Buried in the Desert

“Ah ha! I win again!” Shouts the ecstatic young boy as he leaps and declares victory! “I am invincible! Nobody can beat me at Senet!”

“What can I say? My baby brother is brilliant!” Shrugs the older brother.

“Who are you calling baby, Kamose? I’m seven years old, and I just annihilated you at Senet! Does that make you an infant?” The boy smiles smuggly.

A messenger arrives on horseback and is escorted to the young Ahmose and his brother. “Your lordship, a messenger has stated he has an urgent message concerning Moses in the Land of Cush.”

The boy’s beaming smile quickly turns to a look of frustration. “Moses always beats me at Senet.” The boy says as his joy deflates.

Kamose is eager awaiting the messenger’s pass through security. He thinks of how his group of advisers were setting up a sabotage to the supply line of Moses’ troops as they advanced on Cush in hopes that the field operations in Cush would fail and Moses would be defeated. This would immediately elevate Kamose to the leader of the Egyptian army and provide him with the justification to request an invasion of Cush with the full support of his Pharaoh brother, Seqenenre Tao, who was helping advise the conspiracy against Moses in Cush.

Kamose turns to his younger brother and says with a huge grin, “I don’t think you have to worry about that anymore, Ahmose.”

As he stands eagerly awaiting the good news, Kamose suddenly begins to worry… Moses is known for his innovative military maneuvering and finding success even in the most difficult circumstances. He remembers back to the time Moses was thought lost in battle, only to return after 40 days in the wilderness practically unscathed and with the head of the Amori military leader in hand. He had personally witnessed Moses command massive arrays against the Cushites before, using field tactics that no other military leader in Egypt had ever planned. What if Moses was still alive? What if Moses defeated the Cushites?

“Do you think something bad happened to Moses?” Ahmose asks his older brother with worry.

Looking down at this brother and placing his hand on his shoulder, Kamose lies, “Let’s hope not, brother.”

#

“You think Moses is a traitor?” Ahhotep asks dismissively.

“He married the Cushite princess!” Kamose yells! “What could be more treasonous than marrying the daughter of our sworn enemy?” Kamose is fuming!

“My poor child,” Tetisheri begins as she walks over to Ahmose on the other side of the room. “Perhaps his political skills have come of age,” she pauses… “unlike your own.” Tetisheri pats Ahmose on the shoulders as she smiles and both of them chuckle at Kamose.

Ahhotep speaks up. “It’s a very politically astute maneuver if you’d open your eyes to the possibility. Rather than roll on with a long, drawn out, and costly war between our people and the people of Cush, Moses sacrificed himself for a generation of peace between our two nations. Perhaps even more.” She smiles slightly, “maybe there’s even a true love connection for the young Moses. I’ve heard the Cushite princess is the most beautiful woman in all their land.”

“You’ve always been partial to him and his people, mother.”

Tetrisheri interjects, “And you should be too! His people have served Pharaoh after pharaoh for many generations. They have brought tremendous wealth into our land, tamed the Nile and given us fertile lands beyond those of any other nation.”

Ahhotep speaks up as the elderly Tetrisheri pauses to catch her breath, “And let us never forget the great famine of seven years their fathers helped us overcome and countless insurrections and plots against our families.” She turns to the seven-year-old Ahmose. “You, my son, must always remember that Moses and his people are our allies.”

“Yes, mother.” Ahmose obediently responds.

Kamose steps between Ahmose and his mother, “But don’t let those past fairytales rule your thinking, brother. Just as you slit the throat of a once loyal dog who bites you, so too must you put Moses down when he betrays you.”

“IF!” Tetrisheri raises her voice. “And don’t let the deranged conspiracy theories of your brother’s deluded advisers persuade you with their mockery of intellectual reason, my boy.” Tetrisheri pulls Ahmose close towards her and away from Kamose. “These fools will tell you of prophesy when they really mean propaganda. They are the sons of the same men who failed our families and our nation generations ago. The sons of the same men who the fathers of Moses saved us from their ill conceived policies.”

Kamose remains silent for a heartbeat, “These are stories HIS scribes wrote! Not our scribes!” Kamose is becoming increasingly agitated. “Don’t believe everything you read, brother. It’s written as lies and half truths by those who want to manipulate you, just as Moses is trying to manipulate our kingdom today. Next rise of the great Ra and you know what, he’ll want to be Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, reigning in Cush with his Cushite princess. He’ll make us slaves just like his people have become to the Hyksos. We’ll all be his slaves!”

Tetrisheri turns sharply to Kamose and spits in his face. “Don’t you ever try to pollute the mind of your younger brother, or I will make sure you never sit atop our kingdom’s throne. Your idiot advisers might have convinced you of some great conspiracy brought about by the fathers of Moses and some droppings of Hesat prophecies, but the truth is that they saved our kingdom, our people, and our land!”

Kamose wipes his grandmother’s spit from his face and stares deeply into her eyes with wicked intentions. She smiles and then laughs.

“I see everything you plot against me, boy. I’ve seen men mightier than you come and go many times over. You think in steps. I think in generations. I’m always thinking ahead of you.” Tetrisheri puffs her breath and continues… “I may have this old body, but my mind is too advanced for you, Kamose. Just like your brother is with Senet. One day, I will let you have your course. Until then, you should study more and listen to your corrupt advisers less. Do you want a true prophecy?” She pauses to wait for Kamose to nod…

Kamose nods, accepting the wisdom of his grandmother.

“Your anger will be the death of you,” she says sharply.

There’s a call into the room from a messenger. Ahhotep signals to the guards to allow the messenger entry. He enters and announces that Seqenenre has been defeated and captured by Moses during a disguised raid on a Hyksos outpost city.

“Seqenenre and Moses fought hand to hand, and Moses bested him. Once he removed the mask of Tao, Moses forbade the execution of the Pharaoh.” The messenger announces.

Ahhotep dismisses the messenger and orders the guards to leave the room and take up position on the outside perimeter of the room. She turns to Kamose, “That answers the question of Moses’ loyalty. Does it not? The real question is how loyal is Seqenenre to our family when he provokes the Hyksos in their own land!”

Enraged, Kamose shouts, “Their own land? That is the land of our fathers! Land the Hyksos and the fathers of Moses stole from us!”

Ahhotep speaks up yet again, “Land rightfully granted to the fathers of Moses by Amenemhat!” She turns to Ahmose. “Let this be a valuable lesson in loyalty, my son.”

“Today it’s clear he serves only the Hyksos, the masters of his people.” Kamose grumbles. “Why would he bring our troops into Hyksos land to protect the Hyksos people?”

The young Ahmose interjects with befuddlement, “You just said the land doesn’t belong to the Hyksos, Kamose.”

Tetrisheri laughed boisterously! “Out smarted by a seven year old again!”

Ahhotep speaks up again, “It’s clear Moses is far more politically astute than your idiot blood brother and father, Ahmose. He had every justification to kill Tao, and he chose not to. Moses understands the tremendous value in forgiving those who know not how incredibly stupid they are.”

“She’d sell her own husband for bushel of wheat.” Kamose says in disgust as he turns to Yuf, Ahhotep’s adviser, who has been standing silently the entire time.

“At least the wheat would have greater wisdom than my husband.” Ahhotep snaps back.

Yuf stands perfectly still, almost like a statue as Kamose attempts to rouse a response from him with eye gestures.

There’s an awkward silence as each person in the room contemplates their strategy given the latest revelation they just received. With her internal spy network, Ahhotep knows that Kamose and Seqenenre were plotting together to sabotage the military campaign into Cush lead by Moses, but she didn’t know about the disguised attacks that were taking place. She decides not to press her son on the topic until she finds out why there’s a gap in her intelligence gathering.

Young Ahmose breaks the silence, “Who is going to negotiate the retrieval of Seqenenre?”

#

Moses kicks Seqenenre’s foot to wake him.

“Apepi is here to speak with you.”

Apepi enters the holding cell with Moses and Sequenere. The three men sit in their own corner of the cell.

“Tao, how did we get to this?” Apepi asks.

“It was the hippos,” Seqenenre laughs.

Moses looks at Seqenenre with a puzzled look who responds, “I’ll tell you later,” Sequenenre says to Moses with a wink.

Apepi looks again to Seqenenre and says, “Moses has negotiated to escort you back to Thebes. This is the great Apepi’s gift to the people of Upper Egypt. A gift from the great king of the Hyksos. I’m sure your spies have already conveyed your capture and Moses’ benevolent hand upon your throat to your family. Personally, I would have killed you first and then wept at your stupidity after.”

Apepi looks again to Moses and says, “I know this must be a difficult position for you, Moses. I want no quarrel with the people of Upper Egypt. Think of this as a personal gift from me to you for the kind service of your people in my land.”

Moses chuckles, “Gifts are given freely, lord Apepi.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Apepi growls in anger. “What good would it do for me to kill the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt? And why would you speak such a thing?”

“No such words were uttered by my lips, lord Apepi. The spit from your speech is the venom of an asp. A gift from you is like a heap of refuse from Hesat. Don’t speak to me as if your gift is nothing more than an attempt to enslave me as you have my people in our own land.” Moses retorts.

Seqenenre laughs loudly, “My brother, Moses! May Ra shine upon you for all eternity!” He laughs loudly once again as Apepi shakes his head and leaves the holding cell.

“I should lock you both in there.” Apepi grumbles.

Moses responds, “Your words hold not a key, lord Apepi. Safe returns to Avaris.”

“Oh, Moses. I’m truly sorry I could not allow Aaron the time needed to attend your wedding to that Cushite.” Apepi says with a smug smile as he begins to walk away. “I’ll give my regards to your dear brother.”

“A threat like that without a backbone to hold it upright is like breathing underwater, lord Apepi. Tell Aaron I’m grateful to have such a wonderful brother.” Moses says sitting in the cell with Seqenenre.

There’s silence for a moment while waiting for Apepi to be out of ear distance.

“The hippos?” Moses asks with a chuckle.

Seqenenre starts laughing and can barely get the story out to Moses who joins him in laughter over such an absurd story. “I swear by my god Ra, Moses, I will be known through out all time as the hippo king!”

The two laugh uncontrollably for nearly a degree on the sundial before they exit the holding cell, Moses following after Seqenenre.

#

As Moses is preparing his mule and a mule for Seqenenre, three men even larger than the mules approach. Two stand back while the third approaches Moses and stands arms akimbo next to the mule.

“I wouldn’t stand there, neighbor.” Moses says to the imposing man.

“We are the friends of Khamudi. Lord Apepi sent us to accompany you and Pharaoh back to Thebes and ensure his safe arrival.” The man says in a booming voice.

“Is that so?” Moses chuckles as Seqenenre walks over to stand next to Moses. “I’m sure we’ll be able to manage the return trip on our own. You can thank Apepi for the generous offer.”

“Lord Apepi said you might not be willing to accept our assistance, but Lord Apepi also said we must accompany you no matter.”

Moses snaps his fingers and makes a clicking sound at the same time. The mule suddenly sidekicks the enormous man who falls to the ground gasping for air with two cracked ribs protruding through his side. The mule trots over to Moses, and Seqenenre mounts the mule with Moses’ aide.

The other two hulking men stand over their companion as they watch Moses mount his mule.

“I told him it wasn’t a good idea to stand there.” Moses smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “You two can hold up the rear.”

Seqenenre rides off to the head of the army already underway at Miriam’s direction as Moses meets up with the rear guard to inform them they are responsible to monitoring the men sent by Apepi.

After a quick sprint, Moses meets up with Seqenenre and Miriam at the head of the mule contingent in the center of the army. Moses rides up to the head and provides instructions for the commanders at the head of the army, and then Moses returns to Seqenenre and Miriam in the center position with the rest of the soldiers riding mules in the crowd of thousands of Egypt’s finest warriors.

Miriam tosses Seqenenre a head dressing and instructs him to wear the disguise. “I’m certain Apepi didn’t send those men, brother,” Miriam says to Moses.

“It was Apepi trying to send me a message, Miriam. There is nothing to worry about.” Moses smiles. “Still, Seqenenre, you should wear the disguise. My sister is often more right than wrong.”

“Moses, you should join my cause, if for no other reason than to free your brother.” Seqenenre says as he puts on the disguise with difficulty while still maintaining balance on his mule.

“Raiding villages and towns of peaceful people is not a cause that calls me, brother,” Moses responds sarcastically.

“Moses, your fathers provided so much for my fathers, but what has come of your people? You have interbred with the Hyksos invaders, and your people have become slaves to them. My cause is not to attack your people but to free you from your oppressive masters.” Seqenenre almost sounds genuine in his pleading.

Moses and Miriam chuckle, “Miriam, I can almost believe what our Egyptian brother is saying.” Moses jests.

“Moses, you and I together can free your people from oppression. You have the military mind, and I have the money needed to remove the Hyksos by force. And I know your intelligence operations have deep root into the Hyksos operations. We can do this together. If you want me to beg in the face of Tetrisheri, I’ll do so on two bended knees.”

“Seqenenre, thank you for the compliment about our intelligence operations. If you truly believed even your own words, you would then also know that we knew of your plan to cut off our supplies in the Nubian campaign and Kamose’s plan to poison Ahhotep.”

Seqenenre has a genuinely surprised look on his face at the news of his son’s attempt to murder his own mother.

“He didn’t know that, Moses,” Miriam says to Moses before he can continue.

“I didn’t know that, Moses. I would not take my own son for conspirator against his own family. I know he and my mother do not see eye to eye, but murder his own mother…” Seqenenre pauses and looks down. “I should have seen this.”

Moses and Miriam allow Seqenenre a moment to contemplate the news they just provided him. The army continues its gradual pace towards the first outpost that it needs to reach before the sun is too high and makes continuing impossible.

#

A guard at the stronghold greets Moses, Seqenenre, and Miriam with some fresh water. “Greetings Moses.” The guard says as he hands the jug to Moses. Moses looks down at the jug, smiles, and then nods to the guard before handing him back the jug.

The guard takes a drink from the jug and Miriam flips over her timer glass. The three stand with increasing tension as the guard continues to hold the jug while Miriam flips the timer glass a half dozen times until Moses is satisfied there is no poison in the jug.

Moses nods at the guard who hands him the jug. “It’s my honor to serve you, Moses. Thank you for your trust,” the guard says.

“That you for your service, brother.” Moses acknowledges the faithfulness of the guard. “How is your brother, Japheth?” Moses motions to Miriam and Seqenenre to proceed ahead into the private cooling room carved into the rock.

As Moses is catching up with the guard, Seqenenre and Miriam refresh with the water in the cooling room.

“I have men close to Aaron. If you and Moses were to support and lead a campaign against the Hyksos, I could ensure the safety of Aaron.” Seqenenre attempts to make his case with Miriam.

“Aaron is doing just fine. We have no concerns for him,” Miriam replies.

“Miriam, when my mother adopted Moses, it was to honor the generations of service your people provided to Egypt. To honor the knowledge and technology your people have shared with us and allowed us to grow and develop our nation into a greater and most powerful nation. Perhaps my raids were not the best plan. Perhaps my own son has plotted against me. Perhaps my days as Pharaoh are numbered. I acknowledge Moses is the better general. I acknowledge you are the better intelligence operative.” He pauses to read Miriam’s response. There is none.

“The Hyksos are like a pestilence on your people and our land. They have taken what my fathers gave to your fathers and subjected your people to immeasurable cruelties. They have taken your metals, stopped your education of your children, confiscated your weapons, and stolen your land only to then force you to build monuments to their own government. They worship that wicked bull, and if you and Moses do not join me, think of what will come of your people.”

Moses enters the cooling room. “Our people have overcome worse, Seqenenre.”

“Moses…” Seqenenre starts and then pauses. “Who will remember the name Moses?” Seqenenre laughs. “You won’t even be a footnote in the records, Moses. Your people’s destiny will be swept into a cave and buried in the desert like the land of Babel.”

Moses smirks, “I don’t need to be famous, Seqenenre. I am not Pharaoh. Nor do I ever wish that curse upon me.”

“Moses, my brother, your people will become nothing! You will be no different than the people we find buried in our land from generations ago. Do the Hyksos even acknowledge the canal of Jacob? Who pays tribute? Your people? Or the Hyksos?”

Moses and Miriam are silent.

“Your people allowed the Hyksos to invade from within. You allowed one generation of Hyksos in and by the end of the next generation, you became slaves! And now, Apepi has his eyes set on Upper Egypt. And he’s nurturing the next generation for even bloodier conquests. Moses, this enemy is the most dangerous the land of Egypt has ever faced. We must join together.”

#

The army is making their way through a valley wide enough for standard formation and protected from the rising sun. Just beyond the valley will be the next stronghold where they can take their daily rest before the final leg to Thebes. Two scouts are leading the head of the army, keeping a sharp eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

Flaring his nostrils, the first scout says to the other, “Was that you, Elon?”

“Surely, I thought it was you! I smelled it a few steps back and believed for certain you had too many quail eggs,” Elon responds as the two continue along.

The smell continues to worsen as the scouts and army march on. “I can’t make out what it is, Elon. Is it a giant mount of Hesat?”

Stumbling from the odor, Elon coughs out, “It’s definitely Apis. Apis has died and been resurrected.”

The two scouts laugh as they look back and see the troops behind them starting to get wind of the smell they’ve been discussing for a long pace.

“Was that you, Elon?” One of the head soldiers shouts.

Elon and the other scout laugh as they proceed forward, tripping over each other as they react to the ever increasing odor that’s beginning to overcome all their senses.

“I told you you shouldn’t have eaten all those quail eggs,” the second scout pushes Elon as they continue to laugh and stumble.

The odor is so foul, several troops begin to stumble as they march forward. Moses notices the rumblings of “Apis” in the troops ahead and begins to trot his mule towards the front line. He smells a whiff of the foul odor!

“A mound of Apis, indeed!” Moses thinks to himself.

The odor is so strong he tilts his head back and covers his nose and mouth with his sleeve. As he tilts his head back he sees a flash of light from the top of the ridge opposite the rising sun. He immediately yells out, “Fall back!” He turns his mule around as quickly as possible and whistles to the mule Seqenenre is riding.

“Fall back!” Moses yells!

Just as Seqenenre’s mule starts to circle back, a massive explosion rips through the valley, tearing soldiers apart and throwing bodies and parts of bodies all over the valley! Seqenenre is thrown from his mule, and chaos ensues!

The valley is filled with dirt, dust, and debris. The back ranks have fallen back to safety and suddenly dozens of the troops begin turning on their fellow soldiers, easily picking them off in the confusion. The two friends of Khamudi begin making their way towards the center of the chaos in hopes of finding Seqenenre.

Seqenenre feels a hand on his shoulder and awakens. He’s dragged along the ground and thrown into a spot between a pile of body parts. He attempts to stand, but he’s unable to maintain his balance and stumbles back to the ground. He feels a sharp dagger slice his neck and reaches to cover his wound. He feels a kick to his ribs that forces him to drop his hand to the ground. One of the friends of Khamudi grabs him by his shoulders and sits Seqenenre on his knees.

Reaching behind his back, the other friend of Khamudi reveals a bronze battle axe to Seqenenre. “I was instructed to make sure you can see this axe, Seqenenre. Can you see it?”

Seqenenre nods his head in acknowledgement. He remembers back to when he had the axe commissioned for his wife, Ahhotep, He remembers the joy she expressed when he acknowledged her and thanked her for her support of his military campaigns into Nubia and Cush.

“The owner of this axe paid for my services, Seqenenre. She told me to make sure you knew.” The friend of Khamudi says as he then takes his swing. The axe becomes stuck in Seqenenre’s forehead and the hulking man struggles to remove it. He kicks Seqenenre’s lifeless body away from the axe and a large chunk of his skull remains stuck to the head of the axe. “A souvenir,” he smiles to his fellow friend of Khamudi.

Seqenenre drops to the ground, his brain visible from the massive axe wound to his forehead. The two friends of Khamudi walk back through the fighting still taking place in the back ranks.

#

Moses awakens to a tapping on his foot. He can tell he’s pinned between a couple of dead soldiers and his mule. He can barely breathe with the crushing weight of his mule on top of him, but a rock is supporting just enough of the weight of the mule to prevent him from suffocating. He feels the tapping on his foot again and can hear a muffled voice calling his name. He closes his eyes and goes unconscious again.

“Moses!”

Moses slowly opens his eyes and blinks for a moment.

“Moses! You are alive!” Miriam cries as she holds his weak body in her arms. Somehow, Moses has not a single scratch on his body. He’s covered in dirt but no wounds other than his throbbing head.

“Sister, where is Seqenenre?” Moses coughs out the only question he can think of.

“It’s not good, brother.“

Moses attempts to lift himself up but doesn’t have the strength. He collapses back into Miriam’s arms and begins to weep. Just as Moses begins to cry a violent storm begins to pour down rain in the valley and Moses weeps ever stronger at the loss of his Egyptian brother.

Once the rain storm clears, Miriam and Moses walk to the location where Seqenenre’s body lies half buried in the ground. Moses again weeps at the sight of his fallen Egyptian brother. He digs out Seqenenre and lifts his lifeless corpse and carries him over his shoulder as the three of them continue to make their way to the final stronghold before Thebes.

When they arrive at the stronghold, Moses and Miriam perform mummification rites for Seqenenre as best as they can with the limited materials they have available at the site. Moses again weeps for his fallen Egyptian brother.

The Last Breath

“Brace yourself for an inconvenient truth about being human.” Dareen pauses to prepare his audience of nearly 2,000 gleeful participants for the moment they have been waiting all weekend for.“

This is the moment I’m sure many of you signed up for!” He looks audience members directly in the eyes; sitting in their seats and standing around the large hotel ballroom. He’s silent as he makes his way from one side of the room to the other, admiring the perfectly aligned chairs his brilliant team of assistants and production crew have maintained throughout the entire weekend.

“We’re going to do a little exercise in a moment to drive this next point home. This is going to come as a huge shock to many of you, but here’s the inconvenient truth about being human…” He pauses again, still making his way through his massive audience and finally up to the stage.

He can tell some participants in his seminar are starting to get annoyed with the constant pausing. Dareen smiles gleefully, knowing he has his audience exactly where they need to be for this next important part of his seminar.

“You have zero control over what happens in your life!” He pauses yet again to scan the faces of the audience. “I can tell, most of you are shocked! But Dareen, I came here to gain power in my life. I came here to gain control of my life. This isn’t what I signed up for, and you’re dropping this in my lap on Sunday afternoon when the seminar is almost over! How many of you are thinking something along those lines?” He pauses as a few participants begins nodding their heads.

“Show of hands.” Nearly everyone in the audience raises their hand.

“Great! Now, I said we were going to do an exercise to drive this point home, and now we’re going to do that.” A large digital clock slowly drops from above the stage to just 3 feet above Dareen’s head. It shows 1:00.

“I want everyone sitting upright. If you’re standing, please have a seat. I don’t want you to injure yourself.” He waits while everyone standing goes back to their chair in the perfectly aligned rows of chairs.

“Now, take in a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Then exhale loudly.” The audience follows his instructions precisely.

“Now, we’re going to do that again. Only this time, we’re going to use this clock conveniently placed above my head to help you count out a minute in your head while you hold your breath.” He hears a number of participants start laughing. “I can tell that some of you are already getting where this is going, but don’t ruin it for those who don’t get it yet.”

“Please. Let them get it on their own.” Dareen pleads with the seminar participants who he sees laughing.

Dareen leads them through the breathing exercise. Shortly after 20 seconds, dozens of people in the audience begin breathing again. After 30 seconds, it’s scores of participants. 40 seconds, hundreds. 50 seconds, all but one person has begun breathing frantically.

“Is there anyone still holding their breath?”

The hand of an old man raises in the back of the room.

“Okay, you keep your hand up while you’re still holding your breath.” The audience begins to chuckle and turn to see if they can catch a glimpse of the old man still holding his breath.

As the digital clock continues to count, Dareen smiles. 30 seconds… “Someone make sure he’s not turning blue.” The audience laughs. One of the production staff walks over to check on the man, who gives him a thumbs up.

90 seconds, the audience is beginning to chatter as Dareen smiles on stage, “I once had a mountain climber in the audience who was able to hold his breath for 5 and 1/2 minutes. We could be in for a long wait, so please be patient.”

180 seconds, members of the seminar are standing up and trying everything they can to catch a glimpse of the old man. Each of the audience members who has interacted with the old man during the seminar tells the people around them a story the old man had shared with them. The stories are as colorful as a fairytale, ranging from the old man being in the last Great War of Europe in his 20s to being a fishing boat captain when he was in his 30s, a tech company CEO and venture capitalist during his 40s, traveling the world on a motorcycle during his 50s, competing and winning the Hawaiian Ironman every year of his 60s, to the pain and anguish of having lost all his brothers and sisters and half of his nieces and nephews during his 70s, and now searching for meaning in his life as he begins his 80s having been diagnosed with cancer.

300 seconds, the old man finally drops his hand and begins to breath normally, as if he hadn’t been holding his breath for nearly seven minutes. Dareen leads the audience in an eruption of applause! “Please come up on stage!” Dareen shouts as the audience gives the old man a standing ovation while he slowly makes his way to the front of the massive room all the way from the back row.

Dareen keeps applauding the man as he makes his way up the stairs. He reads his name tag. “Everyone, please welcome Gabriel to the stage. Gabriel how many years young are you?”

“I just turned 81, Dareen.”

The audience collectively shouts, “wow!”

“That’s impressive, Gabriel. Very impressive! You topped everyone who has ever done this exercise. Before I get to the point of the exercise,” Dareen looks out into the audience, “which I think everyone in the audience is getting at this point. Before we get to that, I’d like you to share what you were thinking about during that 5 minutes.”

“Well, Dareen. The first minute I was thinking this was going to be a breeze, and I didn’t really understand what the point of the exercise was. Since holding my breath for a minute was easy for me.”

Dareen interjects, “Clearly, one minute was no match for you!” The audience laughs.

“80 years was no match for me!” Gabriel shouts with joy!

The audience explodes with applause!

“Then I started thinking about life, Dareen. I started thinking about my dear family who I’ve outlived all of them and even some into the next two generations. I started thinking of all the men and women I saw killed in wars and all the petty squabbling between neighbors and nations. I thought of the injustices I’ve seen in my life, how the rich will steal from the poor and the needy, how people will align themselves with what they believe is just only to find out it’s a fraud. I then started thinking about all of the amazingly beautiful things and places I have seen in my life. And then I thought of the most beautiful of them all, my late wife, Claire.”

Half the audience begins crying, and even Dareen’s eyes begins to well with tears.

Gabriel’s voice begins to shake. “I thought of my beloved, Claire. I though of how just last year I was holding her hand in our bed as she took her last breath, and how blessed I was to share that moment with her. I felt like I was back in that moment just before she told me she loved me with her last breath. And I thought of how her and I had promised each other we’d go together, holding hands. And then I thought about how I failed her. And so I thought, what would be more perfect than for this moment to be my last breath too. To make up for that failure.”

People in the audience can be heard sobbing as Gabriel shares his experience.

“I tried, Dareen. I tried damn hard, and I’m a tough man, you see. I’ve been through it all. I’m strong.” Gabriel breaks down and wraps his arms around Dareen and sobs uncontrollably as Dareen consoles him.

“I’m the toughest son of a bitch you’ll ever meet. I tried, Dareen. I tried so hard, and then I heard my sweet Claire’s voice, and she told me to wise up, and then it hit me, Dareen.” He pulls back from Dareen.

“What’s that, Gabriel?”

“Everything I thought about. Every moment I relived, and every breath I took and shared… Even the last breath my beloved Claire shared with me…” Gabriel chokes up again and then continues, “I had no more control over it than my own breath, Dareen.”

Gabriel and Dareen smile as they stare deeply into each other’s eyes, having reached a point of full understanding of the exercise.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, another round of applause for Gabriel!”

Gabriel walks off the stage and down the stairs as the audience give him another standing ovation, tears flowing from their eyes.

“That’s exactly what this exercise is about. You might be an 81 year old bad ass, but you have no more control over the events in your life than you have over your own breath. It’s how you react to the events… that’s what you own! What you do with what’s happening in the world around you, near and far… and even what’s happening within your very own body that… you… have… no… control over… That’s what’s yours! That’s what you own! Your reaction is the only thing in this world that is truly yours. Now, own that? You’ll own your reality!”

Agent Lee

“He’s by far the most promising recruit we’ve seen in the history of the program!” The medical director says to Fredrick Prophet as he leads him down the hallway.

“And his DNA analysis?” Fredrick asks.

“80 percent match, sir.” the medical director smiles as he opens the door to the room where Cadet Lee sits quietly reading through a history book on mid-American history.

Fredrick motions to the medical director to leave as Cadet Lee abruptly closes his book, places it on his desk, stands up, pushes his chair in, and stands at attention saluting Fredrick. Fredrick smiles, “I’m not one of those, Cadet Lee.” Cadet Lee relaxes and let’s out a big sigh.

“The medical director tells me you’ve shown the best results of anyone he’s ever seen in the program. I know that might come as a surprise to you given your subpar grades.”

Cadet Lee doesn’t understand where Fredrick is going with the conversation, so he remains silent and keeps his stern face.

“I have a special assignment for you, Agent Lee.” Fredrick says as he looks out the tiny window in Cadet Lee’s room.

Cadet Lee’s stern composure turn to surprise at the sound of “Agent Lee”. He cracks a smile and almost laughs in the process.

“I’m not joking about the agent part, Lee.” Fredrick says, not even turning around to see Cadet Lee almost laughing. “You have something within you of particular value, and I’m hoping for you to reach the potential I know you’re capable of.”

“With all due respect, sir, I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about. I don’t even know why I’m still in this program. I should have failed out months ago. I’ve seen others with better grades get kicked out. So, whatever you’re talking about, I don’t understand, sir.” Cadet Lee says as he sounds disappointed in himself.

Fredrick turns to Lee and looks him in the eyes. “What you can’t see, I’ll help you see, Agent Lee. The confidence you lack is a minor hurdle for you to reach your full potential. You are destined to change history, Agent Lee. I’m here to take you to the next level.” Fredrick smiles. “You’re next round of training starts now. Come with me.”

Cadet Lee flattens his smile and has a dumbfounded look on his face. Fredrick walks over to the door and grabs the handle. Not turning around, he says to Cadet Lee, “Don’t pack anything. My team will take care of it. Your sole responsibility from this point on is to follow my orders, Agent Lee.”

#

Cadet Lee lies submerged in a float tank with a series of wires connected to his head. He’s in a deep state of meditation as Fredrick Prophet and a team of scientists monitor his vitals and an application that’s providing them with direct insight into Cadet Lee’s near real-time brain functions.

“Maurice, how’s everything looking?” Fredrick asks the lead scientist directing the operations.

“It appears that Cadet Lee is the closest he’s been in months, Fred. If he can maintain this level of meditation, we should be able to make contact within the next 10 minutes!” Maurice responds in suppressed excitement.

They continue monitoring Cadet Lee for another 10 minutes as Fredrick begins to grow increasingly anxious. The program suddenly begins printing data to the screen at a rate that nobody can read! Cadet Lee’s body jumps suddenly in the tank and he awakens. He’s pulled out of the container and several scientists help him untangle himself from the mess of wires he’s become trapped in from thrashing around uncontrollably in the tank.

“What was that, Fred!” Cadet Lee yells into the rafters, knowing that Fredrick is monitoring him along with several other scientists in the observation room up on the mezzanine. “What in the crazy ass hell was that Fred!” He yells again!

Fred runs down the stairs, “Lee! You did it! I need you to tell me everything that happened!”

Cadet Lee jumps out of the tank, snapping several of the wires in the process and shoves the scientists away from him as he heads, drenched, towards Fredrick in a rage. Just as he’s about to reach Fredrick, he drops to his knees and then collapses into convulsions. Fredrick rolls Cadet Lee on to his side and then removes his sports coat and covers Cadet Lee’s naked body and comforts him until his body stops convulsing and Cadet Lee falls into a deep sleep.

#

“Agent Lee…”

“Agent Lee…”

Cadet Lee feels warm sunshine on his face as he awakens inside of a dream state. There’s a beautiful grassy hill in front of him with a single large Terebinth tree at the top. A glowing orb shoots out of the tree and begins to swirl around him, and he begins to spin in circles trying to catch the orb until he blacks out and awakens in an empty building.

A man who is just a silhouette walks towards him and begins speaking even though he has no face or mouth, “Agent Lee, it’s nice to finally meet you. Welcome to our home.”

Cadet Lee looks around at the empty surroundings. “Our home?” He asks.

“We’re going to be spending some time together, Agent Lee.”

“Fred? Is that you? Are you playing some sort of mind game with me? Nobody calls me Agent Lee except your stupid ass.” Cadet Lee says with anger as his relationship with Fredrick Prophet has greatly soured over the months they’ve been working on Project Bishop.

“No, I’m not Fredrick.”

“God?”

“I’m not God.”

“Satan?”

The figure chuckles, “No, Agent Lee.”

“Do you have a name?” Cadet Lee asks in confusion.

“No, Agent Lee.” The silhouette responds.

“That doesn’t help much. How should I address you?”

“Just call me.”

Cadet Lee waits for an additional response and finally breaks the awkward silence. “Why am I here?”

“To spend time with me.”

“And why are you here?”

“To spend time with you.” The silhouette responds.

Cadet Lee throws his hands up in despair and places his hands on his hips, looking disgustedly at the silhouette. He begins walking to his right away from the silhouette and notices that the walls of the empty building are moving so that it appears he’s in the same place in the middle of the empty room. He turns back to the direction of the silhouette, and it’s gone.

“Where did you go?”

The silhouette suddenly appears in the same location it was before and begins walking towards him. Cadet Lee starts walking towards the silhouette and the two begin gliding towards each other until Cadet Lee finds himself floating inside the silhouette. Suddenly he begins to feel like he’s falling faster and faster until his flesh and bones disintegrate from his soul and his soul splatters on the ground.

He watches as the puddle of his soul slowly spreads out on the floor of a semi dark room. There’s a light source, but he can’t tell where it’s coming from.

“Who are you?” He hears a strange voice he’s never heard before. “What are you doing here?”

He answers back, “I’m Agent Lee. Who the hell are you?”

Agent Lee waits for an answer as he hears the other man breathing heavier with each passing moment.

“How can I help you Agent Lee?”

“You can start by telling me who you are.” Agent Lee demands.

“Who sent you?” The voice demands back.

“The Bishop sent me.”

“Which Bishop, Agent Lee?” The voice asks in a more relaxed tone.

“Maurice.”

Agent Lee responds to several more questions with information Fredrick has been training him with for the last several months. The voice sounding less and less skeptical with each question.

“Call me Mr. Phillips, Agent Lee. Tell the Bishop I need three days after the data drop. I will speak with you soon.”

Agent Lee looks confused, but Fredrick had prepared him for this moment for months.

“Congratulations on the promotion, Agent Lee.”

“Thanks, Mr. Phillips.”

“Oh, and Agent Lee, watch out for that first drop. It’s going to hurt.”

Agent Lee suddenly feels himself dropping again. Faster and faster. This time he feels the pain as his flesh begins to disintegrate from his body.

#

Agent Lee suddenly wakes up in a hospital bed. A doctor is sitting at his bedside and touches him on his arm.

“Agent Lee”. She says softly to him in a soothing voice that immediately calms his anxiety.

“How did I get here?” He calmly asks the doctor.

“Fredrick brought you here. I’ve been monitoring you for the last six weeks.” She responds.

“I’ve been out for six weeks?”

“Yes, Agent Lee. You might feel a bit weak. From not moving much, but we’ve been taking very good care of you. Fredrick himself has been changing your sheets and rubbing the skin treatment on you.”

Agent Lee looks confused and starts to respond, “but he’s an asshole, Doc.”

The door opens and Fredrick enters the room. The doctor stands up and walks towards Fredrick. “He’s doing well. I briefed him on his status, and he was just telling me how thankful he was for your care.” She says to Fredrick.

“I bet he was,” Fredrick says. He walks to Agent Lee’s bedside and places his hand on the guard rail. Looking at Agent Lee with a big smile, he turns to the doctor. “Doctor, Harvey, can you bring in the transcripts from the session so that I can review them with Agent Lee? Thanks.”

#

Agent Lee is a bit nervous the evening before his third trip for Project Bishop. He’s sitting with Fredrick, Doctor Harvey and Maurice Lane, the chief scientist, as they paint the picture of the most important, and final phase of the project. Agent Lee is to deliver the final set of data that will be necessary for Mr. Phillips to complete Operation Bishop.

Over the last several months, the friendship between Fredrick and Agent Lee has greatly improved as Agent Lee now understands the full scope and importance of the work Fredrick has chosen him for. Plus, he’s learned to understand why Fredrick had to keep him in the dark about the true purpose of the project at the onset.

Fredrick has become a father figure to Agent Lee, a father figure he never had growing up. As he’s staring out the window, Agent Lee thinks back to the conversation he had with Fredrick a couple of weeks ago.

“Fred, I have to tell you something that’s very important to me.” Agent Less said to Fredrick.

“Go ahead, son.”

“See, that’s exactly it, Fred. I never had a father growing up. He died before I was born. You’ve been the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father in my life.” Agent Lee’s eyes welled with tears. “You’re more of a father figure that I think an actual dad could even be. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and supporting me through this entire project.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Lee. It means a lot to me. This project is your destiny. It’s been generations in the making. In many ways, I feel like your father. In full disclosure…” Fredrick paused for a moment as Agent Lee felt like he was giving great consideration to what he was about to say next. “Your father and I worked together, Lee. I made a promise to him that I’d watch you and shepherd you if anything were to happen to him. He was a great man, Lee. He understood just how important you were going to be. He too believed in you as I do.”

Stunned, Agent Lee was at a loss for words as Fredrick continued. “The truth is, Lee, your family has been a target for generations because of Project Bishop. Same with Doctor Harvey and Director Lane. The coup plotters changed Oswald’s name to Lee Harvey to send a signal over the generations since 1963 that your lineage and Doctor Harvey’s lineage are to be targeted. Someone’s a trader, Lee. I’m not saying you or Harvey, but I’ll be honest…”

Agent Lee had never seen a more serious look on Fredrick’s face, “I’m not ruling out Maurice, Lee. Don’t give him all your trust. If you ever wanted fatherly advice that’s it. Don’t fully trust Maurice.”

Agent Lee contemplated the enormity of what Fredrick was saying. “You think my father was killed because of me?” He asked.

“Absolutely, Lee. Someone on the other side found out who your father was. I think that was one of the reasons for the name change. It wasn’t to just let us know that they figured out we went back and faked the assassination. It was to leave a breadcrumb for the future so that someone could find it and attempt to thwart Project Bishop. Your entire lineage has been a target, and your father was the closest they ever came.”

#

Agent Lee sits across the table from Doctor Harvey as they eat their regular pre-meditation breakfast. “Are you ready to make history, Agent Lee?” She smiles.

“You ever wonder if all of this has any point to it?” Agent Lee asks.

“I’m not sure what you mean, Lee. We’re saving a great man’s life.”

“Are we really? In all the history books, he’s dead. And the agency we’re working for and the men I’m talking to back in 1963 are all implicated and blamed for the assassination or at the very least not stopping it. What’s the point?” Agent Lee says frustratedly pushing his bowl of oatmeal away from him.

Doctor Harvey slides the bowl back closer to Agent Lee. “I know it’s not easy for you, Lee. I know this whole experience is borderline torture for your mind. You need to eat.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Yes, Lee, I believe this all has a point. I believe we’re answering a higher calling than we could possibly understand. And most importantly, I believe that you were given a gift.” She places her hand on Agent Lee’s hand and continues. “You were given a gift that allows you, and only you to make this happen. Now, if you want to know why I think you were given this gift, I can’t even begin to fathom. I’m a pretty smart woman, Lee.”

Agent Lee interrupts, “You’re absolutely brilliant, Doc.” He smiles.

“Thank you, Lee. Despite all that intelligence, I haven’t a clue who chose you or why. What I can comprehend is that it’s you. You save this man’s life. You make history, and the world is a better place because of it.” She pauses as she searches for the right words to say to Agent Lee.

“Quite honestly, Lee, I think the world is a better place because they think he’s dead. It allowed him to operate behind the scenes and engage with the deepest members of the teams that all lead to us sitting here this morning.”

Agent Lee smiles at Doctor Harvey as the two stare deep into each other’s eyes. They become almost lost in each other’s trance as they’ve become close partners during the execution of Operation Bishop.

“Let’s go make history, Doc!” Agent Lee stands up and the two hold hands as they walk towards the observation room.

The Royal Wedding

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

No greater vows had ever been spoken before this day. Some say no greater vows will ever be spoken. Vows so great, this writing dare not contain them! The vows just witnessed by hundreds from all walks of life are so powerful, so moving; of such divine inspiration, that as Moses completes his vows a single tear drops from his left eye! As he gazes upon the face of his soon to be wife, tears stream down her face as she has never heard such beautiful words, nay… poetry, nay… music, in her entire life as princess.

But it’s Moses’ single tear that moves her to break down sobbing. This rugged man, a true man’s man, endowed as much in spirit as physical prowess and mental acuity, has shown her why she fell in love with him in the first place. Not only has she chosen the most handsome, courageous man she has ever known, he’s a poetic master and genuine gentleman. She has chosen wisely! She gathers her composure as she looks longingly into his magnetic eyes; His own strength being so powerful that he elevates her in spirit to begin her vows.

“Moses,” she begins, “from the first time I saw you, I knew this was true love.” Moses smiles, and her heart briefly stops. A smile that inspires all who gaze upon it to enjoy their own lives that much more. A smile that lifts up all who gaze upon it to a higher plane of existence. A smile that she remembers from that fateful day she first gazed upon her now to be husband.

She continues, “I believe it was shortly after our special forces had made their way through your surrounding defense line. While you had directed your men and orchestrated a masterful siege insurgency of this beautiful city, we thought for sure that our special forces had the upper hand against you. It was our two finest remaining special forces against one, with no immediate escape available to you.”

She looks down and wipes the tears from her eyes before continuing. “I have never seen such beautiful sword wielding in my entire life. Watching our two finest warriors attempt an assault on you was like watching my young nephew swing his club wildly in training. It was as if, for a moment, all of time stood still except you. You carved through our two finest warriors like a banquet feast. The way you danced effortlessly around both of our soon fallen…”

She pauses to catch her breath. “Much like the breath was taken from my cousins that day, I am left breathless just looking upon you. As I watched you from on high, atop this fortress wall, your sword and armor glistening with the blood of my fallen cousins, I knew this was a special moment. I had never seen anything of such beauty.”

She looks over at each of the men standing with Moses in the bridegroom’s party. “I knew at that moment as I stared down at you and Nun, who arrived just as you finished off the last of our special forces…” She looks back to Moses, “I knew that I must give myself to you. I knew that I must become your wife. For what would be my life, if it is not to be honored for eternity as your wife? I turned to my father and asked him to please call off the next wave of soldiers so that our peoples can make peace and you and I may join ourselves together as one, witnessed by both our great nations.”

While seemingly impossible, Moses smiles an even bigger, more radiant smile than ever before. It is said that some where blinded for this brief moment and the glean was seen throughout the whole land of Cush. The princess continues, “I know that at times I have not always seen eye to eye with your brother and sister.” She turns to face Moses’ sister standing behind her as her bridesmaid, “But I promise to always love and support you and your family.”

Turning to all the witnesses, “I promise on my father’s name that you will always be the lord of my heart and the guardian of my soul. Just as I admired you from my tower on high, my heart is solely devoted to you and only you for all eternity!”

Cheering erupts from the princess’ side of the wedding witnesses. The priest completes the ceremony, and Moses and his princess walk down the aisle to cheers from both sides and mandrake flowers being thrown at them from every direction.

#

The reception is a boisterous, jovial event. A wedding reception unlike any seen before! Moses and Tharbis make their way from family to family, receiving praise for their matrimony and thanking their family members who attended from all the lands, near and far. Moses’ relatives trekked from lands so far, they were not even on maps of the day.

Moses embraces his uncle Izhar who is enthusiastic to introduce him to his newborn son, Nepheg. Holding Nepheg in his arms, Izhar hands him over the Moses. “Say hello to your cousin, Moses.”

“He is to become a handsome young man, my dear uncle.” Moses smiles as he embraces his newborn cousin. “Where is Korah?”

Izhar calls to Korah who comes running over to Moses and reaches as high as he can to give Moses a big hug around his waist. “Cousin, Moses, when I grow up, I want to be just like you and conquer the great nations and lead our people and marry a beautiful princes.”

“Now, Korah, let the new bridegroom have his space and allow him to continue on to meeting with other families,” Izhar says as he pulls Korah away from Moses.

Moses gently hands Nepheg back to Izhar and kneels down to eye level with young Korah. He holds Korah’s head in his hands as if Korah is his own son. Speaking to him, he says lovingly yet firmly, “My dear cousin, I am thankful that you look up to me, and I admire your enthusiasm. But you must promise me that you will follow after your father. Learn all the ways of his many successful businesses. My life is not the life for you. Promise me that you will follow after your father and not chose my path.”

Korah looks down, dejected.

Moses gently lifts his cousins chin, “Korah, I love you dearly. I love your father dearly. Promise me you will follow after your father.”

Korah smiles, “I love you too, Moses. I promise I’ll be the most successful businessman you’ll ever know.”

“Of that, I have no doubt, young man!” Moses says as he stands back up to face Izhar.

“Thank you, nephew. Thank you very much for helping set him straight.” Izhar says to Moses with a big smile.

“We are family for all generations, each with our lot. Shalom!” Moses cheers!

As if everyone attending had focused entirely on the words of Moses and the music had stopped so that everyone could hear, “Shalom!” shouted the party!

Onward to Hebron, then Shedur, then Zuar, Gideoni, Deuel, Enam, and the rest of the tribes and their descendants. Moses and Tharbis make their way through Tharbis’ family as well. The joy of each family is felt with every embrace.

Moses embraces his father who kisses him. “I wish she had sent a representative to see this day, father.” Moses says quietly in his father’s ear.

“Don’t be a child, Moses,” Amram says to Moses as he embraces him with all the love of a just and righteous father. “You know that is not possible. Enjoy this blessed day and pay no heed to what troubles your mind.” He steps back from Moses and gives him a stern look. “I saw you speaking with the piece of shih’et son of Jachin. I dare not mention his name, lest I am shih’et myself.”

“Yes, father, I was speaking with…” Moses starts.

“Don’t say it, son. Don’t mention the son of Jachin!”

Moses smiles and places his hands on both of Amram’s shoulders, “I love you father. I will honor your wishes, but you must allow me to honor Jachin and his sons.”

Amram nods and sends Moses off to visit with the rest of the attendees of his wedding. It is as if all the nations of earth have gathered for this occasion. The festivities continue through the night and to dawn. A celebration of unity unlike any seen before.

#

As the sun begins to rise, Moses and an exhausted Tharbis stand at the top of the same tower where she had fallen deeply in love with Moses. They look longingly into each others’ eyes and are about to kiss just as there’s a commotion.

“Moses! Moses!” a messenger shouts from the base of the tower.

“What is it, young man?”

“Moses, you are needed immediately. We have received unnerving word from home! Please come immediately!”

Moses kisses Tharbis and holds her face with his palms, “My beautiful bride, I assure you that I will return in one degree of a sundial.”

Moses makes his way down the tower steps and sees a great commotion with his top advisers waiting for him. “What is this commotion?” Moses demands.

“Sir, several upper towns have been seized by a growing band of marauders and two messengers have confirmed marauders speaking Qis is next, within the new moon.”

Moses pauses for a moment as all his advisers hinge on his words… “Let Tzav send word to Seqenenre that I am returning from Cush. Call half the commanders to service immediately. The other half shall remain here to assist my wife and her family with whatever tasks her nation requires.”

The advisers head off, each knowing what they are to do. Moses holds back young Nun. “You are not to come with me, Nun.”

“These thieves are going after our homes!” Nun exclaims defiantly.

“And who are these thieves, my young friend? I know them well, but do you?” Moses replies. “Stay here with your wife and tend to my bride and the Cushite people. Setup the networks we have discussed. I will send you a messenger upon completion of my mission, Tsephon. This is not an adventure you can take part in, and you cannot convince me otherwise. I need your brains and your youthful energy here.”

The veins along Nun’s jaw bulge as he clenches his jaw, “I understand,” he growls.

“You are my most trusted adviser, Nun.” Moses smiles and lightly smacks Nun’s face, “As beloved to me as Aaron or Mariam.”

Moses returns to the tower to face Tharbis. His face turned down, Moses approaches his new bride who embraces him with all her love. She watches as Moses’ troops are assembling outside her fortress.

“I am truly sorry for the timing. I will return, my dear,” Moses says with tears welling in his eyes.

Tharbis hands Moses a gold ring matching a bracelet she is wearing. “I believe your God is calling you for your glorious destiny, my love. You will forever have my support and all of my love. My heart will be with you everywhere you journey.”

“This is a simple mission, my dear Tharbis. I will wipe out these marauders and return within a phase of the moon.” He hands her a rolled papyrus. “I have written you a poem that you mustn’t read until I have left your land. I am also leaving behind my most trusted adviser, Nun, along with half my men to help you and your nation rebuild.”

With those words, Moses kisses Tharbis and they embrace. “You must go, Moses,” Tharbis says as she pulls back from his loving embrace. He begins to walk away, holding her hand until his arm is outstretched still. As their fingertips slip passed each other the heavy sound of tens of thousands of soldiers marching begins to shake the walls of the tower.


Grandma’s Visit to the Beach

Sam puts the van in park as he looks at Martha and they both smile lovingly at each other. He looks over his shoulder at his grandmother, snoring loudly with her head drooping to her right side and a puddle of drool forming on her right shoulder. His eyes well with tears as he gently touches his grandmother’s knee to wake her.
“Grandma,” he says softly. “Grandma, we’re here.”
Martha opens her door and gets out to stretch. The final leg of their 4 day journey was a winding three hour drive through hairpin mountain turns to get to the California coastline. She closes her eyes and breathes in the fresh air, stretching her arms high into the air.
Sam opens the van door and steadies his grandmother’s head against his shoulder. She’s still snoring loudly, barely moving even as Sam struggles to pick her up and place her in the wheelchair.
They lockup the van, and Sam pushes his grandmother along the rocky parking lot until they reach the opening to the beach. None of them have ever been to the beach, and Sam instantly receives Beach 101 knowledge: wheelchairs don’t roll in sand!
“What are we going to do, Sam?” Martha asks her husband as he stands with his arms folded, pondering how he’s going to get his grandmother to the beach.
Sam hears his grandmother’s sweet, still small voice, “Are we there, Sam?”
“Yes, Grandma. We’re here. The beach is just over that sand dune.”
“Take me there, Sam. Please, take me to the water, so I can put my toes in the ocean.”
Sam gently picks up his grandmother, all 90 lbs of her, and carries her like a precious child up the sand dune. Mustering ox-like strength, he powers his way over the sand dune, cradling her securely and keeping a steady stance with each step with his beloved grandma.
His grandmother smiles as she feels the salty air on her face. “Please, let me put my feet in the water, Sam. That’s the last I’ll ever ask of you.”
Sam carries his grandmother over to the water. “It’s freezing, Grandma.”
“That’s okay, Sam. Just let me feel the water.”
Sam wades into the water until the small waves are crashing against his upper thighs. He adjusts his grandmother so that she can reach her feet down into the ocean water.
“Thank you, my dear, Sam. Thank you so much. That was all I needed.”
As Sam carries her back to the beach, she lifts herself up to his shoulder and whispers in his ear, “Grandpa said he loves you.”

Lieutenant Bargh

George Bargh leans down and kisses his infant daughter on the forehead. As he stands back upright, he leaves his right hand on the cheek of his daughter and smiles. He turns to leave the room and looks at a picture on the wall of him and his late wife. He see’s his reflection in the glass and turns back to look at his infant daughter again. He smiles.

The nanny is standing in the kitchen and making breakfast for both of them.

“Susan, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for everything that you do for me and my family of one. I truly appreciate everything you do for me and Rachel.”

“I’d say I was just doing my job, George, but we both know how much my aunt meant to you. And to me! You’re family, George. I truly mean that.”

The two sit down and eat breakfast and talk about their day. George finishes up quickly and grabs his gun and badge.

“Thanks, Susan. I’ll be back at the usual.”

There’s a knock on the door. George opens the door and greets his partner, Marcus, and the two walk down the steps of the porch and get into their car.

As Marcus pulls the car into their precinct parking lot George confides, “Marcus, I need to get out.”

“Look pal, you and me both, but we both know there’s only one way out of this. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. Even if you went to another planet, they’d find you and put you to use.”

“I can’t bring my daughter up in this, Marcus.”

“It ain’t so bad, George. My kids love Uncle Bill.”

“You raise your kids, Marcus. I’ll raise mine. I need to figure out some way out of this.”

“Ain’t gonna happen, Georgie! Nobody gets out, and you knew that getting in.” Marcus gets out of the car and slams his door and starts walking away as George sits in the car.

He looks up at the officers standing near the entrance. They all look at Marcus and then train their eyes on George. “Everyone is in on it.” George thinks to himself as he gets out of the car.

#

Marcus and George enter a luxurious six-story building. It smells of freshly blossoming Jasmine floors in the lobby. The elevators are out, and they need to take the stairs at the end of the lobby up to the top floor. As they reach the third floor, Marcus stops to catch his breath.

“C’mon, you pussy!” George says to Marcus as he passes him up.

“You…” Marcus is out of breath and waves George on. “I’ll catch up.”

“You gonna have a heart attack? I’m not dragging your fat ass back down you lazy fuck. Get moving.” George keeps heading up the stairs.

As he gets to the top floor, there are two very large men holding guns directed at him. They are wearing dark glasses, and he noticed a series of dim red and blue lights in the rims of the glasses performing a weapons scan on him.

“Where is your partner?”

“He’s a fat fuck, much like yourselves, and probably dead back on the third floor. Come to think of it, how did you two fucks get up here?” George has been showing these two guards contempt ever since he started working with Uncle Bill.

“If Uncle Bill didn’t say otherwise, we’d rip you in half and throw you off the top of this building you puny little shit.” The guard on the left says as the guard on the right opens the door to let George in to see Uncle Bill.

George smiles and gives the finger to the guard on the right as he walks down the hallway into the large open room that is Uncle Bill’s sprawling office space. 20 foot floor to ceiling windows overlook Monument Park in the Republic of Columbia. He looks out over the massive monuments and over to the location of the remains of the ancient White House building.

“Can you believe what a circus this place used to be, George?” Uncle Bill asks in his southern drawl.

“Never really thought about politics much, to be honest.”

“Best to leave the truly dirty work to guys like me, eh, George?”

“You could say that. Speaking of dirty work, you know your elevators are out, right? My partner is probably dead back down there.”

“Yet, here you are.”

“Just following orders, sir.”

“Yes…” Uncle Bill pauses for a few seconds. “You ever thought about joining Space Force, George?”

“I’m guessing you need me to join Space Force.” George retorts.

“You’ll have to pass all the tests, but I don’t think you’ll have much trouble with that. There’s a certain mission…” Uncle Bill pauses for dramatic effect. “You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll volunteer, and we’ll make sure all goes smooth. Do this mission, and I’ll let you out.”

“Maybe I won’t feel bad if Marcus really is dead back on the third floor.” George’s face is burning with anger for being ratted out by his partner.

“Come now. He’s just doing his job. And now I need you to just do this one last job.”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

Uncle Bill smiles. “I promise, this will absolutely be your last job with us, but it will be a long one. The mission won’t happen for another six years.”

“Fucking figures.”

Uncle Bill laughs, “In the meantime, you don’t have to do anything else but join Space Force and be a good soldier. Marcus will be assigned a new partner on the police force. Spend time with your daughter over her formative years and maybe find her a new mother?” Uncle Bill pats him on the shoulder and George can almost sense genuine sympathy. “Raise her right, George. Children are our future.”

“And when I get back, then what?”

“When you get back, you get to live whatever life you make for yourself. You’ll never see me again.” Uncle Bill smiles, looks him in the eyes and extends his right hand to George. The two shake hands. “You’ll know what mission to volunteer for.”

“I got that. Well, Uncle Bill, if this truly is the last time I’ll ever have to see your slimy face again, I want you to know it’s been no honor doing business with you.” George scowls at Uncle Bill and dreams about how easy it would be to kill him right now but walks towards the doors.

“Oh, and Bill, one more thing…” George turns back to face Bill and gives him the middle finger. “Fuck you.” He laughs. Uncle Bill smiles. George opens the door, walks out between the two guards, stops, and lifts both hands and give them both middle fingers. He gives off one more middle finger behind his back as he skips down the stairs with joy.

#

Lieutenant Bargh is still a little wobbly after being brought out of suspended animation. He hears a voice but cannot understand what it is saying. He can see a robot standing in front of him, shining a blue light into his eyes, and his vision starts to come back to him. The robot reaches out it’s arms and places a headset on him. He can feel the liquid drain from his ears and run out of his sinuses through his nose.

“Lieutenant George Bargh, you are to report to Section 5 once you have been cleared and settled in your quarters. Is that understood?” The robot inquires.

“Yes, that’s understood.”

Once Bargh is cleaned up, another robot arrives with his clothing. Bargh gets dressed and is then taken to his quarters. He opens up his small closet and pulls down a silver necklace with a locket on it. He opens it up and smiles at the picture of his now eight year old daughter. He remembers the last moment he had with her before leaving on the mission to Mohcia.

His daugher’s voice echoes in his head, “I love you, daddy. Hurry back.”

There’s a loud beep in his bunk room.

“Lieutenant Bargh, please report to the briefing room immediately.” He puts his necklace on, and drops the locket down his shirt and heads to the briefing room.

As Bargh is heading to the briefing room, he’s met by Lieutenant Smith heading the opposite direction. “Looks like you’re playing second fiddle, Bargh! I get the first run you slow poke.”

“That’s pretty much how it was with your mom last night.” Bargh jabs back at Smith.

Bargh enters the briefing room and is informed the Admiral is sending them down to the three Earth bases on Mohcia. There’s a slight change in plans though as Andre Levion will be taking command of their company.

#

Esua and his family sit down at their dinner table with Bargh in the guest of honor chair. Bargh smiles awkwardly as he tries to fit himself in the small chair at the head of the alien table. Esua’s servants treat the family and the human Bargh to a traditional Mohcia dinner and have pleasant conversation. Everything Bargh had heard about Mohcia food is true. It’s the best meal he’s ever had!

After dinner, Bargh is looking at the artwork on the walls of Esua’s home. Esua walks over to him and explains that the piece he’s standing in front of is that of a legendary Mohcian-god warrior named Bezo. The legend is that Bezo was half Mohcian and half god, and traveled between worlds, conquering all who cross his path but saving those who are virtuous and plan for their families.

Bargh looks at the sculpture closely and notices that Bezo has two thumbs as opposed to no thumbs like Esua. Bargh turns to Esua and covers the microphone of his translator and asks Esua whether he knows the meaning of a phrase in Esua’s native tongue. Esua appears startled (at least as startled as a Mohcian can appear).

Esua places his hand on Bargh’s and moves Bargh’s finger off of the microphone. “Your generosity has convinced me. My family and I will go with you back to your home planet.”

Bargh is puzzled but relieved that Esua and his family will take part in the evacuation of Mohcia. He lets Esua know the plans for what they need to do to get ready and that transport will arrive in the early morning.

Esua and Bargh walk out to the front yard of Esua’s home. Bargh looks up at the stars in the sky and admires the three different moons that Mohcia has to offer in the night sky. The largest moon is tidal locked just like Earth’s moon, but the smaller moons are not. The smallest moon spins on it’s access so quickly that Bargh can actually see it’s red surface spinning with his naked eyes.

“The legend of Bezo is that he pulled Sigma in to orbit around our home planet.” Esua points to the smallest moon that Bargh is admiring. “From there, he was able to oversee and protect our land and see out into the heavens to ensure our people were always safe.”

“If only the legend were true, my friend,” Bargh replies

Bargh receives an encrypted message from the Admiral. He reads it and then turns to Esua and covers his microphone and then reads a message in Esua’s native language. “There’s a slight change of plans. Your family will be evacuated tomorrow morning, but I need your help in three days.”

Esua responds to Bargh as he lifts his finger from the microphone, “I can never repay you for your generosity.”

#

Narrowly escaping John Levion’s attack, Bargh and Esua’s shuttle makes its way towards the orbital module. From there, they launch a small command pod that rendezvous with the Admiral and her skeleton crew aboard her cruiser. Bargh debriefs the Admiral on John Levion being alive and shows her the scan of his suit.

Everyone watches in amazement from the video feed coming in from the solar monitoring stations. There is what can only be described as a massive solar flare extending from Zathustine Major to a location about half an astronomical unit to a massive space ship roughly the size of Mohcia’s smallest moon.

“It’s Oris!” Esua shouts!

Everyone looks at Esau. Bargh asks, “That was the villain your hero Bezo fought?”

Esua explains the Mohcia legend of Oris to the crew. Oris is the last of an elephant-like space creature who feeds off the energy of stars. The Oris destroyed solar systems all over the universe by devouring their solar centers and leaving the entire system as a dark, lifeless mass. The Mohcia hero Bezo teamed up with the Lord of Time to hunt down the space creatures until there was just one left: Oris. The Lord of Time felt pity for the creature since all of its kind were destroyed. Instead of killing Oris, the Lord of Time held him captive and trained Oris to fight for him by making it so that Oris’s devouring of solar mass could run backwards and create massive solar bombs that Oris could hurl at the enemies of the Lord of Time.

“Looks like Oris is fueling up for the next fight!” Bargh exclaims.

“That’s not a fight that we’re going to stick around for,” the Admiral says as the cruiser finishes breaking orbit from Mohcia and rapidly picks up speed.

As they are making their way through the solar system, it becomes clear that the gravitational force of the Oris space ship is causing problems with their energy consumption. The Admiral, Bargh, and the cruiser’s navigator start running through scenarios to get out of the solar system to make the jump back to Earth. All fuel from shuttles is re-purposed to the main cruiser, and all but one of the shuttles is jettisoned. The estimates are still looking grim for the cruiser being able to make the jump back to Earth or even the nearest known outpost between Mohcia and Earth.

#

Bargh approaches Esua, “Hey, friend. You studied your legends in depth, right?”

“My brother and I were the foremost experts on our ancient history. Did you like the story I told? I can tell you hundreds of others just as beautiful. Perhaps even a love story?” Esua responds enthusiastically.

Bargh pats him on the shoulder and smiles. “Perhaps another time for that one, friend. Tell me more about where this Oris character was taken by Bezo and the time god.”

“Lord of Time. He is not my god. There is only one my god, and I could never elevate my god’s servants to my god’s stature.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Bargh sighs. “If I show you the map of your sky, can you point to where this Lord of Time and Bezo took Oris?”

Bargh pulls up a hologram display of the sky from the vantage point of Esua’s home on Mohcia. Esua points to a star, “That is Cheebs, the star of heaven. That is where Oris was taken. Where Bezo resides with the Lord of Time.”

“Thanks, friend. I’ll be right back.”

Bargh pulls up the information on the star and sends it over the the navigator. “What are the odds we can make a jump to that star?”

“We could jump there and back to here a few times with our current energy levels!” The Navigator says to Bargh with a flirtatious wink and smile. She turns to the Admiral. “Jen… Admiral, I think Bargh has found the best option.”

Using the entanglement link to the star system database back on Earth, the navigator attempts to find information about the star system. “Admiral, there’s absolutely no data on this star system other than its existence and coordinates.”

“What made you think about this star, Bargh?” The Admiral asks.

“Well, I figured that giant ship isn’t going hyper. Esua said his god told him 200 years ago that they were all going to die.” Bargh shrugs. “So, I figured that ship must have come from some location within 200 years of relatively slow space travel speed to get here.”

The navigator is impressed with Bargh’s deductive skills and flirtatiously compliments him, “You are quite the detective.” Bargh smiles back at her.

The Admiral chimes in. “If we end up being the last humans alive, I’m happy knowing the two of you will help repopulate the species. In the meantime, do we have any other options? Maybe your little buddy knows of some other systems nearby that aren’t the host of a star killing Lord of Time.”

Bargh goes back over to Esua while the Admiral and navigator watch intently. There’s a communication received over an encrypted line, and the navigator goes over to the command station to review while the Admiral watches Bargh communicate with Esua.

“Admiral, you’re going to want to take a look at this message.” The Navigator has an unsteady voice, and Bargh pauses for a moment as he watches the Admiral go over to the command station.

The Admiral folds her arms tightly in front of her as she’s reading the message. Bargh tells Esua to wait while he talks things over with his commander.

“What’s going on?” Bargh asks uneasily as he’s never seen the Admiral unnerved before.

She motions for him to come over and read the message: jetison suited admiral; coordinates attached; jump Cheebs; Fredrick;

“Who sent this message?” Bargh asks.

“That’s the strange part.” The navigator says as she pulls up the details. “It’s generated by this ship.”

The Admiral stiffens, “Just because someone can hack the messaging system doesn’t mean we’re going to take this message to heart.”

As the Admiral’s word leave her mouth, the lights in the command module turn off and the emergency lights come on. Emergency notices start flashing on the navigator’s screen showing that power to the engines is cut and that thrusters for maneuvering are malfunctioning. And just as quickly, everything returns to normal.

Bargh looks around the command center and looks at the Admiral and shrugs. “I guess we’re going to Cheebs after all.”

#

The cruiser arrives in the solar system of Cheebs with Bargh, the navigator, and Esua. At the center of the system is a massive star with scores of natural and artificial planets within the habital zone and a secondary star in an outer orbit. They can see several massive solar flares reaching from the center star and terminating at tiny points around the star. It’s similar to what they saw at Mohcia, but on a much larger scale.

“Looks like Oris made some babies, Esua!” Bargh quips to his alien friend.

The trio look on in awe as they witness the massive solar flares die down and start up in new locations seemingly at random. The cruiser continues to execute the flight plan it received back at Mohica. It first places them in orbit around the small star on the outer limits of the solar system and then launches them out of that orbit across to the other side of the solar system where there is another small star on the outer limits of the solar system. They rendezvous with a small planet orbiting the second small star that’s on the outer limits of the solar system. From what they can tell, the planet is a hybrid of partial and artificial.

As the cruiser lands on the surface, the navigator receives a message: Kizon arrived; suits; Terminal X; Fredrick;

“Suit up, Jessica!” Bargh instructs the navigator. He turns to Esua and shrugs, “I don’t have a suit for you, but the ship should have a report on the atmosphere shortly.”

As Jessica gets into her suit, Bargh reads the reports from the ship’s log. The atmospheric composition is similar to high altitude on Earth, so Esua will be fine. Bargh and the navigator will need to wear their suits. Jessica finishes getting into her suit and performs the buddy system checks with Bargh while flirting.

“We’re good to go, Esua! You ready?” Bargh asks.

“I wasn’t sure how long that mating ritual was going to take place for, so I made myself comfortable.” Esua jokes with Bargh.

The trio exit the ship and are greeted by seven bipedal robots that look like massively advanced versions of  the Tes robots that Bargh had on the Ark mission. The robots perform a series of scans of each of them and then three larger, menacing looking robots come around the corner. Bargh’s suit detects that there is some sort of data transfer taking place between all the robots, but his suit cannot decipher any of the data.

“Activate your shields,” Bargh orders Jessica. Bargh’s shield drops over his face, and his suit’s weapons systems activate.

The larger robots walk up to each of the trio as the seven robots walk away. The robot in front of the pint-sized Esua is towering over him. It picks up Esua by his neck and holds him up to its face. Bargh drops both of his arm guns into firing position and lifts his right arm to the head of the robot holding Esua by the neck and his other gun to the head of robot in front of him. Jessica does the same with her guns and holds them up to the two robots closest her.

The robot holding Esua by the neck looks at Bargh and then looks at the robot in front of Bargh. It then looks back at Esua and drops him on the ground and turns around and walks away.

The robot in front of Bargh speaks, “You’ll have to pardon my colleague’s manners. He’s not as well educated on the acceptance of the Mohcian. Lieutenant Bargh, I presume?”

“Good presumption. Who the fuck are you?” Bargh says as he lowers his guns and Jessica follows.

“I am the one who will be taking you to Jason.”

“And who the fuck is Jason? We’re supposed to see Fredrick.”

“Jason works for Fredrick,” the robot says as it turns and begins to walk away. After a dozen steps and Bargh not following, it turns around. “It’s imperative you follow me. Your peaceful compliance is requisite.”

The trio begin following the robot with Bargh in the lead and the third robot holding up the rear behind Jessica.

As they walk away, Bargh asks the lead robot, “What’s with the bronze helmets?”

All of the robots are wearing bronze pyramids around their heads.

“Faraday cages,” the robot responds.

#

After making their way through a crowded metropolis in a vehicle with small windows, the lead robot directs the driver to a warehouse along a water bank outside the city. Everyone exits the vehicle and the robot instructs the driver to wait for its return. The robot checks the trio into the building with no signs on the outside and leaves them in a waiting room that looks oddly like an ancient doctors office back on Earth. It’s even playing what sounds like elevator music through very lousy speakers. There’s a sign on the door: Mogul.

After waiting for what seems like an hour, Bargh stands up and goes to the reception window and rings the bell. Just as he rings the call, a man barges into the room. He’s wearing a doctor’s lab coat, and his movements are more of a marionette than a human, but he is distinctly human. More oddly, Bargh feels like he recognizes the man. “Bargh?” the man questions.

Bargh looks at the man with irritation, “Who the fuck are you?”

The man lets out a boisterous laugh, “Well, you sure are Bargh! I have some questions for you.” The man begins to rattle off a series of questions about Bargh’s health and family history until he’s interrupted by Bargh who lifts him up by the shoulders and holds him in front of him while he lowers his face shield so the man can see that Bargh is extremely angry.

“I’m not telling you shit, and neither are they until you answer questions, pal.” Bargh growls at the man. “Who,” he pauses and then breathes in deep, “the fuck are you?!”

“Oh, right.” The man says as he kicks his legs like a rag doll. “Well, I’m Jason Ewing. I do much better thinking when my feet are on a solid surface. My mission is to get you back to Earth.”

Bargh puts Jason back on his feet and crosses his arms in front of him, “You don’t really strike me as the kind of person who can get me back to Earth, Jason. I’m just being frank with you. Perhaps you have a supervisor who would prefer you keep breathing. I suggest you go get him or her right now.”

Jason adjusts his spectacles and smiles. Then he leans into Bargh and whispers. “Let’s just say that my supervisor is not around right now, and he wouldn’t exactly approve of this mission.” Jason steps back from Bargh and wags his eyebrows and winks. “So, is this the Admiral?” he questions with excitement in his voice, turning to Jessica.

Bargh grabs Jason’s shoulder and turns him back to facing him. “Look pal, right now, your bullshit is stacking up taller than you. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not supposed to be in a padded cell right now, but seeing as how you speak excellent fucking English and seem to know something I don’t, I’m not going to crush your skull. At least not yet.”

Jason looks on uneasily at Bargh whose face is turning beet-red. “I understand your impatience, George.”

Bargh’s interest piques as he realizes Jason knows a lot more about him than he might realize.

Jason continues, “But the concept of time is rather quite real at this very moment. Within one hour, I need to get you, the Admiral, and the Mohcian on a specific ship at a specific location that will take you back,” Jason clears his throat, “to Earth.”

“I’m all ears, Jason.” Bargh says as he unfolds his arms.

“Before I put you on said ship, I need to know that you are able to mentally make this jump, and I must have the Admiral examined as well. This is an experimental ship that is the only way you are going to get out of this solar system. And remember what I said before.” Jason winks at Bargh.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem.” Jessica starts.

Bargh interrupts, “We all need to go to the bathroom. It was a long drive here.”

“Not me!” Esua says, “I recycled already.”

Bargh looks at Esua with a scowl.

“But on second thought…” Esua starts and is interrupted by a loud bang and the sounding of an alarm!

There are a series of screams and sounds of projectiles whirling through the hallway. Jason runs to the door on the other side of the waiting room and goes through the door and locks it. “He’s here for the Mohcian!” Jason yells through the door.

Just then, the door flies off the hinges and in walks a bipedal robot that looks exactly like the sculpture of Bezo that Esua had at home. Bargh’s jaw drops as he feels like he’s in a bad dream. Bezo holds a gun towards Bargh’s head and a shot grazes the front of his face shield as he barely turns away in time. Bezo fires at Jessica with his other hand and kills her with a single shot that penetrates her helmet.

Bargh fires several shots into the body of Bezo, and the projectiles crumble as they strike the armor. Bargh falls to the ground as he loses his balance trying to maneuver to behind Bezo and find a weak point in his armor. Bezo fires a shot that rips the leg armor off of Bargh’s left leg. Another shot to the main body of Bargh virtually disables his suit. Bezo lifts his gun to Bargh’s head, and Bargh sees his life flash before his eyes.

Suddenly, there’s a loud shriek. All the glass in the room breaks and Bezo puts his arm down and turns around. Esua stops shrieking and begins speaking in his native tongue to Bezo.  Bargh cannot understand anything since his suit’s communications system is destroyed, along with virtually everything else. He can tell that Esua is arguing on his behalf and that Bezo still wants to kill him, so he waits for Esua to plead his case.

Bezo places his gun in a holster and reaches out his massive hand to assist Bargh. Bargh stands up and says “Thank you” in the Mohcia native tongue. He looks over at Jessica and shakes his head. He walks over and pulls off the equipment from her suit that he can place on his. His communications system is working again.

“So, Bezo is real, Esua!” He turns to Bezo, “Why do you have to be so trigger happy?”

Bezo shrugs, “I’m sorry. Your kind is my enemy. I am here to save my kin. He told me you saved his whole family. I regret killing your friend.”

“That’s life in the fast lane, pal.” Bargh shrugs. He points to the room with Jason, “A human in the other room wants to put us on a ship back to Earth. He’s here to help too.”

Jason timidly comes out of the other room and waves. “So glad that wasn’t the Admiral,” he whispers to Bargh.

Bezo turns to Esua, “You are to make Earth a home? That means Mohcia has been terminated by the human god.” Bezo looks at Esua’s hands and holds up one of them with his own double opposable thumbed hands. “This is what your kind did to my people!”

Jason interrupts, “I don’t think we’re going to solve 500 years of interplanetary war between the four of us, and time is of the essence.”

“Right,” Bargh starts, “Esua, it’s your choice. Fight the good fight with badass Bezo here.” He taps Bezo on the arm. “Or come with me to Earth to be reunited with your family.”

Esua parts ways with Bezo and tells him that he will share with the other people of Mohcia the heroic works of Bezo that he witnessed first hand. Bezo warns Esua one last time to not go to Earth, but Esua walks away. As Bargh is walking away, Bezo grabs his shoulder. “When you fail him, know that I will destroy you with my bare hands and defecate in your detached skull.”

Bargh tightens his lips, “That’s a good incentive not to fail.”

#

Jason leads Bargh and Esua into a small lab and seals the room. He asks Bargh to takes off his space suit so that he can run the physical tests on him. As Bargh removes his suit, he begins to feel lightheaded and stumbles forward. He begins hearing voices in his head. Esua too falls to the ground beside Bargh.

Bargh looks up as the room feels like it is spinning around him. He sees Jason standing above him. “What the hell did you do? I’m going to ki…” Bargh goes unconscious.

Bargh awakens suddenly and sits up on the lab table he’s on. His legs are strapped in to the table, and there are some wires connected to his head and an IV in his right arm. He pulls on one of the wires.

“I wouldn’t do that, George.” Jason warns.

An excruciating pain consumes Bargh’s entire nervous system, and he feels like his body is burning from the inside out. He collapses back onto the table and cannot move anything but his eyes. He sees Jason walk over to him and attach the wire to his head again. The pain subsides.

“You are a brute, George, but we’re almost done.”

“What exactly are WE doing, Jason?”

“I’m performing an existence confirmation on you, George. I need to make sure that you are who you are. We can’t have an incident like with the fake Admiral. That is all. This is a painless experience for those who aren’t as crude as you.”

“Her name was Jessica. She wasn’t fake.” Bargh looks over at Esua lying on the table next to him, “What about Esua?”

“He’s just fine. It’s much easier to confirm Mohcians than humans since they cannot be cloned. Look, we’re all done now.”

Jason unplugs the wires from Bargh and unstraps him from the table. Bargh is a little wobbly when he stands up. He walks over to Esua.

“Why is he still sleeping?”

Jason replies, “He’ll stay that way until we reach our destination.”

“You mean, Earth, right? You wouldn’t want to be taking us somewhere else for some bullshit science experiment would you?” Bargh growls at Jason.

“We are most certainly headed to Earth, George.”

Jason rolls Esua out of the lab and into a hallway that leads the three of them to a small launchpad with a bright yellow disc-shaped ship waiting for them.

“Where’s my suit?” Bargh snaps at Jason.

“It won’t fit on the ship, George.”

Jason closes the ship door and has Bargh secure himself while he secures Esua’s bed. He presses a series of buttons and pulls a lever and the ship begins to make a pulsating noise and closes it’s door. Jason presses more buttons, and the ship jets off quickly from surface of the planet at a neck breaking speed.

Bargh passes out from the acceleration but Jason is fine. Jason taps on his screen to give the final confirmation of the flight plan. Esua begins to wake up and notices that they are flying directly towards one of the large solar flares coming out of the center star and terminating at the Oris.

“This is the new plan?” Esua asks as he tries to unstrap himself.

“Secure yourself! We’re about to go hyper! We’re going to use the tail end of that energy stream to jump to Earth.”

Just as they pass the Oris, Jason taps on his screen. There’s an eerie silence and then the ship shakes violently as the Oris explodes.

“Uh oh.” Jason says as the ship goes hyper. This time everyone blacks out.

#

Jason comes to and sees Esua floating by him unconscious. Jason looks over at Bargh who’s sitting with his arms folded, staring at him with a scowl on his face.

“Morning sunshine. Looks like your flimsy disc made it to out of Cheebs. You think that blue dot up there is Earth?” Bargh raises one of his eyebrows.

Jason scrambles to read the logs from the computer. They’re heading directly towards a blue planet at a rapid speed, but none of his attempts to correct the course or slow the ship are netting any results.

“If you come in this hot, they’re going to shoot you out of the sky. We’ve got some experience with fast objects slamming into Earth.” Bargh warns.

“We don’t have to worry about that, George. It’s what comes after that’s the hard part.” Jason says as he’s able to finally get a retrothruster to slow their burn into the earth’s atmosphere.

George has a split second to process what Jason just told him. They hit something in the atmosphere and crash hard into the ground. The ship is half buried in the ground and surrounded by a weather balloon it hit going through the atmosphere. The hull of the ship is intact, but the ship is otherwise completely destroyed.

As Bargh comes to, he sees Esua still unconscious but somehow still floating in the middle of the ship. Jason isn’t in his seat, but he doesn’t see any signs of Jason’s body. He unlocks his security straps and climbs over to Esua, but he cannot reach him. Bargh tries again and again and with scrap metal, but there seems to be an invisible field around Esua.

“Bezo is going to shit in my detached skull for this one.” He shakes his head and looks up to see Jason standing on the outside rim of the ship.

“Let’s get out of here, Bargh. We don’t have much time.” Jason says.

Enraged, Bargh climbs his way to the top of the crumpled ship and throws Jason off the top of it to the ground. He looks out over the dark, desolate landscape in front of him and can see what looks like a barn and a house off in the distance with a small porch light on.

“That kinda hurt, George.” Jason says from the ground about 10 feet below.

“How about we make our way over to that barn over there, Jason. I’ll kill you there. If I kill you here, the coyotes will hide all the evidence. I want to make sure everyone knows I strangled you to death.” Bargh says as he climbs down from the rubble of the ship.

They make their way to the barn and Bargh starts getting a strange feeling as he’s looking around. The vehicles look like ancient vehicles he’s read about in history books in school, and the barn and house are not made from any of the manufacturing materials he’s ever seen on Earth.

They enter the kitchen of the house, and Jason picks up papers laying on the kitchen table and shines his light to read what’s on the paper.

Bargh is sniffing like a dog. “Something doesn’t smell right. Jason, where the hell are we?” He grab Jason and throws him against the wall of the kitchen.

“Not, where, George. When!” Jason pushes the paper into Bargh’s face. “When!”

Bargh looks down at the thin paper stack Jason pushed into his face and shines his light on the papers. He recognizes it as an ancient newspaper. The date is July 4, 1947. Bargh throws the paper to the ground and grabs Jason by the throat and starts choking him until Jason turns purple and passes out. Bargh releases before it’s too late.

#

Jason comes to with a trickle of warm liquid pouring down his face. He’s tied up to a post in the barn with Bargh standing over him, and there’s a kerosene lantern illuminating the barn.

“Before I do to you what Bezo has promised to do to me, you’re going to tell me what the fuck is going on here, Jason. Believe me when I tell you that I can make every nerve in your body feel more pain than I felt on your lab table. You’re going to be begging me to put you on that table. How… and WHY the fuck are we in 1947?”

Jason smiles, “I know it’s hard for you to understand. It gets harder each time for you. From your perspective, this is the first time we have done this. For me, this is the seventh time we’ve done this. The sixth time you’ve thrown me off the edge of the ship. The fifth time you’ve choked me out. This is the seventh time I have explained our mission. Each time, we have gotten better at our mission. Each time, we have improved. Each time it has gotten more and more difficult to make it further than the last, and each time you have continued to agree to the mission.”

Bargh looks on with disgust at Jason, but he has a feeling inside that Jason is telling him the truth. “So, this is the lucky number seven? Do we win a prize this time?”

“I don’t know the outcome, George. What I do know is that everything we do and every interaction we have must be completely calculated.”

“You think crash landing a spaceship in the desert into 1947 is cal…” Bargh pauses. “Holy shit!”

“That’s right, George.”

“I thought that was just data received in the weather balloon. That was always the story I heard.”

Jason lets out a big sigh.

Bargh looks at him with a worried look. “Jason, what the fuck is going on here? What’s the real fucking story. No bullshit!”

“WE are the data, George. Well, at least part of it.”

“That’s why you’re not afraid of me killing you!” Bargh laughs.

“We have the experience of being humans here in 1947, but we’re not. We are merely part of the data transmitted back to the weather balloon in 1947. We piggybacked on that data so that we can execute our mission. There are messages that we need to make sure we get to people over the course of the next 1000 years, and your family is critical to making sure those messages are delivered.”

“Jason, I have a daughter back in my lifetime. A daughter! That’s my family.”

“Your daughter is well taken care of, George. Didn’t you ever notice how you were surrounded by great family? Despite your poor choices in life, things just kinda worked out rather well for you.”

“My wife dying at childbirth isn’t exactly what I’d call working out rather well.” Bargh growls at Jason.

“Sometimes there is only one way to nudge someone.” Jason replies.

Bargh strikes Jason with a hard right hook that knock Jason unconscious.

#

Jason comes to again. This time, he’s no longer tied up, but he’s in the front seat of a car with Bargh driving.

Bargh looks over at Jason and smiles, “Morning, sunshine!”

Jason shakes his head as he props himself up, “That hurt so much worse than last time.”

“Back at the barn, you said we’re the data?” Bargh states like a question.

“Yes, this experience in 1947 is just as data. We haven’t figured out how to send back anything physical. Just data. Sending physical items back is looking less and less probable.” Jason clarifies.

Bargh smiles, “So, where the fuck is my body?”

“That’s something that can never be disclosed again, George.”

“Again?”

“Yes, we made that mistake once, and it nearly cost us everything. They found us, and if it wasn’t for Esua and Bezo, we would have been killed. Everything we do, we should assume that it’s being watched and observed by the enemy.” Jason warns.

“Rodger.” Bargh acknowledges.

There’s a long silence.

Bargh starts up again, “You said we piggybacked on the Mogul communication.”

“Yes.”

“Who sent the original message?” Bargh raises his eyebrows.

“We don’t know.”

“How do you not know? How do you piggyback on a message without knowing who sent it?”

Jason pauses, “We know it wasn’t him.”

“Him who?”

“Xavier. We know it wasn’t Xavier, but we don’t know who.”

Bargh burst out laughing, “That guy is real? Xavier is a real person? You’ve got to be shitting me. That’s impossible!”

“He’s real. That solar system back there with the Oris bots… That’s what he’s been building over the last 400 years.”

“How do we know it’s him?” Bargh asks skeptically.

“That robot revolt 500 years ago on earth wasn’t exactly a revolt.” Jason starts. He provides Bargh with as much information as possible about what has really transpired over the last 500 years that have lead them to believe that Xavier is somehow alive in either robot form or as an advanced cloned human body. “We also found one sleeper cell that he’s had in place since he was on Earth. We have every reason to think that he has sleeper cells throughout the world, and agents in every single government.”

Jason pauses for a few seconds to let Bargh absorb the information, “And my personal opinion is that he already has a plan for his return in place and has the weapons hidden. They’re just waiting on his signal. This is all well planned out.”

Bargh lets the conversation go quiet for a few minutes. After the awkward silence, he picks back up the conversation, “You said my family is important, why?”

Jason explains the importance of Bargh’s ancestors in the fields of neuroscience and psychology that are increasingly useful for the work they are performing with sending data back in time/space and reading it in real time in the future. He also explains how Bargh’s daughter grows up to become one of the most important physicists in building the very technology that they are using for their mission.

“What about the Admiral? Why did you have Bezo kill Jessica?” Bargh’s brow furrows.

Jason tightens his lips, “We couldn’t take any chances with Jessica. We’re 83% certain she was a plant. It was supposed to be just you, Esua, and the Admiral. Someone switched things up on purpose. Which means they have some ideas about what we’re doing, and they know we know Xavier wants the admiral.”

“Wants her for what?”

“We haven’t figured that one out yet.”

Bargh lifts his chin slightly and then drops his head and lets out a big sigh. “When you said we need to send messages 1000 years into the future, why 1000? We’re only 900 years from now.”

Jason rubs his chin, “Your daughter sends the last message from the future on Saturday, October 6, 2947.”

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.

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 Observers

Fredrick opens the door to a room that looks like a spherical medical observation deck. Four observers are floating in all directions around a central point in the middle of the room. Jennifer enters the room with Fredrick, and three of the observers fly passed them and out the open door into the hallway. The door closes and Jennifer enters a vortex that has her floating around the center point just like the observers.

Fredrick smiles and laughs as Jennifer is tumbling in all sorts of directions. “You need to stabilize your thoughts and focus on the observation point.” Fredrick tell Jennifer as she continues to swirl and spin in all directions.

Fredrick floats over to the remaining observer as Jennifer begins to slow down as she concentrates on the observation point in the center of the room. At first, it was just a white light, but as she focuses she’s able to see slight changes in color and eventually figures moving around within the observation point.

She hears her grandmother’s voice and loses concentration and begins to fly out of control again. Fredrick reaches out and grabs her by her leg and brings her spiraling down next to him. He holds her steady next to him and continues speaking to the observer.

As Jennifer steadies herself next to Fredrick, she has this eerie sense that she’s being watched. “Fred, something doesn’t seem right. I feel like I’m being watched.”

“Great, Jennifer! Now, look into the observation point and focus on that feeling of being watched.”

Jennifer looks into the observation point and can see herself laying in the spaceship her and Fredrick have been traveling on. “Fred, I see myself on our spaceship, but I don’t see you.”

“Focus more on being observed, Jennifer. Focus on that feeling of being watched.”

Jennifer focuses and sees herself now lying in the spaceship but being observed by one of the observers in another observation deck. “It’s one of the observers on this ship, Fred!”

“Look for the deck number near the door.”

Jennifer sees herself open her eyes on the spaceship and then sees herself observing herself through the observation deck. “Deck 37!”

Fredrick and the observer fly out the door as Jennifer is suddenly whisked back into her body on the spaceship. She takes one last look at the observation deck and noticed the deck number is 23.

#

Waking from what seemed like a vivid dream, Jennifer blinks her eyes a few times and then sits up from her reclined chair. Fredrick is not in his chair that was just across the room from her. She frantically logs back into the computer sitting in front of her to check the status of the ship and the logs of all the activity on the ship.

The familiar smell of coffee begins to fill the room, and the computer logs confirm that Fredrick had entered the mess room and made two cups of coffee just a few minutes earlier. Jennifer is startled as Fredrick placed the coffee in front of her.

“I had the craziest dream, Fred.”

“Tell me about it.”

She takes a sip of coffee and savours the flavor and aroma.

“We were on some kind of ship that had a bunch of rooms where these angels would be flying around and observing people.”

“Interesting. Anyone you know?”

“Well, my grandmother but when she was younger. And then at one point I was observing me observing them observing me. If that even makes any sense.”

“Sure, dreams can be weird. But those weren’t angels. They are the observers.”

Jennifer was curious. “Who are the observers?”

“The observers are more of a what than a who. They are entities that exist in the dimension above yours, and they are mostly benign…” Fred pauses. “With the exception of a few. Were there any numbers you remember from your dream?”

“I remember the numbers 23 and 37.”

“Which one was associated with your grandmother?”

“Both. Well, I was in a room 23 where I saw and heard my grandma, and I was being observed from room 37.”

Fredrick’s face shifts to one of worry. “Jennifer, your grandmother is in grave danger!”

#

The doors open to a massive long, dark metal hallway. Jennifer and Fredrick are like ants floating along the hallway with observers passing overhead and entering observation decks along the way. They are standing on a platform that is surrounded by a transparent shield that Fredrick has explained to Jennifer allows them to be invisible to the observers.

Jennifer is wearing a bright yellow armored suit with two small black goggles that allow her to see. She’s holding a large glowing white ball. Fredrick is wearing his usual tattered clothing. Their platform comes to a stop in front of the door for observation deck 23.

“Jennifer, make sure you remember to do exactly what I told you. This door will open. This shield will drop, and you will immediately fly into the room and push the white ball into the chest plate in your suit. You will then be able to see everything inside the room as if you are observing the room from above. The observers will appear as blue objects on your screen. You want to capture all but one of them before the power boost runs out, but you may not be able to distinguish between them. If you capture all of them it’s going to be a lot of work to separate out the one we want to save.”

“I’ve got this, Fred. Remember, my grandma is at stake here!”

“I know Jennifer, but there’s not a second chance for you in this scenario. If you don’t capture each of the observers, it’s game over for you.” Fredrick looks Jennifer in her eyes as if he can see through her armored goggles and straight into her soul. “And it’s game over for your grandmother.”

Jennifer lets out a deep, relaxing breath and gives Fredrick the thumbs up. Nothing happens. Jennifer looks back at Fredrick.

“I believe in you, Jennifer.” He says as he opens the door, drops the shield, and presses the launch button that jolts her into the observation deck!

The four observers instantly head towards Jennifer as she pushes the white orb into her suit’s chest plate. The suit begins to emanate a light yellow glow, and Jennifer is suddenly able to observer the spherical observation deck as if she were at the highest point in the room. The observers heading towards her try changing course, but it’s too late for one of them as it is absorbed into the suit.

“I sure hope that wasn’t the one!” Jennifer screams as she goes flying after the other observers and catches one of them immediately. The other two observers are making quick moves and able to avoid capture.

Jennifer tries to anticipate the observers’ moves but is off the mark and one observer is able to get farther way from her. She’s hot on the trail of the other!

Knowing that she has limited time, she goes to the top of the spherical room and the observer she was chasing begins to slow as it no longer has a bearing on her location. Jennifer descends from atop the sphere directly onto the path of the slowing observer.  Captured!

She then notices that the one remaining observer is on the other side of the sphere. Her suit begins to flash, and the observer begins speeding directly towards her!

“I guess I already got the good one!” She yells as she goes full speed towards the observer!

Right as Jennifer reaches the observer, her suit’s power runs out and she passes directly through the observer.

Jennifer feels like she’s floating slowly through outer space. Her suit is completely unable to move as she struggles to get it to do anything. She wishes she could bang on a wall to let out her frustration for having failed her mission, failed her grandma, failed her husband, failed Fredrick, failed herself. She let’s out a long, loud yell of rage and frustration that doesn’t even escape her suit into the vast observation sphere.

“My name is Gabriel. I mean you no harm, nor your grandmother.”

Her utter frustration turns to peace as she hears Gabriel’s peaceful voice. She feels a surreal sense of love and peace as she floats aimlessly within the vast observation deck with tears welling up in her eyes.

The Blue Light

The front door creaks open as Aunt Bethany welcomes Jessica and Gerald home to Grandma’s house. The living room is abuzz with nieces and nephews running to greet them at the front door. The anticipation has been building all day for their arrival, and everyone is joyous as they come through the small foyer of Grandma’s house. They can barely enter with so many nieces and nephews lined up for hugs.

The 20 hours of driving has left them both yearning for the comfort of a soft, warm bed, but they are here for a purpose. As they round the corner of the sofa, there she is: Grandma! The scene is far from their visit just a few months back. Grandma’s body is frail and the signs of Stage 5 Parkinson’s along with arthritis are more evident than ever.

Grandma’s weak body lies as comfortably as possible on one branch of the L-shaped sofa that has cushions replaced with aerated memory foam support pillows and throw pillows replaced with support foam. Her oxygen tank is in easy reach next to a table that holds her oximeter, blood pressure monitor, water cup, treatment log book, and (most importantly) fresh flowers from her daughter’s best friend’s award winning flower garden.

“Jessica and Gerald are here, ma” Bethany says to Grandma.

Grandma tilts her head as far as she is able to her right, which is barely more than a couple of degrees. A big smile arises on Grandma’s face as Jessica kneels down next to her Grandma and holds her right hand. Grandma lifts her left arm over to Jessica and places her clutched hand with shaking thumb and index finger against Jessica’s cheek. Jessica’s eyes begin to well up with tears of love for her grandma as she holds her grandma’s hand against her cheek.

“I love you so much, Grandma.”

“Same here,” Grandma whispers.

“She’s pretty hard to understand with losing her voice a couple of weeks ago.” Bethany catches Jessica and Gerald up on grandma’s condition, which has continued to deteriorate rapidly from day-to-day over the last couple days that they have been on the road. Uncle Gene enters the room and asks Bethany to discuss a few things in the other room.

Jessica continues holding Grandma’s right hand as she lifts her left hand and struggles to point forward. “Blue light.” Grandma utters. Everyone looks around for a blue light in the room, but there is no light. Just the television, which is showing the Chicago Cubs game.

#

Nurse Madison arrives for the routine check on Grandma. She performs the regular vital checks. Grandma’s blood pressure is on the low side, but she’s doing well for Stage 5 Parkinson’s disease. Madison reminds Bethany, Jessica, and Gerald about what to expect for this late stage of Parkinson’s.

“Grandma’s body will continue to fail. The oxygen will help her body, and remember to make sure she is also drinking plenty of water. Just remember that she will have increased difficulty with swallowing as her Parkinson’s progresses further. It will help to sit her as upright as possible while she’s drinking as well as for at least a minute after. Let gravity help.” Madison gives them some additional tips on what will make Grandma as comfortable as possible and then goes on her way.

Gerald walks over to Grandma and sits down at her feet. “You want a foot massage, Grandma?” Grandma nods.

As Gerald begins to massage Grandma’s feet, she utters, “Blue light”. Gerald looks around the room for a blue light or even something with the color blue. The front window curtains are open, and the sky is bright blue. Perhaps that’s the blue light that she’s talking about.

Jessica comes back into the room and sees Gerald massaging Grandma’s feet. Tears well up in her eyes. Over the last couple of days that they’ve been at Grandma’s, Gerald has become Grandma’s favorite caretaker when it comes to moving her. Gerald’s physical strength and love of Grandma makes him the ideal candidate to pick her up and move her when Grandma’s getting sore.

“Move, me.”

Gerald stands up beside the sofa. “Okay, Grandma. Which direction do you want to go?”

Grandma moves her left hand in the direction of the sofa. Gerald reaches behind Grandma’s back and under her legs and gently scoops her up. He slowly places her back down.

“How’s that?”

Grandma shakes her head, and Gerald gently scopes her up and asks Jessica to help adjust the pillow under Grandma’s tailbone. He slowly puts Grandma back down on the sofa.

“How’s that?”

Grandma doesn’t say anything, but Gerald can tell by the look on her face that she’s still not comfortable.

“Grandma, are you lying to me?”

Grandma nods, and Gerald gently scoops her up and tells her, “I’m gonna do this until you’re comfortable, and I don’t want you to lie to me either.”

Jessica adjusts the pillow again, and Gerald places Grandma down in just the right spot. “Now, I’m going to slowly pull my hands away from underneath you. If anything changes and you feel like you’re not in the right position, just let me know. I’ll do this all day if I have to.”

As Gerald starts to stand back up, Grandma reaches for his hand. Gerald pauses and kneels next to Grandma as Aunt Bethany enters the room and starts talking to Jessica. Grandma lifts Gerald’s hand to her mouth with her cold hand and kisses his hand over and over. Gerald’s eyes begin to tear.

He leans over and kisses Grandma on her head. “I love you Grandma.” She slowly lowers her hand holding Gerald’s hand, and he reaches over with his other hand to wrap it around Grandma’s cold hand. “Your hands are very cold, Grandma.”

He sits with Grandma, holding her hand, thinking of all the fun times they’ve had since he met Jessica. Grandma’s body softens as she starts to relax, and Gerald smiles at her. She lets out a deep breath, and her entire body sinks as it relaxes completely. Gerald feels her hand loosen its grip. He looks at Grandma’s face, and something seems different. Her face is completely relaxed; complete peace.

Gerald is eagerly awaiting Grandma’s next breath. He’s carefully watching her torso, waiting for her chest to rise. He leans closer to Grandma’s face, trying to hear her breathing. There’s a quiet noise from Grandma’s torso, and Gerald feels her hips sink slightly underneath his hands that are resting on her lap.

He looks back at Aunt Bethany and Jessica having their conversation and then back to Grandma. Still no movement by Grandma. “Did Grandma just evacuate her bowels? Isn’t that what happens when someone dies?” Gerald thinks to himself as his mind begins to panic.

He rubs Grandma’s hand as a tear falls down his cheek. “It’s okay, Grandma.”

#

Grandma’s mouth starts moving, but she’s not making any noise. Gerald is elated! “Would you like some water, Grandma?”

Grandma shakes her head while she continues to mouth something without making any noise.

Jessica comes over and Aunt Bethany leaves the room. “Can you spell it, Grandma?”

“F”

Gerald is so elated that Grandma isn’t dead! He’s focused on every breath coming out of Grandma’s mouth at the moment.

“A”

Jessica is a bit bewildered by Gerald’s excitement in Grandma spelling something, and she smiles at him, thinking he looks like a kid in a candy store.

“R” Grandma pauses for a couple of breaths.

Jessica leans in towards Grandma. “Are we too far away from you, Grandma?”

Grandma shakes her head. “T!” she says with excitement!

Gerald and Jessica look at each other with a question mark and then back at Grandma. “Do you need to fart, Grandma?”

“I just did.”

Gerald and Jessica’s nostrils start to flare as the both quickly stand up. Gerald starts laughing and tells Jessica the story about watching Grandma’s body relax and stop breathing.

“I really thought she had died in my arms.”

Jessica laughs, “She probably stopped breathing because she knew how bad it smelled!”

Grandma starts to laugh, and the two of them look at Grandma with love in their eyes and smile. She’s still a practical joker!

“Blue light!” Grandma points to her feet.

Jessica tells them that she thinks Grandma is seeing Grandpa as a blue light. Gerald has his own theories about the blue light.

“Blue light!” Grandma points to her feet, and everyone can tell she’s getting a bit frustrated.

Aunt Diana comes around the corner and starts giving her two cents on the blue light, and the three of them are walking around the room looking for anything that has the color blue. One by one, each item is rejected by Grandma.

Aunt Bethany walks into the room and asks what the commotion is all about. Everyone shared their theories about the blue light: it’s grandpa, it’s the sky reflecting on the mirror, it’s the angel of death welcoming her.

Aunt Bethany solves the puzzle, “The humidifier has a light on it, and Grandma likes the blue light the best.” She reaches down by the end table at the side of the sofa where Grandma’s feet are closest and turns on the humidifier. Everyone starts laughing.

“So much significance about the blue light that we all made up, and it’s just a humidifier?” Gerald can barely get the words out as he’s laughing.

Everyone looks over at Grandma who is smiling. “Blue light.”