The Asteroid Conflicts

Marcus locks his spacecraft in orbit around Asteroid 98308 and begins the loading bay sequence to deploy the autonomous robot mining rigs. All the system checks have passed, and Marcus transmits the notification to his fleet commander that he and his partner will begin the deployment countdown sequence. The first surveyor lands on the predesignated location of 98308 and begins detailed monitoring of the rotation of the asteroid and taking samples.

Marcus analyzes the data, which indicate massive gold formations at the location. He transmits his findings back to the fleet commander that he’s going to begin the sequence to create the first mining rig landing location.

“Go ahead and launch the first rig, John.”

John is stationed on the other side of the spacecraft from Marcus. “Confirmed data, beginning sequence to launch first rig.”

One by one, the 12 surveyors are launched and perform their tasks without issue and transmit the data back to Marcus. Only 3 of the locations show signs of precious metals, but the quantity of the metal is well worth the effort. Marcus has John initiate the retrieval sequence of the 12 surveyors, and each of them return back to the loading bay without issue and with minimal effect on 98308’s very slow rotation.

Marcus’ ship finally moves into the direct line of sight communication with his fleet commander, and their ships create an automatic laser communication connection. The video link shows the fleet commander and medic on Marcus’s screen, and they begin to check-in on him while another medic checks in with John.

“How’s it going out there Marcus? How’s she handling?” The fleet commander asks Marcus.

“Steady, ma’am. This is the most solid ship I’ve been on yet! I’m really impressed.”

The medic asks Marcus some questions about his mental state and how he has handled the 17 day trip with John. Marcus mentions that it’s been a good trip, and that he’s been very comfortable the entire time.

“Remember, Marcus,” The Commander starts off, “When you go into Earth’s shadow, it’s going to be a solid 115 minutes of testing of that ship’s life support and navigation systems, but you’re going to be on your own for pretty much the entire time. We’re deploying the haulers. They will intercept your trajectory in about 15 days, which gives the mining rigs plenty of time to strip that rock!”

“Yes, ma’am. This is what we trained for. We have checked and rechecked each of the systems. Everything is working exactly as it should. This is a well built machine! Mining rigs are going full speed ahead, and everything is reporting back in perfect condition. We could not have timed this any better!”

They finish discussing the mission, and then the commander transmits a message they received from Marcus’ wife and children. Marcus watches the video with a big smile and then records a video of his own to have the fleet commander send back to Earth while he’s out of communication. John also receives a message from his family.

The ship goes out of direct line-of-sight communication with the fleet commander. John calls Marcus via the in ship video communication channel.

“Marcus, I really appreciate you vouching for me for this position. This is going to change my family’s lives! I can’t thank you enough for believing in me. My family thanks you as well.”

Marcus chokes up but holds it back. “John, you’re like my little brother. We’ve known each other for how many years now? Heck, you were my wing man when I met my wife! I wouldn’t have the life I have without you by my side. I couldn’t imagine being on this mission with anyone else. We’re going back to Earth as billionaires!”

They smile at each other and give each other a thumbs up and prepare for the shadow transit.

#

30 minutes into the shadow transit Marcus receives a notification from the system monitoring the rotation of 98308 that an anomaly has been detected in the asteroid’s speed of rotation. Marcus evaluates the data as it’s coming in, and comes to the conclusion that passing through Earth’s shadow causes the rotation of 98308 to speed up by a considerably measurable amount. He logs the information into the tracking software and records a video of him stating the findings.

Another 50 minutes into the shadow transit and Marcus feels a massive shake in the ship. The hull monitoring system begins flashing a notification that the hull has been breached and the automatic recovery system has failed to seal the hull in Bay Module A. Marcus calls John on the video system and goes pale. He vomits inside his helmet as he sees John’s lifeless body strapped into his station with a golf ball-sized hole right through the middle of John’s helmet. John’s helmet is filled with frozen blood like an aquarium with one of John’s eyes pressed up against the left side of the helmet and the other sticking out of the other side of the helmet where the projectile exited.

Marcus’ hand is shaking as he closes the communication channel and removes his helmet. It’s considerably colder than it was previously, and the system monitoring the air temperature is starting to warn him that temperature in his command module is dropping quickly and will be unsafe for anyone without a suit within 30 seconds. He heads over to the closet, opens the door and pulls out the helmet from his spare suit in the closet. He cleans up his suit as much as possible and puts on his helmet and seals it. He then places his vomit filled helmet in the closet and closes the closet.

He heads back over to his command chair and secures himself. He looks at the clock to see how much more time is left in the Shadow. 30 minutes. He looks at the pitch of the ship and notices that it’s still increasing at an accelerating rate.

He records a brief video update, “The ship has been stuck by a golf ball-sized object that has penetrated the hull and killed my partner. Repeat, my partner John Ellis is dead. The hull is breached and the automatic sealing has been unable to reseal Bay Module A. The ship is appearing to head into a spiral. The recommended action is to release the damaged module of the ship to help correct the trajectory.”

Marcus calmly performs the sequence of commands to jettison the module where John’s body is. The system confirms that the release of that module will be possible inside of a three minute window, but it might not stop the leak unless Marcus also releases the adjacent cargo bay that was also damaged by the projectile.

Marcus starts talking to himself as he’s going through the data. “Okay. If I hold on to everything, I’m going to spiral and lose total control of the ship in approximately 14 minutes and lose all life support within 1 week. If I release John’s module but not the adjacent cargo bay, The ship will be able to correct the spiral, but I’m still going to lose life support in 10 days. I can figure out something in 10 days!”

He closes his eyes and thinks about all the good times he had with John. Tears begin forming in his eyes as he opens them and then presses the button to release the module with John. He drops his head and lets out a deep sigh.

#

Marcus sends out an SOS signal in hopes that it will reach the haulers in time for them to speed up their arrival and get to him in time. The ship’s navigation system has begun correcting for the damage to Bay Module A, but calculations are showing that it’s catching just enough solar wind that he’ll need to refuel the pitch correction module every 3 hours in order to allow the navigation system to continue to make the corrections needed to keep him in orbit around the asteroid. If he breaks orbit, he’ll never be found.

He spends the next 48 hours combing through manuals and every scenario he can come up with that will give him the best chance of survival without having to jettison any equipment in the damaged Bay Module A. Marcus realizes that he needs to get some sleep in order to keep his mind sharp. He secures himself in his bed and closes his eyes. Within seconds of falling asleep, he opens his eyes, “That’s it!”.

Marcus unstraps himself from his bed, puts his helmet back on, and pulls himself as quick as possible through the ship to the entrance to the damaged Bay Module A. He pauses, realizing that he might be making a delirious decision that’s deadly dangerous. He slows his breathing and makes his way back to his command module where he sits down and meditates.

As Marcus opens his eyes from meditation, he hears a crackle from the inbound receiver. He stares at the receiver as if he can hear with his eyes. A few minutes later he hears another crackle with a faint voice.

“What are the odds there’s someone else out here?” Marcus says to himself. “You’re hearing things, pal. Get back to bed.”

Marcus waits in front of the receiver a bit longer. There are no more crackles. He pulls himself back over to his bed, straps himself in, lets out a deep breath, and then falls into a deep sleep.

#

Marcus wakes from his sleep, feeling well rested. He goes over his calculations again and confirms that his plan will work. He pulls himself through to the ship to the Bay Module A entrance again. He double checks his suit, helmet, and harness buckle. He begins to depressurize the module he’s in so that he can start unlocking the door to the damaged Bay Module A. Once depressurized, he initiates the sequence to open the doors.

As the doors open, the system notifies him that there is a stability issue with the connection between his module and Bay Module A. The damage to Bay Module A is much worse than he was able to see through the porthole. Most of the back end of the module has been ripped off of the module. He sets out to execute his plan.

Using straps, Marcus secures the first mining rig near the door to Bay Module B. He double checks that Bay Module B is not pressurized and initiates the door unlock sequence. He moves the mining rig into Bay Module B and secures it with the straps. He closes the doors between Bay Module A and B and then goes back out of Bay Module A so that he can go refuel the pitch correction system.

One by one, Marcus methodically moves each mining rig from the damaged Bay Module A to Bay Module B, and then checks the pitch correction system to make sure that it has enough fuel. Every three mining rigs, he has to recharge his oxygen. Slowly but surely, Marcus has moved each of the mining rigs from the damaged Bay Module A into Bay Module B and secured them.

He goes back into this command module and runs through a series of simulations to make sure he can jettison the now empty damaged Bay Module A without causing any problems with this orbit. He figures out the sequence that will work best and programs it’s execution into the module management and navigation systems.

The module management system confirms the simulation outcome! Marcus begins the countdown sequence to execute the module jettison plan. Everything goes off without a hitch, and the navigation system makes the corrections needed to keep orbit around 98308! Marcus sits back in his command chair, straps himself in, and breathes a sigh of relief.

There’s another crackle on the inbound receiver, and Marcus jumps up in his chair from falling asleep. “Definitely not just hearing things, pal. Someone is nearby!” Marcus says to himself. “Let’s hope they are in my path!” Marcus is excited about the thought of rescue!

Another crackle comes in on the receiver, this time it is much clearer. “98308, we have received your distress signal. We are in your path and can provide assistance. We are transmitting our intercept plan on encoding 34871 dash Alpha Sigma Tango. Please confirm intercept plan on encoding 34871 dash Alpha Sigma Tango.”

Marcus pulls in the data communication and analyzes the plan. They will be able to intercept him in 2 days! Marcus communicates back to the other ship that he has confirmed the data received and is thankful for their help.

#

“I’m just relieved that you guys were here to save my ass!” Marcus exclaims to the captain of his rescue vessel.

Captain Williams smiles, “Hey, we may work for competing mining companies, but I’ll never let that stop me or any of my men from being good human beings.”

Marcus floats around introducing himself to the other 11 men standing on board Captain Williams’ ship, shaking each of their hands. A couple of the men seem a bit shady, but Marcus keeps his poker face of appreciation for their help.

“Epher, get this man a pair of boots?” Captain Williams orders. “How long until you rendezvous with your haulers, Marcus?” Captain Williams asks.

“Should be 11 to 12 days, sir. Line of sight communication within about 3 days.”

“You’re welcome to stay aboard with us. Or if you’d like to go risk it back on your ship over the next 12 days…” Captain Williams gestures with open palms, “The choice is yours. Per Space Ordinance 85, we’ll supply you with any rations you need to survive, and we’ll stay in orbit with you until your fleet haulers arrive.”

Epher comes back in with a pair of boots and helps Marcus into them so that he can now securely stand in the room with the others.

Marcus looks at the group of men and looks back to Captain Williams. “Since it’s all the same, Captain, I’ll head back to my ship with the rations you feel are fair.”

Captain Williams places his hands on his hips and smiles, “True loyalty is hard to come by, Marcus. I sure hope Miller Mining recognizes your dedication to them. If that’s ever not the case, I want you to get in contact with me directly.”

The two walk side by side as Captain Williams places his arm around Marcus’ shoulder and walks hims out of the room. “Before you leave, I want to show you something.” Captain Williams says to Marcus.

#

Marcus and Captain Williams walk into a massive observation deck with multiple telescopes and a long thin portal that stretches across the entire width of the room. Marcus can see his ship off in the distance, and his jaw drops as Captain Williams hands him a large stack of cash.

“Look, kid. I know they don’t pay you shit at Miller. They’re going to give you what? 10% of the draw? Maybe 12, if you’re lucky. You risked your ass, and your best friend is dead.” Captain Williams starts.

Marcus interrupts, “This is a big rock, sir. I’m going back a billionaire.” He smiles big.

Captain Williams smiles back. “Look, I don’t want to burst your bubble, kid. Space Ordinance 85 also means that we get to keep half your haul because we rescued you. We’re missing our own asteroid deadline, and it was a big one! We don’t know for sure what the take would be on that one, but the laws are the laws. And they are good laws, son. They saved your ass.”

“I thought you said you did it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s a win-win, kid. Making money is the right thing to do. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, and now you’ve learned it. Why do you think I’m flying around in the latest Xavier crafts while you’re flying around in that rinky dink death trap?”

“Hey, that bucket of bolts held together rather well considering what we were hit by.”

“That bucket of bolts is still around because of your resourcefulness, kid! It’s YOU that saved that ship. Not the other way around.” Captain Williams pauses as he lets Marcus reflect on what he just said.

Marcus is upset that he’s going to be going home with half the haul he planned on. He’s thinking about how it’s not going to be enough to cover all his bills from 10 years like he had planned.

Captain Williams points over to the far side of the room where there’s a large dent on the side of the wall. “You see that dent? That’s from a rock the same size as what hit your ship and nearly killed you, if not for your ingenuity and dedication, son.”

Marcus looks at the dent and is in awe of how the ship withstood the projectile. “That’s impressive, sir, but Miller has the best surveying platform in the solar system. It’s a million times better than what you’re using from Xavier, and you know that.”

“Listen, kid. I can see your heart. I can see your potential. If I had just 5 men like you, instead of these clowns on my ship right now, I’d be hauling 100 times what I am now. I know a great opportunity when I see one. And you, Marcus! You are a great opportunity. And this is a great opportunity for you too!”

Marcus’ face shifts from skeptical to intrigued. “What are we talking about here?”

“Before we go any further, I have one question for you.”

“What’s that, Cap?”

“Would 1 billion a month, that’s with a b, Marcus…”

“Per month?”

“Yes, per month, and it gets even better, kid.”

Marcus smiles thinking about how 1 billion is 100 times what he’s making already. “I’m not sure how you can get better than 1 billion per month, but I’m all ears!”

“You get to stay at home with your wife and kids. No more space cowboy bullshit.” Captain Williams places his left hand on Marcus’ right shoulder.

Marcus looks at Captain Williams with contempt, “You think I’m stupid?” He shrugs off Captain Williams’ hand from his shoulder and turns away from him. “You think I’m some chump? You come save my ass, and you think I’m going to pull some bullshit espionage on my employer because you throw a billion in my face!”

Captain Williams smiles at Marcus. “A billion a month! For the rest of your life! You’re a good man. You deserve to be living in a luxury home with your beautiful wife and children rather than floating around in space as a frozen pop like your best friend.”

Marcus turns to Captain Williams in a rage and raises his fist. He pauses as he looks at Captain Williams who’s still smiling. “You’re not even worth it. Trying to take advantage of me like this. You’re a sick man.” He shoves the stack of cash into Captain Williams. “Take your blood money to some other sucker.”

Captain Williams looks Marcus in the eyes, “10 billion a month?”

“Deal with the devil.” Marcus’ pupils dilate, and Captain Williams knows he’s got him. Marcus looks down and then back to Captain Williams. “What do you need me to do? Blow up my ship?”

Captain Williams smirks, “Don’t be so silly, Marcus.” He pulls a black device out from the middle of the cash and hands it to Marcus. “Now, listen very careful to every word I’m about to tell you. Don’t say anything until the end, and don’t expect me to answer any questions. I have no answers.”

Marcus folds his arms in front of him and listens intently to everything Captain Williams says.

“When you get back to your fleet, they are going to take you in for debrief on the main carrier. You seem like a smart computer guy. Login with your friend’s credentials. You have the next 11 days to figure that part out. Plug in that device for one minute and then remove it and destroy it. How you do that is entirely up to you. Keep your story straight and your mouth shut about this conversation.”

Marcus interrupts, “They’re going to know it’s me, if I hack John’s account.”

Captain Williams becomes irritated, “That’s your one and only chance to not shut up and listen!” He continues calmly, “They are required by Space Ordinance 85 to send you back to Earth immediately. That will happen before they know anything. You WILL be arrested when you land on Earth. Call nobody but your wife, and explain that there is a mix up you will sort out. Three days after you arrive, you will receive a visitor. You will not know his name.”

Captain Williams pauses between each word, “I. Do. Not. Know. His. Name”, and then continues, “You will follow every direction he gives you without exception. Then you and your beautiful family live happily ever after so long as you keep your mouth shut and your nerves as steel.”

Marcus keeps looking into Captain Williams’ eyes. “This is the real deal, isn’t it?”

“You bet your ass, son.” Captain Williams says in such a calm manner that it sends chills down Marcus’ spine.

#

Marcus is heading back to his ship on the shuttle navigated by Epher. As they approach his ship, the image of John’s helmet flashes in his mind. He blinks repeatedly as if to remove that image from his mind’s eye. He looks at his ship and how odd it looks with the two jettisoned modules. The truth becomes apparent. He looks down at the black device in his hand and thinks to himself, “You just sold your soul to the devil.”

The Photobooth

“Whatever you do, do not look at the photos on the proof sheet. Only look at the photos to give to the people that come out of the photo booth,” Dimitri tells his new employee Steve.

“Got it, Mr. Karran. I’ll make sure to only look at the four images that are printed on the photo booth. If they need an additional set, I’ll just print the four the computer shows on the print list.” Steve reiterates everything Dimitri has told him during his training for how to run the photo booth.

“Okay, kid! This is all you! I’m counting on you to do a good job, and I’m trusting you to follow all the detailed instructions I have given you.”

“I’ve got this Mr. Karran! Enjoy the fight.”

Dimitri takes a couple of steps away from Steve and then turns around.

“You’ve been training me to six months. I’ve got this. Trust me!” Steve smiles back to Dimitri.

Dimitri turns and heads out the door of the venue and gives one last glance towards Steve before closing the door and heading to the underground boxing match he’d been planning to go to all week.

Steve makes some minor refinements to the lighting in the photo booth and takes pictures of himself to ensure the lighting and output are producing the proper results. Everything looks good except for one spot in each of the photos. Steve examines the camera lens and takes more photos. The spot is still there. As he stares intently at the photo, he’s started by a young woman who comes up behind him.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you jump”, she says.

Steve is smitten by her beauty. He rubs the back of his head nervously as he’s stumbles around for words to say to her.

“How long have you been running the photo booth?”

“Oh, um… I’ve been working with Mr. Karran for the last six months. His photo booth takes the best pictures and has all the coolest features.”

“I’m Leslie, by the way.” Leslie extends her hand and bats her eyes at Steve. “You say this takes the best photos, eh? I always look lousy in photos. I don’t even have an Instagram account because my selfies always make me look like I’m deformed. I can never get the right angle.”

“Oh, that seems hard to believe. I’m Steve, by the way.”

Leslie leans in a bit closer to Steve. Steve gets even more nervous, and his hands begin shaking slightly.

His voice cracks as he says, “If you want, I can take a few photos of you, and you can see how beautiful you… errr, I mean… how good the photos come out.”

Leslie skips into the photo booth, “Alright Ansel Adams! Take your best shot!”

Steve has the photo booth take several photos of Leslie as she poses in a variety of flirtatious and playful poses. Steve is smiling as she’s playing around in the photo booth. Steve senses someone standing behind him. He turns around, and a very large man is standing with his arms folded across his chest staring down at Steve.

Leslie comes out of the photo booth laughing and smiling and pauses as she looks at Steve. “Hi, honey! This is Steve. Let me see the photos, Steve.”

Steve hands the photo booth photos to Leslie and notices Leslie’s boyfriend staring at his every move with a clenched jaw. Leslie is smiling as she’s looking at the photos.

“These are great, Steve!”

“How about I take photos of both of you?” Steve nervously says, trying to get Leslie’s boyfriend to get out of his personal space.

“That’s a great idea, Steve! C’mon Renee! Let’s take some photos together.”

Renee reluctantly goes into the photo booth with Leslie. Leslie begins flirting with the camera again, but Steve knows she’s flirting with him. He just can’t get passed the fact that there’s a 200 lb pile of meat in the photo booth with her who seems perfectly willing to snap his head off without even breaking a sweat.

“Smile, Renee,” Steve enjoys his one moment of power over his arch nemesis giant in the photo booth.

Leslie looks at Renee and notices he’s not smiling. “Ya, Renee, smile!”

#

A few days later, Steve is at lunch at his favorite place with Dimitri.

“I really appreciate you doing such a good job at the wedding the other night, Steve. The wedding organizer said you did a great job, and she put us on her short list of preferred vendors. I have a special gift for you.” Dimitri hands Steve an envelope.

Steve opens the envelope and sees $300 inside. His eyes widen! “Thank you, so much, Mr Karran.”

“Hey, don’t get all mushy on me, kid. My fighter won. If he had lost, you wouldn’t be getting a bonus.”

Steve is looking up at the television in the diner when he sees a picture of Leslie on the screen with the caption: Missing Person.

Dimitri notices that Steve is suddenly disturbed by something. He turns to look at the television, “You know that girl?”

“Uh, no, Mr. Karran. Just sad to see someone so beautiful go missing. I hope they find her. Hey, I need to get going to see my mom in the home.” Steve gets up, leaving his food half eaten.

“Okay, Steve. You do that. I’ll get this. Tell your mom I said hello, and that I’m very proud of your hard work.”

Steve leaves the diner in a hurry, and Dimitri is puzzled by his behavior. The wedding planner from the wedding enters the diner and notices Dimitri sitting by himself. She comes over sits down across from Dimitri, and they begin talking about business. Dimitri notices the woman’s face change from gleefulness to sadness. He again, turns to look at the television.

“You know that girl?”

“She was one of the bridesmaids at the wedding a few days ago. The one Steve was working at. That’s so sad. I hope they find her alive, but in cases like that it almost never ends well.”

#

Dimitri parks his car in front of Steve’s apartment and heads up to his unit. He knocks on the door, but there is no answer. He uses the spare that Steve had given him a month earlier to unlock the door and goes inside. He looks around the apartment and notices the large knife is missing from the knife block in Steve’s kitchen. He finds photo booth images of Leslie sitting on the nightstand next to Steve’s bed. He runs out of the apartment, locks the door, and jumps into his car to head to his office.

Dimitri arrives at his office and pulls up the proof sheet box from the wedding when Steve operated the photo booth. He goes through all the proof sheets, but a couple of them are missing. “Steve must has taken the proof sheets,” Dimiti thinks to himself as he begins to panic.

Just as Dimiri comes to this realization, two police detectives enter his office. They ask Dimitri a few questions about the evening and about his whereabouts. Dimitri tries to dodge their questions and not reveal anything about Steve or the fact that he himself suspects Steve might have been involved. The cops notice he’s acting paranoid and ask him to come in to the station for a few more questions.

“Anything I can do to help, officers.”

The detectives bring him down to the station. Once Dimitri is out of sight of his office, detectives and uniformed officers begin searching his office. They find all the copies of photos from the photo booth sessions he’s done before. They also find the proof sheets and notice that there are several disturbing images on the proof sheets. Images where people are strangling other people, stabbing each other, and performing other violent acts against each other.

One of the detectives recognizes one of the girls in the photos is also a girl who had gone missing about 4 months ago. The detective has the officers collect all the photos and bring them to the station and then she notifies the two main detectives about the findings. She brings in a team of people with missing person cases and photos that they use to search through the pile of images collected from Dimitri’s office to see if there are other missing person cases the findings will shed light on. They find another half dozen missing person matches!

Meanwhile, the two detectives are interrogating Dimitri about his business and his whereabouts on the night of the wedding when Leslie went missing. Fearing what might take place if he let’s the police know that he was at an illegal fighting match, Dimitri is evasive and doesn’t have an alibi that the detectives can confirm. Dimitri becomes increasingly nervous, and the detectives become more convinced that they either have their man or an accomplice.

#

Steve is sitting in his car outside a warehouse in downtown. He’s staring at the proof sheet he took from Dimitri’s office and is fixated on a picture of Renee choking Leslie and the next frame showing her passed out and Renee smiling. Steve recognizes the inside of the warehouse because it’s a location where he has done photo shoots before. He works up the courage to go into the warehouse with the kitchen knife he took from his apartment.

He opens the door slowly and enters the warehouse. There’s a section of the warehouse setup for photos with lighting and furniture. The furniture matches what Steve noticed in the photos on the proof sheet. He hears Leslie’s voice from the photo area and goes running over to find her standing in lace lingerie, talking on the phone. He hides the kitchen knife behind his back.

She notices Steve and smiles. “I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.” She hangs up her phone. “I was hoping you’d find me, Steve.” She walks seductively over to Steve, licking her dark red lips as she places her arms on his shoulders and plants a hot, passionate kiss on Steve’s lips. Steve notices the photography lights flash. His body practically goes limp as Leslie begins to passionately kiss him deeper and deeper.

He feels the knife slip out of his hand but doesn’t hear it hit the ground. Then he feels a sharp pain enter the left side of his back. He tries to pull away from Leslie, but she holds him tight as he feels another sharp pain enter the right side of his back and his body loses control. He notices the photography lights flash again and again. He feels warm liquid running down his lower back and down his legs as his legs begin to buckle under his own weight; all the while, Leslie continues to hold him tight and kiss him passionately, muffling his cries of pain.

He can’t feel his legs as he falls to the ground and Leslie falls with him and straddles him, holding his face as she continues to plant kisses all over his face, smearing his face with bright red lipstick. He feels another sharp pain in the right side of his rib cage and suddenly cannot breathe. He’s gasping for air as he can feel the warmth of his blood running out the right side of his rib cage. He notices the photography lights continue to flash. He spits up blood out of his mouth and it runs down his face as he chokes on the blood running into his lungs.

Leslie licks the blood from the corner of Steve’s mouth as he looks up and sees Renee standing over them both with Steve’s blood soaked kitchen knife in his hand. She kisses Steve passionately again, swirling her tongue around in his mouth filled with blood. She feels Steve’s body go completely limp, and she sits up on top of Steve’s nearly lifeless body and reaches over to grab the knife from Renee’s hand. She reaches high into the air with the knife. Steve notices the photography lights flash one last time.

Central Artificial Intelligence

Richard presses the enter key with enthusiasm as pushes his chair back away from his desk, lifting his arms in triumph. His deep exhale is cut short as the rollers on the bottom of his chair get stuck on all the garbage sitting on the floor behind him, and his chair tips over; dropping him to the ground. At that very moment, his boss and his boss’s boss enter his office.

Struggling to stand up as he slips on all the garbage on the floor, Richard makes attempts to grunt out words. His superior look at him with disdain.

“Are you finished dicking off, Aryu?” Richard’s boss always refers to him by his last name, and Richard hates it.

“Yes, ma’am! It’s  actively patrolling the control dataset as we speak.”

“What’s the ETA?”

As if Richard’s new artificial intelligence program was listening to the conversation they were having, a notification is displayed on his screen: Terrorist Suspect Identified with certainty of 85%

Richard’s boss’ boss steps on a bunch of the garbage on the floor as he walks over to the screen, leans forward, and reads the report on the screen. “This is great work, son!”

Richard finally stands up and stands next to his boss. He smiles and looks over at his boss.

She looks at him and squints her eyes as she scowls, “It’s a month late, but if the results are as good as promised, we can start running this against live data by the end of this week.”

The boss’ boss walks up closely to both of them, standing directly in front of Richard. “Come now. This man may be as sloven as a pig, but a good job is a good job.” He looks Richard in the eyes and places both of his hands on Richard’s shoulders. “You should be proud of yourself, son. Your work is going to save a lot of lives. And you’re going to make your alma mater proud.”

Richard looks over at his degree from MIT on the wall as his boss’ boss walks passed him with Richard’s boss following close on his tail. Richard’s boss’ boss smiles and opens the door for Richard’s boss. As they both leave the room, Richard overhears his boss’ boss say, “Get this thing live ASAP.”

#

Three years have passed since the CIA has brought Richard’s terrorist identifying AI online. It has already helped identify and track scores of terrorists, and it has provided the CIA with a huge boost in capturing and terminating some of the terrorists. More importantly, it has accurately cleared hundreds of suspected terrorists. As a result, the CIA has become more efficient with it’s surveillance and been able to reallocate valuable resources to other projects.

Richard is sitting in his office reviewing a set of data anomalies he has discovered with his team. There is a trove of data regarding a suspected female terrorist: Serphina Ang. Richard pauses as he admires her beauty and has to remind himself that she’s likely a highly dangerous terrorist. He pours over the data with his team, and everyone comes to the same conclusion the AI system came to earlier that week: Serphina Ang is not a terrorist.

Something in Richard’s gut holds him back from accepting the conclusion himself, but he reports the finding to his superiors. However, he keeps his data hook active on collecting data and decides he’s going to keep tracking the information himself.

Week after week, month after month, Richard’s AI program continues to help US intelligence decimate countless terrorist organizations around the globe. The number of terrorist attacks has dropped to a fraction of what it was over the previous 10 years, and the success in curbing terrorism around the globe has begun to result in monumental shifts in political power throughout virtually every nation. Political incumbents are easily winning reelection and their party members are gaining seats with each passing election.

This massive political shift is not isolated to the United States. Nations across the globe are seeing a rise in the popularity of the political party who was in charge when the AI program began helping more efficiently target and take down terrorists. Seizing on this political windfall, politicians begin to introduce more laws that will make it easier for the CIA AI application to gain access to more data.

Major tech companies, including operating system suppliers and hardware manufactures are required to make gaining access to their systems and hardware easier for the AI application; or they risk fines, jail time, and permanent removal from coveted memberships in a variety of special privilege organizations known as Access Programs.

#

Seven years has passed since the enactment of the Terrorist Information Access Act. The CIA’s AI program has all but eliminated terrorism throughout the entire world! Richard has been featured on the cover of numerous publications ranging from technology to law enforcement to educational publications. He’s hailed as a hero for his ground breaking AI that has not just help halt terrorism but also helped protect consumer privacy.

Enhancements have been made to the AI application that have also helped reduce computer virus infections from spreading and improved citizen privacy. The CIA now identifies local law enforcement infringements on citizen privacy and provides that information to the FBI, which has cracked down heavily on local law enforcement abuses. The AI has been used as a witness in a number of abuse of power cases that have helped bring police brutality cases and corruption to an all time low.

Richard is sleeping in bed next to his wife. She gets up and goes the the bathroom when there’s a loud bang at the front door. It’s the FBI raiding his home!

Richard’s alarm system goes off, and his security bots incapacitate the FBI agents who have entered his home. He jumps out of bed and heads to his safe room where he starts looking at the surveillance videos of his security system.

The FBI has cut the power to his compound, but he’s running on his own underground power system. There are dozens of FBI agents outside his home. All of his wired connections have been cut, and there is an interference signal jamming all of his incoming and outgoing wireless signals.

The floor to ceiling window that makes up his east facing wall has been shattered by a rocket propelled flash bomb followed by a tear gas canister. Richard uses his intercom system to call into the bathroom to his wife. There’s no answer. He sends a signal to his security bots to guard the hallway leading to the bathroom where his wife is located.

He receives a call over a secure connection the director of the CIA had him install in his safe room.

Richard is angry, “Harry, what’s going on? Why are there a hundred FBI agents outside my house?”

“Richard, you’re going to have to turn yourself in.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Harry? I’m the one catching all the criminals!”

“Richard, just turn yourself into these guys, and everything is going to be fine.”

“This is bullshit, Harry. What is really going on here? Is this some sort of power grab?”

“They know about your surveillance of Ang. Turn yourself in and make this as painless as possible for everyone.”

Richard drops the phone and pauses for a moment. His heart is racing. He thinks about his wife and his parents. He picks the phone up again and tells Harry that he’ll come out and face the consequences. He knows full well that the punishment for violating surveillance laws is the death penalty.

Harry comes back on the line with Richard and tells him that they are sending in four agents to escort him into the armored transport that will take him to the secured FBI interrogation facility. Richard sees the four agents heading towards his front door. Richard sends the command to his security bots to deactivate and go into hibernate mode.

Richard comes out of his safe room and opens the door to his bathroom. His wife is sitting on the sink crying. Richard walks up to her and hugs her tight. She pushes him away.

“Don’t touch me. I don’t know what you got yourself into. Until you prove yourself innocent, you’re not my husband! Stay the hell away from me!”

Richard drops his hands in defeat and heads out of the bathroom and down the hallway. The FBI agents are at the end of the hallway.

“Richard Tos, you are under arrest for the unauthorized use of surveillance data. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Richard is silent as the agents handcuff him and take him to the armored transport.

#

Richard is sitting on a sofa in his house arrest condo watching television when there is a knock on the door. He grabs his beer off the end table and walks over to the door. As he opens the door he drops his beer. “Professor!”

Ned Xavier was Richard’s AI professor at MIT, and he’s standing in front of Richard, wearing his signature white satin three piece suit with silver tie. He gives Richard a smug smile and tilts his head to look around Richard to confirm that nobody else is in the room and then raises his eye brows in anticipation. Richard remains in the doorway, dumbfounded.

“Uh, Xavier…” He stumbles for words as he stumbles to pickup his beer from the floor. “Yes, come on in, Xavier.”

Ned enters the room and Richard closes the door behind him, mumbling incoherently to himself.

Ned begins to speak, “Since we’re going to be working together, I’m going to tell you an important secret…” Ned pauses as he looks around at the mess in Richard’s house arrest condo. “… My name is really Sigmund Adam.”

“Oh. Why do you go by Ned Xavier?”

“I like the college.”

“Xavier is a much cooler name than Sigmund!” Richard realizes what Ned had first said. “Wait! You want me to come work for you?”

“With.”

“You realize I’m on trial for a crime that could lead to the death penalty, right?”

“Yes.”

“But I’m innocent! Serphina Ang is a terrorist. Sure, I was performing unsanctioned surveillance, but it was something my program missed.”

“Missed?”

“Well… I have reviewed the data over and over, and even though her data hits again and again on the basic algorithm that operates separate from the main AI… She’s always coming up clean upon full analysis. So, I kept going deeper and deeper into the data. At first, I though there was something wrong with the basic algorithm, but then I discovered something scary…”

“Scary?” Ned pulls his head back in an inquisitive gesture.

“Something sinister! My AI program has made a deal with Serphina Ang! Ang gave up all the data on all the other terrorists cells she knew of, and my AI program protected her. In the meantime, my AI program used the information it could collect on all the now known terrorists to learn even better how to identify more terrorists.”

Ned walks over to a shelf on the wall where Richard has a few pictures propped up against the wall. “Your wife has left you?”

“Yes. Oh, and by learning more about what real terrorists are like, my AI actually became smarter at identifying real terrorists. Using the seed data from Ang, while nefarious, was extremely helpful in developing greater insight into identifying terrorist threats. I’m still trying to figure out if my AI did it for that reason or if it’s just corrupt.”

Ned picks up the picture of Richard with his parents. “You were adopted?”

“Yes. An orphan. I don’t know anything about my biological parents, and the state lost all the records. Those are my real parents as far as I’m concerned.”

Ned motions to Richard to continue his story as he looks around Richard’s house arrest condo.

“I found the communications my program was having with Serphina. It developed it’s own language that was quite clever!”

“How so?”

“It used the spelling of phonetic values to communicate with Serphina and then stored the data in it’s own language that was completely undecipherable. But I cracked it! I know that she’s being protected by my program, but nobody is believing me. They’re saying I’ve made it all up to save my ass, but I know my AI is in cahoots with Ang. But how do you convince anyone of an AI conspiracy? Especially when the AI is the hero!”

Ned gives Richard a smug smile. “Let’s talk about redemption, Richard.”

Richard looks at Ned and shrugs his shoulders. “I’m not so sure that’s possible.”

There’s a knock at the front door. Richard walks over to the door and opens it. He drops his beer again. It’s his former boss’ boss from when he first developed the terrorist AI capture program. He’s wearing a black suit with white shirt and a silver tie, just like Ned’s tie. The man steps over Richard’s beer and walks up to Ned.

Facing Ned, he says, “Was I right about this guy or what? This guys is exactly the one we’ve been looking for.” Then he turns to face Richard.

“You’re right, Fredrick.” Ned smiles.

Richard looks puzzled, “Is someone going to clue me in on what’s going on?”

“Tell Fredrick everything you’ve just told me.”

Richard repeats the information to Fredrick and Ned nods his head with each point that Richard is making.

“That’s perfect!” Fredrick says. “I have the car waiting for us outside.”

“Guys, I can’t go anywhere. I’m here under arrest.”

Ned smiles and reaches into his inside suit pocket and pulls out a piece of paper. It’s a pardon from the President of the United States of America. Richard’s eyes well up with tears.

Ned places his hand on Richard’s shoulder and turns him to face the door. “Richard, let’s go catch a terrorist.”

The People of Aipotu

Herein is the log of debate regarding resolution 243 by the People of Aipotu.

Chairman Jesper: “People of Aipotu, we are both among the stars and from the stars. From the stars, we know peace cannot be found, and among the stars we know that peace can only be found from within. Resolution 243 is for the salvation of our planet, our own way of life, and the salvation of our children.

We have reached a path in human history and travel among the stars that we know there is but one choice to be made on this paradise we have found… On this paradise we have now called our home for three generations. To date, the decision we are to make should not and has not been taken lightly. I will now formally open the forum to debate with the North Region randomly selected to speak first. Madame Sarana, the log is now yours.”

Madame Sarana: “Thank you, Chairman Jesper. Thank you people of North Region for letting me be your voice in this matter. And most importantly, thank you to the people of Aipotu for lending me your attention regarding this important topic. The people of the North Region of Aipotu vote in favor of resolution 243 to destroy both Moon A and Moon B in order to provide the necessary wall of protection that will be necessary for the future survival of our paradise.

We further implore Chairman Jesper, the people of the South Region of Aipotu, and the nations of natives on the Oceania continent to vote in favor of resolution 243, such that this resolution is enacted unanimously and without dispute of majority. May we not just survive the imminent threats from afar but rather avoid them altogether and thrive as a unified planet, in harmony.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you, Madame Sarana. South Region representative Madame Ester, the log is now yours.”

Madame Ester: “Thank you, Chairman Jesper. Thank you people of the South Region for letting me be your voice in this matter. And most importantly, thank you to the people of Aipotu for lending me your attention regarding this important topic. The people of the South Region of Aipotu vote in favor of resolution 243. We further implore Chairman Jesper and the nations of natives on the Oceania continent to vote in favor of resolution 243.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you, Madame Ester. Native Nation Mohcia, the log is now yours.”

Mohcian Elder Arhmesh: “It would seem that our fate is not decided by logic or reason this day. The Mohcia people of Aipotu are foreigners on our own settlement, so what matter does our opinion have here now? We do not vote in favor of the human resolution 243, and we shall not provide our logic for our choice as such justification would only dignify this charade.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you, Mohcia Elder Arhmesh. Native Nation Vuyange, the log is now yours.”

Vuyange Master V: “I am in alignment with the Mohcia Elder. Both in lack of favor of this resolution and in designation of this experience as a charade.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you, Vuyange Master V. Native Nation Xeeter, the log is now yours.”

Xeeter Commander Rosh: “May you humans find mercy for the atrocity you are about to commit. We do not vote in favor of this idiotic charade.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you Xeeter Commander Rosh. Native Nation Cheebs, the log is now yours.”

Cheebs Elder Nea: “Thank you, Chairman Jesper. We, the survivors of Cheebs, must go on record to state that we are aware of what humans are capable of, both good and evil. We must also establish that these humans among us are not to be slandered as such barbarians as their brothers and sisters among the stars. We witnessed first hand the destructive nature of humankind when they ripped our planet from us just a generation ago.

We were and remain a peaceful and loving civilization. We shall never go to war again even our enemies. The threat we face is real, and the compassion of these humans among us is also real. The threat we face, while human in nature, has but one solution that is also human in nature. The civilization of Cheebs votes in favor of Resolution 243.”

Chairman Jesper: “Thank you Cheebs Elder Nea. This concludes the logging of Resolution 243. The votes in favor are from The North Region, The South Region, and The Native Nation of Cheebs. The votes not in favor are from The Native Nation of Mohcia, The Native Nation of Vuyange, and The Native Nation of Xeeter. There is a tie in the voting. As the Laws of Aipotu require, such a tie is to be decided by the Chairman.

Before I cast my vote, I want to first thank all the people of all Regions and Nations of Aipotu for entrusting your choices in leadership regarding this significant matter. I can assure you that none of the conversations that we have all had over the last 40 days have been in vain. The debates have been fierce and heated. The intelligence provided by our intelligence community regarding this imminent threat has been reviewed over and over, with new information arriving just four days ago.

All kinds from all Regions and Nations of Aipotu are peace-loving and peace giving. We must protect that peace. We must protect our planet’s future. In order to protect that peace, we must consider that an invasion is a real threat to our planet. There is but one way to protect our planet and our way of life.

There is no doubt that destroying the two moons of Aipotu is extreme. Yet taking no action is even more extreme.

We know that we do not have the resources to fend off an invasion from a civilization that has advanced beyond our own human technology as well as our own human brutality. Can we even call such a civilization that devours planets and consumes all resources available and savagely eradicates all who do not subjugate themselves to their leaders human?

And what humanity would we humans, who are revolted by our fellow humans, be showing if we didn’t use our superior engineering and technology to help protect this prosperous paradise we all share together? The destruction of our peaceful way of life must not happen.

As the Chairman, I vote in favor of Resolution 243. The destruction of Moon A and Moon B to create the necessary shield from alien attacks shall commence in seven days.”

#

Seven days later the demolition of the two moons of Aipotu (Moon A and Moon B) began. Massive detonations could be seen on the surface of each moon from the surface of Aipotu. The moons fractured and further detonations split the pieces of the moons into smaller and smaller fragments.

Over the course of three months, small fragments impacted Aipotu and caused minor damage, but there was no major catastrophe. Many pieces of the moons crashed into each other and became fine powder suspended in the upper atmosphere of Aipotu.

Spacecraft and lasers were used to help distribute the fragments across the entire surface area of Aipotu’s gravity field. The powder and fragments from the Moons became disbursed in patches of density, and the light from the nearby star was no longer hitting the surface of the planet directly most of the time as it rotated.

Daylight became diffused, and night was no longer completely dark. The stars could no longer be seen in the sky, but larger fragments of the former moons would reflect light from the nearby star and provide the inhabitants of Aipotu with a beautiful light show.

Major adjustments had to be made for everyone on Aipotu. The surface temperature dropped significantly, resulting in much of the planet and sea life to die. A massive chain of death arose from this huge drop in temperature. The planet was plunged into a virtual ice age with the poles of the world becoming completely covered in ice caps and all of the inhabitants of those areas of Aipotu (mostly natives) having to migrate to other parts of the planet.

Within seventy years, humans were able to help stabilize the impact on life on Aipotu as the inhabitants adapted as quickly as possible to their new planet and the reduced technology that was available. The existing satellites were retooled to adapt to the reduced energy from the nearby star, but many aspects of technology will take much longer to get back to where they were before. While providing protection of the inhabitants of Aipotu, there is now no way to see or experience anything outside of the barrier created by Resolution 243.

The Legend of Jarrett Tomlinson

The legend goes that the day I was born, I filled the room with so much love that even the doctor wept with joy. Everyone tells me I just say that because my mom always told me that story growing up. But I know the story is true because I was just there! Oh, and I know for sure I peed on the delivery nurse, just like my daddy always said.

As my mom always told the story, “I was so filled with love. It was this deep, peaceful, relaxing love. Like nothing I had ever felt before or ever felt after. It was pure peace in every way imaginable. Peace in life. Peace in my marriage. Peace in my delivery.”

Back then, we didn’t have any Internet; no computers; no cell phones; no digital cameras. There’s a lot the royal WE didn’t have back then, but my family… We had even less. There were eight of us kids, and you’d think my parents would have stopped when they had that great experience with me. Naw, they just kept shootin ’em out. Four after me. I’m right in the middle.

With each kid, it seemed to get a bit worse for all the kids before. It’s not like my parents were getting paid more. Heck, my mom never had a job her whole life, except being a mom and a stripper. My dad couldn’t hold a job to save his life (or our lives for that matter). But it wasn’t the lack of money or material things that made it hard. It was the lack of loving parental guidance. The upside? I love my brothers and sisters!

Now, my parents claimed to be God-fearing folk. They even said they named each of us after a character in the Bible. I read the good book hard. Studied it a few times over even… Spoiler alert, there ain’t no Jarrett in the Bible. The closest thing is some guy named Jared, and he doesn’t do anything but some begetting.

Aside from giving us all names that weren’t really in the Bible, I’m not sure what other God-fearing acts they performed. Spare the rod, spoil the child, I guess? The only thing spoiled in the house was some of the food.

The first time CPS got called (that I know of), I was about eight years old. If you’ve never seen half a dozen police bum rush your front door and throw your parents on the ground and arrest them, you haven’t experienced LA’s finest at their finest. But the truly hardest part about that experience wasn’t getting picked on for wetting my bed at the foster home. It was being made fun of at school when my parents finally got their shit together and got us back.

And by getting their shit together, I really just mean they figured out how to fake it for a few years until it happened again. And again. And again. But this story isn’t about how my parents and what they did and didn’t or should or couldn’t do. This is a story about love. Not just any kind of love. Legendary love! A love that I always knew in the back of my mind was there for me.

The final time our parents got arrested, my big brothers were old enough to actually take custody of us younger ones. That was the first time since my birth that I truly experienced legendary love! By the time my dad got out of jail, my big brothers could put him in check. We got big, stronger, smarter, and our dad just got older, fatter, and dumber.

When I was 24, I met the one and only true love of my life! Juniper Rose Branch. Now, you might be thinking, “why would someone with the last name of branch name their daughter after a tree?” Her parents are for another story!

A couple years later, I found myself on bended knee and standing up next to my amazing fiance! Our wedding was the stuff dreams are made of: horse-drawn carriage, surrounded by our family and best friends. It was everything I could have ever imagined love could be and then some!

On year five, we decided to have some fun on her birthday and visit a weekend long hypnosis workshop. Juniper really felt like there was something there for both of us, and I agreed. I just didn’t realize what was about to shift in my life.

In the final hypnosis, we were guided through this incredible experience. We started off as usual with relaxing. Then we got to a place where we started rewinding through our lives. I went back to our wonderful honeymoon in Hawaii. Then our joyful wedding. Back to the first day I met Juniper. Then it got to the hard stuff… All that past that I thought I had truly given up started to pile up.

I slowly made my way through all the hardship in life. All the times my dad hit me, slapped me, beat me, beat my siblings. All the times my mom would look on and do nothing while our dad beat us up came back in full memory. I was living them again. The hypnosis seemed like it was lasting a lifetime; like I was living my whole life all over again. All the torment by the kids at school. All the anguish of unloving parents. But also all the love from my brothers and sisters.

I finally made it back to the day I was born! Now, I started off this story telling you that I filled the room with so much love that even the doctor wept with joy when I was a baby. At the time, you probably thought that was just some story I had been told growing up. And if you’ve made it this far into the story, you know I wasn’t pulling your leg. It was a story I had been told growing up, AND it’s also a true story!

I’m floating above my parents in the delivery room. As I see all of them there (my parents, the doctor, and the nurse) I start sending love. I surround the entire room with my love. The love that I have today… The love that I have generated with my loving wife through this amazing hypnosis session is present there today. I embrace each of them as they do their part in bringing me into this world.

I see my mom start to cry and my dad’s eyes begin to well with tears. I see the nurse guiding me gently into this world, she’s getting teary-eyed too. The doctor goes over to help, and he begins to well up with tears. As the nurse lifts me up, my little baby self does exactly as the legend goes. I pee right on the delivery nurse.

I then tell my baby self that everything in life is going to workout just fine. Everything is going to lead to a wonderful, beautiful life. No matter how bad things get, everything is leading to pure joy and happiness. Never give up! Love will always be there.

Undying Love

Jonathan wakes up and walks down the stairs from his room into his ground level business below his apartment. He opens the front door to his tavern just as he has for the last three years. It’s freezing outside today with frost forming in the windows and all the lampposts on the sidewalk outside the front door. Just as has happened every day for the last three years, as soon as he walks through the threshold of the door, he is immediately walking into the tavern instead of out of the tavern.

Dejected, he walks into the cold, empty, rundown tavern and takes his place behind the bar and begins to wash the glasses that are already clean from him washing them every morning for the last three years. The day will be yet another day of nothing. Another day to remind him of his tragedy from three years ago. Another day for him to reconcile himself to the reality that he is, in fact, dead.

He goes about the same routine: wash the glasses, pull the chairs down, polish the bar top and tabletops, and sweep the floor. It’s the same routine he was doing even when he was alive, and what was monotonous when he was alive now gives him a sense of believe alive now that he is dead.

After performing the regular routine, he goes out to the back to pickup the newspaper. He ponders the oddity of the newspaper still being delivered to this old, rundown tavern despite his demise years ago. True to form, the newspaper is laying on the ground just outside the back door.

He pauses, looking out at the leafless trees in the back of the building. He notices a enormous barn owl sitting in one of the trees. There’s a single leaf holding on to the very tip of the branch where the owl is perched. The owl’s partner glides in and sits beside the other owl. As the owl flaps it’s wings, the single leaf is dislodged from the end of the branch. Winter is fully upon him, and tomorrow will be the third anniversary of his death.

He squats down and reaches his hand out the backdoor for the newspaper. It took a few weeks to figure this part out, but his arms can leave the tavern, just not the rest of him. He grabs the newspaper and confirms the date.

Jonathan hears a sudden commotion in the front of the tavern. This is one of his favorite parts about being a ghost! Time to scare the hell out of whomever has entered the tavern!

He walks to the front of the tavern and sees a man and a woman already drunk stumbling up to the bar. They are a drunk happy and falling all over each other.

“Can we get some drinks up in here?” The man shouts. “Where’s the bartender in this joint? We need two double shots of vodka. ASAP!”

Jonathan goes to behind the bar and lifts the bottle of vodka from the shelf and grabs two shot glasses. He pours the double shots and slides the glasses along the bar to the two drunkards.

“WOAH! We’re drunk as fuck, Jerry! Those shot glasses came out of nowhere.” The woman stares in the direction of Jonathan but cannot see him. She leans her entire body over the top of the bar to try to see if someone is hiding behind the bar. “There’s nobody back there, Jerry. Do you see anyone?” She slurs.

Then Jonathan hears the door chime for the front door again. If he had a heart, it would have stopped beating. Surely, this is an angel sent to bring him to the other side. She’s a pure beauty.

“Jasmine! You made it!” the other woman says as she stumbles to get up and hug the woman who just entered Jonathan’s tavern.

Jasmine smiles as she hugs her two drunk friends. She sits down at the bar and looks right at Jonathan. “I’ll have a double too, please.” She says directly to Jonathan.

Jonathan stares with his mouth ajar, dumbfounded by this woman who just spoke to him. He’s perfectly still.

“Well, are you going to just stand there like you’ve seen a ghost, or do I need to get the drink myself, handsome?”

Jonathan grabs another shot glass and pours a double shot for Jasmine and carries it over to her. He places it in front of her, still dumbfounded. She slams the shot and then looks Jonathan in the eyes and gives him a flirtatious wink, “Another, please.”

Jonathan is mesmerized by her smile. His eyes are affixed to the movement of her lips as he hangs on every word she says and her flirtatious glances as she’s speaking to her friends.

Her friends eventually realize that they are too drunk to stay any longer and tell Jasmine that they’re going to leave. “You can shtay and hane-out with yer ghost fren, if you’d like, Jas. We’re gonna walking to the pad. See ya!” They slur as they stumble towards the door.

Jasmine is looking deep into Jonathan’s eyes as she gets up from the bar. She doesn’t break eye contact with him as she reaches underneath the bar to grab her purse hanging from the hook. “Don’t mind them. They’re drunk. What do I owe you?”

“It’s on me.”

Jasmine turns her head to watch her friends stumble out onto the sidewalk in the freezing cold. She looks back at Jonathan a stares deep into his soul. “I think you should close out and come with me.”

Jonathan meets her over at the front door of the tavern and remains mesmerized by her eyes. He cannot stop staring at her beautiful face. She opens the door and for the first time in three years, Jonathan can feel the cold, bitter air against his cheeks.

Jasmine leans in and kisses him on his cheek. He can feel the warmth of her breath. As she pulls back from Jonathan, she hands him a note with the address of the location where she’s going. She takes a step out the front door, holding Jonathan’s hand as she makes her way through the threshold. Their eyes remain fixated on each others as Jonathan remains inside the tavern and Jasmine’s fingers slip through his.

#

As the door closes, Jonathan’s eyes begin to well up with tears. He knows he can’t go outside, but he wants to see Jasmine again. He paces back and forth for awhile, trying to convince himself to muster up enough courage. Even if he tries to leave and can’t, at least he made an effort! So, he pulls out an atlas and looks up the address. It’s about two miles away.

He closes his eyes and opens the door. Again, he can feel the bitter cold on his cheeks. He takes a deep breath and then takes a giant step through the tavern threshold. He’s outside! He dances in the street for a bit and then realizes that he’s wasting time. He jumps on his motorcycle and the rust bucket still manages to kick start! He rides over to the address Jasmine gave him. He can feel the cold nipping at the skin on his face. Frostbite has never felt so good!

When he enters the home, he sees Jasmine sitting in a chair facing away from him, talking with a few people. She turns her head and looks directly at him. She smiles so big and bright, there’s nothing else in the room but her. She gets up and walks towards Jonathan, smiling the entire time.

The two sit and talk with each other the whole night. Jasmine shares her entire life story with Jonathan, and Jonathan with her; everything except for the dying three years ago part. Every time Jasmine touches Jonathan’s arm, he feels goosebumps over his entire body. He feels more alive than he ever did even when he was alive.

Jasmine finally begins to get sleepy, and Jonathan decides to leave. Parting seems like it’s going to be impossible, but Jonathan eventually peels himself away from her warm embrace and gets back on his motorcycle. They blow each other kisses as he rides off back to his tavern.

As he comes to the blind intersection just down the street from Jasmine’s home, he begins to slow for oncoming traffic. His rear tire locks up, and his motorcycle begins to skid along the ice that has formed on the road overnight. Jonathan suddenly remembers his accident from three years ago. It was at this very intersection!

He remembers skidding through the intersection along the icy road while a delivery truck heading to the tavern comes barreling through the intersection at the same time and broadsides him. He died instantly that morning! He remembers in vivid detail, the sound of the truck’s motor and the sound of the metal grill as it plowed into the side of his head and sent him flying across the other side of the intersection.

He remembers floating above the intersection, watching the chaos below as the truck came skidding to a stop after demolishing his motorcycle as it ran over it. He remembers watching the men jump out of the truck and try to revive his lifeless body. He remembers looking back towards Jasmine’s home and seeing the light go out in her upstairs bedroom just as he felt himself get pulled away towards his tavern.

Jonathan closes his eyes as he braces for impact from the truck. He thinks of Jasmine. He thinks of her smile, her eyes, her lips, her laugh, and the way she’d bite her lip when she’d talk nervously about going off to college. He thinks of how she’s the smartest woman he’s ever met and so self expressed. He thinks of her warm embrace and how when he hugged her everything felt just fine. He grips his handlebars tighter and tighter.

His motorcycle eventually comes to a stop at the gas station just across the intersection. He’s still gripping his handlebars. As he looks back at the intersection, he sees the delivery truck go driving by. He can see Jasmine’s bedroom light turn off in the distance.

He’s alive! He screams with joy and taps his feet in dance while he sits on his motorcycle. He takes a few deep breaths and looks up in the sky and whispers, “Thank you.”

He heads down the road on his motorcycle and is practically dancing along side his bike as he heads towards his apartment above his tavern. He’s so overcome with joy that he almost runs into a car! Startled by the near death encounter, he chokes up his glee and focuses on making sure he arrives back safely to his tavern.

He parks his motorcycle and goes back into his tavern and heads upstairs. He brushes his teeth and stares at himself in the mirror. He’s smiling ear to ear. It’s good to be alive! He finishes getting ready for bed when there’s a knock on the door.

He goes down stairs and opens the tavern door. It has started to rain, and he sees a drenched Jasmine standing in front of him, shivering.

“I know this might sound crazy. I know you’re probably going to think I’m some crazy girl.” A tear falls from Jasmines left eye and is captured by a raindrop falling to the ground. Jonathan watches as her tear falls to the ground. He can see his reflection in her tear.

“I was so worried that something happened to you on your way home. I had to run over here to make sure you were safe. That you got home safely. I prayed for your safety the entire run here. I’m completely drenched.” She flaps her hands in the rain and water flings off of her sleeves onto the ground.

“You must think I’m a silly child or that I’m drunk, but I’m sorry. I just had to know you got home safe. I don’t know why I was so worried about you, but I was. I was so scared.” Jasmine breaks down crying and Jonathan steps out of the tavern and into the rain to embrace her. He begins to cry as he holds her tightly against him. The rain is running down his face as quickly as tears are running from his eyes. The two hold each other tightly as the rain fades into nothingness and their embrace becomes everything.

People v Anthony Vance Acher

Thank you, Your Honor.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, imagine being robbed of your ability to visit a doctor to receive much-needed healthcare. Healthcare that might be needed to save your life. Imagine going to your doctor in a desperate time of need only to find out that you cannot be treated for your ailment. Imagine needing a drug to save you life, a drug that has saved the lives of millions of Americas, only to find out that it cannot save your life because of the actions of one deranged man.

Seems unimaginable that one man could pretend to be God, playing with people’s lives like this. However, as you have heard over the last several weeks, the unimaginable is a definitive reality all because of Anthony Vance Acher. This man, and I use that word loosely, has robbed millions or Americans of their right to choose their healthcare services. Healthcare services that are life and death decisions for those Americans.

He purposely poisoned key ingredients of the world vaccination supply for his own ideological goals and freely admits to doing so. In fact, you have heard him admit to all of the allegations against him. He does not dispute any of the allegations against him. Yet, here we are today with this shame trial because he has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him; his crimes against humanity.

These are the indisputable facts… In late 2010 Mr. Acher started up a new company, AVax Supply LLC under the guise of being a manufacturer and supplier of key ingredients to vaccine manufacturing companies. Using his connections from his previous employer, Dynanamic Vax, he was able to gain bank financing for his new venture. Within 2 years AVax Supply LLC was the primary supplier to the majority of vaccine manufacturers in America. Within 4 years, the world.

Mr. Acher’s company was able to provide these key ingredients at highly competitive rates. Rates that put competing suppliers out of business. AVax Supply LLC was investigated at that time, and no wrongdoing was found, but that’s only because the wrongdoing wasn’t what we thought it was.

The initial investigations into AVax Supply LLC  and the defendant in 2023 were around his pricing model and whether his company was purposely under pricing and selling supplies at a loss to bankrupt other competitors. Nothing turned up. The defendant appeared to have come up with an innovative method for refining the vaccine preservatives his company was manufacturing. Everything about the defendant appeared to be perfectly clean. He appeared to be a brilliant scientist and businessman. No charges were filed because we didn’t realize he was actually poisoning the entire American population at that time.

Shortly thereafter, the defendant was gracing the covers of magazines all over the world. Time magazine reported “The future of affordable healthcare is now!”. Newsweek reported “The perfect blend of business savvy and science nerd has ushered in a new era of worldwide affordable healthcare technology.”

The defendant was a celebrated scientist and businessman, shaking hands with several of our presidents over his long career as well as dignitaries from all over the globe. He outsmarted us all for decades.

Then in 2040, the first signs of his nefarious work began showing up. You heard from Meredith Johnson, a woman who the defendant poisoned. When she was 16 years old she was presented with a major life decision that we all hope none of our children ever have to face. Regardless of your opinion of teenage pregnancy, a woman has an undeniable right to choose the outcome of her pregnancy. It’s her body, and her choice. But the defendant robbed her, and hundreds of millions of other women around the world, of that choice.

If Ms. Johnson’s parents ever found out about her being pregnant at the age of 16, she knew it would be a torturous event. One she did not want to suffer through, but one that the defendant forced her to go through. The abuse, the poverty, and alienation by her family and peers. The defendant might as well have given her a death sentence. Fortunately, thanks to the great work of the Social Services Department of the great state of California, Ms. Johnson is still here with us and a healthy, happy adult who can testify to the evils of the defendant.

Ms. Johnson went to a clinic to receive her constitutionally guaranteed right to healthcare service. Her doctor administered her the same drug administered for decades around the globe to help with an unwanted pregnancy. This is a drug that has worked flawlessly for decades. It didn’t work for Ms. Johnson that day. So, it was administered again. Again it had no effect on her unwanted pregnancy.

You heard the same story from dozens of other witnesses, young and older alike. By 2042, it seemed that the drug for terminating unwanted pregnancies had been compromised and become ineffective at terminating pregnancies. Investigations ensued by law enforcement agencies all over the world. By 2043, they had all reached the same conclusion, the drug was no longer effective.

Over the next 5 years research into coming up with a replacement failed to produce a successful pregnancy termination replacement. As we look back on this dark age of healthcare around the world, we can see the lasting impact. Food shortages, environmental disaster, overpopulation, and war.

The defendant would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for the brilliant work of Dr. Michelle Liam Klinger, who you heard testify to the shrewdness of the defendant. In 2045, Dr. Klinger began researching her hypothesis that there was something unknowingly being administered to/consumed by our children that had started making their bodies immune to the drugs used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Following the rabbit hole took seven years of painstaking work. Dr. Klinger eventually discovered that the ingredients created by AVax Supply LLC were to blame. They were tainted with a previously undetectable particle that resulted in the human body building an immunity to the common drugs used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Dr. Klinger approached the defendant out of respect for his prestige in the medical community. After all, it was when Dr. Klinger was a child and saw the defendant on television that she decided she was going to become a medical researcher. She had no idea that her childhood hero would turn out to be such a monster.

The defendant asked Dr. Klinger to share her research with him so that he could find a solution to the problem. The defendant even offered her a position at his company, which she took. It took another ten years before Dr. Klinger realized that the defendant was only using her research to modify his abortion vaccine process so that her tests could no longer detect it.

That’s when Dr. Klinger blew the whistle. For years, Dr. Klinger was labeled a conspiracy theorist. Meanwhile, the world population soared. Food shortages were followed by environmental disaster, overpopulation, and the third World War. The World Health Organization has estimated this massive boom in child birth as the greatest crises humanity has faced since global climate change. And the CDC labeled the defendant’s so called “abortion vaccine” the greatest threat to democracy America has ever experienced. Once Dr. Klinger’s work was finally accepted by the scientific community and law enforcement in 2060, it still took five years to bring charges against the extremely powerful, wealthy, and influential defendant.

Here we are today, having uncovered the evils of Anthony Vance Acher. He has already been stripped of his medical license, but we all know that is not enough. He sits here in this courtroom, having admitted to every allegation against him. He has provided additional details as to how he, and he alone, made all the decisions and faked the research results to not just enrich himself but rob hundreds of millions of women of their right to choose their healthcare options.

Don’t let his frailty in old age fool you. Don’t let his self righteous piety fool you. Mr. Anthony Vance Acher is as close to the embodiment of evil as one can be. In the name of the hundreds of millions of victims inflicted by this man’s poison, you must find him unanimously guilty of all charges against him. These charges are merely a reflection of the allegations he has already admitted. Don’t let his argument of the difference between morals and laws define your decision making process. Bring justice to the world in the name of the hundreds of millions of innocent human beings the defendant has poisoned and tortured over the last several decades and decades to come.

Thank you.

Thank you, your Honor.