The Asteroid Conflicts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s that, Cap?”

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

“Per month?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

Central Artificial Intelligence

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

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

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

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

“What’s the ETA?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Why do you go by Ned Xavier?”

“I like the college.”

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

“With.”

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

“Yes.”

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

“Missed?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How so?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re right, Fredrick.” Ned smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People of Aipotu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Father

Jennifer watches her father lying in the emergency room, doctors frantically working on trying to revive him. She looks to her left and sees a glowing figure. It’s Gabriel. She feels Gabriel look at her and smile, but she cannot see his figure move with her eyes. She hears the EKG machine ring out a persistent, dreadful tone. She looks back at her father lying on the table and sees him get up from the table while his body remains.

The doctors in the room are moving diligently around the room, trying to revive Jennifer’s father. Jennifer looks again to Gabriel with tears in her eyes. She feels a warm sense of love from Gabriel and begins to smile. Gabriel lifts his right arm and points it at one of the doctors in the room. It’s Fredrick.

Jennifer looks again to Gabriel with confusion on her face.

“There’s more,” Gabriel says.

It’s suddenly black.

Jennifer can hear herself breathing and feels her heart racing as she sees a tiny light off in the distance. The light is quickly becoming brighter and larger, brighter and larger. She is suddenly in another room.

It appears to be an operating room. It’s the cleanest operating room she’s ever seen. There is a man lying on a table who looks familiar, but she cannot remember who he is. There are robots operating on the man’s brain and Fredrick is standing in front of a computer where Jennifer can see the cube she had previously helped Fredrick find floating in a glowing green field.

Jennifer looks over at Gabriel as everything begins to make sense. She’s filled with knowledge of additional, seemingly unrelated, events that are suddenly making sense. Some of the events she has memory of and others she does not have memory of.

It’s suddenly black.

#

A doctor enters the room and sits across from Jennifer’s father. Jennifer begins to float over the top of the room and then is standing directly behind the doctor and can see the chart.

“What’s up, Doc?” Jennifer’s father laughs.

The doctor smiles. “Fred, I have always loved your sense of humor. I don’t have the best news for you.”

“The Cardinals aren’t going to win the World Series?”

Jennifer smiles as she looks lovingly at her father. He always had the best corny jokes. She looks over at Gabriel, and she can feel love emanating from him.

The doctor smiles, “You’re probably right about that…” She frowns, “But I’m afraid that your second test result is also showing that your brain tumor is inoperable.”

Jennifer’s father looks down for a few seconds and then looks up at the doctor. “I knew I shouldn’t have asked for a second opinion.” He laughs and smiles. “You know something, Doc?”

“What’s that Fred?”

“I’ve lived a great life. Maybe it’s not going to be as long as I hoped it would be, but it sure has been great! I’ve gotten to play my piano in some of the most amazing venues in the world. Even the robots like my music.”

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”

“But you know what the best part about this simple fool’s life will always be?”

“What’s that, Fred?” The doctor smiles big in anticipation of Fred’s punchline, but there is no punchline.

“I brought the most amazing beam of light into this world! I just know my daughter is going to make this universe a better place for everyone. She’s a spaceship pilot, you know? And has the best husband you’d ever imagine. He’s almost as cool as me!”

“I thought you had two daughters.”

“I do! And Jennifer is going to make this universe a better place for everyone!”

“What about your other daughter?”

“Jennifer’s going to make the universe a better place for her too!” Fred laughs with the doctor until he begins to cry. “Please tell her that I love her.”

“Fred, you’re not dying right now. You have at least 3-6 months ahead of you. I recommend you spend as much time as you can with your family. If there is anything you need from me, just let me know.”

“There is one thing, Doc.”

“What’s that, Fred?”

“When it’s time for me to go, I don’t want to have them put me in that machine. I was talking to one of the doctors here, and he convinced me not to do it. Just light me on fire and put me on the moon.”

“That’s something for you to take up with your family, but I am going to document it that as your final wishes as expressed to your medical provider.”

#

Jennifer is watching herself from a year after she got out of the space academy sitting in the hospital where her father died. She’s heartbroken by the news that her father has passed. Tears fill her eyes as she watches herself sob in her mother’s arms. She remembers that moment just as vividly as it is appearing to her in the moment. She hears Gabriel tell her to lookup. Both she and her younger self lookup in the direction Gabriel is pointing.

She can see Fredrick standing in the doorway to the room where her father was. The corners of his mouth are drawn down and forehead wrinkled.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think that asshole was about to cry!” Jennifer thinks to herself.

Fredrick walks away, and she’s filled with rage, knowing that Fredrick was involved with her father’s brain tumor. Then she sees her husband come walking around the corner and both her and her younger self are filled with love and begin to smile. She turns to Gabriel and notices that he’s smiling to.

Suddenly, she’s back in the observation deck, floating with Gabriel above her.

“You must go now, Jennifer. When you destroy me, I will leave behind two small gems. You must guard both of them until the time is right. You will know when the time is right for each of them.”

Jennifer is puzzled, “I don’t know what to make of all this.”

“Your grandmother is safe, and you have nothing to worry about but the two gems I leave behind. Fredrick will have to take you back to Cheebs. Take them with you and find the Guardian of Cheebs.”

Gabriel forms a large white glowing orb in his hands and places it into Jennifer’s suit. Her suit powers back up.

Jennifer looks at Gabriel and holds back tears, “I can’t do it, Gabriel.”

“You must. What will happen to me if you don’t destroy me now is far worse.”

“I know.”

Jennifer reaches towards Gabriel and as her suit consumes him the door to the observation deck opens. She hears Gabriel say, “I love you. Thank you.” She places the two gems in between the joints in each of her suit’s elbows.

Fredrick enters the observation deck. “So, I guess you didn’t figure out which one was the good guy?”

Jennifer holds back her contempt to Fredrick. “Ya, well, you didn’t really give me much information to go on, Fred.”

“I’m sure your grandmother is safe now.”

“How would you know for sure, Fred? How am I going to know? Can you get this observation deck to work without an observer?”

“No, but I know where we can find someone who can!”

The Carbon Footprint Challenge

Laura sits down in front of her computer and activates her webcam. She checks her makeup in the image on her computer and makes a slight adjustment to blush and primps her eyelashes. There’s a little too much back light coming from the window of her second story bedroom, so she gets up and draws the curtains in slightly while checking to see the adjustment to the lighting on her webcam. Perfect!

She sits back down in front of her computer, looks down, and let’s out a big sigh. She opens her social streaming application to get ready to broadcast her message through all of her social media accounts at the same time. She smiles. 80K followers!

“This is going to be the most important live stream I have ever delivered,” she thinks as she pauses for a moment to reflect on the profundity of her upcoming address. She opens her notes she’s been writing in preparation for her important address and reviews them, sometimes mumbling a word here and there allowed. She reads a few lines several times, practicing her intonation. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 320K followers!

She looks at the time on her computer: 9:50 AM. There’s a knock on her bedroom door, and she hears her mother and father ask if they can come in. She gets up and opens the door and gives them both a big hug.

“I’m so proud of you,” her father says cheerfully, while simultaneously holding back tears.

“I love you, Laura.” Her mother steps back from Laura to look her in her tear filled eyes. “You are so courageous!” she says, holding Laura’s shoulders and smiling the biggest smile Laura has ever seen before.

The three of them talk a bit more about her speech, and her mother shares some tips with her on what words to emphasize more than Laura had planned. “Thank you for the advice, mom. I love you so much!”

Laura looks passed her parents and at her much younger brother standing at the other end of the hallway. “I love you Phillip.”

Her brother stands with his arms folded and a scowl on his face and says nothing at first. Their parents both turn to him, and he quickly unfolds his arms, adjusts his posture and smiles. “I love you too, butthead.”

#

Laura sits down in front of her computer, checks her makeup again, and primps her eyelashes. The back light has changed a little, so she gets up and opens the curtains slightly while checking to see the adjustment to the lighting on her webcam. Perfect!

She sits backs down and opens the top drawer in her desk and pulls out a box with a label of Xavier Environmental Technology and places it on the desk directly in front of her. Her heart is racing. She holds her hands around the box and closes her eyes for a couple of minutes to meditate and relax.

She sits back in her chair, takes a deep breath, holds it for a count of seven and then let’s her body completely relax as she exhales. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 480K followers!

Her phone rings. It’s a video chat from Rebecca! “Right on time, Becks!” Laura says as she accepts the call and holds her phone up so that her friend can see her.

“Oh my God, Laura! I’m so excited for you! Have you seen your follower count?”

“Yes! This is going to be so amazing! So, tell me everything!”

“Laura! I’m really at a loss for words for how amazing this place is! Remember that time we went to Belize and got lost in the rain forest and saw that family of sloths? I went back there as soon as I arrived! It was just as magical as it was when we went. So green! No pollution! No logging destroying the rain forest anymore!”

“That sounds so amazing! I can’t wait to be there with you!”

“Oh, and all the other people here are just awesome! Completely helpful, beautiful souls! There’s beauty all around, and it’s going to be even more beautiful once you’re here!”

They both let out glee as they smile at each other. “I love you so much, Becks!”

“I love you too, rawr-bear! Now get your butt here! We’re going to Europe as soon as you arrive.”

#

Laura’s eyes begin to water as she looks at her social media follower count… 800K followers! She holds back her tears and looks at the time on her computer: 10:30AM.

“Time to go viral!” She starts her live stream.

“I’m here to save the world, and I’m not going to apologize for it!” Heart and thumbs up emojis go flying across her screen, and Laura smiles.

“When my friend Becky called me out on the Carbon Footprint Challenge a month ago, I initially didn’t know what to think or do. I have to admit…” She pauses as tears fill her bright blue eyes. “I was a little angry! But I realized that I shouldn’t be angry with Becky. I should be angry with the excessive deforestation that she’s calling attention to. I should be angry with the excessive pollution that she’s calling attention to. I should be angry that I haven’t used my position of economic and social privilege to do more about the exploits and destruction of our environment and the environment of the underprivileged.”

A tear rolls down her right cheek. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 1.5M followers! Heart and sad emojis go flying across her screen.

“I’m taking a stand for our planet! I’m staking a stand for the oppressed! I’m taking a stand for those who don’t have the privilege I do, for those whose lives and families are effected by my excessive carbon foot print!”

Heart emojis go flying across her screen. Laura smiles and lifts up the box in front of her. “I’m going to read you these beautiful words from this great company that’s going to help save our planet.”

Congratulations on making an important contribution to help save our planet. Enclosed is your pathway to a reduced carbon footprint and a better world. This will reduce your carbon footprint to 1/100th of the expected carbon footprint based upon your DNA testing and social privilege scoring. The nanotechnology enclosed can ONLY be administered by Laura Elizabeth Harris. To activate the nanotechnology, first place your finger on the fingerprint scanner. This will allow you to then enter the 5 digit PIN you selected when you ordered your Global Climate Administration approved Carbon Output Reduction & Utopian Technology system. Upon entry of your PIN, you will then be prompted to state your full name. Only YOUR voice under no duress can activate your uniquely created nanotechnology and unlock the box. Remove the pill inside and swallow with 4-6 oz. of water. Lay down in a safe space with the box on your chest. Relax. Thank you for being a world saver! You will be greeted by an on-boarding specialist upon arrival. See you soon.

Laura follows the instructions. The box opens and reveals a fingernail-sized light blue pill. She swallows it with a cup of water lies down on her bed, which is in-frame of her webcam. She gets comfortable. Then she jumps up and walks over to her computer.

She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 5.1M followers! Heart and sad emojis go flying across her screen. She looks into her webcam “I love you all, and I challenge each and every one of you to the Carbon Footprint Challenge. I hope to see all you fellow planet savers soon!” She turns to go back to her bed, pauses, and turns to face her computer. “I’ll see you soon, Becky!”

#

Laura lies down on her bed, places the box on her chest, places her hands by her side, and closes her eyes. A green light on the box begins to flash faster and faster until it turns to a solid green. Laura opens her blue eyes and her pupils widen. She smiles. The green light turns to blue and Laura’s eyes close as her body goes limp.

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.