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 comic books.”

“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.

The Ark Mission Part III

The Ark Mission Part II

Jennifer descends down from the sky and lands at the head of a wooden boat leading seven other boats in perfect formation down a glassy ocean towards a bright white light off in the distance. She’s wearing a white, loose-fitting gown that’s flowing like a spider’s web in the wind. As she turns around, she sees nine blue birds perched on the stern of each wooden boat. The birds get up in unison and fly around the boat and shoot lasers from their eyes, cutting the oars each of the crew members are using to row the boats. The boats begin to slow and drift into each other.

The blue birds then breathe out a smoke that overcomes the crew members and asphyxiate them. The blue birds then fly off towards the shore where there is a light house with no light.

The bright white light in the distance begins to have a dark dot in the middle that is slowly growing outwards. The light in the distance eventually becomes a ring of light centered around pure nothingness. A complete void of light. The ocean begins to freeze and the wooden boats become stuck; frozen in place.

Jennifer steps off the bow of the boat and walks along the ice towards the ring which is becoming dimmer with each step. She steps over bodies of Mohcia frozen into the surface of the ocean, and she can hear them calling out to her.  The light house where the blue birds went begins to glow a bright blue light. The light is blinding as it passes by. It suddenly stops just passed her. The cries from the Mohcia suddenly stop, and there’s a deafening silence. She feels someone gently grab her hand from the opposite direction of the light.

As she turns to see who it is, the light comes back directly over her. She sees her shadow cast on Lieutenant Bargh, who is kneeling with his arms wrapped around an infant Mohcia. He hands her a gun and stays crouched down in her shadow as the light begins to pull her away from Bargh and the native. She turns to face the blue light and notices that the light from the ring has all but disappeared.

Jennifer awakens.

She’s breathing deep, and her vision is dark. She unlocks her sleeping chamber and steps out into her room. Her robot assistant awakens and goes to the closet and gets her uniform and helps her get dressed.

#

“You have woken up earlier than normal, Admiral. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine, Tes. Thanks. Let’s got to the observation deck.”

Tes makes arrangements for a personal shuttle to take Jennifer to the observation deck, but Jennifer asks to cancel the reservation. “I’m going to walk this one.”

“Are you sure, Admiral? It’s a 5 kilometer walk.”

“Well, I guess I didn’t wake up an hour early for no reason, right?”

“That was rhetorical?”

“Yes, Tes.”

Jennifer and Tes leave her quarters and begin making the 5 km walk to the observation deck. The hallways are mostly empty as the majority of the command crew is still sleeping. About halfway through the walk, an uniformed military crew member walks passed Jennifer and salutes her. “Morning, ma’am.”

Jennifer realizes in that moment that the military crew aboard the Ark ships all have a falcon insignia on their uniforms, which are also blue. She feels a bit dazed as she walks by the crew member, and Tes notices the sudden change in her heart rate.

“Admiral, I noticed your heart rate increase as we walked passed that military crew member. Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the sick room?”

“No need. Tes, tell me something. How many military crew members do we have on each Ark?”

“Nine, Admiral.”

“Thanks, Tes. Let’s jog the last bit, alright?”

“Your command.” Tes and Jennifer begin to job the remaining 2 km.

The door opens to the observation deck. Jennifer’s night crew is working diligently on facilitating the round the clock evacuation procedures. Lieutenant Commander Sissend approaches Jennifer and salutes. “Ma’m there are still no signs of anything wrong with this star. No solar anomalies at all. Are you sure you want to keep executing this evacuation?”

“Yes. Keep moving forward as planned. How many days until the second team returns from the far side of the star?”

“Three more days, ma’am. By then, we should have all but this Ark cruiser filled. It appears that most of the inhabitants of the center region of Mohcia are declining to be evacuated, so it’s going to be a much shorter trip than expected.”

“Great! As each Ark completes loading, Move it back to the border of the heliosphere.”

“Some of the Arks are filling up faster than the others, ma’am. There are likely going to be imbalances between the cruisers. The plan was to have that imbalance flushed out in orbit, where it will be easier to maneuver the shuttles.”

“I know, Sissend. New plan.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Jennifer turns to leave the observation deck, when Sissend stops her. “Ma’am, the latest information from the solar surveyors is showing that there are some anomalies starting to become observable with the sun.”

“Speed up the completion and follow through with my plan as already instructed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

#

John and Andre begin devising a plan to use one of John’s ships to intercept the communications from the solar surveyors and change the information being reported to Jennifer about the star. This way, they can make it appear that the star is becoming unstable, and she will pull back the Ark fleet and send them back to Earth. In the meantime, they will convince her that the more maneuverable military fleet should remain behind so that they can ensure that any last-minute natives can be saved without putting the larger Ark cruisers at risk.

“Andre, this is entirely up to you. You’re the one who is going to have to convince her to move the Ark fleet back and let the military stay. It’s up to you to save her.”

“I’ve got this, Uncle.” Andre turns to leave the room. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t know anything.”

“That’s my soldier.”

Andre travels back to the Earth base with Issa’s family and gets to know them a bit more. They get back on the shuttle that takes Issa and his family to Ark II. Andre steps into the secured communication room to call Jennifer and make plans to visit her on Ark I.

The shuttle arrives at Ark II and the debarking begins. Levion meets with Commander Nielson and provides a long debriefing about his mission, leaving out everything he discussed with his uncle, of course.

“No sign of your uncle, Levion?”

“Not a single sign. Our best guess right now is that they all left as soon as they noticed the anomalies in the star.”

“So far, no anomalies have been found.” Nielson informs Levion.

“Ya, could be a fluke. Better to be safe than sorry. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all sitting back on Earth right now just waiting for us.” Levion assures Nielson.

“Probably right, sir. Well, the Admiral sent me an order to have you visit Ark I as soon as you’re cleared by the doctor.”

“The doctor again?!” Levion is still upset that Jennifer doesn’t trust him about being sober. “Nothing could be more sobering than that you’re on a suicide mission without knowing it.” Andre thinks to himself as he heads to the sick room.

#

Jennifer and Levion are sitting at a dinning table, eating a steak dinner across from each other. Levion is dressed in his military uniform and Jennifer in her Admiral uniform. He has informed her that there are no signs of his uncle or his convoy but also no signs of anything unusual or threatening on the planet. Jennifer waits for Levion to take a big bite of his steak.

“You ever remember any of your dreams, Andre?”

Levion is a bit startled and stops chewing. He lifts his index finger and then continues to chew as he nods his head. “No, Jen. Not really. Maybe one here or there. Usually just me putting files in a filing cabinet to be honest. It’s not really important to me to understand how my brain is sorting and storing information.”

“Ya.” She looks at the falcon insignia on his newly acquired military blue uniform and remembers the blue birds from her dream earlier.

Tes enters the room. “Admiral, you told me to interrupt you with this important news.”

“What is it, Tes?”

Tes looks at Levion and then back and Jennifer.

“It’s okay, Tes.”

“Admiral, the solar activity is beginning to show some anomalies consistent with what the original Levion crew was reporting in their distress signal.”

“Thanks, Tes.”

Andre knows John’s team has pulled through and see this as the perfect opportunity to nudge Jennifer. “You gotta pull back the Arks, Jen.”

“I think you’re right.”

Andre is a bit puzzled. He was expecting a bit of resistance from the woman he knows to be so stubborn. “You’re just going to agree with me?”

“Don’t try to take credit, Levion. A good idea is a good idea regardless of whether you think it crossed your mind and exited that giant mouth of yours before I was already thinking the same thing.”

“Of course, ma’am. And my mouth isn’t that big.”

Jennifer smiles at Levion and stands up. “Levion, I’m putting you in charge of the military fleet. We’re going to pull the Ark ships back to the edge of the heliosphere immediately. We’ll have to compensate for the imbalance prior to jumping into hyperspace back to Earth. You keep the military and cargo vessels here to take care of the last remaining evacuees. Jump back to Earth ASAP.”

Levion can’t believe what he’s hearing. Everything is going exactly as his uncle had hoped it would. The Ark fleet will be safe, and the military fleet can remain behind to confront the enemy.

“This is a damn good steak. Can I take it with me?”

“Let’s finish our meal together. With an exploding star on the horizon, this might be our last meal together.”

“That’s a bit morbid, don’t you think, Jen?” Andre asks as he stuffs his face with steak and mashed potatoes.

#

Jennifer calls Tes over to her desk in her study. “It’s time to execute my plan, Tes.”

The Ark cruisers begin to leave orbit around Mohcia and head for the edge of the solar system. Levion has returned to Zeus One, the commanding military cruiser. Jennifer has given the Ark cruisers instructions to make the jump to hyperspace as soon as they have all reached the edge of the heliosphere. Unbeknownst to Levion, Jennifer has balanced each of the Ark cruisers by completely unloading the evacuees, cargo, and crew from her ship, Ark I, which has remained at Mohcia.

Onboard each Ark cruiser is a robot just like Tes on Ark I. They help direct traffic throughout the cruiser and ensure that crew can navigate as quickly as possible during maneuvers. The Tes robots also have a tracking system that allows them to find everyone on the ship so that they can assist in the event of a disaster or when crew does not report to their positions as commanded.

As each of the Ark cruisers begins to pull out of orbit, all crew are required to secure themselves. One by one, the Tes robots find each of the nine military crew members wearing the blue uniforms with falcon insignia and kills each of them as they are secured for exiting orbit. The Tes robot has no weapons, so it has to use blunt force to brutally club the humans to death. It then has cleaning robots clean up the blood and dispose of the bodies in the ships’ garbage hold.

Jennifer leaves Ark I in orbit around Mohcia when Jennifer receives notification from her second solar observation convoy. There were no unusual observations of the star, but they did encounter extremely anomalous gravitational pull on the far side that pulled their ship off course by an increasing amount of force. The conclusion is that these gravitational anomalies might have been observed by the original Levion team and been the cause of the distress message. Jennifer sends the message to the Ark fleet to jump back to Earth immediately.

Levion’s military cruiser spots Ark I still in orbit around Mohcia.

Levion makes an open communication to Ark I. “Is there something wrong with your Ark?”

There is no response.

“What are you doing, Jen? Is everything okay? Please respond.”

#

Lieutenant Bargh and Esua sit down on top of a mountain watching Zathustine Major rise over the valley below them. Esua’s bright blue eyes can easily absorb the light. Bargh is wearing his weaponized space suit and has a shield over his face. They look at each other, and Bargh smiles.

“I am smiling on the inside, my friend.” Esua says to Bargh as they both look back at the sunrise. “Thank you for taking care of my family.”

“I’m smiling under this helmet. Thank you for trusting in me. My commander just gave the order to make the jump back to our home. They are safe.”

The two sit atop the mountain enjoying the sunrise as they notice Zathustine Major is beginning to shrink as it’s rising. They see a massive solar flare leap out of the side of the star and look at each other.

“Looks like your god is right on time, friend.”

“This is my destiny, Norman.” Esua stands up and is now as tall as Bargh is sitting down. He places his right hand on Bargh’s shoulder. “I hope your commander can come through.”

“You and me both, friend.”

#

Tes is standing in the command room of Ark I with a splatter of blood on her arms. She receives an encrypted transmission from Jennifer. “In position.”

Jennifer is onboard the crippled cruiser that was sitting in the 4th planet’s orbit. It’s a communications cruiser, so she’s able to still maintain communications with the few satellites left behind by the fleet. Tes begins to navigate Ark I out of low orbit from Mohcia as Levion continues to attempt communication.

As Jennifer looks out of the command center’s observation window at Zathustine Major, she starts to notice that it appears to be shrinking slowly. Suddenly, there’s a massive solar flare that jumps 1/3 the distance of Mohcia. Tes sends her an encrypted communication, “It’s been a pleasure serving you, Admiral.” Jen’s eyes well with tears.

The electronics on Ark I begin to have all sorts of problems. Tes hears a series of loud pops. She is alerted to numerous breaches in the hull as Ark I collides with the moon of Mohcia.

Levion looks on in despair and orders the military fleet to perform a search and rescue mission on the moon. “Something must have gone wrong with the navigation and communications on the ship. I want everyone to find any survivors.”

Jennifer circles to the far side of Mohcia from the moon and sends down a shuttle craft to the top of the mountain where Bargh and Esua are watching Zathustine Major slowly shrink into a black hole. All of the data Jennifer is receiving from the remaining solar observers are showing that the star is maintaining its mass but shrinking in size. So, there is little effect on the solar system.

#

Bargh and Esua walk towards the shuttle when they are confronted by John Levion, who is wearing battle gear as well. “I can’t let you board that shuttle, Solider. You can join me, but you cannot get on that shuttle.”

Bargh tries getting a reading on John’s suit, but his weapons scanner is unable to determine the weapons Bargh can clearly see with his own eyes. Bargh tells Esua to get on the shuttle and John steps in front of him.

“Let the little guy go. I’ll join your little treasonous shit parade, but I made a soldier’s promise to this little guy that he’ll rejoin his family.”

“That’s just not going to happen, Soldier.” John pulls a detonator from his utility belt. “That shuttle is going up with this detonator, and your friend up in the sky is coming down.”

“That’s the Admiral. I believe she’s someone you know rather well.”

“Her choice, Soldier. Your choice too. Choose wisely.”

Esua reaches into his pouch and pulls out the flashlight that Bargh gave him the other day. He shines it into John’s helmet, and it distracts him just enough for Bargh to get the drop on John. The bullet from Bargh’s gun cracks Levion’s helmet glass, and he falls to the ground. Bargh runs towards Esua, picks him up, and jumps on board the shuttle. John stands up and fires his gun at the shuttle, hitting Esua in the stomach. As the door closes, Esua holds up his six-fingered hand and drops two fingers to the right and left of his middle two fingers.

The Shuttle takes off and Bargh notices that Esua was hit by John’s bullet but there isn’t much blood coming out of his wound. Esua reaches three of his fingers inside the wound and pulls out the bullet. “Who needs thumbs now!” The two laugh as the shuttle continues on its way back to Jennifer’s cruiser.