked onto my docking ring.  In less than a minute we were attached, and three minutes after that, I felt the thud and jar of the pressure equalization process, and my instruments told me that ten tons of wasted radioactive material was being stacked in my cargo space.  Then just as suddenly, the arm extended and pushed me down and out into the departing stream of vessels, letting me free-fall into a deorbit path.
The beauty of Space in many ways was the fact that any residual momentum you picked up tended to stay with you, so crazy as it might sound, when the arm threw me away from the station, the energy it imparted actually gave me both directional and attitudinal thrust, so all I had to do to get into the slot was burn my thrusters to roll over, then spin into a bottom down attitude, presenting my heat shield to the atmosphere still a hundred miles below.
We had made great strides in energy management in the last twenty odd years, so when I started to burn up entering the denser atmosphere, the heat would produce a quantum of energy that would be stored in my engine loops, to be used on the next flight.  This technique didn’t give me back 100%, the Laws of Thermodynamics saw to that, but it did cut my costs down, and if I balanced it out just right, and maintained the highest possible trajectory inbound, I could actually maximize what energy I collected, and more than one pilot had skipped off the atmosphere and back out into space trying to do just that!
I managed to fly a fairly decent profile, and as I swung over the Great Bight into the landing pattern I saw that I had recovered around forty three percent of my loop, so now I had enough fuel for just over two more trips before I headed off to the knackers yard.  Of course, the ablative shield would not last that long, that was the price you paid for being clever.
Always a balancing act between what was really possible verses my day dreams!
I followed a very large military vessel down that was still throwing off bits of burning heat shield like so many firecrackers, landed parallel to it on the massive desert floor, powered down, and then waited for the tug to collect me.  Did I mention the only reason I was on board was to act as the safety backup?  So little to do, and all that skill I had accumulated over the years, what a waste.  But this was Life, as we knew it in the mid twenty first century, so I looked forward to my impending train trip, and video call.  Maybe they would relieve my boredom to some degree.
Who knows?  Might be something interesting, might keep me out of the knackers yard, or it might just waste a day of my Life.
As the tug pulled me across the desert floor, I felt sad for myself and the rest of the human race, because we really had put ourselves into a seriously negative position, will all our technology and robots.  We had willingly given our power away to a few swampy politicians, and not paid attention to the fine print.  And now we were all but bit players in our own imagined stories.
The tug jerked to a stop, and a long stained yellow walkway concertinaed out to the side of my plane, the invitation clear.
Time to go.


The airtrain trundled across the desert floor on a cushion of electromagnetic energy, dampened inside the cabin, thankfully, so my insides didn’t want to continually meet with my outsides.  Two other passengers enjoyed the blurred view, neither of them talkative, for which I was eternally thankful.  As a space pilot, I only had to communicate with the robots, and then only to get permission to takeoff or arrive somewhere.  Social chitchat was definitely not my strong point.
I opened my lappad, looking for news about the trash hauling business, hoping against hope that a contract would turn up big enough to keep me out of the knackers yard.  Nothing new.  I looked for news about space piloting in general, nothing but a bunch of blogs bemoaning the demise of human participation, much in favor of the automation and robotic trend that was now nearly one hundred years long.
I swiped to the general news section, got really involved in an argument between Brazil and the US, over who had the best technology for Space elevators, given that the original 12 year old inventor was a Brazilian, the first five elevators had been built in Brazil, and Brazil had exported the other four elevators that were erected in other countries.  Against all that, the US had a great spin machine!  Kind of made the argument redundant, just like Space pilots!
I swiped up the ad I had responded to, and tried to divine why they needed so much security for the interview.  After all, most communication between people these days was from pad to pad, and as secure as technology could make it given about six billion people were all using the same link at the same time.  Security remained firmly inside your own head, an illusion you generated and held onto for dear Life so you could navigate through the technological mess we now called our world.  But it was well known that several very large corporates - VLC’s for short, they ran the Earth and near Planets now - maintained at great expense private call booths around the world for really secure communications between their very senior executives, given that information or data was still the gold currency and just about anyone could hack anything these days, or could find someone who could for a well cooked genuinel steak and a song.
The airtrain arrived with a jerk, reminding us that anything mechanical still had a mind of its own, so I waited until the other passengers moved out the door, then followed.  The terminal was all stained glass and nusteel, giving the impression of a laboratory mixed with a pizza parlor, and as I moved onto the moving walkway, I noticed how few people there were, given that this was supposedly the most populated location for a thousand kilometers in any direction.  Robots and machines were everywhere, trucking cargo, cleaning the walls, and just being obsequious.
The comms booth reared up at the end of the walkway, resplendent in a 3D flashing logo, announcing the superiority of “Genesis Transportation”, the “Future of Mankind in Space”.  Nothing like a little modesty to start your day.
I pushed my ID through the scanner, put my right eye to another scanner, then my left hand on a third scanner, then stood still, as a booth-style full body scanner passed up and down me, rotating ever so slowly, with just a hint of menace.  Amazing how threatening a passive robot could be just by looking at you with little flashing LED’s.
A door hissed open, and behind me a very solid looking wall rose up out of the floor, and as I approached the screen wall, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck started to tingle, feeling the effects of the sonic radiation from the EMP field.
I sat down.
The screen flashed up the “Genesis Transportation” logo.
Then a grey-hair swam into focus, dressed in a military uniform of some description, high collar hiding a floppy neckline.
“Regina Polanski.”
“Yes, sir.”  Couldn’t help myself, nice wasn’t my strong suite, any more than good manners were, but the animal in me deep down recognized the military posture and tone of voice, and responded almost automatically.  Pavlovian training will do that to you.
“Currently between contracts, vessel owned by Cirrus Corp, sufficient fuel for two trips, ablative heat shield for one.”
This time my forebrain took control, and I just stared at the image, with what I hoped was casual distain, but on the other side probably looked like a chastised puppy dog.  They had the dope, to the second, which meant they had an eye or two on me, and usually that meant you were either slated for a messy unsolved death, or an equally messy job, and then an unsolved death!
“We have a proposition for you.  We want you to take a cargo out to the Lagrange-four point between Earth and Mars, transfer it to a second vessel, and then return to Earth.  Your ship is being upgraded and repaired as we speak, new heat shield, some navigation mods, engine upgrade, and the cargo will be loaded and sealed before you leave here, and we will pay you one thousand new dollars a day, point to point, including today.  You may have a small cargo to bring back; you will be informed of that at the transfer point.  If you do have cargo, we will require you to land it at a nominated destination that we will give you enroute.”
I looked at the image, checked the facial features for any signs of deception, but to be truthful, his face was so wrinkled and scarred he could be telling me anything and I wouldn’t have a clue if it were true or otherwise.  What I had going for me was the trouble they had taken to hold this conversation in the first place, and the fact that it was me, a complete nobody, they were having it with.  Meant only one of two things.  Totally illegal death-by-association cargo, or top-secret military activity outside the normal government and corporate channels, an d death-by-association.
Either way, my survival chances had plummeted to below zero, not the least problem being I was trapped inside a technology coffin with no way out if that was what they decided.  My defeatist thinking must have leaked through my face, because suddenly the figure on the other end of the call leaned slightly forward, creating the impression he was falling out of the screen.
“You personally security is guaranteed, we have posted a million dollar bond with the Council, and a full transcript of this transaction will be held in camera for your use should you ever need it.  We want you to come back, and we need you to be willing to repeat the job if we need it.”  The hairs on the back of my neck were now standing so straight it was like I had a fur collar running across my shoulders, because as I have mentioned previously, the only reason a human was employed for anything to do with Space was as a backup to the automatic systems, to ensure a valuable cargo got to where it was supposed to go.  Humans being the least costly alternative, of course.
“Thank you.” I rose to leave, but the top of the metallic screen support opened up, blocking my exit.
“You need to take this with you.”  A blue bag about the size of half a body rose up out of the floor, accompanied by a shiny new uniform wrapped in plastic.  The “Genesis Transportation” logo was hard to miss, as was the beam weapon sitting on top of the bag.  I looked back up at the image, forming a question, but before I could ask, the husky voice jumped all over my confusion.
“Temporary duty as a GT Captain, when you get back you will have the choice of signing on full time, or going back to adhoc cargo hauling.  We have fitted your shuttle with some communications equipment that requires a GT ID, so we will be in communication with you out and back.  Any questions?”  Only a million, I though to myself, marveling that such a one-sided conversation could change my Life so thoroughly, and so fast.
“Charts, route planning, timing?” I croaked, finally getting my dry mouth to function.
“In your shuttle, call me when you get the navigation package.”  The image dissolved back into the three dimensional logo of Genesis, the screen support folded back on itself, so I stripped my coveralls off, and put on the cleanest and neatest set of clothing I had seen in ten years.  Pushed the gun into its holster, and slung the blue bag across one shoulder.
In for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes, and with no regrets but a ton of unanswered questions fighting for time in my slightly befuddled Mind, I walked back to the airtrain terminus, to find one waiting for me, completely empty, and started the lonely journey back to my shuttle.


Standing on the ground in my second-hand hazmat suit, looking up at my shuttle in the work bay, I was had pressed to identify any single part of it as something I could remember.  The Genesis guy has said they were making a few modifications, and adding a new heat shield, but from where I stood in the raw glare from the arc lamps, it looked as if they had fitted a new shield in the cradle, then added a whole new ship to it.  As the robots and waldos buzzed and flitted around, some connected to long concertinaing arms and tubes, it occurred to me not for the first time that this cargo of mine was worth a whole lot to someone, because they sure were spending big to get it to where they wanted it to be.
From past experience, cargos tended to come in three general categories – food and water, probably eighty percent of everything lifted up to orbit from the Earth these days; military and industrial equipment, designed to take or maintain control and power; and people.
Genesis was a very, very big corporation, with a massive fleet of its own ships, both short and long range, capable of carrying literally anything or anyone anywhere in the known systems.  Why did they need me?  Only one answer I could be sure of, and to a certain extent all the work getting done in double-quick time proved my hypothesis.
They wanted secrecy, deniability, and a disposable solution to what ever their problem might be.  And that conclusion confused me more than a little, because inside my stained and dubious hazmat suit I was wearing the Captains uniform I had been given back at the booth, clearly identifying me as Genesis Space crew.  And particular senior at that!
Would they simply disappear me on delivery?  What made me and or my almost flight-limited ship so valuable to one of the largest interstellar originations around?  I thought about this a lot as I walked over to the ground maglev vehicle that would take me to my temporary quarters.  It seemed that Genesis had organized me a squat while they rebuilt my ship, something I wasn’t going to complain about given the exorbitant cost for a bed at the Spaceport.  I wasn’t disappointed, the HiHelloYourWelcome (or H2YW for short) vertical hotel built on top of the roof of a fast food processing outlet, was at least three stars, if you squinted through your radiation glasses hard enough.
Bed and chair, toilet, and holoscreen, with a choice of every movie ever made, or unlimited exposure to a virtual reality headset, where you could, literally, write your own story.
And drugs.
All synthetic of course, and all tragically legal, which quite took the fun out of it all.
But you could smoke, sniff, gargle, snort, suck or just pop the drug of your choice, all color coded for length of bliss-out, and away you went.  I looked at the dispenser to see if I could access it, and not surprisingly, it was locked with a biometric code device, a clear message to me from my new bosses – look but don’t indulge!
I slipped on the virtual headset, lay back on the bed, and set my alarm for ten hours.
“Did you bring your togs?”
“Neither did I.”
Through the mist rising off the turquoise ocean, I could see it was early in the morning, somewhere in the Mediterranean latitudes, nice feel of the Sun on my back, slight breeze, all in all a great dream, because in my animal brain I just knew that I could never pull a woman as beautiful as this in the real world.  She was simply spectacular, all curves and long flowing blond hair, coy smile, and lips to die for.  And as she floated along the path towards the sand, I could have jumped into them in a heart beat and stayed there for the rest of my life.
And then even that slim hope faded with a jolt, as the face from the video link popped itself right in front of my face, reducing my dream to a nightmare.
“Captain, nice of you to visit us.  Can we talk?” the high collar wrapped around his throat like a boa constrictor bobbled as he spoke, suggesting some kind of goiter problem.
“Yes, Sir, of course.”  There goes that autonomic response thing again; perhaps I should have been a beagle or a cocker spaniel.
“Captain, no doubt you are wondering why we picked you and your ship, given the current condition of you both?” his gravelly voice was not unattractive, and I could imagine my fantasy woman going for something like this.
“No doubt”, I replied, happy to be able to actually participate in the conversation.
“Simple, really, comes down to two factors.”  I waited him out, happy to let him fill the silence.
“Your history and track record, and the nature of the cargo.”
“Too valuable, or too hot to trust to a robot?” I asked, just the slightest hint of a sneer in my voice.  I really did not like the way automation was taking over the human world.  His stare tried to cut through my insolence, but on this subject I was as determined as a machine, the irony not lost on me.  He smiled a little smile, his shoulders loosing some of their rigidity.
“Well, I suppose I can’t blame you after what you have gone through.”  East to say it you said it fast, but the simple fact was that if you visited the Crash Comics to see who had killed themselves in recent times, the common factor on the Voice Recorders was someone in the crew screaming, “what the fuck is it doing now?” just before the fatal impact.  My argument was simple, and based on long experience.  Automation had advanced so far that the technicians had removed the ability of any human to remain in the information loop for all intentional purposes, leaving some poor bastard to play catch-up after a machine had either failed or done something incredibly stupid.
It had happened to my crew, and me, which is why I now flew solo.  Didn’t want to have the deaths of anymore machine victims on my conscience.
“However, Captain, it is just that experience that makes you attractive to us.”
“It’s all about the cargo, then,” I said, trying to feel like I was worth something.
“Yes.  It will be plasma-welded into your cargo bay as a single unit, we have designed the bay to detach on arrival, and it will not release if you do not enter the correct biometric codes.  You are, in a sense, our failsafe in this situation.  If something happens, you are to save the ship and yourself, and we will find you. Whatever it takes to get that cargo into position.”
“What will I find at the L4 point?” I asked, thinking about a cargo that was so important that one of the biggest enterprises in the known Universe were hiring me to deliver it.  He tried to stare right through me again, but I was long impervious to a VR image getting the better of me, so I started right back.
He blinked first, one small victory for me!
“You will be met by a Cruiser, they will identify themselves to you via a process we have copied into your onboard AI, and then there will be a set of written instructions delivered to you just before track time.  The physical instructions supersede any AI, or for that matter, any other person’s input or determination.  You, and you alone, can release the cargo, or not, if circumstances dictate.”
“You would rather me destroy the cargo than deliver it to the wrong people?” I asked, the hollow pit where my stomach used to be filling with bile.  He nodded, the VR taking that precise moment to flick in and out of focus, creating the impression that his head was hollow, and attached to the rest of his body by a rainbow of buzzing electronic static.
“In a manner of speaking.  You can’t destroy the cargo, but you can control to whom you deliver it.  If you don’t like what you see at L4, simply reverse your course, and send us a message, and we will send someone to come and get you.”
“Eventually” I added, mindful of the fact that at the L4 point I would have to accelerate for days to get back to earth, and I didn’t have enough fuel to accomplish that with a full cargo bay.  So at best, I would build up some Delta-V, point in the right direction, and sit back and wait.  He had the good grace to smile, an expression that looked somewhat like a cockatiel eyeing off an ant for breakfast.
“We will find you, you can count on that!” he said, dissolving into pixels, allowing my imagined virtual world to return, scantily dressed babe and all, but I had lost my appetite for some reason, so I clicked out of the VR, and reflected on where I was, and what might happen next.
And then my door shook, literally, physically like an earthquake was attacking us.  The door visibly vibrated, almost so fast it blurred, then it just fell down with a whine, as if released from a terrible ordeal.  Two suited figures stood in the doorway, reflecting the low light from the hallway off their featureless heads.  One of them held a huge gray nanodisruptor, no doubt the reason for the doors’ distress.  The other held a really small hand cannon, the type of which I was all too familiar with, and it was pointed right at the middle of my face.  Before I could even open my mouth, they both suddenly started to glow, moving from a warm orange to a bright burning red in just seconds, dissolving into a puddle of nusteel that slowly started to swim towards my feet.
As the smoke and melting ions dissipated, a curvy figure in a stained red spacesuit emerged, striding through the radioactive cloud with ballsy impunity. She – or it – pulled up so close to my face I reflexively took a step backwards.  I could see the reflection of a facial recognition routine running in her-its faceplate.
“Regina Polanski.”  I nodded, my throat as dry as the Arctic desert.  “Grab your bag, suit up, and follow me.”  I turned to the wall where my suit was hanging on the fast-entry straps, fed my feet in, then pressed the little blue dot that caused the rest of my suit to shimmy up my spine like a python.  In less than 10 seconds I was airtight, sucking recycled oxygen, and looking at all the fault signals in my helmet display.
Nothing fatal, I decided, absolutely the lesser of the two evils I was faced with.  Red suit turned on she-its heel and started walking, towing me along in her-its shadow.  As we thumped through the remains of my two former guests, my dosimeter went of the scale, suggesting that if I didn’t swallow a radpill in the next few minutes, I’d be toast.  I bumbled along, hefting my bag full of as yet untried goodies, wondering just what in the hell I had got myself into.
“Incase you’re wondering what’s going on,” Red suit said, she-its voice crackling due to the disturbance in the ion field created by the explosions that had decimated first my door and then my visitors, “I’ve been sent to babysit you.”
Wonderful.  Strange mission, decidedly strange attack, and now an even stranger stranger sent to hold my hand!  I still couldn’t tell if the inside of the flaming red spacesuit was human or robotic, but with nothing to lose but the rest of my life if I stayed where I was, I followed she-its shape through the fire and destruction out into the tunnel that linked all the buildings in the complex.  Ten long strides down the walkway she-it suddenly turned, fired a maser at the wall, then disappeared through the newly flaming hole.  I followed, straight into a small ground vehicle the likes of which I had never seen before.  A bubble on a platform, static discharge firing from a ring around the base, with what looked like three big cushioned seats in a semicircle, as if the vehicle could skew off in any direction and someone would be facing the front!  And it did, throwing me back into one seat with the force of at least three-g.
The spaceport landscape flashed by in a blur, and if I had been out of control before, now I was totally unhinged and at a complete loss. I had experienced extractions from hot zones before, but I had always been in control – in so much as I usually knew who was trying to kill me, and I had a plan to get out and save myself or others by following a long practiced procedure I had learnt during the Three Wars.
“Who are you, and what was that all about back at my room?” I asked, taking the opportunity to suck down three radpills at the instruction of my suit.  According to it, I had received semi-lethal does of six different types of radiation, confirming my initial reaction that the intruders had used a nanodisruptor, a seriously bad piece of high-tech usually reserved for the security forces.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And then everything changes ......

I am constantly amazed by the process of "change", and our innate resistance to it.
Everything changes, every minute, of every day.  Of course, not every change affects us specifically.  But most do, and in the examples that follow, you might find something you have experienced, and smile.  At least that's what I hope you do, because I write these blogs to the smallest audience on the Internet in an attempt to cheer people up, give them hope, support their positive outlook on Life, and challenge their thinking about a whole range of things.
For example, I have been writing a new SciFi story (very slowly!) which was going extremely well until I got an email from a friend, pointing out a few logic faults.
And then everything changed .......
I started to examine the whole story line, characters, and the message I was trying to convey.  So I started again, editing what I had written, got a few pages extra into the story, and my Mind dried up.  I look at the story every day, trying to kick-start the creative process, and so far, nothing happens.
It's like working on a short term contract, getting into the role, meeting the people, gradually absorbing the atmosphere and environment and wham! For no apparent reason, your contract is terminated, and everything changes.
A strong sense of loss, discombobulation, an unease that you are "tainted", and will never work again.
You are out driving your family to a dinner at a friend's house, it's twilight, and a magnificent is creating buckets of comments from the back seat drivers, things like "it's pollution that creates all the colour", and "look at the beautiful clouds", and then some idiot slams into you from the side, having run the lights, and everything changes.
No one hurt, thank GoD, but very upset, and being all girls,they are now telling everyone within earshot how stupid the other driver is.  The reaction is normal, when you get scared or frightened, venting helps get back your equilibrium, and lowers your blood pressure.
One more example - you are working at your desk, in the "zone", when you suddenly get pulled out of your concentration to take a phone call.  The call does not go well, and as you force the handset down to the desktop, everything changes.  Your calm and creative attitude is trashed, your emotions are on fire, and suddenly you have a bad taste in your mouth.
What is it about these Life "tilts" that so distracts us?  Why do these changes affect us so much?  Particularly when statistically, at any given time, there is the probability that another 10,980,566 people will be in the exact same situation that you just found yourself in.
The simple fact is that we assume we are in control of our own situations, and expect to be able to extend that control beyond our reach.  What we are emotionally reacting to is the perception that we have lost control.  Control which, in truth, we never had.
Your mental attitude and balance is easily tipped, and it happens several times a day, only the extent of upset varies.
And it is extremely hard to let the little upsets go, because no one likes being our of control.
No one.
Successful people management is all about getting people involved from their perspective, giving them ownership and control over what they do.  Trusting them to do the right thing by themselves and by you.  It's only when you challenge their ownership that you will get resistance.
So what happens when everything changes?
You move into a stress state, the degree depending on your physiology and psychology.
And to help you understand and manage stress, I have attached a whole discussion on the subject that you might find useful
Just remember, when everything changes, it hasn't really, only your attitude and belief system has changed, and that is an easily managed situation!
Read on .......

From the time you are born, only one thing about you is true.  And that is, sometime, somewhere, you will die.
If you view these two events – being born, and dying - as the start and finish of something great – your Life, and Your contribution to the planet as a human being – you begin to understand what it means when someone says, “A person is defined and judged by their actions, what they do, not who they are, or pretend to be”.
What you do between the start and finish of your Life utterly defines you.
If you look at the back of your Birth certificate, you will not find any story about who you are to be, what you might do, what mountains you might climb, what rivers you might fall into on the way.  Likewise, your Death Certificate lists absolutely nothing about who you were, what you achieved, your successes or failures, your hopes or desires.
Both documents only list the absolute rational facts concerning your given names, those of your parents, and details concerning authorative witness.
The only “story” that will exist about you will be in the collective memories of those that knew you, and the various books, documents, photos, pictures, data bites and bytes, and records that you passed through on your way.
There is one other literal truth about you – when you are born, you come into the world with a limited, finite, unknown quantity of “Life” energy, which starts to be expended from the very second you take your first BREATH.
Many, many things from that moment on, will contribute to robbing you of your rightful natural Lifespan.  Things like eating badly, smoking, drugs, bad environment, lack of will power, poor Life choices, accidents either physical or mental, and the greatest Life shortener and killer of all, self induced Stress.
At this point, it’s enough for us to realize that Stress affects us all, shortening our natural Lifespan, and killing us before our Time.  We will look at Stress in all its evil in the next chapter.   What we need to do first is to discover what causes Stress, so we can get your Life back in balance.
Essentially, Stress is caused by the real difference between your perceptions (what you believe is happening, and act out) and your reality (what is really going on).  Initially, this might be a difficult concept to understand, but the simple way to approach Stress is that if your heart rate is elevated, your skin flushed or hot, your muscles in tension, and your mind is tense, tight, confused, disturbed, angry, upset, or just plain befuddled, then the chances are you are suffering from the normal Life shortening effects of self induced Stress.
And Stress is both insidious and accumulative.
Insidious because it creeps up on you when you least expect it, robs you of your ability to think and act, and accumulative because it does a little bit of damage every time, that over your Life, effectively reduces your potential.  The physiological damage Stress generates is irreversible.  The psychological damage Stress inculcates can be both reduced and repaired.  Better still, with the correct use of your mental faculties you can actually reduce your predisposition for self-inducing Stress, and dramatically enhance both the quality and quantity of your Life.
If you think of your Life energy as the available power in a giant battery, then it’s easy to see that as the power is used, the energy in the battery runs down, until eventually it is dead.  You can speed up the power draining process by using the battery for something it is not designed for; short circuiting the terminals; using too many things hooked up to it; or just by simple abuse.
The same is true of your Life energy.  Make your body do something it’s not designed for, like ingesting smoke, drugs, fatty foods, or foreign objects, and you use disproportionate quantities of Life energy trying to get your system back into balance.  Having a severe mental attack, by hating someone or something, yelling, losing control, becoming furious, behaving in an emotionally forcefully manner, all contribute to sucking out your Life energy at a faster than normal rate.  A virtual “short circuit” of your mental and energy generating processes.  By trying to do too many things at once, making mistakes and not learning from them, and dissipating your efforts through lack of control, you contribute to a disproportionate use of your personal resources – just like sucking the energy out of the battery.
And by just not taking reasonable, balanced proper care of yourself, you allow your Life energy to slip away forever, like sand running out of a sock.
Where does Making Peace come in?
If you are at WAR with someone, or something (government, neighbourhood, any hate object), then you are focusing your mental and physical resources on a very destructive emotional process, one that leads to massive quantities of self-induced Stress, and one that sucks up your Life energy faster than a speeding bullet!
WAR is HATE, WAR is PASSION, WAR is DREAD, WAR is FEAR, WAR is LOSS, WAR is never won, it is merely resolved, usually by force, with so called winners and losers, and there are always more looses than winners..
History tells us though, that as Time marches inexorably on, the difference between the winners and the losers diminishes, making it very hard to explain rationally, in retrospect, exactly what all the fuss was about.
One side looses 157,546 People, killed in the conflict.  The other side only looses 10,231 People, and they are celebrated as the conquering heroes!
Who really lost?
Humanity, and the families of the thousands of People killed on both sides.
Who won?
Nobody.  Some dirt may or may not have been advanced on, some ideal momentarily shown to be brighter than a shooting star (shooting stars are dying rapidly as they produce their sometimes spectacular effect) and someone’s pride may or may not have been satisfied.
It has been said, “Nothing of any great import or lasting value has ever been resolved by the use of force – not even victory”.
Now, you may point to the Great Wars of any century, and justify them on the basis that a great Evil was defeated by the powers of virtue and good.  That may be true.  But it is also true that at some point well before the War started, it could have been avoided.
All it would have taken is a few strong Personalities to stand up and lead their People into Peace – because of their utter conviction that they, themselves, were at Peace with themselves, and that they wanted that State for everyone else likely to be enjoined in any disastrous, soul destroying, WAR.
In even simpler terms, someone’s EGO and GREED got in the way of Making Peace.
Those of you who get this far, and are outraged by this concept, should go no further, for you are not at Peace with yourself, and therefore can never be a Peacemaker!  In all probability, your EGO is such that it often gets in the way of your achievements, self-limiting how far you go, and how high you reach.
You will be centred on “you”, and will likely have trouble reaching down into your personal truth to be objective about your real role in the Universe.
You will not believe that Making Peace is possible, or perhaps even worthwhile,  and you will funnel all your negative energy into making your destructive view of your world come true.
When you HATE, emote negative PASSION, DREAD an outcome, FEAR something or someone, you are setting yourself up for a bitter emotional bargaining process that costs much more than it ever returns.  It sucks our your Life energy, fuels your negative inner posture, and then increases the rate at which you consume you Life energy, effectively shortening your natural Life expectancy by years!  A mean, nasty, vicious cyclic pattern that has only one outcome – you die faster, earlier, and in a manner probably not of your choosing.
And the chances are that you will die unhappy, bitter, and unfulfilled.
It also helps to accelerate the destruction of those around you.
And yet, over half the world today is at WAR with the other half, using bigotry, persecution, starvation, denial, politics, religion, bullets and bread as weapons of mass destruction, more efficiently than any atomic bomb.
You cannot open a newspaper, or tune in the TV News without seeing violent bloodshed, startling poverty, or raw emotion in the context of someone being killed, some country flattened or sunk by a disaster, or news yet again of a human tragedy of such proportions that seemingly no one can cope with it.
The rhetoric is always powerful and justified by the other side’s actions (or assumptions of their actions), and the iron fist is always delivered by the young and the fit.
Why do we do this?  How does any intelligent person like you tolerate this destructive, negative, type of Behaviour?
Because most of us really don’t understand the consequences of WAR in individual, personal, terms.  We put it far away from ourselves, as if the very remoteness of the disaster protects us from its consequences.
But WAR is not waged by countries, or things.  WAR is waged by People.  People like you and I.  All over the world, for all sorts of reasons.  And if it truly is a People thing, then starting with you, you can stop it, make a real difference, simply by starting with yourself.
Check you EGO in at the door.
Make Peace with you.
Then make Peace with everyone around you.
And then use the force multiplication of a group of dedicated Peacemakers to spread Peace like a virus, to every domain you can reach.
We are a huge collective society of different races, cultures, beliefs, religions, Behaviours, attitudes and habits, and yet we are one.
One Person, just like you.
Can you really make a difference?  Can you make Peace in your Time?
What the Mind can conceive, you can do!
As a wise man once said, “It’s all in your mind”, and fortunately, it is just that.  All in your mind.  So let’s take a quick look at Stress, and your part in it, and take the first tentative steps towards Making Peace – at least with yourself, as a very good start.

The Death of Stress.

Stress is a killer.  If you want to enjoy a long, healthy, productive Life, you simply have to learn how to kill off Stress stone motherless dead as fast as you possibly can.  Hard words for a Peacemaker, but necessary.  And if you haven’t got what it takes to kill it, then at the very least, you have to discover how to manage it, so that you are in control of your Life, and not have Stress in control of you.
Stress is caused either by the physical and emotional reaction to a trauma, such as when you injure yourself, or it is self-induced as a direct result of your perceptions being completely out of sync with your reality.  In truth, in most People, this is the major cause of Stress, and Stress induced illnesses, of which there are many.
And they are all silent and professional killers!
High blood pressure, cardiovascular failure, organ failure, reduced mental capacity, stroke, rapid ageing, and numerous other diseases to many to mention wait in the wings of Life ready to pounce at the first quiver of tension.
Let’s look at Stress from a clinical point of view, and discover how to rein in this killing machine, and make it your slave.  In truth, your first big step to Making Peace, and it’s easier than you think.

The Study of Stress is primarily focussed on the Physiology and the Psychology of the Human organism, and its interaction with external and internalised stimulus.  Theses are big words, but with a very simple heart.  They mean that we look at how the body and the mind interact in the environment, and the effect each has on the other in the process of living.
Your body, and how you affect your environment; and the environment, and how it interacts with you and your body.
Now, every body has many, many constituent parts, but in the interests of keeping you interested, we’re going to look at you as having a homogenous  “physical” part, and a “mind” part.  Let’s break this down further into simple pictures.
Physiology (the “physical” bit) is the study of the biomechanics (the way things work) of physical activity, caused by chemically derived stimulus (these chemicals are produced in your body as a function of your normal activity, and make your muscles work, your heart beat, your blood flow, and lubricate your mind).  In simple terms, we look at your frame (skeleton), your cardiovascular system, and what holds it all together (the many constituent parts mention above), such as your cartilages, ligaments, tendons, and muscles – this is Physiology in its rawest sense.
The “mechanics” of being a Human being.
Your body – the “physical bit” – is stimulated by interpreted input from your five senses - sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste.  Or your body is stimulated into action by a direct command from your “Mind”.  Either way your mind becomes heavily involved in this process, and we label the study of this type of activity “Psychology”.
Psychology is simply the understanding of Neuromechanics, or the ability of the “Mind” to perceive and interpret the information received from the five senses, and cause an action as a result of this stimulus - or generate activity of its own accord inline with your attitudes and beliefs (both of which determine your actions).
The study of Psychology looks at the Central Nervous System, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, and the Conscious, Unconscious, and Subconscious way your “Mind” works – for you, or against you.
The Conscious “Mind” perceives language, words, and symbols.  The Unconscious “Mind” interprets and generates your perception of pictures and abstract images.  The Subconscious “Mind” is where your imagination resides - ideas are generated, and where your power of visualisation comes from.
You “see” the word “boat” (conscious);  you turn this word into a picture of what the boat might look like to you (unconscious);  then you imagine what you might do on or with this boat (subconscious).
Interestingly, the Mind does not distinguish between “real” and “imagined” information, and this is where self-induced Stress really starts to build and hit home.
Because your Mind is unable to distinguish between a “real” situation, and an “imagined” situation, the reaction it creates in your body is the same.  This is a critical issue, and one that needs to be examined in greater detail.
In other words, your Mind drives your mental and bodily responses based on either a real or imagined situation, and doesn’t mind at all that it is reacting to something you have created, imagined, or misinterpreted, or just plain got wrong!
Simply, Stress is a primitive response to a perceived threat of attack.  This primate reaction is built into us at the very level of our genes, and while with training and awareness we can modify its effect on us, we can never ignore it, or pretend that it does not exist.  Our “hardwiring” simply does not allow it.
As an example of how we train ourselves to “manage” the threat of attack, think about Fireman or Soldiers training to hurl themselves right into the very heart of danger time and time again, to achieve their task.  They are overcoming their natural instincts to flee, by moderating their response to the initial “fear” caused by the obvious danger they face.  Training can overcome fear, and overcoming fear reduces you exposure to the killer Stress.
The Stress is still very real (or even imagined to be real), but your response to the Stress is moderated by your physiological and psychological training.
When you become Stressed, adrenalin is produced in huge quantities and surges through your body, creating the instant potential for fast and violent activity.  Your blood pressure rises, as your cardiovascular system closes down the peripheral blood vessels to minimize potential blood loss from injury.  Your heart rate increases, as your body readies itself to fight or flight.  Your neck hairs bristle, and blood flow is diverted from internal organs to your muscles.  This means that precious blood, usually circulating to your brain (where your three Minds do their work), flood to your lower body, providing extra fuel for your muscles to use as you physically and mentally prepare to run away from the perceived danger (real or imagine).  When this happens, your mental abilities are diminished, your powers of deduction and reason become degraded, and your intellect takes a huge hit right in the IQ basket.
In Psychological terms, this is known as the “Fight or Flight” Syndrome, and is a primary motivational response derived from the survival instinct.
In this “heightened state” the ability to perform tasks is degraded, mental facilities are limited, perspective changes, Behaviour changes, and individual potential is significantly reduced toward the instinctive end of the performance scale.
Worst of all, your Life energy is being sucked out of you faster than you can blink.  In a sense, Stress increases the rate at which you are dying!
Now, it is likely that you have been Stressed before, and not recognized any of the symptoms mentioned here.  But if you were to be clinically monitored during even a moderate Stress attack, all of these reactions would be present to some extent.
If you want some statistics on the killer Stress, consider this - in the United Kingdom, Stress and Mental Disorders cost 30 million working days every year, and more than 5 billion pounds (3% of GDP).
In the USA, compensation Claims based on Stress Disorders have increased   from 5% in 1984 to 25% of all Claims in the last eight years, and cost $US200 billion annually!  Even in a relatively small Country like the Netherlands, every 4 minutes of every working day one Person is diagnosed as having a Stress derived Psychological Disorder.
Since 1984, Stress related Claims in Australia are up 395%, and now represent over 10% of all Disability Claims.  Excess Stress is linked to Heart Disease, Strokes, Hypertension, Ulcers, Bowel Disease, Musculoskeletal Problems, Anxiety, Depression, Neuroses, and Drug and Alcohol Abuse.  And every one of these conditions will kill you before your Time!
Medical specialists often point to the fact that they believe over 90% of all diseases and conditions in the Human body result from some form of Stress-induced activity.  So while you may die from a heart attack, kidney failure, cancer, renal failure, or other complication, the precursor to the finality of the outcome was that you were Stressed in the first place, creating the cycle of destruction that takes your Life before your rightful time.
You need to understand Stress, and you need to discover how to mediate its effect on you and those around you.  You need to train your Mind in Stress recognition, prevention, and management.
You need to remember to “BREATHE”, and the acronyms, “SMILE”, “HOT”, and “RACE”.

BREATHE – possibly the simplest, fastest, most reliable way to start the attack on Stress is to BREATHE.  Pretend your lungs are full of stale, bad air.  BREATHE in deeply, right down to your boots, hold it for a count of ten, then expel it, pause, then do it again.  Just this one simple exercise will cut your Stress condition by half!  When you force BREATHE, you are pushing good, clean oxygen through your body, enriching your blood, and clearing a small part of your mind, usually enough to use objectively in starting to reverse the Stress process.  You are also engaging in a conscious physical process that, just for a few seconds, breaks the Stress cycle.  Just like hitting the big red “Stop” button on a speeding train.

SMILE – Stress Managed Instantly = Life Extension

If every time you feel Stressed, you SMILE, you’ll soon find that getting on top of it is easier than falling of a bike.  Break the cycle, SMILE.  Relax, BREATHE in and out, put your hand on your chest and feel the air rushing in and out of your ribcage.  Picture it going around in a circle, in and out, in and out.
Lower your emotional temperature, and let your MIND free up to engage your intellect in solving the issue that has Stressed you out.

HOT - Honest Open  & Transparent

This is a process thing, and an EGO thing.  If, in every transaction, professional and personal, you insist on a HOT environment, where everyone commits to being Honest, Open, and Transparent, there will be very little Stress.  This is sometimes hard to do, but as the primary Peace Maker, it is your responsibility to manage the agenda, by setting the example.  In simple terms, if you want to live out your full natural Lifetime, stay away from People and Process where you do not have, or you cannot create, a HOT environment!

RACE - Recognize  Act  Control  Express

This is the elemental secret to managing Stress.  First, you recognize the symptoms of Stress – tension, shouting, incoherence, warm flushes, elevated heart rate, temperature, tightness in the head or chest, difficulty Breathing.  You may even find that it is hard to think and act in a rational manner.  You feel tight, wound up like a spring, agitated, ill at ease.  Sometimes baffled, confused, unhappy, sad, emotionally drained.  Well, just stop it instantly and immediately!  Act!
By Acting on your recognition, doing something positive to break the cycle, snap the pattern, you seize Peace out of the jaws of confusion and Stress.  Some People find it helpful to clap or make a physical gesture to trigger their anti-Stress response.  Others simply SMILE, indicating that they are in control.  Find what suits you best, and practice using it until you are so comfortable you could be standing in a room with hundreds of People, and not feel embarrassed to Act!
Taking Control needs little explanation, except to say that when you are in Control, you cannot be Stressed.  Aroused, yes, but Stressed, no.  Control is everything in beating Stress down where it belongs.  It is when you lack Control that you are at your most exposed as far as self-induced Stress is concerned.  In fact, it’s the “out of control” feeling that generates most Stress for most People.
Now, Expressing yourself is not as easy as it sounds.  Many of us are naturally shy, and the idea of physically or verbally expressing ourselves in company is an uncomfortable one – one that may well lead to self-induced Stress!
But research has found that if, when you detect Stress in yourself, you make a “large” physical motion, such as an expressive shoulder slump, fist shake, foot stamp, or general body relax, you start to mitigate the effects of self-induced Stress.
The very act of physical purging is a Stress breaker, so long as you don’t take it to extremes.  The purpose is to tense and then relax your big muscles to help you generate a picture of you being “calmer” than you were, not a reason to strike out and create hurt in someone else.
Now, there are a group of words that describe the passage of Stress, and in understanding the relationship they have to each other, you will be preparing yourself to better manage Stressful situations.
“Arousal” is that heightened state of awareness that we use to generate chemical elements in our system to promote superior performance.
“Characteristic Tension” is that state of arousal where we are in control, performing at our best or better, every molecule of our being tingling with anticipation and energy.  This is the state in which elite performance takes place, that elusive “Zone” you have heard People talk about.
Both arousal and characteristic tension are “good” Stress states – we are getting the benefit of the adrenaline and noradrenaline, we are “pumped”, physically and mentally, we are at our peak.  The moment you loose control of these states, you go straight into Stress, with all the negative impact of an atomic bomb going off in your system.
Some Stress is good.  Stress under control is good.  It’s only when you lose control, or perceive that you have lost control, or cannot be in control, that the killing effects of Stress can start to eat away at your system.
This is why using a big-muscle physical release is sometimes so effective in breaking the Stress cycle.
Try it for yourself the next time you are Stressed – see if it works for you.
Above all, remember the four Stress Busters – BREATHE, SMILE, HOT, and RACE!