The audience laughed.
'But before you answer that, is it really true that you actually travelled in an AGV?'
'To you and me,' explained Bardo to the audience, 'that's an Anti-Gravity Vehicle.'
'Yes, I did.'
'Can you prove it?'
'Do you believe that they can move objects around the place by using sound?'
'Yes. It's old technology for them. Sound is made to vibrate at the frequency of gravity, between short radio waves and infrared radiation.'
'Thank you for the physics lesson, Dr Karpathian, but some of us are already aware of that. However, I regret to inform you that your knowledge of applied physics and gravitation has been weighed and found wanting.'
'Why do you think we in Atlantis have not applied sound technology based on the frequency of gravity in our construction industry?' he asked.
'I don't know. Do you?'
'Of course I do. It's because it cannot be done.'
The engineer sat as the agitated man sitting next to him stood up abruptly.
'Bardo, if I may. Excuse me. Thank you. I'm also an engineer. Electronics. Dr Karpathian, you took no photos, no videos, you made no recordings. You claim that the battery in your phone was flat, yet you were in a country you describe as a highly advanced civilisation. What? With no electricity or phones? '
The audience broke into laughter again.
'Can you prove anything, sir,' he went on, 'anything at all about your strange adventures and unspoken dialogues in Lemuria?'
'I rest my case.'
He sat to a cacophony of laughter, smart remarks and applause. The two engineers high-fived for the camera.
Bardo had to raise his voice into the microphone over the noise.
'The man at the back, with the red cap.'
'Assuming that the reports you submitted to the media are actually true, unlike the gentlemen at the front I have no reason to believe that you are being economical with the truth, Dr Karpathian. My question is, how can you be sure that they haven't sent you back with fake news? You know, those holograms, and what have you. How do you know all that wasn't just a smoke-and-mirrors stunt to get you to believe that they are as advanced as they claim? Do you know what I mean, sir?'
'Yeah!' the man next to him concurred from his seat. He was also wearing a red cap, but was addressing Bardo, not me.
'How do we know he's not some kind of a double agent?'
'Maybe I am,' I responded. 'But given that our media have long decided that the Lemurians' defence forces are vastly superior to ours, why would they need a spy in Atlantis?'
'Maybe he's an industrial spy!' answered the man, still addressing Bardo.
'Yes,' I responded. 'Maybe I'm an industrial spy, secretly employed by the FTI.'
'That's Food Technology Innovations to you and me,' interjected Bardo for the camera.
'Thank you, Bardo,' I continued. 'Maybe the Lemurians, those poor starving devils, are waiting for a postcard - delivered by carrier-pigeon, of course - with a long list of our secret colouring agents, taste enhancers and preservatives that go into the Veal Deal or the High-Octane Bull-Burger...'
Burst of laughter and applause from the crowd.
'...not to mention that redoubtable health-hazard beloved of our youth, AtlaKola!'
Surprisingly, I actually got a round of applause from the audience for that too, although I think it might have been a sympathy clap. Or maybe because I made them laugh. Or maybe it was a covert recognition of the role fast food was playing in the alarming increase of obesity, diabetes, OCD, ADHD and depression in our school populations right across the continent, a hot topic in the media these days. Bardo, no doubt with advertising revenue in mind, shook his head disapprovingly at the camera. 'You, madam, in the red hat. Yes, you.'
'Dr Karpathian, you are a PhD graduate in chemistry, are you not?'
'Yes. That is correct.'
'So you must know how drugs work. Right?'
'In theory, yes.'
'I have already been quoted in the media as stating that most drugs work due to the placebo effect.'
The audience moaned audibly.
'And do you stand by that remark?'
'Yes. That is my belief.'
Heads were shaking in disapproval throughout the muttering audience.
'It is your belief, Dr Karpathian?' she queried, petulantly. 'Are you suggesting that our multi-billion atlar industry is some kind of a confidence trick?'
The camera panned to the audience, then to Bardo, then to me and then quickly back to the woman in the red hat.
'I'm sorry, Bardo,' she went on, 'but as a laboratory technician working for a prestigious and well-established company that employs tens of thousands of people throughout the continent, in an industry which invests tens of millions of atlars per year in medical research and clinical trials, I insist that I receive an answer to my question.'
'Well, Jordan? What do you say? Are we all being conned by Big Pharma?'
'I wouldn't put it that way, Bardo.'
'So how would you put it, then?'
'It's what I was saying earlier. We need a root and branch overhaul of the way we work with nature and our planet. We are not cars; we are rivers of energy and information, changing, transforming, second by second. Why do you think the numbers of iatrogenic deaths in Atlantis are so high? We need to look at the root causes of disease and illness, not neutralise symptoms with invasive and dangerous drug therapies that only precipitate further problems downstream. I speak here of chronic illnesses, of course, not medical intervention in acute cases. How can we dare to apply therapies of any kind to these chronic illnesses, therapies we ourselves do not fully understand, to a human body we do not fully know? If our medical model continues to ignore the existence of the subtle, or energy body, a fact which has been known to mankind for thousands of years, how can it possibly hope to succeed in curing, much less healing the body of diseases that will continue to manifest themselves in one form or another from generation to generation, no matter much money we throw at them?'
'You see, Bardo?' responded the woman, heatedly, pointing her finger at me. 'This public servant here, posing as a regulator of quality standards, standards already approved by our quality control experts, really wants to shut us all down! We are the taxpayers. If we, the taxpayers, are out of work, how are we going to pay his salary? Has he thought about that? Hm? Who does he think he is, coming back here from his junket in Woo-woo Land with half-baked ideas that have no scientific basis whatsoever, telling us how to run our country and our lives? It's an outrage!'
The audience applauded loudly as she sat back in indignation.
# 41 next week! Catch up on: gregoryrosenstock.blogspot.com