The Risks of Empathy, a Novella
It was almost as much fun as the real Selling TEs, and it was definitely more exciting. Rita crouched behind the dumpster in dark damp alley. She had a large purse with her that had a distinct petroleum aroma. One of her friends from the bar was crouched next to her. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small brown flask. "Here."
Rita took the flask and indulged in a small sip. She usually tried to stay sober and sharp before a raid, but she didn't want to seem rude. "Let's go," she said.
Rita led the way up to the rear of the building and peeped in through the grime-clouded window. Her partner crowded next to her and together they took in the scene. Three people were hard at work cutting up chicken carcasses. Two barrels of plucked chickens stood in the center of the room and a pile of cut and wrapped pieces was growing on a cart nearby. As a chicken was cut up, wrapped in white paper, and tossed onto the cart, the worker grabbed another from the barrel and began dismembering it.
Rita whispered to her partner, "They keep moving these places, and we keep finding them." Rita reached into her bag and took out a wine bottle fitted with a cloth stopper.
"Take the hammer. When I say go, smash the window and then run like hell. I'll meet you back at the bar in about an hour. Don't lose the hammer." Rita reached into her pocket, pulled out her cigarette lighter, and lit the Molotov cocktail. "Go!"
...being Earnie being Karen being Earnie being Karen ....
"Karen." Someone was shaking her shoulder and talking to her. She recognized Stan and was wholly back.
"Wow. That was weird as shit. How long were we connected?"
"About three hours. I thought it best to let you see just how impossible it is to break the loop."
When the connection had been established Karen's first fleeting impression had been of being Earnie followed almost immediately with the experience of him realizing he was her realizing she was him. It was like being in a hall of mirrors and seeing one's reflection disappear into infinity. There was nothing to get hold of, no thought had an end because it reverberated back and forth, no thought could be begun because none could finish. Subjectively, there had been no passage of time, just endless re-realizations that she was him realizing that he was her.
"It's a really hard problem," said Earnie. "Much harder than anything we've yet had to deal with. If the potential wasn't so high we might just can the whole damn thing."
"Have you tried it with more than just two people?" asked Karen.
"Like a ménage à trois," grinned Earnie. "No, but I don't see how it could hurt. What do you think Stan?"
The entire ranch was aware that things had taken a decidedly difficult turn. The declared martial law was clear on a number of points. First, and foremost, anyone caught with a Selling TE was to be held and tried as a spy and terrorist. The government had fabricated some nonsense about the TEs being used by terrorist cells to communicate with each other. Second, Richard Selling had been named as the likely head of the revolutionary forces and had been moved to the top of the CIA's and the FBI's Most Wanted Lists. Third, anyone caught interfering with any animal based concern - including ranching, fur farming, biomedical research, rodeos, pet stores, restaurants serving meat, stores selling meat, trucks hauling animals to slaughter, packing houses, zoos, aquariums, and any other animal enterprise not specifically named - were to be held as a spy and tried as a terrorist.
Stan and Earnie were as unsettled as the rest of the ranch and told Karen to take a day or two off. Everyone seemed to want to get their hands dirty with the care of the animals. Somehow, taking care of their basic needs seemed to help settle people's anxiety. They all felt there was a storm just over the horizon and coming their way.