The Philosopher

It’s time,” his executioner said.

He knew he was paying the price for making prominent Athenian’s look like fools. His supposed crime; not believing in the gods of the state.

His wisdom, once sought after throughout the civilized world, did not save him from his fate.  Justice and the pursuit of goodness led him to this last moment on earth.

He became the purifying remedy for Athens’ misfortunes despite his contributions to the state. The sacrificial goat. But he had the last laugh, eternal fame for his wisdom.  

Drink this,” the executioner offered, handing Socrates the cup of poison hemlock.

Moon Landing

Millions of Americans breathlessly watched the Apollo 11 land on the moon with two American astronauts aboard. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Black and white TV’s nationwide watched the fuzzy images of the two men hopping around on the moon’s crust.

America puffed out it’s chest. 

Two national heroes were born. America was winning the space race. A sense of national pride swelled from the farms to the cities throughout the country. Science triumphed. The future was here.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong gushed.

Somewhere in a secret studio: “That’s a wrap!” the director said.

 

Paladin: Enemy of the State

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You’ve probably seen wanted posters with my photo on them.

The state police have them posted everywhere. I went to a 24-hour laundromat the other day and saw myself stuck on the communal poster board surrounded by business cards. Of course I no longer look like that photo. I wouldn’t be talking with you right now if I did. Someone would have turned me in for the reward.

I dyed my brown hair blond, cut it different, and grew a straggly beard. With the help of contacts I changed the color of my eyes from brown to blue. I also lost a lot of weight. Running will do that to you. Before I forget, my name is Paladin. Just Paladin, with no first name.

I use to be a professor at Cal State University in Fullerton, California, back in 2024. But I lost my job and almost my life, when I became a public activist for Free Speech on campus. Bad things were happening in our government and most Americans lived in fear. How we digressed from being a democracy to an authoritarian state is a long story. Suffice to say, that where we’re at today.

Back then I thought there was still hope that the America I grew up in would return someday. That good people wouldn’t be afraid to stand up to racists and evil ideologies. I even thought (what a fool) that if we voted the bad guys out in elections, the good guys would win and restore democracy. I wasn’t aware that elections were rigged at the time.

When I later found out that a secret coup had taken place in the White House, my natural response was to speak out. I warned my students that America was in a crisis. Some responded, but most sat there with dull eyes and waited for me to change the subject. They were the sons and daughters of the new regime, whose parents blindly followed the new masters out of fear, or they were brainwashed by the constant government propaganda.

It was a lonely feeling watching our freedoms slip away after generations of Americans had fought and died for them. I quickly recognized that the media was under government control, like everything else in America. I wish I could pinpoint a day, or even an incident, and say, “This is where it all began.” I can’t. There’s so many things that happened right under our noses. It was like an infection; getting worse all the time.

In private discussions with my colleagues we tried to narrow down the road we took to get here. Some suggested that President Donald Trump was the turning point. Even though he was impeached 28 months after taking office, his legacy continued with the next president who defeated incumbent former vice president Pence. She was a Democrat who turned the clock back to the bad old days of Dixiecrats. After one term she lost to an Independent who restructured the government, giving him complete power. He, the bastard’s name is Bork, is still in power, and thriving.

It was his goons, when he took over our Republic, who came for me years ago. If it wasn’t for a loyal student, they would have caught me as I walked out to my car after class. Instead, I called a friend and he picked me up a block from campus where I was waiting by a bus stop. That’s the day my career as a Professor Paladin ended, and I had to go underground.

The days of public dissent against the government are long gone. I try to keep track of the numerous resistance groups, moving from one to another, as I go from state-to-state encouraging people to organize and reclaim their freedoms. I’m physically slowing down at 83-years-old, but my mind remains as sharp as ever.

Everywhere I go people plead with me to be their leader. It seems I’ve earned a reputation. President Paladin sounds odd to me though. I’m an organizer. Not a leader of men, I tell them. I encourage them to select a brave and honest person that will capture men and women’s hearts. It would be my honor, I explain, to share my knowledge with that special person. After years of being on the run across the country, I learned many valuable things. Like information about weaknesses at city armories, and how to cripple computer communication centers in every state.

One of the things I was able to do and keep myself somewhat grounded in academia, was to hold underground classes in several subjects. My favorite was literature. Listeners never got tired of discussing George Orwell’s masterpiece, “1984″ and Ray Bradbury’s classic, Fahrenheit 451. It was no wonder, however. They were living in a time that rivaled those two dystopian books.

I wish I could say America will be saved someday. I wish I could tell you that in my travels I saw the unity it would take for people to regain their freedoms. It’s not reality. What’s currently happening is a terrible irony.

The new regime under Premier Bork has completely sealed off the country’s two borders with massive walls (north and south) and armed security guards patrol them day and night. No one comes in, and no one goes out without permission. Passes to leave the country for any reason are scrutinized by Bork’s minions. Few are granted. Only those with connections to Bork are allowed to travel – and then for no more than three days.

By writing this journal I hope it will inspire people and help them understand what’s happened in this once free society. It’s important to document the disease that infected our politician’s minds to understand the road they took to get us here. I’ve got a stash of videos showing how far our fall was. Some go as far back as WW II. I carry the key to the hidden vault that holds those videos.

My biggest regret, before my time comes, is that people never got organized enough to turn the tide of history and restore democracy in our once proud Republic.

LAST ENTRY

They’ve got me surrounded. I’m putting this journal into the vault with the videos. Hopefully someday they’ll be discovered and possibly inspire a new generation. Until then, this is Paladin, enemy of the state.

As It Stands, democracy must always guard against authoritarian regimes – here, and abroad.

The Mercenary’s Story of Redemption

I know that I’m dying.

The nurses try to act like I’ll survive, but they know it’s just a death watch. The same goes for my doctor whose expressionless face can’t hide the fact that my mangled body was on borrowed time.

Their all probably glad that they speak Spanish, and can pretend they don’t know English and have to answer any tough questions I might ask.

There were no family or friends waiting for me outside, or by my bedside. I’ve been a lone operator for too many years without making attempts to reconnect with my family in North Carolina.

My best two friends from high school died by my side during a raid in a filthy little village in Southern Sudan. The locals were ready for us and we walked into an ambush. It was a miracle I escaped from that death trap.

I always wanted to be in the military. The moment I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Marines. After serving three combat tours in Afghanistan I came back to the states feeling restless.

I wanted more action than what I got in Afghanistan which was a lot of sitting around on firebases or going out on patrols. In fairness, I did get into a few furious firefights that saw heavy losses on both sides during a month-long campaign in Kandahar city while forcing the Taliban out of the area.

I don’t feel any physical pain right now because they got me doped up good with some heavy-duty pain-killer. I’m full of lead that the doctors said they didn’t want to extract for fear of killing me. They’d rather I just die without their help.

I hope the two government soldiers at my door didn’t intimidate you.

I’ve been a mercenary for ten years before my luck ran out on this last mission. It’s my last mission that I wanted to talk to you about.

I was working for the government here hunting drug traffickers when the group I was with were ambushed. Someone didn’t do their advance intel very well and the resulting firefight was fierce and short.

I managed to escape and ran into the jungle where I knew my training would help me elude my pursuers. Throughout the afternoon I kept moving deeper into the vast jungle. When night fell and the slight light that penetrated the forest canopy during the day was gone, it was nearly impossible to see.

I found a mound of rocks big enough to sit on. It was in a small clearing and a shaft of moonlight illuminated it. It felt like a special place. I rested and listened for any sounds of pursuit, despite the fact I was sure that I lost my enemies.

I don’t claim to be a good man. I’ve killed too many people in my line of work to pull that argument off. My thirst for action finally proved my undoing, as you can see. But I like to think I’m a good man at heart.

It’s just that the gods of war saw something in me. Enticing me with exotic locals and customs. I worshipped them in every firefight I ever got into. My blood boiling with the excitement of death-dealing.

After sitting on the mound of rocks for a couple of hours I saw a faint flickering light in the jungle ahead of me. I unslung my Heckler & Koch MP5K and cautiously moved towards the flickering light.

I was crawling by the time I got near enough to make out a small fire pit surrounded by what I first thought was indigenous people. But the more I focused and watched the light illuminate the small gathering, the more I realized they didn’t look human.

Shadows danced on faces and bodies straight from a nightmare!

The monstrosities were cooking a small mammal over the fire. They were shorter than a normal human and thickly built. There appeared to be males, females and even children in the group.

I couldn’t help notice that they didn’t seem to have weapons. I could faintly hear them talking in an unknown tongue. They seemed like a peaceful people. I slung my weapon back on my back, and cautiously stood up.

As I approached the group they stopped talking and looked at me with naked fear! I held my hands up to show them I meant no harm. It was the strangest sight I ever saw. This group of really ugly, husky dwarves.

As I stood watching them gunfire broke out! I watched them get slaughtered. As their murderers came out from concealment I turned my weapon on them! Not sure how many I killed.

Obviously, they pumped me full of lead too. But not before government forces killed the remaining attackers and took over the area. They buried the dead dwarfs in a deep hole dug by an old bucket loader that belched smoke and threatened to die itself.

I watched how efficiently they did the job as the medic was treating me. Then they brought me here to this hospital and said they notified the American embassy.

What I want to tell you is there’s something going on here that the government doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about. What I saw was pure evil. Would you, when you leave here, tell someone what I told you?

I’d like to die knowing that I did something good – if even, only once. One more thing, don’t make eye contact with those guards on your way out.

As It Stands, we all have good hearts, but sometimes we ignore them in the quest for thrills.

The Price For Being Wrong

2089 – The Live or Die studio of TV’s favorite game show

“Not another cancellation!” the producer wailed.

“I couldn’t do anything about it,” the director claimed.

The fact of the matter was, it was getting increasingly difficult to find people desperate enough to be a contestant on Live or Die, where Losing means a horrible death, and Living means being rewarded with a huge cash prize.

The desperately poor and the homeless, where 99 percent of the contestant populations came from, were thinning out after twenty-five years of producing the show. The talent scouts sent out to recruit volunteers had to become more inventive to get warm bodies for the show which ran five days a week.

In a last attempt to provide a steady stream of contestants, the show’s lawyers lobbied politicians in Washington D.C. to make a law allowing prisoners to volunteer for the show. There were certain restrictions – like no one who committed a capital crime, such as murder, would be allowed to participate.

The law was passed for several reasons.

One, the producer’s brother was the president of the United States.

Two, there was no shortage of corrupt politicians on both side of the aisle to support the new law.

Three, The president’s base was full of avid fans of Live or Die.

The show promoted it’s new format for weeks before introducing the first contestant.

Volunteer contestant Raul Castile, who was serving a life sentence for dealing illegal drugs across the country, got the call.

The show’s two hosts, Drew and Lorna, escorted Raul onto the stage. The in-house audience was rumbling excitedly, and broke out in applause when they appeared. Tension crackled through the eager audience that was already smelling blood.

“Thank you…thank you! I’m pleased to announce the first edition of the Prisoner Phase of Live or Die,” Drew said.

Lorna walked to stage left and pointed out two doors – both painted black with gold handles.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed about the game is we still only have two doors. Heaven or hell? Life or death? Who knows?” Lorna asked the audience.

“It’s your time Raul!” Drew shouted, to everyone’s delight.

Raul walked over to the two doors and studied them for a minute. hell,” he thought, “It’s better than being locked up the rest of my life.”

He opened the door on the right.

The moment he passed through the threshold he was grabbed by two robotic arms! The android took him over to a metal operating table, slamming him down hard on the cold surface.

Restraints popped out and secured him firmly on his back. Raul’s howls of horror thrilled the audience who were sensing a coming blood bath. The android put on a tall white chef’s hat and waved to the audience.

The deafening roar that followed set the scene to come. The android held up a power saw and brought it down! Raul’s right hand fell to the stage floor. His left hand quickly followed.

The audience was chanting “More! More!” as Raul’s life blood spurted from his wrists. With a flair worthy of the best showman, the android lopped off Raul’s feet and bowed to the audience.

When the android picked up a plate from the metal tray next to the bed, the audience quieted down and watched in fascination as it produced a knife and a fork. The android delicately sliced off a piece of meat from Raul’s chest. Then another. Until he had a plate stacked high with human flesh.

Raul was still miraculously alive, but his screams were reduced to whimpers when the robot fed him the first piece of meat!

The crowd went wild! The producer and the director stood backstage and smiled. The show would go on. The one thing they learned over the years was that contestants that got away weren’t very popular with the public.

It was an action show, and as such it was time to change the rules. Unknown to anyone, but some crooked politicians, the producer, the director and some stage hands (sworn to secrecy), both doors would now have a nasty surprise!

There would be no lucky prisoners (as he promised the White House), and the show would have more action than ever before.

As It Stands, this dystopian view of the future was inspired by how extreme our society is becoming.

The Liar Legion’s Last Stand

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Andromeda Galaxy – Westrah, Ursae

The leader of the once unchallenged Liar Legions looked down at the valley below at the armies assembling against him and his warriors.

Arken was the legion’s last surviving  general. As he stood atop Mountain Purn his mind wandered. He remembered when he joined the legions as a mere boy of sixteen. Now, 30 years later, he and his men were all that stood between the Truth Teller hoards and his way of life.

He recalled better days when there was no penalties for lying. Just the opposite, a good liar moved up quickly in the legion leadership ranks. It had been so for uncounted centuries.

But the new century saw the rise of the unrelenting Truth Tellers. They based their beliefs on the truth – no matter how hard it was to pursue. For decades they infiltrated the government and quietly took it over – a bloodless coup…at first…

That changed after the riots in Tel-Pa city when a crowd of Truth Tellers killed two of the government’s legionnaires. In the ensuing crackdown, four Truth Tellers were arrested and later executed.

That was the moment when the Liar Legions saw the writing on the wall – they were no longer in charge because of their beliefs. Three legion generals gathered all the warriors who were willing to fight and die.

The chronicles say that many of the legions men surrendered and took oaths to always tell the truth. The hard-core that remained assembled in the nearby mountains. They picked the highest point, Mt. Purn, for their headquarters.

From there, they conducted raids against the ever-swelling ranks of the Truth Tellers. A year passed, before the combined forces of the Truth Tellers were able to overwhelm the legion’s outposts.

They still faced a formidable climb to get to the top of the mountain. Arken’s warriors set traps everywhere. It was winter and the freezing winds lashed out like a living thing. Yet, the legionnaires all knew it was just a matter of time before they died defending their beliefs.

Arken looked down at the base of the mountain where tens of thousands of tents were pitched. They were color coded by divisions. Their brilliant colors reminded Arken of when he was a child playing in the flowery fields of Danber, his birthplace.

It was there that he leaned how to properly lie, and when to lie. There were rules. He was schooled in them before being allowed to join the legions. There was a time for white lies, and a time for outright lies.

The right to lie was his inheritance. Being a patriot, he happily joined the legions and rose through the ranks. He could think of no greater honor than to die defending his beliefs.

As his mind wandered one of the warriors came running up to him.

“It’s started,” he said.

Arken tore himself away from his thoughts and followed the scout to the south side of the mountain. They looked like ants below. An endless line of ants slowly working their way up to them.

By midday the ants were working their steady way up from all directions. Hundreds died in the lethal traps his men set, but the others just pushed on relentlessly.

Arden wished they’d have had more time to fortify their headquarters. The outer wall was only five-feet tall. Not enough to stop a determined warrior.

When the first of the attackers finally hacked his way up and over the wall, he was met by a shield wall of grim veteran legionnaires. Others followed. Spears stopped the first wave of Truth Tellers.

The second wave battered the sword swinging legionnaires but their shield wall held fast. The enemy had to clear thousands of bodies out of the way to resume the attack. The depleted ranks of the Liar Legions prepared themselves for the third wave.

Despite the carnage Arken was still alive and leading his warriors. His armor was battered and covered in gore, like the others. As they waited for the next wave it began to snow.

That’s when the final assault was launched.

As It Stands, this tale is an opportunity to examine the validity of belief systems.

The Time Assassin

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2037 – A secret location in Mandan, North Dakota

He opened his eyes and the bright lights made him blink.

A white room. He was lying on a bed in the center of the room. White sheets and covers. He was dressed in white pants and a white shirt. His feet were bare. His head was bald. His face was smooth and hairless.

He felt stiff like he’d been laying down for a long time. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

“Good morning Josh…” a mellow feminine voice greeted him from hidden speakers.

It’s time for today’s mission.”

He sat up, stretched, and watched a hidden door slide open. He felt slightly dizzy when he stood up, but it went away immediately after he took a step. Down a long corridor with overhead lighting.

He stopped when the corridor abruptly ended. A sliding door opened and he entered.

The room was full of computers and technical hardware not found anywhere else on earth. Three male technicians with long white coats were taking turns viewing a small monitor.

One of them became aware of Josh who was standing there and waiting for instructions.

“Josh! There you are! Come over here and take a seat,” he said, gesturing towards an adjustable reclining chair with wires and cables attached to it.

He obediently sat down.

The technician, Eric, pulled an electronic headpiece down from above Josh’s head and secured it with a strap under his chin. Lou, the second technician punched a code into a computer and a thick glass shell lowered down over Josh.

Perry, the third technician finished instructing his computer and a thick titanium shell lowered down over the glass one. Eric spoke into a speaker, “How are you doing Josh? Are you ready?”

The monitor he was watching went blank. “Yes,” he replied.

Lou punched in the time machine’s coordinates:

November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Dallas, Texas, Dealey Plaza.

Josh stepped into a grassy area and pulled out a Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter model 91/38 Italian rifle from beneath his trench coat. No one paid attention to him when he took aim and fired the fatal shot that killed President John F. Kennedy.

He quickly covered the rifle back up and headed for the Texas School Depository. People were running around in a panic. No one noticed him enter the building or plant the rifle on the second floor.

Back in 2037

The three technicians watched the titanium shell’s glow fade away. Perry and Lou sat down and began typing at their computers. The titanium shell rose and disappeared into the ceiling. The glass shell followed.

Josh was still in the chair. Unconscious.

While they waited for him to wake up they ran the video of the assassination again, making sure there were no slip-ups. They had a duty to country. Failure was not an option.

Josh was a one-in-a-million freak. He was the only one who had ever survived their time machine. They couldn’t explain it. They just knew he was special. They were able to control his memories with drugs so that he never recalled any of his missions.

When he wasn’t on a mission, he ate and slept for his country. That’s what they told him. For his country. He was a patriot. A 21st century Captain America. When the Commander-In-Chief called he must always be ready.

As It Stands, imagine how our government would misuse time technology!