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.

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.

Computer Entanglement

“I feel like this is exactly where you wanted me to be.” Jennifer looks at the old man standing in front of her.

“But of course you would.” The mad scientist looking old man paces in front of her, slightly hunching as he walks and then upright as he turns to pace back three paces the opposite direction. “You have to help me with a particular opportunity.”

“Sounds to me like you have a problem that you’re trying to spin to me as an opportunity.” Jennifer smiles at the old man. “What should I call you?”

“My name is Fredrick, but you will call me Fred.”

“I’m glad you’re making decisions for me, Fred. Since I was in the neighborhood, I figured I’d stop by and see if you needed any help.” Jennifer sarcastically smirks at Fredrick.

“You find my computer chip, and then I help you. That’s what happens.” Fredrick is speaking in a tone of certainty that Jennifer is familiar with and feeling confident about already about finding his computer chip.

“I’ll assume you already checked your computer, so I’ll need a little more information about the chip to play detective, Fred.”

“Before we begin, I just have one question for you. How did you get into this room?”

Jennifer pauses. A sudden and long sequence of events flashes in her memory. It seems as if she has more than a century of memories running through her mind. Entire events that she feels like she’s living for the first time in that very moment thinking about Fredrick’s question. She shakes her head.

“You don’t know, do you?” Fredrick drops his head with slight disappointment.

“Give me a second. There’s something playing with my mind.” Jennifer becomes engulfed in her memories.

#

Jennifer is watching herself standing in a room with Fredrick on a monitor inside a large, dimly lit spaceship hanger. Her heart is racing as she types ferociously on the screen in front of her. She receives a message via her optical messaging system from the computer in front of her. She has the location, but she knows she’s taken too much time. She hears voices coming down the hallway getting closer.

Jennifer closes her eyes for a blink and suddenly can observe the building she’s located in from a higher dimension. She can see that there is a possible escape route through the ventilation system under the computer terminal on the other side of the hanger. Jennifer opens her eyes and begins running towards the opposite side of the hanger.

She can hear the door open as she pulls the filter and vent cover inward to make it appear as if the vent cover was in proper condition. She slowly eases her way through the ventilation system until she finds the spot she remembers from her higher dimensional blink experience.

She makes her way through a series of hallways as quickly as possible wearing her advanced body suit that makes her invisible to the cameras and scanners along the way. She opens a door and walks into the room with Fredrick.

As she walks into the room, she suddenly opens her eyes and explains to Fredrick how she got to the room.

Fredrick smiles. “Then this is good news! Now we just need to find my optical lenses.”

Jennifer blinks for a split second that suddenly transports her back into the higher dimension where she can see exactly where Fredrick’s optical lenses are and knows how to get to them and four possible escape routes. This time she runs through all four escape routes to find the best option. Only one route will work. Her eyes open and she grabs Fredrick’s arm and walks out the door.

#

They make their way strategically through the service access system that runs along the hallways but isn’t monitored by scanners and cameras. Jennifer is receiving signals through her optical lenses with instructions on the direction to take the service access system and entry codes to enter into the doorways along the way.

The only surveillance they have to worry about is when they leave the room that has Fredrick’s optical lenses, and Jennifer already has that planned out.

They enter the room with Fredrick’s optical lenses. The lenses are sitting in their case on a beautiful mahogany wood desk in the middle of the room with several lights pointing directly onto the center of the desk. Jennifer notices that the lens case appears to have been positioned in just off-center, to the left of middle on the desk and pointing towards the door.

She grabs Fredrick before he can get too far away from her and there is a sudden cling of metal against the floor as a silent bullet whizzes just passed Fredrick’s head. Jennifer fires a single shot with her own pistol in the direction from where the silent bullet came from. A drone bounces off the wall and crashes down to the floor. Jennifer’s aim was perfect!

She reaches down to pickup Fredrick off the floor. “Grab ’em, and let’s get out of here.”

Fredrick grabs his case and puts his lenses on. As Jennifer and Fredrick walk through the threshold of the door, they are suddenly surrounded by a contingent of soldiers pointing their guns at them. Jennifer hears foot steps and then sees the familiar face of General Z as she walks towards her.

“Looks like this isn’t your dimension after all.” General Z says as she stops one step away from Jennifer. Jennifer clenches her jaw as she stands tall in front of General Z. “I should kill you right now, but we need you alive so that the good Fredrick can examine your suit with you ALIVE in it.”

General Z motions to the guards and they escort Jennifer and Fredrick through the hallway.

#

The guards open the door to a solitary confinement prison cell with no opening except very smell vents heavily bolted to the walls. They shove Jennifer into the room and close the door. The room is well-lit but would barely fit more than two people standing up. She turns around and anticipates the door opening. She pauses.

The door opens and Fredrick is standing in front of her,

“What took you so long, Fredrick?”

“Just one unexpected glitch. Let’s go.”

Fredrick leads Jennifer through a couple of hallways and then signals her to come into one of the rooms with her. “This will give us a shortcut to the active hanger.”

Jennifer enters a room with a scanner in the middle of an observation deck and immediately tackles Fredrick and places him into an arm bar and dislocated his elbow and shoulder in one powerful move! Fredrick screams in agony as Jennifer stands up and stands over Fredrick. The door opens again and the Fredrick Jennifer had saved from the prison enters.

“Remind me not to ever choose to be that Fred.” Fredrick says to Jennifer as he runs to the computer console in the observation deck. “Go ahead and stand in the scanner.”

Jennifer stands in the scanner, and there’s a slight hum as the scanner begins slowly making its way from head to toe over Jennifer’s body suit. A series of different colored lights flash so quickly against Jennifer’s body that it almost appears to be solid white light scanning down her body.

As the scanner is going, Fredrick is connecting a computer device to the observation deck computer. His device begins downloading the scanner information and the scan of Jennifer and her body suit. The scan seems to be taking forever as the other Fredrick is no longer screaming in pain.

He looks up at Jennifer and scowls, “We make such a great team, don’t we?”

Jennifer ignores him.

“The universe is unfolding exactly as it should, Jennifer. In order for you to get the information about my scanner, you have to give me all the information about your suit. You picked the wrong side in this dimension.” He pauses for a second and then yells, “You picked that freak!”

The scanner finishes scanning Jennifer, and Fredrick unplugs his device from the scanner and walks over to the Fredrick on the ground and kicks him hard enough in the face to knock him out.

“That doesn’t hurt you?” Jennifer stares at the two Fredricks.

“He’s quite the asshole, so I really don’t feel any connection with him.”

Fredrick grabs Jennifer’s arm and pulls her towards the door. “Let’s get to the hanger and get out of this ship. If the data is accurate, then there should be a freighter we can piggyback on to get you to where you need to be.”

Jennifer pulls her arm away from Fredrick and looks at the Fredrick passed out on the ground. She looks over at the scanner terminal and then back at the Fredrick on the ground and then at the device Fredrick is holding in his other hand.

“Wait…” Jennifer runs over to the scanner terminal and begins prying the keyboard panel off the terminal to review a bright glowing light with a large bell-shaped object sitting on an optics channel motherboard. Fredrick watches closely as Jennifer pulls the bell-shaped object from the scanner terminal.

#

The bell-shaped object has a light green glow to it as Jennifer lifts the bell-shaped object out of the scanner terminal. As Jennifer lifts the bell-shaped object towards Fredrick’s face she is suddenly watching herself from a higher dimension. There is a cable that is connecting a series of wires leading from the monitor to her head.

Fredrick taps her on the shoulder and startles her.

“Quite the experience, no?” Fredrick lifts the brain connector from Jennifer’s head.

“It all seems so real.”

“That’s because it is, my dear.”

Fredrick explains to Jennifer that he made a very unique pair of quantum computer chips. The quantum chips are quantum entangled. “This means that everything taking place on one chip is also always taking place at the exact same time on the other chip. No matter how far apart in this universe they are from each other.”

He continues to explain how the quantum entanglement allowed him to build a computer that enabled him to jump to a higher dimension and eventually build another computer chip that was entangled at that dimension. The current dimension that they are in.

“In doing so, I can jump from observer of a lower dimension to experiencing the lower dimension whenever I want. My quantum entangled computers are even entangled within each other. I already know that at some point in this dimension I will create another entangled computer to take me to the next dimension.”

“How do you know that?” Jennifer is looking at Fredrick’s invention in awe.

“I am becoming entangled with every version of myself I choose to already. Thoughts, ideas, even memories and premonitions just come to me from nowhere.”

“The possibilities are endless, Fred!”

“Ya, well, you’d think that might be the case, right? Yet her you are in this very moment, experiencing what you are rather than being with your husband on Earth.”

Jennifer reflects on Fredrick’s statement and her eyes begin to well up with tears. “Why am I here instead of there? Why can’t you take me there?”

“What’s the fun in that?”

“Well, I love my husband, and I love everything we had together on Earth.”

“And still, you are here. Hanging out with a crazy old man.” Fredrick pokes Jennifer in the arm to remind her where she is.

“You can’t make it out of this dimension without me, can you, Fred?”

“Can’t…” Fredrick pauses. “Or I choose not to.” Fredrick walks away from Jennifer towards the cockpit of their spacecraft and looks out at the solar system they have just entered. There’s a massive star in the middle with a smaller, much dimmer star orbiting around it with several planets orbiting the smaller star.

“This is one of your favorite adventures, Jennifer! Buckle up, we’re heading to Cheebs!”

The Savior

Ned Xavier is a dangerous man!

That thought suddenly pops into Jason’s mind while he’s sitting in his biology lecture hall. His heart starts racing and palms are sweating. Who is Ned Xavier?

Class ends, and Jason rushes out of the lecture hall to get fresh air. He’s in a virtual panic from what just happened in the lecture hall. A sudden rush of thoughts about topics and people he had never heard of before. It was like he was day dreaming… Only, this seems real.

“You okay?” Jessica asks Jason. “Need me to call someone?”

Finally starting to catch his breath, Jason explains to Jessica that everything is just fine. Another student is walking by and hands both of them a religious pamphlet: Jesus Saves. He was just stressing about the upcoming finals. Jessica offers to walk with Jason back to his dorm, and he accepts her offer.

“Have you ever heard of Ned Xavier?” Jason is curious to find out who this person was who just popped into his head during the lecture.

“You mean the guy that started that science conference Ned Notes?”

Jason had seen the Ned Notes videos online before. It’s always the top scientists, authors, and artists discussing important political, philosophical, social, or psychological topics. One of his favorite best-selling authors had just given a presentation a few weeks back.

“You know, I never really put two and two together on that. Ya, that’s the guy!”

#

Jason spends the entire evening researching Ned Xavier online. “There’s not a single negative thing anywhere about this guy.” Jason is puzzled. “Something’s fishy. There must be something about him”. Jason decides to call it a night and go to sleep.

Jason slips into a deep sleep, and then his brain kicks into overdrive. His dreams are vivid and more like memories than dreams. Visions of huge scientific papers are rolling through his dreams like he’s scanning through an old microfiche. Then everything stops and all Jason can hear in his mind is “Ned Notes are carefully orchestrated to fulfill on a specific agenda for creating mass compliance within the intellectual community”. It repeats over and over in his mind until he wakes up with one final thought. “Find Gertrude Hammenstel”. Who is Gertrude Hammenstel?

Jason is half awake as he pulls up his computer and searches for Gertrude Hammenstel. Nothing. It’s like she doesn’t exist. He begins to wonder if perhaps the stress of finals is getting the best of him. He goes back to bed.

#

There’s a knock on Jason’s dorm room door. He slowly gets up and answers. It’s a woman he’s never seen before, but she looks so familiar. “You wouldn’t happen to be Gertrude Hammenstel, are you?” Jason asks half asleep.

“No. I’m an investigator with campus police. Detective Gomez. Jessica Sands was assaulted last night, and we received information that she was last seen with you yesterday afternoon after you were acting erratic during a lecture.”

Jason feels like he’s really losing his mind now. Could he have blacked out and done something to Jessica and not even remembered it?

“Is she okay?”

“We don’t know yet. Her vitals are stable, but she’s unconscious.”

“Uh… She walked me to my dorm yesterday after class. That was the last I saw of her.”

Looking around Jason’s dorm, it’s what a detective would envision is a typical dorm room for a well-organized biology major. Books on top of books and the obligatory religious pamphlet on top of his dresser: Jesus Saves. “What direction did she go when she left your dorm?”

“Well, she didn’t come into my dorm. She just walked me to the front of the building. I think she might have headed back in the direction of campus. I didn’t really think much about it at the time.”

The investigator sizes up Jason as a possible suspect in the assault on Jessica. He’s too much of a wimp to be a threat to Jessica whose parents let her know had a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She smiles at him. “Gertrude Hammenstel was an adjunct professor here almost 20 years ago. I had her for a biology class. Her husband died about the same time, and I think that was the last class she ever taught. Great teacher and lovely couple. He was a genetic engineer over at Xavier Labs. One of the founders.”

Jason tries to hold back the look of shock from his face, but it doesn’t require a police investigator to know something was amiss. The investigator asks Jason a few more questions about Jessica and any possible boyfriends or people who might not like her. She leaves him a card and tells him to call her if he remembers anything.

#

Jason goes to the school library and looks up old school papers from 20 years ago. He searches everything on the computers and can’t find anything.

‘Try the microfiche,” he suddenly thinks.

The librarian is a petite older woman with a feisty attitude when Jason asks her for a microfiche machine and old school newspapers. “No one has used microfiche for a decade, young man. Do you want some help?”

Jason refuses her help, and the librarian leaves Jason to himself.

Jason spends hours pouring through slide after slide. He’s getting exhausted listening to the voices inside his head telling him stories about Ned Xavier’s arrangement with the government to create mass market brainwashing protocols and propaganda. He feels a hand on his shoulder, and he nearly jumps out of his chair.

Standing in front of him is the librarian holding a microfiche slide. “I believe this is the one you are looking for.” She extends the slide towards Jason.

Jason isn’t sure what to make of it. “Are you Gertrude?” he asks as he takes the slide from the woman. The woman nods.

Jason examines the microfiche but nothing is standing out. Suddenly, a sequence of numbers enter his mind. He goes through the microfiche using the number sequence as a guide for finding words on each of the images. The message isn’t making any sense to Jason.

“It’s his private key,” Gertrude says to Jason. “Let’s go to my lab.”

#

Gertrude takes Jason back to her lab and explains to him along the way that her husband was a genetic engineer who discovered an agreement between Ned Xavier and the US government to develop Ned Notes into a program that appears to spread brilliant ideas of science, art, society, and politics but is actually a front for disseminating information to help the government subconsciously control intellectuals around the globe.

The program has become so massively successful over the years that scientific research is funded based upon how closely you are tied to Ned Xavier. In order to get close to Ned, you must have performed some sort of compelling research that is reviewed by the Ned Notes board. Then you are selected to participate in the program as a presenter.

“That’s where the magic happens, Jason. Have you ever noticed how nearly ever single presenter for Ned Notes has the exact same presentation style and intonation?”

She was right. Everyone presents in the same way.

“That’s not just because they have a format, Jason. It’s not just because that’s the best way to present. It’s because these intellectuals are being manipulated using the best psychological techniques ever discovered. Often times, they are too smart for their own good. They are unwittingly brainwashed over time into creating a message of compliance for the masses. Compliance that allows the government to easily manage and control society.

You notice how there always appears to be this synergy of ideas in science and news? That’s not because of an actual synergy. It’s fabricated! Newspapers and television news are reporting the same thing because that’s what they are told to report. There is tremendous financial incentive to be in compliance, Jason. Research grants and government funding all require compliance, and if you’re not in compliance you won’t get hired and you won’t get funded. You get blacklisted.

It’s not just in science. It’s in the arts: music, paintings, acting, writing, producing. Artists that comply the most, get the work because they are hired by others in the compliance alliance. That compliance alliance is what drives the narratives that the masses are influenced by. The machine that drives the compliance is Ned Notes.”

Jason is following every single thing Gertrude is explaining, “But what do I have to do with it?”

“When Ned found out that my husband figured out the plan, Ned had my husband killed and ensured that all of the data was destroyed along with him. But I think my husband embedded the data into your DNA. and that private key you just found is to unlock the encrypted data within your DNA.”

Gertrude has Jason swab his cheek, give her a hair sample, and also some blood.

“Now, we wait until the sequencing is completed.” Gertrude lets out a sigh as she’s so exhausted.

There’s a knock at the door that startles them both. Gertrude is not expecting any visitors. With what Gertrude and Jason just discovered, they are paranoid. Gertrude looks through the peephole in the front door and sees two large men standing at the door. She motions to Jason to go hide downstairs.

Then Jason hears a familiar voice outside the house. “Can I help you two?”

“Ma’am, we’re just spreading the word of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

It’s the investigator who visited Jason’s dorm room. She had been following Jason after he left the library with Gertrude. “Sure you are.” Gomez is suspicious. “Do you have pamphlets? I’m quite interested in the teachings of Jesus.”

One of the men starts reaching his left glove covered hand towards his inside suit pocket.

To signal that she’s no pushover, Detective Gomez places her hand on her pistol. “Let’s do that extra slow now, shall we.” She can see the bulge of a shoulder holster on both men. Her heart is racing as she looks up both men and thinks to herself that these two definitely aren’t here to talk about Jesus.

“Yes, ma’am.” The man slows his movement and reaches into his suite pocket. He slowly pulls out a wrinkled pamphlet with a picture of Jesus on it. He hands it to Detective Gomez and the two men step down off the porch while Gomez watches their every move.

After they are out of sight, she looks down at the wrinkled pamphlet with Jesus on the back cover and flips it over. Her heart starts racing as she realizes that Jason is in some serious trouble: Jesus Saves.

The Loving Voyager

“Will you marry me?”

Tears start falling from Jennifer’s face as she looks at her boyfriend bending down on one knee in front of , revealing the most beautiful ring she has ever seen.

“I had it made just for you. You are my rose. So sweet. So resilient. So beautiful. And most important of all, you make me smile with joy every time I look at you or think of you. Please allow me to do the same for you for the rest of our lives. Please allow me to love, honor, and cherish you forever.”

Jared lifts the ring higher. It’s a beautiful pink diamond ring surrounded by green diamonds in the shape of rose pedals with blue diamonds and sapphire going down the band.

“That is the most beautiful ring I have ever seen! Yes! And not just because it’s a beautiful ring.”

Jennifer kisses Jared. “I love kissing my fiance!”

“Jennifer, I know this wasn’t the best timing with your upcoming mission. I don’t want to rush things. We can wait until you get back.”

“I love you to the galactic center and back, Jared! Being with you over the last couple of years has been the best time of my life. I can’t wait to get back so I can make you my husband!”

Bystanders nearby begin clapping and cheering the public display of affection. An elderly lady approaches the couple. “Would you like me to take a picture of this momentous occasion?”

“How sweet.” Jennifer hands her device to the old lady.

“Let me see if I still know how to use one of these. I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re going on a mission. What kind of excitement are you heading into?”

“Well, I’m part of the mission that’s going to Zathustine Major to evacuate and relocate the inhabitants of Mohcia. Have you heard about that project?”

The old lady smiles. “I remember hearing about that awhile back. That is a wonderful thing you are doing to help save all those who live on that planet. You seem like such a wonderful, loving couple. I think it’s great that your kind of love is being shared in this universe to save so many lives.”

Jennifer and Jared go to dinner at their favorite restaurant and discuss Jennifer’s upcoming voyage. Two years to complete the rescue effort of a planet that is slowly dying as its star is becoming a red giant. Approximately nine months in hyperspace, nine months to perform the rescue effort, and nine months back.

“Jen, I know this won’t be an easy two years for you, but it’s such a great thing you are doing for that planet. I only wish I had been chosen to go as well.”

“I know, honey bunny. And I know it’s not going to be an easy two years for you to be without me. I know how much you love me. I love you so much too. I want you to do me a favor. Please record a video for me every single day. Even if it’s just 10 seconds. I want to always be fresh in your mind. And I promise that I will do the same. Now, let’s enjoy this wonderful dinner and the next three days before I leave.”

#

Jared is whistling as he briskly walks down the street from his apartment towards the flower shop to get Jen a farewell bouquet. He looks up at a bird flying effortlessly in the sky. Suddenly, he bumps into something… Someone.

“I’m incredibly sorry, ma’am,” Jared says as he helps the person he bumped into.

“Oh, it’s quite alright. I’m just glad I didn’t walk into the street as I was following that beautiful bird in the sky. Hey, you’re that guy who got engaged two nights ago to that wonderful lady.”

It’s the old lady who took their picture.

“I sure am. I’m so sorry for bumping into you like that though. Are you alright?”

“I’m alright. Where you headed to in such a hurry?”

“I was heading to this flower shop right here. You wouldn’t mind helping me pick some flowers for my fiance’s going away would you?”

“For such a lovely couple, how could I say no?”

Inside the flower shop, Jared is pining over Jennifer to the old lady. Boasting about her intelligence, tenacity, resilience, and toughness.

“Yet, here she is showing such tender love and commitment to life in the universe. She’s pure love.” Jared pauses… “You know, I didn’t even get your name”.

“Rose”

“That’s Jen’s mother’s name. Come to think of it, you look a lot like her.”

“Oh, really? Well, I suppose Jennifer had to get her smarts and good looks from somewhere.”

“Witty, just like her too! So much of you reminds me of her mother. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you were her.”

Jared and Rose leave the flower shop.

“You must not live far from here do you?” Jared asks Rose.

“Just over there. Top floor.”

“Wow, you can probably see our place from there. We’re down here.”

“You don’t say.”

“Hey, well… we’re best friends now. Why don’t you come over. It’s Jen’s going away party in about 30 minutes. We’d love to have you over.”

“I suppose I can accommodate that request to attend the going away party for a super hero woman.”

#

Back at Jared’s apartment, the going away party is a huge success. Jennifer is surrounded by her family and closest friends. Everyone wishes her huge success on her mission and head home for the night.

As Rose is walking out the door, Jared holds the door for her. “Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you back to your place, Rose?”

“This old woman can handle herself. I’ve seen much worse than the mean streets of Pasadena. You go spend the night with your hot wife, doing what 30 year old lovers should be doing on a night like this, and I’ll handle walking back to my place. Thank you.”

Jennifer can’t help but get a chuckle from the exchange. “Rose, it was very nice meeting you. While I’m gone, you feel free to check in on my Jared to make sure he’s eating well. He has a tendency to eat junk food while I’m away.”

Jared has to defend himself, “Well, your cooking is just so wonderful that I don’t want to ever eat any other cook’s meals.”

“Oh, c’mon, I bet you cook most of the meals in this household.” Rose winks at Jared.

Jared and Jennifer look at each other and then back to Rose before Jared coyly nods his head.

“Jennifer, you are an amazing woman. I have no doubt you’ll have a great mission and change the lives of so many along your voyage. See you in two years! I’m putting it on my calendar. January 18, 2889.” Rose closes the door after herself.

#

It’s been two weeks since Jennifer left on her mission. Jared is busy about his apartment on a Saturday afternoon, blaring music and cleaning the kitchen. There’s a knock on the door.

“Hi, Rose!”

“How are you doing, Jared? Keeping your spirits up?”

“Yes, it’s a bit more difficult each day, but I keep making my daily videos and sending my love her way.”

“I’m sure she’s going to love seeing those videos when she returns. We doing this?”

“Yes, ma’am! Sailing boat, here we come!”

“Don’t ever call me ma’am again. Okay?”

“Yes m”… Jared jokes as they leave the apartment.

#

It’s been six more months. Jared knows that Jennifer should have already arrived at the planet and is probably already making great progress on the evacuation. Still, he can’t sleep. He starts writing Jennifer a letter when, suddenly, he receives an emergency alert warning on his phone! Looking down at his phone, he clears his eyes: CRITICAL ALERT! Come to Space Force Headquarters IMMEDIATELY.

Jared jumps out of bed and gets his clothes on. He heads down to the elevator and gets into his vehicle, which speeds off to his work. Everyone is there.

“Based upon the observable evidence, it would appear that Zathustine Major has imploded on itself. We have no knowledge about the mission at this time, but we are optimistic that they were able to detect the instability of the star, halt the evacuation, and clear themselves out of harms way in time. We will know in 3 months. Our thoughts are with you and your loved ones.”

Shaken, Jared returns to his apartment and finishes making his daily video for Jennifer, not knowing if it would be the last video he should ever make for her.

#

The next morning there’s a knock on the door. As regularly scheduled and right on time, it’s Rose checking in on Jared. Jared tries to maintain his composure while telling Rose about meeting last night, but he eventually breaks down and starts crying on Rose’s shoulder. Rose embraces him and tell him everything is going to be okay.

“Just keep making those daily videos. She’ll be back. I know it, and you know it! Spirits up, buster!”

“Thank you, Rose. You are a true friend. Jen will definitely appreciate you helping me out when she gets back!”

#

Another three months have passed. Jared has maintained a positive attitude with the help of Rose. The news has arrived that the rescue mission fleet has returned to the solar system and will be arriving on Earth within 72 hours. Jared is looking forward to the arrival and decides to take Rose with her to greet Jennifer upon return.

When they arrive at Headquarters, Jennifer’s commanding officer asks Jared to come with him. Rose is not allowed to come with him. Jared returns a few minutes later, distraught and broken. He shares that Jennifer stayed the longest to evacuate as much from the planet as possible. After having loaded the last of what she could onto the shuttle, she boarded and headed back towards the main ship. Unfortunately, the star imploded, her shuttle, and another ship were destroyed.

“Rose, I can’t explain how I feel right now. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to need to be alone today.”

Jared drops off Rose and returns to his apartment.

#

There’s a knock on Jared’s door. Not even sure what day it is, Jared fumbles around for his communicator. There’s another knock. Jared decides to get up and answer.

Depressed, Jared mumbles, “Hi, Rose.”

“I know you are depressed right now. It’s barely a week since you got the news, but I made a promise to keep your spirits up, and I intend to honor my word.”

“Rose, I can’t do this. I can’t pretend that I’m going to be okay anytime soon. I can’t pretend that I don’t want to jump out that window.”

“What would Jennifer want you to be doing right now?”

“What? She’s gone. She doesn’t exist anymore!”

“But if she were here right now. Instead of getting the news you got last week. What would she want you to be doing?”

Jared chuckles, “Something you definitely shouldn’t be here for.”

“Well, at least something still makes you smile! Now, besides fulfilling on your animalistic instincts. Let’s say you get news she’s just weeks out. What would you be doing?”

“The same thing I’ve been doing every day, but maybe with a smile instead.”

“You better not be referring to the same thing you just were.”

Laughing, Jared grabs Rose’s hand. “No, not that. Let me show you something.”

Sitting in the living room, Jared shows Rose every daily video and journal he made for Jen. He gives her the back story to every inside joke. It’s like he’s living their love all over again. Before you know it, it’s late at night and Rose says goodnight.

#

Two weeks later, Jared is eagerly awaiting Rose’s arrival. He’s kept up his daily video and written journals for Jen. But Rose never arrives. He calls her apartment, but there is no answer. He decides to wait a bit to check again. Still no answer.

Thinking that since Rose is an old lady who might need assistance, he decides to go to her apartment to check in on her, only to realize that he doesn’t know exactly which apartment is hers. He calls again, and no answer. He goes to her apartment building anyway, in hopes that her name might be on the digital directory outside the apartment building. No such luck.

Remembering that Rose told him she lives on the top floor, Jared gets into the elevator and goes to the top floor. The elevator opens, revealing just a single door with the number 18 on it. Jared knocks on the door, and Rose answers. “Hi, Jared.”

“Are you okay? You didn’t answer for a long time, and none of my phone calls.”

“Ain’t that the truth! Come on in.” Rose walks away from the door and into her kitchen.

Jared enters her sparsely furnished apartment. There’s a TV, love seat, telescope, and one shelf.

“Make yourself at home,” Rose yells from the kitchen.

Jared walks over and plops himself down on the love seat. Something on top of the shelf catches his eye. It’s a ring. He gets up and walks over to the shelf.

“You ever been married, Rose?”

“Nope. That’s my one regret.”

It’s unmistakable. It’s Jen’s ring. The ring that looks like a rose he had specifically made for her. He picks it up, his hand shaking slightly. Jared hears Jen clear her throat behind him and spins around.

Holding the ring and confused. “How did you get this? Who are you?”

“Well, darling. You gave it to me 123 years ago.”

“What?!”

“When you asked me to marry you in front of the fountain. For me, it was 123 years ago. For you, it’s been barely over 9 months. When I was pulled into the imploding star, it shot me back out the other end, and I have lived 123 years, battling across the universe to be with you again.”

“I guess that is theoretically possible, but how is it possible that you came back here and didn’t stop yourself? You had the opportunity!”

“Yes, and I also lived 123 years of great adventure because I didn’t.”

“And you just want to leave me here without you? You don’t see that as selfish?”

“I was holding on to you, Jared. I was holding on to you inside that black hole, and I was being ripped apart. So, I let go of you and still loved you, and it released me.”

Tears streaming from his face, Jared hugs Jennifer. “What am I supposed to do now?”

“Let me share with you my voyage. There are seven big adventures, five small ones, and two really ugly ones. I want to share those with you before I die.”

“That’s going to be the hardest part, I think. Living the rest of my life without you.”

“No it won’t. You have already done it. You let go, Jared. Hold me in your heart forever, and let me go. And when you are ready, you can watch these.” Jen hands Jared a storage device. “I kept my promise to make you a daily video too.”