“To Explore Strange New Worlds” Chapter 1: “Pilot” [Draft#2: August 19, 2014]

•August 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Nipton, California

June 20, 2196

12:55 PM

 

He moved through the water like a cetacean. Skimming over the shallow bottom, his chest inches up off the sandy sediment, he maneuvered around anemones and sea fans like an Olympic gymnast acrobat in a stunt driving obstacle course. As he neared a coral outcropping, a sandstone overhang rose up only yards in front of him. With practiced ease, he arched his body and sailed up and over the rounded mound of dome-like structures, his knees and elbows mere millimeters away from grazing against the razor-sharp branches, like claw-fingered talons stretching up and outward toward him. He passed safely by the outcropping, swimming much nearer to the water’s surface, heedless and oblivious to the waves breaking over the sandstone ledge below him, sweeping over just above his head. He flipped his body around to turn, facing the clear water’s surface and gazing up at the bright summer noontime sunlight, almost blindingly brilliant even filtered through the crystalline waters. He closed his eyes as he stretched out his body as though to soak up as much of what glimmers of sunlight filtered through the water as possible.

When he opened his eyes, however, suddenly the sunlight was no longer filtered. The water around him was gone. His upturned face was bathed in the brilliance and warmth of the Southern California sun. Performing another barrel roll he looked down to see gently rolling hills, the foothills of the neighboring Sierra Nevada Mountains to the East, covered in towering green evergreen trees. Lifting his head as his extended body continued its forward motion, up ahead of him he could make out the towering downtown skyscrapers of the city of Los Angeles. He felt no unease, and indeed no great surprise, to be hovering a couple of hundred meters above the ground. To him this seemed nothing out of the ordinary.

He was so thoroughly enjoying himself weaving in sweeping arcs in and out between the glass windows of the city towers that it took him that much longer a delay to come to the realization that nothing he was seeing existed. He felt at peace with what he was experiencing to the extent that the only thing that jarred him out of his comfort was an unbidden recollection from his North American history classes at the Academy: All of what had been the Southern half of the state of California, South of the Academy Headquarters in San Francisco and West of the Sierra Nevadas, had been submerged beneath a couple hundred meters of the Pacific Ocean by an earthquake along the San Andreas fault. This had occurred a couple of decades before he was even born, and the cognition that the city and green-forested hills he was seeing were a thing of the past was what began the gradual process of dragging him back to Earth and out of his fantasy.’

 

William Cox awoke from his dream he had been having at the feeling of a familiar touch on his mind, an instant before the sunlight filtering through his closed eyelids was blocked out by a shadow falling over him.

The first thing he saw upon opening his eyes would have easily convinced most other men that they either were, in fact, still dreaming or had died and woken up in heaven. Backlit by the brilliant sunlight and swirled around in the ocean breeze, the woman’s golden hair gave the appearance of a halo as it seemed to absorb the sun’s light before reflecting it back even brighter than before. The face framed by the halo of golden hair was angelic, particularly now with the good-humoredly bemused smile that spread her lips to unveil pearlescent white teeth.

“Hello again, Will.” The woman greeted him.

Most men would have choked on the lump in their throats, but Cox merely returned her smile with his best attempt at a dashingly roguish half-grin.

“Hello, Sarah.” He greeted her smoothly, in the highborn English accent he had inherited from his paternal great-grandfather Jeremy. “And to what do I owe the pleasure of your company on this gorgeous day?” As he spoke, in spite of his best efforts to maintain eye contact with her, he found that he could not help his gaze being drawn downward to discover that that she was appropriately dressed in a form-fitting one-piece swimsuit that hugged lovingly to what most human women would regard as an enviably curvaceous figure, leaving daringly few of its curves to the viewer’s imagination to fill in.

“My mother sent me;” Cox rolled his eyes; knowing all too well what it meant if Sarah’s mother, his godmother, was involved; “On an errand from your parents.” In spite of her face being cast in shadow by the sun behind her, Cox saw her eyes light up and glow visibly as she spoke.

“This can only mean good news!” He quipped laconically, propping himself up on his elbows.

“Actually;” She said, her smile broadening as she dropped down to lay on the sand beside him; “In this case, it is.”

            Cox considered this for a moment. He decided it made a certain amount of sense: Both his godmother Hera and his mother Cimarra preferred to deliver bad tidings in person. Sarah being here instead should have been his first clue that there was nothing to fear. “Did my final grades from the Command Course at the Academy come in yet?” He guessed.

Sarah nodded. “They did, actually. But that’s only part of why I am here.”

Knowing all too well from his childhood growing up how dearly both Sarah and her mother reveled in guessing games of all kinds, Cox decided to quit while he was ahead by putting an end to the questioning. “Why exactly are you here?”

“I suppose;” Sarah sighed as she turned onto her side, the side of her head on one hand; “You could say that, on this particular day, I’m in the business of delivering a summons of sorts.”

“To where?” Cox asked, perhaps a bit more curtly than he had intended, not being able to recall having been summoned by his parents since he entered the Academy years ago.

“Paris.” Sarah answered, turning her face away from him and closing her eyes as she absorbed the sunlight.

            Cox’s interest was peaked, not having been to the Federation’s capitol city since he was a child. “For what?”

            Sarah must have noted the change in his tone, because her eyes darted sideways to look at him, her smile reappearing. “A ceremony, hosted by the President himself, himself, in your honor.”

Cox lay back, thinking that it must be quite the celebration in order to warrant an appearance form the President, his uncle on his father’s side. “I can’t imagine anything I’ve done recently that anyone might want to honor me for…” He trailed off as his compatriot turned to him and smiled enigmatically, the glow in her eyes revealing even less.

 

Sarah Wells observed William Cox carefully as they left the Oceanside beach, on what had once been the border between the states of California and Nevada, and climbed into the private car she had taken there for the ride back East. It was so rare to see the prodigy since childhood even surprised by any news, much less for him to be stunned into sustained wide-eyed speechlessness by it as he was now. She could not help but smile to herself as they took turns changing out of their swimsuits and into the tricolored tunics that were the formal dress uniforms amongst the Federation’s star fleet in the rear cabin of the car.

The very first thing she had noticed when she saw Cox on the beach was the fact that he appeared to be floating, hovering several inches above the beach towel spread out beneath him. However, the even rising and falling of his chest had indicated to her that he was dreaming, and was therefore most likely unaware that he was no longer lying on the beach.

Her assignment, given to her by her mother, since she was very young had been to help him by keeping the superhuman abilities he had inherited from his alien mother, and his use thereof, in check. As such, she had sought to intervene in the dream that he was having in as subtle a way as she could manage, entering his thoughts with her mind only just long enough to remind him that whatever it was he was experiencing was not real. Her mental nudge had succeeded in bringing him back down to Earth, both literally and figuratively, and what prompted her to smile now was remembering how her had rubbed his back, evidently somewhat bruised by its abrupt impact with the sand, as they had gotten up from the beach.

It had been clear almost from the time he was born that it would be a nearly impossible herculean feat to prevent the boy from discovering at least some of what distinguished him from his human peers as he grew up.

But;’ She thought, buttoning her tunic; “Though he had inevitably discovered many of the extraordinary abilities that his mind possessed, others, such as the telekinesis he had subconsciously displayed on the beach, both her mother and her agreed, it would be best for everyone if he was kept from discovering for as long as possible.’

 

Their car arrived at the Groom Lake airfield, only several dozen miles from what had once been the thriving metropolis of Las Vegas, and a tall regal-looking woman greeted them. Like her daughter Sarah, Hera Day had long golden hair, ethereal features and a similarly lithe and slender form. She greeted her daughter and embraced her godson. Unlike both, Hera was not an officer in the star fleet, and so did not a bifurcated-patterned tunic like her daughter’s. Instead, cox saw, she was already dressed for the formal ceremony at the capitol in a long flowing gown of shimmering gold that matched and blended, nearly to the point of perfection, with the color of her long hair.

Already seated on the shuttle waiting for them when they boarded was a muscularly well-built older man who shared Cox’s dark brown hair and blue-green eyes, and was dressed in a similarly colored tunic. Jarek Brooks-Janney rose from his seat to warmly embrace his son before they all strapped in for the flight to Paris.

At a pleading look from her daughter, Hera relented to allowing Sarah to pilot the shuttle personally, and the younger woman wasted no time in taking over the mostly-disused cockpit.

 

Paris, France

8:08 PM

 

Cox did not finish processing all of the various implications of the news that Sarah had shared with him, and visibly recover from his stunned state, until he was jolted awake by her voice blaring over the passenger compartment’s intercommunications loudspeakers that they had arrived in Paris, France. He opened his eyes and leaned forward in his seat to gaze out the cabin portal window, watching as the shuttle was already rounding, in a wide sweeping circle, the towering framework structure that was by far the tallest in the city.

The colossal pyramidal spire had been erected nearly a century and a half by his paternal great-grandmother Katherine, founder and first President of the Federation, to commemorate the one billion human lives that had been lost in the ecological calamity a century before Cox had been born that had forced the nations of the planet to form the very first iteration of the Federation. It was composed primarily of an amalgamation of a number of different structures from the mid twenty-first century world as it had been before the great storms: the steel scaffolding of Paris’ own Eiffel Tower, which had preceded it on the very same spot, now built around the megalithic sandstone and granite obelisk that had stood in North America’s capitol city of Washington, itself a monument to the same man who had founded the city named after him.

The transport shuttle swept in low over the River Seine, its propulsion engines parting the river to either side behind it in its wake as it passed. Cox barley glimpsed their destination, the former royal imperial palace and art museum known as the Louvre, before the world outside his window was enveloped in blue as the sleek craft plunged under the waters of the river, making another sweeping turn to enter the underwater docking bay of the palace where the ceremony was to take place. Sarah did a typically impressive job touching the shuttle down feather-light, and the four of them were ushered discreetly into the subterranean foyer that served as the famous museum’s main entrance, away from the crowds between the two glass pyramids that stood like silent postmodern abstract sentinels that dominated the courtyard above.

Hovering above the pyramidal capstone that jutted from the parquet floor and formed the centerpiece of the underground foyer was a three-dimensional holographic display upon which they could watch the proceedings above as they awaited their respective entrance cues.

“Ladies and gentlemen of Unified Confederated Star Systems;” A noticeably pre-recorded voice that Cox was only moderately surprised to recognize as being that of his godmother beside him boomed from speakers placed along the encircling walls of the palatial building, its refined upper-class British accent all but lost as it echoed across the waters of the neighboring river; “Please give a warm welcome to the mother and father of our guest of honor for tonight.” Cox’s ears perked up as he listened intently to hear his parents’ names announced to the assembled crowd. “Presenting Admiral Jarek Brooks-Janney the Second, former commanding officer of the Federation’s flagship, the USS Enterprise; and her Royal Highness, Cimarra Cox, Queen of Valogra Prime.” On the display William watched his father appear onstage to loving embrace his regal-looking alien wife, who had aged just as gracefully as Hera, with a kiss as she swept into the palace courtyard decked out in all the finery of her home world’s royal aristocracy. The eruption of thunderous applause gradually died down as the two both took their seats directly in front of the stage in the front row.

“Citizens of the Federation;” The voice repeated; “Please rise to stand in welcoming the President of the Unified Confederated Star Systems, Jeremy Brooks-Janney the Second, escorted by Fleet Admiral Annika Hansen, Commander In Chief of the Star Fleet.” The square erupted in cheers as Cox’s uncle Jeremy, a tall older man with black hair several shades darker than his older brother’s or his nephew’s, appeared on the stage on the arm of a lithe, slender woman with her otherwise shoulder-length yellow blonde hair done up in a tightly-woven curl at the crown of her head. The woman released the President’s arm and marched rigidly down from the stage to her seat as he took the podium.

“My fellow citizens of Earth;” The President took over the announcing from the recording of Hera’s voice; “And invited dignitaries from the other founding charter worlds;” He made a show of acknowledging the Valogran Queen in particular; “Today is yet another extraordinarily proud and momentous day in the long and storied legacy of the family that founded this Federation more than a century ago.” Cox could not tell whether his uncle was speaking impromptu or reading verbatim off of pre-prepared and memorized remarks. “In the spirit of all of those other joyous occasions;” The Federation President continued; “I have summoned these people before us here today in order for them to witness what is truly a momentous occasion. Without any further delay, I hope you will join us all in welcoming the guest of honor for tonight’s festivities. A recent graduate of the Star Fleet’s Academy in San Francisco; and a young man who I am, and always will be, incredibly pleased and proud to call my favorite nephew;” The pride evident in his voice was visibly reflected in the faces of William’s parents; “Commander William Jefferson Cox, escorted by Colonel Sarah Wells.”

That was his cue, and Cox held out his elbow, and Sarah slid her arm through it as they ascended the spiraling staircase from the underground foyer to emerge from underneath the glass pyramid. Though not having been officially introduced, Hera followed behind them, splitting off as they reached ground level to take her seat beside Cox’s Valogran mother, who rose from her seat to take her son’s face in her hands to plant kisses on both of his cheeks and his forehead amidst a torrential wave of deafening thunderous applause and cheers from the assembled crowd that, he now saw, stretched all of the way to the colossal memorial in the distance. Sarah turned to take a seat next to her mother as Cox received a restrained congratulatory handshake from Slaavik Khan, a Valogran like his mother and the Queen’s military advisor. Cimarra held onto her son’s hand until Cox turned to ascend the steps to the stage, before hugging her husband as they boy sat back down.

Cox knew from the contortions twisting the Valogran Queen’s face that, were she human, tears of happiness and joy would be welling up in her eyes. He stood straight at attention as he reached the podium and saluted the Federation President.

His uncle returned the salute. “Commander William Cox;” He said, still facing his nephew but loud enough to be picked up by the microphone on the podium; “I know from my own personal experience that you are not one to stand for much formality in ceremony.” He winked at the younger man, referring to Cox’s well-renown iconoclastic contrarian tendencies at the Academy. “You have set a record for record-breaking academic achievements that is unlikely to be broken anytime in the foreseeable future;” The eruption of applause that began was interrupted as the President good-naturedly turned to the crowd; “The fact that many of the records you were braking were your own notwithstanding.” There was a rumble of laughter from the front of the crowd, and Cox turned to see both his parents and godmother beaming proudly. “You are precisely the sort of officer that Doctor Jeremy Brooks, my grandfather, had in mind when he founded the Star Fleet’s Academy nearly three quarters of a century ago.” Cox could see, out of the corner of his periphery, his father Jarek, also Jeremy Brooks’ grandson like his brother, nodding his head in agreement. “It is therefore my honor, as President of the Unified Confederated Star Systems;” He held out his hand and Mara Kirkland, his Chief of Staff, who, Cox had not been able to help himself but notice, had been gazing at the new Captain like a teenager with high school crush; handed him a crystal container from which he withdrew polished golden buttons; “To grant to you a full commission of the rank of Captain;” He reached up to affix the buttons to the breast pocket of Cox’s uniform as he spoke; “With all of the responsibilities and privileges thereof, including something that you have repeatedly, time and again, demonstrated both to me personally, and to the worlds of the Federation, is something for which you have an uncanny ability and proficiency.” He let the moment of suspense and tensions hang in the air, his voice still echoing out of the loud speakers along the Seine. “The command of your very own starship.” He said finally, after what seemed to be a small but interminable eternity. An audible gasp rippled forward from the back of the crowd, followed almost immediately by an eruption of applause.

Cox could see that his uncle was displaying similar restraint as his mother’s Valogran advisor as Jeremy reached out to clasp William’s hand in his and shake it firmly with a tightly forced smile. “Grandma Kate would be so very proud of you.” His uncle told him. Cox nodded in acknowledgement of the fact that, unlike himself, his uncle had actually known the last President of the United States of America before she had finally passed away from natural causes of old age only a few years after Cox had been born, shortly following the first centennial anniversary of the Founding of the Federation, and what was commonly referred to as First Contact, with a Valogran starship landing on the very same courtyard in which they stood.

The President finished attaching medallions from the crystal case to Cox’s tunic, handing the empty box back to his Chief of Staff, before reaching out to clasp William’s hand in his and shaking it firmly. “Congratulations Commander, or should I say, Captain Cox.” He announced, emphasizing Will’s new title.

Then, giving in somewhat to emotion, he pulled his nephew in by their clasped hands for a familial embrace, an uncharacteristically un-Presidential gesture that was greeted by even more thunderous applause.

Apparently;’ Cox thought as he hugged Jeremy in return, and they were joined onstage by his mother and father; ‘People quite enjoyed seeing this all-too human side of their President: His love for his family.’

This was confirmed as the applause continued unabated, with some audience members even standing, when the President released Cox and turned around to similarly embrace his brother. Having no children of his own, Cox knew, Jeremy had always followed his career from a very early age through the Academy with a great deal of intense interest, like a second father at a distance. Cox himself had often wondered growing up how both the particular course that his life had taken and the lifestyle he chose to live might be different had he been born to Jeremy as his father instead of his older brother Jarek.

 

As they lifted off, Cox noted that the ornately-appointed passenger compartment of the Federation President’s private Executive transport shuttle he was now seated in made the shuttles that he had done his flight piloting training in at the Academy seem for all the worlds like rickety old barges by comparison. The gravitational forces they felt, even as Cox watched out the window the sky outside turn from the blue of sky to the blazing white of the ionosphere and ozone, were practically zero, the craft outfitted with the latest and best inertial dampeners credits could buy. Likewise, the inertia felt by the passengers as the blue of sky outside faded into the blackness of space and they passed into the weightless zero-gravity environment of low Earth orbit was imperceptible enough to allow some among them to remain standing throughout their entire ascent, a testament to the miniaturization technology that had permitted artificial gravity deck plating to be built into even craft as small as a shuttle just within the past couple of decades.

The President himself sat in the front with his brother and sister-in-law, while his nephew and their son had taken a seat in the rear of the shuttle. Minutes after exiting Earth’s ionosphere, they were approaching the orbital shipyard’s outer space dry-docks when all those, including Cox, looking out the windows of the shuttle were momentarily blinded as by a sudden sunrise as they rounded the curvature of the planet Earth below them.

“There she is.”

As he peered out the portal, at first all he could see was the binding unfiltered light rays from the sun cresting the curvature of the planet. Then, as their eyes adjusted, caught in the glow of the brilliant star, something glinting in the sunlight caught his eye, and drew his gaze to their destination, the sleek and streamlined form that they were approaching.

Cox smiled as he heard even the typically stoic Admiral Hansen give a gasp of surprise, followed by a startled exclamation his ears couldn’t quite make out. His ears also picked up his mother and her advisor Slaavik chattering excitedly back and forth to one another as he recognized as the native language of their Valogran home world of Valogra Prime. The rapidity of the particular dialect they were employing combined with their hushed tones made it difficult for Cox’s mind to translate what they were saying to one another at a distance, but he picked up on words he knew, such as “sleek”, “graceful”, “aerodynamic” and most of all “beautiful”.

The star ship he was looking at certainly was that. It resembled an oblong metal potato being threaded through a glowing ring. The central oblong shape did not so much narrow to a rounded tip at the front as much as it did sweep in gently curving lines outward from front to back. Though it was at its widest at the point that it appeared to intersect the ring, the sides of the horizontally elliptical oval still flared out to either side, forming what Cox surmised to be the vessel’s nacelles. As the potato shape was nearly completely flat on top, backward-swept blades, giving the appearance of either an airplane’s tail or the spoiler of a sports car, attached the upper curve of the ring to it.

His mother was the first to find her voice. “She’s beautiful.”

“She’s the only one of her kind.” Her husband told her. “The first.”

“Could someone please explain just what, exactly, it is that we’re looking at here?” He heard the President comment.

Sarah stood and introduced herself. “Doctor Sarah Wells, head of the Enterprise Starship Program.” Cox nodded, familiar with the space exploration administration started by his great-grandfather Jeremy Brooks shortly after the founding of the Federation which had constructed Earth’s first interstellar vessel, commanded by his father. The President nodded for her to answer his question. “This;” She gestured out the window; “Is the Unified Confederated Star Systems Time Ship U.S.S. Equinox.” She continued before anyone could think to raise his or her hand with a question. “She represents all of the very latest in technological advances from the most brilliant scientific minds of all four founding charter worlds.” She nodded to the two leaders of their respective worlds that were represented: Earth’s President Jeremy and Valogra Prime’s Queen Cimarra; who both beamed proudly. “The Equinox is the very first ship of her kind;” Wells continued; “And, for the moment and the foreseeable future, the only one.”

Just as she finished, the pilot announced that all passengers had to be seated for their touchdown inside the starship’s shuttle bay.

 

The shuttle landed on the deck, and they stood again after the pilots announced that the air pressure in the shuttle bay had been re-pressurized to one atmosphere; also referred to, especially by those from other worlds, as “Earth normal”: the air pressure experienced at sea level on the planet below them. Then the transport’s doors hiss open with the rush of exchanged air between the two vessels as their respective internal atmospheres mixed, and the boarding and departure ramp folded out to the deck of the hangar bay. Again the light differential between the relatively dark cabin in which they had ridden and the even dimly-lit shuttle bay prompted many among them to raise their hands in front of their faces in order to shield their eyesight from the glare.

However, even within the glow outside the shuttle’s doors Cox could make out a figure standing on the deck at the foot of the ramp awaiting their debarkation, and do so clearly enough to discern that the form in question was undoubtedly feminine. His first clue to her nature, if not her identity, should have in retrospect been the mere fact that she stood unaffected in a hangar that moments earlier had been left depressurized and wide open to the freezing airless vacuum of empty space. The second came as they descended the ramp and he noted from above that the top of her skull appeared to be translucent enough to reveal a constantly-shifting and blinking pattern of brightly-glowing blue and white inside. Her “skin”; which in reality only covered her face, torso and hands; was a thick, rubbery leather, as white as an unpainted canvas.

“You honor me with your presence, Mister President.” The android greeted the small group as they descended the ramp to the deck. She bent her knee joints in the convincing facsimile of a courtly curtsy; looking less so, Cox thought, given her lack of the appropriately feminine clothing, or indeed of any at all for that matter. Cox watched her face form into a genuine-appearing human-like smile; and startled to hear a clearly feminine, melodious woman’s voice, but also one with what he immediately recognized as a Scottish-Irish brogue to it.

Sarah was already in the process of making introductions. “Among Doctor Brooks’ first dreams upon founding the Enterprise Starship Program a hundred and thirty years ago;” She explained; “Was that one day each and every vessel of any kind within the Star Fleet would have on board her what he called, in his writings on the matter, a ship’s “avatar”.”

Cox recognized the ancient Hindi word meaning the humanoid-like embodiment of a deity incarnate, both human and divine, a concept that would later be adopted by the Jews in the Roman-occupied Mediterranean in crafting their myth of what they called in Hebrew the “messiah”, immortal yet capable of self-sacrifice: a god made flesh; or, in this case, a ship.

“He described this as an android or cyborg entity separate and distinct from the artificial intelligence of a ship’s computer.” Sarah was saying. “The purpose of this being creating a…representative for the ship itself that could communicate person-to-person with its captain and crew, yet would also have the capability, unlike the computer’s AI, of leaving the ship altogether if needed elsewhere.” Seeing nods of understanding from all present, she turned to the white-skinned female figure standing beside her on the deck. “This;” She gestured; “Is Meagierthiea, the very first prototype of a ship’s avatar.”

“I prefer Meg.” The android said.

“The Equinox;” Wells concluded; “Is the very first Star Fleet vessel ever to live up to Doctor Brooks’ century-old dream, with both the most sophisticated artificial intelligence computer system in the Federation and…Meg;” She corrected herself, nodding in acknowledgement to the android; “The very latest and best humanoid-like android technology has to offer.”

Meg extended her hand to Cox. “It’s my pleasure to finally meet you, Captain;” She said; “And to be the first to welcome you aboard your very first-ever command.”

Cox turned to his uncle, having been told only that he would be commanding a vessel of some sort. His mouth dropped open, but then no words came. ‘This is the ship they decided to give me command of?’ He thought.

The android, meanwhile, had already moved on. “Welcome aboard the Star Ship U.S.S. Equinox, Mister President.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally see it for myself.”

“It is an honor to host your royal visit, your Majesty.” Meg bowed to Cimarra.

            With the introductions complete, the President had a question for the android. “What is the name given to the AI aboard the Equinox?”

Meg needed only a moment. “The computer system of the U.S.S. Equinox is the JonArch 2200, named in honor of its inventor, Star Fleet computer and technology scientist Jonathan Archer.” Cox knew that the computer in question was named years after Archer died when it was discovered he had been the one to build it, since throughout his career the eccentric genius inventor and engineer had operated anonymously under the pseudonym “Orion”. Meg smiled fondly, as though she and the computer were the oldest of friends. “But you may address him as “Archie”.”

It passed as soon as it appeared, but for a split fraction of an instant it was there and Cox caught it: The look of surprised recognition, bordering on shock, that registered of Sarah’s face at the mention of the artificial intelligence’s nickname. Cox decided he would have to ask her what the significance of it to her was at some later date and time, as Meg guided them out of the shuttle hangar and along a corridor to the nearest lift that would take them to the Equinox’s bridge.

 

They were deposited onto a raised semicircular platform that ran along the rear wall of the bridge. The first thing that caught Cox’s eye was the throne-like captain’s chair situated on an elevated dais in the center of the bowl outlined by the platform on which they stood.

The second was a small group of three people standing in front of the display screen that dominated the front wall of the bridge: a woman and two girls, and it was immediately both abundantly apparent and impossible to believe to Cox that, even in spite of their dramatic contrasts in appearance, the two younger women were sisters. The older, taller one of the two was a lean, slender and lithe woman in her late twenties with her yellow-blonde hair tightly backswept and done up in an ornately woven bun atop the crown of her head, with a ponytail that flowed down the back of her neck to her shoulders. The youngest, smallest of the pair could not have been more than twelve years old, with jet-black hair that flowed over her shoulders. The older sister was in the process of using the view screen to give her younger sister what appeared to Cox to be quite an advanced lesson in nebular and stellar spectroscopy for a girl her age, or even one a decade older. The oldest woman, standing behind her hands on the shoulders of the young girl, clearly overseeing the other two, was a woman a few years older than Cox’s age and had a thickly-curling shoulder-length mane of reddish-auburn hair.

So engrossed was he in his character study of the older sister’s graceful movements that he startled, nearly jumping, when the star fleet’s Commander in Chief cleared her throat loudly right beside him with a polite cough. The oldest woman was the first turn around to face the newcomers, and she immediately gestured for the pair of sisters to do the same.

Admiral Hansen had already begun descending one of the ramps on either side of the platform leading down to the floor below, and had just reached the bottom when the raven-haired twelve-year-old turned around and immediately emitted a squeal of girlish delight.

“Mommy!” She took two speedy steps before launching herself into the Admiral’s open arms.

Cox heard Hansen grunt audibly with the impact as she hefted her pre-adolescent daughter’s weight, and suspected with a smile that it would not be very much longer before she would not longer be strong enough to do so anymore.

The girl’s older sister was more subdued, striding gracefully over as the auburn-haired elder greeted the admiral with a salute.

“Welcome aboard, mother.” She said in a feminine singsong voice.

Sarah smiled to herself, with a sidelong glance at Hera beside her, at hearing how similarly the relationship between Admiral Hansen and her eldest daughter mirrored that between herself and her own mother.

Cox had been so focused on the stark contrast between the older sister’s blonde hair and the younger’s jet-black that it took until she turned around for him to note that the blonde wore a highly stylized variation of the relatively loose-fitting Federated Systems’ Star Fleet standard issue uniform tunic and pants, combined into a tailored fitted one-piece body suit. Every color; from the broad field of engineering turquoise to the sleeves, shoulders and collar that matched her metallic-silver eyes, to even the black of the pants; was also made to shimmer as it caught the light with ever movement by being interwoven with sparkling sequins.

He was jerked from his observations by another cough from the Commander in Chief.

“I am pleased to introduce to you my youngest daughter, Cassandra.” Hansen was saying, hoisting the raven-haired twelve-year-old in her arms onto her shoulder. “But you prefer to be called Casey, am I right?” She asked the child. Cassandra nodded. “As well as to announce officially that my beautiful daughter Jennifer, the Equinox Project’s Operations Officer;” She gestured to the suited blonde; “Will be serving aboard the Equinox as her Chief of Engineering on her maiden voyage.”

Cox did his best to hide his restless shift from one foot to the other as he felt a lump in his throat and swallowed it at hearing the news that the curvaceous blonde beauty would be serving under his command as a member of his Senior Staff, or Joint Chiefs.

“Jenny;” Annika was telling her daughter; “This is Captain William Cox, your new Commanding Officer.”

“An honor to meet you, sir.” Jennifer shook his hand.

“The pleasure will be all mine, I’m sure;” He bravely risked a glance down from her face to the breast of her suit; “Lieutenant Hansen.” Cox brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, as he had been taught to do to visiting female dignitaries from a very early age by his royal mother.

In this setting, however, it caused Jennifer to blush a bright red as she shot a nervous glance over at her mother. The Admiral was glaring at the new captain through narrowed eyes like daggers, obviously having read far more into Cox’s greeting and his kissing of her daughter’s hand than the Captain had intended them to mean. What Cox noticed, however, was that the admiral was not alone. The raven-haired preteen was similarly glaring at Cox, and Cox could feel the protectiveness that the sisters felt toward one another radiating from the girl as though it were a tangible field of heat.

“I’m Kathryn Krueloe, Admiral Hansen’s Chief of Staff.” The sisters’ guardian stepped forward to shake Cox’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to greet you, Captain Cox.”

 

            As the Equinox’s new Chief Engineer, Jennifer followed closely behind Meg as the android guided the group along the corridors of the ship to the main engineering section. The thick, dense steel double doors hissed open as the group approached, and as they stepped one by one single file through the doorway each member of the group narrowly avoided colliding with the back of the person in front of them as one at a time each of them froze in their tracks and stared up at the sight before them. Cox was the first through the doors as they parted, but he slowed as his eyes traveled up the column in the center of the chamber before them. A single massive towering cylinder of glass dominated the center of the otherwise mostly circular engineering compartment. The column emitted a blue glow that bathed all in its surroundings bright enough to illuminate the faces of even those still standing in the open doorway to the corridor outside. The brilliant neon blue light, however, was not constant, as whatever inside the cylinder was glowing pulsated with a buzzing thrumming. Periodically, writhing and arcing patterns of neon-white lightning-like electricity that coursed up and down along the glass tube’s surface would produce blinding flashes.

            “What in all the worlds, if I may ask, are we looking at here?” His uncle Jeremy echoed his words from the shuttle, speaking the thought shared by everyone in the group to no one in particular as he gazed as though mesmerized by the hypnotically flashing waves of energy. His chief of Staff started to answer, but an alto female voice jumped in with the answer.

“You, sir, Mister President;” Said a slender figure that stood at the railing of the engineering compartment’s second level across the blue cylinder from them; “Are the first official from the government of the Federated Systems to see the galaxy’s first known Temporal Quantum Drive Core constructed by any civilization known to the Federation.”

The pride of accomplishment in her tone was unmistakable. With that she turned and stepped onto a small lift platform that lowered her to ground floor. As she stepped from the platform, the blue light cast into stark contrast with her fair skin an intricate pattern of mottled deep brown spots that ran across her tightly backswept hairline down the sides of her neck until they disappeared under the collar lapel of her high-collared uniform tunic. It took Cox until then to recognize the woman, but when he did he hurried forward, not running, to embrace her like the oldest and dearest of friends.

“Lessia?”

“Good to see you again too, Will;” Lessia returned his hug before pulling away for a comradely handshake; “And congratulations.” Lessia Odanox appeared in her late thirties with long ebony hair pulled smoothly back. “Mister President.” She addressed Jeremy directly, though her gaze, for the moment at least, did not leave the new Captain. “I bring you official greetings from the Ruling Council of Trillaxia Prime. They offer their personal and most sincere congratulations to you upon the completion of the Equinox Project.”

“What are you doing here, Lessia?” Cox blurted, almost before his uncle had finished thanking the Trillaxian delegate.

“I am here to offer my services as Science Officer for the Star Ship U.S.S. Equinox.”

“I am sure that won’t be necessary.” Jeremy was stopped in mid-thought by a warning flash in the Trillaxian woman’s emerald green eyes.

“With all due respect, Mister President, I was not addressing you.” Lessia said with deference. “If I am not very much mistaken, I do believe that the final decision rests with Captain Cox.”

“Her reasoning is accurate, sir.” Slaavik said, giving the Trillaxian a sidelong half-smile.

“Welcome aboard, Lessia.” Cox shook her hand, stepping forward to the forefront of the group.

“Lieutenant Commander Odanox, as one of the Federation’s foremost theoretical astrophysicists;” Meg offered helpfully, prompting Wells to smile knowingly; “Has been the leading scientist on the Equinox Project.”

“What’s the Equinox Project?” Admiral Hansen asked, and almost everyone turned to her, surprised that she of all people should know.

“Project Equinox was the Federation’s decades-long concerted effort to successfully construct a functioning quantum temporal slipstream drive.” Lessia answered.

“And what, exactly, is quantum temporal slipstream?” Cox wondered, mostly to him, and indeed not even fully conscious of the fact that he had spoken aloud.

“It was discovered by the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid in the fifth century BCE;” Wells began; “That space is composed of three dimensions: Length, width and depth. In the fourth century BCE, Pythagoras envisioned the shape of the physical universe in which we and everything we know exists as what is known as a tesseract, a sort of three-dimensional cube.” She lifted her hands to mime a cubical box shape.

“In the late 1890’s and the early twentieth century, with his theory of General Relativity, a German-American physicist named Albert Einstein proposed the existence of time as a fourth dimension;” Lessia continued for her, holding her hand in a fist at arm’s length from the implied cube; “And proposed that the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time form a kind of fabric which later physicists labeled the “time-space continuum”.” She mimed smoothing her hands over a fabric.

“This was how he resolved the more than two-hundred year-old flaw in Sir Isaac Newton’s seventeenth-century theory of Universal Gravitation;” Wells added; “By proving that gravity was caused by the mass of objects distorting the fabric of space and time.” Her mother nodded.

“A hundred years later, a late-twentieth-century English theoretical astrophysicist who occupied Newton’s Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge named Stephen Hawking, in his book entitled “The Universe in a Nutshell”, proposed that the shape of this space-time was not merely the fabric that Einstein envisioned but was curved into three-dimensional shapes such as those of donuts and pears.”

“More than two hundred years before First Contact with the Valograns;” Wells nodded toward the Valogran Queen; “The human physicists of Earth had already theorized of something strikingly similar to a Valogran slipstream conduit, which they called an “Einstein-Rosen Bridge”.” This peaked the interest of not only Cox himself but a number of other members of the group, as it was not widely-known fact.

“How so?” Cimarra was the first to ask.

“Valogran slipstream technology works by warping space;” Wells explained, twisting the palms of her hands against one another; “In order to generate the stable artificial event horizon of a wormhole, a tunnel from one point in space to another;” She drew her hands apart, her fingers forming a circular aperture; “What Earth scientists referred to as an “Einstein-Rosen Bridge”.”

“Upon First Contact with the Valograns;” Lessia continued; “One of the Federation’s most prominent and prolific experts on quantum mechanics, by the name of Professor Xavier Syrius, named the twenty-second century’s answer to Albert Einstein;” Cox saw Hera’s eyebrow arch, as though that struck a chord with something familiar to her; “Became fascinated by the Valograns’ use of slipstream technology to create artificial wormholes through subspace, and became obsessed with proving his theory.”

“What theory was that?” Cassandra asked and everyone turned to her, almost having forgotten that anyone so young was there.

“General Syrius was a top officer in the Enterprise Starship Program, and the federation’s earliest and most…eccentric experts on temporal engineering.”

“Meaning what, exactly?”

“Syrius theorized that, just as slipstream corridors create tunnels from one point in space to another;” Wells answered the girl, miming with her hands; “By reverse-engineering this technology;” She winked at Jennifer, the ship’s Chief Engineer; “Similar technology might one day be used to generate similar portals from one point in the dimension of time to another as well.” Cox was unsurprised to see nearly everyone in the group wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the implications of time travel.

“When Syrius demonstrated his technology before the heads of the Federation council, including your mother;” Hera said, turning to Cox; “And your great-grandmother, he vanished.”

“And what became of these theories of his?” Admiral Hansen asked.

“You’re looking at it.” Lessia answered, gesturing to the core. “The temporal quantum slipstream drive.”

“Is what you’re telling us;” Cox’s father asked, slowly; “Is that this ship;” He gestured around him, indicating the Equinox; “Is capable of traveling through time?”

“If all goes well when we first power up the core, then in theory, hypothetically;” Lessia stopped hedging upon meeting Sarah’s eyes, and so simply answered; “Yes, Mister President.”

“Are you not concerned about paradoxes?” Slaavik said after several long minutes of silent thought.

“Paradoxes?” Lessia shook her head with a shrug. “What sort of paradoxes?”

            Slaavik did an impressive job mimicking a very humanlike melodramatic sigh. “What would be the primary purpose for traveling back in time?” Slaavik posed.

“To observe the past.” Wells answered.

“One of the principles of physics is that the act of observing any phenomena changes the phenomenon being observed.” Slaavik explained.

“Are you saying that we could alter the course of history just by traveling into the past?” Admiral Hansen sounded incredulous, but Slaavik nodded.

“If I interpret your words correctly;” This from Hera, who had been listening in on the discussion intently; “Any risk of altering the present could be eliminated simply by traveling into the future instead of into the past.”

            It took Slaavik not even a moment before she nodded.

“Well that settles it!” The President announced. “The future it is, then!”

 

Leaving Lessia, Jennifer and Sarah in engineering, the rest returned to the bridge. With a nod from the Federation President, the main view screen in front of them lit up with a mosaic of live video images from cities around the globe, including Paris, San Francisco, and Washington. In the squares and parks of the cities, tens of thousands of people had gathered to watch the live video feed from the Equinox as the first-ever quantum temporal drive was initialized for the very first time.

            Cox happened to glance over at his mother, to see the Valogran Queen’s gaze locked on the video from Paris. ‘Probably;’ He thought; ‘The sight of the crowds filling the streets between the memorial and the Louvre reminded Cimarra of the day more than a third of a century before when the first Valogran star ship had landed on Earth, touching down in the very same courtyard had been standing in earlier, the first known extraterrestrials to set foot on Earth in recorded history.’

At a nod from his uncle, Cox tapped the badge on the breast pocket of his tunic with his fingers before speaking aloud.

“This is Captain William Cox of the Unified Confederated Star Systems Time Ship U.S.S. Equinox.” His voice reverberated, as it was translated though public address speakers not only throughout the ship but also in cities across every inhabited continent of the planet below them. “Main Engineering, status report.” He could not help but smile as he heard the reply.

“This is Lieutenant Jennifer Hansen, Chief Engineer.” The blonde’s feminine voice lost none of its melodiousness as it was broadcast throughout the world. “Quantum Temporal Slipstream drive is ready at your command, Captain.”

Cox looked at his father and uncle, who were grinning like schoolboys on Christmas morning. He tried his best to ignore the expression that creased his godmother’s features, which left no question that Hera still harbored concerns about time travel and its effects. “You have a go, Lieutenant.” Cox told Hansen. “Commence core power-up sequence.”

“Initializing temporal core now.” Hansen announced, and everyone onboard felt more than heard a brand new hum begin in the walls and floors around them. “Quantum core drive power at five percent.” Hansen narrated for those watching from the Earth below. Hansen’s melodious voice lent the repetitive play-by-play narration a quality that nevertheless drew the listener into wanting to continue listening even more closely. “Quantum core power at ten percent.” By twenty percent the thrumming had grown steadily until it became not only tangible as a vibration to those standing on the ship, but also audible to those listening from the planet. Had he not known better, Cox might have been concerned that the vibrations in the deck and walls were doing damage to the ship’s hull. The twelve-year-old girl Cassandra kept looking up at her mother, who held her by the shoulders in front of her as they faced the view screen.

Probably;’ Cox guessed from the girl’s expression; ‘The intensity of the vibrations in the decks of the ship made her worried for her older sister down in the Engineering section, even closer to the core itself, the source for the tremors.’

“Power now fifty percent.” Cox looked down to see his mother reach out to clasp his father’s hand in hers, whether out of nervousness or anticipation or both he couldn’t tell.

“Quantum temporal core now at one hundred percent.” Hansen’s voice announced finally.

To Cox’s surprise, the instant that the core reached full power, the vibrations in the decks of the Equinox all but ceased, save for an only barely-audible hum. The abrupt silence fell like a thunderclap.

The Federation President addressed his sister-in-law. “None of this would have ever been possible had it not been for the benevolent philanthropy from the people of your home world toward us throughout the past thirty years since First Contact. Please.” He gestured to a prominent control console on the opposite end of the chamber from the doorway through which the group had entered. “The honors are yours.”

Cimarra beamed proudly at her son as she traversed the chamber to the console, arm in arm with Cox’s father. The Valogran Queen took her place behind the console, her hand poised over the ignition. His mother punched her fingers onto the console.

“The temporal quantum core is active and operational.” Lessia announced.

The silence was shattered by eruptions of cheers from the crowds assembled in the city squares and parks shown on the view screen. The Presidio in San Francisco and the National Mall in Washington appeared as roiling seas of wildly jubilant celebration. No sooner had Slaavik switched off the view screen, the ceremony officially concluded, than the continued silence amongst those on the bridge was broken by the blaring of high-pitched alerts from the computer consoles that surrounded them on all sides, accompanied by brightly-flashing lights.

“What’s wrong?” Cox shouted over the noise. “What’s the matter?”

“We have a problem, Captain.” He heard Sarah’s voice say over the intercom.

            It was so rare for her to call him anything except “Will” or “William” that Cox knew at that instant whatever crisis they were dealing with was something potentially calamitous indeed. The group on the bridge breathed an audible collective sigh of relief as Admiral Hansen, her fingers flying in a blur over multiple keypads, finally managed to turn the alarm down to a volume at which they no longer needed to shout over it in order to be heard.

“What the hell is that?” Cox asked.

“Sirs;” This from Lessia, addressing the new Captain, his father and the Federation President; “If this instrumentation is functioning properly;” They could hear her fingers typing furiously; “And I am positively certain that it must be…”

“What is it?” Cox asked her.

“I’m not sure. There exists no record of any similar phenomenon like it in the recorded histories of any known world.”

“Describe it, Colonel.” Jarek ordered, addressing Sarah.

“I’m detecting what appears to be a displacement wave.” Sarah began.

“Like a ripple generated by throwing a rock into a lake.” Jennifer elaborated, and Cox smiled at realizing that the explanation was directed primarily at the engineer’s younger sister, who nodded understandingly.

“It resembles a ribbon comprised entirely of pure energy.” Lessia continued.

“What kind of energy?”

“Unidentifiable. It is a variety of energy no one has ever seen before, of a wavelength that does not appear anywhere on the known electromagnetic spectrum.”

“Size? How big is it?”
“Unprecedented. It’s massive, sir.”

“Do we have it within visual range?” Jarek asked and Cox was reminded that, before meeting his mother, his father had been in command of the first manned interstellar spacecraft ever launched from Earth.

“Yes, Sir.” Hansen confirmed a moment later.

“Put it up on the main view screen.” This Jarek directed at Slaavik, who nodded.

            An instant later, the view screen alit to display what looked like precisely what Lessia had described: A ribbon in space. Its blinding glow fluctuated in luminosity as it rippled and undulated across the void.

“What’s its rate of speed? How fast is it moving?” Cox asked, the first question that popped into his head being why the wave had not yet impacted the ship.

“Sub-sonic speeds, Sir.” Sarah answered.

“What is its source?” The President inquired.

“We don’t know.” Hansen admitted.

“Reverse-calculating its current course and trajectory suggests that it may have come from the sun.” Cox could visualize Sarah shrugging her shoulders. “But it could have just as easily originated at the center of the galaxy, for all we know.”

“What do we know, commander?” Admiral Hansen directed her question at Lessia.

“All we really know about it is that we first detected it far on the opposite side of the planet from us, and that we’ve never seen anything like this before.

“What is its ETA?” Jarek asked Sarah, knowing the former Air Force pilot would understand the acronym for Estimated Time of Arrival.

“We calculate that it will impact the far side of the planet Earth in less than five minutes.” Sarah answered, and Cox sensed her unease radiating to him all the way from the Engineering section. “It should be past us within the hour.”

“Anything more precise than that?” Admiral Hansen asked.

“Sorry, ma’am.” Her oldest daughter answered. “We’re almost as much in the dark as you all are.”

“Shouldn’t we warn the people on the planet?” Cassandra asked, the first time any of the others had heard her speak, her unsure voice sounding like the cooing of a mourning dove.

“We still have no idea what the energy might do to the planet when it hits, if anything at all.” Her older sister admitted.

“But they sure as hell can see it.” Sarah, apparently, had been watching the live video feeds from the cities and noticed the crowds of people streaming in surges away from the squares back inside their vehicles and houses.

“The wave will make planet-fall in ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five…”

Cox stopped listening to Jennifer’s countdown as he and everyone else on the bridge watched in awe through the view screen in front of them as what had previously appeared as a razor-thin ribbon of light surged in all directions in the void of outer space like a cresting wave, before crashing with a blinding flash down onto the planet’s ionosphere.

Instead of merely passing through one side of the planet and out the other, the wave of energy appeared to envelop the Earth as though swallowing it whole. The surface of the wave as it passed over the Earth’s atmosphere swirled and twisted in never-ending patterns of luminescence that Cox recognized as auroras, comparable to the Northern lights, except in the most dazzling array of colors he had ever seen. Then, as if blown from the Earth by a sudden gust of wind, the storm had passed. The wave sloughed off of the Earth’s atmosphere as though the planet were shedding a cloak, resuming its previous shape of a rippling ribbon.

“Contact the capitol immediately!” Cox ordered. “Find out if anyone was harmed!”

Slaavik nodded and sat down at the communications terminal.

“Hera;” He turned to his godmother; “You take the admiral and her daughter to Engineering immediately. Then I want you and Sarah to get Cassandra and Jennifer to the shuttle bay, in case we need to make a hasty retreat. “Mister President;” His uncle looked at the new Captain; “Go with her and go directly to the shuttle to get it ready. Mother, father; you stay here with us.” He instructed his parents, “Commander, you’re with me.” He gestured to Slaavik.

When Hera, Admiral Hansen and the President had left with Cassandra, Cox stood over Slaavik at the tactical station.

“Raise shields at full strength;” He instructed; “And reroute all power not allocated for life support to increase the polarization of the outer hull plating to maximum.”

Slaavik nodded when she had finished, and Cox gestured for her to shift over to the neighboring navigation and propulsion console.

“Increase the artificial gravity deck plating to Valogran Prime normal.” His father looked at him; concerned this might prove a burden for the humans onboard. Cox winked at the old ship Captain, assuring his father that he knew precisely what it was that he was doing, asserting a confidence level that he did not truly feel. His mother clearly sensed his unease, but kept quiet.

Slaavik must have as well, and she turned around to him with concern, he nodded to the console in front of her, reminding her to remain focused on the task at hand as they had limited time.

“Max out the inertial dampeners.” He ordered.

“Captain;” Lessia’s voice blared over his intercom, crackling with static interference; “It’s here.”

Cox needn’t have glanced over at his parents, standing staring dumbstruck at the view screen, to know that Trillaxian scientist was referring to. Cox reflexively reached for the nearest console station, slamming his hand onto the button for the intercommunication system. “Calling all personnel aboard the U.S.S. Equinox; this is Captain William Cox, your new commanding officer. The activation of the Temporal Core has resulted in a massive wave of unidentified energy approaching our location from the far side of the Earth. It will reach our position in twenty seconds.” He looked meaningfully at his parents. “To all hands, brace for impact!”

Even as he finished his announcement, he could hear Hansen counting.

“Five four, three, two, one…”

Slaavik had her feet planted firmly on the floor under the chair and Cox leaned over her, gripping tight to the back of the chair and spreading his feet wide apart in an effort to lower and more evenly distribute his center of mass.

Nevertheless, after a blindingly brilliant wall of light that forced them to squeeze their eyes tightly shut in pain swept across the chamber, overtaking Cox’s parents at the control console, both found themselves splayed out spread-eagled on the floor, having been thrown bodily from the chair as the bridge tilted and canted wildly first to one side then the other.

Cox felt his tailbone bruise as he was bounced up and down off of the thinly carpeted deck plating by the tremors that coursed through the ship, like sitting bareback on a horse galloping over hilly terrain.

All four of them were on the ground now, his parents giving Cox a fair approximation of what he himself must look like: bouncing off the deck like pinballs in a popcorn maker. The back of his head must have struck a bulkhead when he tumbled to the floor, because he could barely hear the once more full-volume blaring of the alarms over the ringing in his ears. The brightly flashing warning lights were gradually crowded out as blackness crept into the sides of his field of view. The last thing he remembered seeing was his mother and father clinging desperately to one another as they tumbled together off the edge of the raised platform on which he lay prone.

He could feel himself trying to get his throat and tongue to work properly so that he could call out to them, but was preempted when the strangely welcoming pitch-blackness void finally enveloped his vision, the flashing lights and blaring alarms fading gently, easily and lightly into silence and darkness as he lost consciousness.

Partition of Palestine a la Pakistan

•August 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

1.) Background:

The latter half of the 1940’s following the end of the Second World War with the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan was a time of the disintegration of empires and the creation of nations.

Britain had given control of Palestine to the Ottoman Empire with the Treaty of 1841. However, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First World War and surrendered with the Armistice of Mudros in Lemnos, Greece on October 30, 1918. The Conferences of London on February 12, 1920 and San Remo, Italy on April 19th led to the signing of the Treaty of Sevres, France on August 10th, partitioning the Ottoman-ruled lands of the Middle East. Contained within the Treaty of Sevres was the British Mandate for Palestine, which became effective following the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in Suisse Romandie, Switzerland on July 24, 1923. The British Empire would rule Palestine for another 25 years before the Israeli Declaration of Independence terminated the Mandate on May 14, 1948.

The British expressing their desire to terminate the Mandate had prompted the United Nations, established on October 24, 1945, to create the Special Committee on Palestine [UNSCOP] on May 15, 1947. The Committee made its recommendations on September 3rd, which were contained within General Assembly Resolution 181: The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, adopted on November 29, 1947. The result on November 30th was the First Arab-Israeli Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. By the time of the July 20, 1949 Armistice Agreement, Israel looked little or nothing like the partition recommended by UNSCOP.

Less than a year before the May 14, 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence and a little more than a year before the declaration of independence of the Pakistani National Council on October 1, 1948; the Indian Independence Act of July 18, 1947 created the Dominion of Pakistan on August 14, 1947 and the Dominion of India on August 15, 1947. The British Empire had ruled India for nearly a hundred years since the Government of India Act for the Better Government of India of August 2, 1858. In August 1947, following the Indian Independence Act of July 18, 1947, the Indian Empire split as though by mitosis into the Dominions of India and Pakistan.

The Northwest Province of the Indian Empire, or British Raj, became what is now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Eastern Provinces became what is now the Republic of India. Between 6.5 and 7.2 million Muslims were moved west across the border into Pakistan, presumably because it was closest to the Persian Corridor [now the Islamic Republic of Iran]; which was occupied by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until March 24, 1946; and the Kingdom of Iraq, which was occupied by the British until October 26, 1947.

On February 14, 1958, the Southwest of the Kingdom Iraq became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. On February 22, 1958, The United Arab Republic was established, which became the Syrian Arab Republic and the Arab Republic of Egypt on September 28, 1961.

 

 

2.) The Problem: 

I wrote this post after having watched news reports of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. I have watched the news every weeknight since then and each and every nightly news program, from The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC to the NewsHour on PBS, has led each and every night with the headline of the “War” between Israel and Palestine. This is more often than not accompanied with some form of accounting of the time; first in hours and then in days, and in weeks; since the “war” began. The fact that they refer to Hamas firing Cold War-era rocket propelled grenades and surface to air missiles; most of them several decades old; into the regions of Israeli that border Gaza and state of the art American-made Israel tanks rolling into Palestinian towns as being a “war” is the first oddity that I notice about the news coverage.

The second is that each evening’s news report includes a running tally of those killed and injured, and remarks upon the fact that the Israelis “seem to be winning”. The oddity here is that they report this as though it were breaking headline news.

The reason why I do not consider the conflict to be a “war”, and do not believe anyone else should either; is for the very same reason that the fact that Israel is victorious does not qualify as being news at all. Simply put, it all boils down to the fact that there exists no such thing as Palestine. Israel is winning precisely because this is not a war between nations.

The United States, the United Nations and the overwhelmingly vast majority of the nations in the European Union do not recognize Hamas as being a government, but rather a terrorist organization. They are quite right to do so, just as they were right to never recognize the Taliban as being the legitimate government of Afghanistan, as in spite of their claim of governance, the reality is that Hamas has no state to govern over.

The rolling of Israeli tanks and troops into Palestinian towns and villages was and is referred to in the news as being an “invasion” of Palestine by Israel. However, I am not convinced that this description is an entirely apt one for what is going on either. Firstly, as I stated above, “Palestine” as an entity does not exist. Secondly, the Israeli military is, if anything, “invading” a territory which they have already occupied for the better part of half a century.

 

Most historians credit the August 13, 1942 Manhattan Project at the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and the resulting atomic fission explosions at Hiroshima, Honshu and Nagasaki, Japan as ending the Second World War. However, although the United States became the first thermonuclear-armed nation at Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945, it did not remain the only nuclear power for very long. The United Kingdom of Great Britain became a nuclear-armed power with Operation Hurricane at the Monte Bello Islands, Australia on October 3, 1952. The People’s Republic of China became a thermonuclear power at Lop Nor on October 16 1964. The Republic of India became a nuclear power at Pokaran, Rajasthan on May 18, 1974. Israel became a thermonuclear-armed state at Prince Edward Island, South Africa on September 22, 1979. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan became a nuclear nation at Chaghai, Balochistan on May 28, 1998.

            As the character of President of the United States Josiah Bartlet, played by Ramon Estevez [Martin Sheen], states in the February 11, 2004 season 5 episode 13, entitled “The Warfare of Genghis Khan”, of the NBC television drama “The West Wing”, written by Aaron Sorkin:

Proliferation breeds proliferation. China’s bomb produced India’s. India’s begat Pakistan’s.”

 

In the January 5, 2000 season 1 episode 11 and the January 12th episode 12, entitled “He Shall From Time To Time”, of the “The West Wing” the character of British Ambassador John Marbury, played by Welsh actor Roger Rees, describes the possibility of a thermonuclear war between India and Pakistan to President Bartlet this way:

Mr. President, for several centuries, my kingdom has ruled India with a stick and carrot. When we had a particular problem with someone, one solution we would try is to make him a maharaja. That’s kind of regional king. We would pay him off with an annual tribute, and in return he would be loyal to the crown. You’ve been paying the world off since the industrial age. Foreign aid, during the Cold War was you paying dictators to be on your side. To this very day, you pay Korea not to develop nuclear weapons. It’s the price you pay for being rich, free and alive all at the same time, and for the criminally negligent behavior of your Congress in not checking the proliferation of nuclear devices…Happily ensconced in the cocoon of your Cold War victory, you are woefully ignorant of the powerful historical agents in Asia. The global triumph of the economic free market has created the illusory assumption that the world is drawing itself closer together. Your Congress has been pathetically inept at halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons in this region, and your intelligence gathering is weak. India and Pakistan have fought three wars in the half-century since they have gained their independence, with god knows how many skirmished in between. It is about religion, and I can assure you, they do not share our fear of the bomb. You’re all frightened. As well you should be. Not since the Protestant-Catholic wars of the 16th Century has Western society known anything remotely comparable to the subcontinent’s religious malevolence. To a lesser observer, the intensity of the emotional frenzy is so illogical as to border on mass psychosis.”

 

Like the Indian-Pakistani conflict, the Israeli Palestinian conflict is also about religion. Like the Pakistanis, the Palestinians are Muslims, who believe that their god, Allah, commands them to rid the world of any and all non-Muslims. Verse 123 of “Surat At-Tawba” of the Muslim religious text, the “Koran”, reads:

Ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near you, and let them find harshness in you.”

 

Verse 190 of “Suratu Al-Baqarah” of “Al-Qur’an” reads:

Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you…And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter…If they attack you there then slay them. such is the reward of disbelievers…And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah…Then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers…And one who attacked you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.”

 

Likewise, Verse 88 of “Sura An-Nisa” of “Al-Qur’an” reads:

The hypocrites, when Allah cast them back to disbelief because of what they earned? Seek ye to guide him whom Allah hath sent astray? He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him thou canst find a road…So choose not friends from them…If they keep not aloof from you…Then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them…Against such we have given you a clear warrant.”

 

Unlike India, however, which is a constitutional parliamentary representative presidential democracy like the United States, Israel is an authoritarian Jewish theocratic oligarchical dictatorship. The Jews of Israel also believe that their god, Jehweh, commands them to exterminate all who do not agree with their beliefs.

Verse 12 of Chapter 13 of the Book of Deuteronomy of the Jewish religious text “Pentateuch” reads:

If in one of thy cities, which Jehweh thy god hath gives thee to dwell there, thou shalt hear tell concerning one saying have been led away from the Lord your god by worthless people. You may hear that these people have been saying , “Let’s worship other gods.” Those gods may be gods you’ve never heard of…you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.”  

 

Likewise, Verse 2 of Chapter 17 of the Book of Deuteronomy reads:

If there be found in thy midst of you, within any one of thy cities which Jehweh thy God is giving to thee, a man or a woman who doeth that which is evil in the eyes of Jehweh thy God by transgressing His covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods, or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden…Thou shalt bring forth the man or the woman, who have committed that most evil thing to the gates of thy city, and stone that person to death.”

 

3.) The Solution:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have been ended before it began. 

The solution that I would recommend for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and that I would have recommended in 1948, is the same as the partition of India. The East of what is now Israel, along the West Bank of the Jordan River and closest to the Muslim nations of Jordan and Syria, should be made a Muslim nation of the Palestinians, much like Pakistan was for the Muslim citizens of India. The West of Israel, along the easternmost edge of the Mediterranean Sea, should remain a Jewish nation of Israelis, much as India remained a nation of Hindus. As with the migration that coincided with India’s independence the British Empire, any Muslim Palestinians living along the coast of the Mediterranean [in what is referred to as the “Gaza Strip”] should be moved east towards Jordan. Likewise, any Jewish Israelis living along the West Bank of the Jordan River who do not wish to become part of a Muslim state should move west to the Mediterranean coast.

As has been the situation with India and Pakistan in the nearly three quarters of a century since their independence from the United Kingdom, the nations of Israel in the West and Palestine in the East may very well still occasionally find themselves in conflict. With India and Pakistan, the conflict has historically been and continues to be over the mutually-claimed territory of Kashmir. With Israel and Palestine, most of the tension would most likely surround the mutually-claimed city of Jerusalem.

However, the situation would be much improved from how it is today. Palestinians would not be militarily occupied and oppressed by Israel as the have been for decades now, and the Israelis would not be able to claim as they do now that the Palestinians are invading foreigners in their land; as each would have a whole entire country, albeit a small one, to call their own. 

I remember hearing stories from foreign correspondents embedded with the American troops that invaded Baghdad in 2003. I remember particularly being surprised and more than a little disquieted by how little of a deal was made in their reports of the fact that before the American invasion the people of Iraq had wireless internet access, cell phone coverage and digital cable and satellite television. After the Americans toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the reports filed by these very same correspondents detailed how even the citizens of the capitol city lacked a source of clean fresh running water, and had just enough electricity to power a single dim incandescent light bulb for only a few hours each night.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that:

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.

Saddam Hussein was a sadistic madman. This cannot possibly be argued. However, as has been shown throughout history, what all such fascistic tyrants; from Octavius Augustus to Joseph Stalin; share in common is that if there is one thing that they are all ruthlessly good at, it’s governing. Adolph Hitler ordered the genocidal mass-slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children; but under the Nazis Germany went from its post- First World War ruin after the Treaty of Versailles to an industrial powerhouse that very nearly had the military might to conquer all of Europe.

Likewise, the fact remains that, under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi citizens who were not executed lived the Arabic-speaking Middle East’s equivalent of the prosperous modern Western lifestyle. This must be contrasted with the fact that, under the nearly decade long American military occupation, Iraq was for all practical intents and purposes effectively reduced to the socioeconomic prosperity status of an underdeveloped third world wasteland for its citizens.

The conclusion is that even the most morally, ethically, economically, fiscally, and financially bankrupt and corrupted government, if provided with an independent and sovereign nation to rule over, can deliver for its citizens a higher-standard lifestyle than can any occupying military force.

If Palestine were a nation, not only would it have a military of its own and thereby stand a better chance in any potential conflict with Israel, but it would also have a coherent and cohesive government that would by its very existence deliver to the Palestinians a sociological stability that they today lack.

The problem with the news contrasting the several hundreds of Palestinians that have been killed with the few dozen Israeli soldiers that have died is that they are not, in fact, comparing the relative losses of two competing militaries. Because of Palestine’s lack of a national government to provide stability to its sociopolitical infrastructure, and a military to contest such an invasion of its sovereign soil, the Palestinians of today stand approximately the same chance of winning their “war” with Israel as the United Kingdom did in 1982 of losing the Falklands War.

 

 

The reason why the Arab-Israeli War has not ended in the two thirds of a century since the initial 1949 Palestinian Civil War is the same reason why neither the Indian-Pakistani nor the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts appear probable to end anytime in the foreseeable future.

Verse 15 of “Surah Al-Anfal” in the Islamic “Al-Qur’an” reads:

Ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso on that day turned his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.”

 

Any conflict; whether it be in India or Israel, Pakistan or Palestine, in which both sides believe that they have the will of an all-powerful omnipotent god on their side does not have a viably practical resolution in reality.

Verse 58 of “Surah Al-Anfal” reads:

If thou fears treachery from any folk, then throw back to them their treaty fairly. And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip Allah’s purpose. They cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of armed force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”

 

The logical course of action, therefore, would be to contain such a conflict to as much an extent as is possible to one part of the world by isolating the states involved.

            However, the fact that both belligerents in the Indian-Pakistani conflict and one of the two in the Israeli-Palestinian contest are armed with thermonuclear weapons makes it impractical to effectively quarantine these particular religious wars.

            Later in the same season 1 episode 11 of “The West Wing”, President Bartlet [Martin Sheen] tells the Indian Ambassador, played by Pakistani actor Iqbal Theba:

My frustration, Mr. Ambassador, is that both you and the Pakistanis have nuclear weapons and a tendency to get cranky.”

 

Bartlet asks the character of White House Director of Communications Tobias Ziegler, played by Richard Schiff, how much he knows about India and Pakistan. Ziegler’s answer illustrates the problem faced when confronting religious conflicts between nuclear-armed nations:

I know that any war between these two countries that begins with conventional weapons isn’t going to end that way.”

 

In an odd sort of way, the world has been strangely fortunate in that it has been spared a thermonuclear apocalypse in substantive part because of the relatively late date at which Pakistan developed nuclear weapon capabilities. As Lord Marbury states on “The West Wing”, India and Pakistan did indeed fight three wars; The First Kashmir War of October 22, 1947, the Second Kashmir War of September 23, 1965, and the Bangladesh Liberation War of March 26, 1971; in the half-century between the time that India gained its independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1947 and the time that Pakistan developed nuclear weapons in 1998. Conversely, there has been only one war between the two, the Kargil War of May 1999, in the sixteen years since Pakistan gained its nuclear capability.

In a November 1995 letter in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the 50th anniversary of the August 145 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Cornell University Physics Department John Wendell Anderson Emeritus Professor of Physics Emeritus Hans Bethe wrote that:

As the Director of the Theoretical Division of [Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratory, New Mexico], I participated at the most senior level in the World War II Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic weapons…Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built since that time—one hundred times more than any of us at [Los Alamos Laboratory] could ever have imagined… If we fight a war and win it with [thermonuclear fusion devices], what history will remember is not the ideals we were fighting for but the methods we used to accomplish them. These methods will be compared to the warfare of Genghis Khan [emperor of the 13th century Mongol Empire] who ruthlessly killed every last inhabitant of [the Persian Empire, now the Islamic Republic of Iran]…Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various nations of the world can agree to stop this is uncertain.”

 

The United States is not only the nation that invented the first thermonuclear fusion device, or hydrogen bomb, on November 1, 1952; but also remains to this very day the only one to have ever used a nuclear weapon of any kind, in war or peacetime, against another. It is entirely understandable, therefore, that the United States leading a global international campaign in favor of nuclear nonproliferation, as Presidential administrations since that of 39th President James Carter have done, strikes many worldwide at being at best highly hypocritical of us. As the Iranian Ambassador, played by Egyptian actor Maher Boutros, tells White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, played by the late Emmy-Award-winning actor John Spencer, later in the same season 5, episode 13 of “The West Wing”:

The United States is not merely the only nation to ever employ such weapons—twice—but also brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust with the Cuban missile crisis. It is disconcerting to be dictated to by the only transgressor in human history.”

 

Nevertheless, the most cost-efficient course of coping with such conflicts is still to let the belligerents fight one another to whatever conclusion. On the part of the United States, this would require nothing less than the most restrictive economic and commercial sanctions possible.

            As a nation founded upon the principles of progressive liberal secularism, as set forth in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America on December 15, 1791; there is certainly legitimate reason to question whether the United States should even have any dealings of any kind at all whatsoever with authoritarian religious theocratic dictatorships such as the governments of Israel and Pakistan.

4.) Conclusion

 

Severing any and all trade relations with the state of Israel may very well be the most effective way the United States has to bring the Israeli-Palestinian war to an end. If there still exists any doubt of this, the thousands of Palestinians wounded and the families of the thousands more killed by Israel can attest to the fact that the lethality of the Israeli military is due in no insignificant part to the fact that the Israeli army has been heavily armed for decades via their sale and trade in American-manufactured military weaponry and ammunitions.

            Political satirist Jonathan Stewart said it best on the August 1, 2014 edition of the Comedy Central cable channel’s “The Daily Show”:

We [America] cannot be Israel’s rehab sponsor and its drug dealer.”

Sins from the Father

•August 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The First Persian Gulf War was from August 2, 1990-February 28, 1991 by 41st President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush Senior I. The Second Persian Gulf War was fought from March 20, 2003-December 15, 2011 by 43rd President of the United States George Walker Bush Junior II.

George Herbert Walker Bush Senior I was the 41st President of the United State from January 20, 1989-January 20, 1993. George Walker Bush Junior II was the 43rd President of the United States from January 20, 2001-January 20, 2009.

During the First Gulf War, Colin Powell was the 12 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Powell was the 65th United States Secretary of State.

During the First Gulf War, Richard Cheney was the 17th United States Secretary of Defense. At the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Cheney was the 46th Vice President of the United States.

During the First Gulf War, Andrew Card was White House Deputy Chief of Staff to President George Herbert Walker Bush. At the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Card was the 21st White House Chief of Staff to President George Walker Bush.

During the First Gulf War, Robert Zoellick was Counselor of the Department of State of the United States. During the Second Gulf War from February 22, 2005-July 7, 2006, Zoellick was Deputy Secretary of State of the United States.

During the First Gulf War, Paul Wolfowitz was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. At the Beginning of the Second Gulf War, Wolfowitz was the 25th United States Deputy Secretary of Defense.

During the First Gulf War, John Negroponte was United States Ambassador to Mexico. At the Beginning of the Second Gulf War, Negroponte was the 23rd United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

During the First Gulf War, Robert Gates was Deputy National Security Advisor. During the Second Gulf War from December 18, 2006-July 1, 2011, Gates was the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense.

During the First Gulf War, Stephen Hadley was the 3rd Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs. At the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Hadley was the 19th Deputy National Security Advisor.

During the First Gulf War, John Bolton was the 18th Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. At the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Bolton was the 3rd Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

During the Administration of George Herbert Walker Bush, Anthony Principi was Acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. During the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Principi was the 4th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In the Administration of George Herbert Walker Bush in 1993 and the beginning of the Administration of George Walker Bush in 2001, Louis Freeh was the 5th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

During the Administration of George Herbert Walker Bush, Sean O’Keefe was United States Secretary of the Navy. During the beginning of the Second Gulf war, O’Keefe was Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

During the Administrator of George Herbert Walker Bush, John McConnell was the 13th Director of the National Security Agency. During the Second Gulf War from February 20, 2007-January 27, 2009, McConnell was the 2nd Director of National Intelligence.

 

The fact that, as NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff wrote in his 2006 book “Hubris”, so many in the second George Walker Bush Administration had 5th President of Iraq Saddam Hussein on their “personal enemies lists” cannot be discounted as being among the reasons why George Walker Bush invaded Iraq.

It is difficult to imagine that 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, had he been President in 2003, would have invaded Iraq without having so many veterans of the First Gulf War in his administration as Bush did.

President Obama’s restraint in this area is illustrated by the fact that, in spite of having a number of former veterans of the administration of 42nd President of the United States William Clinton serving in his administration, Obama has thus far at least managed to abstain from invading any of the few countries that the Clinton Administration went to war in during his Presidency. George W. Bush, on the other hand, Isikoff writes in “Hubris”, from the beginning of his Presidency made it a goal of his administration to follow up on his father’s invasion of Iraq by overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

Civis Americanus

•August 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The other night, I was watching the September 25, 2002 Season 4 premier of the Emmy-Award –winning NBC drama “The West Wing”, entitled “20 Hours in America”, written by Aaron Sorkin. The speech given by the character of Democratic President of the United States Josiah Bartlet [played by Ramon Estevez, better known by his on-screen pseudonym “Martin Sheen] at the end of the episode:

More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive…But every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we are reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.”

“The West Wing” was among the first primetime network television dramas to resume production in the weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Lower Manhattan and the District of Columbia. Sorkin did this with a special “Episode 0” of the show’s third season, entitled “Isaac and Ishmael”. In it, Bartlet explains his definition for a term that I believe has lost most if not all of whatever meaning it once had throughout the course of the two wars that America has waged overseas since then: that of “American Hero”. Near the end of the episode; much of which acts as a primer on Islamist fundamentalist terrorism; the President is asked by a young high school student whether he considers there to be something “noble” about being a martyr. After a moment’s thought, Bartlet replies:

martyr would rather suffer death at the hands of an oppressor than renounce his beliefs. Killing yourself and innocent people to make a point is sick, twisted, brutal, dumb-ass murder… We don’t need martyrs right now. We need heroes. A hero would die for his country but he’d much rather live for it.

Later on in Season 4, in February 12, 2003’s Episode 15, entitled “Over There”; after paraphrasing the famous quote from academic cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individual citizens can change the world”; Bartlet explains what it was that he meant in the Season premier by “reaching for the stars”:

We’re for freedom of speech everywhere. We are for freedom to worship everywhere. We are for freedom to learn for everybody and because in our time, you can build a bomb in your country and bring it to my country, what goes on in your country is very much my business, and so we are for freedom from tyranny, everywhere, whether in the guise of political oppression, or economic slavery, or religious fanaticism. That most fundamental idea cannot be met with merely our support. It has to be met with our strength. Diplomatically, economically, materially, and if Pharaoh still does not free the slaves, then he gets the plagues or my cavalry, whichever gets there first… No country has ever had a doctrine of intervention when only humanitarian interests were at stake. That streak is going to end.”

Even before I saw my first episode of “The West Wing” my sophomore year in high school in the spring of 2004; ever since that September morning in my seventh grade English class when I watched live on national television as a Boeing 747 flew into a skyscraper in New York City; I have believed fervently that because the disrespect that Americans receive overseas, which I experienced firsthand when I traveled to Ireland, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands after my graduation from high school, is tolerated is reason why there exist those who feel safe in perpetrating violence against Americans.

Even though I was alive when the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1990, at the age of two I was not yet cognizant or even conscious of the intricacies and complexities of the events that had preceded that. I was not yet born for all but the last couple of years of the Cold War between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but since the sixth grade, I have dedicated myself to the study of American and European history.

A ubiquitous misconception, I believe, about the Cold war was that it was a competition on a level playing field between two equally matched post-World War II global superpowers. From what I know of the Soviet Union, I believe this common wisdom is misguided at best. The reality, as I see it, was that the Soviet Union never truly attained the status of a superpower. Judging by the standard of living of its population, it should not have even been included within the list of first-world developed nations at all. What bankrupted the Soviet Union and led to its collapse was its pretending to be on a level with the United States that it never really was.

However, I recognize that the question of whether or not the Soviet Union was ever a superpower is debatable. What is not debatable, or at least was not until the relatively recent rise of China onto the world stage, is that the United States is the only superpower left in the world today.

I recognize also the dangers posed by those, such as the recent George Walker Bush II/ Richard Cheney administration, who believe that the best way for the United States to show the rest of the world that it is a superpower is by doing what they believe to be acting like one and for all practical intents and purposes effectively conquering the world.

However, I do believe that what is necessary in order for America to remain a superpower is for us to be treated like one. This view was best expressed by President Bartlet in October 6, 1999’s Season 1 Episode 3 of “The West Wing”, entitled, “A Proportional Response”:

Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus — I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens. Where is the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this Earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of humankind comes crashing down on your house? … Let the word ring forth, from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American; we do not come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster!”

            In my the speculative fiction novels that I write; which center around the lead female character of a fictional future President of the United States; I have termed this foreign policy ideology, which I myself share, the “Civis Romanus Doctrine”. However, I should add that I have recently been considering changing the name to the perhaps more fitting “Civis Americanus” doctrine.

            I recognize that America’s recent experience with the Bush/Cheney administrations campaign to, they claimed, spread American-style democracy to far-flung parts of the world might make such an omnipresent interventionist foreign policy seem like just the same kind of global conquest. However, I would like a superpower to ensure that no human rights violations take place anywhere in the world. As this is not entirely realistic, at least at present, I would be willing to settle for a superpower that at the very least ensures that the human rights of its own citizens go unviolated.

            As the United States spends more of its budget on its military than the next more than two dozen nations put together combined, I believe the utilization of these tax dollars to ensure that the American citizens who pay them can go wherever they wish free from fear is quite literally the very least that we can reasonably be expected to ask from the government we elect.

            Then again, “Civis Americanus”, at least at present, still only exists in fiction.

War Profiteering

•August 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Warfare being profitable is nothing particularly new. If anything, it is a concept that is as old as warfare itself. The overwhelmingly vast majority of all wars in the known recorded history of human civilization have been waged either over or for resources of some kind, be it food or gold.

The industrial revolution of the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries changed not only the scale on which warfare was waged, as was illustrated by the outbreak of the First World war on an industrial scale in 1914, but also whom it was that profited from war. In centuries past, the government of the nation that won the war was the one to profit from the war and its outcome. With the industrial age, the profitability of war shifted from the governments of nations to privately owned and operated corporations.

Government leaders have been using whatever medium was available to them at the time to propagandize warfare since before the time of Alexander the Great in the late fourth century BCE. However, with the shift of war to private corporations, the executives thereof struck upon a way to make even more profit from war than they already did from their sale of the weapons being used to fight the war itself.

Since the time of the ancient Roman Empire, it has been known that if there is one thing that human beings will be ready and willing to spend more of their money on than anything else; including such vital necessities as food, water and shelter; it is entertainment. The Romans knew better than most the hedonistic citizenry’s enjoyment of bloody physical violence and death as a form of entertainment. The most overwhelmingly popular Emperors of Rome in its history were those who poured vast quantities of their taxpayers’ monies into the construction of megalithic arenas in which tens of thousands of cheering spectators could watch captured foreign enemy slaves fight one another in bloody gladiatorial battles to the death.

The invention of film in the early twentieth century permitted governments to propagandize warfare in a wholly new and unprecedented way: By producing feature-length motion pictures carefully designed to get their audience excited about the prospect of going to war. This method was first used to masterful effect by mid-twentieth century German Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler in his notorious 1935 propaganda film “The Triumph of the Will”. Similar techniques would be used nearly a decade later by the American government against both the Nazi Germans and the Empire of Japan throughout the Second World War.

However; since June 5, 1942 was the last time that the United States Congress issued a formal declaration of war, as it is legally required to do by Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution of the United States of America,; the American government has since; in the “wars” that the American military has fought in since the Second World War, such as the invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq; tried its best to hide what actually fighting in a war really looks like, sounds like, and feels like from an ever-increasingly paranoid and panic-prone American public.

The corporations to who the government long ago ceded all profitability from the waging of wars, however, have anything but given up on their strategy of milking ever more profit from war by turning it into the modern media equivalent of Roman gladiatorial combat. They do this not only by giving their television networks’ ostensibly “objective” and “journalistic” coverage of the wars being waged all of the logo, soundtrack, marketing and promotion, labeling and branding, and production value of a major studio motion picture; but also by pumping out a seemingly ceaseless stream of video games, television shows and movies all of which portray members of the American military armed forces as heroes imbued with what very nearly approaches mythological demigod-like status, strength and courage.

This has the effect of not only getting hundreds of millions of Americans who otherwise could not care less what their government does overseas excited into an irrational frenzied hysteria beyond all reason for even the merest prospect of there being any sort of war, but also setting those fighting the wars even further apart from the citizenry whom they are ostensibly fighting for than they would otherwise already be geographically.

The only time that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Americans ever even so much as hear the names or see the faces of the fighting soldiers is when their dead bodies are brought home in boxes; at which time the media immediately promotes these corpses, regardless of the worth or value of their deeds in life, to the status of being “American Heroes”, who are then revered by their audience as being somehow superhuman in their bravery and courage.

This self-perpetuating circle of mutually-exculpatory self-congratulation between the government, the military, corporation and the media rose to such a frenzied pitch in the early twenty-first century that then and now the parents, children, spouses and families of soldiers crippled or killed in war who choose to utilize their family members’ god-like status in society to oppose America getting involved in even more and longer-lasting wars are derided; by the government then and by the corporate-owned media now; as being “anti-American”, “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”.

The classic example of this is that of Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed during the George W. Bush Junior administrations illegal and unprovoked military invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq in 2003; and who protested against the administration’s nearly decade-long “war” in Iraq by camping outside Bush’s ranch in Crawford Texas, where the unelected “President” spent more than one whole 365-day year out of his first four-year term in office “clearing brush”, and demanding a face to face meeting with the President who had sent her son halfway around the globe to die for no good reason.

A more modern example is that of Bowe Berghdal, a United States Army soldier deployed to the nearly decade-and-a-half-long ion-fisted martial law American military occupation of the country of Afghanistan. After returning home upon being released from more than half decade in captivity as a hostage by the Afghani Taliban, Berghdal and his parents were immediately set upon, as was African-American President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama, by Saudi Arabian Prince and petrochemical oil multibillionaire Al-Waleed Talal Abdualziz Saud’s Republican neoconservative far-right Fox News Channel for being not only “traitors” but also “sympathizers” and “collaborators” with the Taliban.

Nothing, to me, better illustrates nor emphasizes just how far removed the American public has become from the actual experiences of war than the capability for tens of millions of Americans not only to support keeping dozens of presumably innocent foreign citizens detained in offshore prisons and internment camps in other countries for nearly a decade and half without charges, representation or trial; but to also accuse an American soldier held for more than half a decade in foreign enemy hands of “giving aid and comfort” to our nation’s enemies.

Old Media…. The Oldest, in fact.

•August 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Many people would count the harnessing of fire and the domestication of wild animals as the crowning achievements of the human species during our time on this planet. However, I beg to differ.

            For a billion years, animals on Earth have been limited in what they are able to accomplish by the fact that even the longest-lived among them must eventually die. Whenever a sentient being dies, all that they have learned throughout their lifetime is lost forever. The advent of human speech; a result of the unique evolution of the lungs, throat and mouth in one particular Genus of the Hominid Family of Great Apes; aided in this predicament significantly by limiting what was lost upon death to only that which could not be passed on verbally and orally to others and to the next generation. However, as scientists proved in the late twentieth century, the capacity to pass on knowledge by teaching from one generation to the next is anything but unique to humans.

            However, after millions of years of our species making little or no appreciably substantive progress toward anything that could even remotely be called civilized society, several thousand years ago human beings; and humans alone, uniquely amongst all of the hundreds of billions of species that had preceded our evolution and the billions of species with which we share the Earth today; struck upon what I believe to be quite possible the only true path to genuine immortality.

            It began, as far as anyone knows, simply enough with a lump of clay and a sharpened reed: A couple of simple scratch marks made in a line. From these modest beginnings would come a human invention that would singlehandedly, I would argue, make our species; one with weaker bones and muscles, duller teeth, and poorer eyesight, hearing and smell than so many others; the thus far unchallenged dominant force on the planet Earth. With the invention of the written word human gained the capability not only to record far more of their thoughts, feelings, opinions, positions and beliefs than one could ever relate aloud verbally, even if given a dozen human lifespans; but also to transmit those thoughts not just to the next successive generation, but to people living thousands of miles away and hundreds of years into the future.

            For example: The classical Greek philosophers Socrates, his student Plato, and Plato’s student Aristotle were all born in the fourth and fifth centuries BCE. However today, in the twenty-first century CE, nearly three thousand years after the death of Aristotle in the late fourth century BCE, their opinions and positions on politics and ethics are still required reading by students from elementary school to graduate school in North America: An entire continent, one of two in a whole hemisphere, that no one living in Greece at Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s time even knew existed at all.

            Almost immediately, the invention of the written word sparked a sort of space race between civilizations throughout the Old World; with cities competing to invent ever-new and better methods of conveying written messages across ever-greater distances.

            The domestication of the horse provided a method of transmitting word from place to place that would not be outdone for centuries to come. Others used their studies of the flight patterns of birds such as the homing pigeon to transmit messages rapidly across great distances. The invention of the wheel permitted the transportation by horse of not only words but also people.

            Several hundred years ago, more than two thousand years after the time of Aristotle, humans discovered electricity. This permitted the transmission of words as binary code; beginning with the dots and dashes of the code developed by late eighteenth century American inventor Samuel Morse, as transmitted by early nineteenth century electrical telegraphy over extensive networks of wires that spanned not only continents but also, in the early twentieth century, oceans as well.

            From its beginnings, the end goal of this technological arms race was to get as much information as possible to as many people as possible in as many places as possible as quickly as possible.

            What many people, myself included, view as the epitome of this quest was invented in the late twentieth century; nearly simultaneously at two different locations nearly halfway around the globe from one another. In Geneva, Switzerland; physicists at the “Conseil Europeen pour la Recherché Nucleaire” [in French: the “European Council for Nuclear Research”, or CERN] developed a system for scientists to share data between them within the scientific community, which they called an “internet”. At approximately the same time in Fort Meade, Maryland in the United States of America, the National Security Agency; in the process of the intelligence-gathering mission for which it had been founded in the mid-twentieth century following the Second World War; devised a network by which it could connect simultaneously to numerous multiple computer systems in countries around the globe. As it functioned for catching international terrorist cells much like a spider does catching flies, the NSA dubbed its new invention the “World Wide Web” [the acronym thereof: “www” is still in use to this very day].

            The man who helped the United States federal government develop the web would go on to be the one to put access to it in the hands of more people in more countries than its inventors could have ever dreamed possible. In the mid-1970’s, Steve Jobs was a student at Reed College; a Liberal Arts school in Portland, Oregon; when he and a friend from Northern California, Steve Wozniak, built a device that allowed them to dial up any telephone line in any country in the world for free. Years later, inspired by computer giant “International Business Machines’ release of the first-ever “Personal Computer” [or “PC”], Jobs and Wozniak founded a company in the garage of Jobs’ Northern California home that they called “Apple Computers”.

Since the early twentieth century computers had been megalithic, filling entire floors of office buildings, and even IBM’s early desktop computers were far too expensive for any but the wealthiest to afford to own one. In the mid-1980’s, Apple released a personal computer that was affordable to America’s growing and prospering middle class; which Wozniak, sticking with the company’s fruit-themed marketing, named the “Macintosh”, or “Mac” for short.

With the turn of the millennium and the dawn of the twenty-first century came a new advent in the mass-communication potential of the computer: That of the first-ever wireless internet networks. Within the first decade of the twenty-first century, the phone that fit in the palm of one’s hand had attained a knee-weakening computing power that made that of the building-sized megalithic computers of only a couple of decades earlier pale into insignificance by comparison.

Given the genuinely awesome capacity fir wireless devices to permit anyone anywhere virtually unlimited access to mind-bending quantities of information very nearly instantaneously; it should come as little or no surprise to any reasonable thinking person that older methods of conveying written words, such as ink printed onto paper, are becoming less preferred by the upcoming generations of the twenty-first century. From the beginning the technological race to get information into people’s hands has been driven by two things above all else. For the providers of the information: Efficiency; and for the consumers: Convenience. The computer allows information to be nearly as easy to produce as the internet makes it to consume. As in any human endeavor, any system that permits both sides of supply and demand equation to get what it is that they want most out of something is one that is unlikely to be going anywhere anytime in the remotely foreseeable future.

Almighty Pupppetmaster

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The same way we characterize Sauron from Lord of the Rings, or Palpatine from Star Wars, any fictional character has characteristics, and the same is true for the god of the Bible.

Granted, the Lord of the Rings is one hell of a lot better-written than the Bible is. It’s better-worded, its characters are better-developed, its plot is more coherent, its setting is more realistic, its mythology is more believable, its more scientifically and historically accurate, its scenarios are more plausible… So it’s a lot easier to determine who, exactly, the real villain is in The Lord of the Rings than it is in the Bible.

With the Bible, you really have to read it very carefully, or else you’ll come away from it with the mistaken and fallacious impression that the villain of the story is one or more of the human characters. But they’re the victims.

The real villain of the bible is God, just as Sauron is the real villain of the Lord of the rings [not Thranduil or Smaug or Saruman or Denethor, who are all just puppets]. If you read the Similarion, then you know that the villain of the whole story isn’t even really Sauron, but Morgoth, Sauron’s master, an evil god [Valar] very much like the one of the bible (except substantially more believably realistic in his description).

Just like, from watching only the Original trilogy, you might get the impression that the ultimate villain of Star Wars is Darth Vader, when it is really Darth Sidious [Palpatine], Vader’s master; if one reads only the New Testament, one might come away with the impression that villain of the bible is “Satan”.

But Satan in the Bible, like Darth Vader in Star Wars and Saruman in the Lord of the Rings, is just another victim: a puppet.

Just as Darth Vader used to Anakin Skywalker, Satan was once Lucifer [in Latin: "The Bringer of Enlightenment"], the serpent in the Garden of Eden who gifts the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge to humankind [much like the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans].

Just as Anakin Skywalker was turned into Darth Vader trying to save his wife Padme Amidala and his twin son and daughter, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and just as Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing light and heat to humans in the form of fire, so too Lucifer in the Bible becomes Satan by giving to humans the knowledge of good and evil [knowledge which the egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered god of the Bible wants to keep all to himself].

Satan, like the ancient Greek god Hades is given dominion over the underworld, a place the bible calls “hell” and which very closely mirrors the Ancient Greek myth of Tartarus. In the New Testament, Satan is portrayed as a simile to the Norse god of mischief, Loki, with elements of Sekhmet, or Setesh, the ancient Egyptian god of Chaos [who was later known in the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, which directly inspired the Christian virgin birth nativity myth of Mary and Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, as "Setan"].

The original name for Satan in the Bible, Lucifer ["light-bringer"], was stolen from the name that the Ancients gave to the planet Venus, the “Morning and Evening Star”.

Venus was, in turn, named after the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, Goddess of Grace, Peace, Poetry, Marriage, Merriment, Song, Prosperity, Rebirth, and Eternal Youth, Patroness of Gardens, Vegetation and Vineyards and protector of the fatherland.

Sound familiar?

 
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