Dr. Benton put on a black robe with a white, warmly smiling skull on the back-a birthday present from his daughter some years back- and a pair of comfortable slippers. He walked through the halls of a mansion paid for by a veteran’s pension and a lifetime of patents. Though he never came across another miracle like his terror formula he was still a brilliant chemist. A few minor discoveries here and few minor inventions there in the decades following the war were more than enough to afford comfortable living, especially since the government started to relax its economic post-scarcity transition legislation.

 

He invented a type of artificial sweetener that companies stopped using in the 1970’s when they discovered something better, a brand of coffee he made with Tim simply to see if they could sell something called “Terrible Coffee” packaged in black bags with skulls and crossbones (Terrible Coffee somehow ended up being the most lucrative of all his post-war endeavors), one of the active ingredients in a pain reliever for Hydromen struggling to adjust to post-war life, a sleep aid for telepaths that muted the sounds of other people’s thoughts, and other little but helpful things that allowed him live comfortably. And beyond comfortable living Dr. Benton liked knowing that he contributed more to the world than violence.

 

He made his way to his kitchen and began to brew a pot of Terrible Coffee (“Terribly Strong” as the slogan went). Nowadays there were devices that made a cup of hot coffee in an instant with a pull of a tab but Dr. Benton refused to use anything other than the coffee machine he bought the year he returned home from war. He had a sentimental attachment to the little gizmo. He couldn’t imagine a morning going by without hearing it slurp water through a strainer to create his coffee. And what was more new devices were just too fast for his taste. Morning and breakfast were not things he wanted to rush through, though that seemed to be the modern way of doing things.

 

As testament to the modern way of doing things his daughter was a huge fan of “Olsen’s All-And-Done Breakfasts”, squat bottles of designer molecules and nanotools suspended in water that promised and delivered an entire relaxing 20 minute long breakfast experience in just one swallow (“An all-natural morning with artificial sensations”). What it did exactly was gradually introduce energy into the body over a 20 minute period coupled with artificial sensations induced by nanotools manipulating the nervous system. The technology was similar to an injectable used by medics during WW2 to jumpstart dying superhumans, but nowhere near as strong. Dr. Benton’s life had been saved more than once during WW2 by technology that was now used as a replacement for breakfast. Such was the dream-world that was won out of a nightmare of a war.

 

The gradual introduction of energy into the body was made more pleasurable by nanotools interacting with the nervous system to generate the sensations of an ideal breakfast experience: the lingering taste of lightly seasoned eggs, the cool tartness of fresh orange juice, the feeling of warm sunlight on the scalp and shoulders, the smell of sizzling bacon, and the sound of birdsong. An alternative “blend” even offered the sound of a light rain shower instead of birdsong. For people constantly on the go like his daughter the superhuman profiler Olsen’s All-and-Done Breakfasts offered 20 minutes of relaxation to play in the back of their mind as they went about having a morning that was anything but relaxing.

 

Dr. Benton tried one of Olsen’s All-and-Done Breakfasts once. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was doing the digesting of someone else’s eating. It was a wonderful tasting breakfast-his brain told him so-but he wasn’t chewing anything, he wasn’t swallowing anything. It was taste without food and the feeling of sunlight on the back of his neck without a sun. He didn’t like it. He couldn’t.

 

For Dr. Benton a twenty minute breakfast had to be a twenty minute breakfast. He wanted to think while he had breakfast. And in order to think he needed to give his thoughts the time and space to exist.

 

Young people just didn’t seem to need or want that amount of of time and space. Everything today was instant. Everything today was close. A person could take the interway to Barsoom and back again and still have time to stop for lunch in Lor. Gapgates allowed buildings to encompass entire countries. A person had only open the door to any of the 59 Statesmen bases located around America to find his or herself in the massive Statesmen headquarters located underneath the Smithsonian. It was rumored that the The Web, mastermind to the anti-crime organization that bore his name, lived in a mansion with doors to any place imaginable. The same was said of Baron Bizarre’s Castle Miraculum , but in that case it was demonstrable fact.

 

“Traveling” and “waiting” were quickly becoming obsolete terms. When he was invited to speak to a group of children enrolled in the Statesmen Educational Expansion or Statesmen Edex about his service during WW2 he had to clarify to the children what he meant when he said that he often had to wait for orders on the battlefield. Why didn’t General Weston just appear to him? At the very least he could have sent his voice over a teledromos.

 

The children had grown up with their thoughts connected to the world through psychic teledromos penetrations into the Noosphere. They had grown up seeing thought and touching thought through thought-wave responsive kineticlight. They simply couldn’t understand how General Weston (who once teamed up with Dr. Benton and Tim as the Minute-Man a year before he enlisted and began his meteoric rise through the ranks) wasn’t able to appear instantly by his side as a little hologram and give orders to his battalion.

 

Dr. Benton’s generation made Herculean efforts to tame space and time. They created spaceships and timeships and warpships and phaseships. They built embassies in the jeweled city-states of Barsoon. They sent diplomats to Olympus. They made contact with the Chromain empire. They rescued the pastoral world of Lor and its angels of bronze and light from the cosmic tyrant known to mortals as The Yellow Claw. They didn’t just add to maps, they redrew them.

 

But this generation had no need for anything as quaint as maps.

 

His generation simply set the groundwork for sequential generations to finalize mankind’s mastery over space. There was no longer any need for maps. How could there be? Interways and gapgates eliminated the distance between locations. Teledromos and kineticlight eliminated the distance between thoughts.

 

The children only understood maps in their present incarnation as artforms. They only understood a map as a record of where a person went and how they got there, as much maps of internal thoughts and feelings as they were the external. They called their history textbooks map books because they explained the choices people made the reasons that led to those choices. That was what a map was to this generation. What Dr. Benton knew as geography was now taught to children in their physics class as “the study of physical laws in the absence of sapient manipulation”.

 

If Dr. Benton so desired he could digest an Owen’s All-and-Done breakfast for 20 minutes while taking the interway to the coral castles of Thule in the Barents Sea. He would travel East through space and hours back in time so that he’d finish his breakfast before breakfast even started.

 

If Dr. Benton so desired he could funnel his senses down a teledromos and experience a live feed of events happening galaxies away. In an instant he would be standing right on the parapets of a floating castle in mystic Croatoan watching stars dance and color gossamer clouds like bright ribbons. In an instant he could be on the shores of the Archipelago Arcane feeling the sand beneath his feet and watching the shimmering ghosts of old gods at play in blue waters older than they were.

 

In an instant he could be anyone doing everything anywhere.

 

Dr. Benton knew something special was happening this morning. He wasn’t sure what exactly, but something special had to be happening. The modern world was simply too large for something special not to be happening somewhere. And if Dr. Benton so desired he could experience that something special as if he were actually there and while warm sunlight touched his skin as if he were actually feeling it and sweet orange juice ran down his tongue as if he were actually tasting it.

 

If Dr. Benton so desired he could be living as if he were actually living.

 

It was a bitter way of thinking about modern life, and ultimately a way that was unfair to the current generation. But he was an old man. He was staring down 100 years of life. He felt that he could excuse himself from having some elderly bitterness toward the young.

 

If Dr. Benton so desired he could live like a modern man.

 

But that was not what he desired. He desired to live like an old man.

 

And so that was what he was.

 

In this day and age anyone could become anything they wanted, even old men that desired to be nothing more than what they were. Dr. Benton had to praise the current generation for that. They had created a world where it was hard to lose, easy to win. He distinctly remember it being the other way around for his world.

 

Dr. Benton saw that his pot of Terrible Coffee was ready. He opened a cabinet and withdrew a cup as simple as it was special. It was a cup that he brought out for mornings after nightmares because it reminded him of the sun and warmth and peace. It was a narrow earthen cup, unadorned and unmarked.

 

But it was sculpted by divine, graceful fingers and blasted into form by celestial fire from another world.

 

It was a gift from the goddess Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and the Japanese people who he fought so many decades ago. She gave it to him when they shared a tea ceremony in 1955.

 

The sun goddess felt acutely responsible for her country’s participation in WW2 even though she was just as much a pawn of the imperial government as the Emperor of Japan who claimed lineage with her. But it was in her name that a tyrannical government bloomed. It was in her name that in 1868 Buddhism was persecuted for the sake of the new, more-Japanese, and less-foreign cult of Shinto. It was in her name that in 1921 priests of the Omotokyo were imprisoned for refusing to worship her.

 

It was even in her name that in 1941 she was summoned forth on exaggerations and lies to accompany the Japanese navy on the disastrous invasion of Hawaii and California. The invasion force was halted by the Axis Smashers and routed when the Hawaiian goddess Pele appeared and engaged Amaterasu. The gentle goddess of the sun had no choice but to defend herself from the enraged goddess of land and fire and wrestle with her for several hours. Their battle smoked the seas and blackened the sky and at the end Amaterasu was left bruised and bloodied. She retreated to Tokyo where the sun in the sky turned as red as her wounds and hid herself beneath a mountain to heal not just from the physical pain of her battle but from the emotional anguish of knowing that those that claimed to worship her most fervently had used her as a weapon of war.

 

It devastated her that the Japanese misunderstood her existence to such a horrific extent.

 

She was the sun. She was too large for any one race. She was too large for any one species. Earth was her child. And like a good mother she gave of her warmth freely and endlessly.

 

Like a good mother she wept when her children fought and worked tirelessly to reconcile them when the fighting was over.