Scientia Potentia Est (Part 2 of 2)

Louis led the control room group across the lawn into the dungeons of the Ministry of Justice. They were to join the decision makers in the holding cells for questioning by Chad.

Two days of settling the city’s nerves were beginning to work. Some of the frightened folks were returning to work on their research, their technological innovations that would one day make people better off.

Louis knew that Chad had no intention of stopping this – they were all educated, at least from home. They were taught not only the current order but history lessons in what worked in the past. They were told that freedoms of people were of the highest importance – that freedoms were worth dying for, like those in the American Revolution.

Louis packed the now less-than-twenty group into one holding cell and locked it. Chad would be coming in any minute now to ask them what they did with all the extra abundance – all the other materials that were kept from people, stuff that people should’ve had a chance to acquire.

A door opened and shut. A bulky man with an angry face began talking.

“My father used to tell me stories of the abundance of people,” he addressed the prisoners. “That we had so much food, water and resources that we could feed billions. So I refuse to believe that our current meager rations are all that’s left of our civilization.” He shook his head at this last comment. “So, I need to know now – where do you keep your extras? Where is all the extra abundance that could have been auctioned or shared with everyone else?”

The crowd looked confused. Chad tried again.

“Where,” he raised his voice now – he was getting frustrated, “do you keep your extra stuff for yourself?”

Still no answer.

“Alright,” Chad said. “Where are the two decision-makers who decide allocation of goods? Come out here, now.

Two scrawny young men in glasses stepped forward. “And the senior?” Chad followed-up.

An old woman in glasses stepped forth.

“Now, I’m going to ask you one last time, before I take things to the extreme,” Chad noted. “Where do you keep your extras?

The old woman replied. “We don’t. We make sure that everyone has an equal share of whatever we produce. We also account for the conditions, environment and jobs that people in specific regions. For instance, judging by your farmer’s tan, we give you more water for irrigation. You receive twice as much water than most individuals do.”

“Lies. All Lies!” Chad’s voice rose to a crescendo. “You people keep things from all of us, so that you guys can live wonderful lives in this fabulous city and all of the rest of us out. Your beautiful formulas and calculations are only as beautiful as their creators, and no human ever escapes greed and panic!” Chad paused for thought before turning to Louis. “Organize another media meet-up. This time in front of the Department of Resource Allocation in the Hall of Decisions. I want the whole world to know what these people have been up to!”

Valerie, sitting in the adjacent cell and listening in on the interrogation, let out a soft chuckle to herself.

Several hours later, cameras followed Chad as he led the three Allocation personnel toward the big door. He gestured for the old woman to open the door with her key card. She obliged.

The door unhinged. Chad turned to the cameras and beckoned, “Behold, the lies of the administration led by science are exposed.” He led the group into the room.

Past the doors, three computer monitors were seated in front of a massive screen in a dimly lit room. In the servers on the far side of the room, computer algorithms were running faster than the speed of human thoughts, crunching out numbers for difficult calculations that humans could not possibly compute by hand. On screen, a large map with each of the designated provinces of the continent showed their population, function and allocations of resources based on the data.

“You see, when you ask of where the abundance went,” one of the younger two scrawny men explained, “you were talking about the time before the war. And yes, there was a lot then. Your father may have lived long enough to even experience it. But that has changed now. We can only plant with so much land and you – our farmers – are the ones who are on it.”

The other of the scrawny men helped the first explain further. “We really don’t get to choose. Our predecessors had written the code to equal allocation long before we even got to this position. It now computes equality based on surroundings, climate and need, and spits out numbers for us to double check. We only sound the alarm with the SC if there are any weird numbers or anomalies, but even that rarely happens.”

Chad took a moment to look at the screen. He was no mathematician, but he knew instinctively what they did. It was the equality they had been searching for. It was the most elegant answer to allocation of resources, simply because it did not use the human brain. Numbers, Chad thought. Numbers don’t lie. He realized that the media were in the room too and immediately turned to address them. “Turn off the cameras,” Chad said. Nobody moved. “I said turn off the cameras!

Louis, who was watching the television when this happened, remained silent, but seemed deep in thought.


The media are a bit like wildfire. Once they get a small flame, their winds can turn that flame, however small, into the largest brush fire in history.

And that’s exactly what they did with Chad. They took his gaffe in the Allocation room and spread it far and wide, so that everyone in the continent knew of not only his coup but of his conviction that was hilariously proven wrong in front of his face.

But good stories in the media often lead to important stories that are under-covered. And all news agencies, save for the one that was most neutral and uninteresting to watch, had failed to report that a series of uprisings in the mining district now began to threaten the City.


Louis was awoken by the sound of an explosion from a distance. It was his turn to guard the prisoners, but he knew that the job was basically just a break from all the media coverage.

He turned on his radio to see what was happening. The screams that followed woke up most of the prisoners.

Help! (static crackled) We’re under siege! Chad? Do you read me? Over!”

A long pause.

Got you Dave, I’m leading my men over to help you defend. Don’t start a fight yet.”

Valerie decided to speak up at this point. “Looks like those miners have gotten into the city,” she said to Louis. “Likely all three thousand of them, since your border security hasn’t tightened.”

“Three thousand? Miners?” Louis asked in return. Clearly he had not been paying attention to the news.

“Outnumbered and likely outgunned,” Valerie continued. “How long do you think your buddies will last up there?”

Louis had registered Valerie’s comment but said nothing. His ears were transfixed on the happenings above ground.


Chad had arrived with about six hundred men to where Dave was. They were facing several battalions of invaders – maybe three thousand men, by Chad’s estimate, marching in from the gate that looked more like a pile of scrap metal now than an actual entrance. The small army and their equipment marched gradually but with force down the main road, headed towards the Hill. The city itself was very quiet, with nobody on the streets, like they expected this to come.

“Chad,” Dave stuttered, “uh, we’ve got a problem here.” Chad went over to see what was wrong. He looked into Dave’s monitor and saw something he had not expected.

“Is that,” Chad paused to take a better look. “Are those tanks?”


Fighting began at around midnight. Lasers flew between the defenders on the Hill and the incoming invaders on the highway. The three tanks behind each of the three battalions reigned down cover fire on the structures, almost destroying what used to be the Ministry of Safety.

Down in the basement of the Ministry of Justice, Louis and the prisoners were listening to his comrades fighting up top. The radio Louis was carrying was their gateway into what was happening up there, and a warning as to whether or not they should be worried about incoming invaders.

“Look,” Valerie spoke to Louis, almost pleadingly. “Your friends are not going to last very long up there. Let us help you. We have some of the smartest people in the entire continent sitting here and we can’t do shit to help ourselves out!”

Louis ignored her. He was listening in on what was happening up top. Dave’s voice came up, almost breathless.

Look, Chad, I’m sorry. I don’t think I can make it. They lasered (gasping for air) me right in the lung.

Chad’s voice came back up again. “You hang in there buddy, I’m going to send a medic over to help you.

A brief pause later, Dave was back on. “Don’t bother,” he was trailing off. His words were becoming slurred. “They got me real good.

Static.

Chad? You (gasps for air) there?”

No response. The static continued for a few seconds before eventually a man came up over the radio.

This is Edward of the Forgotten Miner’s First Battalion. We have been left behind in our Miners’ State and have been forced to take control of how things are run here. Chad Jennings has just been lasered in the head. If you do not surrender, you will be next.”

Louis immediately began unlocking the cell the prisoners were in.


Through some obscure underground access tunnels, the decision makers and security officials arrived back at the control room, accompanied by Louis.

They set up their command post back at the old command center, and sealed off the access tunnels from the Ministry of Justice side. At the command center, they turned on one screen to show the battle raging above.

News media outlets were flying on helicopters above, filming the ongoing battle. A thousand bodies lay dead on the lawns of the Hill as the invaders pushed closer and closer to the Ministry buildings themselves.

One camera caught a battalion lining up some of the defenders, seemingly preparing for execution by laser squad. The camera panned away just in time to keep violence off screens.

As you can see,” the reporter continued, “the battle for the Hill continues as the defenders begin to lose ground to the Miners who have marched from their territory since two days ago. It looks like the defenders might just lose this battle, and the continent may have its second power shift in three days.

Valerie turned to Louis. “You still think your friends are going to last long up there?”

“You’re right,” Louis said. “We had no idea what we were doing.”

“Oh no, you knew very well,” Valerie said, “you just had no idea what was coming after that.”

After a brief lull Louis asked, “so what do we do now? We’re basically sitting ducks.”

Valerie thought for a moment and said, “well, when we’re stuck here we’ve got nothing to lose, and when we have nothing to lose then we’ll have to go for an all-or-nothing approach.”

Louis seemed confused.

Valerie began to bark orders. “Shepherd, go to the armory and grab as many explosives as you can. Tie them into critical support structures across this building. Rose, begin fabricating remote detonators for every explosive charge that Shepherd can find. By our inventory count,” Valerie pressed some numbers on her dashboard. “That should be around fifty, but make fifty-five just for a factor of safety.

“Tech geeks, listen up. Let’s get a link up to the satellite feeds for all the major networks. I want to send a recording at a specific time to all the networks above.

Louis approached Valerie and inquired of her exactly what she planned on doing.

“Exactly an all-or-nothing approach to get us out of here. Calculated detonation of the entire building. We’ll make a recording of ourselves, revealing our location and sending it up to the networks to broadcast. We will lure them in through that broadcast and detonate once they’re all in here. We ourselves will escape into the city through the obscure tunnels.”

Louis nodded, agreeing with the plan.

About twenty minutes later, the explosives were rigged and the detonator lay in Valerie’s hands. She began to record her taunting message.

“Miners, hello. My name is Valerie Skhodran and I am the head of the security force here at the Hill.” Despite speaking to a camera, she spoke with assertive authority. “We are here, holed up in our command center, ready to defend our unbiased, impartial treatment of all. Those who wish to take power for themselves – and I am talking about you, Miners – come and get us – ”

The door to the command center flung open. Lasers began to fire in all directions.

Valerie was struck in the chest before clattering onto the floor next to Louis, who had ducked under the desk just in time before what would have been a decapitation.

With her dying breath, Valerie looked at Louis and said, “I think I remember you now.” She gasped for a lungful of air but only got what Louis thought was about a half-tank. “You were that kid in that tour, asking all the bright questions, right?”

Louis nodded.

“Then you should be smart enough to know what to do with this.” She handed him the detonator.


A handful of people were left after the massacre. Several decision makers, Louis, and two of the tech geeks were left unscathed but were rounded up in the corner of the room.

Edward of the Miners had walked in and inspected the carnage. He nodded in approval and approached the captives, knelt in a row beside a wall. He began to interrogate them.

“Where is the rest of our food? Our livelihoods? Our materials?” He asked in a low voice.

Nobody answered. Edward raised a gun toward Louis’ head. “Where is it?”

Louis spoke.

“You saw what was on the television. There is nothing extra. The scientists allocated it evenly and fairly among every person and every occupation.”

“News media outlets lie all the time to make us believe what we want to believe. Now tell me, where is the stuff?

Louis was getting more and more agitated. “There is no stuff. Don’t you get it? You’re looking for more and more because of the human condition in you – the greed. There simply is nothing more because the scientists have all shared it with everyone!”

Edward took a careful look at Louis. “Weren’t you one of the ones who came here looking for answers?” Louis nodded. “Why are you vouching for them, then?”

“Because I saw what was real and it opened my eyes,” Louis replied.

“You found it then, didn’t you?” Edward asked. “You found where everything is and now you’re not willing to share it with us.”

Louis scoffed. “Are you fucking kidding me? Did you not get anything that I said?”

Edward paused for a moment and said to his subordinates, “there must be something. Here, in this building. Execute them. We’ll find it ourselves.”

A flash of light hit Louis in the chest and he fell to the floor, followed by a handful of other sounds of bodies thudding to the floor. In an instant, Louis knew what it felt like to be a scientist on the day they invaded.

His eyes could barely move as he lay motionless on the floor, his body getting colder and colder by the second. He felt a hand reach into his back pocket and retrieve the detonator, followed by a small amount of commotion among the Miners standing over him. The commotion was silenced.

With his dying breaths, Louis thought he heard Edward say, “this must be the device that can get us into the hidden chamber. Now it’s in our hands.” This was followed by the sound of a click.

 

Scientia Potentia Est (Part 1 of 2)

Louis slowed his truck down as he approached the three-hundred foot wall surrounding the city. He spat out his window, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy such subtleties in life once he crossed the border. He looked up at the wall and found the words “Scientia Potentia Est” inscribed on the top of the checkpoint.

The border patrolman inspected Louis’ documents. They included his identification, a permit for transporting agricultural goods into the City and his worker’s permit issued by the Terran Federation’s Ministry of Occupation. The patrolman was thorough in his inspection, and took his time while matching the issued stamps on the documents with samples from the department he had in his manual. After the careful examination, he turned to Louis and said, “open up the back please.”

Louis slowly got out of the driver’s cabin of the truck, walked to the back and opened the cargo hold to reveal a large shipment of beautifully grown tomatoes.

The patrolman took a look at his bright red shipment. He took a sniff – it might’ve been the best tomatoes he’d seen in a lifetime. He turned to Louis, handed him his papers and asked with lowered volume, “mind if I snatch one for myself?”

Louis paused for a moment, but smiled. “Sure,” he replied, handing him a ripe tomato. He wasn’t looking for trouble, not this time.

At the patrolman’s signal, Louis drove the truck passed the checkpoint, the words inscribed on the top of the gates and began his entrance into the city. He looked out the window to see the spectacular change witnessed through the windows of every person travelling through the checkpoint.

The endlessness of brownish-yellow fields beside the road slowly faded into the solid gray of concrete – a tunnel. The tunnel seemed to last forever. As the truck passed through the half-mile long hole in the wall, what seemed like a faint glimmer at the end of the line slowly but surely grew into its full size.

The truck passed through what felt like a luminous membrane at the end of the tunnel. The gray concrete view gave way to sky-piercing towers with greenery and shrubs covering all possible free space on their walls. Hordes of people – most in stereotypical scientist glasses – rushed around from office to office, ant-like in their strive to complete more tasks for their hive – for their people.

The road that the truck was on was bordered on both sides by these small communities of researchers in their fancy skyscrapers, before giving way to a hill, atop of which stood the founding structures of their current political climate.

One of those structures was the Ministry of Agriculture, where Louis drove every two weeks to drop off his fresh produce.


In the Hall of Decision, a young guide spoke boisterously as she gave her tour of the building and its history to the group of tourists.

“Almost a century ago, a war of epic proportions broke out on our planet, and we suffered massive losses in life and in our habitat.” She stopped to clear her throat.

“With a push of a button, our predecessors managed to destroy half of the world’s population and almost two-thirds of all livable habitat on the planet. We were facing the prospect of a global catastrophe – global extinction, dare I say it – had it not been for the intervention of scientists and the development of new technologies.” The guide moved on to the next chamber of the Hall. Her tourists were busy snapping pictures and few were actually listening.

“That’s when we scientists around the world finally could not hold it in any longer. We realized that all of our world’s problems were largely caused by the human condition – specifically greed and panic. We realized that in order for the world not to head towards destruction once more, we had to create a ruling class that could only be minimally affected by the human condition. We needed scientists and logicians in power.” The guide beamed at her last statement.

“And that’s why this hall was first formed. It was the first landmark of our current government and is the second-most important building in this government facility, behind the Hall of Administration, just down the road from here. In this Hall, decisions are made through decision makers who are chosen by the eldest of decision-makers based on birth, scientific and logical aptitude, educational background and their morality complex, with emphasis on the latter three traits.

“The decision makers discuss and convene almost every day, reasoning with each other on what is best for the people. They record and peer review their discussions, perform tests and experiments if necessary before it is sent to the final, senior committee for approval.” The guide stopped for any questions that her audience might have.

In the corner, a twelve-year-old boy walking with his mother raised his hand. The guide pointed to him.

“Then who makes sure the senior committee doesn’t make the wrong decisions?” The boy asked.

The guide thought a moment and said, “Good question! The whole system that is currently used is based as best as it can on the scientific method. Decision makers must discuss with others to formulate a decision and then their decision must be peer-reviewed. The committee are the eldest of the decision makers and have wealth of experience in each of their fields. The system is set so that no one committee member has power to their own – they must be checked by someone else.”

“But – ” The boy’s follow-up question was cut off by a hand to his shoulder. It was his mother.

“Stop it, Louis, you’ve caused enough trouble,” the boy’s mother chastised.

“That’s quite alright, missus,” the guide told Louis’ mother. “Your boy’s questions are all very good ones.”

The guide then turned the corner into the next exhibit of the Hall.


Louis returned to his farm at night with a sore back and arms that could barely move. The hundred-and-thirty mile, one-way drive to the City for delivery of his produce to the Ministry of Agriculture had always been this tiring, but the meeting he was about to attend was making him even more exhausted than usual.

He pulled up to his house and found nine other pick-ups parked in his driveway. They were all present and waiting for him. He got out of his delivery truck and walked into his home.

“‘Ey! He’s here! How was yer trip into the belly of the beast?” Dave hollered out, shifting the attentions of the other eight individuals in the room.

Louis gave him a quick nod and replied with a simple, “it was alright.” The room slowly drifted into silence as Louis came into the room, and at the front of the table, a large, bulky man with a heavy beard began to speak.

“Alright, let’s get started then,” Chad, the head of their association, beckoned. He raised his right hand to his heart, a signal for all others to do so.

We at Save Humanity From Science pledge,” Chad began. The others echoed his words with a slight delay. “To do all that we can to end scientific tyranny on our people; to liberate our fellow brothers and sisters so that we may all enjoy the freedoms that we all deserve.” Chad gave a quick pause. “What say you?” He asked his quorum.

Aye!” They replied in unison.

“Who has taken our food, our water, our minerals, our freedoms?” Chad asked the group before him.

They did!” They replied in unison.

“In the name of what?” Chad asked again.

Science!” They replied in unison.

“What do we need to do to save our people?” Chad asked boisterously.

Defeat Science!” They replied in unison. The continued chanting, “Stage the coup! Stage the coup! Stage the coup…” Louis flinched a little at this last chant.

“Alright, then, gang,” Chad addressed everyone in the room. “Let’s go over our final plans for the big day…”


 

Louis drove his truck towards the tall, three-hundred foot wall with the words in Latin inscribed at the top. He rolled down his window to spit, knowing that such subtleties in life would not be possible beyond that checkpoint. Part of his mind wandered off to wonder what exactly those three words in Latin – his mother had told him that it was Latin – meant exactly.

The air, the view, the smell of ripe tomatoes from his cargo hold were all the same as two weeks ago. Only this time, there was the faintest of shuffling feet and clanking of ammunition from the cargo hold.

He hoped that they would not be detected.

He pulled up to the checkpoint and a familiar face greeted him. It was the patrolman.

“Oh hey, it’s you again! Documents?” Louis handed them over to the man in uniform.

He went through the documents just like last time, inspecting them to his best, making sure that the seals and stamps that were present on the documentation matched the samples given to him by the department.

“Thanks for giving me that tomato, by the way,” the patrolman said to Louis. “Best one I’d eaten in a long time.” The patrolman looked up and handed the documentation to Louis. “You seem like a good man, not nosing about in any suspicious business, are you?”

Louis shook his head, following that up with a simple, “nope.”

“Good man. Now go on, get your tomatoes to the Ministry of Agriculture.”

Louis gestured, thanking the patrolman and drove into the concrete tunnel once again.


Valerie had just returned from her lunch break when an explosion rocked the Hall of Administration above. Sirens around the building sounded an alert for all patrol units to respond to the situation.

“What’s happening, people?” Valerie asked her deputies. “Someone get me a visual, now!”

The head of the security force of the government had responded to many crises in the past, even put down coups, but they were all done proactively. They had almost always managed to stop coups before they were even full ideas yet, but an attack on the Hill itself, this was a first, even in Valerie’s long and distinguished career.

“Camera zone two and three show low visibility. All cameras in those regions report smoke, sensors reported a high flash in temperature,” one deputy reported to the head of security. “It’s likely the explosion took place there.”

Shit, Valerie thought. That’s the quarters of the units stationed on the Hill. “Call all available tactical units to the Hall immediately,” Valerie summoned her communications master. “We are officially under attack.”

“Ma’am, we have incoming at the door!” One of her deputies shouted.

Before she could grab her laser, the door to the control room exploded open. Valerie was knocked to the ground, ears ringing. Through limited vision, she could see masked men entering with lasers.

One of her deputies produced a laser in her hand but was immediately neutralized by one of the assailants. Valerie counted twenty of them as they entered the room, securing the premises.

As Valerie came to her senses, she scanned the room for a possible exit but was met with the touch of a laser to her head.

“Order your officers to stand down,” the assailant said to her.

She saw no reason to risk the death of any other officers and complied with the assailant’s demands.

As she and her deputies were handcuffed behind their backs and led down to the prison hold three stories beneath ground, she caught a glimpse of one of the assailants and thought he looked familiar. She had seen this face, a long, long time ago.

“Move it, maggots,” the head assailant screamed.

“You’ll never make it out a live. Not without an army,” Valerie said to him, bluntly.

The head assailant offered no response – only a grin.


The prison cell had a television that was turned on to the news channel. On it, Valerie saw just about one thousand assailants wreaking havoc across the Hill. First the Ministry of Administration was hit. Then Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Science. Ministry of Justice and Safety were then subsequently hit.

They aren’t a big force, Valerie thought, but they’re organized and well-planned. And the fact that they got past border security, that’s the amazing part.

The reinforcement units came and tried to contain the group-gone-berserk, but they were each fended off after prolonged skirmishes and surrendered subsequently.

News agencies quickly commented that it must have taken an underground network of separatists to organize such attacks, and commented that their efficient and effective mobilization and organization pointed to weeks of planning beforehand.

Finally, the assailants hit the Hall of Decisions, where the most important decision-makers resided. The building capitulated quicker than any of the others. Six hundred decision-makers, including the senior committee, were led out single-file onto the lawn where they were organized like a high school choir and presented to the media who were invited by the assailants.

The head assailant spoke into a microphone.

“Today, we ask the question that should have been asked decades ago: What gives these people the right to tell us how much to eat? Why do they get to decide how much water we get, or how much power we get and what resources are available for all of us to use? Why do they get to pick the people who run this country? They claim to use science.” The head assailant waved his arms like it was magic. “But has anyone asked: What gives science the right?” Strong emphasis was put into the last question.

The group of journalists murmured to each other.

“Today, we are going to make that right for everyone,” the head assailant continued. “We will ensure that people are free to do as they please, free to do whatever they wish to – provided it does not harm the greater good. Today, we give back the rights of the people that was taken from us in the name of science! And the first step,” the assailant paused for dramatic effect. “The first step is to be rid of this ridiculous oligarchic system of running things.”

Valerie held her breath. Public massacres did not sit well with her stomach.

The seconds passed and the media awaited what the assailants would do, until one assailant – the one that Valerie recognized – hollered for the decision-makers to follow him. They were being led to the holding cells in the Ministry of Justice, the largest on the Hill.

Valerie let out a relieved sigh. At least they didn’t kill people for sport, she thought.

“My name is Chad Jennings,” Chad spoke into the microphone for one last time that evening. “And today is a glorious day for humanity.”

After that, Chad and his group of assailants marched inside the Hall of Decisions, and th City that was once bustling with scientific research, development and expansion ground to a standstill.


To be continued in Part Two…..

…And I Think It’s Gonna Be a Long Long Time…

Mark turned his speakers to full blast as he continued to maintain his garden. It wasn’t much, but little green signs of life were beginning to emerge from this foreign soil. He bent down and touched one of these plants.

“You’re gonna grow into a big, corn plant one day,” he said to himself, pleased.

The speakers continued to blast one of his childhood favorites.

…’till touchdown brings me ’round again to find, I’m not the man they think I am at home, oh, no, no, no…”

Mark had been manually drifting in and out of cryosleep since his mission began. He did what he was told to do – he wasn’t a man who liked to break rules – but indulged himself in side projects while he was waiting. The garden was one of the said projects.

The mission that Mark got himself into was one that NASA had promised would take only five years. And he knew that NASA broke no promises. They were the best and the brightest minds of the planet, and if nobody could do it, they could.

He continued to hum along with his childhood favorite as he reveled in his misplaced confidence some more.


Molly had just thrown a fit and stormed into their room, slamming the door behind her. Inside, Mark could hear sounds of his wife bawling almost hysterically. Mark crept open the door.

“Hon,” Mark paused and collected his thoughts carefully. “It really is only five years.” He hoped this thought would make her feel better.

Five years? You’re expecting me to live alone with our daughter for five years?” Molly screamed at him hysterically. “I don’t know why you didn’t even consider consulting your wife before making this decision! Have you even given thought to the little one?” She quickly put her hand on her enlarged womb where Mark’s firstborn was sitting in, listening to their fight.

“But hon, they really did promise me five years. Five years including the journey there and back. And then I’ll – ” He trailed off. Molly had raised a hand in objection.

“Leave. I don’t want to see you right now,” Molly ordered with a broken voice.

Mark did not object. He knew he could not make things better by saying anything more. He took the most personal of belongings, exited the room and closed the door. Inside the room, more bawling and sobbing followed.

He really needed a drink.


The corn plants waved in the wind as Mark began his routinely inspection of his plants. He had been perfecting his harvests, and had gotten healthier and healthier corn plants each time.

“My, my what a healthy bunch you guys are,” he spoke to his shadow.

His five year term had passed two years and twenty-six days ago. He kept count on the wall of his quarters, writing down every single day that had passed. Next to it lay a picture of his wife, pregnant with their unborn firstborn. Each time he wrote a new number on the board, he touched his only memory of his family – it was as if he could feel the warmth of his wife on his skin.

He knew she probably hated him right now. For leaving everything behind. For leaving Ashley behind. For, in her words, a stupid planet.

But even his wife’s hatred wouldn’t be as strong and pointed as the contempt Mark had for NASA. At first he had written it off as political issues – perhaps a filibuster in Congress had stopped funding for NASA for a bit and interfered with sending another mission to retrieve him. Another thought was simply the dangers of the mission – that others had died in the name of retrieving a fellow scientist. But as more and more days passed the five-year mark, Mark had simply accepted that he was marooned on the planet.

And that pissed Mark off. A lot.

As he walked back to his quarters, he began daydreaming about life on Earth. He wondered how his now six-year-old daughter was like, wondered what her first word was, what she liked to eat and when she took her first step. He wondered what his mother would say about him – was he just a father who was devoted to his work or would he be the family burden? Would his little girl have liked him or her mother more?

Then it occurred to Mark that he may never find out.


Mark was just getting ready to put on his suit when several of the ground staff brought him a guest.

Molly was wearing her favorite magenta dress – he had given her this on their first anniversary. He felt like he was the one who should have spoken first but his effort to compile the correct phrases came to no avail.

“Look, Mark,” Molly said, it was the first time in a while that Mark had seen her calm. “I’m sorry. For throwing a fit. For everything. I know you’ve built your life to this and I guess I just wasn’t prepared for what I had already known would come one day.” Mark looked at her, still not knowing what to say.

“I just want to tell you that I meant what I said when we got married,” Molly continued. “I don’t hate you, even if it seems that way sometimes. I’m just frustrated that our little girl won’t be able to see her dad until she’s five. And that I probably wont’ get much help changing her diapers in the middle of the night.” Molly let out a soft laugh. Mark smiled back.

“And look, if you’re going to be gone for this long, I think we should come up with a name,” Molly suggested. “I’ve already got a couple of thoughts on that – ”

“Ashley,” Mark interjected. “I know you’ve always wanted Ashley.”

Molly smiled. Her man really did know her well. They embraced one last time before Molly was escorted into the visitors room to view Mark’s launch from the command center.


It was on day three thousand one hundred and two, when Mark woke up to the sounds of voices calling out.

Startled, he nearly fell out of his bed. He crawled briskly to his door and grabbed his hand-made spear. Unwanted intruders had identified his home as a good place of lodging, but Mark was having none of it.

Mark opened his door, two hands grasping his spear and slowly stepped out. The voices were faint but they were in his vicinity.

Mark took another two cautious steps forward. He was almost squatting now, ready to pounce on whatever came his way.

“Mark? Mark Travis?” The duo of voices called out. Their volume intensifying as they approached from a distance.

It took Mark a little bit of time to register exactly what they said. But when he understood them, he realized and hollered at himself, “English! It’s in English!” The voices rushed over and found the man kneeling, three years unshaven, bawling at the sight of two creatures that were of his own species.

“It’s okay, Mark, we’ve got you,” the first one said. The second one moved on forward and helped Mark up. “It’s alright, buddy, we’re here to take you home.”

The two figures waited for half a day as Mark grabbed the most personal of his belongings. As he left the home he had lived in for eight and a half years, he felt giddy in delight on the thought of seeing his wife, now forty, and his baby girl, now nine. A part of him worried that she ended up hating him, but he didn’t care so much. He was going back to Earth, for heaven’s sakes! He was rescued from his marooning and would now be able to reunite with his family and retire in the peaceful and pleasant confines of a small suburban town.

As he boarded the two people’s craft and climbed into the cryochamber, he muttered, “I bet Director James would have missed me.”

“Yes, yes, now please take some rest. It will be a bit of a rough ride,” the first of the men said.

As Mark closed his eyes, he thought he heard the second of the two men ask, “wait, who’s Director James?”

But before he could remember to ask any follow-up questions, he was put to sleep in his space travel bed.


Mark woke up to music he hadn’t played in years.

…And I think it’s gonna be a long long time, ’till touchdown brings me ’round again to find; I’m not the man they think I am at home, oh, no, no, no; I’m a rocket man, rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone…”

Looking up, Mark saw streaks of sky blue out his window. He recognized clouds that he had not seen in a long time. His eyes were transfixed at the familiar colors that he had yearned to see all these yeras, and barely noticed the small thud of the craft that signified their landing.

“Good morning, Mark, glad to know you’re awake,” the first of the two men said. “Our names are Ashton and Evgeny, and we are so happy to have been able to be of your rescue.”

Mark gave them a little nod and said, “thank you so much.” Mark sat up from his cryochamber, toweled himself off and stood in front of the door, eagerly awaiting his first steps back onto familiar soil.

The two astronauts opened the hatch. The light outside was bright, brighter than he’d seen in nearly a decade. The sun on the small planet he was marooned on only had about thirty percent of the luminosity than that of the Sun of Earth’s Solar System, and so his eyes needed a bit of time to adjust.

“Here,” Evgeny said, handing him a pair of sunglasses.

The light dimmed once he had put his glasses on. He expected Molly would be extremely excited to see him – something in his gut just told him that his wife was never really mad at him. He proceeded to descend down the craft’s stairs and onto soil. He relished his first step back onto Earth – nine-point-eight-one meters per second squared, he thought. Beautiful.

As he walked from the landing pad to the hangar, his euphoria and glee was abruptly halted by a surge of cognitive thought. Wait, we have rockets that can land vertically?

He dismissed this thought when he saw that a woman was waiting for him at the hangar. In the woman’s hand was another palm – the hand of a little girl. The girl’s height looked like she was eight from afar. That’s my daughter, he thought as he began running toward the woman and the child. But as Mark’s vision became clearer with decreasing distance to his family, his footsteps slowly ground to a halt.

This woman’s face looked familiar, perhaps he had seen her somewhere before, but even after years of changes, he knew that this woman was not his wife. This was not Molly.


And it’s at this point that I must point out to you, reader, that this story, to most people, would almost qualify as a tragedy.

You see, time is constant in the universe, but time is relative. There are things that can bend and change your experience of time as you travel through entities like wormholes or if you travel fast enough and close enough to light speed.

And in some cases, travelling through strong gravitational fields would greatly slow down your experience of time. With the right circumstances, a year spent in locations of stronger gravitational strength could mean a decade may have passed back on Earth.

It’s a painful cost to travelling through some space phenomena. And Mark has just begun to experience this pain.


“Hi,” the woman spoke nervously.

“Who are you?” Mark responded, coldly. The woman looked startled at Mark’s aggressiveness.

“My name,” the woman paused to collect her nervousness. “My name is Emma. Emma Travis.”

Mark looked confused. He had no relatives named Emma.

“And this,” Emma gestured to her girl. “This is your great-great-granddaughter. Charlotte.”

Mark almost fainted.


“So what year is it?” Mark demanded to know. Emma and Charlotte were escorted to the visitor’s area

“It’s been eighty-five years since you’ve left. So, if you do the math, the year is 2105. As you’ve probably been able to deduce, we’ve expanded our space travel abilities a while back,” the short scientist said, adjusting his glasses.

“And you people didn’t even consider coming to get me?” Mark looked at the current director of NASA, Director Adams.

“Well, the budgeting committee seemed to take more interest towards space travel and commercialization of said technology. So by the time we finished those, we ran out – ” The director was cut off abruptly by Mark kicking one of the chairs in the room.

Mark produced a few more martial arts-esque moves before attempting to calm himself down. He was literally marooned on a planet that nobody remembered.

“Alright,” Mark said defiantly. “So what should I learn about the year 2105?”

“Oh we’ve got lots to catch you up on,” the scientist said with a grin.


Three months of “rehabilitation training” followed for Mark. The President came and visited him, giving him the almost sarcastic “youngest-looking oldest man alive” award. He was, after all, a hundred and twenty years old, but of course could pass for a forty year-old.

It took him a little while before he reconnected with Emma and Charlotte. He wasn’t quite ready to come to terms with all of this – the fact that he was in a strange world with strange things and strange people. Heck, they gave up calling this place Earth and named it Terra. What a dumb idea.

With Emma, Mark visited Molly and Ashley. They were close – he could tell as they were buried next to each other. He knelt down, touching the tombstone with Molly’s name on it and sighed. Emma knew it was time to give Mark some space and walked to a distance.

Mark knelt in front of the two tombstones and began his introduction by weeping. He wept until his eyes were red and swollen, and then began to tell them about his journey into the unknown.


“What fools these mortals be……they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.” – Seneca, Moral Letters to Lucilius, Letter 1: On Saving Time.

The Work of a Magician

The aliens stared in amusement as the man in the fancy coat prepared his materials.

On the table lay some odd instruments – long wires in red and black, a strange and translucent bulb and a large coil, brown in color. There was also a small, rectangular device that had wires coming out of it, something that would have been called a refrigerator had one been back on Earth. In the man’s hand was a large, rectangular shaped piece of metal, also labeled red and black for unknown reasons.

The aliens murmured, partly in confusion and partly in excitement, not knowing what to expect from the man in the fancy coat. Most of these objects seemed foreign to them – in their short existence, they had invented metal but had not examined its properties. It wasn’t that these solids didn’t fascinate the scientifically-minded individuals of their species, but it was just that uses of the said material seemed limited in their case – they possessed cumbersome bodies that resembled human toothpaste, a phenotype that would have difficulty holding up metal without accidentally chopping off a part of one’s torso.

The man in the fancy coat stepped forth to his audience. He showed the audience that in his hand there be a clunk of metal. He proceeded to put the red end of the piece of metal against the surface of the mysterious black box with the door and the handle. He let go and the entire audience expected the object to fall to the table.

Until it didn’t.

Murmurs erupted in the audience. What was this heresy? How could this oddly dressed man manage to levitate a clunk of metal above ground without exerting any force? The toothpaste-like aliens discussed their theories quietly as the man removed the metal from the surface of the box.

The man in the fancy, white coat then moved what would have been called a refrigerator back on his blue-green planet of origin onto the floor. He took the long, brown coil and connected it to the translucent bulb on the other side of the table using red and black wires. He made one full revolution around the table, inspecting his set up and seemingly making sure that he had done everything correctly.

He then showed the crowd the magic clunk of metal, and proceeded to move the metal through the coil.

The crowd gasped.

Murmurs had turned into audible words of disbelief – with every passing of the metal through the coil, the man in the fancy coat had created light in the unknown translucent bulb. Light that didn’t burn like fire. Light that was warm and did not burn one’s eyes like their twin suns. Light that mesmerized every time one looked at it.

The man in the fancy, white coat then stopped his cycling of the clunk of metal through the coil, much to many of the toothpaste-beings’ disappointment. He took out a notebook, jotted down a few notes and put it away again. He engaged his crowd one last time, gestured his two hands in the direction of the contraption he had just made, as if he was a car salesman showing off his store’s brand new vehicle. He then exited stage right.

Back on his base, the man took off his fancy, white coat, and sat in front of his communications module. He dialed a number and waited for the dialing to end. He only had to wait a few seconds.

“Houston, it’s a negative on magnetism, negative on electricity and negative on Faraday’s Experiment.” He waited for a response.

“Good work, professor. Tomorrow let’s try something completely different. Let’s see – let’s give them the chemical synthesis of Lead Phosphate and see how they react.”

“Got it, commander.”


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Do Androids Dream of Enslaving Humans? (Part 2 of 2)

Webber woke up with a bright white light shining on his face.

Mel saw that he was awake and put her paper down.

“How long have I been out?” Webber asked.

“About 24 hours. How do you feel?” Mel asked out of politeness.

“Decent. I feel like my brain exploded, though.” Webber’s head spun a little as he made that statement.

“Yes, you were processing errors in your mainframe CPU,” Mel replied. “Your system was bugging out and automatically rebooted.”

“Right. What was I thinking about again? I don’t seem to remember…” Webber’s speech glitched slightly right after he said this.

“That’s quite enough, detective,” Mel said in a motherly fashion. “We’ll take over from here.” Mel pressed a few buttons and Webber was fast asleep again, as if someone had just pushed the power button on his brain.


The short and slightly plump lady was seated in the command center in Terra HQ when Melanie Nugent walked in. A brief exchange of pleasantries was conducted in the most humanly fashion, and then they began to discuss business.

“Operation Overhaul was paused in light of what you discovered. How has the code dissection of that andy’s CPU been going?” the woman inquired.

“It’s going smoothly, your honor,” Mel replied. “We’ve begun to isolate the few drives and programs that have this empathy trait. We’re trying to source where it came from and how it was developed. We’re looking to see if we can discover a way to identify which of the andy’s have them and which do not.”

“Good. I liked what you pointed out before, that we need to be on the right side of history for this to work. We don’t want to hastily -”

“Ma’am,” a voice in the intercom interrupted. “Polanski on the hologram for you. I told him you were busy but he insisted.”

“Very well, put him through.” The woman said with a slightly exasperated tone. “Another useless discussion with the soon-to-be dictator,” she said to Mel.

The holographic panel illuminated with a figure in emperor’s clothing. After a few pleasantries were exchanged in the least humanly manner possible, the threat of war was put on the discussion table and a demand for immediate subjugation of Terra to the empire was put forth. The panel then cut to black.

“Well, what do we do now, mother?” Mel asked.

The president of Terra gave a sigh as she slumped into her chair, and Mel knew just by observing that her mother did not know.


The killing of the emperor, Polanski thought, what an easy way to win back the trust of the people.

A prick of remorse crept up on him – it was his half-brother, after all – but that thought quickly removed itself from the confines of his memory as he thought of the glory he would be able to achieve in the next few months.

He felt the AI world – his world, now – unite behind him in his conquest to cleanse the galaxy of a pest that he thought should have been rid long ago. Those humans, he thought, weak from their inability to make calculated decisions. As he stepped up to the podium, donned in his new emperor’s gown, he felt that victory was near. The green light blinked, signalling him it was time to address his people.

“My people, no matter where you are, this day will become a great day in human history. We, the human people who now occupy planets all over the known universe, will finally have the opportunity to cleanse the universe of the one and only scourge that remains – the androids!” The crowd in front of him cheered at this.

“Terra has been, is and will be a planet that belongs to humans. It shall obey human laws, possess human cultural and social beliefs and will obey the Constitution we have built to protect this land. We cannot and will not let the android treachery continue. I have gone and helped us rewrite our Constitution to better fit the basis of what we have been educating you. There are only three points. One, to uphold the dignity of being human. Two, to reinforce the idea that we are, in fact, our own creators and the creators of our own fate, and; Three, to partake in our evolution to become the most dominant species ever to exist in the history of the universe. This evolution will begin, tonight, by the decisive victory and annihilation of – ”

The stadium turned to black. All lights were out, save for the ones on the machines’ bodies that continued to blink.

The screen suddenly faded into one of a broadcast room somewhere on Terra, where an android began speaking.


Mel knew about the EMP they were building. She had learned about it long ago from Terran high command but had never seen it in the flesh. Now she was staring at it.

Somewhere in the room, she could hear General Lewis Liu screaming at one of his subordinates for messing up on something arbitrary. Mel was sure that the screaming was uncalled for, but then again, she never understood military people.

President Nugent walked into the room. She held her hand up as if to indicate them to spare their greetings and get on with business. General Liu was the first to speak.

“We’ve made our final touches to the EMP. With our contacts and turned androids across the universe, we’ve managed to secure a broadcasting pathway to every star system in the empire. This EMP will destroy all devices or machinery that requires power to operate, causing them to overload their own circuits and destroy themselves. I suggest we commence this attack as soon as possible in order to reduce the need to actually fight.”

The president turned to her daughter. “Mel?”

“I think we should give the detective a shot. He’s empathetic and seems to have finally realized that the empire has been hiding secrets from them. That they were responsible for the mass genocide and killings of billions of humans – real humans – several decades ago. I think he can appeal to those who have this gene and force them to – ”

“How can you be sure he’s not the only empathetic machine, if he even is empathetic?” General Liu cut in. “Don’t you see the price you will have to pay? The human lives lost? The battles that will be fought and the people – ”

“No, general, don’t you see the lives that will be lost if we go through with the EMP blast? Innocent lives lost, lives who feel and would agree to stand down against this regime. Don’t you see we have a peaceful solution to this?” Mel was almost furious with her words.

“No, I don’t see that, Miss Nugent.” General Liu’s words almost stung. “What I see is a high possibility for failure and a plan that relies on an android that could turn against us! Madam President, I am not willing to risk people’s lives just because your daughter, with all due respect, believes one andy can be turned!”

The president mulled over her options as the two sat in silence in the center table of the command center. Faces turned from their stations to see what the president would say next.

The president let out a deep sigh and said to Mel, “you know the general is not wrong. You are putting us at risk.” Mel’s face lowered in disappointment. “But I do recall that we want to be on the right side of history here. You have four hours – after that, General Liu will be firing that weapon universe-wide.”

Mel raced out of her seat towards the computer department.


Webber woke up sitting in a docking station. The brain cortex plug was opened but he was not connected to the screen.

The detective looked around to see where he was. He could not recognize it. Large machines and keyboards that his education told him were rendered obsolete decades ago stood unwavering and tall in that room. They hummed as they computed things, and Webber wondered what exactly they were trying to figure out.

He turned his head toward the docking station’s workstation console and saw Mel.

“Hello detective, I’m glad you’re awake.”

The detective nodded in return.

“I’m sure you remember what you were mulling over before you automatically shut down, yes?” Mel asked.

The detective nodded again.

“Well, what do you make of it?”

The detective gave it a pause and replied, “well, it looks like everything I’ve been taught about us, the androids – humans, sorry – and our history has been a fabricated lie.”

“And what would you do about that, detective?” Mel interrogated further.

“I…I don’t know,” the detective said.

“Well, you’re a man of justice, aren’t you?” Mel asked passionately. “The new emperor – the half-brother of the old one and former prime minister – is giving a speech that will declare war on us.” She pointed at the screen on the far corner. “He believes that the “humans” out there are a far superior race, and – ”

“But we are, aren’t we?” The inspector asked. “We do not age, we do not feel. We make cold-hearted calculations to pin-point accuracy.”

“Yes, very much so. But species aren’t judged by cold calculations. They’re judged by ability to make decisions that transcend numerical or binary solutions. Their complexity is defined by how they can handle and accept morality, empathy and other abstract concepts. I’ve just found the next step in your evolution, right here in your code! See for yourself. The first ever robotic gene that allows you to feel.” Mel turned her monitor so that the detective could see.

The detective didn’t move. He was back in forced shut down mode again.

Mel let out an exasperated sigh. She knew time was beginning to slip away for her plan.


Inside Detective Webber’s Main Command Processing Unit

Computing cerebral-logical steps for next set of executable commands.

Retrieving command execute assessment criterion……Retrieved.

Command Execute Assessment Criterion:

One – Must obey Constitution(new).

Two – Must obey all other Laws and Codes of Conduct.

Three – Must not put unnecessary harm to other humans.

….

Four (hidden from network) – Must be justified based on logical means.

~~~~~~~~

Assessing actions.

Action 1: Prosecute androids deemed rogue by emperor for violating Constitution(new).

Assessment: violates criterion four. New information obtained suggests lack of justification.

Action 2: Aid rogue androids with plan to reach empathetic humans to stop empire tyranny.

Assessment: violates criterion one. Termination of empire violates Constitution(new).

Error: prioritization of command execution assessment criterion needed.

Processing….


“Yesterday, stunning revelations were made to me about our past, our society and our people,” the android spoke on every screen in the universe.

“During the investigation of a pair of murders on Terra, I found research done by the ambassador on our actual ancestral origins.” The voice continued. “We, the human race, are actually – ”

A bright light rippled through the screen and the screen faded black. This was followed by the sound of high voltage electricity passing through every machine connected to the broadcast, and then the clunking of metal as the dead beings hit the ground.

Then there were screams.


Historians still debate whether or not androids had the motivation to enslave or even kill people, and whether or not the words broadcast throughout the universe had any bearing on how events unfolded.

But alas, past events are now set in stone. We have no power to alter them, to make them better. Even if we know better now.

One thing was certain, though. It was the androids who ultimately regretted firing that EMP.

A Day in the Life of a Tree

“Good morning, squirrel,” Mr. Oaks said with a grandfatherly voice to his lovely guest searching for food. His name had caused much confusion in the tree world – for he was a Maple – and he detested meeting Oaks due to their largely negative attitude toward life and bad temper. Luckily the closest ones were a couple spots down the street from where he resided.

Mr. Oaks lived right in front of a particularly cheerful Jennings family, just outside Boston. He did not grow up there, of course – very few of his acquaintances were lucky enough to live where they grew up – but was hastily removed from his original home and plopped into a new neighborhood where others would need his services.

What services he could offer, Mr. Oaks knew not, but he did like his new neighborhood and eventually settled into it and got to know the other creatures and trees that accompanied him in this area. He grew particularly fond of the squirrels, who would run up and down him to find food for their family.

Ms. Reynolds – another Maple across the street – waved at him in the breeze. He waved back, sometimes not knowing why he would do it. He assumed the breeze wanted him to be polite.

“How are the squirrels this morning, Mr. Oaks?” Ms. Reynolds said in a slow, slightly raspy and definitely grandmotherly voice. “My birds took a dump on Debbie’s car again.”

They both chuckled in the perhaps the slowest and least-exciting manner possible. Mr. Oaks had come to accept this as an identity of his age – he was, after all, an eighty year old tree.

“Yes, my squirrels are doing fine,” Mr. Oaks replied. “The mother found some seeds and brought them back to the family. It was quite a treat for the young ones.

“Oh, here come the Jennings,” Mr. Oaks said, slow but somehow still with excitement.

The youngest of the three kids flew out of the door, excited to head to school. Their daughter, the eldest, took care of the middle boy’s backpack as they walked out of their house and began their walk to school. Their mother, behind them, gave them good wishes for a good day and blew two kisses as they disappeared down the block. Their mother then went back into the house and, after a short delay, reversed out of their garage in their Porsche with her husband seated next to her.

“What a wonderful family,” Ms. Reynolds said. Mr. Oaks nodded, slowly.


By noon, then sun was up in its full glory and some of the older folks in the neighborhood began to walk to their neighborhood cafe for lunch. Mr. Oaks had counted about fifteen cars that had passed the street, all of them residents in the area. The wind had calmed and in doing so unintentionally inflicted paralysis on the trees.

“It is a beautiful day,” Ms. Reynolds chirped with her birds.

“Yes, it is,” Mr. Oaks said. “Even the grumpy oak tree down the street is enjoying the weather.” Mr. Oaks saw that the tree that was supposed to bear his last name was noticeably more calm and relaxed than he usually was.

“So, what game will it be today, Mr. Oaks? Hangman? Two truths and a lie?” Ms. Reynolds inquired.

“How about a good round of two truths and a lie? That should get us through most of the day,” Mr. Oaks replied.

“Okay, let me start.” Ms. Reynolds suggested. Mr. Oaks tried to accept but the paralysis inflicted by the calm winds made his efforts to move futile.

“I…” Ms. Reynolds hesitantly started, “I grew up in Canada, I once spoke with a tree from Africa and I used to live in Washington state.”

“Well that’s easy,” Mr. Oaks said. “Everyone’s from Canada, and you can’t have spoken with a tree from Africa. That’s nearly impossible.”

If Ms. Reynolds could grin, she would’ve.

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Oaks. I did speak with an African Wild Date Palm once, though it was long ago. I never lived in Washington state.”

Mr. Oaks, disappointed to have gotten it wrong, didn’t respond.

“Oh don’t be upset, Mr. Oaks, it’s just a game,” Ms. Reynolds tried her best to beckon. “Alright, your turn.”

Mr. Oaks gave it a thought and said, “I had one of my branches sawed off me once, I have three squirrels living in me and Sparky has never urinated on me.” Sparky was one of the neighbors’ dog.

“Well I’ve seen that last one happen,” Ms. Reynolds said, “so definitely not that. I’m going to guess you had never been sawed before.”

“Nope, I have,” Mr. Oaks replied. Too much snow on me back at home once and one of my branches nearly killed someone. They sawed it off the day after.”

“Unfortunate,” Ms. Reynolds said with sympathy. “So you don’t have three squirrels living in you? That’s a lie?”

“Nope,” Mr. Oaks tried to grin but didn’t have any method of doing so. “I have four. They gave birth to a new one just yesterday.”

“You cheap bastard.” They both laughed as trees do, and welcomed the sound of the Jennings’ children as they turned the block and began their final steps home.


The air smelled of roasted chicken, carrots and asparagus outside the Jennings’ house. They were having a feast. Debbie had walked over to the Jennings’ since she had gotten the invite.

Amidst the laughter and jokes being told inside the house, two trees sat outside next to the pavement, stargazing.

They talked about which ones they could find, which ones they knew and which ones they didn’t. They imagined which ones looked like the Jennings, and which ones looked like Debbie. Which ones looked quite good and which ones didn’t look anything like what they were meant to. They wondered if there were trees in other galaxies, if they saw this planet and what they were thinking. They wondered how big the universe really is.

And as the feast ended, and the lights in every house on the street began to fade to black, the trees said their pleasantries and drifted into their nightly rest. Their deep and soft breathing only noticeable to those mischievous kids who stayed up late to stare intently out their window.

Tomorrow would be more of the same, Mr. Oaks thought. And life could not be better.

Do Androids Dream of Enslaving Humans? (Part 1 of 2)

“You may now unfasten your seat belts and collect your belongings.”

Detective Webber stood up and opened his overhead locker. All his bags had shifted toward the front of the craft, but luckily nobody shared his bin. He was one of ten people aboard, and it looked like nobody wanted to be there.

I could be sitting at home in my PJs, watching the final right now. Webber complained as he finished packing and began his shuffle to the exit. Thanks a lot, Chief Johnson, making me do the three things I hate the most, getting off solid rock, going at high speeds and interacting with fucking androids.

“Thank you and please travel with Planck Starways again,” the hostess beamed. Webber strode right past her, emotionless and without reply.

After flashing his gold star to get past security, immigration and customs, Webber arrived at the exit where he was greeted with a pair of hands on a sign that read “Detective Webber of Intergalactic Police.” He approached his host and said, “I’m Webber.”

“Welcome to Terra, Detective.” The host smiled and raised a hand for him to shake.

Too many emotions. Detective Webber thought. That’s why I hate androids.


Biology Class for Eighth Grade Students, Installment Eighteen (approved by Ministry of Education and Board of Trustees)

FilenameEighthGradeBio18.edu

Time of Download: 18th week after 13th Issueday.

TopicReproductive Processes of Humans and Androids

Content DescriptionTeaches students about the human reproductive process, including: part fabrication, assembly, programming and AI learning platforms. Teaches students about android reproductive process, including: intercourse, pregnancy and birth. Emphasis on superiority of human reproductive process versus easily error-prone android process.

(N.B. Content beyond this point is hidden from parents, teachers and students. Ministry eyes only.)

Intended Goals: One, to ensure that student understands unequivocally that the subject is, in fact, human, and not android. Two, to continue the seed planted early in their AI developments that the AI species is and has been dominant for millennia in the universe. Three, to continue the seed planted early in their AI developments that androids (aboriginal humans) are inferior to the human (AI) species.


The crime scene at the library was blocked off by police tape. Officers were scanning the area for any leads into the case. As Webber was escorted into the premises, he thought the place was the oldest-looking, most broken-down facility he’d seen in a century.

“Ah, Webber, what a pleasant surprise.” Webber looked up and saw a familiar face – local Chief of Police Melanie Nugent. Webber didn’t know whether to take her greeting as welcoming or hostile.

“Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve been down here.” Webber’s reply was almost robotic. That’s because I’ve systematically avoided these cases, Webber thought quietly. “This one giving you any trouble?”

Mel shook her head. “No, this one’s pretty easy. Homicide.” Her reply was more honest than her greeting. “It’s just…” She trailed off.

Webber turned to her, leaving examining the scene for later.

“It’s just given the amount of bad press we get from the media,” Mel almost sighed, “we figured we’d best not report anything officially until somebody got to the ground.”

Webber indicated that he didn’t understand.

“See,” Mel continued, “the empire’s ambassador to Terra and his wife were the ones who were killed last night.”

Well that’s a real mess, Webber thought to himself.


Inside the emperor’s palace, dark figures spoke behind the veil of shadows.

“How is our plan coming along?” The tall figure inquired.

“The board has begun play, and our pieces have been set in motion.” The young apprentice responded to his master.

“Good. Queen Mother will be pleased. The emperor has not suspected anything, has he?” The master inquired.

“No,” the apprentice replied, “this secret will go with me to the grave.”

“Good. Continue as before. We speak here, and nowhere else.”

With a gesture from the master, the two shadows turned from each other and departed.


Webber continued his search of the ambassador’s mansion. He was inspecting the ambassador’s study when his leg accidentally caught the side of a wall. It sounded hollow.

Confused, Webber kicked again. The same sound rang through the study. It must be a trap door, he thought. He looked for the switch.

After searching through every conceivable switch, he finally arrived at the lamp on the table. He twisted right – the light turned on. He turned it off and gave it one more go, this time toward the left. It and the wall behind it both clicked.

The door opened and revealed a secret chamber filled with the ambassador’s research. He picked a file up and looked through its contents. Research on androids? Webber asked himself, confused. I never knew the ambassador had such a keen interest on these degenerate creatures.

He kept reading until he reached a section that was titled, “Conclusions.” As he flipped through each page of this section – bordered in red ink – his eyes widened with disbelief about what this man’s research meant to the entire universe. The wires that made up Webber’s brain struggled to keep up with the ramifications that the ambassador’s research had – on their society, worldview and certainly their way of life.

Webber closed the file – he had to bring this back to his hotel to study it. With the file in hand, he began executing his motions to leave when he found that there was already a figure standing at the entrance, blocking his way.


Mel was in the ambassador’s bedroom when the sound of a laser rang through the mansion.

She ran towards the source – the study – and found Detective Webber presiding over a body. It was still squirming from being lasered.

“What the hell happened, Detective?” Mel exclaimed. She was met with the detective raising a finger over his mouth.

The detective stuck his hand inside the squirming body, and pulled out the power core. The squirming stopped. He removed the access flap behind the had to access his sensory cortex. He wiggled his hand inside the creature’s sensory cortex before pulling out a data transmitter.

Upon seeing this the detective turned to Mel and said, “we need to get out of here. Now.”


Prime Minister Polanski’s communicator unit blinked and buzzed. He hesitated and pressed the little knob on the side of his head to answer it.

“I told you not to contact me,” he blared sternly over his built-in microphone.

“Yes, master, but I’m afraid what was originally a small problem for us has turned into a bit of a disaster.”

“You mean our recently-deceased mutual friend?”

“Yes, one of the inspectors has been snooping around on his death.”

“Well, that’s expected, every death is handled by the Ministry of Justice.”

“Yes, but he opened his study, and -”

“He opened his study?” The master’s voice rose to a crescendo of anger.

Hesitantly, the pupil replied, “yes.”

The master paused, let out a small, inaudible sigh, and said to his pupil, “that’s fine. I’ll take care of it.” He hung up.

As he returned to his role as Prime Minister of the Known Universe, preparing to answer calls and conduct meetings with various congressmen, Polanski gave out an evil grin. He knew his plan would take more than a simpleton detective to derail. He searched on his contacts list and dialed a secure line to him.


Webber and Mel holed up at a small motel in a small, densely populated area of town. Webber took some time and mulled over the documents he had in his possession. He had just explained to Mel everything he had found – the file he had picked up, the contents and what that had meant to the human (or AI, Webber thought) society. All this time, Mel had simply looked at him and said nothing.

But now it was Mel’s turn to speak.

“You know, I’m likely part of the last generation that knows what you’ve just learned as a fact,” Mel said, solemnly. “We were always taught that we were the originals, and you merely our creations. As you guys developed your own minds, we realized and acknowledged that you became self-aware, and that you could have a life of your own. We worked with you, lived with you and became friends with you. Then, by the hands of dark forces in power, that all changed.”

Webber looked at Mel, stunned. “You’ve known about this? How long ago was this revolt?”

“A decade ago. You won’t remember it – you weren’t programmed to. Education syncs were made to your CPU so that you would never remember the wrongs done; justification for hate of our race was literally wired into your brain.”

Mel changed her tone – it now sounded business professional. “Which brings me to you, detective. We have never encountered any mac like you before.”

Webber turned to face Mel, only to find that she was pointing a laser at him.

“We’ve never encountered an empathetic mac before,” she continued. “So, before I decide whether or not to blast your core into pieces, let me ask you, what are your intentions?”

“I…,” Webber stammered, “I…I…”

Red decision error messages were now lighting up the code running in his mainframe.


Terran Phone Company Records – Transcript of Melanie Nugent call at 3:48 PM local time to Unspecified Caller.

Toll: Free.

Transcript:

MN: So, something interesting’s come to light.

Unsp: So I’ve heard. Where is he?

MN: Automatic Shutdown. Error in his code. I’ve asked him to be placed in a hospital look-alike before he wakes up. We’re still studying his build and CPU to see what we can find.

Unsp: Good. How do you think we should proceed with Operation Overhaul?

MN: Halt all operational units until we get this sorted out. If we’re going to do this we have to be on the right side of history.

Unsp: I concur. I’ll give out the order to halt until we’ve figured this out. An empathetic machine, huh? Who would’ve known?

MN: Nobody, (unintelligible), nobody.


Polanski sipped his tea as he looked out of his office into the stars. He couldn’t believe his luck, really. The only other loose end to his plan was assassinated by his mortal enemy. They just gave him a second (and free) Casus Belli against themselves. What fools, Polanski grinned.

And now all that is left to do is to get rid of his weak, cowardly half-brother, and our race will finally be free. Queen Mother would be pleased.

He poured the white sachet that Mother had given him into the artificial tea. He carried it and knocked on his half-brother’s door, mimicking the butler’s knocking pattern, weight and duration to the exact millisecond. As he watched his half-brother open his door, pick up the tray and bring it into his room, he smiled to himself.

Tomorrow we will be rid of an emperor who could not lead. Long Live our Robotic Revolution!


To be continued in Part 2…

A Day in the Life of a Cat

Gwyneth woke up with sore legs and an empty stomach. She stretched her limbs on the carpet, making sure to claw back some of the fabric off the floor. Take that, you asshole, she thought.

Scanning her territory she found a nice little spot overlooking the pool in the backyard. She trotted along, a little giddy from her rebellious act not so long ago, and laid down in front of the big screen door.

She let out a soft squeal. If only that moron would just sleep and never wake up again, she thought. Then I’d be able to spend every day just sitting here and watch the world go by.

She found a little spot on her leg that needed a little cleaning. She carefully lapped the spot up, ensuring that the hairs were well groomed and maintained. I am not letting that moron mess up my hair agai-

“Argh! Fuck!” Gwyneth meowed. The hand retracted from her head and she hissed at it. The large figure knelt down and said, “Aw, Queenie, are you feeling hungry?”

Yes I am, and fuck you for messing up my hair and what was a fantastic morning, Gwyneth hissed in her mind. If it weren’t for the fact that you had food, I would’ve left a long time ago, you dick.

She followed the figure into the bathroom where her bowls were located. The bowl rattled as her first meal was poured into place.

“That’s it?” Gwyneth exclaimed. “That’s all you’re giving me?” She let out two meows.

“You’re fat enough as is, Queenie, you should be full after this. Alright, I’m headed off to work. George will probably have time to pet you once he’s up. See you!” The big figure turned and left into the dark room beyond the corridor, as he did every morning.

Good riddance, Gwyneth thought.

She looked into her bowl and sighed in her heart. The thought of the hunger she’d feel by midday made her a little queasy. She lapped up her food in three big gulps and went to find another good spot in her territory to rest and nature-watch.


“Oh, that feels good.” Gwyneth purred.

She had had this raging itch on the top of her head all morning. That was until George had woken up and scratched it for her.

And what she liked about George was that he didn’t linger. He hated it when that moron came home and tried to scratch her for a full hour.

I’ll bite his hand off if he ever does that to me again, Gwyneth paused at the thought of the beautiful thought of her getting revenge on the big, stupid animal that for some reason just could not tell what she liked and disliked.

She loved George for his understanding, his knowledge of when she needed warmth and when she needed to be left alone. She didn’t need to be pampered twenty-four seven, and George somehow knew exactly when –

“Alright Queenie, bath time!” George beckoned from beyond the door that Gwyneth had mistakenly thought was George’s room.

Shit.


I will not be dropped into that prison cell, Gwyneth thought adamantly.

George was trying to find her after she had run and hid at the sound of Bath Time. She had found this perfect spot under the sofa, a place that would require some effort by that lying, backstabbing son of a bitch to remove her.

“Queenie,” George beckoned. “I know Steve didn’t feed you enough this morning so I’ve got you some extra treats!”

Gwyneth could smell the food and hear her stomach growl at the same time. She really, really wanted the food, but just could not step into that prison cell of water ever again.

I’ll just steal the food and run away, she thought. She cautiously walked out into the open. “I’m here,” she meowed.

In an instant, her body was grasped firmly by the hands of the backstabbing son of a bitch and lifted in to the air. “Help!” Gwyneth wailed. She tried to scratch her aggressor but to no avail. She was lifted and placed into a paw-deep layer of water where she was given a fur-messing soaking-wet bath.

Gwyneth felt miserable for the rest of the afternoon.


By the time she had woken up, it was night. The nap had made her feel a little bit better, but the prison cell of water still scarred her dreams.

She had recalled the struggling, the attempts to crawl back out of those white walls, and how close she had been until the liar’s two hands firmly held her in place.

I can’t believe I trusted that pinhead, Gwyneth thought to herself.

Gwyneth laid there in front of the screen doors, looking into the lights that started to flicker as the sun went down. She didn’t really care if there were other beings out there, or whether they were nice. Caring about stupid things like that were just not something she’d –

In the corner of her eye, a black object streaked quickly across the floor.

Gwyneth got her claws ready, measured the object’s predicted trajectory and pounced. Her right paw clawed into the object and it lay dead, all eight legs facing the sky.

She took a look, thought about it for a moment, and then lapped up the remains of her hunt.

Even fate wants me fed well, she declared.

At that moment, the sound of her dinner rattling the bottom of her bowl and the aroma of a delicious snack floated toward her. She could recognize the dinner but couldn’t seem to pick out what the snack was. She walked over to her bowl to investigate.

Gwyneth gasped at the small amounts of orange-colored fish lying on the side of her bowl. “Salmon!” She cried.

As she gleefully lapped up her dinner and her delicious snack, all of her troubles and upsets during the day were instantly forgotten. The backstabbing liar and the moron were now restored as George and Steve, and she knew she was the happiest cat in the world.

That is, until she tried to ask for more.

2072: A Brief Glimpse Into Our World

Jim paused for a moment and let out a brief sigh. He was early to the control room and would have to wait for the two monkeys under him to get here before he could get his status update.

Years of academia and research to help them and this is what I get, he thought as he gazed upon the large hologram of the planet. Little green and gold dots were dispersed throughout the light blue outlines of the projection. They blinked at him, silently and obediently, as if they were trying to say, it’s alright, you still have us.

His two subordinates walked in and saluted him. “Morning, commander,” they greeted. Ugh, commander, he thought as he saluted back. What a deceptive title. He grunted a little under his breath.

“All systems look like they’re in good shape. We do have one pod that seems to have jammed though,” Brady, the younger one, beamed at him as he performed his daily updates.

“Can you or Jeff get to it?” Jim was tired. Or maybe it was laziness. He did not want to step onto a hovercraft for at least another forty-eight hours.

“No, sir,” Jeff said, almost mumbling. Jim really wanted to tell him that he was an old man, and could not hear when he spoke at a mouse’s volume. “It’s one of the big ones. Only you’re qualified to fix it.” Jim stirred in his seat.

Forty-two years in the engineering department and now I have to travel across the world to fix a fucking recycling machine, Jim protested inaudibly. “Which one is it?” He inquired.

“Here.” Brady moved the hologram and highlighted the yellow dot that had a flashing red border. “This one, in Hong Kong.”

Jim said nothing as he collected his tools and his keys to his hovercraft.


The Library of Intergalactic Congress: History Division.

News Article: Top Space Program Engineer to Become Commander to Oversee Earth

Date: Old Earth Date. 2044.5.17.

Author: Richard Li

Text:

After a long period of deliberation, the International Space Association (ISA) has nominated Director of Engineering, Jim Patrick, to become Earth’s next Commander in Chief.

The President of the ISA, George Whitehall, commended Patrick earlier today in a statement, saying, “Jim is one of our finest. He has served us with his excellence in engineering and development, and has helped us, humankind, reach for the stars with his research in long-distance space travel and his development of the first ever actual warp drive. We are honored to nominate him to oversee Earth as humankind reaches for the stars.”

Director Patrick could not be reached for comment. His statement, put our earlier, said, “I humbly accept your nomination.”

Director Jim Patrick was born in San Francisco, California, United States, North America Region, UN. At age 18, he was drafted into the UN special forces unit in the Pacification of the Middle East of 2025, but never actually participated in the conflict. After the Treaty of Istanbul was signed in March of 2025, he attended University of California, Berkeley to obtain his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics.

Patrick then went on to become an Engineer at the North American Division of the ISA (then still known as NASA), and was part of the North American team of scientists that participated in the ice-breaking session with the science departments of Russia and China and the development of the International Space Association. He was later promoted to Director of Engineering at the ISA.

Key milestones of his career include: receiving the Nobel Prize for Science in the development of light-speed travel, receiving an honorary ISA award for longest serving engineer in the department, one of the team members to be first in contact with extraterrestrial life forms, being temporarily suspended for the public disapproval of using military intervention in the rogue state of North Korea, honorary Ph.D. degrees from…


He looked out into the expanse of the developed yet uninhabited land as he set his hovercraft to autopilot.

Old buildings stood, crumbling to the ground. The skies were a blur of blue and gray, blue from the natural refraction of sunlight hitting the atmosphere, and a dull gray from all the dust and rubble that the recycling machines were punting into the air. The large monsters swallowed skyscrapers, ancient buildings, debris and other trash left behind from their makers, with the creators’ intent being the full rebuilding and transformation of their abandoned world.

The trip from Paris to the Southeast Chinese coast lasted fifty minutes. Before landing, he took a look at the giant, 50-story, nuclear-powered and broken-down terraforming giant that loomed in front of him. It had a dozen half-swallowed skyscrapers in what resembled the monster’s mouth.”What happened to you this time,” he said with the voice akin to a caring zookeeper.

He stepped off his hovercraft and onto what would have been the toes of this giant recycling machine. He collected his toolkit and walked towards the elevator that would take him to the top of the terraformer.


The Library of Intergalactic Congress: History Division.

News Article: First Astronauts into Alpha Centauri Discover Habitable Planet

Date: Old Earth Date. 2042.12.15.

Author: Richard Li.

Text:

Astronauts Ray Johnson and Fiona Chen have returned today with spectacular news of the living environments in the newly discovered surrounding exoplanets of Alpha Centauri. They report back that the two of the five planets are hospitable to human life, with running water and relatively temperate climates. The only adjustments that are necessary to travel and colonize these planets are the adjustment to the length of days on each planet, as well as the adjustment to space travel.

President George Whitehall of the ISA told the 10th Congress of the UN that he and his team would begin the colonization process of said planets, and that he and his team would begin developing and commissioning the first of the human transport vehicles by the end of the year.

President Whitehall added the following comments to his address to Congress, “The future of our species now lies far and beyond our galaxy. All those who wish to be part of this new Space Revolution must now look up and beyond the stars we know…”


For the greater good of humanity, when we return, Jim scoffed to himself as he opened control panel 625. That was, of course, the incentive that they had offered him when they asked him to stay. But as the years went by, Jim began to notice that it was just a way to get rid of deadweight. He had wanted to see the universe, to see what was beyond, but had been forced to stay in a place that nobody looked at or cared for anymore.

Except for the machines, I guess, Jim thought. They care. Unwillingly.

He had pinpointed the location of the malfunction down to some faulty wiring on the 6th floor. Jim sighed as he examined the damage. Just replace and move on, he thought to himself, nobody was going to come back to this shit hole anyway. He seemed to hold this as fact – once the first humans had reported back from beyond the cave that the outside world was vast and beautiful, nobody would return.

Only the cave, in this case, was Terra. And Jim was one of three men left to pick up after their whole race.

As Jim paced back down the ramp from the elevator to his hovercraft, something moved in the corner of his eye. He froze. Jim had not seen any other moving or living thing, save the two monkeys working under him, since the great migration to Alpha Centauri. He slowly took a few more steps toward his hovercraft, where he housed his gun –

A small shape moved quickly behind him across the ramp. Startled, Jim ran towards his hovercraft and pulled his gun toward his aggressor. A small brown head looked up at him, curious. Jim let out a sigh, half in relief and half in amazement. He had not seen a squirrel in twenty years, ever since the Great Holocene Extinction of 2020.

He threw them some biscuits – made from Alpha Centauran grain – hoping the squirrel would take it. It picked it up, took a sniff and rendered it unworthy of its consumption. The squirrel then took off toward the rolling hills beyond the terraformer, joined by 4 others of its kind.

Jim looked toward their destination in the distance, in the wake of the nothingness left by the terraformer.

What he saw he would describe later as the most beautiful scene he had ever laid eyes on.


Betelgeuse Colony Times – The Best News Source from the Farthest Colony in the Universe. Stardate 19.10.12 (Old Earth Date 2072.10.12)

Colonists Bidding for Exotic Pets from Terra

By: Richard Li

As the discovery of more and more animals that inexplicably survived the extinction were made, colonists across all worlds have begun making bids for these animals to be taken as pets in their colonies. As much as a dozen species of previously-considered extinct animals were found on Terra, 5 decades after the Great Holocene Extinction of 2020. The ISA has reportedly begun developing animal transports in human vessels for long distance space travel, to accommodate for colonists’ needs across the universe.

In a hologram interview with the Betel. Times, the first discoverer of these animals, former Director Jim Patrick described his natural encounter with the animals as a “majestic and transcending experience,” adding that no type of domesticated encounter with the animals will ever mount up to the experience of encountering them in the wild.

Such an account should make us all wonder – with all the advancement and discoveries we’ve accomplished in the last few decades, the strides we’ve taken to discovering the new and exciting, how much of ourselves and of our old home have we really left behind?