Thursday, February 04, 2021

Homecoming (An Unfinished Story)

It was a cold and wet Monday morning in September of 2317 when two men with short and neatly cut hair and wearing dull casual civilian attire stepped off the transit car at the Edison Station in old Northeast Minneapolis.

Ensign Ian Stuart felt well out of place as he stood and waited for the swarm of students on their way to morning classes at the old Edison High School, to clear the station.

Ian recalled, with a sense of embarrassment, that he once dressed in a similarly absurd and alien fashion, as the teenagers crowding the station. He would have felt even more out of place if he and his companion had worn their full naval uniforms.

Members of the Armed Forces, the Navy and Marine Corps of the former Terran Confederation, were not terribly popular on the home world these days, especially the commissioned officers.

To wear the uniform in public, without being escorted by at least of a squad of Marines, was virtually an engraved invitation to being physically assaulted or killed.

Ensign Ian Stuart saw that most of the students disembarking at the station wore buttons showing a red line superimposed over the capital letters "ROM," the meaning of the buttons was crystal clear to any civilian, soldier, or able spaceman.

Down with the Rule of Man.

Too bad, Ian thought, the stupid and greedy politicians of Terra, and the voters who put them into office, had clearly demonstrated that they were unfit to exercise any form of political authority.

A few of the students, most with shaved heads, wore buttons depicting the ancient astrological symbol for Earth, the cross within a circle. The symbol was used by those who believed in the racial supremacy of the Terrans over all other intelligent species. Including those humans, such as the Vilani, whose ancestors were dumped by an unknown power on other planets hundreds of millennia ago.

The Terran Supremacists, like the German National Socialists of the Early Twentieth Century, sought to treat the so-called lesser races as virtual slaves and felt oppressed when their wishes were thwarted.

To Hell with them, Ian thought, to Hell with all of them.

"We should have taken a g-carrier." Said the Ensign's companion. "And a full squad of Marines, sir."

"If we only had one stop to make here I would, Chief."

Chief Petty Officer Barenni stood almost a full head over the Ensign and was more than twice as old. He was also one of the growing number of ethnic Vilani allowed to join the navy of the Terran Confederation. During the final years of the war against the Ziru Sirka, the interstellar empire of the Vilani, CPO Barenni was a member of the SURFER teams, the elite Surface-Extravehicular Reconnaissance forces of the Terran Navy. The Chief was now the senior noncommissioned officer on the Ensign's military government team.

One of the students, a boy wearing a red silken sash and a grotesque and high maintenance style of hair, had apparently caught part of the conversation between the Ensign and the Chief. The boy turned around and quickly went down the stairs to the ground level. Both the Ensign and the Chief saw this.

"Let's use the staves on this one, Chief."

"Sir, are you aware of the fact that the other ranks really aren't impressed by displays of studliness?"

"No shit Chief, I'm still using the staff."

"Aye-aye, sir."

The Ensign and the Chief both carried a navy issued 11.43 mm automatic pistols with two spare seven-round magazines under their jackets. They also carried surfer-staves, a quarterstaff compressed into a compact unit the size of two D-cell batteries.

The Ensign and the Chief were met at the bottom the stairs by a dozen boys in red sashes and other absurd attire. The gang was posturing as if they were the lords of the transit station and were collectively taunting the two men with accusations of treason and maternal incest. The closest of the boys presented an open switchblade knife in his right hand.

Stupid punks, thought the Ensign.

Ensign Stuart thumbed the extend button on his staff. His first blow smashed the punk's right hand and knocked the knife to the ground. The second blow caused the punk to bend forward and explosively exhale. The last blow struck laterally across the jaw causing a spray blood and teeth. The unconscious punk spun around and landed on the pavement with a loud thud.

Ensign Stuart had knocked down a second punk when the remnants of the gang turned and fled from the ground level of the transit station. Ensign Stuart turned around and saw that CPO Barenni was reholstering his pistol.

"I'm sorry sir, but I heard a police siren."

The Ensign could now hear the sirens of the approaching police grav-speeders.

"No Chief, you were right on that." He replied as he pressed his thumb on the retract switch on the surfer-staff.

"Sir, red wasn't your high school's color, was it?"

"No." Replied the Ensign. "If I recall correctly, the school colors at Edison High were Blue and Gold."

Though there was a history teacher who wanted to change the school colors to Hot Pink and Army Green.

Ensign Stuart looked around and was shocked at what he saw.

The Terran Naval Academy, from which Ian recently graduated, was co-located with the headquarters of the Terran Grand Fleet on a world that was once a sector capital of the Vilani Empire. Ethnic Vilani as a rule were normally fastidious, even after their liberation by the Terrans. Whether he was on or off campus, Ian was used to living in a neat and clean environment. It was not until the Ensign and Chief stepped outside the perimeter fence at Ventura Barracks on Earth that Ian saw litter on the ground for the first time in over four years. It was a beer can.

The more Ian Stuart looked around, the more strange and alien the world of his birth would appear to him.

Trash was scattered all over the floor of the lower level of the transit station. The walls had been defiled by urine stains and graffiti.

In addition to the crossed out letters "ROM," that were painted on the walls there were also the letters "DTT," which meant "Death to Traitors." There used to be buttons that read "DTT," but some of the individuals wearing those buttons came down with nasty cases of sudden lead poisoning. Marines and naval personnel who discharged their weapons in such incidents had the cost of the ammunition deducted from their pay and were quickly reassigned off of Terra or out of the Solar System.

The Ensign and the Chief had their navy identification cards out when the Minneapolis police arrived to clean up the mess.

[...]

"Sergeant," Ensign Stuart addressed the senior police officer present. "I would strongly suggest that you remind this garbage," the Ensign pointed the two handcuffed punks, "that even under the present state of Martial Law they still have the right to remain silent."

[...]

Ian mocked him in a whiny voice.

"Aber ich erteilte Auftrag!"

Ensign Stuart switched to a drill instructor tone of voice.

"Sergeant, you of all people should know that an order to commit a crime is NEVER a valid order. The Navy is not a band of looters and we do not take orders from looters, regardless of how many votes they received in the last election. Have I made myself clear?"

[...]

[Talk about the historic preservation mafia.]

Ian saw that the old bakery building at 22nd Avenue and Washington Street was boarded up again, another attempt to redevelop the property without demolishing the original single storey brick structure had failed.

Plastered all over the structure were posters showing a black and white photograph of a sixty-ish woman, with short fake blonde hair, a standard nine-millimeter service pistol was aimed at her head. The hammer of the pistol in the photograph was blurred as though it were falling on the firing pin.

Over the photograph on the poster in all capital letters was the one word, REMEMBER.

"I'm sorry sir," said the Chief as he pointed to the posters, "but I'm not fully familiar with that bit of Terran history."

"Well," Ian replied, "That's Saint Hillary, a martyr for the holy cause of Democracy. She was just a stupid old bitch who believed that being democratically elected somehow constituted an excuse for abusive and destructive behavior."

[...]

A long deceased cynic from Baltimore once described a democratic election as an advanced auction of stolen goods. The ghost of that cynic would not have been the slightest bit surprised by the results of the Terran election of 2314.

[...]

"Hello Mother." He said.

[...]

She still had her shrine to Saint Elvis.

[...]

"Usually assignments to newly commissioned Ensigns are handed out by staff pukes who really love their mothers."

[...]

"We can't even replace a burned out coffee pot on an aging missile frigate without some mob of Terran parasites screaming as if they were mortally wounded!" Ian had spoken in what he called the drill instructor voice. "The representatives, that pack of losers who couldn't hold a REAL JOB in the real world, that YOU and YOUR fellow voters sent to the General Assembly were too busy spending the tax revenues of this planet to buy votes for themselves while the Colonies and the worlds that WE liberated from the Ziru Sirka carried the burden of the wars."

[...]

The red sash gang was back. Seven of them were hiding in the boarded-up shell of the old municipal garage at Eighteenth and Washington. They poured out of the old building with their knives out and were attempting to surround the Ensign. Their apparent leader openly declared his intent to kill Stuart and reaffirmed his belief that the Ensign was a practitioner of maternal incest.

Ensign Stuart drew his pistol and placed a nonregulation 11.43 mm hollow-point round through the leader's chest. Stuart dropped three more of the junior thugs before the others could turn and flee. Two more gang members were hit and fell as they were running away. The last one ducked around the corner of the old city garage.

Stuart quickly switched to a fresh magazine and waited for the local police to arrive. He held his weapon in his right hand and pulled out his navy I.D. card with the left hand when the first police speeder came into view.

[...]

"Put that weapon down Sergeant."

"If you pull that trigger you will be hunted down and killed and what's left of your family will be shipped off to an airless rock in the Outback!"

[...]

"And your mother is probably doing whatever it was that you were afraid she would be doing, sir."

"We'll deal with her later, Chief."

The Ensign waited with the Chief for the Marine M.P.'s

[...]

There was one more stop that Ensign Stuart had to make before leaving Earth. He could have skipped the visit to his mother's house, but there was never any point in returning to Earth without seeing Beth.

On the day of his graduation from the Naval Academy, Ensign Ian Stuart had received a summons from the Shogun.

At 1030 hours the next morning Ensign Stuart stepped into the office of Hiroshi Estigarribia, the former Grand Admiral of the Terran Confederation Navy, who was now the self-proclaimed Regent of the Vilani Empire and the Protector of Terra.

"Ensign Ian Stuart reporting as ordered. Sir!"

[...]

"I have some news for you Ensign. Any damned fool can fly a frigate or a cruiser into harm's way, God knows we have no shortage of those." Said the Shogun. "But all those frigates and cruisers need to be maintained and ultimately replaced. And that requires naval stations, shipyards, and worlds with a civil industrial base to support them. And those worlds require proper government."

[...]

"You will be replacing a female civilian appointed by the Terran Secretariat, God only knows what damage she's already done out there."

"In effect, what you're saying sir, is that I may have to rebuild the local civil government in its entirety."

"That son, is a possible worst case scenario, but she should already have been removed from the office by the system commander by the time you get out there."

The Shogun paused to catch his breath.

"There's one other thing Mister Stuart, do you have a girlfriend or a fiancee?"

"Yes I do, sir." Ian replied. "I have a fiancee back home on Earth. I haven't heard from her since the coup."

"Mister Stuart," the Shogun looked at Ian straight in the eyes, "what would you do if I told you that you had to dump your Terran fiancee in order to stay in the navy?"

"I would have to hand you my bars," the small gold bars that were the Ensign's insignia of rank on the dirtside uniform, "and I would have to tell you to go to Hell, sir."

If the Shogun was impressed, he didn't show it.

"There was a wet navy admiral in the mid-twentieth century who used to eliminate spineless wimps with that question. Admiral Hyman Rickover of the American Navy if I recall correctly, sir."

The Shogun let out a slight chuckle.

"But you really would do that?"

"Yes sir, I would."

"Good." Said the Shogun. "It could be possible that your fiancee may be in agreement with the majority of Terran voters."

Ian shook his head at the Shogun's suggestion.

Of all the people on Terra, only Beth was there at the landing pad at Ventura Barracks to see Ian off when he left Earth to attend the Naval Academy. Her last kiss had virtually suffocated him.

"I would very strongly doubt that, sir."

"My staff also has grounds to believe that the civilian postal service on Terran is simply refusing to complete their appointed rounds with respect to letters to and from naval personnel. I have no idea how many casualties we may end up taking in attempting to clean up that particular mess."

"In any case Mister Stuart," the Shogun continued, "there's only one way for you to be certain about your fiancee."

"Yes sir, I'll have to go home to Terra."

Eight weeks and three transits through jumpspace later Ensign Ian Stuart stood before the front door of Beth's home. It was a two-storey white frame house on the north side of 17th Avenue between Adams and Jefferson Streets.

One of the younger sisters opened the door.

"Ian...you shouldn't..."

"I'm here to see Beth." Ian told her. "I will not leave until I do."

[...]

Ensign Ian Stuart reeked of blood, sweat, and smokeless gunpowder, and he wasn't about to take any more nonsense from anyone else.

"I've had a bad day. Do not make it worse sir."

[...]

"I will see Beth. Now." He said in the drill instructor voice. "If I have to go over your dead body, sir, I will do so. Do you understand?"

[...]

"Hello Beth." He said.

"Hello Ian."

They embraced, and they kissed.

"I've been assigned as the military governor of a world that's about two-thirds of the way between here and Vland." Said Ian. "I want you to come with me."

[...]

"It's called Sylea."

Sunday, November 29, 2020

An Actual Dark And Stormy Night

 

Randsday, 2245 (Standard)

Negation, she thought.

A decision can be easy or it could be difficult.

The thunderstorm that crashed upon the Freyan capital city of Landfall was a thing of beauty.  The flash of lightning illuminated the streets and the buildings beyond the window with an electric blue glow.  With the light reflected from her face back upon the inside surface she could see the winkles beneath her eyes and the streaks of gray in her dark hair.

She gave thought to the window before her.

It was both invisible and itself a thing of beauty.  It separated and protected her from the outside environment and allowed her to see it in all its glory.  She could watch the passage of the storm from the safety of her office because of the applied thought of a man.

Those who destroyed the works of men couldn’t conceive of a pane of glass.  Nor could they be taught how to make one and integrate it into a structure.  The thoughts of rational men were nothing to them, and the works of men that resulted from the trains of rational thought were seen only as abominations that were to be smashed into dust.  

They didn’t see the truth and they didn’t want to see the truth.

Reality is real.

Her parents had taught her this before she learned to read.

Understand this and you can understand everything.

But there were those alive who didn’t want to know.  They actively sought ignorance, and they sought only to negate knowledge with the products of applied knowledge.

Now another of those men had stepped onto her world with the intent of negation, of murdering the people and smashing their works to nothing.  There was nothing that he would have gained from such acts.  It would be the sacrifice of actual things to nothing.  

Absolutely nothing.

Under the existing laws of her nation the subject of her present thought could simply be arrested and processed with his death being the ultimate result.  But that wouldn’t solve the larger problem.  The subject of the investigation was employed by a group of people back on Earth.  The employers will simply hire another man to attack the worlds under her care.  And the next time she may not be able to stop them.  
     
The woman had witnessed too much of the horror of negation over the course of her life.  She had seen her parents taken from her simply because they were the only sane people on an insane world.  She had seen her husband murdered simply because he was her husband.

Would it ever end?  She thought.  How does one deal with such people?

The phone on her desk rang.  She turned and quickly lifted the receiver to speak.

“Yes?”

A man’s voice at the far end replied.

“We’re ready to proceed, ma’am.”

“Do so.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A trade off then.  Judith thought as she hung up the phone.  Let the immediate subject live and use him to discover his employers, and then eliminate them.

Across the city the subject of the conversation in question was sleeping naked in a hotel bed, but not for long.  This would be a hostile encounter.  He had not expected the police on any world, whom he normally thought of as no better than clowns to break into his hotel room in full tactical mode.  They shouldn’t have known of his origin or mission.

The arrest had been absolutely hostile.  At no point was he allowed to speak, nor was he spoken to.  He was gagged immediately by the black suited agency strike team.  He wasn’t given any cover for the weather.  He was dragged through the cold  winter rain to the agency assault team transport vehicle in the condition he normally slept in.  On this night in the city of Landfall on the planet Freya he was completely naked.

Upon arrival at their headquarters he was deposited in a holding cell.

Except for the light panels, the steel door, and buttons that controlled the sink and toilet, all the features of the entire holding cell were made of concrete.

This wasn’t a standard jail cell for a common criminal.  The authorities here on Freya had taken his presence on their planet seriously.

Very seriously.

Why?  He thought.

He was certain he would soon know why.  

The door of the holding cell opened outwards.  A long stun stick was immediately thrust into the cell and upon his chest.

He was shocked into a state of complete inaction.  

As he lay stunned on the floor the black suited agents entered the cell in mass.  They cuffed him behind the back and inserted a rod between his arms and his back.  The agents then lifted him by the rod and dragged him down a bleak and completely undecorated bureaucratic corridor.  The agents who carried him were escorted by four more agents paired fore and aft.

Not one of them said a word to him.

He was dragged down the corridor and around a corner to the right.  At the end of the second corridor he was carried into an interrogation room.  There was a stainless steel table and two chairs.  He was secured to one of the chairs by the ankles and wrists.

It was five minutes by his estimate before the door to the room opened again.

A woman stepped into the room and sat down at the table opposite of him.

The subject of the arrest took the time to visually examine the woman.  She appeared to be a bit over fifty standard years of age with light stands of gray hair appearing in the neatly cut body of short black hair.  The woman also had blue eyes.  She was dressed as a civilian with a white office blouse and blue slacks.  The woman wore a photo identification badge and carried an immaculate military service grade semiautomatic pistol in the custom black leather holster under her left shoulder.

I’m supposed to be frightened by this old broad?  He thought.  That was foolish of her, very foolish.    

The man then took a close look at the I.D. badge.  It was issued by the Central Security Agency of the Ursa Major Confederation.  Below the photograph on the badge was the logo of the agency.  This was in the form of a flag with a white “X” over a black field.  He didn’t know that the symbol was technically called the Cross of Saint Andrew.  He saw it as being identical to cross on the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.  He saw it as their admission of being evil.

The name on her photo badge was Judith Stern and showed her rank as Director of the agency.

NO!  He thought.  No! No! No! No!

The woman sitting opposite of him at the table was the true daughter of darkness.  She was the absolute incarnation of evil herself.

Judith Stern was personally responsible for the murder of millions of people on his home world.  No one, not a priest, nor a child, was exempt from her absolute depravity.

And he wasn’t in the custody of any police agency, the Freyan CSA was every mercenary soldier’s worst nightmare.  No mercenary soldier operating separately from an organized unit was safe from death by their Pest Control teams and ultimately backing the CSA field teams were the planetary landing forces of the Ursa Major Confederation Army and Marine Corps.  A Freyan Army brigade once engaged a mercenay battalion in support of a dictatorship.  It didn’t matter to him that the Pest Control teams also went after Marxists, Mobsters, and Eternals.

The Daily Mail on their front page published a photograph of an Eternal that had been killed by a CSA Pest Control team.

Worlds in close proximity to Freya were effectively off limits to mercenary operations, and in the custody of the Freyan CSA he was already dead.

She looked up at him and spoke.  Her voice was of solid authority, it was firm and without apparent emotion.

“Welcome to The Aquarium.”

 She then asked him a question.

 “Who are you?”

 He didn’t answer.

 There was a slight twitch on her right eyebrow.

 She calmly repeated the question.

 “Who are you?”

 There was no point in screaming.  He tried to reply clearly in a level voice.

 “Why don’t you tell me?”

 Without a word she looked down and opened the folder on the table before her.

 Printed documents?  He thought.  How primitive of them.

 She removed a set of reading glasses from a pocket of her blouse and used them to read from the printed file.

"Your name is Michael Gratton.  You were born in the City of New Boston on the planet Kennedy in the Alpha Centauri B system.  You’re the second son of the late Prime Minister Thomas Gratton.  After the rescue and reprisal mission to that world your mother brought you as an infant to her family home in the city of Boston in the State of Massachusetts on Earth.  You attended the Boston Latin School and the Federation Military Academy at West Point.  As a junior officer you were wounded in action in a minor dust up against a band of feral Muslims in Indonesia and subsequently received a knee joint replacement.  You spent the remainder of your time in the army in staff positions and as an instructor at the academy.  You were medically retired from the Federation Army with the rank of Major and emigrated to Xenophon in the Epsilon Indi system.  You’re now a minor stockholder in, and company grade officer of the Military Assistance Corporation based oiginally on Xenophon and now on Earth.”

 Gratton stared at Director Stern silently.  She had used the Freyan term for their crimes against his home world and the crimes they committed against his people.  One of the many people of that world murdered by the Freyans was his own father.

 Gratton continued to stare at her until he was able to speak without apparent emotion.

 “You’re wrong!”  He replied.  “My name is John Fletcher and I am a civilian.”

 The planetary clown farce on Freya shouldn’t have discovered this information on him along with the fact that he was traveling on a false set of identity documents.  With the CSA he was clearly in the hands of a very competent intelligence agency of an absolutely evil nation.

Michael Gratton clearly saw that he was now in deep trouble.

Judith Stern stared straight at him without a visible flinch.

“Major Gratton, or whatever your current rank in the MAC-X Corporation is, you’re traveling on a false set of documents, which is a felony, and you’re also a known mercenary, which in the Ursa Major Confederation is a capital offense.”

Gratton looked up at her and replied calmly.

“My name is John Fletcher and I am a witness for our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Judith Stern did not budge or blink.

“No Major Gratton.  You’re a veteran officer of the Federation Army, which is a yellow flag for this agency.  You’re traveling on false identity documents, which for us is a red flag.  And you’re a member of a commercial organization whose purpose is to violate the rights of individuals and to negate the sovereignty of nations, which is absolutely the black flag for us.  Would you please explain to us why we shouldn’t air out your head right now?”

Gratton blinked.

He raised his voice to reply.

“There’s nothing you can threaten me with!”

Stern simply smiled and responded in a calm voice.
 
“Of course not, there never is.”
 
What The Fuck did that mean?  He thought.

Stern saw that Gratton was mystified.  It was at this time she made her statement.

“Major Gratton, you and your backers seek to remove us from existence.   We need to discover who your backers are and exterminate them.  In order to do this we’re sending you back to Earth.  You’ll be kept under surveillance and through this we’ll find the people who trying to destroy us and we’ll kill all of them.”

Gratton now stared at her.  He then closed his eyes and shook his head.  

So far I hadn’t broken from my cover story, I can still use it.  He thought.  It’ll work.

“My name is John Fletcher.”  He cried out.  “I am a witness for Our Lord Jesus Christ on this Godless world.  Your people have turned from Our Lord at your eternal peril.  Don’t you understand that?”

Judith Stern stared straight through him as if she were a shipboard laser burning through a starship hull.  She then replied to him.

“Major Gratton, ‘Reality is Real’.”    

With that final reply she closed the folder on the table and stood up.  She spoke up to the staff members listening remotely.
“I’m finished.”

An officer opened the door for her from outside.  As she departed more officers suddenly entered the interrogation room and hit him with the stun staff again.  With full effect to full  unconsciousness.

When Michael Gratton awoke he was back on Earth.  The first thing he would hear was the voice of a different woman on the planet Earth.  



Sunday, November 15, 2020

Who Are The Freyans?

Who are the Freyans?

The Freyans could be the nicest or nastiest people in the known universe.

Although some people emigrated directly from Earth, most Freyans, what became known as the Core Group, originated from the habitats of Mars.  They spent three generations there, the atmosphere of Mars qualified as an industrial grade vacuum on Earth.  What came forth from Mars were some of the toughest people in the known universe.

The clerics who ruled the planet Kennedy in the Alpha Centauri system believed that God was on their side.  They discovered though direct experience that they were wrong when the Freyans showed up.  God, if he existed, stayed out of the Freyans way.  During the Kennedy Incident the Freyans came out of the Nuclear Closet.  The Racial Collectivists who ruled the planet Null in Procyon system suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of numerous Freyan nuclear weapons.

There was a coup attempt on Freya.  The attempted coup on Freya was backed by the MAC-X corporation.  The leader of the coup attempt was personally buried alive by Lilith Keller, the last president of the Freyan republic and founder of the Ursa Major Confederation.  One of responses to the coup attempt was very nasty.  A Freyan Navy task force went to the planet Xenophon in the Epsilon Indi system and bombarded the planet with nuclear weapons.  The cities on Xenophon were bombarded with high yield cobalt cased thermonuclear weapons.  The weapons the Freyans used made the Soviet Tsar Bomb look wimpy in comparison.

No one messes with the Freyans.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Nightmare, Part 1

For Judith Stern the nightmare began when she was twelve standard years old.

She woke up in a hospital, the place was clearly unfamiliar to her and even for the time it appeared to be behind the general standard in architecture and general technology.  She saw that was clearly in an intensive care unit and there was an oxygen tube flowing into her nose.  Through the glass wall of her room she could see that the lights had been turned down in the ICU for the evening.  

As her vision became clearer she searched for the call button.  Upon finding she pressed down on it.  At the central desk of the ward she could see the nurse on duty look at her workstation terminal.  The nurse apparently pressed a key on the terminal and then stood up and walked over to the room.

When the nurse came to the door of the room Judith could see that the woman was wearing a silver crucifix with the complete figure of Jesus Christ on it.

This could be a problem.  She thought.

The woman spoke with a heavy accent that Judith had identified as the New Irish of this planet.

“You’re awake, that’s good, but you need to go back to sleep.”

This wasn’t acceptable to Judith, she has questions to ask.

“Nurse, where am I?”  She said.

The woman was taken aback.  A clear note of surprise was in her voice as she answered.

“You’re in the Intensive Care Unit of the New Boston General Hospital.”

At this point Judith was no longer speaking as a mere child but as an adult to an adult.

“What am I in here for?”

The nurse appeared to be surprised at the tone of Judith’s voice.  She replied with a note of amazement in her voice.

“Do you know how to speak to an adult?”

“Yes, as you can hear, I do.”  Judith replied with a level voice.  “Now, would you please answer the question.”

The conversation had turned into a full interrogation.  The nurse was now visibly shocked at the questioning of her authority.

“Child?  Do you know how to speak to an adult?”  She said.

Judith replied with the level voice that her parents taught her to use with the irrational inhabitants of this world.

“Do you know how to answer a simple question?”

The woman was apparently struck silent.

Judith spoke again.

“I’m clearly in the ICU of the major hospital on this planet, there should be a file on my case at the nurses’ station.  Can you read the contents of it for me?”

The woman heard the question as an insult and had grown into a full state of rage.

“How dare you!”  She shouted.  “Is that how little girls are taught to behave on that godless rock you’re from?”

Before Judith could respond another woman had strode up behind the nurse and interrupted the verbal struggle.

“SISTER!”  A newcomer woman said.

The woman instantly turned about to face the newcomer.

“Doctor!”  The woman spoke.  “This girl was being rude to me!”

“No Sister,” the doctor replied with a Mid-North American accent, “you’re being stupid to her.”

Before the woman could respond the doctor spoke again.

“Sister Margaret, return to your station and I’ll speak to the patient, alone.”

“But...”  She answered.

The doctor overrode her.

“Return to your station.  Now!”

The nurse turned pale with a blank expression on her face.  She silently returned to the nurses’ station in the ICU.

The doctor stepped into the room and closed the door.  She then spoke to Judith.

“Miss Stern, I’m Doctor Fuller, I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.”

Judith thought for a moment.

“You’re not from around here?”

“No.”  Doctor Fuller replied.  “I’m from Minnesota on Earth, I went to the U of M, and I accepted what appeared to be a great offer to do my internship here.”

Judith nodded.

“And when you arrived you found it was the planet of the backwards morons.”

“Yes.”  Dr. Fuller replied.  “How did you come up with the term?”

“The Freyan Consul called it that.”  Said Judith.  “My parents came here to set up an office for Freyaspace.  Dad really tried to make it work but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of dealing with local officials and ended the operation.”

Doctor Fuller nodded.

“I don’t blame him.”  She said.

Judith asked the next questions.

“So what I’m in here for, and where are my parents?”

Doctor Fuller answered.

“You came down with pneumonia and have been unconscious for about three standard weeks.  And your parents had to escape from the planet with your sister Deborah.”

Judith responded in shock.

“WHAT!  How could they leave me behind?”

“The hospital chaplain wanted to do a Catholic baptism on you because of the seriousness of your illness and your parents wouldn’t consent to it.  So the planetary government ordered them off the planet.   The government also ordered the seizure of your sister from the custody of your parents.  They had to escape in the ship you came here in.”

Judith was shaking her head.

“But baptism is a stupid voodoo ceremony, how could it lead to my parents having to escape on the Concord?”

Doctor Fuller replied.

“Under the laws on this world a Christian child cannot be returned to non-Christian parents.  The government also regards non-Christians as unfit parents and tried to seize custody of your sister.  They had no choice but to leave quickly.”

Judith stopped looking at Doctor Fuller and looked straight down the bed for a moment.

“I’m not a Christian.”  She said.

“As far as the government is concerned, you are.”

Then Judith asked another question.

“So I’m alone on this world?”

“Yes?”

Judith thought for another moment and asked another question.

“Does the Republic of Freya still have a consulate here in New Boston?”

“Yes.”

“Doctor, could you please get the message to them that I want to go home?”

“Yes, I will.”

When her shift was finished Deborah Fuller walked the three city blocks to the Freyan Consulate.  The local sun, Alpha Centauri B, was barely beginning to rise above the eastern horizon when she approached the former mansion that served as the consulate.  As she walked up two Freyan Marines, in surface khaki dress uniforms with the rank of Corporal, stepped out with their flag.  Deborah watched as the Marines raised the flag.

The flag of the Republic of Freya had a large four pointed star that represented their sun within the center of a dark blue field.

When the flag was fixed in position Deborah stepped up to the Marines.

“Excuse me,” she said, “I’m a doctor at the New Boston General Hospital and I need to speak with someone about Judith Stern.”

Both Marines nodded.  The Marine in charge of the detail replied.

“Yes Ma’am, if you could follow us please.”

For the Consul of the Freyan Republic this mess had began on a literal dark and stormy night.

Negate me.  He’d thought to himself.  

If there’s anything he wanted it was to be anywhere else.  The local night was at present dominated by a rare thunderstorm.  The flashes of lightning lit up the plain that the planetary starport was built upon.  Through the picture window of the starport’s restaurant he could see only two of the dozen circular landing pads were occupied by the small surface landing capable starships they were built for.  As a junior member of the diplomatic service he originally thought of this world as a hardship post, at least in terms of the physical environment.  Both the lower gravity and thinner atmosphere were not conducive to maintaining a normal state of health, and the weather was generally boring.  In regard to the local culture it was a very different picture, and in his current opinion it was a place to avoid.  It was for the purpose of imparting this message that he was out on this torrential night.  It was at his office in the afternoon of the local Friday that he received the message.  A ship carrying a junior executive of the Freyaspace Corporation had just dropped into the system and he wished to have a meeting with the Freyan Consul as soon as possible.

According to the message the intent of the executive was to establish a corporate office and begin service to the planet of Kennedy.  Even if the young diplomat’s family trust had not owned a minority share of stock in Freyaspace he would still have to speak to the young man in order to dissuade him from the delusion that commerce was possible here.  As a Freyan diplomat he clearly had an obligation to warn a fellow Freyan about the hazards of this world.

The starport on Kennedy was rated as being third class at best.  But at least there was one.  Along with a young woman from the security service he waited in the main terminal restaurant.  It was a tolerable dive that was barely acceptable to the weary interstellar traveler.  They both slowly nursed their cups of the locally grown coffee.  This local brand was grown and roasted in the local planetary tropics by people who apparently didn’t fully understand the concept of coffee.

And that was the slightest of the local issues.

“I see it.”  Said his companion.

He looked out the window.  The running lights of the ship, the Freyaspace Concord, were now visible below to the thunderclouds.  They watched as the ship quietly came in on a professionally smooth trajectory and made a safe landing on the round concrete pad.  

“Well, they’re here.”  He said to his companion.

She only nodded in reply.  With that he paid the guest check on their unfinished cups of bad coffee and they took the internal starport railcar to Pad Seven.  It was there they initially met the captain of the ship and the primary passenger.

The consul and his companion wore fully hooded civilian raincoats as they walked out to the newly landed ship.  It was a light general freighter built to a two deck horizontal configuration and had been converted to serve as an executive transport.  The primary egress hatch was open and the stairs were already deployed.  There they were met by the captain and the transported executive.

 The diplomat spoke first.

“I’m James March, the Freyan Consul to this world, and this is Tamara Zev from the Federal Security Service.  Welcome to the planet Kennedy.”

The gray haired captain replied.

‘I’m Captain Kovac and this is Mister Andrew Stern of the Freyaspace Corporation.  Welcome aboard, sir.  Please come inside.”

They made their way to the lounge on the upper passenger deck and sat down.

Stern spoke first.

“I didn’t expect an immediate welcome to this planet by a diplomat.”

“Sir, I saw it necessary to meet and speak with you immediately before you made a serious and uncorrectable mistake.”

“Excuse me?”  Said Stern.

March looked straight at Stern as if he were speaking to a basic school student caught in a serious error.

“Mister Stern, are you out of your absolutely negated mind?”

Stern was shocked at the question.

“I don’t understand?”  He replied.

March closed his eyes for a moment.  He then opened them and replied.

“Mister Stern, what I understood from your message is that you saw an opportunity that could be exploited.  This planet in the second inhabited world in the Alpha Centauri system, and the second colonized world out from Earth.  And yet there’s no regular starship service from the Earth to here.  Did you think to ask yourself why that’s the case?”

“I saw it as a obvious opportunity.”  Said Stern.

“No,” March replied, “the people who know about this world basically avoid it because it’s a cultural and legal nightmare.”

Stern was silent.

“Shall I explain?”  Said March.

“Yes, please do so.”  Stern replied.

“Okay,” said March, “this planet wasn’t a normal colony world, it was intended to be a dumping ground for old school Progressives from North America and thus was given the name of  Kennedy.  But under the standard rules for colonization in effect at the time it was also open to settlement by people from the rest of Earth.  Being that the first wave of settlers was from the Boston and New York areas it appeared to be attractive to people from Ireland and members of the Irish Diaspora in general.  The Irish colonists came to dominate the local culture and when the Federation dumped the planet, excuse me, granted independence, they effectively took over the world on the political level.”

“So?”

The majority of the people are hardcore Irish Catholics and they have turned this planet into a recreation of the nightmare of old Catholic Ireland.”

Stern was puzzled.

“But we could still do business here?”

“I very seriously doubt it.”  March replied.  “One of the local policies is planetary economic autarky, which is to produce most goods locally and limit interstellar trade as much as possible.”

Stern blinked.

“That’s insane!”  He said.  “Everyone knows that free trade is the best policy.”

“This isn’t our homeworld and these people didn’t attend our schools.”  March calmly replied.  “Reason isn’t a core value of the planetary culture and the people here aren’t taught to be rational.”

Shook his head before asking another question.

“So we have to start a separate school for our children?”

It was the turn of James March to blink.  Tamara Zev now responded with her own direct question.

“Mister Stern, did you bring your children with you?”

“Yes, our two daughters.”

March spoke firmly to Stern.

“Sir, your daughters are in serious danger on this world.  The planetary government regards holding any philosophy that disbelieves in God, such as Objectivism, or Metaphysical Realism in general, as valid grounds for seizing children from their parents.  You can’t allow your daughters to go outside the port boundaries.  Worse still you mustn’t let them off your ship!”

Miss Zev spoke in turn.

“Sir, the government actually has a Minister for Religion, and he’s not an elected member of the parliament, he’s selected by the Archbishop of the Catholic Church on planet.  The minister for religion, Bishop Paul Clark has actually called Ayn Rand an ‘evil Nazi bitch.’”

“That’s wrong!”  Said Stern.  “Rand was born into a Jewish family!  That’s basic history!”

“The truth is irrelevant to the government here on Kennedy.”  Said Zev.  “And so are your rights as a rational parent.”

James March spoke in his turn.

“Mister Stern, the only valid option you have is to simply leave.”

With this the initial meeting was over. 

It was later in the afternoon that Thomas Gratton, the prime minister of the Planetary Republic of Kennedy, waited for the Freyan Consul.  He’d put off his normal afternoon shot of whiskey for the meeting.  

He hated that.  He truly hated that.

The ambient temperature of the room seemed to have chilled as the consul entered and sat down without the usual introduction.

March spoke first.

“Mister Prime Minister, it’s come to our attention that Miss Judith Stern has regained consciousness and that she’s requested to be returned to her family and home.”

“How do you know that?”  The prime minister replied.  “Who told you that?”

“As this is an adversarial situation where deadly force has already been used, I simply can’t say.”  March replied.  “And it’s normal for those with the predatory mentality to retaliate against those who act against them.”

There was a touch of anger in Gratton’s voice.

“We’re not the criminals here.  Your people murdered ours without warning!  And whoever told you those lies is a traitor to our state.”

March knew that Doctor Fuller wasn’t a local citizen and clearly wanted to leave this hellhole of a world.  The concept of treason couldn’t be rationally applied to her.  Of course he wouldn’t mention her role in the current situation.

March maintained the level demeanor.

“Mister Prime Minister, Judith Stern was raised by her parents to be a rational person.  In the light of reason she properly refuses to submit to the absolute nonsense that you’re attempting to force upon her.  And she clearly wants to go home to her family on Freya.  As to your claim of murder, the attempt to seize Deborah, the second daughter of the Stern Family, was an act of kidnaping and clearly warranted the use of deadly force in self defense.”

Their ship was armed for self defense and during the escape from the planet the weapons were put to good use against a local space guard cutter.

Gratton barely succeeded in keeping control of his temper.

“Those people were unfit to be parents!”  He replied. “They murdered good men who were trying to save the second daughter from damnation!”

“Mister Prime Minister,” said March, “a capital crime committed under the color of law remains a capital crime.  And we’ll never accept the following of orders, particularly issued by a witch doctor, as an excuse.  In using force to seize Judith Stern you’ve sanctioned the use of force to by us recover her, and the Republic of Freya will do so.”

“But we saved her soul!”  Gratton replied.  “This is her home now Mister March!  We would never send a Christian child off to a band of godless heathens!  And we wouldn’t have allowed the godless to escape with another innocent child!”

March maintained a level voice in response.

“A is A, ‘reality is real’, what you wish to believe is an absolute fantasy and is absolutely irrelevant.  The crew of your Space Guard craft attempted to carry out another kidnaping in open space and were properly vaporized as a result.  As to Judith Stern her parents didn’t consent to the voodoo ceremony and she has clearly stated to a rational witness that she doesn’t accept it either.  You’ll now return Miss Stern to us, and you’ll do so, now!”

Gratton was upset that he had to put off his afternoon drink but now he had to listen to this apparent slander.

“How dare you call the sacred rite of baptism a heathen voodoo ceremony!  That little girl is now a proper Christian!"

March continued his level response.

“The ceremony of baptism in all variants of Christianity is the practice of symbolic magic and is completely meaningless in the actual world.  A laser fired through a ship’s hull or a bullet fired trough the brain are completely real and have actual effects.  If we must use full military force to recover Miss Stern, then we’ll do so.  And we’ll properly retaliate against those responsible for her kidnaping.”

Prime Minister Gratton was now in a full state of rage as he violently stood up.

“HOW DARE YOU!  HOW DARE YOU THREATEN US!  WHAT WE DID WAS TO SAVE HER SOUL FROM DAMNATION!”

March remained seated and maintained the level voice as he responded.

“You’ve done nothing.  Existence exists, God doesn’t exist, and Hell doesn’t exist.  The entire doctrine of the Christian religion is an absolute load of nothing.  Your alleged government has done nothing but to commit multiple capital crimes under the color of law for absolutely no reason.  The Republic of Freya must now respond to your very real crimes with very real force.”     

Prime Minister Gratton leaned forward with his fists on top of his desk and lowered his voice to ask a question.

“Why’re you still here?”

March broke a slight grin.

“It’s very simple.  You can still resolve the situation without further bloodshed.  All you have to do is admit that you were wrong and release Miss Stern to us.”

“I can’t do that.”  Said Gratton.

“Of course you can.”  March replied.

“I serve Jesus Christ!”

March calmly replied.

“You serve no one and nothing, in doing so you’ve placed your nation at risk.”

“This nation won’t reelect me.”

“So what?  ‘Being elected is not an excuse.’”  Said March.  “It’s not just a tradition for us, it is an absolute fact of reality.”

Gratton stared at James March.

“I don’t understand.”

James March spoke in response.

“Sir, I have the honor of being descended from President John Andrew March.”

Gratton virtually fell back into his chair with a loud thump.  The name of John Andrew March was deeply cursed by his people.  John Andrew March was the last President of the United States and the founder of The Federation.  In the history of the Irish people he was also an irredeemable monster.  He’d ordered the destruction of Dublin in old Ireland on Earth by nuclear bombing and brought Ireland into The Federation by full military force at the cost of tens of thousands Irish lives.

The man calmly sitting before him was proud of being descended from that monster.

The state of fear had now clearly entered his mind.  Gratton could only answer with a clearly shaken voice.

“I can’t do it.”

“Of course you can.”  March continued to reply with the calm and level voice.  “The facts are the facts, and all it takes to comply with the absolute facts is to give one simple order.”

“I have to call a meeting of the cabinet.”  Said Gratton.

“Why bother?”  Said James March.  “The facts of reality can’t be evaded, and certainly not by a vote of a committee.  The facts of Reality aren't subject to a popular vote.  There’s only one valid outcome to this mess, and as the prime minister you now clearly know what to do.”

And with those words James March stood up and returned to the Freyan Consulate.

Upon his return to the Freyan Consulate he called a meeting.  Present at the meeting were his deputy, a junior consular officer, three members of the Marine consular detachment, and a Navy medical corpsman.

“Okay,” said March, “we all know why we’re here.  I fully expect the ruling idiots to kick the consulate out very soon.  That means the worst case scenario is now in full effect.”

Everyone at the table nodded.

March proceeded to speak to each person at the table.  Beginning with his deputy.

“Ellie, are the safe houses, vehicles, and our friends ready?”

“Ready to go, sir.”

He turned to the consular officer.

“Miss Zev, are you ready to go?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Staff Sergeant MacDonald, is your team ready to go?”

“Yes, sir!”

Both of the Marines, who were the flag raising detail that morning, nodded in agreement.

March then turned to the female Navy medical corpsman at the end of the table.

“Able Spacehand Newman, are you ready to go?”

“Yes, sir.”

It was time for James March to give the final speech.

“We had to improvise with what we had on hand.  I wish we could do better, but wishes never ever come true.  We’ll have to make this happen ourselves.  Let’s go out and do it, make it happen.  Let’s rescue Judith Stern and bring her home.”

With those words the meeting ended.

On the next morning in the parliament building at the center of the city of New Boston the cabinet held their meeting.  And every member of the body absolutely had to get his word in.  The Minister of Agriculture was shouting.

“That poor girl was properly baptized into the Christian Church!  We won’t turn her over to those Godless vermin!”

George Cross, the Foreign Minister, spoke in reply.

“Fred, I have spoken to Miss Stern this morning, she’s clearly rejected the rite of baptism as applied to herself.  And she has gone as far as to call it a voodoo ceremony.”

The Minister of Agriculture responded.

“She needs to be shown the truth of the Christian faith!”

Cross replied in turn.

“Miss Stern has clearly stated that she’s a citizen of the Freyan Republic who holds Metaphysical Realism as her basic philosophy, and that regardless of what we decide here and now, she’ll return to her home world on her own as soon as possible.”

The Minister of Agriculture shouted.

“Five or six years in a convent school will change that!  And if not?  We’ll send her to one of the laundries!”

Cross winced, the revival of some of the practices of old Catholic Ireland on Earth was a sore point in relations with other worlds.  Revival of the practice of slave labor as a means of morally reforming young women hadn’t become well known off of their planet.  Not yet at the moment.  Foreign Minister Cross spoke again.

“It may not take that long.  Mister James March, the Freyan Consul to our world, has sent a request to the Freyan government to take military action to recover Miss Stern from our custody.”

The cabinet was silenced.

“Gentlemen,” said the Foreign Minister, “Mister March was absolutely certain that the request would be granted by the Freyan government.”

Everyone silently stared at the Foreign Minister.  Then the Defense Minister spoke.

“It won’t happen.”  He said.  “Their Ambassador to Earth said they won’t.”

Foreign Minister Cross replied.

“The Freyan Ambassador to Earth is a political appointee whose job is to smile and shake hands.  And he doesn’t speak for the Freyan government on this world, James March does.”

The Defense Minister responded with a smug voice.

“Even if they wanted to do something, they can’t, they don’t have the means to do it.”

“I have to disagree,” said Cross, “one of your Space Guard vessels was just taken out by one of their armed merchantman.”

“Shut up!”

Prime Minister Gratton cut into the argument.

“That’ll be enough.”

He turned to the Foreign Minister and asked a question.

“So George, what can they do?”

“Sir, I had to look this up on the local version of the Jane’s Military Information site, as an independent world the Freyans has fully functional armed forces.  This includes a fully jump capable space navy and at least one battalion of marines organized as an expeditionary force.”

“One battalion?”  Said the Defense Minister.  “Against an entire world?  They may as well not bother!”

“Jerry,” said the Foreign Minister, “if you bothered to do your job instead of drinking all day you’d know that’s complete nonsense.”

“Bullshit!”  The Defense Minister responded.  “They can’t take our planet!”

“They don’t have to.  I also had a chat with the Federation military attache this afternoon.  Someone who actually knows something about the subject of warfare.”

How dare you!”  The Defense Minister shouted.

Prime Minister Gratton cut in again.

“Gentlemen!”

He turned to the Foreign Minister.

“What did the military attache say?”

“Sir, the Freyans don’t have to take or suppress the our entire planet.  Even though we legally own the planet we don’t actually occupy all of the surface.  All they have to do is make a landing on an unoccupied piece of land.  They’ll set up a base camp and then the marines will use their gravitic lift capacity to simply fly over any attempt to block their mission.  There may be a fight at the location where Miss Stern is being held but they will prevail.”

“Prevail!”  Shouted the Defense Minister.  “What kind of treasonous piece of shit are you?”

The Foreign Minister quickly replied.

“Unlike you, I’m doing my job!”

Again, Prime Minister Gratton had to interrupt.

“Gentlemen!  That’s enough!”

He again spoke to the Foreign Minister.

“Did you speak to anyone else on this matter?”

“Yes, I did speak with the Federation ambassador.”

“What did he have to say?”

“In his opinion this government is clearly in the wrong and we should return Miss Stern to her parents as soon as possible.”

Someone at the left end of the table shouted.

“That won’t happen!”

Everyone turned to a well aged priest, Bishop Paul Clark, the Minister for Religion.

Gratton spoke.

“Bishop, did you have something to say?”

“Yes,” he replied, “This discussion is pointless, Miss Stern has been irrevocably brought into the Mother Church, she can’t be returned to the Godless filth on Freya.”

With the exception of the Foreign Minister everyone at the table mumbled in agreement.

The Minister for Religion continued to speak.

“God won’t permit it.”

The Foreign Minister responded.

“The Freyan Marine expeditionary force as presently organized includes a company of tanks.  Will God stop a plasma cannon?”

The Minister for Religion replied.

“Shut your sinners mouth!”

“I won’t be silent on this!  This government has clearly made a mistake!  And God isn’t about to stop the very real punishment that’ll be inflicted on us for making it!”

Bishop Clark shouted his response.

“I told you to shut your sinner’s mouth!  If you can’t do that then leave!”

Effectively every other member of the Cabinet gave voice to the word.

“Resign.”

Now that cabinet was, at the prompting of the Bishop, meekly muttering for his dismissal the Foreign Minister stood up and spoke.

“So, you want to fire me simply for speaking the truth?  Well no, you don’t have to fire me, I did everything possible to peacefully resolve this crisis and the lot of you wouldn’t listen.  Well that’s it!  I quit!  I’m out of here!”

With that he removed himself from the room.

All eyes now turned to The Minister for Religion.  

He had a question.    

“Mister Prime Minister, why is the Godless filth from Freya still on this world?”

Prime Minister Thomas Gratton had no answer.

After the meeting Gratton had another conversation in his personal office with his former Foreign Minister, George Cross.

“As I said,” Cross spoke, “the Freyan Ambassador to Earth is a political appointee, his job is to smile and make a good impression.  He doesn’t have a voice in making policy.  The government back on Freya will likely send out a replacement with more brains in six months time.”

“They will?”

“Yes sir.”

It would take a current generation starship three months to carry a message from Earth to Freya.  And another three months to return with the reply.

“So what do we do, George?”

“Wait to be slaughtered, sir.”

“Why?”  Gratton asked.  “The Defense Minister says no one on Earth would sell them a proper ship of war.”

“They don’t have to.  The Freyaspace Corporation has their own ship design and construction facilities in their home system.  And the Freyans have a full industrial base to support it.  They’ve been designing and building ships for their navy since they were granted independence by the Federation.  And their military ships aren’t the usual customs and safety patrol vessels.  No, they’re real warships.  And as we’ve discovered the hard way, their merchantmen can also put up a fight.”

“You also said they have tanks?”

“Yes sir, the Freyan Marine Corps has some Merkava Mark Ten tanks they bought from Masada.  But they’re working on designing and building their own for their Army and Marine Corps.”

“And the Federation won’t stop them?”  Gratton asked.

“Why should they?”  Cross replied.  “The Federation view is that we have revived all the old evils of old Catholic Ireland, and as a result we now deserve what’s coming to us.”

“Did anyone you spoke to have any actual advice for us?”

“Yes sir, someone at the Federation embassy did, the Military Attache.  He said, take your ten best friends with your family and go.”
 

Nightmare, Part 2

Dennis Sterling and Francis Diaz had been newly promoted Corporals in the Republic of Freya Marine Corps.  They’d received the assignment of being members of the security detachment of the Freyan Consulate on Kennedy.

Several of the largest and oldest colonies of Earth, including Freya, had been granted independence by the Federation government.  The Freyan Republic, which at this time had only consisted of their own home world, had sent a full embassy to Earth.  There were also separate consulates on several of the independent worlds, including March at Alpha Centauri A, and Kennedy at Alpha Centauri B.  All of which required the presence of a Marine security detachment.  

With the official kidnaping by the local government of Judith Stern they now had a new mission.  They would attempt to rescue Judith from her captors and hide in the Outback region of the planet while waiting for the naval expedition to in turn rescue them.  Of course this assumed that the government and Navy back home on Freya would actually send an expedition.

And the mouth droppings of the Ambassador on Earth clearly didn’t help the situation.

The head of the rescue team was Tamara Zev.  She was a field officer of the intelligence service of the Freyan government.  She was sent to Kennedy under the cover of a junior consular officer.  With this she had some training in firearms and personal close combat.

Corporals Sterling and Diaz were the functional muscle of the team.  But as Marines on their first independent assignment they were expected to perceive and think on their own.  And the staff sergeant in charge of the Marine detachment believed it necessary to tell them that the haircut regulations weren’t in effect for the duration of the mission.

Ruth Newman was a navy medical corpsman assigned to the Marine security detachment.  She volunteered to stay behind as the combat medic on this mission.    

In the four standard weeks since the crisis began the team studied the available records on the subject of covert operations.  Other members of the consulate staff worked on the problems of creating false identification documents, obtaining vehicles, recruiting local supporters, and establishing the safe houses to operate from.

The Freyan consulate was formally expelled from the planet a week ago.  In their safehouse on the edge of New Boston the team was now on their own.

Tamara was in regular contact with Doctor Fuller in the hospital.  She updated the team on the situation there.

“According to the doctor they will be transferring Miss Stern to an orphanage within the week.  No idea which one yet.”

Ruth had a question.

“How bad are they?”

“The orphanages?”  Said Tamara.

“Yes.”

“No idea.”  Tamara replied.  “But they couldn’t be as bad as those described by Charles Dickens in Merry Old England.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure ma’am.”  Said Diaz.  “Parts of this planet look like they’ve made a serious effect to recreate the worst parts of Old Ireland on Earth.”

“I have to agree.” Said Sterling.

Ruth Newman spoke up.

“I normally don’t go out alone.”  She said.  “I did once, but I was accosted by someone.”

Diaz spoke up.

“What happened?”

“I encountered a loud drunken lout, and he apparently believed that women from off world were fair game for him.”

“How did it end?”  Said Diaz.

“I’m sure I broke his right arm at the elbow.”  Ruth replied.  “He screamed and ran away.  I far I know there hasn’t been a local police report on it.”

“Congratulations.”  Said Sterling.  “You have more real combat experience than Francis or myself.”

Diaz nodded in agreement.

Tamara spoke up.

“Guys, that incident remains off of the mission report.  Okay?”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

In the hospital as she recovered from the bout of pneumonia Judith Stern was transferred to the children’s ward.  Although there was another bed in the room she was alone.

The nursing staff and the other doctors barely spoke to her.  Only Doctor Fuller from the ICU came up to actually talk with her.

After the news was released that the Freyan Consulate had been expelled Judith asked Deborah a question.

“Are they coming to rescue me?”

Deborah replied.

“The people from the consulate told me only to say that they will come for you.”

From her room Judith had access to the local cyberspace network, the online news was clearly censored.  Nowhere could she find a website that gave the simple truth of her situation.  That is, the actual truth.  What she did find was the major stories of the destruction of a Space Guard vessel by the Freyaspace Concord, and of the Freyan Ambassador to Earth stating his support for the planetary government on Kennedy, and his statement that no attempt would be made by the Freyan government to perform a rescue of her.

Judith had also attempted to start a diary with her hospital room terminal.  But when she tried to access the file on the hospital system she found it had been deleted.

Judith complained to a nurse.

“Of course it was deleted!”  The Head Nurse of the ward replied.  “We can’t have any of your Godless filth on our network!”

“‘Reality is real’.”  Judith replied.  “The practice of medicine and the operation of computer networks are based on the absolute facts of reality.”

The Head Nurse was now angry.

“How dare you!”  She shouted.  “There is nothing without God!  You’ll kneel before...”

There was another shout.  Doctor Fuller interrupted the head nurse.

“SISTER!”

The head nurse turned to the door of the room.  Doctor Fuller was there.

“Doctor,” she said, “you don’t belong in this ward!”

“Miss Stern was my patient in the ICU.  I came to check on her.”

Doctor Fuller then spoke to Judith.

“How are you?”

Judith thought for a moment before answering.

“I tried to use the hospital system to write a diary.  They deleted the first entry.”

Doctor Fuller turned back to the Head Nurse.

“Well?”

The Head Nurse replied.

“We can’t have that Godless filth on our system!”

Judith Stern then spoke in a calm voice.

“On Freya the act of censorship, to block individual perception, thought, and communication, is a capital crime.  Execution is carried out by a single round in the head in the old Soviet style.  And the remains are then dumped in the sanitary landfill with the rest of the trash.”

The face of the Head Nurse turned white as a sheet.

“You monsters!”  She cried out.  “You Godless monsters!”

The Head Nurse then fled from the room.

“What’s the problem?”  Said Judith.  “It’s just the proper defense of a natural right.”

A thought quickly came to mind to Deborah’s mind.

“I think,” she said, “that’s because it doesn’t fit their notion of being a proper Christian.”

Judith nodded.

“Yes, I can see that.”  She said.

Doctor Fuller had another thought.

“Is your terminal up?”  She asked.

“Yes.”

“I need to file a report on the nurse’s conduct.  Do you mind if I do it here?”

“Not at all.”


Deborah logged herself onto hospital network on the room terminal and began to quickly type in her report.

Judith had a question.

“Would it be possible to fix the censorship situation?”

“I don’t know.”  Deborah said.  

Deborah then thought of something.  She extracted a ball point pen from a pocket of her lab coat.

“We may have to do this the old fashioned way.”

She then picked up her notebook and carefully removed the pages she’d already used.  She gave her notebook to Judith.

“Thank you.”  Judith said.

It was a simple act of sanity and kindness.  With her report completed Deborah had to return to her work.  Judith sat back and thought.       

Why?  Judith thought.  Why did this happen?

Her father, a senior manager at the Freyaspace corporate home office saw a lack of service to the planet Kennedy.  He identified the lack of service as an opportunity to be exploited.  Her parents, Andrew and Kira Stern, would come to this world to establish the corporate base for the service.

Upon arrival it became very clear why there was a lack of service to Kennedy.  No one in their right mind wanted to come here.  The colony had been originally established as a means to get rid of the old school Northeastern Liberals who still infested their part of the old United States and Eastern Canada.  But there were enough Boston Irish colonists on planet to make it attractive to members of the Irish Diaspora in general.

Instead of becoming the intended East American Liberal hellhole the planet had become a systematic negation of human life based on old Catholic Ireland.   

A point that was very apparent was the extent that the local branch of the Catholic Church was now backed by the force of the state.  The Minister for Religion wasn’t an elected member of parliament but was instead appointed by the Archbishop of the planet.  Other Christian denominations were barely tolerated and weren’t allowed to independently operate schools for their own children.  

The attempt by her parents to establish a fully secular school for herself, her sister, and the dependents of those employed by Freyaspace was immediately squashed by the government.

It was at this point that Andrew Stern decided to finally terminate his attempt to create a scheduled service to this planet by the Freyaspace Corporation.

That would have been the end of the nonsense were it not for her illness.  In coming down with pneumonia, Judith, along with her parents, wouldn’t be able to leave the planet.  And Judith required hospital treatment if she was to survive.

The hospitalization worked.  It was everything else on this mind forsaken world that had negated Judith and her family.  

Then there was Doctor Fuller, who may or may not be the only friend she had on this planet.  She was the one sane person she could count on in this mess.

Judith’s train of thought was interrupted by the duty nurse.

“There’s someone here to see you.”  She said with a smile.

“Who?”

“Father Kirkman.”

Ernest Kirkman was the hospital chaplain.  He was the walking negation who had imposed this nightmare upon her.

“No,” said Judith, “I don’t want to see him.”

“Oh!”  Said the nurse.  “You really can’t mean that!”

Judith tried to maintain a calm exterior as she answered.

“Nurse?  What part the word of NO did you not understand?”

The nurse was surprised and struck speechless at the question.

At this moment Father Kirkman appeared beside the nurse and spoke.

“May I come in?”

Judith could not help allowing a note of anger enter her voice.

“No,” she said, “haven’t you done enough to negate my life?”

“We haven’t even begun on your path to salvation!”  Kirkman replied.

Judith assumed an adversarial tone of voice in her response.

“You haven’t done enough?  You’ve separated me from my parents and from the people I know and trust.  You’ve even censored my attempt to record my thoughts!  What more can you do?”

Kirkman was taken aback.  He took a moment to recover before speaking again.

“Child,” he said, “we have saved you from eternal damnation.”

“No,”   replied Judith Stern, “you have done nothing but negate my life.  I’ve nothing now, absolutely nothing.”

Kirkman spoke again.

“But you’ll be released from the hospital soon.  You’ll have a new home and a new school soon.”

With absolute firmness Judith replied.

“My name is Judith Stern and I’m a citizen of the Republic of Freya.  My parents are Andrew and Kira Stern.  Our family home is at Nineteen Eighteen March Street in the Northeast neighborhood of Landfall on Freya.  I attended the Robert A. Heinlein Basic School and I accept the Truth as the Truth.”

Kirkman smiled.

“But you won’t going back to that trash dump and we will teach you the fullness of God’s truth.”

Judith sat straight up and raised her voice to reply.

“‘Existence exists--Existence is Identity--Consciousness is Identification.’”

Kirkman stuttered.

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t understand.”  She replied.  “And you don’t want to understand.  There’s no God, there never was a God, and there never will be a God.  And as a result nothing you can say to anyone can ever be the truth.”

Kirkman was now angry.  He shouted at her.

“How dare you!  How dare you challenge my authority as a messenger of The Lord!”

She raised her voice in reply.

“You have no knowledge and you have no authority!  What you believe is the absolute negation of the truth!  And with it you've destroyed my life!  And all you can do as a witch doctor is to destroy lives!”

Kirkman shouted.

“SILENCE!”

He then slapped her with his right hand.  She fell back onto the bed.

Judith then sat back up.  This monster had struck her directly.  A moral line had been crossed and it was clear to her what had to be done now.  She picked up the ballpoint pen with her right hand.  She then jumped forward from the hospital bed.  With her left hand she grabbed Kirkman by the front of his clerical collar.  With her right hand she jammed the pen into his left ear.  With the open palm of her hand she pounded on the pen to force it further into his head.

Ernest Kirkman stared blankly into nothing and then fell to the floor.

Judith felt no emotion on killing him.  There was certainly no sense of fear or of shame.

For her it was simply the killing of a predatory animal.

In the evening a personal meeting was held at the residence of the prime minister.

In a room across the city Prime Minister Thomas Gratton had a question for his old friend.

“What can I do now?”

George Cross, the former foreign Minister, was seated at across the dining room table in the prime minister’s residence.  He sipped his cup of tea and then answered the question.

“Tom, in my opinion we should immediately deport Miss Stern to Earth.  Hand her over to the Freyan Embassy in Omaha and be completely done with it.”

Gratton replied.

“I can’t do that.  The Archbishop himself has called for the execution of Miss Stern for the murder of Father Kirkman.”

Cross shook his head before responding.

“If you do that then you may as well kiss your sorry ass goodbye.  And everyone else’s on this planet, the Freyan rescue expedition will become a mission of retaliation.  They’ll see the execution of Miss Stern as an act of murder and respond accordingly.  They may even come out of the Nuclear Closet for it.”

Gratton stared at his friend as he responded.

“Use nuclear weapons on us?”  He said.  “They can’t do that!”

“Do you really believe that?”  Cross replied.  “Not all the nuclear weapons constructed before The Unification Wars on Earth were ever accounted for.  And a new completely functioning weapon can be built around an already existing fissile core element.  And that’s not all.”

“What?”  Said Gratton.

“Freya was one of the oldest, and furthest of the colonies out from Earth.  It had taken six standard months for a first generation starship to go out there.  As a result the Freyans used local resources as much as possible in the early days.  They actually built an old school fission reactor to power their initial settlement.”

Gratton shook his head silently.

“No, that can’t be so...”

“Yes,” Cross said, “they’re making their own Plutonium.  And the reactor’s still in operation.”

“And the Federation has allowed them to do it?”

“Yes.”

With both elbows resting on the table Gratton dropped his head on to his hands,

“Why?  Why?”  He said.  “We’ve done nothing wrong?”

George Cross answered the question.

“The Freyans are Metaphysical Realists, in their view there’s no Heaven nor is there a Hell, there’s only human life in the actually existing universe.  Because of this the actual physical human life has to be the foundation of all moral values.  And because of this they hold that a valid moral code must be founded on the clear exercise of rational thought.”

“But God.”  Said Gratton.  “What about God?”

“God in the view of the Metaphysical Realist simply can’t exist.  For something to exist it must be something specific, and God as we were taught simply isn’t anything specific.  And the Universe has to always exist because a fully functioning mind must have something to perceive.  That is, something has to exist to for a person to be aware of.”

“But why did Miss Stern murder Father Kirkman?”

“It wasn’t murder, it was a purely rational response to a serious crime.”  Cross replied.  “It appears to me that she’d lost all hope of ever returning to her home and family.  And when the man responsible for her imprisonment, who’s clearly in her view had to be an absolute monster, slapped her for speaking the truth, she had to take him out.”

Gratton sat silently.

“Tom, there is no other way out for us, we have to let her go.”

“But the church, the Archbishop?”

“To Hell with them.”

“You can’t say that!”

“I have to.”  Cross replied.  “The Church started the mess by demanding that this government kidnap Miss Stern.  The Church made it worse by demanding the seizure of her sister.  Now they’re demanding that she be put to death.  An act that’s a clearly in the rational view an act of murder and of human sacrifice.  You have to put a stop to this madness and only you can do so.”

Faced with the alternatives Prime Minister Thomas Gratton could only sit silently.

In the sitting room of their first safe house the members of the retrieval team sat in silence as they watched the televised coverage of the current events.  The arrest of Judith Stern on the charge of murdering the hospital chaplain had very thoroughly set back their operational plans.  They now sat as the local news channel began their coverage of a public speech.  A platform had been set in the public square before the Cathedral of Saint Mary in New Boston.  Speaking upon the platform was the Archbishop of the Planet Kennedy, Patrick Whelan.

The Archbishop was a fully white haired elderly man dressed completely in a white robe.  Short purely white hair barely showed beneath his white cap.  The ensemble was completed by a gold crucifix which clearly depicted the crucified Jesus Christ upon it.  He was a spot of lifeless white was at the center of the living mass of the audience in the square.  The Archbishop began his speech to the mass of people present in the square.

“My children, today I bring you the saddest of all news.  Yesterday a true servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ was murdered in a most foul manner.  Father Ernest Kirkman served as the chaplain of the general hospital here in New Boston.  In the course of his duties he came across a child in the direst need of salvation.  The poor girl was born on a Godless world that was named for a false female deity.  This poor girl had never heard of the word of Our Lord on her home world and knew nothing of Our Lord.  When Father Kirkman tried to bring the poor child to Our Lord her depraved parents stood in his way.  But he eventually bypassed their pathetic attempts to block him from bringing her into the light of Our Lord.”

Reality was real and the truth essentially differed from the message of the Archbishop.

Andrew Stern essentially ignored the warning he was given.  Tamara Zev was present for the initial interview with the parents at the consulate after the rite of baptism.  Judith’s father, Andrew Stern was very clearly angry.

“We were in the process of closing down our corporate operations on this world when Judith fell ill.”  He said.  “We had to stop everything and take her to the hospital.  There was no choice.”

“That witch doctor approached us during the worst stage of her fever.”  Said Kira.  “He wanted to do that stupid voodoo ceremony on her.  We clearly said no to it.”

At no point was parental consent given for the rite of baptism.

“We tried to keep a watch over her.”  Andrew said.  “When Kira and I couldn’t do it alone we asked for volunteers from the office to stand in for us.”

Members of the Freyaspace staff who came to the planet with the Stern family had stepped in to prevent access by the chaplain.  Although the ritual was meaningless the principle of parental consent had to be upheld.  It was the New Boston Police who intervened to arrest and remove the Freyaspace staff member on the overnight watch and allow performance of the baptism.
An act of force by the irrational shouldn’t have been a surprise.  Even though the ritual was essentially meaningless, Andrew was outraged and Kira was heartbroken.  But that wasn’t the end of the issue.  

The Archbishop continued with his lie.

 “But the poor girl’s parents were blinded by the devil!  They demanded that they take the child back to their depraved homeworld to be raised in the satanic doctrine of the harlot Ayn Rand!”

Andrew and Kira Stern were fully rational parents.  They were raising their daughters to be fully rational women.  It was by the command of the church that the hospital refused to release Judith to the custody of her parents.   

As the Consul for the Republic of Freya, James March, stood up for the parents and demanded the release of Judith to their custody.  He made a clear statement to the public.

“If the government doesn’t comply with the demand to release Miss Stern the Republic of Freya will respond to the act of kidnaping Miss Stern with full military force.”

The government responded to the official Freyan demand for the return of their daughter by deporting Andrew and Kira Stern from the planet.  But that wasn’t enough, the planetary government had also attempted to seize the second daughter from the Sterns.  It wasn’t enough at this point to simply report on the actions of the planetary government.  Consul March sent a formal request for full military action to the homeworld.  But he understood that military action simply wasn’t enough, he laid the foundation for a covert operation on this world.  A team of volunteers was brought together to stay behind in the event of the consulate being deported.

The Archbishop continued to speak to the crowd.

“There was nothing that could be done for her depraved parents!  It was by my request that they were righteously deported to the Earth.  But then one of their so called diplomats spoke, with the voice of the devil and demanded that the child be returned to Freya or they would come to this world and murder those who brought her salvation!”

In the Republic of Freya the kidnaping of a child was a capital crime.  And someone would be made to answer for the kidnaping of Judith Stern.

On stage the Archbishop simply wouldn’t shut up.

“With that threat our prime minister, a man of true courage, deported the consulate of Satan!”

In the view of all members of the retrieval team Prime Minister Thomas Gratton was a sniveling coward whose leash was firmly held by the local branch of the Catholic Church.  Blind obedience was his sole feature and no act could ever be wrong for him when it was demanded by the church.  A bullet was duly set aside for his head.

The Archbishop droned on.

“When the child was at last separated from the depraved influence of her parents Father Kirkman went to bring her the truth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It was at this time that she used a simple ballpoint pen to perform the foul act of murder.  To seek justice for the depraved act of murder we are left with no alternative but to call for the penalty of death!”

“Murder their victim.”  Said Corporal Sterling.  “No surprise there.”  

On the stage the Archbishop came to his conclusion.

“It was too late to save this child from the foul influence of the satanic whore Ayn Rand!  But we can save the children of our world!  We must expel her influence, we must destroy all of her works on this planet now and forever!”

Tamara Zev spoke.

“It may have been my fault.”

Ruth Newman, the junior member of the team, spoke up.

“Why’s that?”

“I told Doctor Fuller to tell Judith that the navy was coming to rescue her, but not to say that there was anyone present on the planet.  As a result Judith may have thought that she was alone here.”

“Ma’am,” Said Corporal Diaz, “We’re improvising as we’re going along.  In this case we erred on the side of caution.”

“We?”  Said Tamara.

“We’re on this mission together.”

“But it was my thought and decision.”

Diaz simply nodded.

“Orders, ma’am?”  Said Corporal Sterling.

“We continue to work on breaking Judith out of their custody.”

The next morning all of the news channels on planet were carrying coverage of the indictment of Judith Stern on the charge of murder.  The clerk of the court read the charge on live television. 

“Your honor, the defendant Judith Stern is charged with the murder in the first degree of Father Ernest Kirkman, the chaplain of the General Hospital of New Boston.”

Then Judith Stern was brought in and surrounded by heavily armed police officers into the courtroom in order to enter her plea.  

The judge, an elderly white haired man, spoke.

“How do you plea?”

Judith was standing on her own.  She looked straight at the judge and replied.

“I won’t enter a plea.”

The judge was put off.  He raised his voice to speak to her again.

“Miss Stern you must enter a plea on the charge before the court!”

Judith Stern answered in a clear and level voice.

“This isn’t a court of law.  You’ve renounced truth and thus rejected the concept of law.  You’ve renounced reason and thus rejected reality.  You’ve renounced the moral standards of civilization and thus are savages.  You’re in fact nothing but a pack of predatory animals fit only for extermination.”

The team watched the proceedings from the sitting room of their safe house.  Corporal Sterling was the first member of the team to comment.

“Yes!”  He said.

She’s clearly one of us. 
He thought.

The proceedings in the courtroom had degenerated into pure noise.  Only Judith stood still and remained silent through the mass of motion and shouting.   

The judge pounded with his gavel and shouted.

“Order!  Order in the court!  Silence!  Silence!  Be quiet!”

It would take roughly ten minutes for order to be restored in the courtroom.

Ruth had a comment.

“When Atlas Shrugged was originally published a reviewer had interpreted it as a call for the mass murder of the irrational.”

“Nonsense,” said Corporal Sterling, “Ayn Rand attempted to introduce reason back into American culture.  She wanted everyone to adopt reason as the way of life for themselves.  And in rational life there were no grounds for anyone to inflict any punishment on any irrational person.  The consequences of irrationality are self punishing.”

Tamara spoke her turn.

“A thermonuclear weapon isn’t self punishment.”

Corporal Sterling replied.

“Ma’am, if this lot murders Judith Stern they’re clearly asking for it.”

“Yes.”  Said Corporal Diaz.

Everyone in the courtroom had settled down.  The judge spoke again.

“Miss Stern you must enter a plea.”

Again she answered calmly.

“No, what you want from me is to help you pretend that you’re not in fact a gang of murderers.”

The people in the courtroom erupted again.  It was at this point that the judge ordered the clearance of the courtroom.  The television coverage then switched to studio commentary.

For an uncounted number of minutes the team was silent.  Then Tamara spoke.

“This is clearly insane.”

The next morning all of the news channels on planet were again carrying coverage of the indictment of Judith Stern on the charge of murder.  The clerk of the court read the charge on live television.  

“Your honor, the defendant Judith Stern is charged with the murder in the first degree of Father Ernest Kirkman, the chaplain of the general hospital of New Boston.”

Then Judith Stern was once again brought by heavily armed officers into the courtroom in order to enter her plea.  

The judge, an old and white haired man, spoke.

“How do you plea?”

Judith was standing on her own.  She looked straight at the judge and replied.

“I still won’t enter a plea.”

The judge was put off.  He raised his voice to speak to her again.

‘Miss Stern you must enter a plea on the charge before the court!”

Judith Stern answered in a clear and level voice.

“I said this yesterday and will repeat it today.  This isn’t a court of law.  You continue to renounce the truth.  You continue to reject the concept of law.  You continue to renounce reason and reject reality.  You continue to renounce the standards of rational civilization and thus continue to remain a body of savages.  And you continue to be a pack of predatory animals fit only for extermination.”

The team continued to watch the proceedings from the sitting room of their safe house.  The proceedings in the courtroom had again degenerated into pure noise.  Only Judith stood still and remained silent through the mass of motion and shouting.   

The judge pounded with his gavel and shouted.

“Order!  Order in the court!  Silence!  Silence!  Be quiet!”

It would take another ten minutes for order to be restored in the courtroom.

Once again everyone in the courtroom had settled down.  The judge spoke again.

“Miss Stern. I repeat, you must enter a plea.”

Again she answered calmly.

“No, what you want is for me to help you pretend that you and your gang aren’t the murderers.”

The people in the courtroom erupted again.  It was at this point that the judge ordered the clearance of the courtroom.  The television coverage again switched to studio commentary.

For an uncounted number of minutes the team was silent.  Then Tamara spoke.

“Let’s get to work.”

Judith Stern had been removed from the courtroom.  As she waited to be moved again the door to the holding cell was opened by a bailiff.  In walked a tall middle aged man with long black hair and a beard who wore wearing granny glasses with a worn and out of fashion business suit.

“Good morning.”  He said.

“Really?”  Replied Judith.  “And who’re you?’

The man was visibly shocked to have heard the question.

He replied with a clear note of annoyance in his voice.

“Miss Stern, I’m Douglas Green, your court appointed attorney.  I’m to represent you in these proceedings.  Didn’t you  pay attention?”

“Yes, I do pay attention, when it matters.”  She replied.

Now the attorney was truly annoyed.

“Do you think this is a child’s game you’re in?”

Judith Stern answered in her now practiced level voice.

“Not at all, this alleged trial is nothing more that a ritual to create the appearance of legitimacy for an act of murder by the state, and you’re nothing more than an actor in the play.”

The attorney blinked.

“I don’t think you’re taking this situation seriously.”  He said.  “I just entered a plea of not guilty for you.”

Judith shook her head gently.

“I’ve taken the situation dead seriously and I fully understand where I actually stand in the big picture, you simply don’t.”

The attorney was speechless.

“Go away.”  Said Judith.  “Go home, grow up, and get a life.”

There was nothing else to say.

Although George Cross was no longer the Minister he still had an office in the Foreign Ministry Building.  It was now time to finally had to clean out his desk.

Part of the process was to copy or completely remove personal files from the Foreign Ministry system. It was as he doing this that he had a visitor.  A young woman employed by the ministry.

“Minister, may I speak with you?”

George smiled and replied.

“It’s just George, now.  What did you need to speak to me  about?”

“Sir, I was going over the Freyan Consulate files and I may've found a discrepancy.”

“What is it?”

The young woman was clearly worried now.

“Sir, there're four people assigned to the consulate who weren’t accounted for in the deportation.”

“Do you have a file?”

“Yes, sir.”

She held out a standard flash memory chip.  George inserted the chip into his work station.  He quickly read the file.  

According to records of the ministry the four people missing were a junior diplomat, two marines from the security detail, and a navy medic from the same detail.

A covert operations team?   He thought.   Was this a deliberate plan or did they improvise on the spot?  Would they attempt a rescue?

George Cross sat and thought for a moment.

If this is a rescue mission then for our own good it has to succeed.

The young woman spoke up.

“Sir?  What should I do?”

“Nothing.”

“Sir, I don’t understand.”

“Miss...I’m sorry I don’t recall your name.”

“Miss Brennan, sir.”

He looked straight into her eyes and answered.

“Miss Brennan, The government’s clearly in the wrong.  If Judith Stern is executed then we here on Kennedy we will be subject to reprisal by the Freyans, and it will be a nuclear bombardment just like on old Dublin during The Unification Wars.  The people the Freyans left behind here on Kennedy may be the key to preventing that fate from falling on us.  You mustn’t tell anyone else about what you’ve found.”

Miss Brennan stared blankly.

“Miss Brennan, do you understand?”

Miss Brennan returned to active consciousness.  And then made a decision.

“Yes sir, I understand.”

“Not a word.”  He replied.  “Was there anyone else who saw this file?”

“No sir.”

With those words the meeting ended.  Cross sat back in his chair and thought.

How the Hell do I contact those people?   

Then something else suddenly came to his mind.  He opened his work station to the entire government network.

Let’s see how sloppy the Ministry of Justice is?  Cross thought.

He discovered quickly that his high level clearance was still in effect.  With this he entered the Ministry of Justice network and performed a search.  The object of the search was the plans for dealing with Miss Stern.  There was a plan to transfer her to the central prison for the execution.  There was no plan for dealing releasing Miss Stern upon her acquittal.

This wasn’t a surprise to him.

He copied the file on the transfer plan to the flash drive.

There was one more thing to find.  He checked the roster of doctors at the general hospital.  He found that Doctor Fuller was still stationed in the Intensive Care Unit.

She had to have been the point of contact between Judith Stern and the Freyans.  He thought.

He also found that the doctor was on the night shift.

Very likely as a punishment.  He thought with disgust toward the hospital management.

With his searches completed George Cross logged off of the government network for the last time.

An entire local day would have to pass before he could contact Doctor Fuller.

Even though he still held a seat in the House of Commons he decided to take the day off.  He was sitting in his library when his son came home from school.

“Dad?”

George Cross, Junior was in his school uniform.  The uniform was a bit ruffled.  From his own experience as a student he knew it was from being in a schoolyard fight.

“What happened.”  He replied.  “What was the fight about?”

“How did you know I was in a fight?”

“I went to the same school.”

Junior sounded as if he were reluctant to answer.

“Dad.  The sisters at the school are saying that you’re a bad man.”

“Did they say why?”

“Because you’re not obeying the Archbishop.”

George Cross wasn’t surprised.  Members of his own party were saying the same thing.  Perhaps it’s time for him to completely leave the government?

“Son, the Archbishop is simply a man, and like all men he can be wrong.  And in this case he’s clearly wrong.  Judith Stern did nothing wrong, but the Archbishop has wrongly declared her a murderer and demanded that she be executed.”

He continued to the next issue.

“The boys who assaulted you are clearly wrong and they must answer for what they did.”

“It wasn’t the other boys at school,” said Junior, “it was the Sisters.”

George was shocked to hear that.  The Sisters were the nuns who taught at the school.

It was at this point he now made a fundamentally life changing decision.

“Son, the Sisters shouldn’t have done that, and I won’t let them do it again.  I’m taking you out of that school.  I’ll find you a new school, on another planet.”

Junior was astonished.

“We’re moving to another planet?”

“Yes son, we have to.”

Junior broke into a smile and came forward to hug his father.

“Was there something else?”  Said the father.

The son replied.

“The Sisters said you were an evil man and that I would be taken from you and Mom.”

He leaned forward and replied.

“That’ll never happen.  I promise.”

George Cross then sat back and thought.

God sent two angels to convince Lot to leave the doomed city.  I only had to speak to my son to make the same decision.


His wife Aileen had gone out on her errands for the day.  When she returned home there was a long discussion.

“You’re leaving everyone and everything we have behind?”  She said.

“What do we have?”  He replied.

“Our friends!  Our families!  Our property!”

“Do we have that?”  He said.  “Our friends have turned their backs to us.  Both of our families are doing the same.  And there are those in the church who want to take our son from us.  Given all of that, on what grounds do we have a claim to property?”

“Because you are defying the Archbishop.”  She said.

“All the Archbishop cares about is his own power over the people of this planet.  He doesn’t care if anyone lives or dies as long as they grovel before him.  And he clearly doesn’t care about the truth.”

“And the truth is?”

“The truth is that the government at his direction has committed a great crime.  If they’re not stopped they’ll commit a greater crime.  And that there’ll be a devastating response to those crimes.”

Aileen was silent.  George spoke again.

“The Freyans see Judith Stern as an innocent child in mortal danger.  And they see themselves as her protector and will try to rescue her.  And if they fail to rescue her then they’ll retaliate against the state that murdered her and they’ll use nuclear weapons to do so.  There’ll be nothing left for anyone here.”

Aileen was now silent.  Her face had turned white and tears were appearing to flow from her eyes.  George leaned forward to whisper.

“My dear, there may be a way out for everyone.”

She blinked and her eyes lighted up.

“Yes?”

“The Freyan’s may have left some people behind when their consulate was deported to Earth.  I need to speak to them.”

“You can find them?”

“I have an idea, but you’ll have to trust me on this.”

The color had returned to her face.  She nodded, smiled and spoke softly.

“Do it.”

 It was almost before the end of visiting hours at New Boston General Hospital before George Cross could speak to Deborah Fuller.

“Doctor Fuller?”

“Yes?”

“I’m George Cross, I was the Foreign Minister in the current government.  If it’s possible I need to speak to you alone about Judith Stern.”

“Why?”

“I want to help.”

She looked up and down the corridor for anyone who could listen.  Then she replied.

“I’m parked on the top level of the ramp.  Can you meet me there in fifteen minutes?”

“Yes.”

With a mutual nod they separated.  Cross then returned to the main entrance of the hospital.  It was there that he found a general map of the facility.  He was examining the map when someone stepped up and spoke to him.

“Sir, may I help you?”

Cross turned to see a hospital security officer.  He was roughly his height and about forty standard years old.  The security officer has a fringe of blond hair, wore glasses, and a dark blue uniform with long sleeves and a black tie.

Cross answered.

“I’m afraid I lost my way.  I parked on the top level of the ramp.”

“Not surprised sir.”  The officer replied.  “They built this place in sections over the decades and stuffed new sections into any available space on the blocks.”

The security officer continued.

“Okay, the main ramp is that way down the north corridor.  And the door opens straight into the elevator lobby for the ramp.”

“Thank you, sir.”   

“Sir, I should thank you.”   The security officer replied.  “Mister Cross, you’re right, the government should’ve let the entire Stern family go.  And I certainly don’t want to be here in New Boston when the Freyans show up in response.”

With that the two men shook hands.

Cross followed the directions and quickly found the top floor of the parking ramp.  Right on time Doctor Fuller stepped out of the elevator.

“Doctor,” said Cross, “what do you know about the security guard on duty at the front desk, the bald fellow with the glasses?”

“Les?  He’s one of the few sane people on the planet.

Cross nodded in response.

Deborah spoke.

“So what did you need to see me about?”

“Before I cleared out my desk at the Foreign Ministry a staff member had found that four of the people at the Freyan Consulate weren’t accounted for.  And I also accessed the Ministry of Justice plans for the execution of Judith Stern.  And there’re no plans for releasing her if she were acquitted.”

Doctor Fuller waited for the word.

“Doctor,” he said, “if there’s a Freyan covert operations team on this planet, they need this information.”

“You want me to put them in contact with you?”

“Yes, if you could.”

Deborah Fuller had a net address for contacting the team.  She thought about it for a very brief moment.

“I’ll try.”  She replied.