In Ages of Imagination, Thus are Removed Mountains by Robert J. Santa




Robert J. Santa




LEAD SHOT:Fixed-position angle from street corner looking up at Bailey

Building – screen center – with blue (type 85) sky as background,

high light level (range 90-93), low velocity cumulus clouds (maximum

8 kph) move screen left to screen right

ACTION: Clouds continue to move, light level drops 2 stages, hold view ten

seconds, focus down during voiceover, fade to black

VOICE OVER:“Bailey. Now and always. Working for you.”


“Allow me to make introductions,” Valmont Bailey said. He made an open-handed gesture towards Jefferson and Cynthia. “My top team, Cynthia Aristotle and Jefferson Boggs, may I present Vice President Oscar Trujillo and Admiral Frijov Nicholaysen.” They all shook hands. Jefferson noted the Admiral had a grip like an Arctic bear, and he felt the old man could probably wrestle him to the ground with little need for assistance. Cynthia saw instantly the fabled charisma of the UN Vice President as he made eye contact and opened up his best politician’s smile. Her first thought was how she would love to get him in front of the camera for that Frozen Family Meals campaign they were developing. She made a mental note to check with his publicists.

“Please have a seat,” said Bailey, indicating the two unoccupied chairs. Valmont Bailey walked around his desk and sat. He nodded to the Admiral.

“Before we begin,” the Admiral said, “I should tell you for the purposes of this meeting, your security clearances have been raised to Highest Priority levels, with the usual non-disclosure verbiage. Your signatures are not required for this, but Mr. Bailey has the paperwork nevertheless.” Bailey slid two sheets across his desk. Jefferson and Cynthia pressed their thumbs against the boxes at the bottom.

“I am sure you are both familiar with the Belt and the colonies,” Admiral Nicholaysen said during the exchange. “A routine delivery vessel to Tolstoy did not return. This was just less than a year ago. A second vessel went out after it…” The room darkened, and one of the windows displayed seventy seconds of video that was neither technically nor artistically well-filmed. The front edge of the vessel occupied the foreground, with an asteroid group in the background. Lights flashed from multiple asteroids on screen right, growing too quickly for the eye to follow. A disorganized splash of color and movement rattled the screen before it went blank.

The Admiral walked over to the window with a pointer. The screen displayed a moment halfway into the clip.

“The lights,” he said, circling the red dot around the flashes on the screen, “are missiles launching. The destruction of the supply vessels is not as important as what you see in the background, however.” This time the Admiral highlighted the group of asteroids. “This larger one is MacAllen, and in descending order of size are G83, Tolstoy, Cambridge, Art Yukon, Whalebone, and Thank God, with two others that could not be identified. They are all orbiting within a few thousand kilometers of each other. Last year, they were spread out over a distance of some fourteen million kilometers. They were moved, for obvious reasons.”

He clicked off his pointer and walked back to his chair. On the way he passed Vice President Trujillo who stood as the screen played another clip, this time something infinitely more familiar to Jefferson and Cynthia. It was one of their more famous spots in their most famous campaign. The images on the screen were those of starving, filthy, destitute people packed together, scrounging for food and shelter. Beneath the grime and sores every face, young and old alike, bore the characteristics of the “classic American” look. The voiceover mentioned the poverty, the dwindling coffers, that the time to put the tourniquet around the wound was now, to end the handouts so there would be something left for the future. The screen faded and returned to being a window.

“The Fertility Boards,” the Vice President began, “would never have been able to lay the groundwork for world population control without support from the UN superpowers. It was the relentless and skilled advertising of this company that made public support possible here and on every continent. More specifically, it was the genius work of you two that finally brought the planet’s exponential population growth to a manageable figure. We know your worth. The UN has already paid Bailey Advertising ten million dollars just for this meeting and to set forth our proposal, which you may decline. Your budget would be on the same level with that of the Fertility Boards, which means there is no budget.

“Mr. Jefferson, Ms. Aristotle,” he said, “the UN would like you to advertise a war.”

“The United Nations,” the Admiral continued, “has received a declaration of independence from the Autonomous Belt Collective, as they are calling themselves. It has been signed by every citizen of the asteroid colonies, without exception. In an emergency session of heads of state last night, the UN decided to treat the Belt as an aggressor nation. We will be launching a full-scale war to quell this rebellion, but we have a problem. The attack on the supply vessel showed us the Belters have capable defenses. We will need to send the whole of our fleet against them, and, quite frankly, we don’t have the personnel to do it.”

“Please explain,” said Jefferson.

“The fleet‘s primary duty,” replied the Admiral, “is exploration and transport. It consists, in its entirety, of one hundred seventy-seven ships of varying tonnage and design. At any given moment there are perhaps twenty to twenty-five active ships in operation; the remainder are in dock in Earth- or Mars-orbit. They are unmanned, with patrols of the active ships going to them for routine care or maintenance as schedules warrant. In order to fully crew all the vessels in the fleet, we would need to have eighty-six thousand trained personnel.”

“That doesn’t sound impossible,” Cynthia said.

“I haven’t gotten to the meat and potatoes, yet,” said the Admiral. “The support personnel needed to get those ships outfitted and launched would be ten times what we need to crew the ships themselves. The fleet needs almost one million recruits trained and ready for space in less than one year.”

“Why do I feel like the meat and potatoes are still on another plate?” Valmont Bailey said from behind his desk, chin resting on interlocked hands.

“The Admiral,” said Vice President Trujillo, “expects you to understand some of the limitations of this project because of his experience. You see, operations in space, whether they be on the surface of Earth’s moon or Mars, or in Earth orbit, or on active duty manning a patrol vessel, are not for everyone. Even the most well-intentioned recruit may not pass the rigorous physical, emotional and psychological demands of months-long duty in space. Under ordinary circumstances a recruit that failed one or more of these tests would be re-assigned to a duty right here, but we cannot afford that luxury. We need all of those recruits to be in space.”

“And what would be your conservative estimate,” Cynthia asked, “of the ratio of well-intentioned recruits that take those tests and pass compared to those that fail.”

“The statistics are quite accurate,” said the Vice President. “It’s close to one in a thousand.”

“My clarifying question,” said Jefferson, “is how long does it take to train a recruit for active service in space.”

“Eight months,” the Admiral answered without hesitation. “Six if we rush.”

“So,” Cynthia said, “let me see if I have the parameters: We need to generate an advertising campaign that would bring in nearly one billion volunteers to fight in a war, and we need to do it in less than six months.”

“Can you do it?” asked the Vice President.

“Of course,” said Jefferson and Cynthia in unison.


Jefferson walked into his office, closed the door, and sat down on the couch opposite the chair Cynthia occupied.

“I feel,” Cynthia said without preamble, “we should approach the perspective of the Belters as traitors and seditionists.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” replied Jefferson.

“Which means,” she continued, “the idea of inclusiveness should be present whenever Earth is represented. Heavy on the ‘we’ element.”

“I also agree.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“So,” Jefferson finally said after ten minutes of quiet thought, “how are we supposed to get one billion regular people down to the recruiting offices?”

Cynthia shook her head and shrugged.


“I did some research last night,” Jefferson said when Cynthia joined him in the car. He handed her a tablet as the driver eased out into abnormally busy traffic. She clicked through the pages.

“I seemed to recall,” he said, “something about dramatic numbers of volunteers to serve in the armed forces for the United States during the Second World War, and at the same time there were exceptionally fewer volunteers for future conflicts in Southeast Asia and the Arabian Union.”

“You seem to feel it was an issue of image?” she asked, grasping his line of thought.

“Exactly, though I’m not entirely certain I understand the distinction between what were then the enemy states. I believe it started with a fundamental belief system.”

“I see your point. Let’s have Psych go through this data and see what they learn.”


“Focus group data is back,” said Cynthia, identical to the way she had said it every day for the last week.

“Don’t tell me,” Jefferson interrupted. “Your face says it all.”

“Money won’t work, either. There’s not enough to buy a million soldiers, let alone the incentives for the billion we really need.”

“Square one, then.” Jefferson picked up the tablet and tossed it aside unread.


“I am a genius,” said Jefferson as he entered Cynthia’s office.

“This surprises me in no way,” she replied. “The only question is ‘why are you a genius today?’”

Jefferson walked around to Cynthia’s side of the desk and sat down on its edge, letting his feet dangle.

“I am a genius,” Jefferson said, “because I have managed to put together all the pieces of our little puzzle regarding recruitment. I have the answer, with all the usual disclaimers about having to first run through focus groups, the legal department, Bailey himself, blah blah blah. Bear in mind, cursory data proves me right.”

“Please get to the point so you can get off my desk.”

“I will illustrate the point with a simple question: which of us makes more money?”

“This is your epiphany?”

“Indulge me. You or me?”

“I do, of course.”


“Many reasons,” Cynthia replied. “Not only have I been with Bailey Advertising for two years and two months longer than you, but I was also promoted to Executive Director of Operations eight months earlier in my career than you were. I graduated sixth in my class where you finished twenty-ninth. You apprenticed at one of the largest firms in North America where I apprenticed at one of the largest firms in the world. You know all this. Again, what’s the point?”

“The point,” he said, “is that I am a man and men should be paid more than women because they are the primary providers for the family.”

Cynthia actually stared at him open-mouthed.

“You must be joking,” she finally said after a moment’s pause.

“In no way am I joking. It is the role of the male to be the provider, and it is the role of the female to bear and raise the children, staying home if necessary and depending solely on the efforts of the male.”

“You’ve gone insane.”

“I assure you I have not.” He slid her a tablet, and she read it while he talked.


“Thank you for coming, gentlemen,” said Valmont Bailey. He stood in front of his desk, with Cynthia and Jefferson seated on his right. He stepped forward and shook hands with Vice President Trujillo and Admiral Nicholaysen.

“My pleasure,” replied the Vice President, “though, frankly, I’m a bit surprised at how quickly you did all this. Nine days seems a trifle quick.”

“We were under the impression that speed was the foremost of your concerns,’ Cynthia said as she stood and shook hands.

“It is,” the Vice President said, “but we are not expecting sloppy results.”

“And you will have none,” Jefferson said while he also stood and shook hands. Valmont Bailey motioned for the two arrivals to sit. Jefferson and Cynthia walked around to the window screen.

“We have put together,” Cynthia said as Jefferson stood just off to one side, “a campaign that we feel will achieve your desired results, in that you will have a recruitment base of nearly one billion from which to choose your personnel. We have tested this advertising campaign on thirty-one focus groups consisting of no particular population. Of the three-hundred and nine people who viewed this campaign, ninety-four responded positively that they would be willing to at least test for recruitment, based on several factors including wage scale, estimated time in service, and probable casualty figures.”

“Those sound like good numbers,” the Admiral said with some trepidation.

“Yes, there is a catch,” Cynthia said. “This will not be a popular campaign. You may get the personnel you need, but this will not be well-received.”

“Why not?” asked the Vice President.

“For that,” she said, “we would like to show you our demo.”

The lights dimmed, and the window came to life with a blaze of rocket fire and vibrating engine noise. The cultured, British voice of a not-too-famous stage actor spoke the voiceover.

“Eighty years ago,” he said, “we pooled together our resources to allow a select group to go where no man had gone before, where no man had stepped foot, to divine the ultimate challenge.”

The next image was that of heavy, industrial mining as engineers turned a barren asteroid face into a habitable environment of deep green hydroponics laboratories with pinhole sunlight blazing overhead.

“We sent with them our hopes and our dreams and in return they sent back the thanks of a very few, and then…”

The screen went blank.

“They sent back nothing.”

A supply freighter roared over a collection of asteroids. Missiles streaked out from many directions and blasted the ship into fragments.

“Without so much as a single word of warning they killed one hundred and fifty brave souls trying to send them more supplies, more of our assistance, more of our caring.”

A jagged segment of the freighter tumbled towards the camera, burning in dozens of places until it filled the screen.

“They declared war on Mother Earth.”

The scene shifted to that of a strapping young officer kissing his wife and two little girls goodbye. A sub-orbital shuttle climbed overhead, and the camera zoomed in on it to see the forty-odd men inside sitting proudly.

“You have the opportunity to protect her and her children. You can lend the strength of your arms and your back and defend her from the rebels of the Belt.”

The screen faded, replaced by a second spot, then a third, all visually similar, though the third remarked on the dangers of working in space and how it was not an environment for the weak or cowardly. In all three spots a recurring musical theme of tympani and horns swelled. The screen returned to being a window, and the lights were slightly raised. Cynthia and Jefferson stepped forward.

“Before you say anything, gentlemen,” Cynthia said, “I would like to ask you how you feel. Not how you felt about the ad but how you feel right now.”

“Splendid,” declared the Admiral, his stoic face fairly lit up with excitement. “What a fascinating and compelling advertisement! Were I not already in active service I would march right down to the nearest recruitment office and demand they accept me.”

“Mr. Vice President?” asked Jefferson.

“The armed services has never been my strongest desire,” he replied, “but I can freely admit a healthy stirring of emotion. Is that how we’re supposed to feel?”

“Absolutely,’ Cynthia said.

“Why?” asked Vice President Trujillo.

“There are a good number of subliminals at work in this spot,” lectured Cynthia, “and you must bear in mind that this is only a rough demo; the finished product should have about four hundred subliminal elements working for us. Some of them are a little heavy-handed, such as the background audibles. Any time the Belters are referred to, even when the word ‘they’ is used, we have overlaid the word ‘traitors’ so that the listener will eventually make that connection freely. Also, we have a constant track of a woman being sexually pleasured in the score. It has proven among males to have extremely good results.”

The Admiral and the Vice President nodded knowingly.

“There are many visual subliminal devices as well,” continued Cynthia, “such as whenever a soldier is shown. We record at ultra high-speed to allow us to place these devices, and the soldiers are shown nude once in each spot. They have been, how shall we say, enhanced to well beyond the norm. Every adult woman is also shown nude, multiple times. Colors are a major device. A standard advertising technique is to tint the color white with a certain shade of blue that has proven to have a positive influence on three quarters of the population. We use that in these spots so that viewers will associate that positive subliminal with positives they have seen in the past. Repetition is the key to any subliminal device.”

“Remember, though, gentlemen,” Jefferson said, “this campaign is going to be extremely unpopular.”

“I’m not sure I follow that reasoning,” said the Vice President. “Judging from our reactions, this should be marvelously well-received.”

“Only among males,” responded Cynthia. “Millions of years of evolution dictated that the females in the society would be the caregivers and raisers of the young where the males would be the providers for themselves and their mates. It is only a few thousand years of civilization that have changed those roles and really only the last hundred years or so where women have been treated with the same respect as men. Since the population of the world is fifty-five percent female, this campaign will statistically be received unfavorably. I assure you that of the one hundred sixty-six females of all ages that participated in our focus groups, one hundred eleven categorized the spots as either mildly or overtly offensive, though they were unable to explain why they felt as they did.”

They sat in silence for a moment before the Admiral spoke.

“In your opinion,” he said, “do you believe this campaign will generate the personnel we need?”

“We have almost no doubt it will,” said Cynthia.

“Then that’s all we’re after, isn’t it?” the Vice President asked. “We’ll let the spin doctors put the smiley face on everything. It’s what they’re good at.”

Everyone stood and shook hands. As the Admiral and the Vice President left, Valmont Bailey congratulated Cynthia and Jefferson.

“That’s good work,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” Jefferson said. Cynthia did the same, but she left off the ‘sir.’

“You know how the government works,” said Bailey. “No one will be contacting our offices for at least a week. Take a well-deserved break. You’ve both earned it.”


Back in Cynthia’s office Jefferson closed the door behind them.

“How do you feel?” he asked her.

“Cheapened,” she replied. “I know it’s my own response to the subliminals, but I still feel like I need to wash my hands.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Do you really?”

He thought for a moment.

“No,” he said, “not really.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“Enough of this.” Jefferson clapped his hands once. “Let’s go out and have a good meal and a few drinks. The long and the short of it is we performed our assigned task to the best of our abilities, and the results were exactly what the clients wanted. Time will tell, of course, but as long as they get those recruits I don’t care about anything else.”




LEAD SHOT:Fixed-position studio shot of UN soldier in uniform, shirt front

opened to reveal chest.

ACTION: Camera moves in from full shot to waist-up shot.

MONOLOGUE:“That’s just fine. If you chumps don’t have enough

between your legs to show those girlie wimps on Io that nobody

withholds mining rights from us, then we don’t want you. Just stay

home with therest of the women and clean the house. The men will

go out and do the real work.”


Food for Thought

We live in a world where social hysteria can grip huge swathes of the population. From buckets of ice water dropped on heads to worries about planetary alignments, the media can accidentally or intentionally alter rational behavior.

Advertising is the intentional manipulation of thoughts and emotions to achieve a fixed outcome (usually an increase in profit, though in the case of this story it is otherwise). How does our society handle future manipulation as we become more and more easily influenced by brief news feeds and skilled marketing?

About the Author

Robert J. Santa has been writing speculative fiction for more than thirty years. His work has appeared in numerous print and online markets. Robert lives in Rhode Island, USA, with his beautiful wife and two equally-beautiful daughters.

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