The Importance of Being…Well…Human.

•October 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It’s sad to see people kill something more intelligent than they are.

What’s wrong with killing for fun? Did you seriously just ask that? What’s wrong with enjoying killing? Well…EVERYTHING! There’s really nothing about that that ISN’T wrong.

I don’t condemn you for killing animals. I condemn you for ENJOYING it!

I will repeat again, since you clearly either would not or could not understand me the first four times that I said this. I have absolutely NO problem at all whatsoever with hunting. My problem with you is that you kill for fun. I have a problem with ANYONE who enjoys killing. You can hunt. That’s fine. Just so long as you don’t ENJOY it. I don’t want people to stop hunting. As I said, I eat meat. I just want people to stop hunting for FUN! And I want people like YOU, who are sociopathic enough to actually ENJOY killing, to stop. Leave the hunting to those who are actually, by any reasonable sense of the word, “HUMAN”.

If we define what is “human” by people who have a conscience, then you’ve never actually been human to begin with in the first place. So it would not be possible for anyone “dehumanize” you any more than the zero humanity that you started out with from the get go. Zero divided by anything is still just zero.

You stated that you feel no remorse at the act of taking someone else’s life. That indicates nothing if not a complete, total and utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a “conscience” of any kind. Most people define a conscience as being what identifies someone as being human, as it is what separates our species from other animals. Your statement that you lack such a conscience means that you are not, according to the most commonly accepted sense of the word, “human” anymore [if you ever were to begin with]. So your statement that I was “dehumanizing” you would thereby be a nonsensical non sequitur, as it is not, by definition, possible to “dehumanize” someone who is not strictly speaking human in the first place.

Feeling bad about a taking someone else’s life is called being “human”. That’s what separates human from other animals: A CONSCIENCE! The complete, total, and utter lack thereof that is required in order to actually EJOY the act of killing [as you have stated that you do] is called being a sadistic SOCIOPATH! And a very potentially dangerous one at that!

A sociopath is defined as someone lacking a conscience. You have stated that you feel no remorse upon taking another’s life. This indicates that you do not, in fact, have a conscience, and are therefore, by definition, a sociopath. You have also stated that you derive ENJOYMENT from the act of killing. Taking pleasure at the suffering of another is what the Germans termed “Schadenfruede”. But we named it after the French Marquis De Sad. Its’ called being a “sadist”. Hence my previous statements that you are not only a sociopath, but also a sadistic sociopath at that.

What is especially sad is that you have stated that you hunt and kill wolves and coyotes. Humans are animals too. We use the term “someone” to refer to an individual. We define an individual by their personality. Are you saying that no other animals except humans have personalities? I have lived with dogs my whole life, and so especially when it comes to the coyotes and wolves, I could not possibly disagree more. Canines have been scientifically proven to have a GREATER “Emotional Intelligence” [or "Empathy"] than humans. So you are, in a very real sense, hunting and killing animals that are more human than you are.

Because animals ARE people. And vice versa.

You DO know what a GAME is, don’t you? It’s something that people do for FUN. In your case, the “game” that you are referring to is called “cold-blooded murder”. It’s not really even a fair game, now is it? Sort of awfully one sided, isn’t it now? I mean, sure its fun for YOU…. but what about the OTHER side? Is it fun for THEM too?

Not every subject has two sides: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dgBCjmiDrw Sometimes there’s only one side. For example, here, there isn’t a “killing is bad” side and a “killing is fun” side. Killing SHOULDN’T be fun.

The fact that hunters need to dress in bright colors demonstrates everything that is wrong with hunting.

People ARE animals!

If you enjoy the hunting down and killing of animals, I here Florida is nice this time of year. Apparently it’s legal to just that down there:http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/28/trayvon-martins-mom-on-george-zimmerman-he-hunted-my-son-like-an-animal/ You have stated that you enjoy killing animals. Why stop at some but not others? What’s stopping you? A conscience? You’ve already demonstrated that you don’t have one. So there’s nothing standing in your way. The pull of a trigger that it takes to kill a wolf or a coyote is the exact same pull of a trigger that it takes to kill a person. It’s the exact same motion of your finger. It’s not any harder when it’s a human. Not if you’re not burned with a conscience [which you are not]. It’s not any easier when it’s a wolf or a coyote [even thought they are far more human than you are]. So really…what’s stopping you?

That’s why I think that guns should be banned from use in hunting. If you’re not competent enough to at least learn how to use a bow and arrow, become a vegetarian. Personally, I think that guns should be banned form the civilian population altogether, but that’s a separate issue altogether [although, since we were on the subject of murder, not so entirely separate after all]

If you enjoy killing some animals, which you have stated that you do, why wouldn’t it be just as fun killing others? One would think it would actually be MORE fun, since it would be more of a challenge [unlike the defenseless animals you're used to killing, humans would fight back].

NOW can you see why I’m concerned?

I, for one, have stated repeatedly that I have no problem whatsoever with hunting. My problem is with the people who do it for FUN. For “the thrill of the kill”. This is not the trait of a human being with a conscience. It is the trait of a psychopathic serial killer. I, for myself, have always had a problem with sociopaths. The most jarring thing for me about threads such as this one is encountering people like you who DON’T. Again, my problem is not with the fact that you kill animals. I eat meat too. My problem is that you have stated, without any seeming awareness of the psychotic nature of such a statement, that you derive PLEASURE, HAPPINESS and ENJOYMENT from the act of cold-blooded murder. This is a problem for me, as I think it should be for any sane person in their right mind. Because it means that you are, by definition, a sociopath. And even living in the same WORLD as someone like you is not something I am comfortable with. That is what worries me. Because I am, after all, just as much an animal as the ones that you have stated that you so enjoy murdering.

Since we have established that bears, wolves and coyotes pose no threat to you or your family, let us turn then to the animals that do: Your human neighbors. Particularly the one who are, like you, heavily armed and who, like you, enjoy murdering for fun. I know that if I were one of your neighbors, knowing that you possess deadly weapons and that cold-blooded murder is among your hobbies, I would most certainly fear for my own life and those of my loved ones. And rightly so. Because anyone who can live next door to a bloodthirsty sadistic sociopath like you and not be afraid needs to have their own head examined as ell as their neighbor’s.

Serial killers are usually defined by the “thrill” that they get from the act of killing, and how they treat it as if it were a “game”. These are both things that you have stated that you do too. Hence my statement that you display the textbook symptomatic traits of being a serial killer.

So you have problems with domestication? I would take that up with the Ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia if I were you. They’re the ones who started that damned Neolithic Revolution! Damn them for farming wheat and feeding the world! Damn them all to hell! Am I right?
Domestication is evil! Down with agriculture! To hell with the 3/4ths of the world’s population that subsists almost entirely on grains! We need to stop farming right now! Back to hunting and gathering!
Down with cities and civilizations!

Who needs those things anyway! Am I right? Who needs a sedentary lifestyle? Who needs permanent housing structures? Who needs an economy? Who needs trade? Who needs government? Who needs leaders? Who needs laws? Who needs roads?
Back to the land!

I just find it hilarious whenever I hear a human being refer to any other species as a “menace”. Pot…Meet Kettle. This from the species that invented thermonuclear warheads! Pot, this is Kettle. Kettle, this is Pot. There are many words that I would use to describe the average human being. “Civilized” is not one among them.

And who, pray tell, decides what is and is not “legal”? Politicians? The same politicians who have deemed it “legal” for high school dropouts to wander the streets armed to teeth with military-issue-style high-powered automatic assault weapons and hundred-round ammunition drums full of armor-piercing high-caliber bullets? YEAH…Perhaps they’re not exactly the best source to determine what is and is not right to do?

I think you may be fallaciously conflating the term “self defense” with the phrase “cold-blooded murder”.

You don’t actually know what a coyote is, do you? If you did, you would know that it would be way more frightened of you than you have any rational reason to be of it. And as far as when it comes to wolves the fact is that more people are killed each and every year getting change out of vending machines than have ever died from wolf attacks. Wolves and coyotes are like dogs. They don’t attack people unless you provoke them. And bears only attack people when defending their young. So a bear, coyote or wolf comes into your yard, you just wait until they walk away.
Not every situation needs to end with someone or something dying. And did anyone die? No?
Hm. I wonder why that is? Maybe because wolves aren’t dangerous? Meaning, maybe…just perhaps… you SHOULDN’T murder them on sight? What, exactly, are you defending yourself AGAINST? That’s like saying that you’re “defending” your family against squirrels. Except squirrels are actually much more likely to attack you than a Coyote is. And they’re also much more dangerous, since they carry more diseases. I know of no person who has ever died from a coyote attack.

So you’re saying that you wouldn’t relocate them, but also that you wouldn’t kill them… And the alternative to relocation, if not killing, is … WHAT, exactly again? You’re not making any sense.

I thought you said you didn’t take trophies? But yet you’re PROUD of killing someone…I really don’t see anything about that isn’t psychopathic. Why didn’t I change your words to make you sound psychotic? Because I didn’t have to! You did that all on your own. All I had to do to make you sound like a bloodthirsty, conscienceless, homicidal, inhuman, murderous, pitiless, psychotic, remorseless, sadistic sociopath was to repost the same words that you posted. The simple reality that you ARE, in fact, a bloodthirsty, conscienceless, inhuman, murderous, sadistic sociopath took care of the rest for me.

Unfortunately, that tends to happen when you’re dealing with people who are dogmatically stuck in their ways. It’s too bad too.
You always start out thinking that you can help these sorts of people. But it rarely, if ever, ends up that way in the end. You never want to give up on anyone. But sometimes all you can do is walk away [or in this case back away slowly with no sudden movements and your hands in the air] and hope for the best.

As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous: “The First Step toward Solving a Problem is Recognizing that the is One.” You have recognized that the fact that you enjoy the act of cold-blooded murder is symptomatic of a deep-seated psychosis. Congratulations! You are well on your way to recovery!

“To Explore Strange New Worlds” Chapter 3: “Quo Vadimus?” September 3, 2014

•October 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Sarah Wells turned at the sound of the doors to the hangar bay opening and closing, and nodded in silent acknowledgement as her mother stepped inside to stand beside her.

“How is he?” Hera asked her daughter quietly, nodding to the man kneeling beside the crystal sarcophagus in one corner of the hangar.

“He hasn’t moved in hours.” Sarah reported, and her mother heard the emotion threatening to overtake her voice. Sarah, she knew, cared about the captain as far more than her professional colleague. Having grown up together, William Cox had become accustomed to thinking of the blonde alien as a much, much, much older sister.

Hera had often wondered in the recent years, however, noting the way in which Sarah interacted with the Captain, whether Sarah’s feelings toward him, at least, had not evolved into something more and different than the familial love she felt toward him. Knowing how attracted Cox, like all men, was to her daughter, he had never ceased to impress Hera with his stoicism toward the blonde. “You should go to him.” Hera encouraged her daughter, gesturing toward the Captain. From the way that Sarah did not even hesitate, Hera suspected that she had just been waiting being given permission to approach the Captain.

 

Cox could not tear his face away from the intimately familiar face inside the crystalline glass, even as they burned with the salty tears that streamed down his face and dripped onto the top of the crystal sarcophagus. The woman’s lips were frozen in a beatifically serene smile, her eyes lightly closed. Cox struggled against the reflexively denialistic recess of his mind that tried to convince him that she was just sleeping. He startled, nearly leaping to his feet, as he felt a soft hand on his shoulder.

“Are you okay, Will?”

He wasn’t sure if Sarah’s voice had been out loud or in his head, but her question triggered an unbidden rush of resentment as he sensed her mother standing in the doorway watching. “How do you think I’m doing?” He snapped, his voice a throaty growl. He immediately felt guilt-ridden for the burst of undeserved hostility toward her, as she sank to her haunches beside him. “I’m sorry, Sarah.” He apologized.

The blonde woman said nothing, but merely reached out to wrap her long arm around his shoulders.

He offered no resistance as she pulled him toward her, first laying the side of his head on her shoulder and then burying his face in the crook of her neck.

Sarah’s voice was soft as she felt his tears soaking the collar of her jumpsuit. “I’m so sorry, Will.” She murmured, laying the side of her cheek against the matted hair at the crown of his head. She too felt the warring emotions raging inside her threatening to bring tears to her eyes as she gazed down at the serenely peaceful face of Queen Cimarra of Valogra Prime, the woman they both knew in their universe as Cox’s mother.

The last thing she wanted to do was upset him or make him angry with her, but she also felt it important for him to leave his mother’s side here in this blasted-out corner of the hangar bay and return to his assumed duties as Commander of their new ship. Therefore she spoke slowly, choosing her words with care, but nevertheless sparing no honesty.

“We already knew she was dead.” She reminded him, lifting his face from her shoulder to look him in the eyes. “Albeit we didn’t expect to ever see her again.” She shrugged, as he nodded.

It was Cox’s turn to startle Sarah as he suddenly rose from his knees and stood.

“Well.” He said, clearing his throat as she rose too, reaching out to wipe the tears from his eyes. “At least we now have our destination. Don’t we?”

Hera had come up to them as they stood , and now both mother and daughter stared at their captain quizzically.

Cox looked from one to the other. “Well we can’t very well leave her lying here among this debris! Can we now?” He asked, as though the answer should be obvious.

“So where are we going?” Hera asked him as he started striding purposefully toward the doors of the bay.

“To put her to rest properly, of course!” He answered over his shoulder as the doors closed behind him.

They caught up to him as he stepped into the lift. As they stepped together onto the bridge, they saw the rest of their team waiting for them there.

“Jenny!” Cox called to Hansen as he resumed his stride down to the Captain’s chair, patting her on the shoulder. “Get down to main Engineering and get the engines back online.” Hansen spun to look at him. “You’re my—the ship’s Chief Engineer, remember?” He corrected himself, looking her directly in the eyes. “Call me when you’re done.”. He patted her on the shoulder again before he continued on. “Sarah, you’re the pilot.” He called over his shoulder, gesturing to the front of the bridge. “You have the helm.” He sat down in the Captain’s chair as though it had always belonged to him. “Set course for Valogra Prime.”

Sarah smiled at her mother, both of them now understanding his words from the hangar. “Aye, Captain.” She sat at the front console, her fingers flying over the controls.

“Lieutenant Odanox.” Cox called, and Lessia hurried down to stand in front of him.

“Yes, Captain?”

“I hereby officially accept your credentials as Science Officer.” He told her.

The Trillaxian heiress beamed at this callback to their meeting on the bridge of the Equinox. “Thank you, Captain.” She nodded.

Cox returned the nod. “To you station, Lieutenant.” He gestured behind him.

Lessia saluted and moved to sit at the bridge’s science station.

“Commander Slaavik, you’re my new Chief of Security.” Cox told the Valogran woman. “You’re also my Second in Command.” He stood and turned toward the doors to the Captain’s ready room. “Therefore, you have the bridge, Commander.”

When he was gone, all present on the bridge looked at one another for a long several minutes, shocked by the sudden transformation of the man in the prison jumpsuit who only minutes earlier had been weeping uncontrollably by his dead mother’s casket into the authoritative Commanding Officer of a starship. Then all of them set to work at their assigned duties.

 

When Cox entered his ready room, he was startled to see that it was already occupied. A woman stood in front of the full-length mirror in the neighboring quarters, fixing her dark brown hair, streaked with highlights of red, up into a bob. Cox recognized her face in the reflection, but at the same time almost didn’t recognize her at all given the differences in her appearance from the last time that he had seen her.

Seeing him approach behind her, Meagierthiea finished fixing her hair and instead ran her hands down to straighten the sleeveless burgundy V-neck leather-like top that she wore. The top had low cutout square neckline that displayed her deeply tanned décolletage, and a miniskirt like the coat tails of a under which she wore skintight tan-colored legging pants.

She turned around and bent her knees in a curtsy as she bowed her head. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Captain.” She said.

Before he could think to censor himself, Cox blurted out the thought on his mind as he appraised her attire. “I’m glad to see you with your clothes on.”

Meg averted her eyes, a very humanlike flush reddening the skin of her face. “I feel like I must apologize for my conduct toward you earlier, Sir.”

Cox cocked his head to one side, interested to hear that the android retained he memories in spite of the otherwise evidently successful overwrite of her programming. “You weren’t yourself.” He reassured her, but his words came out slowly as he wondered secretly to himself whether she had retained any of Maggie’s personality traits as well.

“Is there anything you wish me to do to help you, Sir?” She asked, and Cox definitely heard echoes of the pleasure robot in her voice.

He smiled. “Now that you’re dressed;” He said; “I think it’s high time you met my crew.”

 

“Captain on the bridge!” Slaavik announced as Cox reemerged, and everyone stood from his or her stations. Their eyes, however, were not on him, as the stared unabashedly at the leather-clad brunette that followed in his wake.

Cox cleared his throat, drawing their attention. “Ladies;” He announced; “It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Meagierthiea.” Sarah in particular looked surprised, having seen her before in the shuttle hangar. “Meg;” Cox said; “Allow me to introduce the Chief of Security and Second in Command of the starship Endeavor, Commander Slaavik Khan.” Slaavik smiled uncharacteristically as she shook the android’s hand. “This is my Science Officer, Lieutenant Lessia Odanox.” Meg grinned as the greeted the Trillaxian. “And of course you remember the Endeavor’s helmsman, Sarah Wells.”

“Of course.” Meg said, greeting Sarah with a hug. “It’s good to see you again, Doctor.”

Engineering to Captain Cox.” Jenny’s voice came over the intercom.

“And that would be my Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Jennifer Hansen.” Cox told Meg, who nodded. “Cox here.” He replied.

“Subspace slipstream FTL drive is online, Captain.” Hansen reported.

Cox turned to the helm.

“Course for Valogra Prime laid in, Captain.” Sarah confirmed.

“Let’s go, then.” Cox nodded to her.

Sarah punched the button on her console and the deck underneath them lurched as the ship made the jump into slipstream.

ETA to destination: Two hundred and forty minutes.” Archie reported in Sarah’s voice.

“That’s Archimedes, the ships’ computer.” Cox explained to Meg. Then he looked over at her, a question having occurred to him that he hadn’t thought to ask before. “Where di you get those clothes?”

Meg looked around at their expectant faces, every one of them dressed in the monochromatic prisoner jumpsuits of the Empire. “The replicators, of course!” Her tone made it sound as though it was, or should have been, the most obvious thing.

“What’s a replicator?” Jennifer asked, still on the line from Engineering.

“They’re devices;” Meg explained; “That rearrange the different elements of the matter in the air, or in this case the ship’s atmosphere, at the molecular level.”

“And they can make clothes?” Jenny asked.

Meg nodded.

I found one of them.” It was the voice of Cathryn Krueloe.

“Archie;” Cox called; “Do you have the specifications for Federation Starfleet uniforms in you database?”

Affirmative.” Sarah’s voice replied.

“Access visual records from the launching of the starship Equinox.”

Surveillance footage available.” Archie confirmed.

“Replicate the uniforms worn on said date by Captain William Cox, Lieutenant Jennifer Hansen, Doctor Sarah Wells, Lieutenant Lessia Odanox and Commander Slaavik Khan.”

It was noted that he omitted Cassandra’s name, even though she had been present at the time, knowing that the then-twelve-year-Old’s clothes would not fit her eighteen-year-old self as she was now.

Cox turned back into his ready room and walked into the neighboring quarters. He opened the closet to find his bifurcated tricolored Starfleet uniform hanging neatly folded inside. He hurried out of his ill-fitting prison jumpsuit. He did not eve realize that he was no alone until he happened to look behind him to see Meg standing in the doorway. He resisted the urge to reflexively cover himself, but instead coolly turned to the android. “I guess you finally got me undressed.” He quipped with a roguish grin.

Meg flushed again with the reminder of her words from before, her eyes darting to the nearby tub, now emptied.

“Actually;” Cox said, running his fingers through his disheveled and matted hair; “That’s not such a bad idea, after all.”

Meg recognized he was referring to the bath. “Shall I?”

“If you would, please.” Cox discretely covered himself with a towel while Meg filled the tub with hot water.

Then she curtsied and left, closing and locking the door behind her. As he climbed into the water, Cox experienced a momentary regret for not having joined the beautiful android when she had invited him to.

He found that, even with her now fully dressed, he was not yet able to look at her without seeing the flawless vision that had stood amidst the steam in this very tub. He smiled to himself as he washed at the thought that the android would doubtless have done a far more thorough job of scrubbing every inch of his skin than he ever could manage.

Climbing from the tub, he excitedly donned his familiar Federation uniform. He shaved smooth the two-day growth on his face and combed his unruly hair. When he emerged again into his ready room, Meg was waiting for him. “How do I look?” He asked her.

“Like our Captain, Sir.” She answered with a smile.

“Lessia to Captain Cox.” The Trillaxian’s voce sounded from the badge on his breast pocket.

Cox tapped the badge with his fingers. “Where are you, Lieutenant?” He wondered.

“Deck twelve.” Lessia answered. “I’ve found something I think you should see.” After a pause, she gave him some clue as to what it was that she had found when she added. “I’ve called Lieutenant Hansen as well.”

 

Cox met Lessia outside a pair of heavy metal doors on deck twelve.

Lessia too had changed into the uniform of a Federation Science Officer, with a Lieutenant’s insignia on her collar. Like Cox, Lessia had combed her hair into a smoothly pulled back bun at the crown of her head, unveiling in full the intricate pattern of mottled deep brown spots running from her hairline down the sides of her neck.

They were soon joined by Jenny, dressed as she had been on the Equinox in a figure-hugging sequin bodysuit much like the one worn by her mother’s mirror in this universe. Unlike on the Equinox, when she had worn her blonde hair in a tightly-pulled-back ponytail, however, Cox noted that she had combed it straight down the back of her neck and over her shoulders.

Sarah was the next to join them and together they stepped through the doors. The three newcomers stopped in their tracks as the doors closed behind them and they found themselves standing in a grassy forest clearing on a bright summer midday. “What in the worlds?” Sarah breathed.

“I call it a “holodeck”!” Lessia gestured sweepingly.

“Holograms?” Jennifer dropped to one knee on the grass and reached out to pick a flower between her fingers.

“But solid.” Lessia nodded as she leaned against a tree.

Cox had wandered over to a stream that meandered its way through the clearing. He jumped back as a woman with below-th-shoulder-length black hair materialized half-submerged in the water.

“Hello again, Captain.” She said, in Sarah’s voice.

“Do we know you?” Jennifer asked.

“I apologize.” The woman said, stepping out of the stream. “This was the image that was already in the Endeavor’s computer.”

Cox only then recognized the voice. “Archimedes?” The woman nodded. Cox noticed that the hologram wore a maroon V-neck leather-like jumpsuit of the same style and fashion as the sleeveless burgundy top he had seen earlier on Meg. ‘Now he knew where she had gotten the idea for the look from.’ He thought. “So this is what Andromeda looked like?” He asked. Archie nodded.

Lessia moved over to the control panel beside the doors, and suddenly the forest dematerialized to be replaced with the crashing surf of an ocean beach.

Cox and Sarah jumped back as the places where they stood ended up underwater.

Lessia pressed a few controls and the seawater drenching their clothes dried instantaneously.

Incoming message from Commander Slaavik, Captain.” Archie announced.

Cox nodded and tapped his badge. “Go ahead, Commander.”

“You’re needed on deck ten of the Forward section.” Slaavik said.

“We’ll be right there.” Cox acknowledged, gesturing to Jenny, Lesslia and Sarah.

“I’d like to stay, if it’s all the same.” Jenny deferred, running the sand of the beach through her fingers. “This is fascinating technology.” She looked up at Archie’s hologram as she spoke, indicating she meant more than just the holodeck itself.

 

They met Slaavik in what looked like a combination bar and lounge on deck ten of the Forward section.

Slaavik held up an arm to stop them, but Sarah stepped one step too far and was met with the sound of girlish shriek and a spray of seltzer water from the bar top.

Who is that?” Cox asked Slaavik, careful not to do so out loud.

A dancer at this club, apparently.” Slaavik’s voice in his head told him. “A young Valogran woman.”

Cox nodded and stepped forward. He saw the figure of a woman rise from her hiding place behind the bar with the nozzle of the seltzer hose outstretched toward him in both hands as though it were a pistol. “My name is Captain William Cox of the Unified Federated Star Systems.” He said aloud, while simultaneously communicating the same with his mind.

The woman lowered the hose. “L-Lauriaina.” She managed, clearly close to teetering on the verge of hyperventilating in her panicked state.

Can we call you Lauri?” He asked nonverbally. She nodded. “Lauri, this is Sarah.” He gestured to the blonde pilot, who smiled. “And that’s Slaavik.” He pointed to his chief of Security.

“Y-You’re Valograns!” Lauri stepped forward out of the shadows, revealing the ridges on the bridge of her nose.

“We are.” Cox confirmed, and Slaavik nodded. Sarah, he noted, did not and said nothing.

Lauri came around the bar slowly. As she stepped into one of the many colored lights the illuminated the stage, they saw that she di indeed have the lithe and graceful body of a dancer. She was certainly dressed in a way that matched what had once been known in twentieth-century America as a “gentlemen’s club”, more often referred to as “strip clubs”. Lauri wore a bright pink mesh bikini bra with spaghetti straps and a simple wraparound polka dot silk dress seemingly made from a razor-thin translucent bed sheet.

“We mean you no harm, Lauri.” Cox communicated to her in the language of the Valogran home world.

“I saw what you did to the crew!” Lauri hissed. “You had them locked away!” Cox chanced a glance at Sarah. “Have you come to take me as well?”

“Why would you think that?” Sarah asked.

“You want the ship for yourself!” Lauri reminded them that she could read their thoughts. Then she stopped and walked toward them slowly, sashaying with a dancer’s practiced swinging of her hips like a fashion supermodel on a runway. “And yet I sense no desire to see any of them harmed…” She stopped and turned to Cox. “Except in you, Captain.” She noted curiously. “But even that hatred is only toward one of them.” Sarah needed no telepathy to know to whom the dancer was referring. “You’re not from the Empire.” She concluded. They all shook their heads. “Where are you taking this ship?” Lauri asked, gesturing out the nearby windows to the stars streaking past.

“Home.” Slaavik answered in the Valogran tongue.

“But you’re traitors!” Lauri’s eyes grew wide. “The Imperial garrison on Valogra will kill you all on sight the moment you set foot on the surface!”

Sarah could not help but grin as Cox outlined their plane.

“You forget, young lady;” He told her; “That we are not just any traitors.” She looked at him oddly. “We are traitors who are in complete control of the most powerful warship in the Imperial fleet.”

“So you intend to slaughter them?” It was more an accusation than a question.

“Of course not, my dear sweet child!” Cox almost chuckled. “That would make us no better than them!” He winked at her with a mischievous smile. “But they don’t know that, do they now?”

“I hope you’re a fine poker player, Captain.” Lauri warned, gesturing to he casino tables around them. “And we;” She gestured to her fellow Valograns; “And our people will have to hope for their sake that they do not dare call your bluff!”

Sarah had been watching the dancer appraisingly as she spoke, and Cox heard her voice in his head. “This stripper is far more than meets the eye.”

Cox nodded. “I agree.” He said aloud, replying to both women at once. “Follow me, if you would please.”

 

Minutes later, they were again standing with Jenny, Meg and Archie on the beach in the holodeck. After making the requisite introductions, Cox turned to Lauri.

“As of this hour;” He began; “I, Captain William Cox of the Unified Federated Star Systems starship U.S.S. Endeavor, in my capacity as Captain of this vessel, do hereby formally appoint you, miss Lauriaina, to be the official ship’s Counselor and unofficial Morale Officer;” He grinned at Jenny and Lessia; “And so grant you the field commission of the rank of Lieutenant effective immediately.”

“To Explore Strange New Worlds” Chapter 2: “Turn and Face The Strange” [Draft #2: September 3, 2014]

•September 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As on the beach, when William cox came to, he was once more convinced that what he was experiencing must be some sort of dream.

If it was;’ He decided; ‘Then it was a very twisted nightmare indeed.’

            The face staring down at him as he opened his eyes he immediately recognized from the mirror as being his own. There was something off, though, about this particular mirror image. It was not only its lack of the forehead ridges and brow wrinkles he had inherited from his Valogran mother. It was in the eyes. They were the same blue-green as Cox’s own, but not the deep pools he saw in the bathroom mirror each morning. These were as hard and as cold as sharp chips of stone. The coldness of those eyes became all the more nightmarish as Cox’s dark mirror reflection smiled at seeing that he was awake his mouth creased into a snide half-grin on a face that was at once intimately familiar and entirely alien.

“Your little scheme to instill terror in our population has failed.” The man spat, his face mere centimeters from Cox’s own.

Cox was very thoroughly lost, thinking that the man who shared his face was ranting incoherently. “What are you talking about?” Cox rasped; his voice hoarse from what he guessed could only have been hours of disuse while he was unconscious. “Who are you?” They asked together, Cox’s voice drowned out by his doppelgänger’s barking demand. The man smiled, sitting back to indicate that he was awaiting an answer before he would give one. Cox hesitated before retrieving his identification card from his breast pocket. “My name is Captain William Cox;” Cox, attempting to hand his doppelgänger his card, which was intercepted by an armed bodyguard, was still struggling to get used to looking himself in the eye. “Captain of the Unified Confederated Star Systems—” But the moment he uttered the word “captain” several of the soldiers, men dressed in jet-black military uniforms and armored bodysuits, broke into grating laughter. Even the man across from him smirked.

“A Valogran Captain?” He huffed derisively. “I see now why your scheme to infiltrate the Imperial Fleet has failed, Valogran. Poor background research on the rebellion’s part.” He looked Cox up and down. “A sloppy attempt at impersonating an Imperial Commander.”

Cox was feeling stronger. He sat up, forcefully shrugging off the restraining hands of two of the soldiers. “You never answered my question.”

“I am commander William Brooks, son of Emperor Jeremy Brooks of the United Earth Empire.” At the mention of the Emperor’s name, Cox jumped as the soldiers surrounding him simultaneously stood rigidly at attention, crossed their arms over their chests, pounding their clenched fists into the armored breastplates of their vests, before extending their arms up into the air in front of and above their heads with a chorus of the exclamation: “Terra Prime!”

            Cox’s still-sluggish mind translated the Latin phrase as meaning, “Earth first”.

“You, “Captain” William Cox;” Brooks continued, uninterrupted, as though he had not heard them, his voice taking on the sneer that Cox saw on his face at the mention of his title; “If that is indeed your real name; He paused and turned his head to glance back over his shoulder; “Which I doubt;” He shrugged his shoulders in resignation with an overly melodramatized sigh; “I am hereby placing you under arrest for the crime of impersonating an officer of the United Earth Empire.” He was interrupted by more of his soldiers appearing on the bridge.

“We caught another one!” One of them announced. As Brooks turned, Cox saw that the Imperial soldiers half-dragged, half-carried between them a still-fighting Slaavik.

            Cox could not hide a smile as he saw a couple of other soldiers trailing some distance behind the group: One limping and cradling the limp elbow and wrist of a dislocated arm, the other holding other holding the cloth of his sleeve to his still-bleeding nose and lips, his eyes already turning black and blue and swelling shut. The Valogran military officer had not gone quietly without a fight.

“Another Valogran.” Brooks grinned greedily like a spoiled child on Christmas morning.

“We caught her trying to get this ship’s weapons systems back online.” The soldier reported. “She already managed to raise the shields.” Brooks’ glance flashed back to the two injured soldiers, and the officer’s eyes followed. “We did manage to subdue her.” He reported, his words coming out in a rush as his body jerked with a pull by Slaavik at her handcuffs that gave lie to his words. “But during the struggle;” He looked sympathetically at his two injured soldiers; “She somehow managed to disable the propulsion systems.”

            Cox smiled to himself: Slaavik had been busy while he was unconscious.

            Brooks laughed, gesturing for the soldiers to shove Slaavik over to where Cox stood. “So when your attempt at sabotaging the Empire fails;” He leered at the Valogran woman; “You try to sabotage you own ship?”

            “Captain?” Slaavik leaned in close to Cox’s ear. “Do you have any idea what might be going on here?”

Cox tried to hide a sly smirk as he realized that the Valogran’s lips, centimeters from the side of his face, had not actually moved. “Evidently, Commander;” He replied the same way; “We are under arrest.”

What for?” Slaavik asked inside his head.

            Cox shook his head, indicating that it would be best for her not to ask that question aloud.

            Slaavik turned to glare around at the soldiers encircling them, many of whom were nervously keeping as much distance away from her as they could, after seeing the damage that she had inflicted on two of their teammates without, apparently, suffering even so much as a scrape, scratch or bruise herself. “Very well, Commander Brooks.” She announced aloud, seeing the other’s brow crease, as he couldn’t remember having told her his name; “We will cooperate.”

Brooks shook off his confusion. “What is the name of this vessel?” The mirror Commander asked.

“The Unified Confederated Star Systems Time Ship U.S.S. Equinox.” Cox answered calmly, meeting his duplicate’s eyes with his own unwaveringly.

“Time Ship?” Brooks laughed. “Do you mean to claim that this ship of yours;” He gestured to the bridge around them, indicating the Equinox; “Is capable of traveling through time?” He laughed, once more leaning in close to Cox’s face.

            Cox found that he could not hold the man’s icy glare and so his eyes dropped, glancing around at the wreckage all around them. “It was supposed to.” He said, the tremor in his voice conveying a sense of embarrassment or shame that his eyes, when they turned back to the man’s face, did not reflect. “But I don’t think it did after all.”

            The other man must have heard the earnestness in Cox’s tone, because he looked at him for a long time, before shaking his head as he stood.

“This man is obviously still hallucinating.” He announced to the soldiers who surrounded him. “I’m not going to get anything out of him. You.” His eyes shifted over Cox’s shoulder to Slaavik. “You are a Valogran.”

“I am.”

“What might your name be?” He asked her.

“Commander Slaavik Khan of the Valogra Prime Military Ministry.”

“A soldier?” Brooks’ eyebrows raised. “I’m glad to have you here, Slaavik.” Cox noted that he deliberately refused to refer to her by her rank. “Your compatriot;” He nodded to Cox; “Has been telling us tall tales.” He looked around at his men. Perhaps you could corroborate. This man;” He gestured to Cox; “Claims to be the Captain of this ship, part of some sort of Confederacy.” Cox bristled inwardly at his mangling of the Federation’s full title. “Is he then your master?”

“He is my captain.” The expression on Slaavik’s face told him she sensed his question was still yet to come.

“But by your own words;” Brooks turned back to Slaavik; “You do not serve under his command. So where does your loyalty to him come from, then?”

            Slaavik did not hesitate. “He is the son of the Queen of my home world.”

            Brooks’ response to this was not she might have anticipated it would be. “A half-Valogran hybrid?” He uttered the words with utter disdain, every syllable that left his lips and tongue dripping with disgust that bordered on revulsion. He burst out laughing. “Please!” He chuckled. “That is even more preposterous than his tale of this ship traveling through time!” Slaavik glanced at Cox for an explanation. Cox shrugged. “Everyone knows that every member of the Valogran Royal Family has been dead for years!” Cox stiffened with shock, his mind reeling and his insides wrenching painfully. Even more sickening, Brooks smiled as he looked around at his soldiers. “I killed their Queen myself!”

            Slaavik turned to Cox with concern, as he had to squeeze his eyes shut, feeling nauseous.

Mother!’ He thought, sure that Slaavik could sense his emotions as well.

            Slaavik, too, felt her heart constrict around her lungs as her initial hopes that the Imperial Commander was lying were dashed by nods from his men, making it obvious they remembered the events he was referring to as well. She reached out to steady the Captain as Cox’s legs became distinctly unsteady and he staggered as though having received a physical blow to his gut. “If I may ask a question.” Slaavik said to the Imperial Commander. Cox’s doppelgänger nodded, obviously used to Valograns requesting permission to speak. “What are even being charged with?” Slaavik spat, her ordinarily rigid composure disintegrating in that moment.

“High treason against the Empire.” The commander barked before she had even finished speaking, showing how unaccustomed he was to being addressed with such hostility. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, and his voice was calmer when he added: “And sedition against the Emperor.” He looked at Cox with a sadistic smile. “My father.” Cox startled as every soldier present pounded his chest with a baled fist with shouts of “Terra Prime!”

            Noting that Cox did not join in the chorus, his doppelgänger wheeled on him, stomping up to stand nose to nose with him. “You tell me, “captain”;” He huffed, his breath washing over Cox’s face; “If, as you claim, you are not a member of the Rebellion, then why is it you refuse to pledge your fidelity to the Empire?”

“We have never heard of you “Terran Empire!” Slaavik protested. “What make you think that we are part of this…what did you call it? …Rebellion? We are not traitors, nor spies.”

            “Please!” The stranger snorted at the question. “Look at this from my point of view, Captain.” Brooks said to Cox. He counted off his evidence on his fingers. “First Earth experiences a plant-wide surge of electromagnetic radiation, shutting down Earth’s electronic devices, including our defensive weapons systems. Then there is what our geologists tell us are unprecedented tectonic activity across the Earth’s crust. Finally, in a blinding flash of light, this ship;” He gestured around at the bridge; “Your ship, appears from out of nothing in low near-Earth orbit above the planet.” He turned back to Cox. “It will take us a number of weeks for us to get our surface-to-space weapons back online. But your plot to collapse our economy failed.”

“What is to happen to us now?”

“With shields raised” Brooks was saying; “Even if nothing can get in, we can still get out. You’ll be held in a subterranean detention facility until such time as you can be brought before the Supreme Court.” He glanced at Cox with an arrogant white-toothed grin. “The Emperor himself will personally preside over your trial, during which you will be given an opportunity to present your story;” He sighed as if bored already with the thought; “And your sentence will be decided upon.”

“Sentence? Won’t we even have to be proved guilty? Your evidence is circumstantial at best!”

“Not that any of it matters now.” The stranger said, to no one in particular. “In any case, as much as I have enjoyed this idle chitchat we do have pressing business with which we must press on.” He nodded to the soldiers training their weapons on Cox, and his bodyguards handcuffed Cox. “I am hereby confiscating this vessel in the name of the Empire.” He gestured for them to follow behind him, and then Cox and Slaavik were being manhandled roughly into the nearest lift and marched down the corridor to the shuttle bay.

            Already in handcuffs inside the sleek jet-black shuttle were Jennifer Hansen and Sarah Wells. The latter brightened visible at seeing Cox and brushed off her guards to stand and dash forward, throwing her arms, still cuffed at the wrists, around his neck. “Will!” She backed away to inspect his face closely. “Are you all right? What happened?”

            The soldiers eventually forced them apart and re-cuffed Sarah’s hands behind her like Slaavik’s were as they seated her next to Cox inside the shuttle, across from Slaavik and Lessia. The guards closed the door of the shuttle, locking the four detainees inside of a chain link cage, As they felt the shuttle lifting off the deck of the bay, Sarah looked around.

“Where is Cimarra?” She asked Slaavik. “Wasn’t she with you?”

“She’s gone.” Cox answered, his voice a monotone, as though in a trance.

            It took Sarah only the briefest of glances at Slaavik, who hung her head, to realize what Cox meant.

“Oh my goddess!” She breathed, her mind racing with the implications as she turned to Cox beside her. “I am so sorry, Will.”

            Had her wrists been free, she would have laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. Realizing that Cox was in no condition to offer anything but monosyllabic responses, Sarah turned again to Slaavik. “How did it happen? Do you know?”

            However once more it was Cox who answered, looking through the barbed wires of the fence at his doppelgänger with a chillingly ice-cold fire burning in his eyes that could have melted lead.

“He did it. He growled, his voice equal parts hiss and snarl.

            Sarah was silent for several long minutes as they coasted through the emptiness and silence of space.

            Then she tilted her neck to lay the side of her head onto his shoulder with a sigh.

“We’ll get him, Will.” She assured him in a soft murmur, all the while hoping fervently that he could not easily tell from her voice that it conveyed a level of confidence in the truth of her words that she was not even close to feeling. “I promise.”

 

            The Equinox had been stationed on geosynchronous high Earth orbit several dozen miles above the city of San Francisco in North America, and as the shuttle descended they moved eastward with the direction of the rotation of the planet below them.

            Cox stared unseeingly straight ahead of him. Sarah recognized the expression on her Captain’s face, having seen the same in the eyes of his great grandmother so many times. Cox had withdrawn into himself, and was descending into a shock that resembled a catatonic state. As they had left the docking back, she and Slaavik had switched places. No she watched as Slaavik pillowed Cox’s head on her lap. Hansen leaned forward from beside Sarah to wrap Cox’s outstretched hands gently in hers, gazing at the captain she had met for the first time only hours before with an expression of concerned compassion that Sarah had little choice but to admire.

            Her gaze was drawn away from the three as something she had seen out the window finally fully registered with her mind. She turned back to look again just to be certain. As a former Space Plane pilot before being made the leader of the Enterprise Starship Program, she had probably seen the surface of the Earth from outer space more than anyone else in the cabin with her. She wondered how it was she had not noticed it earlier, but there was no mistake. The West coast of North America, as Far East as the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the South, was nowhere to be seen. She saw only the blue of the Pacific Ocean and then the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. As they flew East over North America, something else about what she was looking at struck Sarah as being somehow off, but she was unable to place her finger on precisely what it was.

            Slaavik reached down to lift Cox’s head off of her lap and onto her shoulder instead as Sarah beckoned for her to lean over closer to her window. After so many long minutes spend in silence, Slaavik’s voice when she spoke, though it came out as something barely above a nearly-breathless gasp, reverberated inside the soundproof cage as though she had shouted the words at the top of her lungs. “Where in the world did the glaciers go?”

            With that, it clicked for Sarah as well. The vast ice sheets, a kilometer to a mile deep, that had covered the overwhelmingly vast majority of the landmasses in the planet Earth’s Northern hemisphere as far South as the city of Dallas in North America, for nearly a century and a half had apparently vanished without a trace. With that realization came the recognition of what it was that had struck her as strange about the Rocky mountain range. None of its peaks were snow-capped. There was indeed from orbit no ice visible anywhere except the South polar continent of Antarctica itself. As they flew East, Sarah noted other dissimilarities with the Earth she knew.
“Comet to that.” She heard Slaavik say. “Where’s Florida?”

On the East coast of North America, the Florida peninsula was also nowhere to be found. Even Delaware Peninsula and the Provincial Capitol of North America, the District of Columbia on the banks of the Potomac River off of Chesapeake Bay, appeared to have returned to the state of swampy marshland upon which it had been built centuries earlier. Then they were out over the Atlantic.

            As much of an expert in cosmology and astrophysics as she was, Sarah found herself staring at Jennifer as her mind raced, wondering what the activation of the Equinox’s slipstream drive core had done to the Earth. To her surprise; her mind, though it was ordinarily a slave to considering each and every possible alternative to everything, skipped over entirely any question of whether or not the Equinox was indeed even responsible for what she was seeing. The coincidence made the correlation starkly self-evident. Her brain was also, she recognized, an engine of differences in probabilities. The fact that they had launched from one version of the Earth but were landing on a seemingly entirely different one rendered any other explanation impossible.

She’d add it to the list.’ She thought, a smirk curving her lips in spite of their obviously dire predicament, as she recalled a line that an old friend of hers had once written in a book of his: Something about holding half a dozen implausible ideologies in one’s mind before teatime, or something like that.

            Slaavik had been bent over the catatonic Captain’s head pillowed in her lap, but straightened in her seat as they all felt the shuttle slowing. It was obvious that they were coming into a landing at their destination which, Sarah was surprised to note looking out the window, was precisely the same city from which they launched earlier that same day. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hansen blink and rub her eyes, doing a genuine classic double take, and looking out at the city Sarah could understand the reason why.

Towering above the rooftops was a conical structure composed of rusty-colored steel girders in scaffold-like cross-hatching. Sarah knew Hansen would recognize it from images of Earth’s history, as did she. The Eiffel Tower had dominated the Paris skyline for centuries before being demolished by the super-storm that ravaged the city, its pieces used to construct a monument on the site where it had once stood commemorating all those who had died in the storms. Seeing it standing again, fully intact, was like travelling not just to another world but back in time as well. The illusion that they were landing in twentieth century France, however, was shattered by the fact that theirs was far from the only shuttle filling the skies of Paris all around the iconic steel tower.

Whereas their launch from the Equinox’s hangar had been a jolt that had nearly bounced them from their seats, only Slaavik and Sarah even felt their landing, an even then only just barely.

They all squinted, lifting their hands in front of their faces as the shuttle doors were opened and their cage was unlocked. They did as they were ordered and stood, and were ushered to step from the shuttle.

Sarah was surprised to find herself within the encircling wings of the Louvre for the second time that day. It was immediately clear, however, that the old royal palace served as anything but a museum for fine works of art. The iconic twin glass pyramids had vanished without a trace, but the entrance to the underground foyer nevertheless remained right where it had been. Sarah spotted the Commander who had arrested her walking ahead of them.

“Where is it we are being taken now, mister Brooks?” She shouted, hoping that he would be offended enough at not being called by his rank not to remember that he had never told her his name. she was right. However, though his complexion darkened visibly as his face flushed, a sadistic smile bared his teeth.

“Processing.” The monosyllabic reply more closely resembled a feral animalistic growl than human speech.

            As they descended the staircase into the same subterranean atrium in which Cox had stood earlier that day, they saw a very different sight awaiting them. What filled the underground anteroom were obviously a combination metal detector and x-ray scanner, but one obviously intended to handle massive numbers. Sarah knew now what Brooks had meant by “processing”.

Manning the machinery was a woman with her pale bleach blonde hair pulled tightly back and dressed in a figure-hugging dark blue pinstripe sequin bodysuit. The woman’s eyes, when she looked up at the newcomers, were an unmistakable turquoise, but with an icy coldness in them that sent very real chills and shivers through Sarah, as though the temperature in the room had suddenly plummeted like walking into a freezer.

Their escort, however, matched her expression with what Sarah had come to regard as an equally chilling smile as he waved them forward.

“They’re all yours, Mistress Harper.” He bowed his head in an uncharacteristic gesture of deference.

            Harper’s eyes, however, had already left him as they were fixed solidly on Jennifer, who in turn was staring in disbelief at the nametag on the breast of the woman’s sequin suit. Sarah need only have looked at the aghast expression on her face to know what it said, but found herself reading it anyway: “Annika”. In spite of the difference in their last names, it was obvious that Jennifer recognized the woman who that morning had been Fleet Admiral Annika Hansen, her mother. Harper must have likewise noticed something familiar about Jennifer, as her eyes scrutinized every inch of Hansen’s appearance.

“What’s the charge?” She asked Brooks, her eyes not leaving Jennifer, watching curiously as Hansen startled at hearing her mother’s familiar voice leave the creased lips of this strange woman.

“Impersonating an officer of the Imperial Fleet.” Brooks answered and for the first time Harper’s gaze shifted to Cox. She looked back and forth from Cox to Brooks and back again for a long several minutes before shrugging.

“Until tonight, then?” Harper said in a tone that broached no disagreement.

“As you wish, Mistress.” Brooks bowed low, and Sarah smiled at knowing who wore the pants, literally and figuratively, in the relationship between these two.

Slaavik, however, could not restrain herself. “Admiral?”

Harper scoffed as she relieved Cox of his phase disruptor. “If wishes were horses.”

 

            William Brooks smiled as he saw how uncomfortable his prisoners were in their ill-fitting monochromatic jumpsuits. Jennifer and Sarah were walking awkwardly, clearly uncomfortable. Harper, he saw, had been very thorough.

Brooks was evidently perturbed, however, that Cox remained in his stunned catatonic state, as the prisoners were loaded into windowless bulletproof armored trucks.

“Where are we off to now?” Sarah saw Jennifer wince as she bent her leg joints to climb into the back of the truck, but impressed Brooks with the forcefulness behind her voice.

“To your sentencing.”

“Sentencing?” Sarah burst out. “Your evidence is circumstantial at best! Do we not even get a hearing first?”

            The look Brooks gave her was as though she had either grown a second head or lost her mind or both. “No”. He said, and slammed the cage door shut behind her.

 

            Sarah was relieved to see that the sight that greeted them when the windowless doors of the truck were opened again was the thing that finally snapped Cox out of state of shock. She had been able to calculate, based on the speed at which they had been traveling and the length of time they had been travelling for, the distance they had traveled but she had been unable to determine in which direction. When she saw where they had ended up, she understood why the sight jarred Cox back to reality.

            Towering in front of them was a French Chateau that had been built in the late eighteenth century and directly modeled after the royal palace of King Louis XVI at Versailles. Sarah knew its name, as she knew Cox did as well: Chateau Villette, ancestral residence of the ancient Parisian Saint-Chlaire family, Cox, Sarah knew, had spent much of his early childhood at the Chateau outside of Paris, which had belonged to his late twentieth century paternal ancestor Roseline Saint-Chlaire, the paternal grandmother of the first President of the Federation, Katherine Janney.

            As they were escorted inside the towering double doors under the close supervision of Brooks, their group was met by another detachment of Imperial troops that came bursting through the opposite door, this one escorting a tall blonde woman and one with maroon red hair. Jennifer Hansen’s face brightened at seeing her mother’s Chief of Staff, Cathryn Krueloe, alive and well.

“Commander!” The leader of the troops hailed Brooks with a clenched fist to his chest, the salute they had seen from the soldiers on board the Equinox.

Brooks appeared annoyed by the disruption of his triumph. “What is it, Lieutenant?”  

“Sir, We caught these trying to enter the palace.” The lieutenant tugged on the chain cuffing the two together. “I wouldn’t bother you with it except they give the same cover story as your detainees.”

“Interesting.” Cox saw Brooks straighten his uniform, sweeping imaginary dust off of his sleeves and adjusting his cuffs. “Who might they be?”
“Valograns, sir. Another one.” The leader reported to Brooks, and the tall woman lifted her head.

“Mother!” Sarah’s exclamation startled the soldiers, and the two embraced before either group could stop them.

            Hera turned to Cox. “I’m glad to see you haven’t been harmed, Will.” Her voice said, her lips not moving.

“I have never been happier to see anyone else in my life.” Cox actually laughed out loud.

“That makes four Valograns and two humans.” Brooks shook the lieutenant’s hand as the two groups merged. “Well done. Thank you.” The man saluted again. “It’s obvious they’re involved together. I’ll take them from here.”

            It made Cox feel inexplicably better, even in this foreign and alien place, to be surrounded by friends he trusted.

            The doors to the main hall opened and as one of the imperial soldiers nudged Cox forward, he noticed that the guard’s clothes fit far more loosely than the others’. He turned subtly halfway around, enough to see the helmeted and masked soldier wink at him. Then they stepped into the Chateau’s great hall, its ceiling rising out of sight high above, and were marched toward the it’s far end. As they approached, he could see now that the bench at the head of the hall consisted of nine desks on a raised tier overseen by an elevated pedestal rising behind them. As the doors closed behind them, a voice boomed throughout the chamber.

“This special session of the Supreme Court of the Confederated Earth Empire is hereby called to order.”

            All eyes were drawn to the figures, serious-faced no-nonsense men ranging in age from twice Cox’s own age to not much older than he, entering to taker their seats behind the podiums at the front of the hall, barely discernible at such a distance.

“His Royal Majesty, Emperor Jarek Brooks is presiding.” The voice said, and Cox skidded to a halt as he recognized the figure taking the pedestal as being Jarek Brooks-Janney II.

“Dad.” He muttered under his breath, his voice barely above a whisper, staring into the intimately familiar eyes of the man he knew as his father. He remembered what his doppelgänger had told them about being the son of the Emperor. ‘Jarek was the Emperor?’ He thought in disbelief, feeling a whole different sense of dread fill him.

            Fortunately, the others had already stopped behind him.

“The Court recognizes Commander William Brooks, son of his Majesty the Emperor.” One of Jarek’s fellow Justices proclaimed and Cox felt rather than saw Hara startle at his back, not until this moment having recognized the officer escorting them for what he was: Cox’s mirror doppelgänger.

“Welcome, father.” Brooks stepped in front of Cox, shooting him a reprimanding look, before dropping momentarily to one knee, mimicking the salute Cox had seen earlier.

“Greetings, my son.” The Emperor replied formally, nodding. “I understand you have something special for us this afternoon.”

Brooks beamed proudly. “Indeed I have, your highness. Justices of the Court and distinguished officials of the Empire;” He rose and gestured to Cox behind him; “My charges against this Valogran, obviously made over in attempt to impersonate an officer of the Imperial fleet, namely myself, in particular should be obvious to all.” There were nods all around the hall. “The Rebellion has been reduced to stooping so low as an attempt;” He glared at Cox in disgust; “However sloppy it may have been, to imitate me.”

Cox saw the Emperor nod. “Bring him forward.” He heard his father’s familiar voice boom. The loosely uniformed guard behind Cox, the one who had winked at him, nudged him forward to stand beside his doppelgänger.

“State your rank, name, and occupation before the Court.” One of the Justices ordered.

“My name is—” Cox was cut off as the guard behind him pushed on his shoulders with cold hands, using the butt of their weapon to prod at the back of his knees.

“Kneel when you address his Imperial Majesty!” Brooks spat as Cox compliantly dropped to his knees.

            He nevertheless looked up at Jarek with palpable defiance. “I am Captain William Cox of the Unified Federated Star Systems, Commanding Officer of the Federation quantum slipstream vessel “U.S.S. Equinox”.” He opted to omit the word “temporal” intentionally, remembering Brooks’ reaction to his mention of time travel and having no desire to engage this many Imperial officials in a similar conversation.

There was a chattering of derisive laughter. “A Valogran Captain?” Sneered one of the nine men overseeing the proceedings, banging a gavel. “Indeed.”

“Your majesty, honorable Justices of the Court;” Brooks strode toward the bench. “It is my assertion, as Commander of the Empire, that the electromagnetic pulse that shut down Earth’s electronic devices was caused, somehow, by their vessel.”

“What vessel?” The Emperor asked.

            Brooks gestured, and a three-dimensional holographic image of the Equinox appeared in the air between the Emperor and his son. “Is this your ship?” Brooks asked.

            Cox nodded, saying nothing. He found he could channel all of his fury, hatred and rage into an icy, stony façade that, ironically, effectively disguised his rage and frustration.

            The Emperor reached out and rotated the projection of the equinox with his fingers. “This is a very impressive-looking vessel.” The Emperor said as he studied the image. “Have you ever seen this style of starship before?”

            Brooks shook his head. “It is not of any Imperial design.”

            The Justices appeared skeptical. “Are you trying to suggest to us that the Rebellion has somehow acquired the technological capability to begin manufacturing its own vessels?”

“Such sophisticated technological advancement is far beyond any known capabilities the Rebellion has.” One of the other Imperial Justices added.

“Who was responsible for this vessel’s technology?” The Emperor asked.

“I was.” Sarah said, stepping forward.

“And you are?” Brooks appeared instantly transfixed by the poise and regality the young-looking blonde exhibited in spite of her prisoner jumpsuit.

“Sarah Wells of the Unified Federated Star Systems’ Enterprise Starship Program.”

“And you’re an officer in this Federation too, miss Wells?” The Emperor asked.

“Doctor Wells. And I prefer to be addressed as “Professor”, if you don’t mind.” Sarah corrected, growing bolder, with a dip in a courtly curtsy. “I’m a theoretical astrophysicist.”

            There was a rumble of muted laughter that echoed through the chamber. “You cannot possibly be a scientist!” Brooks scoffed, leaning in close to Sarah’s face to give his sneering words more impact. “You’re a Valogran!”

            Cox did his best to hide his anger at the look of disgust that crossed the Emperor’s face. In the world he had come from, his own father had fallen in love with and married a Valogran woman, his mother.

            Sarah said nothing, deliberately neither confirming nor denying the accusation. She infuriated Brooks by looking unblinkingly straight through him, keeping her gaze fixed on the Emperor.

            The Emperor’s gaze, in turn, had shifted from Sarah to her mother. He was eyeing Hara scrupulously, as if trying to maneuver the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place with his mind. Like her daughter, Hera too was glaring hard at the Emperor, returning his study unflinchingly, and appearing as at ease as though she was strolling along the banks of the Seine. Her deep blue eyes had frozen over into dagger-sharp icicles that seemed to chill the blood of anyone upon who her gaze fell, sending a visible shiver down the spine of the most powerful human in the galaxy as though he were stranded on a desolate wasteland in the depths of space. The Emperor appeared to physically whither underneath her heated gaze.

            Without even looking back at her, Cox could almost swear he felt the temperature in the hall drop palpably.

Brooks must have sensed the same, as his troops shifted uncomfortably. Unlike his father, however, Brooks was not too transfixed so as not to notice the flash of mottled skin beneath the helmet of the soldier at Cox’s back. All eyes were drawn to him, including those of the Emperor, as he roughly shoved Cox aside and seized the guard’s helmet. Even as he jerked the helmet off the soldier’s head, an audible gasp went up from the hall as waves of raven hair tumbled out of it. Brooks looked around at his audience as he tossed the discarded helmet away, knowing that the shock of a woman soldier in the Imperial Palace paled in comparison to what he was about to reveal next. Seizing the still-masked guard’s weapon from her fingers, he used its tip to sweep her long hair aside, revealing to all the pattern of deep brown spots running down along the side of her neck. “Not just an imposter! A rarity, and a first before this august body.” The nine judges leaned forward as her spots were revealed. “A Trillaxian female, no less!”

“Fascinating.” The Emperor recovered from his shock first. “For as long back as I can remember, I have never before seen a Trillaxian female.”

“Alive.” Brooks amended with a sickening smile. “Even their men make poor labor servants.” His fingers ran from Lessia’s hairline to her collar. “But their women, however, do make the most excellent wives.” The Emperor was forced to pound his own gavel as Lessia jerked her head away from Brooks’ hand. “What is your part in this?”

“I am the Science Officer of the Unified Federated Star Systems starship U.S.S. Equinox.” The Trillaxian stated, unfazed by the dramatic reveal of her identity.

            The chuckles from his men were silenced by a glare from their Commander. “Another alien scientist!” Brooks laughed out loud. “That makes two! Both of them not only aliens, but women!” Cox could see Lessia bristle, but she maintained her stoicism. “Now I have seen everything.” Cox saw Sarah’s eyes narrow as the crowd joined his doppelgänger in his misogynistic merriment.

            The Emperor, however, was not among them, remaining stoic. “State your rank and name for the Court.” He repeated the earlier request from Cox. “Lieutenant Lessia Odanox;” The murmurs magnified in volume; “The official representative to the Federation High Council from the ruling family of Trillaxia Prime.”

“You are one of the Odanox.” Brooks nodded, as though that was the answer to a mystery. “Of course you are. You must be. That makes sense to me.”

“Why do you say that?” Sarah asked.

“The Odanox were the hardest to kill.” He grinned sadistically at seeing Lessia’s limb muscles tense with barely-suppressed anger, and her lips crease. Cox became concerned when he saw her hands ball into fists, her jaw line set as she gritted her clenched teeth, both trembling with barely-contained rage. Had his wrists been free, Cox would have reached out to lay a soothing hand on her shoulder, but knowing that his doppelgänger was not finished he was helpless to prevent what he had the worst feeling was coming. “And they were the last to fall.” Brooks’ smile bared his teeth like a predator, but vanished just as suddenly as the soldiers restraining the Trillaxian wrapped their arms more tightly around her as Lessia launched herself, lunging toward her leering captor her fingers clawing for his throat and face.

            This time it was Slaavik who saved the day. Having somehow gotten free of her own shackles, she reached out to grab Lessia’s upper arms in vice-like grips. To Cox’s surprise, Slaavik’s touch calmed Lessia enough for Slaavik to hold her wrists behind her back in order for Brooks’ soldiers to cuff them.

“Enough!” The Emperor banged his gavel and the commotion in the hall was silenced. “By our laws;” One of Justices piped up; “Anyone who refuses to pledge their allegiance to the empire is shown to be negligent in their loyalty to it and is to be found guilty of the crime of high sedition against the Emperor himself. ”

The Emperor nodded as he banged his gavel. “William Cox, Sarah Wells, Lessia Odanox, and company;” He had never asked for any of the others’ names, and deliberately omitted any mention of their titles or ranks; “it is the ruling of this Court that you are hereby found guilty as charged on all counts of the charges of the crimes of treason and sedition against the Empire and against his Excellency the Emperor Jarek Brooks Janney the Second;” Cox huffed at the Emperor referring to himself in the third person; made against you by this Grand Jury of the Supreme Court of the Confederated Earth Empire;” Cox felt his façade cracking, knowing that the jury were merely spectators and had played no part in their conviction; “On this day, the first of April of the year two thousand on hundred and ninety five of the Common Era.”

This caused both Hera and Sarah to perk up to attention. The year they had left had been 2198.

The Emperor stood and the Justices dutifully followed suit. “As your sentence, you are to be transported along with your vessel aboard the warship Endeavor, flagship of the Imperial Starfleet, escorted under the supervision of Commander William Brooks;” Cox tried to ignore his doppelgänger’s sneer in his direction; to the Imperial colony on the moon of Jadzri.”

Cox needed not have even seen Lessia’s face to know the mention of the name struck a chord with her. Jadzri, a moon of Trillaxia Prime, had been the private estate of the Odanox family and was the birthplace of Lessia and all of her maternal mothers and grandmothers going back dozens of generations. To hear that it was now a death camp must have dealt a crippling blow to the Trillaxian heiress’s paradigm.

“It is by the order of this Supreme Court of the Empire;” Jarek continued; “That Lieutenant Odanox and Professor Wells will work to reverse engineer the technologies of the Rebellion starship Equinox for use by the Imperial Fleet. Commander Brooks will then return to Earth with your vessel so that its technology can be replicated by the Empire for its purposes, leaving you imprisoned along with the others on the prison moon to labor excavating and manufacturing the materials needed by the Imperial military for the rest of your natural lives, as long as the last of you might live.” The Emperor banged his gavel again, signaling the conclusion to the hearing. “This Grand Jury of the Supreme Court hereby stands adjourned.” The spectator filed out and he waved to his son. “The detainees are dismissed under custody.”

As they were being led out of the Chateau, Sarah reached out and clasped Cox’s hands in hers behind him and it was only then that Cox noticed that she had at some point managed to get her bound wrists from behind her to in front of her. “It’s good to have you back, Will.” He heard her voice in his head. He turned around to smile back at her, knowing she was referring to him finally coming out of his state of shock.

Cox and his team were piled back into the transport, which long minutes later deposited them at what he immediately recognized as the roundabout at the center of which stood the world-famous Arc de Triumph. Without thinking he turned around and looked North to the site where his great-grandmother had erected the towering monument memorializing the more than one billion victims of the global ecological cataclysm that had, nearly a century before he was born, been the impetus behind her founding of the Federation. Instead in its place stood what he identified as one of the destroyed structures out of the ruins of which the memorial had been constructed, the Eiffel Tower. With this reminder that they no longer lived in the world he knew Cox hung his head and rejoined his crew as they were marched south along the course of the Seine River away from the Tower.

It was Hera and Sarah who spotted their destination first. They found the very same jet-black shuttle that had brought them down from their Equinox waiting for them.

Cox was seated with Sarah on one side of him and Hera on the other, and Lessia was seated beside Sarah. Jennifer was seated across from Cox with Krueloe and Slaavik to either side of her. Jennifer was smiling at him, also evidently relieved to see him come back to them.

Cox’s concerned gaze, however, was on Lessia. As a member of the Trillaxian ruling Odanox family, being shackled inside a locked cage with her wrists bound behind her must have been disorienting enough experience for her even without the added paradigm shift of learning that her birthplace was to be her prison.

 

His thoughts of the beauties he had seen on his visits with his mother the Valogran Queen to Trillaxia Prime were interrupted as he felt Sarah tapping his shoulder. He shifted his eyes to her, to see her gesturing with her head out the window behind them, Cox looked out where she was pointing and felt his bottom jaw drop to his chest.

Suspended in the beams of blinding sunlight that were reflected by the Earth below them was one of the largest vessels he had ever seen. In its length, width and height it very nearly approached the scale of a Valogran battle cruiser. Cox knew as well as any that such vessels, such as the one bearing his mother with whom his father aboard the first-ever Federation starship Enterprise had made first contact with the Valograns before he was born, were for all practical intents and purposes flying cities in space.

Like the Equinox, the vessel he was looking at had a streamlined forward or “saucer” section, a rounded tubular aft “engineering” section and external nacelles. While the forward section of the Equinox resembled a streamlined metallic potato, the saucer of the ship that now filled the window was in the shape of an arrowhead. The aft section was positioned not only behind the arrow-like saucer but also beneath it. Whereas the Equinox’s nacelles wrapped around the ship like a diagonally tilted ring, the aft section of this shift was adorned with a crescent-shaped half circle that arched above it and held aloft two torpedo-shaped nacelles. Backswept metal arms extending downward from the sides of the engineering section held two larger nacelles in the shape of switchblades that stabbed forward and thrust underneath the arrow-like forward section. In spite of its massive size, the vessel had the streamlined aerodynamic look of a racing speedboat.

However, Cox realized that the ship itself had not been what Sarah had been pointing out to him, as he saw the Equinox being towed inside one of the aft section’s maw-like shuttle bay. Their shuttle headed for a different one.

 

As the boarding ramp lowered onto the deck of the hangar, Cox got a sense of déjà vu as a woman waiting at the bottom of the ramp met them. Again as when they had first boarded the Equinox, the woman was obviously an android, having stood in the vacuum of the depressurized deck waiting for them. Unlike the android that had met them upon boarding the Equinox however, this woman was, Cox thought, very beautiful with long reddish-blonde hair. This made it all the more shocking to him and his crew when she spoke with the same familiar Scottish-Irish brogue: “Welcome aboard, Commander.”

Sarah, who had introduced him to the android this morning, was particularly mystified by her transformation. “Meg?” The android turned, responding to the name. “Is that really you?”

Meg blinked, clearly not recognizing the blonde alien addressing her, before shaking her head and turning back to her Commanding Officer. “Is there anything I can do for you, Commander?” She asked Brooks. Then she surprised the prisoners even more by continuing: “Shall I draw up a hot bath for you in your quarters, Master Brooks?”

The Commander nodded with a licentious smirk. “I could do with one of your special massages, Maggie.”

Meagierthiea curtsied low, bowing her head. “As you wish, Master.” She said subserviently, leaving all of the Equinox personnel agape with bewilderment. “I will meet you in your ready room.” With that, Meg turned and walked out of the bay.

Brooks turned his attention from the android to his prisoners. “Welcome aboard the Imperial warship Endeavor.” He said proudly, locking eyes with Cox in particular. “My ship.” The implication behind his snide sneer was an obvious side-by-side comparison with Cox’s own Equinox, which as they had seen upon approach was dwarfed by the Endeavor.

Brooks led them down in to the lower decks, which Cox saw was prison itself. The cages in the ship’s brig, however, were unlike prison cells in that they were entered into through opening in the deck. Seeing no reason to separate them, Brooks dropped Cox and his crew one by one into a single windowless, dank and chilled prison cell, which soon became claustrophobic, cramped and crowded.

Cox struck his head against something cold and metal and was still dazed as, upon the press of a complicated combination of buttons on the wall above the opening in the deck, it was quickly filled with an intersecting latticework of energy beams. Sarah knelt by his side and helped him sit up. As his vision cleared, with one final sneer down at his prisoners, Brooks’ face disappeared from view and they heard his footsteps receding down the deck’s hallway. Cox saw that what he had hit was the headboard of a small cot.

Some of them sat while others stood, silent for a long while. Slaavik sat on the cot deep in thought, the expression in her eyes distant, as they heard the engines rev to life and the vessel begin to move. Shortly after, as Sarah inspected the wound on the back of his head, they felt the jolt of launch into the ship’s faster-than-light subspace drive.

Slaavik finally broke the silence as she spoke. “I believe;” She said slowly, her voice thoughtful and contemplative; “That we now have enough evidence for me to propose a possible hypothesis.” As they were the first words any of them could remember having heard her speak in hours, every eye in the room turned their full and undivided attention in the direction of the Valogran woman, all of them eager for anything to explain the events that had transpired that day.

“As you are no doubt aware, the advent of quantum mechanics in the mid-twentieth century;” Slaavik began, easing their eagerness by indicating that she intended to begin with a brief background history lesson; “And the quests by physicists such as Albert Einstein to discover a grand theory to unify all four forces of physics;” She ticked them off on her fingers as she listed them; “Universal Gravitation, Electromagnetism, then Strong Nuclear Force and the Weak Molecular Force, led to the invention in the early twenty-first century of something known in physics as “String Theory”.” Sarah nodded. “The theory, however, was widely rejected by most physicists because its explanation for the quantum states of matter and energy required the existence of an infinite number of parallel dimensions.”
“You’re talking about the multiverse.” Cox confirmed.

Slaavik nodded. “A theory of quantum physics popularized in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries held that each decision that is made and action taken at various different places and times cause multiple new realities to spring into existence, one for each possible outcome, in which all but certain things were the same but where events occurred in a distinctly different way. These universes would be very nearly indistinguishable from one another except for that one difference at that one point in space and time, and whatever the consequences thereof might be.”

“And your proposition would be that the activation of the Equinox’s quantum core resulted in the formation of an alternate reality from our own;” Lessia concluded; “And that we;” She gestured indicating her companions; “have been somehow thrown into one of these parallel universe from our own.” Slaavik nodded.

On any other day and coming from anyone else’s lips Cox, being the scientist that he was, would have dismissed the concept as delusional imaginings. But given what all of them had experienced in the past hours and his knowledge of the Valogran as someone not prone to hyperbole, Cox was intrigued as he could see the rest of his crew were as well.

“We have already encountered mirror duplicates of you, Captain;” She gestured to Cox; “And your father and your mother; “She pointed to Jennifer; “Admiral Hansen.”

“If your hypothesis turns out to be correct;” Hera added; “I harbor no doubts that there exist such duplicates of countless others from our universe that we have yet to meet.”

“And some we never will.” Cox said solemnly and everyone present sobered, knowing he was referring to his mother.

“However, from his lack of your facial features, I can conclude that this William has no Valogran ancestry.” Cox knew Slaavik was referring to his forehead and brow ridges, an inheritance from his mother’s side of the family. “Hence why his officers address him as Commander Brooks. Your Valogran mother adopted your last name when she married your father, which is why he doesn’t share it. He instead inherited one of the two last names that you father was born with prior to meeting your mother.” Cox nodded, knowing his illustrious family’s history but understanding that explanation was more for the benefit of his crew than his own.

“I have been able to ascertain that in this world the Federation we knew has either been replaced with this Empire of else never existed to begin with.” All present hung their heads, struck with the great loss, but Slaavik locked eyes with Lessia. “However;” She said meaningfully; “It is also clear to me that while the people on this Earth do appear to be familiar with the other species of the Federation, this Empire is ruled over by humans who perceive our kind as both inherently inferior and subservient.” Cox understood why she was looking at Lessia as she said this. As she anticipated she saw the Trillaxian’s spots darken as she bristled angrily and could feel the outrage radiating from Cox as well.

“Two objects cannot occupy the same point in space at the same point in time. If what you say is true, our interaction with their universe would result in the mutual annihilation of both realities.” Sarah thought for a long moment, choosing her next words with extreme care. “As a theoretical astrophysicist, I can think of only one probability, which is this.” She felt everyone in the room leaning in to hear he quiet voice. “That, with the exception of those of us who were present around the core at the moment of its activation;” She indicated her companions; “Their universe has, for all practical intents and purposes, replaced our own.” Even Slaavik appeared taken aback by the implications of this. “In other words their reality has effectively overwritten ours, like a sheet of metal welded onto the top of a motor. Realizing belatedly that she had lost her crew with the analogy, she elaborated: “The outline of the shape of the reality we knew; in this case the planet Earth, its continents, countries and cities; remains intact but the appearance and… texture—of their world; namely the people, institutions and history; is dramatically different.”

“This is all just speculation.” Jennifer cautioned.

“But it sure would explain quite a lot.” They all turned at hearing another voice, that Cathryn Krueloe. Krueloe was huddled in the corner, curled into a fetal position and rocking back and forth.

            Cox reached up to tap Slaavik on the knee. The Valogran lifted her head and looked at him. Cox nodded his head to the side in the direction of the woman huddled in the corner.

Slaavik nodded in acknowledgement, sighing as she shrugged her shoulders, momentarily assuming the responsibility as de facto counselor. “What do you mean, Miss Krueloe?” Slaavik asked calmly. Cox was amazed at the transformation effected from her customary cold tone. “Is there something wrong?”

“Everything’s wrong.” Krueloe replied. Cox nodded. It did seem as though they had stepped into some alien world. “Ever since I woke;” Krueloe continued; “I can’t remember anything.”

Cox sat up, causing his head to pound, “What?”

“All my memories are gone.” Krueloe explained.

“What aren’t you remembering?” Jennifer asked; her curiosity piqued.

“I tried remembering my childhood, growing up.” Krueloe choked up. The tears streamed down her cheeks. “My mother.”

“You have no memories of any of them?” Cox asked.

“That’s just it;” Krueloe unfurled her legs, rising to her knees before sitting back against the wall; I’ve been remembering things.” She looked around at their confused expressions and sighed. “Things I never learned.”

“Such as? Lessia prompted. “What are you remembering?”

“I have memories of a whole life;” Krueloe answered; “A house, a family, a childhood, an adolescence and an adult life.” She looked at their thoroughly confused expressions, shaking her head as if trying to clear water from her inner ears. “Except they’re not mine.” She closed her eyes and buried her face in her hands. “Faces.” She rubbed her eyes. “People I can’t put a name to.”

“Explain.” Slaavik again played counselor.

“I can put a name to each face, each place;” Krueloe shook her head. “But I don’t recognize them, not one, because I’ve never met them.” Tears formed in her eyes. “It’s almost as if…”

“… Like you’re remembering somebody else’s life.” Lessia finished for her before she could, nodding understandingly. “You think it belongs to your mirror?”

            Krueloe shrugged. “That makes about as much sense as any explanation I came up with.”

            Cox looked around. “Is anyone else dealing with what she’s describing?”

            Lessia paused but averted her gaze, shook her head and said nothing.

“Well none of this is going to do any of us any good at all if we don’t get a way out of this place.” Jennifer said, looking around at the four walls and the barred ceiling above. She must have noticed the far away expression in Cox’s eyes, as though he somehow saw beyond these barriers, and so turned to him. “Do you happen to have a plan for that, captain?” She asked.

“I had the beginnings of one.” Cox nodded, then shrugged resignedly. “I was thinking there may be some way to override the Endeavor’s computer system with the Artificial Intelligence from the Equinox, but…” He trailed off.

            Sarah breathed a heavy sigh, casting a glance at her mother, who nodded. “All right.” She sighed. “It was classified need-to-know, but since we might all die where we’re headed, you might as well know.”

“What was classified?” Krueloe asked. Being the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Federation’s Star Fleet, there were very few secrets she was not cleared for.

“When I told you that the Equinox’s AI was created by Orion;” Sarah addressed her answer directly to Cox, who nodded; “I am afraid I have to admit that was not entirely accurate.” She caught her mother’s eye, and so stopped hedging. “Archie is mine.” She said with a sigh.

“What do you mean he’s yours?” Cox asked.

“Archie isn’t short for the JonArch 2000.” Sarah explained. “It’s short for Archimedes.”

            Jennifer nodded, knowing the age-old tradition in the Federation since its inception of giving Artificial Intelligences Greek and Roman names.

“Archie was a computer system in Eureka.” Only Cox startled at this, being the only one who had ever visited the subterranean town buried a mile beneath Groom Lake. “He belonged to mother before me.” Sarah nodded to Hera.

“When was this?” Krueloe asked.

“Before First Contact.” Hera answered for her daughter. “In the first days of the founding of the Federation by your great-grandmother.” She was looking at Cox as she spoke.

“So how does this help us?” Cox asked, not wanting the discussion to linger overlong on twenty-first century North American history.

“I have a way to contact Archie.” Sarah confessed.

“Even here in the brig?” Cox wondered. Sarah nodded.

            Revealing that she had freed her hands from their bonds, she reached out to roll the sleeve of her jumpsuit back to her elbow. Cox’s jaw dropped when he saw that her forearm was coated in a sleeve of black material. At the touch of her fingers a flexible keypad illuminated on the black surface. Sarah’s fingers flew over the controls, and a device appeared out of the material around her wrist.

            Sarah lifted it to her lips and spoke into it. “Archimedes, this is Doctor Sarah Wells of Eureka.”

“Voice and fingerprint recognition confirmed.” The device said in a male voice. “Hello, Doctor Wells. What can I do for you today?”

Cox looked up at his godmother. “Orion”.” Hera’s voice in his head explained. ‘So this is what Jonathan Archer sounded like.” Cox thought, and Hera and her daughter both nodded.

            Sarah held out her wrist to Cox, gesturing for him to speak.

“Archie;” Cox cleared his throat; “This is Captain William Brooks-Janney of the Unified Federated States of Earth.” Unsure if he had made the right call in referring to the old Federation pre-First Contact and his father’s birth name prior to meeting his mother, Cox glanced up at Sarah, who nodded, giving him the thumbs-up sign. Doing as Sarah had, Cox placed his hand lightly on her wrist, recoiling as he felt a pin prick his fingertip. “Don’t blink.” He heard Sarah’s voice tell him, and a moment later a beam of light lanced out from the device on her wrist and oscillated over his wide-open eyes.

“Fingerprint, DNA and retinal scan matches confirm a blood relative of Katherine Alexandra Janney, President of the Unified Federated States of Earth.” The device concluded in Sarah’s own voice. “Please proceed, Mister Brooks.”

It took Cox a moment to find his voice after getting over the reminder of his long-deceased great-grandmother. “Archie;” He said, his voice steadying. “You are currently aboard the federation starship U.S.S. Equinox. Can you confirm?”

There was a pause. “Location confirmed.” Sarah’s voice said.

“I need you to use the Equinox’s sensor array to scan for any other computer systems located nearby.”

“Distance to target?” Sarah’s voice requested.

Cox ran some quick calculations in his head, using the known size of the Equinox to calculate the size of the Endeavor. “Three kilometers.”

Another pause. “Affirmative.” Sarah’s voice announced at last. “One unknown Artificial Intelligence system located. AI designation: Andromeda.”

“That must be the Endeavor’s computer.” Sarah whispered.

            Cox nodded. “Can you override it?”

            The silence stretched interminably this time. “Affirmative. Computer override in progress.”

 

“Commander!” The helmsman exclaimed, his fingers flying over the controls. “We’re slowing and returning to normal space!”

“FTL?” Brooks barked at his chief engineer.

“Subspace is inoperable, Commander!” Engineering reported sounding flustered.

“Contact Earth!” Brooks ordered.

The communications officer slapped his palms down on his console as it went dark. “We’ve lost all control of primary systems!”

“Is life support still functioning?” Brooks was containing his growing panic with aplomb.

“All systems are functioning at 100 percent peak parameters, Commander.” His engineer explained. “We just can’t access any of them.”

 

“Override of Endeavor AI complete.” Orion’s voice announced.

Sarah’s fingers flew over the keypad again. “Deactivate all energy shields in the detention level.”

The bars of energy above their head blinked out with a fizzle. “Let’s get out of here!” Krueloe exclaimed.

Sarah assisted each member of the crew up through the hatch. Then, standing in the now-empty cell, she gathered her feet under her and leaped vertically straight up, landing in a crouch on the deck.

 

“We’ve stopped, commander.” The Endeavor’s pilot announced.

“Propulsion is offline.” The helmsman added.

“Commander;” The voice of the chief engineer reported; “We’ve begun losing power on the lower decks!”

            Brooks’ eyes went wide momentarily, and then narrowed suspiciously. “Which decks, exactly?” He asked.

“36 through 42.” Engineering answered.

“The detention level.” Brooks growled.

“Affirmative.” His security officer reported. “Brig shields are down. We’re getting reports of weapons fire and physical confrontations on deck 35, deck 33…” A moment later, he added: “Deck 30. Deck 28, deck 24, deck 22, deck 20.”

“Who’s the assailant?” Brooks wondered as the security officer continued reading off the list.

“Unknown, Commander. Cameras must be malfunctioning.”
“Why?” Even as he asked that question, a surveillance image was projected on the forward view screen in front of them. It was a still capture showing a dark blur moving down a hallway. “Is this the best they can do?” Brooks asked, wondering if there was smudge of some kind on the camera.

“Negative, Commander.” The security officer replied. “Every image is identical.” Images flashed on the screen, video this time. They showed men dressed in the uniforms of Imperial security standing in the middle of a corridor, aiming their weapons at a closed door. The doors read “Deck 12”. The doors opened and closed, and the officers lay crumpled in heaps against the bulkheads.

“What happened?” Brooks demanded. “Did the recording skip somehow?”

“No sir.” The officer responded, rewinding the recording and pausing it just as the doors opened and the guards crumpled.

            Brooks blinked at the screen, which showed a dark blur moving between the soldiers, who were lifted bodily off their feet. “What…was…that?” He murmured, mostly to himself.

“Whatever it is, it’s reached the forward section: Deck 10.”

“You’re with me!” Brooks called to his security officer, looking again at the image. “Let’s go!” He had just noticed something about the blur in the video that he hadn’t before with the still image: The unmistakable glint of the corridor lighting off of long waves of golden hair.

 

            Cox moved with Slaavik and Lessia down the hallway as Jennifer and Krueloe trailed behind, dragging each of the unconscious soldiers they encountered to the lift for transportation back down to the brig. They relieved each soldier of his weapon, lest any of them regain consciousness unexpectedly.

“Your friend Sarah sure made short work of these guards!” Lessia grunted to Cox as they deposited another. “Are you sure she’s really a scientist?”

            Cox said nothing. He had begun to wonder the same thing himself.

            They exited the lift onto deck ten, only to see a man standing in the middle of the hallway, flanked by two unconscious guards.

            Cox tensed as he recognized Commander Brooks.

Brooks appeared to be in no condition to fight, however, as he stood in the corridor in only his socks, shirt and undershorts. He did manage to snarl as Cox approached him casually. “You!” He growled. “You did this to me!”

Cox held up a finger, wagging it back and forth in the air. “You have done that yourself, Sir.” He tisked, sounding like an old British Lord in spite of his prisoner jumpsuit. He stepped up to stand toe to toe to toe with his mirror doppelgänger, their faces so close their noses nearly touched one another.

Brooks’ eyes widened as he for the first time saw the seething rage burning in Cox’s eyes.

“You killed my mother.” Cox said in a low baritone monotone voice. Were it not for the crisp biting edge to his every syllable, Brooks might have suspected Cox was bored. But then the Federation Captain smiled toothlessly, the grin that spread his lips making the coldness of his gaze infinitely more chilling, and there was the glint of a sparkle at the edges of his blue-green eyes. “I’ve been waiting for fourteen hours to do this.” His tone was almost chipper, shocking Brooks so much that he never even saw the tightly-clenched fist that slammed with all of a Valogran’s superhuman strength into the side of his cheek, knocking him instantly unconscious and sending his limp body flying back a full five yards to slide down into a heap against the lift doors at the far end of the corridor. “That was satisfying.” Cox breathed to no one in particular through clenched teeth, shaking his hand in the air.

“Remind me to never piss you off.” Jennifer quipped, patting him on the shoulder before taking Cox’s throbbing hand in both of hers.

“Be sure and give him his own cell.” Cox called as Slaavik carried the unconscious Imperial Commander back to the brig. He caught Lessia looking at him oddly. “Definitely solitary confinement for that one.” He growled, and Slaavik nodded in agreement.

            Leaving Slaavik and Krueloe to taker care of the deck in between; Cox, Lessia and Jennifer took the lift directly up to the Endeavor’s bridge. The bridge of the Endeavor closely resembled that of the Equinox. What Cox guessed had been the bridge crew, stripped to their socks and underwear, were stacked in piles near the lift as they exited.

Sarah was waiting for them with her mother beside her. Just before leaving the detention level, Sarah had shed her prisoner jumpsuit, revealing that the mysterious black material that had coated her wrist was actually part of a similarly skin-hugging suit that covered her whole body.

“The ship is ours, captain!” Hera announced, Sarah, Jennifer and Lessia all applauded, sounding like a crowd of many more people, as Cox descended the steps from the lift to the deck.

            Painfully conscientious of the penetrating gaze of his godmother upon him, and therefore taking deliberate care as to where his fingers brushed, Cox wrapped Sarah in his arms in a familial embrace. “Thanks.” He smiled close into her ear. “I needed that.”

            Sarah returned his hug, pulling him close compassionately. “I thought you might.” Her voice in his head replied. She nodded, locking eyes with him as they parted, indicating that she had deliberately left Brooks for Cox to cathartically take care of.

Sarah gestured with a flourish to the captain’s chair in the center of the bridge. “The chair is yours, Will.” She said aloud. It was not until he sat in the center chair on the Endeavor’s bridge that Cox realized that he had never actually gotten the chance to sit in one on the bridge of the Equinox.

“Computer.” Sarah called. “Progress report.”
“I am now in complete control of all ship’s systems.” Archie reported in Orion’s voice.

Sarah nodded with a pleased smile. “Transfer all command to Captain William Cox of the Unified Federated Star Systems.”
“Transaction requires double authorization.” Orion’s voice prompted.

“This is Doctor Sarah Wells.” Sarah said. “Authorization: Connor Nine-seven-two-zero-two.”

“This is Doctor Hera Day, authorization: twelve Juno three six five.”

“Voice prints acknowledged.” Orion’s voice said. “Codes accepted.” A moment later, Sarah’s voice returned: “Starship designation changed to Unified Federated Star Systems flagship U.S.S. Endeavor. You are in command now, Captain Cox.”

“So where are we off to first, Captain?” Jennifer asked from behind him.

            Cox had an irresistible urge to quote the line from the early twentieth century Scottish baronet: “Second star to the right and straight on until morning.” However, even as he opened hos mouth to reply, the world seemed to tilt at an angle, and he was thrown from the chair, colliding with Sarah, who had been standing in front of him, and landing atop her on the floor of the deck. “What in the worlds was that?” He asked as he scrambled off of her and to his feet, a feat made all that more challenging by the fact that the deck continued tilting at crazy angles.”
“Multiple massive electromagnetic energy discharges, deck twenty.” In the confusion, Cox could not be certain if it had been the computer system or Sarah who had spoken, nor did it concern him.

His internal gyroscope acclimating to the tilting deck around him, he spun to Jennifer. “Deck twenty?” He demanded. “What’s there?”

“Nothing. Just…” He saw he eyes go wide with panic as she looked straight through him to the ship schematic displayed on the monitor behind him. “Oh goddesses!” She was already moving toward the lift even before she had fully turned herself around. “It’s the shuttle bay!”

“Cox to Slaavik!” He shouted as he ran to join her in the lift, followed by Lessia and Sarah.

“Here, Captain.” Slaavik’s voice echoed in the lift.

“Meet us on deck twenty, in the corridor outside the shuttle bay.”

“Acknowledged.” Slaavik confirmed.

            The lift stopped at deck twenty but the doors did not open. Sarah stepped forward and pried them open just enough for them to pass through single file one at a time. Hansen whistled softly, and Cox felt his jaw go slack at the sight before them. The bulkheads that lined either side of the corridor had been bent outward like the sides of an aluminum can pried apart by the hands of a claustrophobic giant.

“Whatever did this it moved this way.” Sarah noted, pointing, and Cox nodded, also having noticed the definite directionality to the twisted metal.

            They arrived at one end of the corridor on which the docking hangar was located and saw Slaavik appear at the other end. Whatever it was they were chasing was coming along the corridor between them. Both ducked away as the ceiling of the hallway was brought down as the walls were blasted outward.

            Cox lowered his hand from his face in time to see, to his astonishment, the figure of a girl of no more than twenty years old step into the corridor.

The balls of neon blue light that surrounded her gloved fists, held to either side of her, emanated bubbles of rippling air that blew her long flowing jet-black hair around her head like a whirlwind. The lights in the corridor blinked out, but the flashes from the sparks emanating from the girl’s hands illuminated her mother-of-pearl eyes as she turned toward Cox.

Cox saw her eyes widen as she lowered her hands, the balls of light fading and the overhead lights flickering back to life. No sooner had the whirlwind died and her hair dropped over her shoulders than the girl came hurtling at Cox’s group, her hair flying behind her as she ran. It was immediately made clear, however, that he was not her target.

“Jenny!” The girl squealed in delight, and Cox recognized something familiar about her voice. The girl impacted Jennifer and wrapped her arms around her neck. “Thank the goddesses!” The girl’s voice choked with sobs of joy.

            Jennifer very carefully reached up to disentangle herself from the girl’s arms. “I don’t know you.” She said slowly, looking the girl in the eyes. “Should I?”

            The girl’s shoulders slumped and her expression was crestfallen. “Jenny!” She searched Hansen’s face for a hint of recognition that wasn’t there. “It’s me, Sis. It’s Casey.”

            This time it was Jennifer’s turn to go wide-eyed and slack-jawed, as she and Cox both recognized the girl’s face and voice in the same instant. “Cassandra?” Jennifer’s voice was an incredulous whisper.

The girl nodded, smiling through her tears, as she swallowed a sob like a lump in her throat.

“Last time I saw you;” Cox said, as much to himself as to the girl as his mind still raced to catch up with his eyes and ears; “You were a twelve-year-old girl.”

Casey nodded, averting her eyes to not meet his. “Last thing I remember, I was.”

“How old are you now?” Jennifer asked reflexively, her gaze fixed on the sight of her younger sister’s breasts.

            Casey, too, looked down at her own body as she shrugged. “Eighteen, at least;” She shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, her fingers fidgeting behind her back as she again averted her eyes; “I hope.” She added under her breath.

            Jennifer seemed to know what her sister meant by this, and her eyes darted between Cassandra’s legs.

When he saw this, Cox too understood the meaning of the girl’s worlds and felt his heart sink, empathetically mourning the loss of innocence the sweet little child he had met that morning had suffered in the time since they had been apart. He understood also now why Jennifer’s gaze had initially been so focused on her sister’s breasts. They were as clear an indicator as any that her baby sister had grown up and come of age, a process her older sibling was only now coming to grips with the knowledge she would never get to witness.

Cassandra’s gaze, however, was on Sarah, her eyes wide. “Nice outfit.”

Sarah was looking at Cassandra, in turn, appraisingly. “Yours isn’t shabby, yourself.”

Cassandra ran her hands over the closely form-fitting jumpsuit with its low scoop neckline. “You really like it?”

“As a matter of fact I do!” Sarah said admiringly with a wide-eyed smile.

“What happened to you?” Jennifer asked.

            Casey shrugged. “Last thing I remembered, Kassey was taking Jenny and I to the shuttle.”

Jennifer nodded, indicating she remembered the same thing the same way. “Then everything went white.” The two sisters said in chorus, nodding.

“The next thing I knew, a man was cuffing my hands behind my back.” She looked at Cox. “I thought it was you, Captain.” Cox nodded, knowing that the man she was referring to must have been his mirror doppelgänger. “That’s how I discovered that I all of a sudden had these.” Both Cox and Sarah tried their very hardest not to grin as the girl reached up to cup her breasts in her hands as though weighing them.

“And the…” Jennifer trailed off, her voice still hoarse, as she gestured to her sister’s figure hugging suit. Casey shrugged her shoulders again. “I was wearing it when I woke up.”

            Cox, however, had a different question. “The man;” He persisted; “The one who cuffed you.” Casey nodded. “Did you see his face?” Casey’s eyes were drawn to his Valogran brow ridges, indicating she knew why he asked this, but she shook her head. “Not at first. No.” “Then how did you figure out it wasn’t me?” Jennifer was glaring at him, as though he had insulted her sister’s intelligence.

            Cassandra again averted her eyes, this time demurely, as though the answer embarrassed her, and Cox was reminded that in spite of her very grown-up appearance, he was dealing with a twelve-year-old girl. “I know that I hardly know you;” Casey began; “And that we’ve only met once.” She surprised him by straightening; her hands clasped behind her, and looked him directly in the eye. “Nevertheless, Captain, whether because of the responsibilities of the command entrusted to you or because of your illustrious family’s storied heritage, I believe you to be an honest and honorable man, Sir.” Even Jennifer was at a loss for words, slack-jawed at suddenly hearing the twelve-year-old baby sister she knew speak as though she had stepped directly from the pages of William Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fifth. Just as quickly, Cassandra turned away, closing her eyes. “The way he looked at me.” She shuddered at the memory, reaching up again to run her fingers over her breasts. “The way he touched me.”

            Jennifer’s voice caught in her throat as though she had to force the words out reluctantly. “He didn’t…” As though afraid to gesture to her sister, she indicated the region between her own legs. “Did he?”

            Casey shook her head. “He didn’t yet. He never got the chance. I know he wanted to, though. I’m sure it was on his to-do list, if not at the top.”

            All of the women present looked appalled, but something Cassandra had said caught the Captain’s interest.

“When you said that you knew what he was planning.” He clarified. “What did you mean by that?”

            Cassandra looked from face to face, each now asking her the same question. “Did I not tell you?” Everyone present shook his or her heads. Casey shrugged. “Ever since I woke up in the shuttle, I’ve been able to hear other people’s thoughts.”

            Cox felt himself blush at learning that the girl had overheard what she was thinking when he had first seen her outfit, which he knew had not been thoughts fit for one so young. However, he noted that Cassandra was gazing intently at Sarah as she spoke, as though whatever was inside the blonde alien’s mind was captivating her interest far more than any of the rest of them. He also saw that Sarah had the same retrospectively self-conscientious expression on her face as he did. On an impulse, he too tried to hear what she was thinking, and was jarred when Cassandra’s gaze immediately shifted to him. ‘It made sense;’ He thought; ‘That a telepath could sense the presence of other telepaths.’

“You all know something I don’t.” She said, her eyes narrowing. “What happened to me?”

            Cox gestured to Slaavik, and Casey turned. They listened together as Slaavik explained to the child, in the simplest possible terms, her working hypothesis concerning the different universes. Cassandra remained silent throughout the presentation. When Slaavik had finished, the girl thought for only a moment before speaking.

“So who am I in this universe, then?” She asked.

            Cox nodded. It was a perfectly valid question, and certainly one that a twelve-year-old would be liable to ask.

“Let’s go find out, shall we?” Sarah invited, and Casey nodded enthusiastically. She held her sister’s hand as they made their way back toward the lift. On the way back to the bridge, Sarah explained to the girl about Archie and their takeover of the Endeavor. Casey seemed pleased that their coup had been relatively nonviolent and bloodless. To everyone’s surprise that had witnessed her actions, Sarah deferred all credit for engineering and executing the plan to Cox.

            Only minutes after setting foot on the bridge, Casey got straight to the point. “Computer;” She called; “Display all database references to me on the main view screen.” She froze as an oscillating beam scanned up and down her body.

“Requested files are restricted as a matter of Imperial security.” Sarah’s voice warned. Cox and Sarah looked at each other, wondering anew who the teenager was.

“Archimedes.” Sarah said. “This is Special Agent Sarah Wells of the National Security Department Intelligence Agency, codename: Walker, clearance level six. Declassify all Imperial database files on my authorization.”

“Special Agent Walker recognized.” Archie said in Orion’s voice. “Displaying all files for Cassandra Harper.” Jennifer startle at the last name, recognizing it as being the same as that of the woman who had processed them in Paris.

They were all even more startled when the very first page to be displayed was what looked like a modern digital version of an old-fashioned “Wanted” poster. The text below the smiling picture of an eighteen year old with mother-of-pearl eyes and jet-black hair detailed Harper’s status as being near the top of the Empire’s list of most wanted criminals. The precise data concerning her height and measurements left little or no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was the same girl they had encountered in the corridor. The next several documents scrolled past, listing the numerous and various crimes that Harper was suspected of. While some, such as the robbing of a number of banks and museums, were certainly plausible, others were clearly trumped up by the Imperials.

Cox nearly jumped in the air as Jennifer beside him suddenly emitted an ear-piercing shriek of outrage.

Before he could stop her, she reached down and wrenched off one of her steel-toed boots and was preparing to throw it at the screen when Sarah reached out, pinching the side of Jennifer’s clavicle where her shoulder joined the side of her neck between her thumb and pointer finger. As Jennifer fell unconscious to the floor, Cox looked up and saw the screen frozen on the last charge on the list.

He understood immediately why the sight of it had prompted such a reaction from the girl’s overprotective older sibling. The headline on the document read one word; one of the oldest words in civilization and still one of the most inflammatory: “Prostitution”.

 

Cox entered the room to one side of the bridge to find a finely appointed stateroom. ‘The Captain’s ready-room.’ He guessed. He was just running those words over in his mind, trying to remember where he had heard them before when a melodious feminine voice sounded from behind him.

“What took you so long, Master?”

            Cox spun around to see that the doors to the neighboring room had opened, revealing what he immediately assessed to be the Captain’s personal quarters.

Oddly, the centerpiece of the room appeared to be a large tub, now filled with steaming and bubbling water like a combination bubble bath and Jacuzzi. The voice had come from a redheaded woman who gazed out at him through the steam. Though she was submerged up to her waist, soapy suds covering her upper torso, Cox harbored no doubts that she was naked.

He recognized her immediately from the landing bay. “Meg!” Just as quickly as a look of puzzlement began to form on her face, he remembered what his mirror had called her. “I mean, Maggie!”

“You’re missing your bath, Master.” Meagierthiea said, standing, the bubbles dripping from her anatomy, and Cox found it required great focus and concentration on his part to keep his eyes on her face.

She really is very beautiful.’ He thought to himself, chancing a momentary glance further down. He found himself wondering in that moment whether she was some sort of special model or whether all androids in this Empire were engineered to be so flawless. Finding these thoughts drawing him toward being tempted into joining her in the tub, he recalcitrantly quashed them. However, he did find himself moving step by step closer to the tub and the nude woman in it.

“You’re still much too dressed.” Maggie smiled playfully as she mercifully sank back into the water.

In an effort to distract him from what he had seen of her body, Cox instead marveled that even now, mostly submerged in the steaming soapy water, the android still showed no signs of either short-circuiting or rusting. As he approached closer, Maggie startled him by reaching out and pulling him toward her, wrapping her arms around him and mashing her mouth against his.

She was, unsurprisingly, an expert kisser, and just as Cox felt his knees beginning to weaken, he was saved by the sound of Slaavik’s voice over the communications system. “Slaavik to Captain Cox.”

Cox tried to push his hands against the side of the tub, but his palms slipped on the wet material and so he ended up with his hands pressed against the android’s chest. His touch had the desired effect, however, and Maggie released his mouth from her kiss. Cox cleared his throat before speaking. “Cox here.” He said, his hoarse voice clearing as Maggie withdrew her arms from around him to place his hands over his atop her breasts. “What’s come up?”

“It’d be easier for you to see for yourself, Will.” It was Hera’s voice.

            With that, Cox jerked his hands out from under Maggie’s, pulling them back as though the androids breasts were a scalding stovetop. “Acknowledged.” He said in rush before severing the communications link. An idea had just occurred to him. “Archie, this is Captain William cox of the Federation Starship Endeavor.” He called.

“This is Archie, Captain.” Sarah’s voice replied.

            Maggie reached down to cup his behind in her wet, soap-covered hands. “Who is that?” She asked, leaning close into his ear. “Another woman?”

Cox jerked his head away to stare at her, wondering at the marvel that an android could so convincingly mimic the very human emotion of jealousy. “Archie, do you have a record of an android by the name of Meagierthiea having served aboard the starship Equinox?”

“Affirmative, Captain.” Sarah’s voice confirmed. “The name was registered to the android avatar of my computer system on board the Equinox.”

Excellent.’ Cox thought. “Do you by chance have the last known positronic programming for the Meagierthiea android avatar in you database?”

            There was a pause, during which Maggie overpowered Cox’s restraining hands to begin kissing the sides of his neck, murmuring obscenely risqué suggestions into his ears.

“Affirmative.” Sarah’s voice confirmed again. “Positronic backup last occurred on the day of the scheduled launch of the U.S.S. Equinox.”

The very same day that he himself had first met Meg.’ Cox thought, fighting through the flood of erotic images the android’s sultry murmur invoked in his mind. “Archie;” He said, pushing Maggie away again, this time with his hands safely on her shoulders; “There is an android in the private quarters off of the Captain’s ready room on the bridge deck of the starship Endeavor. Can you confirm?”

This was done in part to reassure himself that the very lifelike flesh upon which his fingers now rested did indeed belong to a machine.

“Presence of female android in Captain’s private quarters confirmed. Identity: Personal pleasure robot of Commander William Brooks of the Imperial Fleet.”

That explained a lot.’ Cox thought, having wondered why Maggie was being so outrageously assertive in her blatant attempt to seduce him. “Archie, you previously overrode the Endeavor’s computer system, identity: Andromeda.” He said, remembering their exchange in the brig cell.

“Affirmative, Captain.” Sarah’s voice acknowledged.

“Are you able to overwrite Commander Brooks’ personal pleasure robot with the most recent backup of the programming of the android avatar Meagierthiea?”

“Affirmative. Procedure is possible with Command authorization.”

            Cox looked at Maggie. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He promised her, doing his best to sound as sincere as he could.

“Hurry back.” Maggie leaned back in the tub, her breasts floating on the surface buoyantly.

“In the meantime;” Cox kept his eyes averted by moving around behind her; “You just close your eyes and relax.” He placed his hands on her shoulders, helping her lay back.

“Mmm.” The android moaned. “You know just how to press all the right buttons to turn me on.”

            Cox grinned at hearing a machine talk about the pressing of buttons. “Just let your mind go blank.” He said to her soothingly. “Archie;” He called as he turned away from her; “Begin overwrite of Meagierthiea android avatar now. Authorization: Captain William Cox of the Federation starship U.S.S. Endeavor.”

“Positronic override in progress.” Archie said as Cox exited the ready room.

“Computer;” He said as he stepped onto the bridge and into the lift; “Locate Doctor Hera Day.”

“Director Day is on deck twenty, hangar bay.”

 

“What do we have here?” Cox asked as he entered the hangar, looking up at the vessel that towered in its center.

            Smaller than the Equinox, its front was curved upward sharply just like the prow of an old-fashioned cruise liner. Even its bridge section rose above its otherwise flat top like the upper decks of a tanker.

“That;” Jennifer said, coming toward him from around the ship’s towering prow; “Is the Voyager.” Cox looked at her curiously, and she elaborated. “Commander Brooks’ personal luxury yacht.”

A luxury yacht, and a pleasure robot to go with it.’ Cox was growing to thoroughly dislike the kind of person his mirror was in this universe.

“That’s not what we wanted to show you.” Sarah said from beside Jennifer, beckoning him over to one of the walls of the hangar that Cassandra had blasted open.

He saw Slaavik and Hera gathered around a two-meter-long cylindrical object that rested atop the upturned fallen hangar bay light panels on the floor of the deck. His first assumption was that he was looking at a torpedo, but then the two women parted as he approached, and Cox’s eyes went wide, his breath catching in his throat at what they revealed.

The cylinder was composed entirely out of solid crystalline glass. With the light form the upturned panels shining through it, there was no mistaking that the solid object embedded inside the crystal was a humanoid body. As if that was not enough to make his heart skip a beat, as he stepped up to stand between Slaavik and Hera beside the crystal casket, he raised his gaze to the face of the woman inside, and his godmother caught him as he suddenly felt faint and his knees went weak.

 

“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.

 
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