Terrorism and Acts of Terrorism; War and Acts of War

•February 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The United States has not been at war since the Spring of 1945.
The United States has not declared war since December of 1941.
In other words, the United States has not been at war with any other nation for 70 years now, and counting.

The amount of money that it costs and the amount of time that it takes is irrelevant.
Neither of those things make something a war.
Something can cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and still not be a war.
Something can take ten thousand years, and still not be a war.
You know what it takes for something to be a war?
According to both Article I Section VIII of the Constitution of the United States of America and Article 51 of the charter of the United Nations: It requires a declaration of war.
The United States Congress has not issued a declaration of war, as they are required to do by Article One Section Eight, since December 8, 1941, against the Empire of Japan.
How much money the United States has spent on its military since then [which is exponentially more than the number “several trillion dollars” that you cited] and how many years have passed since that time [which is several times again more than the “fifteen years” number you cited] is irrelevant.
The United States of America has not been at war with another country since the Japanese issued a formal and unconditional surrender to the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the spring of 1945.
According to international law, including the United Nations Charter, this makes all of the incidents of people being killed in other countries by the United States military armed forces [beginning with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 that vaporized more than 200,000 innocent civilian men, women and children] certifiable as acts of international terrorism.
This is a distinction, a very important one i think. It is especially important given the fact that America’s most recent undeclared “war”, begun in September 2001, is a war against TERRORISM itself.
In other words, we are currently waging a “war” against all of the “wars” that we have waged for the past seventy years. 

International terrorism and war are not the same thing.
Bombing people, blowing things up, assassinating foreign leaders, overthrowing foreign governments, mowing down civilian populations…etc.
These are all acts of international terrorism.
Regardless of how much they cost, these are not acts of war.
An act of war, according to the UN Charter and the US Constitution, would begin with the issuing of a formal declaration of war by Congress.
Unlike the bombings, the assassinations, the mass-shootings, the blowing up of buildings, and the toppling of regimes, this is the one thing that we HAVEN’T done at any time in the past seventy years.
We’ve done all of those other things.
We did them in Korea.
We did them Vietnam.
We did them in Somalia.
We did them in Bosnia.
We did them in Kosovo.
We did them in Cuba.
We did them in Nicaragua.
We did them in Iran.
We’ve done them in Afghanistan.
We’ve done them in Iraq.
We’ve done them in Pakistan.
We’ve done them in Libya.
We’ve done them in Syria.
We’ve done them in Yemen.
But what do all these countries have in common with one another?
At no point in known recorded history has the United States of America ever been at war with any of them.

The Warehouse Chapter 1: Agency [Draft #2, January 27, 2015]

•January 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

-John Lennon

Hanover County, Virginia

Monday October 7, 2047

7:00 AM

The road seemed to stretch on forever. The hills up ahead rolled ceaselessly up and down like the seemingly endless waves of the ocean. The sun was just beginning to rise over the hills to the East, but had not yet risen above the tops of the rows of trees that lined either side of the road like the walls of a deep green canyon.

James Prichardson felt himself beginning to nod off for what felt like the dozenth time, and for the dozenth time had to resist the impulse to reach down and turn on the car radio, casting a glance over at the seat beside him to remind himself that he was not alone.

Candice sat slumped against the car door, her head pillowed on his jacket wedged between the headrest and the sill of the half-open window. She had fallen asleep shortly after they had passed Norfolk two hours earlier. He had thought about waking her as they had passed through the state capitol of Richmond half an hour ago, but had thought better of it, deciding instead to let his girlfriend sleep.

He couldn’t honestly say that he could blame her. Neither of them had gotten very much sleep at their seaside bed and breakfast in Rodanthe, the conclusion of a romantic two-week tour up the Eastern seaboard, beginning at the historic Fort Sumter, in commemoration of the two-year anniversary of their first official date together as a couple. As much as he already missed the Outer Banks, he himself was looking forward to returning to his one bedroom apartment in Alexandria.

Glancing up as the highway 54 overpass swept past above their heads, James thought again of how much he missed the feel, the sensation of driving a car. Having grown up in the age of the internal combustion engine, he had never quite accustomed himself to the practice of letting the newer cars drive themselves.

The new cars did have one benefit, he considered, curling his legs at the knees to his chest to prevent them from falling asleep. The car’s steering wheel, he knew, was safely tucked away inside the dashboard in front of him, existing only for deployment in emergencies when the autopilot failed.

Candice had not wanted to leave the bed and breakfast in the early hours of the morning, but James knew it was a five-hour drive from Rodanthe to Alexandria, and he had to be to work by ten.

Looking at her now, he could not help but notice how the way that the air rushing through the half-open car window played with her hair mirrored the way that the ocean breeze had done on the second-floor balcony of their hotel in Carolina beach. As he had done then, he reached out and lightly swept the unruly ebony locks behind her ear, his fingertips brushing the side of her cheek reverently.

An hour and a half later, he had no choice but to wake her as they exited onto the Washington Beltway.

“Off to save the world, Jim?” she asked somewhat groggily as the car pulled up to her place.

“Just another day at the office, Candy.” He replied with a smile, assisting her with unfastening her seatbelt.

“My secret agent man.” She smiled affectionately as she kissed him before climbing out of the car. “Will I see you tonight?” The intent look in her auburn hazel eyes told him she was not one about to be lied to.

“I’ll give you a call once I get out of Washington.” He answered her, hoping fervently with every fiber of his being that he would be able to keep that promise.

His feelings of ambivalence eased and diminished as the car continued on to James’s own apartment on King Street. He and Candice had always maintained an understanding between the two of them ever since the night when he had confessed to her that he worked for one of the clandestine agencies. As a matter f national security he could not reveal to her, or any civilian, which of the intelligence agencies, of which there were at least twelve dozen or more, he worked for without putting her life in danger. In return, she did not ask too many question: Questions she should not know the answers to.

Knowing he would be back with little time to spare, he had laid out his clothes before leaving on vacation. Emerging from a quick scalding shower in a bursting cloud of steam, he dressed. He grabbed his weapon, sticking it securely into his concealed sidearm holster in one smooth fluid motion practiced a thousand times. Pulling on his suit jacket, he attached his Agency badge to the breast pocket, into which he slipped his ID and credentials.

He was out the door and back in the car within an hour of having arrived home. As the car crossed the border from Virginia into the District of Columbia, James thought back to Candice’s pet name for him. While it was true in that he was technically employed by the Agency, his Legal Department office was a cubicle in the basement of the headquarters building up at Langley, and with his law degree from Columbia, his job was hardly one to be classified as top-secret.

Exiting off of highway 123, his car stopped in front of a brightly colored forged steel gateway. A young man dressed in a dark suit and tinted glasses approached the car, and James recognized the wire of an earpiece bud looped at the man’s temple. He presented his ID and credentials to the armed guard while beams of infrared lasers scanned the bottom of the vehicle for potential explosive devices or substances. The lights on the gateway flashed blindingly brilliant green and it swung wide. The guard waved him forward and his car descended a step ramp into the headquarters building’s bunker-like subterranean parking garage.

James got out of his car and walked over to the lift recessed in one of the concrete cement support columns. He stepped into the lift and it rose toward ground level.

George Bush Center for Intelligence

McLean, Virginia

10:00 AM

James walked up to the security turnstiles and swiped his identification card. He inserted his credentials and the light on the post’s console flashed green, the ordinarily muted light bright in the muted sunlight of the foyer. He was compelled to empty his pockets in order to pass through the metal detector, and finally entered the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

He had not yet been sitting at his desk two hours when he felt a familiar pair of eyes watching his every move.

“You don’t work here anymore, Jason.” He said without looking up.

The tall muscular man with close cropped bleached blonde hair who stood leaning against the side of his cubicle looked taken aback, and held up his hands, feigning offense.

“Just shooting the scuttlebutt, Jimbo.” Jason Hunter said, earning a smile from the CIA lawyer. Hunter had been in James’s class of Agency recruit at Camp Peary, or as it was known at Langley: “The Farm”. Like Prichardson, upon completing his CIA training, Jason had opted out of becoming an agent. Unlike James, who had gone on to law school in New York, Hunter had instead joined the Marine Corps. “What kind of day has it been?” He asked, and James recognized the military shorthand for requesting a situation report.

“Thorne keeps trying to resurrect clauses of the Patriot Act.” Nathan Thorne was the Deputy Assistant Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a thin wiry man whose deeply red-orange tanned skin clung to his matchstick frame.

“From the Bush Era?” Jason stared at him in vain for any sign of jest, finding none. “The Supreme Court struck down that whole package more than a decade ago!”

James threw up his hands. “I just report ’em. I don’t make ’em up!”

“Well;” Jason said, turning to leave; “I just stopped by to let you know: It’s in the air supply that someone is looking for you.”

“Bolten?” James asked, referring to the Director of Central Intelligence.

“No.” Jason said, patting the palm of his hand on the corner of Prichardson’s cubicle as he backed away. “It’s some tall brunette chick from an agency no one’s ever heard of.” With that, Jason was gone.

An hour later, Prichardson returned from lunch at the Headquarter commissary, but slowed as he entered the legal department’s office bullpen. Leaning back on the corner of his cubicle was tall young woman with long jet-black hair.

She looked to be in her mid-thirties, though as she scanned her eyes across the bullpen looking for him, James got a look at her face and concluded that she could easily pass for someone in their early twenties. She was dressed entirely in black, in what appeared to be a one-piece latex catsuit that clung to her figure.

When she spotted him approaching his cubicle she pushed off the wall and stood straight, her face lighting up with a warm smile. “James Prichardson?” she called. He nodded as he neared her and she extended her hand. “My name is Special Agent Walker. I’m with the National Security Department Intelligence Agency.”

This must be the woman Jason had told him about.’ James thought as he shook her hand, having never heard of the NSDIA either. “Is there’s something I can do for you, Agent Walker?” He asked, sitting back down at his desk.

“You’ve never heard of me, have you?” She asked, still smiling.

James shook his head. “Should I have?”

“Perhaps not.” Walker leaned against the wall of her cubicle casually, suddenly becoming fascinated by her own fingernails. “But I trust you know the woman I work for.” She glanced over at him, her mother-of pearl eyes flashing. “Doctor Hera Day.”

James felt himself sit straighter in his chair, doing his best to disguise it. He had indeed heard of the mysterious Doctor. Nearly everyone in the Clandestine Services had. Hera Day was a legend within the intelligence community in the truest sense of the word. No one had ever met her or even seen her face, but she nevertheless wielded influence over everyone up to and including the President himself, and had in every administration for the better part of the past half-century. The Intelligence Community was a division of the Department of National Security and Defense that in and of itself made up what was for all practical intents and purposes a separate and autonomous fourth branch of the United States federal government, but Day was the Director of an agency that operated outside of even the Intelligence Community: So secretive that only those within the Clandestine Services even knew it existed, and even fewer knew its name. That name, apparently, he now knew, was the National Security Department Intelligence Agency.

He cleared his throat uncomfortably as Walker sashayed around the back of his chair, trailing her fingers casually along the top of the headrest. “What can I help you with, Agent Walker?” He repeated his earlier question more courteously, now knowing to whom he was speaking. Director Day, he knew, had one favourite Agent in particular. No one knew her name, owing in no small part to the fact that she had so many. In France, she was known as Helena Truffaut; in England, as Helena Wells. In Southern California, she was Sarah Carter. ‘Doctor Sarah Carter.’ He recalled, resisting the urge to look again at the young woman behind him.

“I’m here to ask you a few questions.” She hopped up to seat herself on the corner of her desk, crossing her legs and letting her booted feet swing under his chair. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

“Wouldn’t you prefer to go somewhere more comfortable;” He finally looked up to make eye contact with her; “Like the commissary?” Her smile broadened, and he felt his face flush, immediately conscientious how much he had sounded as though he were asking her out on a date.

“Relax, Agent Prichardson.” She said, looking around the Legal Department as though wondering what he, or she for that matter, was doing down there. “It’s not like we’re going to be discussing any classified intelligence.” James was forced to smile at this, thinking that he even if she had wanted to discuss classified secrets, he didn’t know any. “Actually;” Walker said, planting her hands on his desk behind her and leaning back; “The only secrets I need from you are of a more…shall we say…personal nature.”

It was Prichardson’s turn to look around the bullpen nervously, knowing Deputy Thorne’s disapproval of personal matters in the workplace. He had heard the Deputy dressing down his colleagues and coworkers enough times for office romances and workplace fraternization…

“Will that be a problem for you, Agent Prichardson?” Walker’s voice drew him back to the now, and he looked up to see her eyes boring into him.

“I don’t see how it could be a problem for anyone.” He replied with the first thing that came to his mind before could censor himself, thinking that even if his neighbors knew all about his personal life, he knew of few if any who he thought would care or even give it a second thought. “What’s this for, might I ask?”

“You may ask, Agent Prichardson.” Walker replied with a knowing half-grin, but did not answer his question. Instead, she merely produced a pad, compelling James to wonder where on her skintight suit one might find to hide a pocket. “You grew up in Sacramento, California. Is that correct?” From the tone of her voice, he could tell she already knew the answer and that the question was a mere formality. He nodded. “And how old are you now?”

“I’m thirty-one.” He studied her, attempting in vain to ascertain what her answer to the same question might be.

“Meaning that you would have been born in 2016.” This time it was not even a question, but a statement of fact. He nodded again. “And how long have you been a practicing lawyer?”

“Three years.”

“Are you romantically involved with anyone at the moment?”
The question blindsided James out of far right field, and he struggled not to ask her to repeat it. “Yes.”

“This would be Candice Peregrym of Odessa, Texas.” Prichardson’s head jerked up to stare at her, startled that she would know that information.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” She chuckled. “And might young Miss Peregrym be employed by any intelligence or law enforcement agency?”
James shook his head. “No. She’s a civilian.” He felt the need to clear himself from his reaction before. “She’s a graduate student at GW…That’s George Washington University.”

“Doing what?” James got the distinct impression this wasn’t on the official questionnaire.

“A Masters in International Environmental Law, specializing in Russia and Eastern Europe.” He tried his best not sound as though he was boasting, but found himself smiling proudly nevertheless. “She plans to work for the United Nations after she graduates.”

Walker nodded, her expression unreadable, before continuing with the questions. “And how long have you and Miss Peregrym been romantically involved?”

“Two years last month.” James answered with a smile, wondering whether the cryptic woman knew that he had just returned from their anniversary that morning.

“Where do you live, exactly?”

“King Street, Alexandria, Virginia.”

“Near the corner of King and Washington off of the Interstate 495 Beltway.” Walker nodded, grinning smugly at his stunned expression. “One final question;” she stared hard at him until he met her eyes with his; “and I want you to think long and hard about this one. It’s very important.” James felt himself nod slowly, feeling almost lightheaded as though somehow hypnotized by the depths of her pearlescent eyes as he stared into them. “Are you, or would you be, able and willing to relocate from your current residence?”

James cocked his head to one side, never having been asked that question by anyone before. ‘Not since the Farm, at least.’ He thought.

“Candy and I aren’t getting hitched anytime in the foreseeable future.” He felt himself thinking out loud. “So it’s not like I’m tied down with a family or anything.” He straightened in his chair and did his level best to meet her eyes and return her gaze with his own with equal intensity. “I serve at the pleasure of Director Bolten, the DNI, the National Security Council and the President of the United States.” He stated coolly.

“Good.” Walker smiled as she pushed off with her hands behind her to hop down off the desk. “That’s exactly what we were hoping you would say.” Before he could ask who she meant by “We, she was already rounding the outside wall of his cubicle. She paused on her way to turn and place her arms on the top of the cubicle wall directly in front of him, resting her chin lightly on the knuckles of her her folded hands. “We’ll be in touch, James.” She said with an inviting grin spreading her lips.

He blinked in surprise at her use of his first name, but when he opened his eyes again the mysterious woman in black was gone.

No sooner had he returned to his work then he felt the pager attached to his belt at his hip vibrating against his chair. He plucked it off his belt and quickly typed in his twelve-digit alphanumeric pass code on the touch keypad. In abbreviated script, the message read:

“DNI, Echelon, ASAP.”

The letters “DNI” referred to George Kagan, the Director of National Intelligence. “Echelon”, James knew, was the codename within the intelligence services for the headquarters building of the National Security Reconnaissance Agency Office, or NSRAO, at Fort Meade in Maryland. He made a quick phone call before packing up his briefcase and exiting the building.

Half an hour later, as his car exited the Washington Beltway back on to Interstate 95 toward Baltimore, James reviewed everything that was known about the National Security Department Intelligence Agency. It didn’t take long, as there wasn’t much.

It was widely known that President Abraham Lincoln had signed a piece of legislation into law in 1865 creating the United States Secret Service. What only the clandestine community knew was that redacted footnote to that act of Congress also created another Agency: The NSDIA.

However, what Prichardson found most intriguing was that, although the secretive Agency’s history dated back nearly two hundred years, he could find no record anywhere of there ever having been a Director preceding the present one: Doctor Hera Day. He also found of interest the location listed as the headquarters of the National Security Department Intelligence Agency, as it was nowhere near the nation’s capitol. The NSDIA was officially headquartered at a little-known United States Air Force base in the Yucca Mountain salt flats: On the shores of a place “Groom Lake”.

The car exited Interstate 95 at Annapolis Junction onto Highway 32 and began heading southeast toward Fort Meade. From the top of the hill, he could see the iconic megalithic green glass cubes rising above the treetops. The NSRAO was by far the largest and most powerful of the intelligence agencies, and it headquarters dwarfed even those of the CIA at Langley. ‘Echelon’, the former home of the National Security Agency. In the context of what he had learned about Doctor Day, Walker and the NSDIA, the now-defunct Agency’s slang meaning of “No Such Agency” seemed almost comical by comparison. The United States Federal Government had denied until the Watergate investigation of the early 1970’s that the NSA even existed at all. On the other hand, James doubted very much if anyone in the wider civilian populace would ever be aware of the existence of the NSDIA. ‘Any Agency;’ He thought to himself; ‘Which could exist since the American Civil War and still remain unknown to all but an exclusive few could very well, and in all probability would, remain safely anonymous indefinitely.’

National Security Reconnaissance Agency Office

Fort Meade, Maryland

3:15 PM

Even as his car parked in front of one of the monolithic glass buildings, James could already see his Agency contact walking out from the building to meet him.

“Thanks for doing this, C.J.” He said, greeting her with a handshake that the other pulled in for a friendly hug. “It’s been too long.”

Chlaire Jameson Daniels managed the NSRAO’s electronic digital computer cryptographology department. A half dozen years older than Prichardson, she was dressed formally in a skirt suit with her shoulder-length honey blonde hair pulled tightly back and secured in a ponytail that feathered the back of her neck.

Once inside the building, C.J.’s heels clicked on the gleaming white tiles. He steady pace never wavering, Daniels held up what James had at first assumed to be a decorative bola around her neck, but was he now saw a badge on a lanyard. It took James a moment to spot the dark-suited guard standing in an alcove, as C.J stepped up to a monitor mounted on a wall next to a set of opaque doors.

She stood perfectly motionless as a beam of light shined back and forth across her eye, scanning her retina. Then she placed her hand on a pedestal that rose from the floor panel below the monitor. While the touch-sensitive surface scanned her fingerprints, a microscopic pinprick on her palm too a sample of her blood, verifying her identity.

The pedestal began to sink back down into the floor as the door pooped open with a hiss of released pressurized air: The Inside of Echelon was kept hermetically vacuum sealed in order to keep out foreign biochemical contaminants.

They stepped into a glass elevator lift, which took them to the twentieth floor of the imposing glass cube.

“The DNI is expecting you.” C.J. told him as they stepped into the office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Director stood as the glass door swished open and the duo entered.

A former Army General who had been deployed in the Pacific during the Second Cold War, George Kagan looked as though he would be much more comfortable commanding battalions of soldiers in combat than filing intelligence reports.

“Thank you, Miss Daniels.” Bolten said, nodding to the agent escorting James. “I think I can take it from here. That will be all. You are dismissed.” C.J nodded in acknowledgement, patting James on the shoulder with a look that sent the message: ‘Good luck‘ as she turned around, the door opening again with a hiss and closing behind her as she left the room.

“You must be Special Agent Prichardson.” The man across the table greeted, taking James’s hand in a vice-like grip as he shook it vigorously. “I can’t express what a pleasure it is to meet you.”

“The real pleasure will be entirely all mine, I’m certain.” James replied.

“Please, James… Is it alright if I call you by your first name?” Prichardson nodded. “Please do have a seat.” Kagan sat down at his desk, backdropped by its vertigo-inducing vista all the way to the skyline of Baltimore.

“I have heard quite a lot about you.” Prichardson knew that really meant the Director had perused his classified portfolio. Even so, there was earnestness in Kagan’s tone that made Prichardson actually believe that the Director meant what he said. Considering the present circumstances he decided that it would probably be a goo idea to go along with wherever the Director’s conversation was headed. He smiled in a manner he hoped was engagingly amicable and responded: “Oh? Yes? From whom?”

“A friend of ours.” Kagan answered without so much as a moment’s hesitation. It was a predictable and typically cryptic response from the lifelong spy. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”

Prichardson opened his mouth to explain to the General that he hadn’t had much say in the decision, but instead he said: “You paged me for a meeting. I’m led to understand that the Directorate had an assignment for me.”

“A reassignment, actually.” The Director dropped a manila folder on the table, sliding it over across the smoothly polished Formica tabletop in front of him.

“So where am I being reassigned to?” James asked, knowing full well what “reassignment” meant in the context of the clandestine services.

The Director did not answer his inquiry directly. “You’ll be working for a woman whom I worked with…it must have been decades ago now…. at Cheyenne Mountain.”

Prichardson was familiar with the facility outside Colorado Springs. “She worked at NORAD?” He asked, referring to the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base.

Kagan merely smiled. “Perhaps you might have heard of something called the Stargate Program?”

James could only nod: As a lawyer for the CIA, he was indeed well aware of the operation codenamed Project Stargate. The Program had gained notoriety during the Vietnam War as a CIA covert research project into “psy-ops”: Extra-Sensory Perception, clairvoyance and “remote viewing”. In reality, the Stargate Program was a top-secret classified joint American and Russian Air Force operation in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries based deep underneath Cheyenne Mountain. Even Central Intelligence knew little about what was dubbed “Stargate Command”, except that it existed somewhere between levels 27 and 28 of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

“She set up shop out west many years back.”

“I’m being transferred?” Prichardson resigned himself to following along. “To where?”

“The Ninety-ninth United States Air Force Base Flight Wing Test and Training Center.” James tried and utterly failed to work out in his head what the possible acronym would be. “Ninety miles southeast of downtown Las Vegas.”

“You’re sending me to Nevada?”

“We have a private Agency plane waiting for you on the Tarmac at Tipton even now as we speak.” Kagan stood from his chair to shake his hand. “You leave in an hour. It has been very nice to have met and spoken with you, Special Agent Prichardson.”

“Thank you for your time, Director Kagan.” The director sat back down, the door to the DCI’s office opened and he was ushered out. He walked out the door, which closed behind him.

C.J. was waiting by the glass elevator. She saw James’s perplexed expression and asked: “How did it go?” On the way back down to the ground level, Prichardson explained as best he could manage without revealing any of what he knew would be classified details about his reassignment to Nevada. C.J. did not respond until they had reached the doors of the glass cube. Then she said: “Candice will be so disappointed.”

Tipton Air Force Base

Fort Meade Maryland

5:30 PM

James’s car drove along a road through a forest of trees. The road emptied out onto an airfield ensconced by forests on all sides. The small parking lot just across another road was empty and his car pulled into the parking slot nearest to what appeared to be one among the only shelter structures in the field built for people.

James had barely stepped from the car onto the sidewalk when he spotted a young woman striding down the walk from the shelter building.

The figure was immediately recognizable as being that of Special Agent Walker, except with shoulder-length golden blonde hair and dressed smartly in a custom-tailored fitted navy blue military dress uniform pantsuit, the chest adorned with hanging medallions and ribbons.

She smiled as she approached, seeing him studying the shiny winged metal pin centered on her left breast. “Connor.” He read the name imprinted on the ID tag.

“Samantha Connor.” She extended to him her hand even as she reached him.

He was confused at first for a moment why she was introducing herself to him by another name. She pointed to the gold chevron shapes covering the padded shoulders of her jacket. “Colonel Samantha Connor, United States Air Force.” Even as he shook her outstretched hand, James reassessed his initial evaluation of the woman. He was amazed that anyone so young could have risen to the rank of colonel, which most officers did not achieve until at least their late forties or early fifties.

“Right this way, if you will please follow me, Agent Prichardson.” Connor said as she turned and headed across the parking lot. They climbed a hill on a patch of green grass and reaching the top of the rise, James spotted their destination: A grey enclosure set in between two artificial mounds that looked more like camouflaged bunkers than parts of an aircraft hangar.

Connor told James to take a seat in the main passenger cabin as they boarded the small private jet before disappearing into the front of the plane after seeing to it that he was comfortably seated.

James spent the majority of the three-hour flight from Maryland to Nevada perusing the accordion folder that Director Kagan had handed him at Echelon, carefully reading and rereading every page over and over again and again, attempting in vain to uncover the Directorate of National Intelligence’s reason or rationale for sending him to Nevada. James must have drifted off for a while because he awoke to find that the plane was circling over downtown Las Vegas.

Groom Lake Air Force Base, Nevada

6:15 PM

The plane touched down on the southeastern end of the long runway. Taxiing due northwest, the plane did not slow to a stop until it turned into the last slot in a long hangar at the end of the road. It was not until Connor joined him as he got up from his seat in the cabin that it occurred to James why the woman had not during the flight: He realized then that the colonel had actually been the one who had been flying the plane all the while. He stared at the young blonde with new respect as together Prichardson and Connor descended the stairs into the darkened hangar. He noted that she had transitioned from a pantsuit to the jacket’s matching knee-length skirt upon their arrival in Nevada.

They stepped out of the cool hangar into the brilliant, scalding Nevada desert sun only momentarily, as there was black sedan waiting for them just outside the hangar. They rode west over a hill, at which time their destination came into view and James could not conceal a gasp of astonishment: Built into the hillside in front of them was what was no doubt the largest warehouse he had ever seen. Even the massive concrete bases of the steel scaffolding columns that supported the overhanging eaves of the sharply slanted roof dwarfed the sedan in which they rode as they pulled up to the towering façade of the megalithic structure. Stepping from the sedan, James had to crane his neck upwards into the blindingly brilliant desert sunlight in order to just barely make out the apex of the roof towering like the mountain behind it that it appeared to mimic.

Connor stepped up to a set of solid steel double doors that, in spite of being nearly twice again her own height, were so minutely miniscule compared to the warehouse itself that they had been nearly imperceptible and had gone heretofore unnoticed by Prichardson. Reaching up to what appeared to be a brass knocker, the Colonel’s fingers flipped the cover down and stepped up to the lens, standing still as a statue, unblinking as the laser beam scanned her retina and the pad took her handprint.

James startled as a second set of metal double doors, concealed within the larger gate, popped open with a hiss.

The interior of this building was apparently climate-controlled. The contrast between the broiling Nevada desert heat and the coolly air-conditioned environment as they stepped inside forced James to take a deep breath. If that hadn’t made him gasp already, the interior of the building into which they stepped most definitely would have. They stepped from the dusty wind-blown sands of the southeastern Nevada salt flats into a foyer that looked as though it belonged more in the Louvre than a warehouse in in the desert.

Colonel Connor’s heels clicked rhythmically, echoing in the high-ceilinged hall, on the parquet marble tiles, polished to a lustrous sheen as to reflect the shadows of the glistening metallic stone-grey marble columns cast by the glass bulb crystal chandeliers dangling from the high ceiling above. On either side, ornate wooden staircases led down to lower stories below them. They were not taking the stairs, however, and Connor led him to a large freight cargo elevator lift, which started to move almost before its metal doors had finished closing completely behind his back.

James could tell that they were moving downward: plummeting might have been the word that sprung to his mind. It was no free-fall-however, as the two of them barely felt the inertia of acceleration: The law of motion of inertia seemed almost not to apply, only Connor’s blonde hair feeling the near-zero gravity weightlessness effects. The only sign that Prichardson could had to discern the rapid and accelerating rate of their descent was the outside of the shaft flying by outside the rounded barred porthole opposite him, behind the tall woman. James had long since lost count of the meters that they must had dropped by the time that the lift began to slow to a gentle, nearly imperceptible halt.

The metal doors opened onto a parquet-tiled foyer, carven wooden read and gold-carpeted steps on either side up ahead of them led up to a second story. Ascending one of the twin staircases, they entered a brilliantly lit office.

Behind the engraved wood desk sat a tall, regal-looking woman with long arms and legs and long, flowing golden hair. “Good afternoon, James.” The older woman’s English-accented voice greeted him as she rose from her chair and extended a long arm and long-fingered hand. “My name is Hera Day.” James shook her hand.

“Will there be anything more I can do for you, Ma’am?” The colonel asked from the doorway behind.

“Not for just right now.” The taller older woman answered. “Thank you, Helena. That will be all. You are dismissed. Before James could register that the woman had called his escort by the name “Helena”, Connor bowed low and deeply at the waist in a courtly curtsy. “Thank you so much mo—madam.” She corrected herself quickly at a cautionary glance from the older woman. Then she was gone before James could even turn around. Once she had disappeared, Day came around her desk to approach him.

To his surprise, as she continued directly past him to the window, Day removed her pantsuit, revealing a high-collared long-sleeved beaded sequin floor-length evening gown underneath. He followed her beckoning finger, stepping up to stand beside her as she faced the window, through which brilliant sunlight shone, filtered only by the drawn crimson satin curtains. Reaching out with her long arms, she tugged the curtains to either side, drawing open the window. As James’s vision adjusted to the brightness, nothing in the first thirty years of his life could have ever possibly prepared him for the sight that greeted his eyes.

“Special Agent Prichardson;” Hera said to him. “Welcome to Area 51.”

“To Explore Strange New Worlds”, Chapter 5: Back In Time [Draft #2: January 8, 2015]

•January 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jenny had just tucked her younger sister into bed in their shared quarters when she felt the badge on her suit vibrate against her chest.

Knowing that Cassandra would want to stay awake if she thought that anything interesting or exciting might happen, the Engineer had reconfigured her communicator to a silent setting for the purposes of putting the girl to bed. As such, she made sure to walk into another room, closing the doors between them behind her before tapping the badge with her fingers to answer the call.

Lieutenant Hansen;” It was Lessia’s voice; “Please report to main Engineering as soon as possible.”

“On my way, Lieutenant.” Hansen acknowledged, smiling to herself as she gently reminded the Trillaxian that they shared the same rank, a rebuttal to the air of authority in Lessia’s order.

“What do you have for me, Lieutenant?” Hansen asked, even before the doors to the Engineering compartment had fully finished sealing themselves closed behind her. She looked around the seemingly empty and deserted chamber for the Trillaxian scientist and jumped as Lessia’s voice echoed from above her.

“Just a little something I’ve been working on since we go here.” Lessia waited as Jennifer climbed onto the lift that raised her to the Engineering section’s second level before continuing. “If you remember;” She explained; “The Emperor stated at out trial that this Terran earth Empire has existed for centuries.”

Jennifer nodded, not having as precise a recall of the man’s exact words as the Trillaxian did but remembering the general gist of their trial. “So?” The Engineer wondered where the scientist might be going with such an opening statement.

“So;” Lessia continued, her fingers tapping at the console she sat in front of; “I decided, on a… call it a hunch, to figure out in just which century, precisely, this Empire of theirs originated.”

Jennifer nodded, thinking that it seemed like a worthwhile pursuit. “And you found something?” It was more a statement than it was an inquiry.

Lessia nodded. “I never thought I would ever hear myself say these words, but the Emperor was right.” Jennifer raised an eyebrow. “The Earth Empire does indeed date back hundreds of years.”

“Just how long, exactly?” Jennifer asked, sensing the Trillaxian was being deliberately cryptic in her explanation.

“You won’t believe me.” Lessia warned, leaning back in her chair to permit the Chief Engineer to look at the screen displayed on the console in front of her. “I didn’t believe it myself.”

Hansen read the date and location displayed on the screen.

Then she read it again. There was a long moment of silence that stretched between the two women.

“Someone needs to tell the Captain.” Hansen said finally and Lessia nodded.

Cox was leaning over the balcony railing with his eyes closed, but stood straight and opened them as he heard the polite clearing of a throat from behind him. He turned around to see a girl with long ebony hair leaning her head in the doorway to the balcony.

It took him a minute to put a name to the mother-o-pearl eyes.

“Casey.” He sighed, waving her forward. “Please.”

Cassandra walked slowly forward as Cox turned back around to the railing again, “What are you doing her, Captain?” She asked, looking around.

“I just didn’t want to forget what a sunset looked like.” Cox answered, half to himself.

The balcony on which they stood faced south and Cassandra looked to her right to the West.

“It’s very beautiful.” She nodded, her eyes taking in the fiery red-orange sun touching the waters of the river. She joined him at the railing. “I don’t recognize this program.” She noticed the Captain’s eyes dart down to his elbows on the railing at the reminder that what he was leaning on was not actually marble, but a hologram.

“My grandmother grew up here.” He nodded back to the white marble mansion behind them. Then he turned to look over at her. “So did you great-grandmother.” Cassandra turned to look at him in surprise. “Did you know that?”

Cassandra shook her head.

Cox nodded.

“What is it?” Cassandra craned her head around to look up at the Corinthian marble columns around them.

“It’s called the White House.” Cassandra nodded, looking around at the glistening white marble that surrounded them. “In the late twenty-first century, it was the residence for the President of the Federation.” He smiled as he saw the girl’s eyes grow wide at the implications for what he had told her moments before. “My grandmother’s name was Alexandria.” Cox said and Cassandra sensed that again he was only partially speaking to her. “She was the daughter of Katherine Janney.”

“The Founder and First President of the Federation.” Cassandra nodded.

Cox turned to her then. “You are named after your grandmother.” He told her. “Did you know that?”

Cassandra nodded, even though she hadn’t.

Cox must have sensed the truth in her eyes, as he continued. “Her name was Cassandra Allen.” He told her. “She was the daughter of Julia Allen, who was Katherine Janney’s niece.”
Cassandra joined him on her in leaning on her elbows on the railing. “And Third President of the Federation.” She looked sidelong at him, reaching up to sweep her long black hair out of her face and behind her ear. “So your grandmother and my great grandmother were cousins, huh?”

Cox smiled as he nodded with a chuckle.

Standing beside her he had momentarily been able to forget the fact that the mind behind the pearlescent eyes was that of a twelve-year-old girl. However, he should have counted on the mind of a pre-adolescent child to reduce the intricate and complex relationships between them that he had explained to her down to their simplest quintessence.

“Where are we?” She asked.

“The city is called Washington.” Cox answered and Cassandra nodded. “The Provincial Capitol of North America?” Cox merely nodded to their left and Cassandra looked where he indicated, her eyes scaling up the columned dome rising to their East, its white marble painted a deep crimson by the setting sun.

The silence that stretched between them grew uncomfortable and Cassandra cleared her throat again.

“Jenny sent me.” She told him. “She and Lessia have discovered something they think you should see.”

Cox inhaled a deep breath, as he stood straight, letting it out with a long sigh as he turned away from the sunset.

London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain.” Cox read the screen in front of him. He and his senior officers stood in a semicircle around Lessia’s science station on the Endeavor’s bridge. “June sixth, 1966.”

“The mid-twentieth century.” Sarah and her mother chorused in unison, looking at one another.

“This date is when our universes diverged.” Cox confirmed, more a statement than an inquiry and Lessia nodded: “And when the Empire began.” He turned around to look back at his godmother and her daughter behind him. “If I didn’t know better;” He let his words linger for a long minute; “It almost sounds as thought you know something we don’t.”

“In the latter half of the twentieth century;” Hera explained professorially; “The Earth was enveloped in a cultural and technological conflict between the Union of Soviet Socialist republics in the East and the United States of America in the West.”

“The First Cold War.” Cox nodded, remembering his history lessons.

Both Hera and her daughter smiled with pride at her godson, but Hera’s face straightened as she continued: “In our universe, the conflict ended within a couple of decades with the economic collapse of the Soviet Union.”

“But if something, or someone, somehow managed to prevent the Cold War from ending;” Sarah added; “Earth’s history could have turned out very differently from the one we know.”

“So the question;” Slaavik said slowly; “If we wish to set things right;” Everyone present nodded in agreement; “Is how do we go about figuring out just who or what, exactly, altered history in 1966?”

There was a long silence as everyone present looked down, none of them having an answer.

“There is always one way.” Lessia said at long last, hesitantly.

“And that would be?” Cox prompted.

“We could go there and see it firsthand for ourselves.”

“Forgive me.” Alexander said, holding up his hands. “But go where, exactly?”

“To 1966.” Sarah and Lessia replied in chorus.

“How?” Alexander was still mystified.

“The Equinox.” Jennifer answered, her tone indicating that she had just figured it out herself.

“The what?” Alexander looked to his Captain for information.

“The Federation Time Ship U.S.S. Equinox.” Cox responded. “A vessel equipped with a temporal quantum slipstream core.” He saw Alexander’s eyes go wide as he understood that the Federation Captain was talking in all seriousness about, of all things, a time machine. “It’s docked down in the Endeavor’s shuttle hangar.” He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb, toward the doors to the lift. Cox patted Jenny on the shoulder. “Go to the Equinox and power up the temporal core.”

“What are we going to do with the Endeavor?” Lauriaina was glaring hard at Cox. “Is it your intention, then, Captain;” She hissed between clenched teeth; “To disable its engines and weapons and set the Endeavor adrift in deep space with her crew still imprisoned in the brig?” Cox could feel the Valogran Counselor searching his mind. Her disapproval of this course of action was evident in her voice, and he silently agreed with her, since this would make Cox and his team no better than their doppelgänger counterparts.

But Cox was grinning broadly from ear to ear as he shook his head. “Not at all!” He almost laughed. Then he turned to Lessia. “I’m correct in assessing that it’s possible to extend the Equinox’s temporal field to encompass objects larger than itself?” He asked.

“Like, say for instance, a much larger vessel?” Lessia quipped rhetorically, then began to nod. “Yes, I believe it would be possible, theoretically.”

“Good!” Cox exclaimed, patting her on the shoulder, looking around the expansive bridge. “Because we’re taking it with us.”

The Trillaxian, who had stopped in the doorway, thought for a long minute before nodding slowly. “It is plausible to extend the Equinox’s quantum field around the Endeavor, if necessary.” She hedged hesitantly.

“It’s very necessary.” Cox said, before turning to wink at Lauri standing beside him with a sky half-grin spreading his lips. “Trust me.”

To Cox’s surprise, when he arrived back at the doors to the holodeck, he found Sarah waiting for him with her arms crossed in front of her chest.

“Ever since we first found this thing;” She nodded her head toward the holodeck control panel; “You’ve spent every minute you’re not on the bridge inside.”

Cox sensed that her statement was more an accusation. “Are you and your mother concerned about me?” He asked pointedly, turning to start typing at the console.

“I don’t know.” Sarah admitted slowly, with a shrug of her shoulders, eyeing him intently through narrowed eyes.” Do we have a reason to be?”

“I’m fine.” Cox assured her, sensing the beginnings of an addiction intervention on his godmother’s part.

“if you say so.” Sarah shrugged again, turning toward the doors to the holodeck. “Goddesses know it would be perfectly understandable if you weren’t;” She barely turned her head as she glanced sidelong over at him out of the corner of her eye; “Considering everything you’ve been through.”

Cox’s fingers paused on the keypad and he heaved a heavy sigh. He was silent for a long time before he spoke, his eyes closed. “I’m homesick.” He admitted. “All right? There! I said it!” He huffed as his fingers returned to work.

Sarah watched him carefully, turning her head to the side. She nodded. The doors to the holodeck opened and they stepped inside. Sarah slowed as she entered, looking around. “What…?”

Cox turned around with a smile, walking backwards as he watched the blonde’s reaction to her surroundings. “London;” He said, spreading his arms wide; “Mid-1960’s.”

“Where is everyone?” Sarah looked around at the empty streets around them.

Cox shrugged: “Must be a holiday of some kind.”

Sarah stopped to look at a newspaper stand: “November 22, 1963.” She read; frowning as thought the date struck a chord in her memory.

“So what did you want to tell me?” Cox asked as they strolled leisurely along the side of Westminster Bridge.

Sarah nodded, guessing that he would know she had other motives for meeting him there. “Before President Janney, your great-grandmother, made me the first head of the Enterprise Starship Program;” She began and Cox perked up at learning for the first time that she had known the First President of the Federation;” I worked as a theoretical astrophysicist at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.” Cox nodded, not interrupting her, wanting her to continue, as this was more than she had ever told him about herself before. “Part of the First Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union;” She continued; “Was a race between the two to be the first to land a man on the surface of the moon.” She gestured up into the night sky above them. She was silent for a moment as they both looked up at the moon and stars as they walked.

“Meaning?” Cox prompted at long last, turning to her and lowering his head to face her beside him.

“Meaning;” Sarah eyed him pointedly; “That even by this point in history, there were nations with satellites in orbit around the Earth.”

Cox thought for a moment, then nodded. “You think someone might notice if a ship the size of the Endeavor were to suddenly appear in low Earth orbit above the city of London?”

Sarah smiled at the deadpan laconic understatement. “They might.” She chuckled.

“Can I be safe in presuming you are about to propose an alternative?” Cox turned to her as they continued walking.

Sarah did not answer right away, looking up again at the nearly full moon hanging above them, a crescent of shadow creeping over one side of it. Even as late as the turn of the twenty-first century;” She said finally, her tone as distant and far away as the stars above their heads; “People still knew very little about one particular part of the moon.” She lowered her eyes to look at him meaningfully.

Again it took Cox only a moment to catch her meaning. “The dark side.” He muttered, half under his breath, and the blonde nodded.

“The Earth’s moon is tidally locked with the planet itself.” Sarah stood at the front of a small conference room off the Endeavor’s bridge. Around the table sat Cox, Slaavik, Alexander, Jennifer and Lessia; all listening intently as Sarah outlined and explained her strategy for them. “This means that the side of the moon that the people of Earth see is only the side that faces Earth, which is always the same side.”

“So you propose;” Alexander rumbled in his deep voice; “That to avoid detection by Earth’s orbiting satellites, we position this ship on the far side of the Earth’s moon?”

Sarah nodded.

“You said that this space race did result in humans going to the moon.” Slaavik said. “How will we not be visible to them?”

Hera smiled, exchanging glances with her daughter. “The Russians had launched the first-ever manmade object, a communications satellite, into orbit only eight years earlier.”

“The Americans ignited mankind’s race to the moon for another eight years;” Sarah smiled; “And they did not land the first humans to set foot on the surface of the moon until mid-July of the year 1969, more than three years after our target date.”

“Also;” Cox added; “The missions that landed on the moon in the twentieth century were not sufficiently equipped to remain there for more than a couple of days.” He looked to Jennifer, who nodded in agreement, for confirmation. “Human colonization of the Earth side of the moon did not begin until after the Federation in the mid twenty-first century.”

Sarah caught up to the Captain as the officers filed out of the conference room. “Captain!”

Cox turned around at hearing her not call him by his first name, indicating that this was an official and professional conversation as opposed to a personal one.

“I bring this up not only as a physicist but as the Endeavor’s pilot.” She began, and he nodded for her to continue. “If we are going to be taking a ship the size of the Endeavor not only backwards through time but also across light years of space; she gestured to the planet Valogra on the view screen; “The dark side of the moon, as a target…” She hesitated and Cox could sense that she was searching for a way to convey her point; “…Is comparable to shooting an arrow from horseback and splitting a bullet down the center…blindfolded.”

Cox’s eyes widened at the vividness of her metaphor. “What do you propose, Colonel?”

Sarah beamed at him recognizing her criticism of his plan. “Titan.”

“Meaning?” Cox searched his memory for all possible meanings of the term.

“One of the outer gas giant planets, Saturn for instance, would be a much easier target to achieve.”

“That way, if we happen to reemerge from slipstream inside the planet itself…” Cox nodded.

“…No harm, no foul.” Sarah confirmed.

“Very well then.” Cox continued toward the Captain’s chair, gesturing Sarah to the helm. “Set course for the rings of Saturn.”

He tapped the communications link. “Bridge to Engineering.”

Here, Captain.” Jennifer’s voice confirmed that she had arrived back at her station.

“Cox to Equinox.” He hailed the ship in the Endeavor’s hangar.

Bringing the temporal quantum core online.” Lessia confirmed.

“Confirmed.” Sarah said from the helm. “Quantum field forming on deck ten.”

“Now, Lieutenant.” Cox said to Jennifer. “Engage quantum slipstream drive.”

Acknowledged.” Jennifer answered. “Slipstream field merging with temporal field.”

On the view screen in front of them, a schematic of the Endeavor showed the ship surrounded by a red-orange circle, while a blue-green spherical bubble expanded outward from the hangar. After several long minutes that seemed to stretch on into small eternities, the two circles first touched, then became one.

Quantum slipstream field is stable.” Hansen reported from Engineering.

“To all those aboard the Starship Endeavor;” Cox’s voice boomed through the ship-wide intercom and he grinned at knowing that his voice was reaching the ship’s former crew members in their cells in the brig; “This is Captain William Cox.” He stood as he spoke, straightening his uniform. “We have extended the temporal quantum field generated by the core of the Time ship Equinox around this ship and are preparing to engage the Equinox’s temporal drive. He sighed. “Put simply;” He explained; “We are about to attempt time travel.” The words sounded strange leaving his lips. “Our target is the year 1966, the mid twentieth century.” He looked down at his helmsman, who nodded, confirming the accuracy of his explanation. “With any luck;” He smiled, thinking that their luck had been very bad as of late; “we will emerge from slipstream in orbit around the gas giant planet of Saturn, and will be making our way down to twentieth century Earth from there.” He nodded to Sarah. “All Federation officers, brace of engagement of quantum slipstream drive.”

Ready, Captain.” Hansen acknowledged.

“Engage.” Cox sat back down in his chair.

On the view screen in front of them, it appeared as though a swirling vortex opened up in the center of the planet below them. The planet, its red-orange star and the rainbow-colored nebulae of gaseous clouds in the background appeared to twist into a swirling spiral. Then it all appeared to begin to pour into the center of the planet below like water down a drain. An opening appeared in the center of the swirl and expanded outward. Then Cox gripped the armrests of the Captain’s chair with white knuckles as the Endeavor lurched forward into the widening gyre.

William Brooks sulked as he paced back and forth in his cell. He had been unable to raise the Endeavor’s computer system, which he had come to know as a feminine Artificial Intelligence calling herself “Andromeda”, after the Ethiopian princess rescued from a whale by the Medusa-slaying demigod Perseus in Ancient Greek mythology. He was able to ascertain from his limited access that he was the only one of the original crew of the Endeavor to have been granted the consideration of a sultry cell by their self-appointed jailer, the superhumanly-strong blonde Valogran woman, whom Brooks remembered had also claimed to be an astrophysicist.

Hours ago, Brooks would have and did make the mistake of derisively dismissing such a claim. But since then he had seen his ship overtaken and his crew imprisoned by a team one hundredth their number.

He had apparently also experienced the hostile but rapid overwrite of an Imperial ship’s computer by an even more advanced and more powerful Artificial Intelligence from somewhere else, the rebel’s own ship, he guessed.

This new system manifested as an androgynous voice that he had overheard the blonde Valogran conversing with by the name “Archie”. As the past hours had been packed nearly to overflowing with occurrences h never would have imagined could happen, Brooks was rapidly abandoning his presuppositions that there indeed existed any such a thing as “no such thing” within this new paradigm wherein he now found himself. Just as he was readying intellectually and emotionally for yet another attempted hacking in order to try and locate whatever might remain of Andromeda, he was thrown off of his feet by a sudden overwhelming wave of disorientation that washed over him like a shockwave.

The next couple of hours passed in a blur, with the Endeavor twisting and swerving through a serpentine maze of glowing blue and red-orange light.

Sarah hardly blinked as she deftly steered the ship through the labyrinthine web, filled with blinding flashes from bolts of electrostatic discharge.

In the Equinox’s Engineering compartment, Jennifer gripped the railing as the whole ship shook violently, staring incredulously up at Lessia. The Trillaxian Science Officer stood on the upper level of the chamber, her hands clasped behind her back, not seeming to move at all with the jostling of the ship. Beside her, Cassandra was hugging her arms tightly around one of the columns next to the slipstream core, her eyes squeezed tightly closed and her mouth open as she screamed and shrieked like child on a roller coaster ride at an amusement park.

After a time that stretched on into an eternity, Cox braced himself against being tossed forward as the Endeavor suddenly came to a stop, emerging abruptly from the slipstream.

Cox released his white-knuckled death grip on the armrests of the Captain’s chair after the twisting, turning, winding, whirling trip through the slipstream. He rose slowly from the Captain’s chair, his legs unsteady and his internal equilibrium unsettled.

On the view screen in front of him, where he expected to see the blackness of space, it was instead filled with jostling and tumbling particulates of dust.

“Is this a magnified image?” He wondered aloud.

“No, sir.” Sarah answered. Her fingers flew over the console in front of her. “It’s ice;” She remarked; “Between two and sixteen meters in diameter.”

Cox recognized the description. “The rings of Saturn.” Sarah nodded. Cox pressed the communications button. “Lessia, how close are we to our destination?”

We’re close, Captain.” Lessia answered. “The date on Earth is December nineteenth of year 1965.”

“Happy un-birthday, Will.” Hera said with a smile.

Cox nodded, knowing that he would not be born for nearly two hundred years. “Engage maneuvering impulse thrusters.” Cox ordered.

Sarah nodded. “Aye, Captain.”

Cox switched the view screen to show the view from behind the bridge and watched as the Endeavor’s nacelles rose above the plane of the rings, shedding the swirling clouds of weightless particles as the ship emerged into empty space in orbit around the yellow gas giant.

As if anticipating his next order, Sarah switched the view screen back to the front view and magnified the image.

Cox leaned forward in his chair as he saw why.

Rounding the magnified curve of the swirly yellow gas planet in front of them, hundreds of millions of kilometers away, was an intimately familiar blue-green marble. Before even consciously thinking it, Cox punched the button on the arm of the Captain’s chair, broadcasting the image the front viewer onto ever screen of every console on the ship.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” He announced as he watched the outer gaseous clouds of the giant planet fall away from the faraway world. “There she is.”

The bridge fell silent, as did, he guessed, the rest of the ship.

“That’s home.” He had the image magnified so that the blue-green planet filled the view screen in front of him.

“That is where you come from?” Alexander piped up from beside him.

Cox nodded, not taking his eyes from the screen. “That’s Earth.”

“She’s very beautiful.” Cox was not looking at him and so he could not see that the Valogran man’s eyes were no longer on the view screen, but on the Trillaxian Science Officer standing beside it.

“Yes.” Cox nodded, studying that North America looked like in the twentieth century, before the ice sheets descended. “Yes she is.”

“To Explore Strange New Worlds” Chapter 4: Prodigy Son

•November 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

When Cox arrived on the bridge, a familiar sight greeted him on the main view screen. The planet Valogra Prime was a dark maroon-brown where there was land, a glowing red-orange where there were rivers, lakes and oceans.

“It’s a magnified image.” Lessia explained from the Science Officer station.

“How far out are we?”

“One hundred and fifty million kilometers.” Sarah reported.

“Bring us to within a hundred million kilometers;” Cox ordered; “And open a channel.”

Distance: eighty million kilometers.” Archimedes reported a moment later.

“Channel open on all frequencies.” Sara reported. “Universal translation matrix available.”

“This is Captain William Jefferson Cox of the Unified Federated Star Systems.” Cox said, hearing his own voice transmitted ship-wide as well as to the planet below them. “I am the first-born, eldest and only son of Queen Cimarra of the Valogran Hierarchy.” He paused for moment.

“Sir!” Slaavik announced. “I’m reading multiple weapons locks from orbit around the planet.”

Cox nodded. “I am speaking to you from the bridge of the Federation starship U.S.S. Endeavor, formerly the flagship of the Imperial Fleet under the command of Imperial Commander William Brooks, who is presently imprisoned in my ship’s brig.” He looked over at Hera, who stood beside her daughter. “I have the preserved body of Queen Cimarra of Valogra Prime lying in state in the cargo bay of my ship.”

“It worked, Captain.” Slaavik said with a pleased smile. “All weapons systems on the planet’s surface have ceased targeting us.”
“Move us into high orbit.” Cox sat down in the Captain’s chair.

“A large fleet of imperial warships is assembling on the far side of the planet.” Sarah reported.

Out of our weapons’ range.’ Cox thought and Sarah nodded. ‘Very clever.’

“To my fellow Valograns;” Cox announced over the intercom; “I can promise you this, on my mother’s life.” He looked over at Slaavik, locking eyes with her as he spoke. “The Federation wishes you no harm.”

Slaavik nodded.

“To the soldiers of the Empire;” His tone changed from amicable to ominous; “I leave you with a choice.” He rose from his chair to pace in front of it, his fingers steepled in front of him. “Option one;” He smiled coldly; “Is to vacate the Valogran system immediately.” He stopped pacing, facing forward and delivering his ultimatum in an emotionless tone that matched the frostiness of his eyes. “Those who do not can either join Commander Brooks in the Endeavor’s brig, or be fired upon.” He sat back down in the Captain’s chair, leaning back in it with his fingers still steepled. “The choice is yours, of course.” He stated calmly. “But as soldiers of the Empire, I can only presume that you are aware of the capabilities of this vessel.” He glanced over at Meg standing at attention beside his chair. “Capabilities that, I can assure you, are now under my complete control.” He caught Sarah’s eye. “You have three hours.” He gestured to her and Sarah severed the communications link.

“The Imperial fleet has changed course.” Slaavik reported.

“New heading?” Cox asked her.

“Out of the Valogran system.” Slaavik confirmed; sounding pleased.

“You could make a fortune as a professional gambler.” Lauri complimented from the railing behind him, having heard his whole speech.

Cox stood and turned around to look back at her. “I’m a starship Captain.” He winked at her with a half-grin. “Is there a difference?”

An hour and a half later, Cox was strolling along the beach on the holodeck, admiring the fiery sunset, when Archimedes materialized to fall into stride beside him, in the process striding as though by magic atop the water.

Incoming transmission for you.”
Imrathor, capitol city of Valogra Prime.”
“Video?” Cox turned to her with interest.

Archie shook her head. “Audio only.”
“Put it through.” Cox nodded.

This is a message for the Commander of the Starship Endeavor.” A voice said. “My name is Alexander, Magistrate and Administrator of Valogra.”
“Go ahead.”

Captain Cox.” The Magistrate sounded audibly relieved. “You’ll be pleased to hear that the last remaining Imperial troops have departed from the Capitol.”

“Pleasant news indeed, Magistrate.” Cox agreed.
We would like very much to hear more of this Federation of yours, Captain.”

“Of course.” Cox nodded, even though no one was watching. “The Valogran star system is more than welcome to join the Federation.”

We will consider your generous offer, Captain;” The Magistrate said; “On one condition.”

“You have but to name it.” Cox smiled. “If it is within my capacity to give, then you shall have it.”

In that case;” The Magistrate seemed emboldened; “We formally request that you personally deliver the body of Queen Cimarra to me at the Capitol, as immediately as is your convenience.”

“My away team and I will be landing on the surface in approximately one half hour.” Cox confirmed.

We will make ready to receive you, Captain.” The Magistrate closed the channel.

Cox slapped his badge. “Cox to Commander Kahn.”

Slaavik here.” The Valogran replied.

“Meet me in the shuttle bay.” Cox told her. “Cox to Colonel Wells.”
Go ahead, Will.” Sarah responded.

“Will you and your mother meet us in the shuttle bay, please?” Cox requested.

Anything else?” Sarah said, evidently sensed that he wasn’t yet finished.

“Bring Lauri with you.” Cox smiled. “Would you please?”

As you wish.” The smile was evident in Sarah’s voice as well.

“Cox to Lieutenant Odanox.”
Lessia here.”
“You have the bridge, Lieutenant.”

Sarah deftly piloted the Federation Presidential shuttle down onto the landing pad outside the gates of Valogra’s capitol city.

Cox stepped from the back hatch and knew immediately that he had chosen wisely in his selection of the away team as they saw a delegation of Valograns streaming out of the gates toward them.

At their head was a towering, dark-skinned man with pronounced forehead ridges that extended from his high hairline down his brow onto the bridge of his nose. From his rigid posture and bearing as well as the badge-adorned metal sash slung from his shoulder across his chest, it was evident to Cox that this must be the Magistrate he had spoken with over the communications link.

Cox had assumed, however, that the gravelly low tone of the Magistrate’s voice had been merely a byproduct of a bad communication channel; an illusion that evaporated when the large dark man spoke.

“Captain Cox, I presume.” The Magistrate was making no effort to hide his eyes evidently sizing up the starship Captain before him. His eyes seemed to particularly fixate on Cox’s forehead, as if judging the ridges he saw there for their authenticity.

“Magistrate Alexander.” Cox nodded in return. “This is the late Queen’s Chief Advisor, and the Endeavor’s Second in Command, Commander Slaavik Khan.” He gestured Slaavik forward to greet the Magistrate. “This is my godmother, a close friend of the late Queen, Doctor Hera Day;” Hera came up to stand beside her godson; “And her daughter, the Endeavor’s pilot and helmsman, Colonel Sarah Wells.” Sarah greeted the Magistrate enthusiastically from Cox’s other shoulder. “And last but certainly not least, we have the Endeavor Crew Moral Officer and Ship’s Counselor, Lieutenant Lauriaina.” Lauri greeted the towering Magistrate timidly. “As requested;” He nodded to Sarah, who returned to the shuttle’s hatch; “The sarcophagus of Queen Cimarra of Valogra Prime;” Sarah returned carrying the crystalline sarcophagus aloft in her arms as thought it were a five-pound bag; “My mother.” Cox added, holding out the palm of his hand to one of the Magistrate’s aides, who pricked his skin with a device.

The aide examined the display on the device, and then murmured in the Magistrate’s ear.

“I apologize for doubting the veracity of your claims, Captain.” The Magistrate bowed low. “Or I should call you;” Cox startled as the towering Magistrate unexpectedly dropped to one knee and bowed his head, gesturing for the rest of his entourage to follow suit, which they did; “You Majesty.”

Cox was visibly uncomfortable at having so many people bowing down to him. He waved stiffly, glancing back at Sarah on one side and Lauri on his other. “Rise, Magistrate.”

The towering dark man stood slowly and the rest of his delegation did likewise.

“Your name isn’t actually Alexander, is it?” Cox queried with a grin.

The magistrate shook his head. “Amdanros of Imrathor, at your service, your Majesty.” He bowed at the waist. Then he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

“Is there anything that I can do for you?” Cox prompted, seeing his hesitancy.

“If it is not too much to ask of you, your Majesty;” Amdanros hedged; “I’ve never been on board an Imperial starship before.”

Cox smiled at Slaavik. “I’m certain that we’d be more than happy to conduct you on a tour of the Endeavor.”

Slaavik nodded in agreement and gestured for the Magistrate to board the shuttle, which he did accompanied by the aide with the DNA scanning device whom, Cox noted, kept a watchful eye on both Hera and Sarah.

Amdanros and his aide appeared as startled as Cox had been, if not more so, to see Meg waiting to greet them when the shuttle’s hatch opened.

“Magistrate Amdanros of Valogra Prime;” Cox made the requisite introductions; “This is Meagierthiea, android avatar of the Federation flagship Endeavor.”

It is my pleasure, Magistrate, to welcome you on board.” Meg greeted him.

“Captain on the bridge!” Lessia announced as they stepped off the lift.

Both Amdanros and his aide slowed visibly as they stepped onto the bridge, looking around them with gaping mouths and wide eyes like country farmers seeing the downtown of a major urban metropolis for the very first time.

The Magistrate, however, soon brought his gaze to bear on Lessia herself.

He approached her slowly, step by step as though at any moment she might blow away on a sudden breeze. “You’re a Trillaxian, aren’t you?” He said, his eyes tracing the pattern of spots that ran down the sides of her neck. He reached a finger out and looked about to touch them as though to reassure himself that she was not merely a mirage, but stopped himself as Lessia nodded, her gaze meeting his expressionlessly. Amdanros turned to Cox. “A pet of yours, Captain?”

Cox hurried forward to join them as he saw Lessia’s jaw clench and her hands at her sides ball into tight fists, her eyes narrowing sharply. “No!” He said, a bit too loudly, wanting to stop the Trillaxian woman from breaking the Valogran Magistrate’s nose. “Not at all!” He placed a hand on both of their shoulders, ready to hold them apart by force. “This is the Endeavor’s Science Officer, Lieutenant Lessia Odanox.”

To both of their surprise, the Magistrate responded by first smiling broadly, then breaking out with a laugh.

“Well now!” He exclaimed, chuckling. “This is a day to remember, isn’t it?” He turned to Cox. “First, a previously unknown child of Queen Cimarra materializes from out of nowhere and drives the Empire from our planet without firing a shot!” He slapped the Captain on the shoulder in his excitement, his hand landing like a sledgehammer blow, which he seemed to immediately regret. “Then, we find a surviving member of the Ruling Family of Trillaxia alive and well!” His eyes scanned over Lessia’s supple figure in her tailor-fitted uniform tunic appraisingly. Amdanros left Lessia to wander the bridge, Cox following closely behind. “What in the worlds powers all of this?” He turned to the ship’s Captain.

Cox grinned. “I’ll show you.”

Amdanros requested that Lessia accompany them down to Engineering, seeming infatuated with the Trillaxian.

The doors opened and Amdanros’s dark-skinned face was bathed in the blue light from the slipstream core. The towering Valogran Magistrate took a single stride inside the Engineering compartment before he stopped dead in his tracks as a teenage girl darted across the chamber only feet in front of him, The girl skidded to a halt in front of the man, craning her neck up to look at his forehead ridges.

“What’s your name?” She asked.

Amdanros had turned to Cox. “You allow children to roam your ship’s most sensitive areas unattended?” It was more an accusation than it was a question, but one for which the Captain was prepared.

“Not at all, Magistrate.” He said, stepping up beside him. “This is Cassandra Harper;” His eyes searched the chamber before spotting the uniformed figure hurrying down from the upper level toward them; “And that;” He pointed in her direction; “Is her older sister, Lieutenant Jennifer Hansen, the Endeavor’s Chief Engineer.”

Amdanros’s eyes widened visibly as Jennifer approached closer, the strobing flashes of blinding neon light from the sparks inside the core dancing in glittering patters of bright blue across the sequins of her figure-hugging suit.

As Jennifer came up to them and corralled her younger sister with restraining hands on Cassandra’s shoulders, Cox made the requisite introductions. “Jenny, this is Magistrate Amdanros of Valogra Prime.”
“I apologize for Casey.” Jenny said as she shook the man’s hand.

Amdanros turned to Cox. “Is this a ship of the Valkyries, Captain?” He asked and it took a beat for Cox to catch his meaning. “Where are all of your men?”

Lessia and Jenny appeared ready to launch into an account of their journey from the parallel universe, but Cox shook his head subtlely at the,

“All in good time, Magistrate.” He assured his guest. “It’s a long story.”

“Does this mean you plan on staying and ruling those you have liberated, your Majesty?” Amdanros asked and cox saw both Jenny and her sister look to Cox with raised eyebrows, neither one of them ever having thought of their Captain as royalty.

Cox shrugged in response. “There is another option.” He said noncommittally.

“And that?” Amdanros looked to his aide, who shrugged.

“You could come with us instead.” Cox said.

Amdanros’s eyebrow lifted, obviously never having considered that a possibility before.

Cox saw his eyes go to the slipstream core towering above them. “You told me you had never served on a starship before.” Cox waved, indicating not only the Engineering section around them but also the ship beyond. “Now would be your chance.”

“If you’re concerned about the Captain being outnumbered on this ship;” Casey added with a sly smile and Cox was glad to see that the girl could find the humor in what could have just as easily been construed as a sexist comment from the Valogran man; “Your staying aboard with him would help to even out the odds a bit.”

“Unfortunately;” Cox continued; “We don’t have the resources to support your entire delegation.” He nodded to Amdanros’s aide and the Magistrate nodded, understanding that the Captain’s invitation had been extended only to him and to him alone.

“What would I be doing?” Amdanros asked, then amended: “What could you need me to do?”

Cox thought for a long minute before answering. “I’ve made Commander Slaavik my First Officer, so I’m sure she might welcome your help as Chief of Security.”

If I may, Captain?” All of them startled to varying degrees at not having seen or heard Meg come in behind them.

“Go ahead, Meg.” Cox was the first to recover his composure.

I was going to mention, Captain;” Meg nodded gratefully; “That we still don’t entirely know precisely what in the wide worlds most of this equipment is for.” She gestured around Engineering and Jennifer nodded. “One capacity in which the Magistrate may very well be of use to us;” She appraised Amdanros’s imposingly muscle-bound physique admiringly; “Is with the interrogation of the Endeavor’s former Imperial crew.”

Cox nodded. “If you are going to stay;” He said, seeing Amdanros leaning favorably toward agreeing; “There is one further condition I would request.”

The Magistrate turned to him.

“You are no longer to refer to me as “Your Majesty”.” Cox told him. “I’m not a dictator on this ship, and I am most definitely not a king.”

Amdanros opened his mouth to object; perhaps that Cox was denying who he really was by eschewing the throne of Valogra, his birthright; but nodded instead. “Very well, Captain.” He said. “Consider me a loyal member of your crew.”

“And what of Imrathor?” His aide asked. “What of your mother’s throne?”

Cox heaved a deep breath, which blew out in a long sigh. “You are to return to the planet’s surface.” He told the aide. “And when you do, you may tell the people of Valogra that I do hope to someday return in more peaceful… quieter times and reclaim my rightful place as their leader.” He looked at Cassandra and her sister, then back at Lessia before continuing. “But for the time being, I feel I am needed elsewhere more than I am here.”

“Who will lead us in the interim?” The aide asked.

“I wouldn’t be much of a liberator if I merely drove out you former overlords in order to set myself up in their place.” Cox chuckled. “Until such time as I may return, therefore;” He continued, looking from Amdanros to his aide; “I leave the governance of the Valogran system to the people of Valogra Prime to decide.”

The aide nodded and, with a bow to the Magistrate, left the Engineering section. As they were walking back toward the lift to the bridge, Amdanros turned to Cox.

“Your Valogran friend Sarah;” He said and Cox turned to look at him, knowing he was referring to Sarah Wells; “She’s very beautiful, even for one of our kind.”

Cox stopped himself from nodding in agreement, saying nothing.

“She cares about you very much.”

Cox nodded slowly, looking at Amdanros expectantly, waiting for him to get to his point.

“Sarah Wells is not a Valogran name.” Amdanros paused in his stride. “Therefore I would like you to call me by my human-given name.”

“You want to be Alexander?” Cox was surprised that the Magistrate would choose the name given to him by Valogra’s Imperial conquerors.

The Valogran nodded. “And I would like to be assigned a rank aboard your ship.”
Cox nodded.
As they stepped onto the bridge, the Captain cleared his throat.

“Attention, everyone.” He announced and everyone present stood and turned. “I am hereby promoting Slaavik;” The Valogran woman stood at attention; “From Chief of Security to Tactical Officer for the Federation starship Endeavor.”

Slaavik looked surprised at the announcement, but nodded. “Thank you, Captain.”

“I would also;” Cox continued; “Like to introduce you all to the newest member of our crew, and my new Chief of Security;” He turned to the man standing beside him. “Lieutenant Commander Alexander Amdanros.”

Alexander was surprised that Cox used both of his names but then nodded understandingly with a shrug, knowing that like every other officer on board he too would need a last name as well. He noticed too that Lessia Odanox, the Trillaxian Science Officer, looked as surprised as he was that this newcomer outranked her.

Captain Cox, however, was smiling broadly as he extended his hand. “Congratulations, Commander.”

It too the disoriented Alexander a long minute before he located his voice to speak.

“Thank you, Captain.” He said, shaking Cox’s hand with one hand while saluting his new Commanding Officer with the other. “You won’t regret this.”

“Archie.” He commanded.

What can I do for you, Captain?” The hologram materialized beside him.

“Please conduct a scan of the body measurements for Alexander Amdanros.”

The hologram nodded. “Please try to stand as still as possible.” She told Alexander and a moment later, an oscillating grid of blinding green light began working its way up his body. “Measurements complete, Captain.” Archie announced an instant after the beam of light had faded.

“Access the database records for the Unified Federated Star Systems Star Fleet.” Cox ordered.

Records available.” The hologram beside him confirmed.

“Please replicate a Federation Star Fleet Security Officer’s uniform with the measurements you just took and the rank of Lieutenant Commander.”

There was a long pause.

Uniform available in nearest replicator, Captain.” Archie’s hologram announced finally.

“You may change in my ready room, Commander.” Cox waved Alexander to the doors leading off the bridge to their right. “Meg will show you to your new quarters.” Cox waved the android forward.

Let’s get you washed up first, Commander.” Meg amended, leading Alexander to the Captain’s ready room.

Cox watched them go until the doors to his ready room closed behind them, his expression unreadable and his faraway distant gaze los deep in contemplation. “If anyone needs me for anything;” He announced with a deep breath and a resigned sigh; “I will be in the holodeck.” He turned to his recently promoted Tactical Officer. “Commander;” Slaavik saluted; “You have the bridge.”

Sarah and Jennifer looked at one another with shared expressions of mutual concern as the Captain disappeared from the bridge, the lift doors sliding closed resoundingly behind him.

Machiavellian Machinations

•November 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In Section 1 Chapter 3, of his 1513 political treatise “The Prince”, entitled: “On Mixed Principalities”, Italian Florentine political philosopher, diplomat, historian, politician, humanist, and political theorist Niccolo Di Bernardo Dei Machiavelli adds to his overarching theme that a skillful prince must seize upon opportunities when they present themselves to say that one should have regard not only for present problem but also for future ones. Preparing for trouble that might come in the future is the easiest way to deal with problems: “It is necessary not only to pay attention to immediate crises, but to foresee those that will come, and to make every effort to prevent them. For if you see them coming well in advance, then you can easily take the appropriate action to remedy them, but if you wait until they are right on top of you, then the prescription will take longer to take effect, because the disease is too far advanced.” In comparing political disorders to a sickness he uses medicine to symbolize a prince’s preparedness for unforeseen troubles, as he should sense problems before they become too large and become impossible to deal with, and should always act to solve problems before problems fully manifest themselves. He explains that if the prince identifies them and takes the medicine early, he will be able to defeat the disease when it comes: “In the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure, but difficult to diagnose; but in the course of time, if it has not been either diagnosed or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure.” If he waits until they are allowed to develop fully, once the sickness shows itself, it will be too late to do anything about them, as he will not have enough time to be cured: “If you foresee problems while they are far off which only a prudent man is able to do they can easily be dealt with; but when, because you have failed to see them coming, you allow them to grow to the point that anyone can recognize them, then it is too late to do anything.”

In Section 2 Chapter 7, “Concerning New Principalities That Are Acquired With Conquest By Fortune, Meaning By Someone Else’s Virtue, And With Other People’s Armed Forces”, Machiavelli explains that though states won either by lucky circumstances or outside assistance are easy to conquer and a prince who reaches their position due to the sway of fortune or the goodwill of others has an easier time becoming lord of his subjects, his power cannot last long. Fortune is ultimately a capricious and unstable thing and fortunate princes who rely upon fortune completely are not guaranteed to have the talent necessary to know how to deal with problems and maintain their position in the face of opposition and will lose their power when fortune changes: “Governments that spring up overnight, like everything in nature whose growth is forced, cannot have their roots deep in the soil. So they shrivel up in the first drought, blow over in the first storm.”

Machiavelli likens the Roman Empire’s strategy of appeasing the majority of natives, indulging the less powerful, and breaking the more powerful, keeping down any potential challengers and not allowing any foreigners to gain a stronghold to the medicine to prevent the sickness of rebellion. “The Romans always looked ahead and, foreseeing troubles, took action to remedy problems at once before they developed. They never postponed action, even to avoid a war, and would not let them come to a head, for they understood that you cannot escape wars, and when you put them off only your opponents benefit.” People will willingly trade one recently arrived ruler for another, and the expectation that a new ruler will be better than the present one will induce people to take up arms against any relatively unestablished prince because he cannot fulfill all of their hopes that their situation will improve. When the people realize that their revolt is ineffective, a prince can more harshly punish the rebels and decimate his opposition than he would be able to normally. A prince should injure people only if he knows there is no threat of revenge: “Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance it gets…Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore if an injury has to be done to a man it ought to be so severe that one does not stand in fear his vengeance.” Machiavelli argues war can be avoided by suppressing disorder. However, war is never entirely avoidable: One can never escape war. War can only be postponed to the enemy’s advantage. The longer one waits the worse the war will be because the opposition only grows stronger with time: “One should never allow a problem to develop out of hand in order to avoid a war. For you end up not avoiding such a war, but deferring it to a time that is less favorable, to your own disadvantage.” One should therefore fight it sooner rather than later.

Machiavelli writes that eliminating rival leaders and winning the favor of their followers lays a strong foundation for future rule, saying of Italian nobleman, politician and cardinal Cesar Borgia, King Louis XII’s Duke of the Principality of Monaco and son of Pope Alexander VII Roderic Llancoi I De Borja: “If you are a prince who deems it necessary that the policy to follow when in possession of a newly acquired state is to secure yourself in your new principality, to guard against your enemies, to secure some allies, to overcome wars whether by force or by fraud, to make oneself both beloved and feared by your subjects, to be revered and obeyed by your soldiers, to annihilate those who have power or reason to attack you, to innovate, reforming and modernizing old institutions with new practices, to be both severe yet gracious, magnanimous and open-handed, to disband a disloyal soldiery and to create new armies, to maintain the alliances with other powers in such a way that kings and princes must either win your favor graciously with zeal or think twice before opposing you cautiously—then for such purposes anyone who thinks in these terms cannot hope to find, in the recent past, more lively examples to imitate than the actions of this man.”

Machiavelli likens this process to that of an architect, in that a private citizen who receives the blessings of powerful figures within the regime does not command the loyalty of the armies and officials that maintain his authority and will have difficulty building a foundation quickly enough to prevent power from slipping out of their hands, writing: “For as I said above, he who does not prepare the foundations first can in principle, if he is immensely skillful, make up for it later, although the architect will find catching up a painful process, and there is a real danger the building will collapse.”

Categorical Kant

•November 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Accompanied by the English Thomas Hobbes with the “State of Nature” from his 1651 “Leviathan”, Prussian Immanuel Kant ranks among those select few philosophers articulate enough to themselves coin the names we still use today for their theories; in Chapter 11 of his 1797 “Introduction To The Metaphysics Of Morals”: “There is only a single categorical imperative and it is this: “Act only according to that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.”

Kant’s “categorical imperative”, however, is first and best articulated in Section 2, “Transition From Popular Moral Philosophy To A Metaphysics Of Morals”, of his preceding 1785 “Foundations Of The Metaphysics Of Morals”: “Do not feel forced to act, as you’re only willing to act according to your own universal laws. And that’s good. For only willful acts are universal. And that’s your maxim.” “Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law”, however, is only the first tenet of Kant’s categorical imperative; the other being: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” It is with this maxim that Kant differs from Hobbes, who writes in Part 1 Chapter 15, “Of Other Laws Of Nature”, of his “Leviathan”: “A rule, by which the laws of nature may be easily examined and though this may seem too subtle a deduction of the laws of nature, to be taken notice of by all men; where of the most part are too busy getting food, and the rest too negligent to understand; yet to leave all men inexcusable, they have been contracted into one easy sum, intelligible even to the merest capacity; and that is, “Do not that to another , which thou wouldest not have done to thyself”; which sheweth him, that he has no more to do in learning the laws of nature , but, when weighing the actions of other men with his own, they seem too heavy, to put them into the other part of the balance, and his own into their place, that his own passions, and self-love, may add nothing to the weight; and then there is none of these laws of nature that will not appear unto him very reasonable.”

In Section 2, Kant explains what he means by categorical imperative: “The categorical imperative would be that which represented an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end, as objectively necessary.”

This he contrasts with hypothetical imperatives: “If now the action is good only as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical; if it is conceived as good in itself and consequently as being necessarily the principle of a will which of itself conforms to reason, then it is categorical.”

Kant describes what it means for an imperative to be hypothetical: “The hypothetical imperative only says that the action is good for some purpose, possible or actual.”

It is into this category of a hypothetical imperative, the “Silver Rule”, the negative form of the “Golden Rule” as described by Hobbes, falls. By way of explaining, Kant writes: “The imperative which refers to the choice of means to one’s own happiness, the precept of prudence, is still always hypothetical; the action is not commanded absolutely, but only as means to another purpose.”

However, he hints at the overlap between the “golden rule” and the “categorical imperative”: “The question how the imperative of morality is possible, is undoubtedly one demanding a solution, as this is not at all hypothetical, and the objective necessity it presents cannot rest on any hypothesis, as is the case with the hypothetical imperatives…We must never leave out the consideration that we cannot make out by any example, in other words empirically, whether there is such an imperative at all, but it is rather to be feared that all those which seem categorical may yet be at bottom hypothetical.”

Here once more we need look no further than Hobbes’ “Leviathan” for illustration. Hobbes describes his “state of nature” as a condition of war of “all against all”. Within such a state, the “golden rule”, or ethic of reciprocity, would serve one poorly in a condition wherein, as Hobbes describes in “Leviathan”, everyone has the right to everything and the resulting conflict leads to an absolute and inalienable right to self-defense and self-preservation at all costs and by whatever means necessary. Were one to, as the Silver Rule dictates, avoid doing anything to anyone else that one would not wish done to oneself, one would not only find oneself unsuccessful in completion with others, but would make of oneself an easy target for being taken advantage of. As Hobbes himself describes in articulating the progression out of the state of nature, the solution to resolving such universal mutual warfare is to follow, as best one is able to do so unilaterally, Kant’s categorical imperative. Hobbes describes the beginning of his “social contract” as one willingly relinquishing one’s own right to everything and defense at all means, doing so under the presupposition that others will follow suit. This would be adherence to the first tenet of the categorical imperative, as it is not so much acting towards others as one would have them act towards oneself, but rather acting in such a way as it is one’s will that all should act. Kant himself hints at the “law of nature” that Hobbes cites in articulating his silver rule, when he describes how behavior under his categorical imperative differs from that under a hypothetical, such as the rule of reciprocity: “When I conceive a hypothetical imperative, in general I do not know beforehand what it will contain until I am given the condition. But when I conceive a categorical imperative, I know at once what it contains. For as the imperative contains besides the law only the necessity that the maxims shall conform to this law, while the law contains no conditions restricting it, there remains nothing but the general statement that the maxim of the action should conform to a universal law, and it is this conformity alone that the imperative properly represents as necessary.”

However, just as Kant makes mention of overlap between his categorical imperative and the ethic of reciprocity in questioning whether all categorical imperatives might not indeed be hypothetical, the inverse is just as true, in that the reason why the two are so often confused is that in nearly every sense the “Golden” and “Silver” rules of reciprocity are examples of a categorical imperative. It is only their subjectivity that saves them for the category of the hypothetical instead. That said; it is in its universality’s attempt at presupposing an objective morality that we ultimately find the weakness in Kant’s categorical imperative. In many ways, especially after one factors in the Hobbesian view of human nature, it is Kant’s hypothetical, rather than his categorical imperatives that bear starker resemblances to practical conceptualizations of morality. Ultimately morality’s realism can be effectively reduced to the relative pragmatism of its applicability.

Who are the real Marxists?

•November 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In Volume 1, Chapter 10 of his September 14, 1867 “Capital: A Critique Of Political Economy”, German political philosopher, political economist, sociologist, social theorist, revolutionary socialist, journalist and historian Karl Marx defines capitalism by saying: “As capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital.” Previously, in Chapter 4, he defines capital: “Capital is money: Capital is commodities.” In Chapter 10 Section 1, he elaborates by saying that: “Capital is dead labor, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”

He continues this theme of capitalism’s draining of labor in the last sentence of Chapter 13: “The directing motive, the end aim of capitalist production, is to extract the greatest possible amount of surplus value, and consequently to exploit labor power to the greatest possible extent.” And again in the last sentence of Chapter 15: “Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the laborer.”

He hints, in Chapter 4 of the 1885 Volume 2, that this might play a factor in its ultimate downfall: “Capitalism is abolished root and branch by the bare assumption that it is personal consumption and not enrichment that works as the compelling motive.”

In Chapter 19, Marx writes of labor itself that: “The labor power is a commodity, not capital, in the hands of the laborer, and it constitutes for him a revenue so long as he can continuously repeat its sale; it functions as capital after its sale, in the hands of the capitalist, during the process of production itself.” Marx had elaborated previously in Chapter 10: “To the extent that labor power circulates in the market, it is not capital, no form of commodity capital. It is not capital at all; the laborer is not a capitalist, although he brings a commodity to market, namely his own skin.” And, by way of explanation, in Chapter 15: “The capitalist cannot store labor power in warehouses after he has bought it, as he may do with the raw material.”

This he then contrasts with capital in Chapter 20 in that: “As the variable capital always stays in the hands of the capitalist in some form or other, it cannot be claimed in any way that it converts itself into revenue for anyone.”

It is here that Marx first formulates his theory of capitalism as a singular monolithic whole: “The aggregate capital appears the capital stock of all individual capitalists combined…Every individual capital forms, however, but an individualized fraction, a fraction endowed with individual life, as it were, of the aggregate social capital, just as every individual capitalist is but an individual element of the capitalist class.”

Marx’s famous factoring of a class system, although much more widespread in his and fellow German political philosopher, social scientist, political theorist and author Friedrich Engels’ February 21, 1848 “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, is topically mentioned first in Volume 1 Chapter 17 Section 4 of “Capital”: “In capitalist society spare time is acquired for one class by converting the whole lifetime of the masses into labor time.” And then more substantively in Chapter 20 of Volume 2: “Capitalist production comprises conditions independent of good or bad will, conditions which permit the working class to enjoy that relative prosperity only momentarily, and at that always only as the harbinger of a coming crisis.”

As Marx writes in Chapter 32 of Volume 1, capitalism itself contains within it the seeds of its own downfall: “Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of nature, it’s own negation.”

Ironically, according to Marx in Volume 2 Chapter 17, the product that will ultimately lead to capitalism’s undoing, that of credit, was parallel to it: “Simultaneously with the development of capitalist production the credit system also develops.”

Marx articulates credit’s role in the ultimate downfall of capitalism in Volume 1 Chapter 25 Section 2: “In its beginnings, the credit system sneaks in as a modest helper of accumulation and draws by invisible threads the money resources scattered all over the surface of society into the hands of individual or associated capitalists. But soon it becomes a new and formidable weapon in the competitive struggle, and finally it transforms itself into an immense social mechanism of the centralization of capitals.”

Here Marx describes this centralization: “Capital grows in one place to a huge mass in a single hand, because it has in another place been lost by many.” And envisions it as the demise of capitalism in Chapter 32: “The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with it, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. The knell of capitalist private property sounds.”

This, as is stated in Section 2: “Proletarians And Communists”, Paragraph 13, of Marx and Engels’ 1848 “The Communist Manifesto”, is the definition of communism: “The theory of the communists may summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

As he and Engels hint in Paragraph 1 Line 1 of their “Communist Manifesto” with their reference to “the specter of communism”, Marx asserts, in Volume 2 Chapter 16 of “Capital”, that failures of capitalism are inevitable: “In capitalist society however where social reason always asserts itself only post festum great disturbances may and must constantly occur.”


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