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Taking a Stand: a New SciFi Story by Nathaniel Bates

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      Taking a Stand

A New SciFi Story by Nathaniel Bates

     John stood in front of his Math class and presented slope-intercept for the second time.  It was a class of higher functioning students, but they still needed reinforced teaching like all students when presented with new material.  John Hammond always felt a bit awkward in front of a classroom but this day it was especially tense.  He was the only teacher to object to the idea of Department of Energy experiments being conducted on gifted students.  There would be every opportunity for parental consent and student consent and it was all out in the open.  There would be no repeat of the MKULTRA experiments of the Sixties with all of their abuses, so the DOE representatives said.  The entire project was written up in the local military research base paper, and was sold as an opportunity for gifted children of the nuclear scientists on base to get college scholarships.  For John Hammond it held all the threat of a potential abuse.  His opposition was even noted in the local paper.

     Students were graphing slopes and intercepts all the while thinking of the weird afterschool program run by the Department of Energy.  The psychologists were already parking in the campus parking lot outside of Mr. Hammond’s window.  They seemed innocuous enough but the unease felt by Mr. Hammond was evident to his students.  Teachers would be paid overtime to chaperone the event and Hammond signed up.  He would have signed up with or without the extra pay.  Just about everyone involved knew that he was going to be extra vigilant for real or perceived abuses of power.

     The bell rang and students shuffled out of the door.  One student in particular, Elizabeth, sat quietly and spent a few minutes after the bell to finish her work.  Mr. Hammond noted that her work was almost always perfect.  There were few mistakes.  She turned it in and walked out with a vague air of disdain that made Hammond feel a chill in his bones.  Elizabeth would be one of the gifted students to take part in the psychological experiments.  John Hammond expected to see a lot of his best students, their parents who were primarily research scientists on base, along with DOE personnel, who would look at him as a potential subversive.  His college years as a self-described “existentialist Marxist-Anarchist” probably would not help matters.  How he managed to avoid the background test required to teach on Base amazed him.

     The auditorium was filled with the very people John was expecting to see, with much the same reaction toward him that he knew he would see.  His most hostile audience were some parents who looked down on him as someone less educated than he was.  How it was the he could teach their children and have no PhD in Mathematics seemed beyond them.  John never bothered to state the simple fact that no PhD would tolerate living in a small one room apartment, realizing that this was probably not true and that plenty of Post-Docs would.  Other parents were not as hostile, and a few even opted out of the experiments.  John had a few supporters among the scientific and technical élite of the base who quietly backed his positions and whose opposition was even vocal.  A strange coalition of liberal scientists and Fundamentalist Christian military parents came together and jointly opposed the State reaching in to the minds of children. 

     No media was allowed in while experiments began.  Students were hooked up to Transcranial Magnetic Simulation machines.  The site of Middle School students hooked up to strange machines from out of science fiction was too much for even the most ardent supporters of the DOE experiments to avoid thinking of “The X-Files.”  There were rumors that DARPA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory were going to angle some of the experiments toward Super Soldier type experiments. But parents were reassured that the experiments were being conducted by civilian scientists and that the goal would merely be the enhancement of intelligence without any military connection. No one knew for sure, but all saw an ominous row of students with metallic caps on their heads and the sight stunned everyone. 

     Students were brought in to a hypnotic state by trained psychologists who spoke in a firm yet gentle voice.  Parents and teachers were awed when the students were brought into a guided fantasy leading them out of their bodies and rising to outer space.  Their imaginations were brought through a wormhole to a planet sixty light years away around a red dwarf star.  A planet appeared before them and they were brought to meet its residents.  Students were then told that they were seeing aliens who had been in communication with Earth for many centuries.  Our planet’s myths and legends were presumably based on them.  According to the narrative spun by the DOE psychologists, human stories of Angels, Ghosts, poltergeists, and UFO abductions were all based on interactions with these beings.  They were trying to take over the minds of children and it was the job of the “Delta Force,” as their team name was called, to free the minds of the children of the Earth from their grasp. 

     It was all good fun, of course, and the exercise was soon over.  Students were dismissed for the day and John decided to take to his bicycle to work off his frustrations.  The mountains of New Mexico had a stark snow-covered beauty in contrast to a stark blue sky.  The sun was about to set and John Hammond could feel the motion of air against his face as he looked up and saw a strange fireball on the western horizon.  It hovered on the horizon for about a minute until it dipped down toward the horizon.  John shook his head and remembered all the stories of “Green Fireballs” from the forties during the early Cold War period.  They were presumably alien space craft according to UFO enthusiasts but John suspected what he had seen was a military aircraft of some experimental kind.  The fireball had a presence he could feel, as though it personally responded to him. 

     The next day Mr. Hammond stood in front of his class and quizzed them on the previous day’s material.  The Algebra classes were quizzed on slope-intercept problems.  His Geometry classes were told to write proofs.  His Eighth Grade Trigonometry classes were asked to solve problems involving the identities of sines and cosines of added angles.  Most of the students involved with the experiments were in the Trigonometry classes but a few were in Geometry and one was in Algebra.  The one Algebra student involved in the experiments was Elizabeth.  Mr. Hammond had a difficult time understanding her.  She did just enough work to get a B+ in the class.  Her work was perfect but she would miss just one assignment to get under an A. There was a mystery behind her that he could never quite fathom. 

     It might have been that Elizabeth did not want to seem too smart but the problem was that she was not afraid of what anyone thought of her.  This made her seem a teenager of normal intelligence and not gifted.  There was a strange air of superiority about her giving Mr. Hammond the feeling that she looked down on him.  It was a feeling that he had around many people among the technical élite of the base.  What made things very strange was that it was almost never around tangible issues like grades.  The condescension and hostility never seemed very rational.  It seemed more about WHAT he was than about WHO he was.  The full nature of it seemed to allude him but it had a great deal to do with status.  John Hammond was not part of the technical élite of the base and he was also a liberal.  To many this placed him as a potential Communist or subversive.  At one time students even spoke of “overthrowing” him.  It was not a joke. 

     Elizabeth finished her quiz and handed it in to him.  The bell rang and students filed out of the door.  Elizabeth walked toward the door and closed it.  John became very nervous.  One is not to be in the same room as an under-aged minor with the door closed.  He opened his mouth to tell Elizabeth to open the door but then he froze.  There was something about the expression on Elizabeth’s face that made him pause.  She walked over to his desk and motioned him to sit down.  The tests would begin soon thereafter and both would need to be present but it was clear that a conference was set to begin. 

     “You have no real idea about the real purpose of this experiment, Mr. Hammond,” Elizabeth began.  Hammond was silent.  Her voice was not the voice of a teenager.  Elizabeth suddenly sounded older.  “My name is Dr. Helena Pushnikova.  I am a mathematician who works for DARPA.  My assignment was to, well if I may say, ‘infiltrate’ your classroom to monitor your teaching.  I know that this puts you in a state of paranoid awareness which is entirely my purpose.  You are both a hindrance to this experiment and yet you are a key to its success at the very same time.” 

     Her voice was clearly the voice of an older person.  In a shocked moment of calm Hammond could only surmise that she was Dr. Helena Pushnikova.  The possibility of deep cover monitoring his activities opened up the deepest veins of paranoia that he remembered from his college days when he was reading Anarchist, Marxist and Robert Anton Wilsonesque material.  A real life adult secret agent masquerading as a teenager was almost too much to bear.  The fact that she was already a mathematician explained why her work was perfect but her cover needed to be even more perfect so she would never make an A if she could help it.  Finally, her presence there testified to the potentially awful intent of the experiments.  The possibility of the super soldier rumors being true fortified Hammond’s intent to oppose what he was seeing.

     “As I said, Mr. Hammond, you have no idea what these experiments really are.  You think this is about the children.  Our interest in them is tangential.”  She broke off communication and left the room.  John Hammond stood there and realized that if he attempted to expose her presence he would be painted as insane.  Googling the picture of Dr. Pushnikova he realized that she looked exactly like Elizabeth, so she had clearly impersonated someone many years younger than she; but he also realized that this was a trap set for him to fall into.  He could not expose the truth without truly appearing insane. Perhaps he was insane.  Isolated and alone, he took off to a Middle School auditorium to stand tall against a conspiracy too incredible to believe in.

     Elizabeth did not take part in the experiment that day.  The official story was that she washed out after being unable to handle the intense experience of a guided alien fantasy.  The reality was that she was never actually hooked up to the transcranial machines.  She was a ringer of sorts, a minder for John Hammond.  How an ordinary Middle School mathematics teacher got caught up in a conspiracy beyond his imagination was not something he had the luxury of dwelling too much on.  John Hammond suspected that there were deeper layers of reality behind the “reality” that masqueraded as material reality, but his focus now was on protecting the children.  Somehow, some way, he had to use his privilege as a tenured teacher to be the one voice of reason in a drama of madness. 

     The children were brought out of their bodies again in what they were told was a guided fantasy.  John began to suspect there might be more truth to these “guided fantasies” than he had previously suspected and wondered whether or not there was some actual mechanism by which the children were being exposed to some outside reality.  If there really were aliens out there – a big “if” – then they were apparently the ones behind what were considered paranormal experiences.  Hence the whole out-of-body phenomena could be at least partly explained by control of the human brain by these aliens.  John wondered whether or not the government was tapping into the same power for purposes of its own control.  The ability to control the human mind would be the ultimate weapon.  If there was more to what he saw than simple psychology experiments, then it would make sense that it was easier to hide these experiments in the open than behind classification barriers.  A secret placed out in the open was better than a secret kept too secretly hidden. 

     The guided imagery brought them to a place, the description of which seemed more than simple narration.  The planet came alive in vivid color as children were asked to describe what they saw.  One by one they gave accounts of greenish purple plant like organisms that underwent photosynthesis in the same manner plant life on Earth did.  “Animals” were varied but far more related to “plants” than plants and animals were related on Earth.  Evolution on the planet began early and was much less of a bottleneck than evolution on Earth.  Early development meant less extinction but strangely less diversity of genes.  Variation was more related to adaptation than mutation.  The top of the food chain was a species that was very plant like in its ability to absorb sunlight as well as to eat other “plants.”  Common to this planet were dual plant-animals that were often highly intelligent but without the hunting instinct of humans.  This meant that the analytical skills present in carnivores were not present in them as individuals.  Rather, they were present in them as a collective.  The planet was a kind of socialist democracy, one in which no Stalin could arise because no individual could muster enough analytical skill to repress the others.

     The children were describing the planet the same way, to the astonishment of teachers and Administrators.  Some parents were also clearly perplexed but more subdued.  The children were all agreeing in their descriptions.  It was as if they were really there.  The psychologists were quick to bring the children back to Earth and to conclude the experiment.  One of the chief counselors, Dr. Mary Renard, reassured the parents, “What is clearly happening here is a mutually agreed upon construct.  This is very healthy.  It shows a degree of cooperation among the children that they can actually work together to create a group mind project.  They literally imagined their own world together.  Imagine how the brightest and most gifted might reimagine our planet!”  Reassured the parents provided applause.  The experiment had been saved.  Parents hugged their children and congratulated them on a job well done.  Teachers and Administrators were not as reassured.

     Mr. Hammond was used to faculty meetings and an emergency one was called the next morning.  Real and genuine disagreements emerged as to whether the school should continue to be used as a base of operations for an experiment that was growing stranger and stranger.  Mr. Hammond was joined in his opposition by the History Department and the English Department.  He was the only teacher of Mathematics or Science, as it were, opposed to these experiments in principle.  The Administration remained firmly in the camp of those in support of the experiments.  The school’s science program depended heavily on Department of Energy funding.  But there was a deeper ideological impulse to tamper with Nature if human knowledge was advanced in the process.  The motion to end the experiments was tabled and the Teacher’s Union, ever present during the meeting yet inclined to support the experiments, refused to enter the discussion except to insist that teachers not be required to attend the experiments if they refuse out of conscience. 

     The meeting was tense as all Faculty meetings were.  John often found himself overwhelmed by the various agendas that often devolved into personal behind-the-back assaults against students who were “behavioral issues.”  What struck John the most was that often their real “behavioral issue” was that they did not fit an entirely arbitrary mold.  Students were often flagged as behavioral problems simply because they got on someone’s bad side.  This time the meeting was especially terrifying because John was personally attacked by supporters of the experiment with a viciousness he had never experienced.  The experience with “Elizabeth” came to mind.  How many other embedded spies did they have in his environment?

     As John left the meeting it was clear to him that mind control was part of the experiment.  The development of a group consciousness could only assist battlefield cohesion.  The use of children for such an experiment traumatized John.  He managed to maintain his composure and present just enough Math to make it through the day.  He needed to be present after school.  The experiments needed to be witnessed.  During his last period of the day he saw Elizabeth.  He wondered who else knew she was not really a child?  He also wondered if Administrators were privy.  Her smile to him was knowing but not sinister.  She appeared to offer him no ill will.  It was as if he himself were somehow being drawn onto a Stage in front of which he would have to play a part.  No script would be given him, but a part would be played.

     Elizabeth left the classroom for the experiment.  She still attended in the capacity of an observer.  Her true identity was that of a mathematician who worked for DARPA.  She was an expert in Graph Theory who consulted for the CIA and her work in Complexity Theory and Social Physics was cited broadly.  Why she was in a school out in the middle of a military complex was a mystery.  John was not afraid, but he also knew not to mess with her.  Every signal she sent him told him that it was highly possible that she had military training.  She was not an enemy.  But she was not a friend either.

     John followed well behind her.  He would avoid her at all costs.  The experiment commenced with the children being brought to a North Korean missile base.  The children began to describe what they saw.  The vision was innocuous enough.  There were no nuclear missiles.  All missiles were conventional missiles designed by North Korean Physicists.  They then moved into a room where they saw children all sitting around a room with their eyes closed.  The children then opened their eyes and saw the children from America staring at them.  Both sets of children were undertaking the same task!  The culture shock was more than enough for an adult but strangely the children involved took it in stride.  The children of America were instructed to enter the minds of the children of North Korea, who in their innocence willingly let them in.  A message was implanted stating, “Be ready for the unification of humanity under America.  It is the reason for the world being.  Tyranny will fall.”  It was a clear message to the North Korea élite of the overthrow of the Kim regime. 

     John did not mind the idea of overthrowing a despotic regime.  The sooner tyrants who mass murdered their own people feel the better.  But the possibility existed that any regime, elected of otherwise, that got in the way of the United States would be subject to the subliminal message implanted to trusting children.  North Korea was undertaking the same kind of experimentation, but apparently they were less successful.  Perhaps it was their smaller pool of talent.  Or, perhaps it was the nature of repressive regimes that they could not generate group minds in a spontaneous way.  Either way America won the round, unless of course it was all an elaborate illusion and no real effects were being generated.  John could not tell at that point whether the children were actually seeing something or not.  The idea that they were actually seeing anything implied the existence of a soul separate from the human body.  If John was actually seeing what he seemed to be seeing, there had to be a consciousness that was not simply a product of the brain’s neural network. 

     That night John fell asleep.  Dreams came quickly to him in his small apartment since there was little else to stimulate him.  He came to a point in his visions where he went through a wormhole of some type and floated back in time.  He came to Philadelphia and knew somehow that it was 1896.  He spotted a Protestant Minister, born in England but who came to America as a child and embraced his new land with gusto.  He grew up to preach in a Non-Conformist Church that catered to a mixture of middle class and working class congregants.  The degree to which the classes and races mixed was unusual in his time and this attracted John’s attention.  Reverend Jeddediah Farnesworth believed fervently in the Declaration of Independence and the New Testament, believing both to be socialist documents.  His radicalism led him to support strikes and an eventual nationalization of industry.  This was not as unusual for Protestant Ministers in his time as it would be in later times.  What made Reverend Farnesworth unusual was his belief in racial unity.  Socialism was respectable among many in 1896, in a way that it would not be after World War I.  Rejection of racism was more daring.  But what was really daring was his belief that the Angels of the Bible were in fact men from other worlds. 

     Reverend Farnesworth’s Congregation was small and it consisted of a Church without any iconography.  His Church followed the commandment against graven images to the letter.  Most of his congregants rejected his view that Angels were men from space, but they did not reject his staple teachings.  John Hammond followed the Minister into his bedroom at night, one shared without any wife.  He prayed and then turned in for the night.  As soon as he lay down a glowing man appeared that Reverend Farnesworth and John could both see.  Deep down in John’s heart he knew that the glowing human appearance was an illusion and that the alien was actually the same species that the children saw around the red dwarf.  Their presence was real and they were interacting with a deeply religious soul who wanted to believe in Angels more than he wanted to believe in the cold world of humanity. 

     The “Angel” imparted words from the Bible to Reverend Farnesworth and then turned to John, seeing him hovering above.  John floated down and stood beside the good Reverend’s bed.  The Reverend was asleep and would not hear the conversation.  “Greetings Mr. Hammond.  I have been expecting you.  You are part of a bigger scenario than you understand.”  John nodded in agreement as he realized that these beings could see through time.  They were not bound by time.  He felt deep down that the experiment at his school involved his own destiny somehow.  This meeting would be consequential.  The “Angel” continued, “You must understand that they are searching the children for the ability to tap into the fabric of space-time itself.  They want to tap into the network that we have with many planets in the Galaxy, a connection of minds.  Your government wants the ability to manipulate space, time, and consciousness that we have. They know that there is a source of that connection at your school.  But, alas, that source is not in the children.  Their connection to our network is through you.  The project is about you, John.”  John was not in physical form but he was chilled to the bone nonetheless. 

     Somehow John was brought back to his University days by virtue of some teleportation through time again.  He followed “Anarchist-Marxist Existentialism” or something of that order but his younger self was unaware of his older self that was hovering above him.  There was a classroom discussion in a History class about what would happen if America had lost the Revolutionary War.  “Slavery would have been abolished,” one student said.  She continued, “The slave owners led the revolution and they would have been defeated.”  The Professor scratched his chin and responded, “Perhaps.  We really cannot know alternative histories.  For one thing, the Sommerset decision only affirmed the right of Parliament to declare slavery legal or illegal in England proper.  England only abolished the slave trade in 1833 and they did so with strong Whig support.  Those same Whigs were supporters of the colonists during the Revolution.  It might be that if England had won the only way they would maintain support in the colonies would have been to allow the dominant Southern elites representation in Parliament.  They could have been a strongly pro-slavery force within the Whig Party itself.  Whigs could have abandoned their reform stance, at least on racial matters.  Do we really know what an alternative time line would be?”  Other students brought up Quantum Physics, indeterminacy, and Uncertainty, all in vague terms that suggested they knew Physics Majors and overheard conversations in pieces.  John himself stayed mostly silent through the conversation but he tended to believe that the American Revolution, though “bourgeois,” was historically necessary to any kind of future classless society.

     John suddenly realized that his very ability to travel through time suggested an answer to the question.  All alternative possibilities are coordinated into one stream of time.  This meant that history was neither pre-determined nor left chaotic.  It was directed by a Plan beyond history itself.  He had the distinct feeling that the Plan could alter time as it wished, but that the Plan would follow nonetheless.  Slavery had to end, so it did.  John still considered himself an atheist, and vaguely Marxian-Anarchist in his leanings, but he began to have his doubts about whether materialism explained all things.  Marx himself borrowed heavily from the teleological notions of history implied in Judeo-Christian theologies.  The Aliens themselves seemed to follow a Plan for human history.  He could not prove it, but he began to believe that time itself was a patchwork.  Time’s linear direction was less important than it was important that ideas like Justice and Fairness emerge out of the seeming chaos of Evolution. 

     John woke up in the morning and knew in his bones that none of it had been a dream.  Somehow, some way, the experiment involved him.  Freedom itself was at stake if the government somehow hacked the human mind and created a fake matrix of control instead of an open ended expansion of human consciousness to the stars.  But, even more ominously, he was involved somehow.  He thought back to when he was first hired.  He came out of the big city to an isolated military compound.  He wondered how much of that was accidental and how much was actually the working of some grander networking.  Did the aliens control his movements?  The government?  Or, was it part of a broader machinery of the Universe that was impersonal but strangely focused on the individual.  He looked out of the window and saw blinking lights over the laboratory scientific compound.  The blinking lights seemed strangely suggestive of message beacons but he realized that his dream was probably getting the better of him.  John decided to take a brisk walk out in the night air to clear his head.

     John walked in the shadow of night.  The feeling was eerie and disconcerting.  He had felt trapped before but it was becoming unbearable.  The high desert was chilly and isolated.  He went there to escape in to the beauty of the desert but he could never truly escape himself.  Freedom was said to be another word for nothing left to lose.  But John had nothing left to lose and he was not free.  The chilly night air suggested escape and he knew he could do it.  Nothing tied him down.  He realized that there was a part of every man that was not heroic and he could embrace the anti-hero in him.  More than anything he wanted to escape.  But he knew he could never escape.  John Hammond had a role in all of this and one of them was to defend the children.  He had to take a stand for the sake of the right of the minds of the children to be free, to be unhindered, and to be themselves.  He knew he would not be escaping because the truth demanded more of him, much more, than to separate from what life truly demanded of him.

     The last period of the day saw a new John Hammond.  He was in command of himself and looked defiant.  Elizabeth or Dr. Pushnikova, if that was her true identity, was discomforted by his new confidence.  She had previously seen him nervous, on edge, as if her very presence was an existential threat to his sense of being.  Her gaze had been the gaze of a colonizer of a type, someone whose presence in his life was displacing the indigenous within himself.  She represented the system coming into his independent sphere as an educator.  But it was his own classroom and he was going to take a stand.  For once he could see the concern in her eyes.  Compliance or flight were the only responses she understood.  She knew the rules in the old Soviet Union and she knew them as an intelligence agent in the US.  She could impersonate a teenager well enough because she was as used to following rules or rebelling against them, as others were.  What struck her was his look of heroism.  The failure to obey the law or to defy it was the ultimate defiance. It elevated the conscience as the chief loadstone guiding human actions.  For the first time ever, it was Elizabeth who followed Mr. Hammond when he left the room.  She followed far behind him.

     Mr. Hammond entered the room with a stunned crowd of scientists all looking at him.  No parents, students or teachers were present.  Only Elizabeth remained among the students.  It was clear that she would revert to her true identity in speaking to John.  One of the scientists who had been the most silent during the long duration of the tests was Dr. Sondra Michaels, a neurologist involved with DARPA as well as the Department of Energy.  She stared directly at John Hammond and Hammond looked back. He was known to be an enemy of the experiment, tolerated mainly as a community gadfly in order to give the appearance of openness.  But this look was different.  It was a demand more than a silent stare.  John knew deep in his heart that they somehow knew about his communications with aliens, inter-dimensional beings, Angels, or whatever they were.  Dr. Michael’s look softened and she motioned him to sit in a comfortable-looking chair with the deft movement of one finger.  John sat down and listened at the center of all motion around him.

     “Mr. Hammond.  I believe that you know the truth about our purpose.  We are discovering the power of group intelligence.  The future belongs to those who can harness collective identity.”  There it was in black and white.  The future would belong to super soldiers merged with machines who would have no conscience.  Military policy was already trending in that direction with autonomous drones and Artificial Intelligence.  Concepts of human agency were being removed from any discourse around war.  Merging human minds under the commands of military controllers would be the next step in removing humanity from decisions around war.  “While weaker minds than ours want Government Science to engage in projects for humanity or the Marxist hoax known as ‘climate change’, we want what is truly in the best interest of the United States.  Our best interest is served with military power.  Old fashioned notions of religion, humanitarianism, and pacifism are holding this country back from being great again.  This includes a revamping of our nuclear arsenal, long a target of leftwing liberals like yourself.  But it also includes altering the human genome, advancing evolution and leaving old-fashioned moral barriers behind. 

“You are a known subversive.  Your involvement in radical groups would ordinarily have excluded you from a position this close to national security.  But a waiver was made in your case that did not require you to submit to a security check.  There is one reason, and one reason only.  You are a conduit for THEM.  The aliens have their own agenda for this planet.  We believe it is possible that they are guided by the evolution of our planet.  Some even think that they created our religions and ideologies.  There is indication that several of our greatest scientists may have been conduits.  What is known is that a vast network of secret societies carried the knowledge of alien contact in the history of the world.  Members of the Order helped to found the Government of the United States.  You are a conduit to the extent that you have even influenced the children on this base which was our primary reason for having you here but also, paradoxically, a great danger to us at the same time.  The fact of your having influenced the children with a group mind allowed us access to that group mind.  Our own group mind will be the next step in human evolution, a step that we will take without the aliens.”

     Sondra Michaels was a prim and proper woman.  She was a Republican appointee and known to be a hawk.  After getting over the initial shock of having climate change be called a “Marxist hoax,” what surprised John the most was seeing her real views on religion after cultivating a public persona of sympathy with the religious right.  Religion was simply another tool of the aliens, she believed. The way to get to our supposed “next step in evolution” was to lose any conception of human conscience.  What was most disturbing was that John was at the center of it all.  The group mind would not exist without him.  John was the focus of their research, and they were the reason for his waiver.  The offer to teach on a remote military base and the good money he was earning had been a ruse all along.  The funding for mind control and transhumanist research would only increase in the wake of the witch hunt happening against government scientists involved in climate change and disarmament.  John realized that he was only seeing the beginning.

     John opened his mouth but could not speak.  The enormity of the conspiracy before him took hold of his consciousness in a way that bound him but freed him from the necessity of an immediate response.  There was a liminality in the state of his head.  Whatever he was about to do was right because there was no precedent for what he was hearing.  At that moment a sudden jolt came over him.  Inside of his head he felt an eye, an eye turned inward.  It was a moment of fear, but the euphoria took over and he looked upward with his inward eye to see a vast Universe above him.  The look of disconcerted apprehension on the faces of Sondra Michaels and the other scientific staff spoke of a sight emerging that they could not understand or control.  The force inside of John opened his mouth and began to speak to the room, “We have one message to say to you.  The time of truth has come.”  John was not sure he wanted to be a conduit for alien communication to psychopathic elements of the military-industrial complex, but he also knew he needed all the help he could get being surrounded by military personnel as well as scientists.  Being in with interplanetary tough guys was possibly to his advantage.

     The voice continued, “One thing we will not tolerate is harm to children.  We are not gods.  We are not perfect.  In the past we manipulated many of your wars, before we underwent moral progress on our own world.  We will undo our own mistakes and prevent yours.  The time of truth has come.”  John returned to himself and he stood up out of his chair defiantly.  The purpose of the experiment had been to channel John into becoming a conduit for alien contact with humanity.  The experiment worked, to the horror of those conducting the experiment.  For his own part, John was not sure whom to trust.  He knew he did not like the people conducting experiments on children.  But he was also not sure he liked a force that could take over his body.  At least the latter was enough of a potential game changer that he decided to go ahead and trust it.  When one is down, an upset is one’s best chance.

     The minute John decided to trust his interstellar friends, a light surrounded his body.  The blinding light was enough of a sign that his captors backed off and let him leave.  John walked into the crispy wind of the high desert, and embraced himself in the light of a sun he felt he had not seen in ages.  He decided to go on a bicycle ride in the windy high desert just to show that he was proud, free and unencumbered by fear of retribution.  He settled into his apartment to watch a good episode of “Cosmos” with Neil Tysson.  The television screen was blasting with the President’s latest tirades against environmentalists, police violence, activists, and anyone who criticized him.  He drifted to sleep and again found himself in the presence of the “aliens,” if indeed that is what they were.  “Who are you, really?” He asked.  “We are the presence behind human intelligence on your planet.  We help to oversee the evolution of human intelligence throughout the galaxy.”  What about God, John wondered.  They apparently overheard him, “We hold the Supreme Principle as our guidance. We serve more than ourselves.”   John felt at peace for the first time in a long time.  He woke up refreshed but also aware that it was not only Light around him.  He looked over the base and realized that dark forces were as present in human history just as his friends were.  He wondered if there were some “humans” on the planet that might actually have been servants of those very dark forces.

     Mr. Hammond arrived at school right on time.  It was as if nothing had happened.  The experiments were deemed “concluded.”  The day went without a hitch except that he noticed Elizabeth was not present in school that day.  The students who had been test subjects were unusually quiet.  It was not a frightening quiet.  They were quiet because of a feeling of respect.  On some level they knew he had stood up to Power and won.  Young people become rebellious unless the elders whom they look up to are willing to stand up to injustice.  Students who had once been against him were now for him.  John could feel his standing in the community changing.  The school day ended and he walked to his car.  Meeting him in the parking lot was one of the psychologists on the experiment, Dr. Mary Renard.  She stood there with a slightly disheveled look on her face.  John froze out of an initial fear but Dr. Renard spoke up, “I never should have gone along with this.  I did not know that this was about super soldiers and eugenics.  I thought it was about giving children what they need to succeed.  I thought it was about making humanity better.  I have quit and want this evil exposed.  Not only that, Mr. Hammond, but there are more of us who were scientists involved in the experiment.  We believe that the time of truth has come.  We also believe in you and in the help your friends offer.  Please help us and let us help you.”

     She brought John to a bagel shop popular on base.  Sitting there were scientists, military officials, and psychologists involved in the experiment.  They were the new underground who were set to expose the abuse they had been unwittingly involved in.  Sondra Michaels was not present, nor were other higher-ups.  Undoubtedly the project leaders had spies in the restaurant but the force assembled there was unafraid.  A new force was appearing on Earth and they wanted to be on the right side of history.  In the backdrop of it all was a fascist regime dawning in the United States.  The fascist regime was made possible by the failures of a corrupt establishment that served the wealthy and powerful.  Therefore, the establishment that tried to stand up to the new regime was discredited in the eyes of many.  What Earth needed to fight the repression was new hope, new heroism, and a new willingness to stand up for idealism and truth in the face of cynicism, power, and aggression.  They needed the heroism they could find in themselves.

     John had learned to see in the Spirit, and knew that the experiments were still continuing with the consent of a few parents.  Most parents had pulled their children out and some were involved in the new underground.  Those parents whose children remained in the program were not evil but patriotically loyal military officers who could see no wrong.  They were decent but blind.  Elizabeth was also not evil.  She was still involved but having her doubts.  She could not understand how something good would ask her to be a part of a lie.  She began to wonder if for all of her intelligence she was less than fully wise. John could see all of this because of the gift of sight that he had been given by the interplanetary visitors.  John could see the experiments continuing with a kind of third sight at a house off base.  The experiment was too dangerous to commence on base where enough military officers were opposed to it. 

     John amassed the group to go to the house off base and to confront its owners.  The group may have looked strange on the street, but it might have been recognized as a force of righteousness by those in their homes on whom a strange calm had come.  They came to the house and waked to the door, ready for anything.  Sondra Michaels came to the door and invited them in.  John knew that her reasons for doing so was to engage in one last attempt to tempt him over to her side.  “Mr. Hammond, I can offer you many things.  Power and wealth will not tempt you.  I understand that.  What you want is knowledge.  It is knowledge that I can offer you.  Become our channel, our hope for the world and you will be rewarded with the knowledge that you truly want.”  The temptation was real.  Wealth, sex, and power all meant nothing.  However, knowledge truly meant something.  His heart was torn and this temptation was real, he knew. 

     John looked at the room and saw children attached to electrodes.  He knew that these electrodes were leading to the final merger of humans and machines.  With this knowledge, the world’s elite would live forever as merged with machines.  The rest would be left to the mercy of climate change, war, and destitution.  With the Spirit given him, John could see that Nazi scientists were brought in after World War II to see to it that the plan for the immortality of the world’s elites was guaranteed.  Defeating the Soviet Union was the part that the public knew about.  John could see a think tank in the mountains with a swastika as its symbol. There they were continuing the ideas of Operation Paper Clip scientists to advance eugenics.  It had an appearance of being liberal, but the true inner reality of it was very different.  There was much that the public did not know about. 

There were soldiers in the room.  Elizabeth was there also, as was a small coterie of armed Officers. The children all turned to look at John.  They all knew that he was being tempted by the one thing that could possibly tempt him, knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level.  He stepped back and did something he had never done in his life. He turned to the Reality beyond humans, beyond any aliens, and beyond space-time.  Light enveloped him and it shone through him on to Dr. Michaels, on to her person.  The layers on layers of holographic deceptions that surrounded her body were stripped away until her true appearance could be seen.  The vision they all saw was of a scaled alligator-like creature.  Its eyes were vertical slits.  Her body was bipedal but awkward.  She held the human form to the naked eye, but it was clear when the hologram surrounded her were lifted that she was something else.  John’s feeling that not all outside influences on humanity were good had been vindicated.  Apparently there were other aliens or inter-dimensional beings, apart from the ones he had been blessed to know, ones whose desires for humanity involved destruction and chaos. 

     Elizabeth, shocked, stepped away and the soldiers drew their guns.  Sondra–whatever she was–let out a squeal that shocked and horrified everyone involved.  The children fled the house while the adults remained.  John stood in the Light and Sondra Michaels remained very much in the darkness.  John remembered his past existence as a scientist whose commitment to humanity demanded he renounce the nuclear bomb that he had helped bring about.  This scientist had been a philosophical materialist and a Marxist in some way, but his moral conscience and discoveries in Quantum Physics demanded that he adopt a worldview beyond reductionism.  He had helped bring about evil, so in the future he had to face evil but without fame or accomplishment.  He had to overcome the darkness with the Light, fully naked and without any social structure that could help him. 

     John remembered his commitment to life, to truth, and to love.  Knowledge was important, but Wisdom demanded of him that he be willing to die to self.  Slaying demons was not the act of someone adoring his self on the altar.  The temptation to abandon his stance, to become a worldly intellectual, to join the camp of those who denied God was strong in him.  The Light weakened while the darkness grew strong.  John was tempted to return to the world of atheism, relativism, and academic conferences.  He could come to the world of self and intellectualism. It would be a welcoming world since Sondra would have the power to smooth over all difficulties, even to create academic degrees for him if he wanted.  John looked at Elizabeth and realized that he was her teacher.  His knowledge of mathematics was far less than hers but his example was what she would follow.  He felt strong rage at her for being accomplished in the world and at ease while he was in pain.  The Light continued to dim.

     But he was a still teacher.  His example was his lesson.  His wisdom, not his knowledge, would see him through.  Could he die to self?  Did he have what it took to overcome self and to overcome the world?  The violence of hatred and rage was strong in him.  Rage at the world for consigning him to such a small place.  Hate for the fact that none of his hopes or dreams had ever materialized.  He could not find it in himself to truly believe in the Light when all authentic feelings suggested darkness.  John suddenly realized it was Sondra who was projecting these ideas into his head.  These thoughts were not his own.  He knew that he was being played for a fool and that an embrace of darkness would defeat him.  He could only be a hero if by heroism he judged himself by the standards of the Light and not the world and its esteem.  John turned to the Light and began to forgive those who hurt him.  He forgave those who had oppressed him.  John decided to return love for hate.  He forgave parents, students, scientists, and himself.  John even forgave Sondra, whatever she was.  The bitterness of heart gave away.  The Light became stronger and stronger while the darkness became weaker.  Sondra realized that her efforts were of no avail.  A wormhole opened up and Sondra escaped before she was destroyed.  The military personnel and scientific personnel stood back.  The illusion had been broken.  Everyone in the room had seen the Light win.

     John continued to teach for many years.  He eventually changed subjects from Mathematics to History.  He had a passion for Social Studies.  His reputation as a subversive radical was one he relished in.  His new experience of the Light, far from ending his radical beliefs in social justice and moving him to conservatism, actually strengthened his commitment to social justice.  He marched with Farm Workers.  He took controversial stands.  But most of all John made it a point to love everyone.  The victory of Light over darkness was won without anyone firing a single shot. 

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