Central Artificial Intelligence

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

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

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

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

“What’s the ETA?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh. Why do you go by Ned Xavier?”

“I like the college.”

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

“With.”

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

“Yes.”

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

“Missed?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How so?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re right, Fredrick.” Ned smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People of Aipotu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ark Mission Part III

The Ark Mission Part II

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer awakens.

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

“That was rhetorical?”

“Yes, Tes.”

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

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

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

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

“Nine, Admiral.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know, Sissend. New plan.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

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

“Yes, ma’am.”

#

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

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

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

“That’s my soldier.”

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

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

“No sign of your uncle, Levion?”

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it, Tes?”

Tes looks at Levion and then back and Jennifer.

“It’s okay, Tes.”

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

“Thanks, Tes.”

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

“I think you’re right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no response.

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You and me both, friend.”

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ark Mission Part II

Lieutenant Bargh goes to the building where the natives are being held captive. He also instructs three of his team members to quietly travel back to meet with Levion and report on the situation with the radio communication anomaly and that Smith is delusional and taken a dozen natives captive. He instructs the rest of his men to watch Smith’s men very carefully and be prepared to take them out if he gives the order or if they feel it is necessary for protecting the mission. He has them put on their head gear that will filter the air they are breathing as a precaution.

Bargh enters the room with two other soldiers where the natives are being held. He instructs his men to remove the restraints from the natives.

“Thank you, human. Now, you should go and leave us in peace. You false gods have already killed us all.”

Bargh is confused. “Help me understand your situation, friend. I am here to help. We are all here to help your kind. I apologize for my fellow human’s behavior towards you and your kind. We do want to help. And perhaps you can help us. What is your name?”

“I am Esua, human. There is no help for kind like you. You are wicked, and your kind has brought death upon us all.”

“Well, you can call me, Norman. Your planet is dying, but that’s not our fault. I know it might seem like that. We arrive and then soon your planet is doomed. I understand. Your planet’s death is not because of us.”

“You are a fool, human. Your own kind has deceived you as well as us. I wish you peace in your short life. May we now leave to enjoy our final days?”

Bargh motions that they may leave. “I am not holding you prisoner.” Bargh says to the natives as they begin to exit. The native he is speaking to remains.

“You are the prisoner, human.”

Bargh instructs his men to leave him and the native alone. “Enlighten me, friend.”

“You should go. There is not much time left. My god’s judgement is coming”

Bargh sits down in a chair and lifts up his arms. “You strike me as the smartest being in this room right now, Esua. And that’s not a position I’m particularly comfortable with when I also have my own men wanting to harm you. I’m guessing that you told my friend Smith something pretty bad.”

“I told him only what I have told you. Your people are wicked and have brought death upon us all. He held us captive. There is no more to tell you.”

“Well, I might not be a Mohcia, but I sure can tell when I’m being deceived.”

“Then you know that your people have deceived you already.”

“Yes, Esua. I know that my people have deceived me. I just don’t know what they have lied to me about. I also know that you just deceived me when you said there is no more to tell me, and I think you want to tell me but don’t want to tell me or are afraid to tell me. I also think you don’t fear anyone but your god.”

“I do not fear my god. He has given me life and a family. And he shall give me death too.”

Bargh pulls out his flashlight and tosses it to Esua who drops it. “He didn’t give you a thumb though. Why do you think that is?” He holds up his hand and wiggles his thumb back and forth as Esua tries to pickup the flashlight.

Esua stares at Bargh’s thumb with his large blue eyes. “My god took them from us because of our sin. I have no need for such an appendage, Norman.”

Bargh walks over to Esua and at 6’6″, he’s towering over the less than 4 foot Esua. He bends down on one knee, picks up the flashlight and then hands it gently to Esua , wedging it between the last and second fingers on Esua’s six-fingered hand. He places Esua’s free finger on the button and presses it down to turn on the flashlight. Esua looks on in amazement.

“Help me see the light, Esua.” Bargh says softly to Esua who is moving the light around and shining it on the walls and ceiling in amazement.

“My people had honored our powerful god since the dawn of time, and he has graced us with a plentiful planet, long lives, and peace. Our god also warned us that one day we will be face to face with false gods. Gods who look like him. Gods with magic almost as powerful as him. But it will all be deceit. Your kind is the deceit, Norman. Your only role in saving my people is that you will bring us to the final judgement of my god.”

Bargh stands up and is trying his best to keep a poker face as he now is thinking that the original Earth crew was not the first humans to make contact with Mohcia. He sits back down in the chair. “Tell me more, friend.”

“We lived in peace for countless generations. Then your kind arrived. Your kind corrupted the minds of my family above and below me. Just as my god had said would happen, your kind is the false gods he said would come. My god spoke to my family through me and said we must make your false god kind leave our world. But my family bowed down to your false god magic and rejected my true god. I was banished to the center of this world. The most uninhabitable portion of the planet, but my god provided for me and my family. We have thrived and grown.”

Bargh crosses his arms as he’s digesting what Esua is telling him.

“Then your kind built this monument to your own false greatness, and even my own family here in the center of my world began to reject me. So, my god came to me and told me that since I had not rid my world of these false gods, he will strike the sun from the sky and cast my world into cold death in 200 years.”

“And let me guess, Esua. That was about 200 years ago?”

“It will be 200 years in 27 days.”

“You are right. We don’t have much time left. You don’t have to choose to die, Esua. I can save you and your family. I am not a god, I’m just a soldier who wants to help you.”

“The best way you can help me is to let me be, Norman.”

Bargh stands up and starts walking towards the door.

“Your light.” Esua holds it up towards Bargh.

“Keep it, Esua. You’ll need it in 27 days.”

#

Levion arrives at the home of the native who he now knows was named Issa by his uncle. The home is built into a massive rock at the base of a large mountain with a huge water fall about 100 yards away. There are two buildings behind a large wall with an open entrance. One of the buildings looks much like a chapel with a large double door entrance and a bell in both of the towers in the front of the building. It is by far the most advanced structure on Mohcia after the Earth bases.

The second building is a traditional Mohcia hut to the left side as they enter and Issa tells Levion that is where his family lives. Levion directs his troops to have the helper robots take care of Issa’s family while he visits the other building with Issa.

Levion is a bit baffled by the chapel looking building. There’s no possible way the Mohcia could have constructed a building like this or made the ball or even the doors. They live in huts and don’t have the tools necessary to make such a building.

“Who made this building, Issa?”

“The original gods, master. The gods before my master arrived.”

“You ever meet these original gods?”

“Oh, no, master. They are not real. They were created by the wretched outcasts of Esua so that they could prosper while others went without. Those with the power abused it, so we revolted and banished them to the center of our world.”

Issa opens the large double door to the building, walks inside, and motions to Levion to enter. As Levion steps through the threshold he swears he hears a voice say something to him. Chills run down his spine. He pauses and steps back out of the building. He looks upward in the inside of the building. There is nothing unusual about the building other than it being so advanced compared to all the other native made buildings.

Levion steps across the threshold again and hears the same voice say slightly different words. He doesn’t understand the language, and the translator device is not registering that anything is being said.

Issa is all the way on the other side of the building and motions to Levion. “Come master. The gift from my master awaits you.”

Levion steps further into the building and looks in all directions to see if he can find a source of the mysterious voice, but he cannot find anything. “Issa, what is that noise you hear when you enter the building?”

“That is my master’s god. Your god, my master.”

Levion walks into the back of the building and stands next to Issa. They are standing in front of an altar of some sort of worship. Levion looks over at Issa who is holding his six-fingered hands in prayer and mumbling words that his translator device is not picking up.

“I will bring you to my master now.” Issa points at a door to their right.

Levion walks over to the door and unhooks the latch that’s holding it closed. He opens the door to find his uncle sitting in a chair with his arms folded in front of him. He walks in and closes the door behind him.

#

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Andre! I was wondering if you were going to make it in time.” John says as he stands up and reaches his hands out for a hug.

Andre backs up and extends his hands to keep John at a distance. “What’s with all this bullshit, Uncle?”

John steps back and looks at Andre’s uniform. “What the hell happened, Andre? You’re infrastructure? You’re supposed to be military. What the hell did you do?”

“My life choices are my life choices. I’m an adult now, Uncle John. I’m not your naive little nephew anymore.”

“If that were only so, Andre. You have no fucking idea what the hell this mission is really about! Shit!” John paces back and forth for a bit.

“What’s going on, Uncle John?”

“Well, Andre, there’s a lot more to this world and this universe than you might realize. God dammit! Why didn’t you follow my guidance?”

“I wanted to be my own man! I was tired of being the nephew of the great John Levion. Do you have any idea what kind of shadow you cast?”

“You’ve put me in a very difficult situation, kid.” John pauses as he keeps pacing back and forth. He then stops and places his hands on Andre’s shoulders, staring deep into his eyes. “You need to listen to me VERY carefully, kid. This mission is complete horse shit. If you had stuck to what I told you to do and stayed military instead of infrastructure, you’d know what’s really going on. All your friends up on that piece of shit Ark that you’re commanding… They’re all dead! You’re dead. Everyone non-military on this mission is dead!”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“We weren’t the ones to make contact with the Mohcia. Someone made contact with this planet about 2000 Mohcia years ago. When we arrived 300 years ago, we thought this was some primitive planet with a species at the top of the food chain who had maximized their evolutionary potential millennia ago. These Mohcia were never going to evolve beyond their primitive state. Then we discovered this building. I’m sure you noticed a few odd things about this building, right?”

“Ya, there’s no way these Mohcia made this building.”

“That’s the obvious one. That voice you heard when you came and that chill you felt… Those are the result of some very clever engineering to psychologically manipulate the natives into believing the makers of this building are gods with some special powers.”

“You found the builder?”

“No, but we did find the envoy he left behind. Physically weak. Total pussies, but these guys are super smart. I’m talking about guys that make our best scientists look like they are in grade school. That’s when things got hairy, kid.”

“What are they?”

“They’re human!”

“That’s impossible! 2000 Mohcia years would put them arriving 100 Earth years before we had interstellar travel capabilities.”

“Well, they sure as hell bled like humans when I killed them, Andre. That’s why my team was sent here. My team tracked down every single one of them and eradicated these fuckers and studied their DNA. They’re humans.”

“You said, they were an envoy left behind?”

“Ya, we had no idea they had been here as long as they had at first. We thought they were just some rogue settlers who went out on their own. Maybe a private space adventure not long before we arrived. We actually thought they were dumb because they had no weapons and no real defense system. We’ve seen that before on other planets. Some rich ass kid takes all their parents’ money and moves to some planet with a one way interstellar ticket. Originally, they seemed like a bunch of dirty hippies to me. Little did I realize that the joke was on me.”

“That’s why you made the distress signal?”

“That’s complicated, Andre. Really complicated. And something I can’t tell you right now. Bottom line is, all those people on this mission are dead.”

Andre looks at his uncle with contempt. “You’re going to war with the other humans and this mission is just a ruse to get Earth to back your next military glory!”

“Andre, I don’t expect you to understand…” Andre cuts off John’s train of thought.

“Jennifer is the Admiral of this whole mission, John!”

John pauses. He drops his hands from Andre’s shoulders and looks down and shakes his head. “Fuck!”

The Ark Mission Part I

The Ark Mission Part I

The Ark Mission fleet emerges from hyper space and begin to slow themselves down as they arrive near the heliosphere of Zathustine Major. Just like Earth, Mohcia is the third planet from the star at the center of their solar system. One of the cargo ships has a malfunction and does not slow enough before entering the heliosphere and reports damage to the main fleet Admiral, Jennifer.

“Start working on a full analysis of the damage. We’ll send a repair shuttle to you once we enter the heliosphere. In the meantime, since your launch bays are working, continue your course as best as possible and deploy the outer probes you have onboard so we can start collecting data. Then hold up position in the same orbit as the 4th planet and await shuttles to take your crew aboard Ark I while repair crews make the necessary repairs.” Jennifer records the commands to the damaged ship.

As the rest of the fleet makes a safe, steady entry into the heliosphere, the leaders of the mission meet aboard Ark I to review the plans. The primary directive is to take aboard as many of the inhabitants of  Mohcia who choose to evacuate onto the seven Ark ships in the fleet and relocate them throughout a set of planets that humans have come to know as inhabitable over the last several hundred years.

Jennifer enters the secure meeting room and all of the ship commanders rise. Two of the seats are empty. One from the damaged ship (Skyros I) and the other for Ark II. The commanders all sit and begin with a standard rundown of the status of their ships, supplies, and troops. Commander Andre Levion enters the room late with a clumsy walk and a smirk on his face.

“Pardon my tardiness, kind peers. My space legs are getting the best of me.” Levion jests.

Jennifer scowls at Andre and continues on with the meeting. Communication ships like Skros are to arrive ahead of the Ark cruisers so that they can establish the communication network in orbit around Mohcia . Each Ark has specific positions they are to take up in orbit around Mohcia to land their cargo shuttles that will be performing the transport of the evacuees. The military ships will accompany the Ark cruisers and provide them planetary security forces should the need arise.

Jennifer adjourns the meeting and requests that Levion stay behind to speak with her.

#

“What’s with the buffoonery, Andre?”

“Guess we’ll skip the pleasantries, eh?”

“This is a serious mission! Lives are at stake here, and you’re clowning around like we’re back in the academy.”

“Oh, the good ol’ days. Back before you got engaged to some weirdo science guy. Back when we’d hold hands looking at the sunsets in orbit around Jupiter.”

“Ya, you were a drunk then, and I’m guessing your space legs are you being a drunk after coming out of hibernation.”

“No way, Admiral! I’m on the straight and narrow. Have been since you left me. I have clearance from my ship’s doctor about this ailment plaguing me today.”

“I expect to see that report from the doctor before you can resume command of your Ark.”

“Are you kidding me? After all we’ve been through and me getting my uncle to help you out with getting a Admiral position in the first place! You’re going to treat me like some guy you weren’t in love with 10 years ago.”

“10 years. 10 lifetimes.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Levion’s face is turning red from upset.

“It means I’ll be happy to see your uncle again when we pick him up off Mohcia. Maybe spending the next nine months with him will do you some good with growing up. Infrastructure missions are quite a bit different from the military missions you are used to.”

“Ya, well…” Levion pauses and holds back his comment. “Ma’am, I’ll have my doctor send you his report as I’m heading back to my Ark that I will resume command of once you have authorized.”

“God willing.” Jennifer smiles at Levion and pats him on the shoulder and smiles. “Andre, I always believed in you, and I believe you have a beautiful destiny in front of you. It’s just not going to be with me the way you want it, but please know that I will always support you as the man I know you CAN be rather than this kid you pretend to be.”

Levion looks at Jennifer and glances down with a bit of shame and then looks back up at her and smiles. “You changed my life forever, Jennifer.” He sighs. “Thank you for everything you’ve done and always believing in me. I can’t wait to have dinner with you and Uncle John once we get to Mohcia.”

#

The communication ships arrive in orbit around Mohcia and begin setting up the satellites for network communications on the planet. They have still not been able to raise communication with the Earth base on Mohcia which had sent out the distress signal starting a year ago. The distress signal is still being emitted from the base.

The surveillance satellites deployed quickly determine the native inhabitants are going about living their regular lives, but none of the facilities built by Earth’s people are showing any activity. Jennifer options to send down military ships in advance for further surveillance.

Jennifer is sitting in her study when she receives notification from her robot assistance that an encrypted channel is being received from Ark II.

“Jen, you gotta let me go down there!” Levion tries to hold back his upset.

“Not a chance, Levion. This is a military mission right now. We need further information on what’s going on before anyone from infrastructure steps foot on Mohcia.”

“My uncle is down there, Jen. He’s the one who triggered the distress signal. You know that’s the case.”

“Military only, Levion.”

“Then dismiss me from my infrastructure duties and put me on military or you’ve got your first mutiny on your first mission as an Admiral!”

“You threatening me?”

“I’m promising you that there is no way on hell you are keeping me from going down there and finding my uncle. C’mon, Jen! He was like a god damn father to you!”

“I can feel your pain, Andre.”

There’s a long pause. Levion is holding his breath…

“You are relieved of duty of the Ark II. Instructions will be sent to Commander Nielson to take over. You are to rendezvous with Apollo 7 on Mohcia. They are at the base where your uncle was operating.”

Levion cheers! “Thank you so much! We’re going to celebrate when I bring him back. I promise!”

“Good luck, Andre.”

“You were always my lucky charm, Jen. I can’t thank you enough!”

The communication line drops and Jennifer sends the orders to Ark II to give command to Nielson and relieve Levion of command and provide him with a military shuttle.

#

Levion lands his shuttle at the airdeck at the Earth base on Mohcia where his uncle was in command. The military forces who arrived earlier greet him and escort him to the command center. All of the weapons, munitions, food, computers, and personnel are absent from the base.

The Lieutenant in charge reports to Levion. “They definitely didn’t follow protocol, sir. Everything has been evacuated according to protocol, but they did not leave behind any information to indicate where they went. One of the other bases on Mohcia are reporting the same thing. Full evacuation protocol followed with the exception of leaving behind the encrypted destination devices. No word from the central base yet.”

“Any ideas how long ago?”

“We’re estimating maybe a few weeks before we arrived. They definitely stuck around for quite some time after setting off the signal, sir.”

“You think any of the natives might have taken the devices?”

“Not likely, sir. The natives are fairly primitive, but we have sent some men out to ask a few questions.”

Another soldier enters the room, “Sir, there’s a native at the front gate asking to see Levion.”

“Have them let him in. I’ll speak to him in here.”

Both soldiers leave and then the native is brought into the room with Levion. The native is a blueish grey skinned bipedal creature with two arms, each with six fingers and no thumbs. He’s about four feet tall, making him appear like a child standing in front of the 6’2″ Levion.

A soldier brings in a bag with a few items. “These are the items we found on him, sir. We also performed a weapons scan of his body. He’s clean.” The soldier takes up position a few feet behind the native.

“What’s your name?” Levion speaks into a device that translate to native tongue.

The native looks behind him and then back at Levion. Then back to the soldier. Then back to Levion and then places one of his six fingers in front of his small mouth. Levion motions for the soldier to leave, and he does.

“My master has given me an important task, son of my master.” The device Levion is holding translates the native’s speaking.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“My master is Levion. You are son of Levion. This I know because master has give me the promise that you will save my people from the destruction that has been prophesied.”

Levion thinks to himself, “These computers can’t interpret worth crap.” Then he looks in the bag with the items taken from the native.

“The image of my master lives in that gem.” The native points to a metal pendant with a gemstone in the middle. “If your magic can create the light, you will see my master.”

Levion pulls out his flashlight from his utility belt and shines it underneath the gemstone. A hologram shows him an image of several objects, one of which is a figure who looks like his uncle as well as another picture who looks like him. The other objects, Levion does not recognize.

“Where is this man?” Levion points to the figure of his uncle.

“He is my master. He has ascended and promised my family salvation. You are my salvation, master. Just as my master has prophesied.”

Levion realizes that his uncle must have given this native some insight into where he went. “Did your master give you any gifts?”

“Oh, yes, master. I have them in my home. I have kept them for you, son of my master. My master prophesied that you would arrive and ask me for the gifts he has given me. I have protected them with my life.”

“Where is your home, friend?”

#

Two of the military envoys dispatched earlier report to Levion that most of the natives are very friendly and that the soldiers were being treated like saviors and given many blessings as they spoke with natives near the bases. The third envoy in the central part of Mohcia has not reported back, so Levion asks for satellite surveillance to get additional intel and sends a second envoy manned by Lieutenant Bargh to the central region’s Earth base.

Levion reports back to Jennifer that they have not been able to identify where the members of the Earth base went but that the natives don’t appear to be hostile in the north and south. The central part of Mohcia is undetermined. He recommends that the Ark cruisers should undergo their rescue mission outside the central regions of Mohcia, which are mostly dense forest and a logistical nightmare anyway.

The Ark cruisers position themselves in low orbit around Mohcia and begin to deploy the rescue shuttles. Each rescue shuttle contains worker robots to help each native community with their belongings. Plants and animals are all closely evaluated for health to ensure that only the best animals and plants are taken during the evacuation.

On Ark I, Jennifer is receiving information back from the solar surveyors that were deployed ahead of their arrival on Mohcia to monitor the star. None of the data points are showing anything wrong with the star, and all signs are indicating that the star is healthy with no signs of instability.

Jennifer asks for another set of solar surveyors to be deployed to ensure that the information being collected is valid. She also orders a non-military speed pace convoy to make a visit to the other side of the star as quickly as possible and deploy surveyors and then speed back with the information.

The second envoy to the central region of Mohcia arrives at the Earth base to find the first envoy holding several of the natives captive and an irrational Lieutenant Smith rambling about conspiracy. The base is in the same evacuated condition as the north and south bases. Attempts to radio back to Levion, result in no response. Satellite communication, has no signal.

Lieutenant Bargh from the second envoy meets with Lieutenant Smith. Bargh asks Smith what he’s doing taking natives prisoner and why he didn’t report back to Levion.

“Something doesn’t feel right about this whole situation.” Smith confides. “I started asking myself why the original team just disappeared. Part of me wants to think these natives whacked the whole team and then covered up everything, but they aren’t that smart. The natives are a bunch of savage idiots.”

“Our job is not to police these natives, Smith. Our job is to ensure that our men are protected.”

“I AM protecting our men!” Smith yells!

“What good does it do to bring these natives in like a bunch of prisoners? What do you think you have done to help this mission or protect our men?”

“Ya, you think these natives are so peaceful, right? They don’t like us. They don’t want us here. Ask them. Ask them yourself!”

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, Morning Star, 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.