By MDBlagdon | Stories by MDBlagdon | 20 Aug 2023


Jeeval enters the small dark room, the door closing behind him. He stands motionless, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. When they do, he sees a figure sitting at a table with his back to him. And against the opposite wall, he sees what looks like a window.

"Have a seat, Jeeval," the Captain says from the gloom.

Jeeval moves to sit across from the Captain, but he waves him to his side of the table. "No, my friend, sit here beside me. Today we are allies in truth."

"What's going on," Jeeval asks, sitting next to the Captain.

"In time," the Captain replies. "For now, just know that this is not our doing."

"What's not..." Jeeval starts to ask but is cut off as the lights come on in the interrogation room. He watches as two armed guards enter, followed by a hooded man in an orange jumpsuit. One of the guards guides the prisoner to the chair in the center of the room, sits him down, and shackles him to the frame.

"Okay, Major," The Inquisitor says, pulling the hood away. "Let's have a chat."

Jeeval stands, tipping his chair as he does. "What is he doing?" He asks the Captain, moving to round the table.

Like a snake, the Captain's arm suddenly lashes out and fastens on Jeeval's wrist. "He is doing his job. Please, pick up your chair and sit. I will need you to tell me what questions the Major will and will not respond to."


"Do not insult me, Jeeval. You know the man. You know him better than anyone else. Now sit," the Captain repeats as he reaches back and picks up the chair. "This is going to happen whether you help or not. But you may ease his experience if you wish."

Jeeval sits, visions flashing through his mind's eye. "You said you do not torture prisoners, Captain."

"Did I?" The Captain replies with a cold smile.

"Yes," Jeeval whispers breathlessly as the Sergeant acting as the Inquisitor circles Major D'Fyal. "Yes, you did."

"Well," the Captain replies, the warmth gone from him, "sometimes the path we travel is not of our own making..."

"No!" Jeeval shouts as the Sergeant's fist strikes the back of D'Fyal's head. "He hasn't even asked a question yet! So you're punishing him before he has a chance to defy you!"

"Silence!" The Captain barks, venom dripping from his tone. "I will not tell you again."

Jeeval sits dumb, staring blankly at the Captain. Then he turns his attention back to Major D'Fyal, who is now being savagely beaten by the Sergeant. He watches as the man he had once served with is repeatedly struck until the final blow knocks him and the chair over to lie motionless on the floor.

"Why?" Jeeval asks, rage building as he watches the other man's punishment.

"Because I can," the Captain states. "Does that anger you, my friend. To hear that others can harm for no other reason than they are capable of the act?"

Jeeval says nothing in response. He can only watch as the Major's limp body is righted along with the chair. He can see the bruises and knots already appearing on his friend's face. And as he watches, small bloody bubbles grow and pop as his breath passes over his broken teeth and lips.

"I think we'll take a little break, my friend," the Captain says, standing and turning to the opening door behind them.

"You are no friend to me," Jeeval says almost too softly to be heard.

"Excuse me?" The Captain asks disinterestedly. "Did you say something?" He smiles and continues, "The guard will return you to your cell until I need you again."

Jeeval moves like a zombie as the guard leads him back to his cell. His mind is numb. He cannot shake the vision of the Major's ruined face, and the implications of having been made to take part in that atrocity start to weigh heavily on him.

"Hold." The guard snaps as he takes out his keys and opens Jeeval's cell door. "Enter."

Jeeval enters the cell and flinches as the door is slammed behind him. He stands in the silence of his thoughts for a moment and then lets out a pain-filled, pitiful scream. Behind him, he hears the sounds of someone being dragged, a cell door open, and the thud of a body being dropped to the floor. Jeeval doesn't take another breath until the jailers have removed themselves from the cell block. He succumbs to the day's frustration, rage, and fear when he is sure they are gone.


Jeeval sits on his bunk, staring unseeingly at the wall. He had been kept awake by the visions and sounds of Major D'Fyal's torture and the evident ease with which the interrogator administered it. Jeeval had known that the Captain was not what he had pretended to be, but he had not realized the level of savagery the man was capable of. And the thought of the Sergeant, who so easily filled his torturer's role, makes him shiver.

"Up!" The young jailer snaps from outside of his door.

Jeeval stands and faces away from the door, motionless, as the jailer enters and binds his hands behind his back.

"Move," the jailer says. "The Captain is waiting."

Jeeval exits his cell, and although the distance covered takes only a few minutes, it feels like a lifetime. As they come to the same door he had passed through yesterday, the guard grabs his shoulder and pulls him to a stop.

"Wait," the jailer says as he knocks at the door. From inside comes the command to enter, and the two men cross the threshold into the madness of the Captain's dark world.

"Remove the restraints," the Captain says absently as he reviews the note from the previous day's work. "Have a seat, Minister."

Jeeval feels his heart sink again at the voicing of his old title. The odd niceties are gone, and he wonders what will replace them.

"I said, have a seat," the Captain says a little more sternly.

Jeeval nods and takes the same seat that he occupied when he witnessed yesterday's inquisition brutality. As he does, the light comes on in the interrogation room. And after a moment, the door opens, and D'Fyal is led in by the Sergeant.

Jeeval feels his stomach turn as the Major's wounds are shown to him again. "Jesus," Jeeval whispers as the hood is pulled away.

"There is a price to pay for lacking in the skill of cooperation," the Captain says, leaning his back on the one-way glass. "Let's hope today we have a little more along the lines of truth so we can avoid these consequences."

"What do you think he can tell you in that condition?" Jeeval asks, waving his hand in D'Fyal's direction.

"He is not the one who will be answering the questions today," the Captain says with a cold smile. "You will be asked, and he will be punished every time you insult my intelligence with your lies."

Jeeval looks at the Captain in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't play games, Jeeval," the Captain mocks. "I am putting the power of life and death back into your hands. You remember what that feels like, don't you?"

"You're the one playing games with people's lives," Jeeval sneers. "You are so easily able to turn your back on your promises of a better way, and for what?"

"The truth," the Captain interrupts. "That's all I desire."

"What truth?"

"How did you come to be in the bazaar?"

Jeeval stares at the Captain in disbelief. "Not this again," he says, desperation sneaking into his voice. "There is no teleporter!"

"Then, how?" The Captain asks, cold but level.

"I have already told you."

"Oh, yes. Aliens."

The Captain smiles maliciously and knocks on the one-way glass three times. When he does, the Sergeant begins striking D'Fyal, reopening wounds that have only just started to heal.

"What are you doing!?" Jeeval screams, standing in defiance. "You're going to kill him!"

The Captain knocks again and smiles. "No, Jeeval. You are going to kill him if you insist on these lies."

"What lies?"

"Where is the machine?"

"There is no machine!"

"Is it at the university?"

"Captain, there is no machine."

"Jeeval," the Captain says matter-of-factly, "you will give me what I want. One way or the other, you will tell me what I want to know."

The Captain knocks on the window again. Jeeval watches as D'Fyal's jaw snaps and hangs loosely, nearly touching his chest. Then the Sergeant's fist strikes the Major on his eye socket's outer rim, causing his eye to bulge as if partially dislodged. However, the Captain knocks before the Sergeant can hit again, and the violence stops.

"The Major is running out of time, Jeeval," the Captain says. "How did you come to be in the bazaar? And where is the machine?"

Jeeval stares at D'Fyal, "I have told you, time and time again, Captain. I have not lied to you. I have told you the truth."

"No," the Captain says, knocking again. "But you will."

Jeeval watches in horror as the Sergeant draws his sidearm, puts it to D'Fyal's forehead, and pulls the trigger. There is a flash, a soft bang, and D'Fyal's head snaps back before falling forward motionless and incomplete. The knowledge once held within now decorates the wall behind the Major's corps.

"Bastard!" Jeeval screams, unable to tear his eyes from the gruesome scene.

"Quite possibly," the Captain says. "But what happened here today was not my doing."

"Of course not. I suppose it was mine, was it?"

"Well, yes. In a way," the Captain says, moving around the table to look down at Jeeval. "I can tell you this, Jeeval. Give me what I want, and you will live to a ripe old age and die a rich man. On the other hand, continue to lie to me, and you will finish your days at the end of a rope."


"Wake up!"

Jeeval sits up as if being hit by lightning. He looks around groggily, searching the room for his summoner.

"On your feet, Jeeval." The voice comes again. This time, however, something hits him in the chest. "Get your shower kit and bring those clothes. You have an appointment."

Jeeval's eyes finally clear their sleepy haze, and he can see the man to whom the voice belongs. "What's going on, Captain?"

"The Council wants to talk to you," the Captain says, venom and menace dripping from his lips. "And you will be very careful about how you answer their questions, my friend."

Jeeval feels the rage of the past weeks threatening to explode as he stands to face the Captain. "Wait," he says mockingly, "are you telling me that there is someone that the great and powerful Captain is afraid of? Well, which one is it? Maybe I should request a private meeting. Tell him what is going on in this little toy chest of yours!"

"That would not be advisable," the Captain says evenly. "You see, my friend, I hold all the cards here."

"Are you sure about that, Captain?" Jeeval asks. "You seem a bit out of sorts from where I'm standing."

The Captain smiles and wags a finger at Jeeval. "The Council may be the face of the regime," he says, taking a step toward the other man, "but it is the soldiers who hold the power."

"You're not a soldier," Jeeval says, remembering the Major's ordeal, "you're an animal."

The Captain leans forward, smiling that familiar smile. "You're right," he says, turning to the guards, "get him cleaned up and dressed. I'll be waiting in my office."

"When is this going to end, Captain?" Jeeval asks as the guards take him by the arm, half carrying, half dragging him to the showers.  

The Captain watches him go for a moment without answering, then he turns and walks back to his office, confident in his control.

--- --- --- --- ---

Jeeval finishes his shower and shaves. He hasn't seen his face for weeks and finds it hard to believe it is him looking back from the mirror. "What have you become?" He asks his reflection, trying to find some point of familiarity. He is still staring at the mirror when a knock comes at the door, and one of the guards asks if he is finished. "Almost," Jeeval answers, knowing they will not wait for him much longer, "I need a few more minutes."

"You have five," the guard returns. "After that, you go regardless of what state you're in."

Jeeval sighs at himself and begins to pull on his new suit. As he does, he is aware of the quality of the clothes. "What are you up to, Captain? Surely they'll know these can't be mine. Or is that the point, to show how well you're carrying for my needs?" Jeeval looks at himself one last time, gathers his belongings and knocks on the door. He is led back to his cell to drop off his property and then taken to the Captain's office.


"Welcome, Minister Jeeval," Counselor Mouvis says as Jeeval enters the governing chamber. "I hope your trip was tolerable."

Jeeval looks around the chamber. In front of him is a long, elevated table with the five members of the Council looking down at him. In the center is the Elder, Mahly Dogmus. He doesn't know the rest of the Council, but he remembers Dogmus from before the fall. He had been a low-level minister from the other side of the wall. "How the hell is he in charge?" Jeeval thinks to himself. "He was a nobody a few months ago, and now this. A Captain in charge of the military and a nobody leading the Council." He looks at the other faces at the table, "And who the hell are these people."

"Minister?" Mouvis asks. "Is everything alright?"

Jeeval doesn't register the voice for another few seconds. Then, seeing the look of irritation on Mouvis', he answers. "Yes, just a lot to take in."

Mouvis smiles widely, triumphantly, and nods. "I suppose it would be. Going from the one in control to being at another's mercy must be disorientating. Much like my journey to this," Mouvis says, opening his arms in a 'look what I have' motion.

"Yes, indeed," Jeeval answers as he looks from one Counselor to the next, finally settling on Dogmus. "I do recall Elder Dogmus, however."

Dogmus looks down at him with a slight look of contempt. "Yes," Dogmus says, "I suppose you would. And I remember you, Minister. I remember you quite distinctly."

Jeeval feels the threat coming off the words as they come at him like daggers. And he knows why. Dogmus was that unfortunate diplomat who used to go to his office and beg him to stop destroying his city and killing his people. Dogmus had been the mayor of one of the border towns, and Jeeval had done his best to flatten that city in an attempt to squash the terrorists.

"Shall we begin, Elder Dogmus?"

"Yes, Counsellor Mouvis," Dogmus replies, eyes still fastened on Jeeval. "I think the sooner he makes his case, the better."

"Make my case?" Jeeval asks involuntarily.

"Silence," the Sergeant at Arms says from behind him. "You will speak when spoken to and granted permission to do so."

"Yes," Jeeval replies without turning, keeping his eyes on Dogmus, "of course. Please accept my apologies."

The slight nod that Dogmus gives him might be satisfaction or acknowledgment, but Jeeval takes it as a good omen. Somehow this man, so abused by Jeeval and his minions, has kept a piece of his humanity. Jeeval knows the Elder hates him beyond words, but he hopes that Dogmus has decided to fight that hate and try to be fair.

Jeeval sees Dogmus take an almost imperceptible breath and let it out. "Minister Jeeval," Dogmus begins, "we have brought you here to discuss our intentions for your people and to allow you to make a case for leniency." Dogmus looks from one counsellor to the other. As he does, each of them nods to his authority. "By the end of this hearing, we will have to make a decision, Minister. And your people's future hangs in the balance."

"Do you have any questions before we begin, Jeeval?" Mouvis interjects while Jeeval sits.

"Yes," Jeeval answers. "With all due respect, Counsellor, why me?"

Dogmus eyes Jeeval as if trying to work something out. "Because you are the last of your administration. All of the other ministers are either dead or fugitives."

Jeeval feels his heart skip a beat. "How can that be true?" He asks absently, more to himself than to the Council.

"We were forced to purge their leadership," Dogmus continues. "The people's willingness to fight would not diminish until their leaders could no longer lead. You only survived because you turned up after I had halted the purge."

"And I'm the last?"

"That we know of, yes," Dogmus says, checking some paperwork. "There are thirteen Ministers and Military leaders still unaccounted for..."

"Twelve," Mouvis interrupts. "The Major has been brought to justice, Elder."

"Oh, yes. Thank you, Counselor," Dogmus says, then looks back to Jeeval. "Twelve unaccounted for."

Jeevas sits dumb. Is what happened to the Major what passes for justice, or has the Captain altered the facts? Surely they must not know the truth. He's about to tell the Council exactly what justice has been visited on the Major, but the Captain's words return in a rush. And what if the Captain had been following the orders of these men? Jeeval slumps in his chair, surveying the room with new eyes. The eyes of a man looking in a mirror.


The morning had gone as Jeeval had expected. First, the Council spent hours congratulating themselves for their accomplishments. Then there were a few questions the Captain had stepped in to answer. He explained that Jeeval could not respond as he was unfamiliar with the process and therefore risked incriminating himself unwittingly. "Not that he has done anything wrong," he said, "but he still deserves the protections afforded all criminals."

The rest of the questions asked were softballs thrown to him to answer in a constructed way. And Jeeval knew they would make him look like the problem if he responded differently than desired. A political tactic used throughout history that seals the people's support for a governing regime. Jeeval had used this tactic himself to get the people's help, so he knew how much was sincerity and how much was posturing. Precisely zero and one hundred percent.

And now he sits in his holding cell, his lunch still on the table in front of him, uneaten. He isn't hungry. He's nauseated. Nausea birthed hours ago when he entered the holy hell of the Council chamber.

"Stand," the Captain says briskly as he walks to the cell door. "It's time to go back into the back-patting festival."

Jeeval stares at the Captain, "Do they know how much contempt you have for them?"

The Captain smiles and says, "I believe they do, my friend. I make no secret of it."

"Another healthy balance of power?" Jeeval says, picking up his belongings.

"More or less," the Captain says.

Jeeval follows the Captain out of the cell and down the hall toward the Council chamber. "How long will this go on?" Jeeval asks as they turn to enter the room.

"As long as their small minds deem necessary," the Captain replies dryly. And then he puts his hand on Jeeval's shoulder. "Take care with this afternoon's discussion, my friend. They will be looking for a way to dismiss you and end my way of doing things. They want things done their way, Jeeval. They want everything just so, and the settlement flies in the face of that need. Remember that."

Jeeval nods and passes through the door as one of the Captain's bodyguards opens it. He walks directly to his seat at the table reserved for the accused and sits. As he does, the Sergeant at Arms comes out from the side entrance and bellows, "All rise," as the Council begins to enter the chamber, and the second phase of the questioning begins.

Jeeval stands and watches as the Council takes its place at the high desk. Once the Council has taken their seats, the Sergeant at Arms barks, "All may be seated!"

Jeeval sits and waits. He is sure the Captain is correct in his assessment that this afternoon will bring different questions, especially if they try to justify the war against his people. Jeeval knows that the simple truth of their treatment by him and his government is reason enough, but he feels that that won't be enough for Dogmus. Dogmus, he knows, will have to show it ordained by God.

"This afternoon," Dogmus says, opening his arms in welcome, "we will discuss the reasons and outcome of our short but successful war for freedom. We will also discuss who is to blame for its necessity and who it is we have to thank for our victory?"

Jeeval shudders under the withering glare of the Elder Councillor. He glances at the Captain, who sits stone-faced and turns back just in time to see Dogmus' eyes flick from him to the Captain and back. Dogmus' lips curl slightly in a smile, and he begins.

"Minister Jeeval," Dogmus says accusingly, "as established this morning, you are the last of your government's representatives, so this all must fall on you."

Jeeval sneers inwardly at the contemptuous false concern on Dogmus' face. But all he says is, "As you wish."

"Oh," Dogmus responds like a snake spitting poison. "If this were, 'as I wish,' Minister, we would have been finished with you long ago. The only reason we are still talking to you and not watching you swing from a rope," he pauses to glare at the Captain, "is because there are some amongst us that believe you can be of some use. I disagree, but I am only in charge of the civilian needs and have been overruled."

The contempt that Jeeval sees Dogmus aim at the Captain is palpable. And when he sneaks a look back at the Captain, he sees a smile under the eyes staring unblinkingly back at the Elder Councillor.

"This is about to get interesting," Jeeval says, feeling like a pawn in a chess game. "Very interesting, indeed."


"Tell us, Jeeval," Dogmus begins, "how did you come to be in the bazaar at the same time as the Captain's patrol?"

"Just lucky, I guess," Jeeval answers before he can stop himself.

"Do you think these proceedings are a joke, Minister?"

"No, Elder Dogmus," Jeeval replies in his best-subdued voice. "Please, accept my apologies for speaking without thinking."

Dogmus smiles coldly and waves the insult away. "Very well," he says. "How did you come to be in the bazaar the day the military patrol discovered you?"

Jeeval has the distinct feeling that Dogmus is not talking only to him. "Well, Elder, as I testified to the military, I had been out of the city during the battles that destroyed it. I had rushed home to find the city in shambles and the citizenry gone. I was spotted by the patrol a short time after making my way from the bazaar to the wall."

Dogmus sits for a moment, looking down at Jeeval. Then he smiles, glances at the Captain and snaps his fingers. Suddenly the wall behind him is illuminated by a square of bright light, which is quickly replaced by a video feed. Jeeval watches the video shot from a soldier's body camera that shows the bazaar's fountain.

From behind him, Jeeval hears the Captain whisper, "Son of a bitch. Go shut that down and find out who leaked it. Then kill him."

Jeeval glances back and sees the Sergeant, who questioned Major D'Fyal, exiting the chamber and the Captain glaring at Dogmus. "I think he went too far," Jeeval says to himself. "I think he just started the wheels of an accident, and they're rolling his way."

Jeeval looks back at Dogmus and is shocked to see a madman's glee painted on the Elder's face. "Explain, please," Dogmus says, motioning over his shoulder.

"Explain what?" Jeeval replies. "What is there to explain?" 

"The light. That flash of light right before you suddenly appear out of thin air. Explain? What was that?"

"Lens flair?" Jeeval says, feigning confusion. "A video glitch, maybe. I don't know. Can't your Techs tell you what it is?"

Dogmus looks down, face suddenly blank of all expressions. "Therein lies the problem, Jeeval. They can't. No one can. So now you must explain it to us."

"Maybe it was God," Jeeval states cynically. "Is that what you want to hear? That God gobbled me up and sent me back to spread the word when it was safe for me to do so?"

Dogmus glares down, mouth working on words he does not dare say in the chamber. "Blasphemy," he barks. "You will tread very carefully, Minister."

"I mean only to deliver the message that I have been sent to give," Jeeval says matter-of-factly.

"Do not presume to mock my God," Dogmus says with an arrogance reserved for the self-righteous.

"Your god?" Jeeval questions the other man, "And what has your God done for you, Dogmus?"

"He gave us victory over you and your countrymen after generations of oppression."

"No, your military gave you that."

"But God gave them the power."

"No, their training did that," Jeeval says, shaking his head. "What has your God given you, really? Has he given you what you think he has given, or has he taken the credit for what you have done for yourself?"

"Enough!" Dogmus shouts. 

"I can tell you who helped you, Dogmus. If you will listen."

"No," Dogmus rages at him. "You will keep your filthy mouth shut on the subject and explain how you appeared in the middle of the bazaar out of thin air!"

"The information is one and the same..."

Suddenly, the chamber's door is yanked open with enough force to slam it against the wall outside. Jeeval turns at the sound and sees a monster of a man enter. He is followed by several other uniformed men, and at his entry, the Captain stands so quickly his chair goes flying.

"This interview is over," the newcomer announces. Even though he does not yell the words, they bounce around the room, assaulting everyone's ears.

Jeeval turns back to look at Dogmus and finds he has gone pale. "This must be the big boss," Jeeval says as Dogmus rises and signals to the Sergeant at Arms to open the doors for him.

Jeeval is not surprised when the Sergeant blocks the door rather than opening it. He is, after all, wearing the uniform of the military.

Dogmus turns, enraged now. "You have no right, General!" He yells at the approaching giant. "This is the Council Chamber. You have no authority here!"

"You are under arrest, Councilor," the General announces.

"On what charge!" Dogmus almost shrieks.

"Treason." The General says flatly.

Dogmus' face goes white as the blood drains from him, and his jaw falls open like an unhinged door. "What...what are you talking about? This is insane!"

The General stops in front of the council bench, soldiers on either side. "Did you, Councillor, or did you not just order the showing of top-secret materials in an open forum?"

"What?" Dogmus sputters as Jeeval looks back at the Captain. The Captain smiles and nods at the General as if to say, "watch this." Jeeval turns back to the terrified Dogmus as he looks around at the other council members, desperately searching for allies.

"You're alone, Councillor," the General sneers.

Jeeval watches as the Sergeant at Arms walks over, takes Dogmus into custody, and leads the man away through the chamber door and into oblivion.


"You see, my friend," the Captain says as he and Jeeval get into his staff car, "no matter how good you think your hand is, there is always a wild card in the deck."

"What will happen to him?" Jeeval asks of Dogmus with no genuine concern in his voice.

"He will be given what all traitors prize," the Captain says, closing the door behind him. "Freedom."

"He'll be seen as a marter, you know." Jeeval says.


"He's dead then?"

The Captain turns and gives Jeeval a frigid smile he'll never get used to. "If not already, then soon."

Jeeval turns away, gazes out the window, and watches as the world flies by. He suddenly realizes that that whole performance was for him. Dogmus had just been collateral damage in a message for him.

"So, what now?" Jeeval asks, still looking out the window.

"Well," the Captain says, seemingly considering his options. "I guess we go back and begin again." Then, offering Jeeval a bottle of water, he continued, "A clean slate, so to speak."

Jeeval sits silently for a long moment. Then, as if continuing a forgotten conversion, he asks, "What will happen to the settlement?"

"Where did that come from?" The Captain responds, genuinely surprised.

Jeeval finally turns back to look at the other man. "The General. That's where that comes from."

"I see," the Captain replies.

"Do you?" Jeeval asks, the slightest tone of desperation slipping into his voice.

"Yes, my friend, I believe that I do."

"So, the survival of the settlement is not contingent on my giving you something that I don't have?" Jeeval says, his tone almost an accusation.

"I'm sure," the Captain begins, then stops and shakes his head. "I'll be honest with you, Jeeval. I have very little say in the future of your settlement. I can make recommendations, and so far, the General has been happy to take them. Still, he has the final say on everything to do with the military."

"And the government, by the looks of it," Jeeval says.

"Maybe," the Captain responds strangely. "Maybe."

Jeeval sits silently for the rest of the ride back to the detention center. But then, his thoughts return to the look on Dogmus' face as he realizes his power has just evaporated. But worse was the look in his eyes when he realized his friends on the Council had just erased him from their lives when they refused to speak for him.

Then Jeeval's imagination takes over. He sees Dogmus being taken from the Council Chamber and led out through the back, where he is tied to a pole. Dogmus is saying something that no one appears to hear or care about. He guesses it's the latter. As Jeeval slips into the unconsciousness of sleep, he watches the tear-streaked face of Dogmus search the other men for a friend. And just before the firing squad pulls their triggers, everything goes black, and Jeeval begins to snore softly.


"You are failing, Jeeval."

Jeeval sits bolt upright, the words tearing him from sleep with a rending like fine linen. His cell is dark except for the thin yellow light coming through the door. He searches the gloom of his surroundings, but finding nothing, he lays back down.

"Do not insult me by believing me a dream, Jeeval," the voice comes again. "I am here to offer you a momentary reprieve."

Suddenly, Jeeval realizes who is speaking. He sits up again, wipes his eyes and sighs. "What do you mean I'm failing?"

The Being materializes from the opposite corner of the room. Moving to the center of the cell, he stands and looks down at Jeeval, his face unreadable. The Being stands for a long moment. Then his expression changes slightly. "You were returned here with a message. A message you have not yet passed on in a way that has had the intended effect."

"And that's my fault?" Jeeval asks, his frustration rising again.

The Being looks on as Jeeval stands and paces around the room. "You sent me down here to do the impossible," Jeeval says accusingly. "Why not do it yourself if I'm such a failure?"

"Because this is your world," the Being says evenly. "And therefore you, and yours must do this thing."

"Why," Jeeval asks, frustration ebbing slightly. "Why can't we just let life unfold the way it does? Why do you care? As you said, it's not your world."

The Being regards Jeeval with what may be pity. "We are here because you have come within an inch of becoming a problem for your neighbours."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Jeeval asks.

"You and your kind are very close to leaving this world," the Being says evenly. "And before we can let that happen, we must be sure that you can join the community without doing harm."

"And if we can't?"

"If it turns out that your kind cannot exist as a part of the community," the Being says, stepping back into the shadows, "then my brother will take steps to prevent your leaving."

"What does that mean?" Jeeval asks, following the Being to the corner. "Tell me what you mean," he asks again, but the Being is gone.

"What the hell do you mean!?"


"Are you satisfied, brother?" The Commander asks, entering the room. "Have you lost your naivete for these people? Do you see what they are? What they will always be?"

The Being turns his attention from the viewer to face the Commander. "They still have time."

"Do they?" The Commander asks. "What is it about them that you are so unwilling to give up on? You know the consequences of letting them get too far without admitting who they are and taking steps to change."

The Commander movers to stand beside the Being, looking down on the earth. "We have given them one reprieve after another, and each time they arrive here, at the point of no return. They are oblivious to the greater community, and I believe that if they were to know what is out there, they would try to destroy it." The Commander turns to face the Being, and seeing the look on his face, he continues, "You know it's true, brother. It's time. Decide."

The Being looks on as if filled with infinite patience. Finally, he sighs and waves a hand in the Commander's direction. "Brother, you have overstepped again."

"I am incapable of overstepping," the Commander says with a sly smile. "I am merely the hammer that you are supposed to use to fix issues that we both know present a clear risk to the rest of those we serve."

The Being studies the Commander, sighs, and raises his hand in a genuine act of apology. "Brother, these insects are centuries from posing any real threat. I only wish to be sure there is no hope for them before we purge the planet."

"Has there ever been anything worth saving?" The Commander asks. "We have been here to reset this world three times already, and they just evolved back to where they are now. When are we going to say enough is enough and repopulate this wasted planet with the citizens of a deserving world?"

The Being considers the Commander's words, looking down at the planet below and shrugs. "This is their home. We cannot evict them until we know, without a doubt, that there is no possibility for redemption."

"Well, maybe this will make our decision a little easier," the Commander says while punching coordinates into the panel controlling the view screen. "What do you make of this?"

The Being studies the activity on the screen. "What am I looking at?" He asks.

"A missile site that houses weapons capable of striking the moon," the Commander states coldly. "It appears that they only need to increase the speed and range of their guidance systems, and they can hit the closest of their neighbours."

The Being's blood goes cold. "How long have they been hiding this?"

"It's mission-ready," the Commander says, ignoring the question. "The missile could strike at us if they knew we were here." Then he turns and smiles without feeling. "And your Jeeval knows all about it."

The Being's shock is evident but controlled. He only lets through enough to show the Commander he was unaware of this fact. "Jeeval knows about a lot of things, brother. But, he has kept this secret..."

"Secret?" The Commander says with a harsh laugh. "Who do you think is controlling the site, brother?"


"The General." The Commander says. "And it appears as though he is ready to use it." He sees the look that crosses the Being's face and continues, "Not against us, we are concealed. He is running drills to use it against the settlement, and the settlement is drawing up plans to try to take the installation back and use it against the General."

The Being looks on as vehicles enter and leave the small, secluded base. Then he snaps off the viewscreen. "Maybe they will save us the trouble," he says, walking past the Commander and leaving the room.


Jeeval sits at the small steel table in the corner of his cell. He is preoccupied with the feeling that he is at the center of some twisted chess game. It was the visit from the Being that brought him to this. What did his visitor mean when it accused him of failing? What exactly was the Being expecting from him? And what will happen if he cannot complete this unknown mission?

He thought he'd been sent back to try to save his people from the same fate he had helped inflict over the last two decades. But now he is not so sure. Now he thinks that there is something else. Something he's missing. Something of importance that sits on the scales of life and death and is leaning toward the latter.

"Could it be that simple?" He asks himself. Remembering the first meeting with the Being. "Am I supposed to be trying to save everyone, or is there something more?"

He continues to go over it in his mind, trying to find the hidden nugget of knowledge he has, so far, been blind to. "What is it that they are expecting?" He says out loud and is shocked out of his daydream by a casual response.

"We only expect the truth, my friend." The Captain replies, not knowing that Jeeval is speaking to himself.

The Captain has been standing outside the cell watching Jeeval, listening to his musings. "I am worried for you, Jeeval," he says non-committedly, "you seem to be in a crisis of faith."

Jeeval smiles slightly, thinking, "Crisis yes, but of faith? No, not that." Then he gets up and walks to the door, and stands in the way he was taught.

"No, no," the Captain says dismissively, "this is an informal visit." Then the Captain does something out of character. He looks to the left and right as if ensuring no eavesdroppers and almost whispers, "I have arranged a visit from one of your people's Mastiks. He will be here in the morning."

Jeeval is taken aback by the sudden offer of help. His first thought is, "What is his angle?". But then he sees that the Captain is either sincere or he is a better actor than Jeeval had thought. "Thank You, Captain," Jeeval says gratefully. "But I see no reason for a visit from a Mastik. Not after finding out the truth of all this nonsense."

"Still," the Captain continues, "I would consider it a personal favour if you would meet with him."

Jeeval stares back at the Captain, wondering what is happening. But, then, seeing no is not an acceptable answer; Jeeval smiles and nods. "Fine, I'll sit down with the Mastik. It'll do you no good, but I'll listen to him if you want me to."

"It is not my good that I am trying to achieve, my friend," the Captain says intently, "It is yours."


Jeeval wakes up early, the anticipation of Mastik Rue eating at him. He knows that something is running under this gesture. The thought of the Captain doing something out of the goodness of his heart raises alarm bells. But what could the man gain from providing spiritual assistance? Is he hoping for some explosion of remorse and repentance, followed by giving up the one thing he wants? The mythical teleporter.

"How do I get him to understand?" Jeeval asks, the morning sun coming through the small slit in the roof of his cell. "How do I get him to forget this teleporter nonsense and realize how close to the end we are?"

"Stand!" Jeeval's nightly watcher barks. "You have a visitor."

Jeeval stands in the center of the cell as the guard opens the door and lets Mastik Rue into the small room. "Thank you," Rue says to the guard, and the door slams shut behind him. The Mastik stands there for a moment, surveying the cell. Then, with a slight smile of acknowledgement, he sits on Jeeval's bed, motioning him to sit as well.

Jeeval stays motionless momentarily, then shrugs and sits at the desk in the corner opposite the bed. The two men stare at each other, neither wanting to be the one to speak first. Finally, Jeeval sighs and says, "Shall we get started?"

Mastik Rue regards Jeeval with a blank expression, gauging the other man. "What would you have us begin, Lestume? What is it that you need from me?"

"Please," Jeeval says with a slight shake of his head, "do not address me as Lestume. I am no longer a part of your faith, and I do not wish to be addressed as if I am."

Rue smiles, fully expecting this rebuke. "Very well, Jeeval. I will respect your wishes for now."

Jeeval eyes Rue suspiciously, wondering at the other man's intentions. "You'll respect me and my wishes or face the consequences," Jeeval thinks. Then, standing, he says, "I will not be played with Mastik. It was nice to meet you, but now I think you should be leaving."

Mastik Rue's expression changes suddenly, "Do not be so rash, Jeeval. I mean no disrespect. I am simply here to listen."

"And file a report, no doubt?"

"As you say," Rue smiles back. "You are not of my faith. Therefore I am not obligated to keep our conversation in confidence."

"How convenient for you," Jeeval says, not hiding the contempt in his voice. "But that is what keeps you and your kind going, isn't it? The convenience of rules that you make up as you go along."

Mastik Rue shows nothing of his anger; he simply sits and smiles. But his eyes betray him, and Jeeval knows he has hit a nerve. He has found a crack.

"If I am to respect you, Jeeval," Rue says calmly, "shouldn't you give me the same courtesy?"

"I will give you the courtesy," Jeeval says. "But do not expect more from me than that."


"Shall we begin with a prayer?" Mastik Rue asks, pulling the holy book from within his robes.

"No," Jeeval replies flatly.

Rue eyes him for a long moment, then sighs, "What has turned you so wholly away from the faith of your for Father's, Jeeval?"

"The pulling back of the curtain," Jeeval says accusingly, "and the exposing of the Wizard."

"And this Wizard is?" Mastik asks calmly.

"Your God."

"Then the curtain is..."

"You," Jeeval says, interrupting the other man. "You, and those like you."

Mastik Rue regards Jeeval with a dry smile, gauging his resolve and searching through his hostility. "Why is he closed to me?" Rue wonders. "I'm usually good at seeing what people would hide, but this man is blank. What is this force of will he has found? Where does it come from?"

"Then opening with a prayer would be a waste for you?" Rue asks, not expecting an answer. "But you would not begrudge me a short prayer before we start?"

"Not at all," Jeeval shrugs. "To each their own."

Mastik Rue smiles warmly, holding Jeeval's eyes for a long moment. He then opens his robes, pulls out a small pack, and removes his prayer items, placing them on the floor at his feet.

For the next ten minutes, Jeeval watches as the other man goes through the motions of his faith. As he does, his mind slips back to his history with the one true religion, and he shudders. He thinks of his mother and his grandmother. All those years spent serving a god that turned out to be false.

They had gone to worship three to four times a week. Volunteered for everything their local Mastik required. He loved his mother, but the things he has learned in the last few months have made him feel a twinge of anger toward her. And that makes him hate this man's religion even more—him and the aliens that have ruined his ignorance.

"Jeeval?" Mastik Rue says, putting away his relics.

Jeeval comes back from his memories with a snap, scowling heavily. "You're done?" He asks.

"Yes," Rue replies quizzically. "Shall we begin?"

"It's your dime," Jeeval says noncommittally. "You have the floor."

Rue smiles, sits on the bed, and sighs. "How did you lose your faith, Jeeval?"

"I found it to be misplaced," Jeeval answers matter-of-factly. "I found it better laid at the feet of travellers. Travellers who claim no credit for anything but watching."

"Is that not what gods do?" Rue asks, holding his temper in check. "Watch, and reward or punish as they find appropriate."

"Maybe," Jeeval says, sitting at his small desk. "But God's inability or unwillingness to intervene in the interests of his worshippers shows just how far your faith will get you."

"And how far is that?"

"As far as a hole in the hallowed grounds," Jeeval answers. "Nothing less. Nothing more."

"And how do you know this," Rue asks, anger bubbling up. "How do you know the mind of God?"

"Because I've met them," Jeeval responds, watching for the other man's reaction. "And they were quite clear that they are not, in fact, gods."

Mastik Rue cannot hide his anger at Jeeval's words. He holds the eyes of the other man as he struggles to hold back the urge to scream. 

"That is blasphemy, Jeeval." Mastik Rue says sternly.

"What is?"

"Naming these aliens of yours as God."

Jeeval's frustration comes to the surface, painting his face with disgust. "I do not think that the aliens are gods. Quite the opposite. As I said, they were very clear on the subject."

"Fine, fine," Rue says, opening his book of prayers. "So then what do the aliens do, exactly?"

"They watch," Jeeval says. "They watch, and they wait until they are needed."

"Needed for what?"

Jeeval smiles, light flashing in his eyes. "Until they are needed to protect those out there from those of us down here."

"Protect them from us?" Rue asks.

"Yes," Jeeval says flatly. "You know all those stories in that little book of yours about the wrath of God destroying the wicked. Well, it turns out that they're true. It turns out that those floods, earthquakes, and fires were all used to knock the human race back to a place where we didn't threaten the rest of the universe."

"That's nonsense," Rue says, obviously uncomfortable. "Your blasphemy goes too far."

"Call it what you will, Mastik," Jeeval says, standing and walking to the cell door. "The truth is that those devastating occurrences happened, and the next one is on the way. Only this time, it will take us all because the universe is tired of having to babysit."


"He is an insane man who has been possessed by the dark one."

A smirk spreads across the Captain's face as he listens to Mastik Rue's assessment of Jeeval. "Why is that always the reaction of the Mastik when anyone disagrees with your doctrine?" The Captain asks with amusement dancing in his eyes. "He's possessed, is he? I take it then that he outmaneuvered you."

Mastik Rue glares back, rage building. "He is not what he appears to be, Captain. He is no longer the man he was. He is possessed, and he needs to be destroyed before he can spread his disease."

"You mean you want me to execute him before others hear what he has to say," the Captain mocks the Mastik openly now, "and find his words make sense to them."

Mastik Rue feels the situation slipping further from his control, and desperation sprouts in his stomach. "No, Captain, I mean that he needs to be dealt with before he causes us both problems. I can't have him turning people from the faith. I am responsible for those souls, and I will not have them threatened. And you need to stop him before his story of aliens takes hold and you lose your control over the masses."

"Why would I lose control over anyone, Mastik?" The Captain asks. "I control Jeeval. Therefore, I control his voice."

"If those brainless masses out there believe that you are no longer the big kid on the block," Rue almost screams, "they will cease to be afraid of you." But, when he realizes that the Captain has no intention of getting rid of Jeeval, he continues, "If Jeeval lives, Captain, both of our days are numbered."

"Oh, I don't think that that will be an issue. You try to keep the masses in line with words and threats of suffering. In contrast, I keep them in line with force and the guarantee of suffering," the Captain mocks Mastik Rue with venom dancing in his eyes. "Your time is over, Mastik. My advice to you is to run. Because the rage of a thousand years of fear and frustration is about to come hammering at your door."

Mastik Rue stands, rage and fear screaming in his ears. "Never," he snarls. "The people will always fear the unknown more than the known!"

"Enough," the Captain says as if speaking to a child during a tantrum. "You may go, Mastik. You have served your purpose."

"How dare you dismiss me?" Mastik Rue says defiantly. "You risk your soul, Captain. You risk the afterlife being closed to you."

The Captain sighs, his patience ending. "You will leave, Mastik, or find the gates yourself today."

Mastik Rue sees the moment his power is lost and sags into his robes. "Very well, Captain. But mark my words, you have brought the beginning of the end to all of us today."

The Captain smiles, uneasiness slipping into his eyes. "Maybe so, but I will be here long after you.

"Do you think so?"

"Yes," the Captain answers, "because the fear of man will always outweigh the fear of God."


"Have you any thoughts on the subject, Brother?" The Being asks, watching Mastik Rue exit the command center and climbs into the waiting car.

"My thoughts," the Commander replies, spinning a dial to bring Rue closer and in better focus, "are that that man is not done with our agent. I think he or a member of his cult will be looking for a way to close the book of Jeeval before he can upset their carefully crafted world."

"And your finding of the other thing?" The Being asks.

"Confirmer," the Commander answers. "Jeeval's people have found and secured a weapon as powerful as the General's."

The Being sighs and nods. "Then your preparations are underway?"

"Yes, Brother."

"How close are they to being ready to use their new weapon?" The Being asks, flipping switches until the settlement comes into view. "And how many will suffer from their need for revenge?"

"They'll be ready in a month, maybe two," the Commander answers, watching the settlement for a moment and then focussing the machine on a small house at the southern end. "There, Brother, that is where they conspire to destroy humanity."

The Being considers the implications momentarily, then turns away, focusing on the Commander. "And what if our agents move against them?"

"Useless," the Commander says matter-of-factly, "this is a people forged in war and destruction. They know nothing else. They have peace only because a few of them have the power to destroy all. Peace through superior firepower. That is how they live."

"And you see no hope of change?" The Being asks. "No great awakening?"

"No," the Commander replies coldly. "I only see more of the same. Their future will make them travellers, and they will take their violence with them. It is time to start again."

"It is a sad state of affairs, Brother," the Being says, bringing the earth onto the main view screen. "Five times, we have reset this world, and each time they take their existence in the same direction."

"It is a frustration I am eager to end, Brother."

"Is the seeding platform on its way?"

The Commander presses a few keys on his table; the seeder's timetable and route map appear on the primary monitor. "Yes. I sent for it when they found the missile and began dismantling it to get it functional again. The ship will arrive in fourteen solar days and be ready to deploy approximately ten solar days after that."

"So, I have failed them?" The Being says, eyes filled with regret.

"No, my Brother," the Commander says quickly, "you have failed no one. You have saved them more times than they deserved. Five times we have come here before, and you have chosen to clean this planet and give them another undeserved opportunity. And five times, they have squandered those opportunities. You have nothing to apologize for or regret. This is their doing, not yours."

The Being turns to the Commander, holding out his hand. "Then I turn the operation over to you, and may you bring an end as painlessly as you can."


"We've failed, Jeeval." the Being says, stepping out of the shadows consuming his cell.

Jeeval snaps awake, sitting up to search the darkness. When he sees the Being standing in the center of his cell, he relaxes. "Ah, I seem to have a visitor," he says, sleep clogging his mind. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I have come to tell you that judgment has been passed on your world and to show you what happens when the seeder arrives."

Jeeval stares for a moment. "Seeder?" He asks. "What the hell is a seeder?"

The Being waits as Jeeval tries to process what is going on. Then he steps forward, touches Jeeval on the left temple, and whispers, "I will show you.".

As the Beings eyes go black, Jeeva feels himself being sucked out of his body with a flash of blazing crimson. Then he's shot through a tunnel of electricity until he is ejected and finds himself floating outside the hull of the Being's vessel. He looks around, confusion rising as he sees the Being's ship looming over him. He understands only when he drifts slightly above the horizon of the vessel and sees the earth off in the distance, dark and empty. The light trails on its surface, so familiar in photos, are nowhere to be seen. And then, a second ship moves into position next to the Being's vessel, and Jeeval is again consumed by light.

"Do you see?" The Being's voice slips into Jeeval's thoughts. "This is your world before your species came to be. This was when we planted the seed that would grow into what you have become."

Jeeval watches as the seeder ship's bay doors open, and it launches a group of missiles that streak toward the earth. "You created us?" Jeeval asks as the missiles detonate, filling the sky with a shimmering cloud.

"In a way," the Being says, thoughtful. "We came here at first because there were no dominant species, and so we intended to use your world as a resource. Your creation was not intentional, but when we discovered your existence, we decided that you would be left to develop at your own pace."

"Until we became a threat," Jeeval says as the earth below him changes rapidly. "Then, you came back."

"Initially, we tried to alter your course. But it soon became apparent to us that there was no way to change the direction your ancestors were moving in."

"So you destroyed them?" Jeeval asks as he's surrounded by a blinding light that seems to move through time. When he is released from the glow, he sees that the earth is still beneath him, but now the only ship he sees is the Being's.

"No," the Being answers as two large sections of his ship slide aside, revealing massive cannon-like structures. "We did not destroy your ancestors. Instead, we decided to cull the herd rather than destroy something that defied the odds."

Suddenly the cannons fire with a muted roar, each targeting a different pole. "We tried ice ages, floods, and droughts to make your ancestors understand, but they never put the pieces together. Instead, they created gods and gave them credit and the blame for all the things happening around them. This, of course, was seen by us as a necessary step in your journey, so we did not interfere. We believed that your reliance on superstition would fade as science and understanding grew and explained those things that seemed so magical before. But what we found was that these gods were being held above knowledge. And those who spoke out against them were being punished for doing so. So when we saw that they were preparing to carry these superstitions into the universe, we were commanded to act."

"How many times have we been here," Jeeval asks. "How many times have you culled the herd?"

"Too many," the Being responds quietly. "We won't be culling this time, Jeeval. Your species is too much of a threat to the rest of those watching. So, it has been determined that the best course of action is to eliminate that threat."

"How long do we have?" Jeeval asks, thoughts spinning. "Do we have time to change?"

There is another flash, and Jeeval is back in his cell, sitting on his bed.

"Do you understand, Jeeval?"

"Yes," Jeeval answers, anger growing in him now that he is back on solid ground. "But I do not understand what right you have to carry out the extinction of an entire planet."

"Not the entire planet," the Being corrects him patiently, "just your species. The earth and its children will be relatively unharmed. For those species unable to survive the purge will be returned through seeding. Most of those species hunted to extinction will return, along with others destroyed by the indiscriminate greed of humanity."

"Then what gives you the right to destroy an entire species."

"We created you. You are our responsibility."

Jeeval's eyes blaze as he stands to face the Being. "Then, as our creator, don't you owe us the opportunity and guidance to become something more? Don't you owe us the knowledge of who and what you are and where we came from? How can you judge us for who we were when you offered no guidance to our evolution!?"

The Being seems to consider Jeeval's questions and smiles.

"What?" Jeeval asks harshly.

"You have a fire in you, my friend," the Being says. "But can you burn away the violence of a species in time to save them?"

"How much time do I have left?"

" Twenty-four days."

"What will stop it?"

"A significant change in direction, Jeeval. That is what I need to see. A significant change in direction."


Jeeval lays in his bed, remnants of his travels thumping in his temples. He looks around, searching the room for the Being and sees a glow on the far wall. Squinting and wiping the sleep from his eyes, he stares across his cell until the words solidify from the haze.

"Significant change of direction," Jeeval says to the empty room, watching the words fade. "What the hell does that mean?"

He doesn't have time to wonder at the phrase for long before his guard opens the door and brings in his breakfast. This guard stopped using the slit in his cell door long ago, giving Jeeval the level of respect he gave guard. "Breakfast, Jeeval."

"Thank you," Jeeval says. "Is the Captain in today?"

"Colonel." The guard replies.


"He has been promoted," the guard says, leaving, "he is a Colonel now."

"Oh, well deserved, yes?" Jeeval asks, feeling out the guard's thoughts on the promotion.

"Very," the guard responds with a smile. "He is the best officer I have serve under. He cares for his men before anything else."

"I hope you don't believe that," Jeeval says to himself, then smiles and says, "That's good. Loyalty has to go both ways."

"Very true," the guard says, proud of the point. "He started as a private, and he has never forgotten who he is or where he came from."

"Just as it should be," Jeeval declares. "Could you find out if the Colonel has time to see me today?" Jeeval asks, adding the right touch of desperation and respect to his voice.

"I will forward your request," the guard answers with a nod.

"Thank you," Jeeval says.

"You're welcome," the guard replies, pulling the cell door closed behind him.

--- --- --- ---

Jeeval sits and eats, but his breakfast goes down almost unnoticed. Flavours mix and are forgotten as he goes over what he'll say to the Colonel. He knows that he will have to tread lightly, but at the same time, find a way to convince the Colonel to help. "Play up to the other man's arrogance," He says to himself. "He did just get promoted—some well-placed flattery, perhaps."

"No," Jeeval continues through a mouthful of porridge, "the man has a one-track mind. Any help offered by him will come with only one condition. The delivery of something I don't have."

After a while, the cell door opens, and the guard enters to take Jeeval's dishes. "The Colonel will see you after lunch," the guard says, picking up the tray.

"Thank you," Jeeval replies.

The guard smiles and nods. "You're welcome," he says, turning for the door. He stops outside and turns, "Whatever you are going to tell him, Jeeval, make it about him, and he will listen."

The guard shuts the cell door, and Jeeval listens as his footsteps fade.


Jeeval is escorted into the Colonel's new office, told to sit, and left by the guard. As he waits, he recognizes one of his high-ranking officers' trappings—the bookshelves filled with approved reading, the south-facing window, and a decorative rug.

The rug catches his eye, though, and at first, he does not know why. Then it dawns on him; it's in the wrong place. It is a hanging rug, meant to be hung where the owner can contemplate the designs, but this one is in front of the bookshelf. Perhaps the Colonel moved it because it has no meaning to him, or? Or what?

Then he sees it. Just under the corner nearest the bookshelf. Blood. Or what looks very much like blood. A brown stain on the hardwood floor stretches out from under the rug.

"Blasphemy," Jeeval whispers and then smiles at how quickly he returns to the old way of thinking. "How am I to convince others to stop believing in the Gods when I slip back so easily?"

"There are no atheists on the battlefield, my friend." The Colonel says, closing the door behind him.

Jeeval jumps out of his chair. "Sorry," he says, trying to compose himself and wondering how long the other man had been there. "I didn't hear you come in."

"Don't worry," the Colonel says reassuringly, "I have only just arrived. I was not spying."

"No," Jeeval says, standing to show the Colonel the respect his rank requires. "I guess you have cameras for that sort of thing."

The Colonel lets out a short burst of laughter and nods. "Precisely, my friend. Precisely." Then he waves, signalling Jeeval to sit.

Jeeval sits as the other man rounds the desk and takes his seat. "I was told you wanted to see me about something," the Colonel says, reading him from across the desk.

"Yes, Colonel," Jeeval replies, preparing for the most challenging negotiations of his life. "I need to be allowed to speak to the people. And as many of them as I can at the same time."

"What do you need this audience for?" The Colonel asks.

"I have to try to save them," Jeeval says, desperation slipping through his resolve. "We are short on time, Colonel, and I must try what I can before the hourglass is empty."

The Colonel watches him momentarily, then smiles and asks, "And how do you propose to reach this audience?"

Jeeval gauges the other man, carefully picking his words. "Television?" He asks. Then thinks better of it and quickly says, "Or, radio, that could be easier."

"Yes," the Colonel says thoughtfully. "Radio would reach more citizens than television. There aren't many of those still functioning at this point. But what would I gain from letting you upset the faithful and the Mastiks? It sounds like more trouble than it's worth, my friend."

"Maybe," Jeeval says, seizing his chance. "But if you do this, If you let me tell the people what I need them to hear, then you will be either the man who saved humanity or the man who tried to save the soul of a mad and misguided sinner. Either way, Colonel, you will be the hero in this story."

"I see," the Colonel says, considering his options. He could put a bullet into the Mastik's control with either outcome. If Jeeval is somehow telling the truth, then they are proven to be liars. On the other hand, if Jeeval is the madman he knows him to be, then he is the one who recognizes his madness and comes to the aid of a desperate, lost soul that Mastik Rue failed to see. Either way, the balance of control tips in his favour.

"Very well," the Colonel says, eyes cold and calculating. "I will arrange thirty minutes tomorrow evening. And I will make sure those in the settlement are listening. I will even direct the station to advertise your speech, so as many free citizens as possible will be listening as well. I cannot make it mandatory without involving the Mastiks, and they would try to stop the broadcast anyway. Is that satisfactory?" He asks smugly, sitting back in his chair to wait for Jeeval to agree.

"It's better than I could have hoped, Colonel," Jeeval smiles, knowing that the fight for humanity has begun.


"What will you say?" Jeeval asks his reflection as it stares back expectantly. "How are you going to get anyone to understand and accept what you have to say?"

"Five minutes," comes a voice from the other side of the door. Then there is a knock when Jeeval does not answer. "Five minutes, Sir."

"Alright," Jeeval calls back. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

"Are you prepared, Jeeval?" The Colonel asks as Jeeval steps into the hallway. "You have thirty minutes to get what point you have across. That is all the time I can afford you."

Jeeval looks down the hall at the glass-walled room. The "On Air" light turns off, and he sighs, "Thirty minutes to try to save the world."

"It's more than this world deserves," the Colonel says, smiling.

Jeeval turns to rebut the Colonel's remarks when the studio door opens, and Lavid Cryza steps into the hallway. "Mr. Sapra?" He asks, coming down the hall.

"Yes," Jeeval replies, "I'm Sapra."

Lavid reaches his hand out, and Jeeval takes it, shaking it briskly. Then Lavid looks to the Colonel and nods. The Colonel smiles coldly and motions for Jeeval to go with Lavid.

"So, do you know what you are going to talk about?" Lavid asks curiously as the two enter the booth. "I haven't been told anything other than we are giving you thirty minutes to speak."

"I know what I am going to speak about," Jeeval replies, sitting in one of the chairs with a microphone. "I just don't know what I'm going to say about it."

"Don't worry," Lavid says, checking Jeeval's equipment. "You just open the topic, and Vellie will help you get your point across."

"Vellie?" Jeeval asks.

"That's me," a young woman says as she enters the room.

"She'll be presenting your broadcast," Lavid says. "She's the best we have at keeping the conversation going."

"Nice to meet you," Jeeval says.

"Likewise," Vellie smiles, taking her seat opposite Jeeval. "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be," Jeeval answers with an awkward grin.

Vellie smiles and flips a switch on the panel in front of her. As she does, a little green light comes on over Jeeval's microphone, and the "On Air" sign lights up over the door. Vellie puts her finger to her lips, then counts "three, two, one" with her fingers and leans forward.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our special broadcast featuring Minister Jeeval Sapra." Vellie looks to Jeeval and spins her finger as if to say, "come on." When he does not react, she says, "Say hello, Minister."

"Oh, please, call me Jeeval," he stammers, then turns to the microphone and says, "Hello."

"You have something you wanted to say, Jeeval?"

"Yes," Jeeval begins, "thank you. I want to assure everyone listening that I am not trying to cause offence or challenge anyone's beliefs. I will, however, inevitably be doing just that. What I am about to say will strike many of you as crazy. Some will accuse me of blasphemy, and others will dismiss me as a conspiracy theorist. But this has to be said.

"Just before the start of the war, I was," Jeeval stops and looks at Vellie as if to gather his strength, then continues, "abducted by a Being, not of this world. This Being is one of many that have been visiting our planet since the beginning. There are two types that I have seen, and they call themselves Keepers. They are two sides of the same coin. One using their time to get us to change our ways and move past our need to kill, oppress, and dominate our neighbours. The other, well, they are the ones who take over when it is decided that we are no longer worth the trouble."

"I am not entirely sure where they come from, but I do know that they are responsible for us. The human race, I mean. We came about, not by the hand of a God or sky spirit, or even by evolutionary chance. We are, in fact, an unseen side effect of a planetary scale experiment. We are not unique. We are not special. We are, in fact, a mistake."

Jeeval glances at the Colonel, expecting him to be scowling, but sees a smile on the other man's face. The Colonel nods, and Jeeval continues, "We are only one of many races living in this galaxy, let alone the universe, but we are among the most primitive. And that is why the Keepers have come back. We are on the verge of having the ability to travel through space for vast distances, and the community around us is not happy about that."

"We are seen as a warmongering people, who will pick war over a conversation whenever the opportunity is presented to us. They see us as a people that, having shown our ease and ability at committing the vilest of evil actions on our own, will carry this behaviour into the stars as well. In short, our neighbours are concerned that we are more trouble than we are worth."

Jeeval stops and takes a breath. He looks across the table and sees something surprising in Vellie's eyes. It's not quite belief in what he is saying, but something that gives him a little hope. He sees the interest of a searching mind. He sees someone trying to reconcile her past with new knowledge. He considers the spark that can ignite the fire he is trying to kindle. "How many more am I touching?" Jeeval wonders.

"Jeeval?" Vellie asks, "Is that your message, or is there more."

He realizes he has been silent for several moments and shakes his head. "No, sorry. I have a bit more to say."

"Okay, then," she replies, opening her hands in a welcoming motion, "please, continue."

"Honestly, my friends," Jeeval continues, "all that I ask is that you look at the world around you and see what we are doing to each other. Search for what you really believe is true and not what you have been told is the truth." Jeeval pauses momentarily, glances at the clock, and turns back to the microphone, desperate to finish before his time runs out. "Look, all I'm saying is this. What has whichever God you follow ever done for you? I used to be just as faithful as the rest. Still, once I was confronted with real beings rather than a mysterious, unseen, and omnipresent God, I realized that myths and superstitions hold no water. "

"But is it your place to question what others believe?" Vellie breaks in. "Why do you think that your truth is more important than ours?"

"That is an excellent question," Jeeval answers, grateful for the interjection, "and I can answer it like this. I don't presume to know everything, what's right or wrong, or what is the ultimate truth. All I can tell you is that we are not alone in the universe. We are no one's chosen."

"Look at what the Mastiks say when we achieve something extraordinary. They say God has shown us a great favour. And when something terrible happens, they tell us it is a failure in our faith, or we did not pray enough. They talk about God's will, while they offer only words and oppression but no proof.

"Well, I've seen the truth. I've talked to the truth. And the fact of the matter is that either we stop destroying each other, or we will cease to be. We have one chance and very little time. The seeding ship is on the way, and when it gets here, well, that's it. The task will be completed, and the planet will be reset. That means all human life will be destroyed, and the earth will be left to the next dominant species.

"Please," Jeeval begins but is cut off as shouting comes from the hallway. He turns and sees Mastik Rue arguing with the Colonel.

"Well, that's all the time we have," Vellie says quickly, "thank you to our guest, Jeeval Sapra, and join me again tomorrow for another talk when our guest will be Shea Manta."

Vellie switches off the system as the door opens. One of the Colonel's men enters the booth and takes Jeeval by the arm, guiding him out and past the Mastiks, who are still arguing with the Colonel. As he is pushed through the exit, Jeeval hears the Colonel bark, "Enough! One more word, and you will spend the next year in my prison!"

Jeeval is rushed to a waiting car and spirited away. The last thing he sees is a group of the Mastik faithful marching on the radio station.

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Stories by MDBlagdon
Stories by MDBlagdon

This is a collections of short stories written by MDBlagdon. The genres include horror, science fiction, thriller, etc. These stories are inspired by every day events, historical events, favorite content creators, and the list goes on. Please come inside and have a look around.

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