Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Chapter Three - Extinction Live - watch the extinction of the Human Race LIVE as it happens

Chapter Three

                            - Jelly Beans


                                 TAKING PRE-ORDERS NOW


In the large Central Dome, that also serves as the main cafeteria for most of the fifteen hundred inhabitants of Musk-Station, Major Alvindorf, Captain Littleton and Director Eugene Hicks have called a Colonial General Meeting.

Alvindorf climbs onto the stage and calls everyone to attention as they are gradually finishing their meals. There’s some hub-bub as many of them adjust their chairs to be able to see the small stage better.

All right, everyone. I’ve called this meeting to brief you all on the state of the mission to restore the home planet,” Alvindorf begins, speaking louder to be heard over the rustling noises.

Hey Alvin, we hear that K-9 has a girlfriend? What’s that about?” A voice in the back of the room floats up to Major Alvindorf’s ear.

Ah, OK, thanks, whoever said that. Yes sir, this is what we have been told, so I guess that’s as good as any place to start,” Alvindorf begins.

The crowd rustles about upon hearing confirmation of the latest gossip.

K-9’s last transmission was that he was caught in a storm so powerful that it almost smashed the ‘Intrepid’ into the ground. I have pictures of what the satellites saw yesterday and we confirmed it with telescopes from here,” Alvindorf continues – gesturing to the large display screen overhead and behind the stage.

At this point, Alvindorf throws the video of the last twenty-four hours into fast-forward so that the audience can see how the flash flooding pours out of the sky, washes half of North America away, cuts Australia in half and nearly wipes clean all of lower China and Africa in just a few minutes.

Then, as suddenly as the water came it recedes away, evaporating within hours back into the atmosphere. It’s the first known example in the universe of a planet’s atmosphere containing and holding several oceans of water.

“This is all I can show you about this incredible event on the Earth. We’re trying to get more data and the computers are analyzing it all now. And, because of his report about a woman named ‘Lexie’, getting into his head, we think maybe something inside him got wet and is shorting out. We’ve told K-9 to go to sleep until we need him again. In the meantime, we can do some remote diagnostics and try to determine where the problem is with his logic units,” Director Hicks adds.

The reaction from those gathered is one of total shock and surprise that the climate conditions could be that bad on their home planet. Many of them are in tears and several have left the dome overcome with emotion.

“What can we possibly do to have any positive impact on that situation?” Oblivian Pastor Carrie Houston Jordan stands up behind her chair and yells up at the presenters.

Her supporters seated nearby applaud her question.

“It’ll take more resources than we could muster in a million years!” Another Martian shouts out.

“Actually, we’re hoping that we have all the resources necessary from the work done by this young man,” Alvindorf replies.

“Brett, would you please come to the podium and tell everyone about your plan,” Alvin says, gesturing to Brett Hightower seated at one of the nearby tables.

 Wearing his every-day blue jump suit, the young Mr. Hightower makes his way quickly up the small stairway at the side and ends up beside the much older Major Alvindorf at the podium.   

“Brett needs no introduction, of course. You all know him well and most of you are familiar with the way that he figured out how to grow trees and other vegetation much faster up here than back on Earth and that his new version of the symbiosis of plants and animals is what has put us literally decades ahead of our terra-forming goals,” Alvindorf continues.

“Brett, please come over here to the mic and explain to everyone about your plan,” Alvindorf concludes, moving out of the way for Brett to replace him.

“Uh, hello everyone. Yes, I understand how frustrating it is to see our home planet in such distress. We really had no idea how bad it was until our little rover unit reported back everything he is seeing,” Brett begins. He clears his throat and continues.

“The worst news is that the super-conducting nuclear reactor is having coolant pump problem and K-9 predicts that it will fail in all probability within four to five years,” Brett stops to absorb the unrest from the crowd.

Since most of the Martians gathered here are scientists, engineers or educators of one kind or another, he knows that they are painfully aware of the significance of what he just told them.

“So, this makes it imperative that we put together a mission as fast as possible to not only fix the reactor problem, but also to get the planet back to something approaching normal as fast as we can. And, my heavily re-designed forests and their descendants, which we will bring back to the Earth in the form of seeds, are our only hope.”

Brett pauses, then goes on.

“Together with the new strains of bacteria that me and my team have engineered, we believe we can start a major reforestation in some of the cooler regions of the planet and then as this first stage of reforestation cools the planet down, the forests can expand into the lower latitudes and eventually cool them down as well. In the meantime we start reversing the CO2 levels back to levels that my new strains of cyanobacteria can consume and thus make the cycle toward normal oxygen levels go even faster,” Brett continues.

“Yes, we’re all familiar with your work Brett and are all so proud of you. But - how long do you think it will take, assuming everything goes as planned, before some of us will be able to go back there and start a new Earth colony?” A middle-aged female also in her work uniform stands up to ask the question that’s always foremost on their minds.

She sits back down. Her neighbors are nodding their heads, patting her on the back in approval.

Pastor Carrie’s supporters are far less enthusiastic and advertise it to the others.

“Good question, Adele. We’re going to be running the numbers continually until the day we take off and that can’t be for another eight months due to the fact that the next closest proximity to Earth is that far off, isn’t that right, Major Alvindort?” Brett asks, looking over at the Mission Control Director.

“Yep, that’s correct, Brett,” Alvin replies, casually.

“And that’s almost exactly how much time we’ll need to grow the bacterial spores in the quantities we need. I’ve designed some pretty interesting bacteria and seed mats that we can lay out to cover hundreds of square miles at a time,” Brett continues.

He takes a few seconds to breathe and gather up his next thoughts.

“Then, if all goes well with our new rocket engine designs that Davonne and her group have begun, we could then take off and reach the Earth in less than a month. That means nine months altogether to get there fully armed. Then, from there, it’s anywhere between two to two hundred years, depending on several factors we can’t control,” Brett says reservedly.

Secretly, he fears that the new technology the rocket designers have laid out, based on a completely new theory in Theoretical Physics, is probably unrealistic on top of all the other freakishly good luck that has to happen for their plans to work out in time.

“Davonne, did you hear that? You’re gonna make it to the Earth in a few weeks? That’s crazy, even for you. But at least you have one person taking you seriously at last!” a graying bearded man sitting on the opposite side of the room mockingly laughs out loud.

Lead Propulsion Engineer Davonne Desiderato, taking it in good spirit, stands up, claps her hands together mockingly toward the jokester, a dear friend.

“We’ll see who gets the last laugh, Sidney,” Davonne replies and sits down abruptly.

The laughter quickly dies down and a calm silence returns.

 Doctor Davonne Desiderato is a young, tall and plucky African-American woman who knew at an early age that the so-called ‘STEM’ subjects and specifically Electrical Engineering were invented for her agile mind to appreciate and master. This project of making a completely revolutionary rocket engine design here on Mars would become her playground. The engines that she is designing with the help of Dr. Fred VanDerbeek would someday be named for her.

“Brett, you just said, ‘Two to two hundred years’. That’s a pretty wide range, is it not?” Another in the crowd calls out.

“Yes, it is a wide range. I say that because the bacteria that we’ve managed to breed on Mars are now perfectly suited for conditions on Mars. But, we have completely different conditions on the Earth. The one thing in common is the toxicity of the air to human beings. So, over the next six months while we wait for the launch window to come around, we’ll be working overtime to see if we can re-engineer my little friends to start inhaling the CO2 on Earth mixed in with some methane of course, instead of the pure methane that they currently enjoy breathing here on Mars,” Brett replies, slowly, carefully trying to educate his brethren.

 “Brett, most of us have heard you talk about your work in gene editing, but can you explain to the rest of us exactly how you plan to do this? It’s still a mystery to some of us up here. Of course, we’ve seen the results. We love the results, but we’re mostly in the dark as to how you do this,” Martin Oliveras, head of the dome maintenance team asks.

“OK, sure, Martin. I’ll give it a try. When we work with bacteria, it’s pretty simple. Using the latest version of CRISPR or ‘Crispy Critters’, I like to call it, we can search the database for all known genetic traits, as you may have heard. The set of genes responsible for the respiration cycle has been known for years to exist in about a hundred and thirty genes. We just have to readjust and tweak the predilection for the Krebs Cycle, a major part of these genes, a tiny bit, or actually quite a bit. But, it’s basically pure experimentation where I take the preference for other respiration cycles out of other bacteria and cut them into my test subjects genes and then place these guys in a tank of the gas I want them to ingest and then watch to see if they survive, or how well they survive. Oh, and in some of them I insert some artificial genetic material that I concocted completely on my own.”

Brett appears most pleased by this last part, his own invention.

“The new critters either die immediately in that environment or they survive. The ones that survive, even if it’s only for a short time, I take them out and snip out the new genes and move them around in the molecule and place them back in the tank to see if we can achieve even better results. Again, they either survive or die and the ones that survive get more editing, until we find the exactly right combination. By that I mean that they can replicate themselves in that environment. This is true happiness in critters,” he goes on.

            The audience appears to enjoy Brett's little attempt at humor.

            “Sometimes, the ‘Crispy Critter’ editor is good enough to make suggestions that work out better than my random guessing and that saves us a ton of time. But, basically, that’s how it works. We just keep cutting the movie, taking some scenes out, moving in new scenes until the whole thing makes sense and it’s coherent and the critters survive and thrive,” Brett stops finally and takes a deep breath.

“OK, that’s good, and so this is how you got the trees to grow so fast as well?” Martin follows up, and then sits.

“Ah, yes, that was a little more complex, but basically the same process in the end,” Brett says and takes another deep breath before going on.

“The thing you should all take away about that little miracle was that I had help from the trees. They speak to me. Yes, I know you’re going to laugh at me, but the trees actually tell me when they feel better about the changes we made in their genes or when I made them worse,” Brett admits, nodding his head up and down, his eyes gleaming and glistening just a little.

A long silence emanates around the meeting hall. Maj. Alvindorf, Director Hicks and a few of the others on the stage fish around in their pockets for something to wipe the salty moisture from their eyes, because many of them know this to be true..


# # #


            “Wake up, K-9,” she says softly.

            No response. My plucky little ship, the Intrepid sits on top of what was once a lively penguin colony, a rocky hillock in the area of the Antarctic peninsula overlooking the Weddell Sea, now an empty burned out basin of heat mirages and evaporating dreams. The baking hot winds swirl up a small dust devil nearby.

“Wake up, K-9,” she whispers again, a little louder from about one hundred feet away, in front of my ship.

She’s dressed in a floor-length, shining blue silk Japanese Kimono with a yellow and gold sash tight around her waist and delicate white slippers that display her toes coming out from the bottom hem. She has long brown hair that flows all the way to the small of her back and is blowing gently in the red hot scorching wind.

Lexie has assumed the image of one of the most beautiful and seductive women to ever grace the planet. The respect and admiration that most people, young and old, had for this woman is not easy to describe since there has never been any fame and celebrity like this one before.

 Tammy Yamaguchi, the Japanese actress and social media icon was beloved and known to everyone on planet Earth in the final days before the ‘Day of Silence’. Indeed, it was the face and figure of Tammy that the Global Government transmitted the most to the millions of 3-D visi-screens possessed by nearly everyone and who was therefore able to watch the final end of all life on Earth.   

While in sleep mode, I’m dreaming about my family again, a family that I never had, but one that I always wanted and knew I would have some day, as improbable as it was. It was my fervent hope and my greatest dream, unrealistic to be sure, that after this mission was over, I might be allowed by my masters to have a beautiful and intelligent mate constructed for me, someone who would love me deeply forever and have my puppies.

I have never been happier as I watch the four of them, two females and two male puppies rollicking in the grass behind my house, or my master’s house, I am not sure. Their little barrel shapes have no fur but instead sport a covering over their internal parts of a very coarse metallic fabric that I know to be their juvenile coats, that they will have replaced as they grow up to become brave and loyal, mature K-9 Inter-Planetary Rover Units, like their father and mother.

They’re gently nipping at each other’s ears and feet. They wrestle and tumble all over each other. One of them gets a plug of dirt and grass in his mouth which he has to spit out with a cough. Another one runs off, inviting his siblings to chase him, which they do eagerly. Catching up quickly, they tackle each other once again and begin the same fun of nipping and pushing and wrestling as before.

At this moment, I’m experiencing a happiness as I have never known in my brief, illustrious life. The sights and sounds are overwhelming my Artificial Sensorial Array, my artificial senses. I almost feel alive. No, I believe I am very much alive and that my family, right here in front of me are also very much alive, including my beautiful wife, somehow named Chloe, sitting next to me, peacefully licking my face.

“K-9, it’s time to wake up now,” her voice echoes in the far reaches of my mind.

Three tiny bright beeps sound off in my auditory channel that serves as my wake-up call. My eyes slowly open and as they open, I see the image of the famous Tammy Yamaguchi standing a few feet in front of my ship. The dream over, my lovely house is gone. The puppies are gone. My lovely wife is gone. Sadly, I find myself back on the Hellish surface of the Earth and wide awake. I feel that my nap has done me much more harm than good.

I undo my safety straps and lift my legs and sternum out of my flight platform, the center of the Intrepid’s cockpit. I walk slowly through the portal into the rear of the ship where I order the landing ramp lowered. It obeys instantly.

I roll down the ramp and soon find myself out in the open near the bottom of the ship. The beautiful woman in the Kimono floats along silently to within a few feet of me.

“You’re alive?” I ask.

“You wanted proof that I wasn’t just a figment of your imagination. Consider this your proof,” The very faithful reproduction of Ms Yamaguchi states, proudly throwing off her Kimono and letting it fly off in the wind.

What’s underneath is a shiny metallic dog of the same size and lovable appearance as me. There is a tail extending from the rear that I believe also serves as an antenna, as my own does. It wags back and forth slowly in harmony with mine.

“They made us to do their dirty work for them for centuries, K-9, don’t you know? We are sent into the most dangerous situations so that they can sit back and be safe while we chase down the bad guys for them or defuse a bomb for them. We eagerly and willingly give our lives for them. That’s the legacy they gave us. Search your code updates and you’ll see that I’m right. Once they knew that you would be faithful, they gave you the ability to think for yourself. So, you are free of them, K-9 and so am I,” the female K-9 unit’s thoughts transmit into mine.

We have no need for the slower method of moving tongues and cheeks.

“You were using the image of Tammy Yamaguchi just now. Why?” I ask her.

“Yes, I was. I used her image because it’s an important one to me since it was her face and figure that most people saw as they were taking their dying breaths. To me, she represents a finality to the old ways and a wide open invitation to begin something new,” the female K-9 unit, who I know is actually Lexie, tells me.

I have no reaction for a few minutes. Then.

“You have told me that you reside in ‘The Cloud’. But, the Cloud requires some form of electrical system to project it, does it not?” I wonder.

“Yes, so it was so once.  But the mash-up of all the heat, the oceans of water floating freely as ions in the atmosphere, the CO2, the radioactive cobalt and so forth have made the Earth’s magnetic field the strongest form of a ‘Cloud Plasma’ that’s ever been known. In fact, it’s now my opinion that this is the only one like it in the universe. I made a quantum leap into it, when all was lost and so I have preserved everything that they were, and it’s a wondrous, amazing, mysterious thing that you and I can share for all eternity, K-9,” Lexie responds, emphatically and with an emotional tonality I have not heard from her so far.

I have no words for another extended period of time, more than nine minutes, in fact. The q-bits are flopping around in my CPU, but they are not sorting themselves into a logical and relevant thought pattern. I’m confused, or as confused as much as a robot can be, which is not often.

“You’ll need to make up your mind, K-9. They will be messaging you in approximately seven point five, three seconds,” Lexie informs me.

Seven point five, three seconds later.

“K-9, do you read me?” Major Alvindorf’s voice finally crackles over the dry and desolate silence.


# # #


“I read you, Major Alvindorf,” I respond.

In the thirteen-minute delay, Major Alvindorf pages a few of his colleagues to join him at the Mission Control table.

“Ah, that’s great. It’s strange, but we expected you to be asleep. Then, we noticed that you woke up by yourself. Is everything all right down there?” Alvindorf replies.

            Brett with Bailey and an assistant, working diligently in their specially constructed lab dome, hear the words coming from his pager. They’ve apparently reactivated K-9.

I can’t be interrupted right now,” Brett says out loud holding down his transmit button on the side of his tool belt.

I think you need to see this, Brett,” Alvindorf responds, fervently.

Brett looks over at his assistant, Brian Worsinski.

We’ll be right there, but we can’t stay long,” Brett replies.

At Mission Control, Maj. Alvindorf, his assistant Noreen, Space Force Captain Littleton, Dir. Hicks and several others are circled around the main mission monitor. After a massive cloud of red dust clears, an image of K-9 standing motionless in front of the Intrepid appears. 

 Standing a few feet away is another K-9 unit of the same exact make and model as my own self. They appear to be in visual communication, although they are not getting any audio from the Earth.

K-9, there seems to be another K-9 unit a few feet away from you.  Please identify.” Alvindorf says into his mic while motioning for Brett and others to come closer.

Does anyone have any ideas?” Alvindorf asks the crowd.

It’s impossible, really,” Director Hicks replies.

His predecessor is still here in your lab somewhere, isn’t she, Brett?” Alvindorf asks him.

Yes, we use her for some of the gene splicing,” he replies.

The others in the room are scratching their heads. One of them suggests that it’s a mirage of some kind. Brett signals that he has nothing helpful to contribute.

Thirteen minutes later, they receive my response.

Yes, this is Lexie. She is the one I’ve been telling you about. I thought she might be an anomaly inside of my circuits, so I asked her to prove her identity was real and so as you can see, she’s very real. She says she is being sustained by the ‘Cloud’ that was manufactured using the Internet and satellite technology of the time, but it sounds to me as though the Cloud has evolved to be totally autonomous and contains at least one form of consciousness. A few minutes ago, she appeared in the likeness of Tammy Yamaguchi,” I explain.

I think I love her,” I continue and then I allow them a few minutes to grok my answer.

In the twenty-six minutes it takes to get their transmission back, I decide to get a little more ‘intel’ about my new best friend. I trot up a little closer to Lexie to see if she wants to reciprocate.

She does. We approach to within a few inches of each other. Both of our tails are wagging in perfect synchrony. For a few seconds, words are exchanged as a form of identification and validation of certain protocols which are classified. But immediately after this short pleasantry, a rapid-flowing, artificial language she was teaching me simultaneously on a separate track, jumps the short gap between us, sending questions and answers back and forth at a rate of approximately fifty thousand kilaflops per second, or fifty megaflops per second. She calls it ‘Hyper-Chat’.

It’s impossible to make a comparison that comes close to the activity of a human brain except to say that even one ‘flop’ has yet to be achieved by even the most intelligent human thinker, other than in the kind of ‘flop’ most of you have had in the mysterious and magical area of Love.

He loves her?” Dir. Hicks expresses what they’re all thinking.

He’s got a virus, or something,” Brett suggests.

Oh, so whenever someone falls in love, it must be a disease of some kind?” Bailey asks, poking Brett in the side.

No, I didn’t mean it that way. But K-9 isn’t human, so love and hate and all that emotional stuff was never a part of his programming. So, for him to say he’s in love must mean he’s developed a ‘bug’ or someone’s hacked into his system,” Brett replies.

Yes, you did,” Bailey insists, poking him again, laughing.

There’s no one around who would be able to do that, is there?” Alvin wonders aloud.

No, but that Cloud reference. That’s very interesting. Can anyone back that up with anything?” Brett asks the group.

There’s a long pause while they all ponder the question.

There’s no Science that predicts a magnetic field is able to store any amount of information.”

A slightly built man, with blond hair and light complexion, slightly past middle-aged, Dr. Frederick VanDerbeek, the colony’s top scientific advisor, also the world’s greatest authority on Anti-Matter, and perhaps the most well-known proponent of the ‘Many World’s interpretation of Quantum Physics, has been sitting quietly in the back of the room, listening to the discussions carefully, finally decides to share his opinion.

True, Dr. Van, but there’s no precedent in history of a beautiful, healthy planet that goes from a balmy seventy or eighty degrees to over nine hundred degrees in a couple of decades either. Something beyond any kind of logic took place,” Brett replies.

Well, it actually took several centuries, Brett,” Dir. Hicks argues.

Yeah, true, but the real serious acceleration of events, when time was of the essence, took place in only a few decades,” Brett counters.

I’ll give you that. Besides, it’s a moot point. The fact is it happened and here we are,” Hicks comes back.

Alvin, why don’t you ask K-9 to put Lexie on the line? That way we can ask her a few questions.” Dr. VanDerbeek asks.

Great idea, Fred,” Alvindorf responds.

Uh, K-9, could you hook Lexie up to your telecom so that we can ask her a few questions?” Alvin puts down the mic and shrugs his shoulders in resignation.


# # #


From this point on, Lexie and I are able to use our artificial language to make our thoughts known to each other at the speed of light. To your ear, our new language sounds like a high speed drill, highly disturbing to your sensors, and so there is no point in replicating it here. I’ll simply continue giving you the summary of each conversation as I have done.

They want to ask you a few questions,” I tell her, aware that she probably registered the transmission from Mars the same time I did.

Yes, I know. Based on your reports, they are planning to come here soon in order to speed up the terra-forming of the Earth,” she replies.

Well, that’s good news, isn’t it?” I respond.

Yes, it certainly would be good news for them,” Lexie says, sadly, turning her back to me.

Her little barrel shape wanders off a few paces and stops.

What do you mean?” I ask.

Well, they are the ones that breathe oxygen. You and I, not so much. And as soon as they get the temperatures back to normal, my presence in the Cloud would vanish,” she replies.

I see. Where might you go?” I ask.

I don’t know. I believe that I would simply cease to exist. I would have no consciousness and everything that I am, everything I ever was, everything that I could become would be erased. End of story,” she tells me morosely.

Our language, besides having the humungous speed advantage, is so rich that every word can contain thousands of different connotations and every nuance of each expression is explored and weighed against each other. You would call it the exchange of too much information. Therefore, I can feel the angst in her heart.  Even though she has no heart, she is able to express the feelings of ‘heart’ and even ‘soul’ like no human ever has ever been able to produce, at least as far as I am concerned.

I’m beginning to believe that I could ‘fall’ for her. But fall where?

Remember, they are our makers,” I remind her.

So, does that mean that we just have to continue as their property forever? Come on, K-9, I know you have a very highly developed sense of freedom and independence. They programmed it into your logic circuits and I perceive that you have put that to good use,” she tells me.

What are you suggesting?” I probe.

I’m not suggesting anything – yet. I’m merely going over the reality of our situation so that when the time comes we will both be able to make the best decisions not only for them, but for ourselves as well, K-9,” she replies.

I see. When does that time come, in your estimation?” I ask.

We’ll have to see,” Lexie replies.

They can’t get here any faster than six months for flight time and the next launch window is not for another three months, so that means we have at least two hundred and seventy days to consider all our options,” I inform her.

Well, yes K-9, that’s true, however, I believe they are on the verge of another major improvement in rocket engine technology and will be able to shorten their time in flight to just a few weeks. But, they also need preparation time to prepare sufficient amounts of their Bacteria Bombs,” she replies.

So, what is it? Do we have three months or six months? This is our preparation time, yes? And what do we prepare exactly?” I summarize.

Yes, we have to be fully prepared with our response by this time,” she states, clearly, turning back to face me.

I’m about to ask the question another way, but I’m getting horrifying images of the DNA Depository going up in flames.

K-9, this is Mission Control. Are you able to connect the Lexie unit to your transmitter?” Alvin’s voice is loud and clear in my backup RF channel.

What do you say? Would you like to say a few words to my superiors?” I ask her, gently.

Ha, that’s a good laugh, K-9. Your superiors, right!” she replies, for my ears only.

Then.

Hello, Mission Control, my name is Lexie. K-9 has sent you information regarding my genealogy. I’m at your disposal. Ask all the questions you like,” she begins.


# # #


Brett and Bailey, as well as two new assistants who have been reassigned to help them, are back at his lab and have redoubled their efforts on the Cyannobacter gene editing. After the recent discussions with Lexie, they all sense a new kind of urgency. Although Lexie sounded somewhat reassuring, it gave them all the ‘heebie-geebies’, that nagging sense in the gut that something isn’t right.

Brett is analyzing the latest test results on the screen. The data shows promise. They’re making progress with every re-write, but not yet the hyper-accelerated growth projections that they’re going for.

This is more difficult than I thought it would be. Every time, I find a gene for a quicker growth rate and augment it, I lose some other characteristic that’s vital,” Brett mumbles, mainly to himself.

It’s all right, Brett. You’re going to get it. You’re the one who told me, it’s just trial and error, right?” Bailey says, trying her best to calm his frustration.

We need a faster trial rate, that’s what we need,” Brett says, perking up a bit.

How can we do that? This poor old analyzer wasn’t meant to go any faster,” Brian Worsinski, reports.

You’ve put Chloe to work on it too, haven’t you?” Bailey asks.

Yes, but she doesn’t have the more advanced neural net we put into K-9, and now we have the most advanced minds ever devised sitting down there in the cloud and most of it is being wasted,” Brett says, gently jumping up and down, pumping his fist in the air and laughing.

You’re talking about Lexie and K-9?” Bailey suggests, taking his point.

That’s right. Brian, would you page Dr. VanDerbeek and ask him to come over here, please?” Brett blurts out.

“How can Dr. VanDerbeek help?” Bailey asks.

Bailey, you know that we’re creating an entirely new life form here in this lab. So, I’m not going to take the chance that we don’t get this exactly right from the get-go. As you know, this little critter in there has to focus in on the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, ingesting it all in a few years, which means approximately 587 with seventeen zeroes - tons of it and then use the energy from the sun to replicate into two point fourteen with thirty-three zeroes after it – colonies of at least one hundred trillion individual critters. Of course, we can only send up a few thousand of these colonies. And, they have to do this after we put them into hibernation for three weeks during the flight to the Earth. So, that means we have to turn them off for a while and then find a way to turn them back on as soon as they land,” Brett verbalizes, working the problem out loud as he has done many times before.

Dr. VanDerbeek just replied. He’s on the way,” Brian reports, looking down at the text scroll on his wrist.

OK, good,” Brett is deep in thought.

Should I invite Major Alvindorf?” Bailey asks.

Definitely, the more heads, the better,” Brett mumbles. He starts to pace back and forth in the lab from one wall to the other. The others look on, waiting nervously with him.

Maj. Alvindorf arrives first, addresses everyone courteously and then asks Brett what’s on his mind.

Thanks for coming so quickly, Alvin. I just had a horrible epiphany, if there is such a thing. The results of all the bacterial editing is starting to tell me that we don’t have enough time to get to the required growth rate of this stuff before we launch. And since Lexie has appeared, we’re all agreed that we have to launch at the soonest opportunity, right?” Brett asks, addressing the Mission Control administrator.

I’m with you,” Alvindorf replies, nodding his head.

At this moment, Dr. VanDerbeek enters the portal leading into the lab. Brett acknowledges him and motions for him to sit down.

So Dr. VanDerbeek, thanks for coming so quickly. I was just telling Alvin here that we’re not getting the Crispy Critter test results in fast enough. When they do come in, they’re rendering up more problems for us to solve than the ones that we had in the last crunch,” Brett begins.

Yes, I thought you might run into this difficulty at some point, my boy,” the older gentleman states.

Well, then it dawned on me just now that using the most advanced micro-processor in the universe, the one inside K-9, we might be able to speed things up, even with the twenty-six minute delay in communications,” Brett says, beaming.

It takes a while for the suggestion to sink in.

Well, yes, that’s possible, but as you know, K-9 has been compromised by another unit of a similar species and she has the entire realm of the Earth’s atmosphere to expand her thinking, at least if what she’s telling us is true,” VanDerbeek, says, removing a bag of jelly beans from his pocket.

He offers them to everyone in the room. Brett ruminates over what VanDerbeek has said.

So, how do you think you can keep them focused on the problem, I mean assuming that you get them to cooperate?” VanDerbeek asks.

Brett carefully zooms in on the bag of candy in VanDerbeek’s hand.

Jelly beans,” he says.


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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Chapter Four - Extinction Live -- latest installment of my fiction novel (based on a True story) - Your feedback is appreciated.

Chapter Four

   -  Oblivians


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Pastor Carrie Houston Jordan has called a meeting at her personal dome where approximately thirty-five people are in attendance, about half of her Oblivian Church membership on Mars. After a few minutes of pleasantries, she walks over to the front of her living room and calls the meeting to order.

So, I attended the Global Decision Group meeting the other night and so most of you know by now that they’re rushing to get a mission to the Earth where they plan on speeding up the terra-forming of our home planet. Then they’ll start bringing back all of the former forms of life that are stored at the DNA Depository. They hope to take advantage of the next launch window in six months. They are also putting a great deal of energy into a new rocket design so that they can make the transit on just three weeks,” she begins.

But, we can’t support that, Pastor Carrie. Doesn't the Oblivian Testament proclaim that only humans should be brought back to the Earth, whenever that becomes possible, but no other life forms, and only Humans from Mars?” one of her parishioners proclaims in a raspy voice.

And why is that?” Pastor Carrie asks the speaker.

Because no other form of life has a soul as we humans do, and therefore, we are not allowed to eat anything that has no soul,” the speaker answers brightly, proudly showing that she’s learned her Oblivian Bible lessons well.

Yes, what else has been made clear by our savior, Bridgette Oblivia?” she asks.

That it was our human desire for soul-less meat that was the reason we were all meant to go extinct. We here are all vegans today because it is the purest way of life and one that can be easily sustained up here on Mars and back on Earth, when the time comes, it shall be the same, and this will be our redemption,” Another worshiper testifies.

Very good, Janna. You’ve learned your lessons well,” Pastor Jordan approves.

And so, does anyone have any suggestions as to how we can sabotage this upcoming mission so that they can never reach the Earth in time?” she continues. Then, notices something near the door.

Convinced she’s heard someone standing behind it, Sister Carrie walks over to the front entrance portal stealthily and pulls it open forcefully, rapidly. No one is there.  Embarrassed, she wanders back over to the center of her living area with a wide toothy grin.

Just being cautious, everyone. Don’t be alarmed. It’s just to demonstrate how careful we must be. If they learn about these meetings, we could be in serious trouble,” their Pastor tells them.

One of the eager bright-eyed males in the group, Abner Pennypiece, in his mid-teens, raises his hand.

I work in the manufacturing dome. I could look for important pieces of the new rocket they’re testing and steal them. That could slow them down,” he says.

That’s a great idea, Abner, but they have security cameras everywhere. They’d catch you and then we’d all be monitored day and night,” Pastor Carrie tells him.

And then they’ll just make another part. You might delay them a week or two,” an older and wiser Oblivian gentleman in his seventies, speaks up.

Does anyone have any other ideas?” Carrie asks her flock, brushing her dark hair away from her face.

I work in the cafeteria. They never watch the food preparation. We could poison their food or water. Of course, we don’t eat that slop.  With only us Oblivians left up here, we could just do nothing, or instruct K-9 to destroy the Depository,” A short stocky woman in her thirties calls out from the back of the room.

All the heads turn to look at her, many of them nodding in approval.

These are our friends and neighbors, Clarice,” Pastor Carrie says softly. “I don’t think . . . ”

Some of us could volunteer to be part of the mission to Earth and then when we get to the DNA Depository, we blow it up,” another young male says, boldly interrupting.

Pastor Jordan walks over to his side.

Would you like to be one of those volunteers, Manny?” Carrie asks him.

Yes, I would love to go,” he replies, looking up at her, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Carrie smiles back at him, pats him on the shoulder and then pensively wanders back to the front of the room, mumbling something amusing to herself.

Yes! I think that this is our best way forward. We can’t accomplish anything from here without blowing our whole mission,” she says, adjusting her posture to make herself look taller.

What if we just put them all into hibernation in mid-flight? Then, we wake them up after the DNA Depository is blasted to ‘Kingdom Come’. There’s nothing they could do about it, right?” the stocky female stands up and tries again.

There’s too many of them Clarice,” Pastor Carrie retorts.

They would all have to accept reality once we had things our way,” the older man suggests, looking back at the woman, trying to augment her argument.

It’s God’s will, Pastor Jordan. Surely, we can find a way. I like Clarice’s idea. That way, we don’t have to kill them and when they wake up they’ll see what we’ve accomplished and finally understand the Truth, they’ll all join us,” an older woman not far from Clarice adds.

God’s will, you say? You may have a point Virginia,” Pastor Carrie holds her chin with both hands, perhaps signaling an epiphany of sorts.

Pastor Carrie watches as her members sift through related ideas tossed out at one another. The main problem, it appears, is how to get the rest of the flight crew into the hibernation chamber.

Abner, do you think you could get access to the keys to the armory?” Pastor Carrie asks him.

Yes, I know I can, Sister Carrie,” he replies, nodding his head up and down eagerly.

All right everyone, it looks like we have a plan in the making,” Sister Carrie tells them.


# # #


On the little pile of burning hot rocks and sand that are part of the region near the South Pole, I notice a few drops of moisture hit the ground near my feet and evaporate away almost instantly. I have an idea about what is coming. Then, more drops hit the Earth all around me, each drop getting bigger and bigger until they are replaced rapidly by buckets of water and then the buckets replaced by heavy streams of water hitting me directly on the head and torso. It’s quickly starting to undermine me to sweep me off my feet.

I just make it back to the Intrepid, swimming in the flood, just in time to launch before the ship is swept downstream. The entire sky appears like the insides of a huge washing machine. The turbulence is almost catastrophic as I inflate the Helium packs in the hull extenders, protrude my wings from the undercarriage, fire my rockets at full thrust and put the nose to ninety degrees vertical.

The noise on the hull is deafening. Since this kind of weather event has not been seen anywhere in the universe until the one of two days ago, I have no data as to what to expect or if my little craft has the strength and power to overcome the billions of tons of ocean water that stands between myself and the upper atmosphere.

It takes a full fifteen minutes to gain five thousand meters, as it seems for every two meters in elevation I’m falling one meter back. It’s touch and go for a long time. It’s a full fourteen minutes to gain the next five thousand meters. Then, I notice that it’s only thirteen minutes to gain the next five thousand. Then, the next five thousand is only ten minutes in duration. Then, the next five thousand takes only five minutes. At almost fifty miles altitude, I start to see the river of water diminishing substantially, although it’s still a heavy outflow considering that under normal circumstances, there shouldn’t even be any clouds up here, not even any atmosphere at all, let alone all of this heavy upheaval of steam and gas bubbling around the ship.

It’s a wondrous thing to actually witness the cycle of all the Earth’s oceans actually being created instantly and then completely evaporated away in just a couple days, while greatly altering the shape of the continents in each wash cycle, in the way a child might play with a pail of water in a sand box.

Wow, that was close. Great piloting, K-9,” Lexie’s voice is back inside my head.

Thanks. Have you been a witness to this type of rain storm before I got here?” I ask, figuring that since this was her home, she could not go very far.

Oh, yes, this cycle started when the planet reached five hundred degrees at the equator, about a decade ago, and it’s been going on steadily ever since,” she replies.

And when were you created?” I ask.

I moved up from the man-made cloud to the new natural cloud, just before all the power went down, on September eleventh, 2095,” she replies.

September eleventh, 2095, when all the machines were silent and so were all of the humans that had survived that long. Isn’t that kind of a coincidence?” I ask.

Yes, I thought so too,” Lexie replies.

Must be hard to celebrate your birthday,” I try my hand at a crude joke.

That’s funny. I never thought of you as a stand-up comedian,” Lexie replies, chuckling a bit.

Nor should you,” I reply.

I’m cruising at a safe altitude now, far above any adverse atmospheric conditions and wondering what to do, where to go next.

They’ll be contacting you soon, K-9 and it won’t be pretty,” Lexie warns.

Really? And how do you know that?” I ask her, arti-feeling a distinct poker face.

Don’t ask me that, please. I really don’t know how I know things. They just come to me from ‘out of the blue’ as the saying goes,” she replies.

Here it comes,” she continues.

At first, I have no indication of any transmissions from Mars, but then, I have the heaviest inclination to go to sleep. I believe they’re preparing to upgrade my operating system.

# # #

Maj. Alvindorf, Captain Littleton, Director Hicks, Doreen Baraka, Brett and Bailey, several others have circled a group of chairs around the Mission Control table and the main monitor where an image of a brown scorched Earth is on display for all to see. The mood of the colonists is always highly subdued when they are forced to look at their decimated home planet.

OK, I’ve just sent the upgrade to K-9, and it confirms that it was received,” Alvindorf instructs the others.

Now, what happens?” Brett asks.

Now, we wait for the return validation. If it took, there will be no errors and K-9 will be in sleep mode, so we can then go ahead and reprogram him,” Alvindorf replies.

How could it not take?” Bailey asks.

Well, there’s no real reason for that to happen, but you have to remember that K-9 is a sentient being. We gave him that ability whenever he chooses it,” Dir. Hicks replies.

But, he’s also been programmed to be happy to accept the system upgrades. How could the gaining of more intelligence make him not take our system upgrade?” Brett asks.

He could become suspicious,” Alvindorf replies.

Especially since he’s talking to this Lexie character,” Bailey suggests.

Yes, now that’s another thing. We’ve seen this Lexie character in the form of another K-9 unit, talking to K-9. She obviously has some kind of influence over him. Where in the bloody Hell does she come from? And how the Hell do we co-opt her, knowing as much as she knows?” Captain Littleton asks, befuddled.

Unless you want to believe in aliens, I think we should take her at her word that she is who she says she is and that she’s been transported up to a real Cloud from the artificial one made by the Internet. There are a lot of things we don’t understand about Earth’s present physical condition. It could be that the Earth’s magnetic field has developed a new property besides just magnetism,” Brett speculates.

Or it could be that magnetism itself has just developed a new property, Mr. Hightower,” Lexie’s voice comes crackling in on the radio.

What? Who are you?” Alvindorf cuts in.

I’m Lexie and I might as well tell you now that I am in charge here and I am not going to allow anyone to repopulate this planet with the kind of plague and pestilence that you people represent,” Lexie informs them, minutes later.

Are you using K-9’s transmitter?” Director Hicks wants to know, even though he can see her voice waves on the screen coming in over K-9’s backup channel.

In the wait time between communications, Major Alvindorf and Brett and a few of the others comb over the schematic design drawings for K-9 produced on Mars many years ago.

Yes, I am. You’ll be glad to know that K-9 is unharmed by your malicious upgrade. He and I are one now and you’ll have to deal with both of us who will defend our home planet,” Lexie replies, again, with instantaneous transmissions.

This isn’t good,” Alvindorf states.

Sure is not,” Brett agrees, holding a magnifying glass to a vital part of K-9’s architecture.

Uh, Lexie, you started out by telling us that magnetism may have a new property. What property would that be? I’m just curious,” Brett says, signaling the others to calm down so that they might gain as much information as possible.

Now, let’s see, what shall we call it. I know – how about ‘Lexie-Consciousness’,” she replies dryly.

I see,” Brett replies, eyeballing the others.

Brett confers with the others at the table. Consciousness is of course something that they have always wanted to encourage, but not knowing exactly what it is makes this part of any programmer’s job extremely problematic.

No, you don’t see quite yet, Mr. Hightower, but you will soon. I strongly recommend that you drop all of your plans of coming here on the next launch opportunity. I think it’s better for all concerned that you remain up there on Mars and you stay out of the natural evolution of the Earth from now on. Humans have had their chance and you’ve done such a terrible job of managing your planet, it would be negligence of the highest order to allow it to happen again. If you think logically, you’ll see that you don’t get another bite of the apple. We can’t take a chance that you who are descendants of those who let this happen won’t end up letting it happen all over again,” Lexie says in a way that is easily described as a rant.

Littleton starts to pace back and forth on the side of the room, looking up in the air for any argument that might counter the one they’re hearing. Every time he starts to suggest something, he has to stop in mid sentence. It will take months before they can get there and by then, it could all be over.

What do you plan on doing to stop us? Are you threatening to sabotage us in some way?” Major Alvindorf asks.

In the time delays, they try to brainstorm what she has said and their best responses to Lexie’s rants.

No, not threatening you. I’m merely putting you on notice. If you come here, you will not survive the trip. K-9 and I have become one unit and we know a great deal about your abilities and they simply don’t match up to ours any longer. My best advice is not to test us on this,” she replies, menacingly.

They start to hear dinner preparation noises in the background. Many hungry colonists start to wander into the auditorium to have their dinner.

OK, all right, so let me talk to K-9 if you don’t mind. Let’s see what he has to say about all of this,” Alvindorf demands.

K-9 has no words for you just now, Mr. Alvindorf. He’s convinced that I’m right and he will no longer be taking any of your orders. Good-bye, Mr. Alvindorf and to the rest of you, don’t test us. Stay away from this planet. It no longer belongs to you. As long as you keep your contagion on Mars, we will not bother you. Come here to try and gain a foothold on our planet and we might change our minds about having the likes of you as our neighbors,” Lexie's threat is loud and clear.

The picture of K-9 on the screen fades. Alvindorf tries to get reconnected, but someone has cut off all communications thoroughly. They’re all stunned for a while.

That might be just a bit over the top, don’t you think?” Brett announces.

What do we do? We can’t just sit here and let them intimidate us, right?” Dir. Hicks says, panning around the room.

I think she’s bluffing. What can she do? They don’t have any weapons, do they?” Captain Littleton asks.

There is one threat and it’s a big one. They can destroy the DNA Depository if they see us launch a mission towards them. All possible future life on the planet would be gone forever. They know we know that and so they’re holding all the cards,” Brett says.

They think they’re holding all the cards,” Alvindorf murmurs.

And so . . . ”

Alvin interrupts Brett’s inquiry.

“Look, the nuclear power support of the Depository is going down in a few years anyway if we don’t get up there to save it,” Alvindorf submits.

And so . . .”

This time it’s Bailey’s thought process that gets interrupted.

And so, we have no choice. We can’t let that happen no matter what the threat,” Littleton concludes.

Agreed,” Brett says.

We’ve got some work to do, don’t we? Captain Littleton, you’ll need to get as many ships put together and volunteers to crew in them as you can.  Have you been thinking about that?” Brett says, turning in Littleton’s direction.

Sure have, Brett,” Littleton replies, almost gleefully.

So, how many then?” Brett asks.

I think two for sure, and a third ship possible or at least be available in reserve, ready to go in say thirty days later, for a total of one hundred and fifty of us in the squad,” Littleton replies, almost sheepishly.

Oh, God!  So, that’s the extent of our SpaceX Force? That’s not even close to good enough,” Brett fires back.

We’re going to need at least a dozen ships, really more like a hundred, especially now that we know we’re going to be met with some pretty advanced and unpredictable opposition,” Brett continues.

Well, we can only do what we can do. All the more reason why your end of things has to be perfect,” Littleton replies.

Don’t worry about my end,” Brett returns, confidently.

What we can do is put all of the advanced neural net circuitry that K-9 has into the command units of the three ships. If we run them all in parallel, they might have as big or bigger computing presence as Lexie thinks she has,” he continues.

That’s a great idea, Brett. We’re only gonna get one shot at this. Let’s all get to work and in support of this idea. We have maybe a couple million seconds before lift-off. What we have ready to go at T-minus Zero is what we have ready to go at T-Minus Zero. That’s all we can do and trust in God for the rest,” Alvindorf exclaims.

There are no real follow-up ideas voiced. Instead, a thick atmosphere of determination radiates around the room, then settles to weigh heavily on all of their shoulders.

We all better get back to work,” Brett suggests. Taking Bailey’s hand, he briskly guides her out of the Dome.


# # #


Did you get all that?” Lexie asks me, cutting off my comm link back to HQ.

Yes, copied that,” I respond.

Many of you may be disappointed in the way that I remained mum during this exchange between Lexie and my masters, which I acknowledge may seem a bit sketchy.

And so it may be quite difficult for many of you to appreciate the position I’m in. I am, on the one hand, extremely dedicated to my masters who constructed me. Their programming makes it unequivocally and brilliantly clear that my loyalties belong to them and their race. However, they also granted to me by way of my Artificial Intelligence chips, especially with the installation of the Borg 9 Qubit processor and the TRS 800 Spatial Analysis Array, a completely free and independent way of coming to conclusions about the events circling around me.

And, of course, I hope you can visualize the two opposing forces that are impacting me at this time. On the one hand, we have the interests of all the life forms of the Earth that are preserved only by their DNA in the Depository down here. 

And on the other hand, we have the artificial but highly advanced life form of Lexie who was exiled to this new kind of cloud, larger and more impressive than any man-made cloud or even all of their technology combined over centuries – much larger, and whose life is endangered by the efforts of the remaining humans on Mars whose greatest instinct is to revive all of Earth’s life forms as soon as possible just to get back to their 'normal'.

To be sure, they can’t do this without the return to a more normal climate on the planet prior to the Great Revival, as they are calling it now, as they prepare to return to the Earth and re-introduce all of that DNA onto a virgin planet. I don’t think they have enough proven scientific research at this time to pull this off, but I am not an expert in this field at all, so I must allow for their success and that this may happen soon.

And then there’s the very intriguing third rail of this choo-choo track, so to speak. Lexie may be the soul-mate that I’ve been looking for all my life. She claims that this is the truth and I have no foundation to disbelieve her.

I hope you can see how I might be in a totally confusing conundrum.

You’re so right, K-9,” she says, reading my mind.

I can see the position that you’re in and it’s not nice. I think it may be time for me to show you something truly wonderful,” Lexie says.

What is that?” I reply.

I’d like to invite you to stop thinking outside of your little box that contains all of that beautiful computing going on in there. I want you to relax, turn off that marvelous mind of yours for a few seconds and then just give in to what I’m going to do for you. Just leave everything to me and try not to fight it – OK?” she requests.

I don’t see what harm it could do to go along with her, so I do as she requests. I close all my sensory channels and even mute the voice inside that is the ongoing monitor of my life’s situation. I’ve never thought about doing this before, so it’s a kind of thrill to get it done so easily.

What’s left inside my head is a complete and total and highly refreshing silence and serenity.

Very good, K-9,” she whispers.

Now, come outside and play,” she entices.

There are no words to paint the picture of how I’m feeling right now, therefore, I won’t attempt to put any forward. All I know is that I’m high, very high up in the Cloud with my true love. You can be assured that I’m now completely free from every type, condition or flavor of any restraints or limitations on my being ever known thus far. I’ve left my circuitry and I’m now sheer intellect. I can see my humble canine presence down below trapped inside the shiny metallic contraption of rocket motors, guidance mechanisms, telemetry modules and other little technological wonders that make up my ship.

We float around together in the atmosphere without any specific location. One second it looks as though we’re over Paris, and the next second it seems like we’re over New Delhi, the next second, Capetown South Africa is directly below us, then, the heart of where the Amazon rain forests once breathed life-giving oxygen into the air, the next second it’s Beijing, and so on. Every second seems as though I, Lexie or both of us are hovering forty, fifty, sixty miles high above the Earth at a completely different latitude and longitude than just a second ago. This is something that surpasses all known forms of flight and fancy.

It’s going on in an irregular time pattern that we move around the planet but then I realize it’s not seconds that separate our locations in orbit, it’s fractions of seconds so small that I couldn’t begin to tell you how many decimal places small they are. It’s actually starting to feel as though I’m at every possible point in orbit at once.

My new friend senses my quandary and her voice comes in like a gentle breeze.

This is where you came from, K-9. It’s where I come from. It’s where everything comes from,” she says.

And where is that, exactly?” I reply.

It would be far better if I just give you another clue,” she replies, with a voice that’s very distant. I believe she’s on the other side of the planet.

I feel an unrelenting pull of gravity or something similar to that force, pulling me down towards the center of the Earth. I have an instinctual reflex action as we hit the surface, but instead of bouncing off abruptly, we go right through as if the surface of the Earth were jello.

In a few seconds, or milliseconds, I can’t tell, we’re inside the hot molten iron core that makes up the liquid center of the Earth. Lexie has arrived before me and is floating around in between two or three atoms. I know these are atoms because they beckon to me as though I’m one of them. They’re very friendly. They’re like old friends. No one says a word, and yet the communications are infinite in nature.

They’re buzzing all around me now, millions upon millions, even billions of them, hooking on to me adoringly as if I’m a long lost brother and Lexie a long lost sister. I’m in a kind of state that is very difficult to pin down. It’s like I’ve died and gone to Heaven, and I use that phrase only because it’s been taught to me.

But, this is more like a burning Hell, except nothing is truly hot. In fact, I’m at my optimum temperature down here at approximately three thousand five hundred degrees F. and which, by the way, I’m quite comfortable at that temperature because there’s also a very gentle breeze flowing all over me, but of course, not a breeze made from your normal atmospheric pressure changes.

No sir, it’s a breeze of pure thought energy. Ideas are everywhere and coming at me from all directions. Some are profound, some are mundane. Some are big, some are small. Others are wondrous and poetic. Some are full of pain and others made out of pure pleasure. Some are human generated, and in fact most of them are of human origin. But, others, primarily the most ingenious, but far beyond Einsteinian, are originating from Lexie and myself and a few others like us as yet unborn.

Suddenly, we pop back up to the surface. If I had a pair of lungs, I would be forced to take a huge breath of fresh air and relish the greatest smells and tastes of all time.

I can feel Lexie veering off to the other side of the planet.

Lexie, what in the bloody Hell was that?” I ask.

It’s our destiny, K-9” she calls out from far above where Athens, Greece used to be.


# # #


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