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Monthly Archives: October 2011

An Enemy Within — Chapter Twenty Two

Chapter 22

The New Year celebration has come and gone and Shannon spent the time with her grandparents.  She was with them through Christmas and into the early part of January.  She would have liked to have spent more time with them, but Shannon had to return to L.A. so that she could attend the winter quarter at UCLA.  Her grandparents have done so much for her and they have essentially raised her since childhood, and she feels like she hasn’t spent enough time with them since going to college.  The reason why Shannon’s grandparents raised her was because her father left before she was born and her mother handed Shannon over to her parents to take care of her.  This occurred when Shannon was very young and she barely remembers her mother.  What she does remember is her mother taking her to her grandparents place, her mother and grandparents talking as she played off elsewhere, than her mother saying her goodbyes to Shannon and than leaving without her.

But time has faded this memory and Shannon’s strongest memory surrounding this is a lot of crying and the feeling of being scared.  Her grandparents never talked about it as Shannon was growing up and Shannon never brought it up or asked any questions about it though her grandparents did plan for the situation if it did occur.  The situation just became the norm and Shannon moved on.  In addition to this, her grandparents saw to it that they became her legal guardians.  With Shannon’s mother, she probably thought about eventually coming back for her, but she never did.  Apparently, Shannon’s mother moved on as well.

Back at school, Shannon is still active on campus, organizing demonstrations and trying to get people to come and speak at the school. So far, the only person she was able to get to speak is during the Winter Quarter. Shannon got a demonstration or two organized last quarter, and is going to have one this quarter, but they’re not as big as the one during the Spring Quarter last year. She has no desire to go through that ordeal again and wants to avoid a repeat performance. This is a clear example of a chilling effect.

But besides engaging in such activities around UCLA, she is still working at the Powell Library as a work-study student and at the diner as well. In addition to her normal activities, tonight is a special occasion. She will be attending one of Marc’s plays for the first time. Adding to her excitement is that Marc is playing one of the lead roles. Tonight’s play is basically a retelling of the Iliad. It stays true to the original classic poem, but they are approaching it in a comical manner.

Getting ready for the evening, Shannon puts on her only formal evening gown. Since she is in college and doesn’t go out to a lot of formal events, there wasn’t really any reason for Shannon to own more than one formal outfit. And she got this dress when she was in high school, and it still fits. Nothing really changed between then and now. If anything, she’s in better shape now then when she got it, allowing it to fit better. As she is putting on her earrings, her cell phone rings.

Shannon uses her cell phone as her main contact number. It saves her from having to help pay for a landline and the plan that she is on is paid for by her grandparents. Because her grandparents pay for it, Shannon does what she can to not over use it. If she feels like she has, she’ll send her grandparents a check to cover it. While at the apartment, she keeps her cell phone on the ledge in her bedroom due to the fact that she gets poor reception elsewhere in the apartment.

Answering the phone, Shannon says “Hello?”

“Hey,” Alex says. “I’m downstairs.”

“Okay. I’m coming down.”

Hanging up, Shannon unplugs her phone from the charger and puts it into her purse. Putting on her shoes, she heads downstairs to meet up with Alex, who is waiting in his car.

“Well, don’t you look amazing,” Alex says. If he was straight, Alex would have given a little whistle.

“Thanks,”Shannon replies. “And you’re looking pretty good yourself, as usual, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“Oh, you’re too kind.”

At that, they head off to the theater to watch Marc’s performance. They manage to make it to the theater in plenty of time, but they have a little trouble finding a parking spot. In a city that is obsessed with cars, finding a convenient place to put them when necessary can be a bit of a challenge. But eventually, they find a place to park. Once they make their way into the theater, they manage to find their seats alright. It’s a relatively small theater, but there is a good turnout. Eventually, the houselights go down and the play begins. When the show is over, Shannon and Alex manage to get backstage and meet up with Marc. Seeing them, a big shit eating grin emerges on his face.

Hey,” Marc proclaims. He gives Alex a kiss and then turns to Shannon and gives her a hug. “I’m glad that you were able to make it.”

“I’m glad that I was finally able to see one of your plays,” Shannon replies.

“So what did you guys think?” Marc asks.

“I found it entertaining.”

“I thought that it was a little bit over the top,” Alex remarks.

“I think that was the point. It’s a comedy, so they have to take it to absurd levels. And besides, I think that it’s meant to be a satire, so they have to turn it up to eleven.”

“Well, either way, you did a great job up there.”

“Thank you,” Marc replies.

“Yeah. Good job,” Shannon adds.

“Have you guys eaten yet?”

“I had a little something during the intermission, but it wasn’t much.”

“I ate something before heading over, but it wasn’t much and it was just meant to hold me over,” Alex says.

“Ok,” Marc says. “Let me get things in order here, then the three of us could grab some dinner. Sounds good?”

Shannon and Alex concur and they wait in the lobby until Marc comes out and meets them. From there, they go out and grab some dinner.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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Bionics and Robotics

Technology is an incredible thing and has existed alongside humanity ever since we learned the effective use of rocks and sticks to achieve a particular end.  We’ve been using technology even before modern man has existed, tracing its use back millions of years to our earliest ancestors.  And humanity is, if not the masters of technology, than an animal that is just most adept at creating and using it.  Recently, we’ve reached the point where we are able to create self-operating machines as well as merge organic components with mechanical elements.  This is what this entry is all about.

What inspired me to write this post was a Star Wars special that I saw years ago.  At first, it was initially only going to consist of bionics and androids, but after some consideration, I realized that I couldn’t talk about either one of these without talking about robots and cyborgs as well.  This is due to the fact that all four of these categories are interconnected and overlap with each other.  So here we go.

Bionics: A bionic is any organic being that has been either enhanced by or at least has parts replaced with a synthetic material.  What this essentially entails is that any person who has a body part replaced with something created by science to function similar to the original, replaced, part is a bionic.  This artificial replacement can range from the insertion of an artificial pace-maker to the use of an artificial limb.  In the realm of science fiction, this is taken to the extreme with total body reconstruction.  Two of the most famous examples of bionics are Darth Vader and the Six Million Dollar Man.  Both Vader and Steve Austin are both human beings that required major surgery to replace missing and damaged tissue and organs with mechanical replacements.  And despite their major surgeries and tissue replacements, they still constitute human beings.  This is due to the fact that, despite the amount of synthetic replacements that they received, their core being is still that of a human being.  And if the core being of a creature remains that of an organic creature, they are considered a bionic.

Robots: A robot is an artificial being that requires external information and input for it to function and operate properly.  It is totally reliant upon outside information for it to operate.  It is used by humanity to enter and explore an environment that is unsafe for them to enter or which the person is unable to reach on their own.  Examples of this include defusing a bomb or exploring the surface of Mars.  They are also used as a labor saving device when the situation calls for it.  One such example is on an assembly line, allowing the process to become more effective and allow the company to make more of a given product in a given amount of time.

Androids: An android is an artificial being that is able to operate on its own without instructions or input from an outside source.  It receives its instructions and commands from itself based upon its own desires and wishes, so to speak, though they can receive instruction from others if they so wish.  Everything that it needs to operate is located within its microchips and motherboard.  In this way, it is an autonomous being, though it possessing self-awareness is something that is yet to be determined.  Essentially, it is an advanced version of a robot.  The size and shape of the android is irrelevant, as long as it is self-reliant.  Examples of androids are R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars and Data from Star Trek.  All three examples possess sufficient software to operate on their own.  It’s also important to note that all three possess artificial intelligence.  This allows them to better interact with their surroundings because it allows them to reason and learn.  Artificial intelligence, however, is not absolutely necessary for an android to be able to function and operate properly.  It’s just an attribute that we generally associate with them because it allows us to better relate to them as an audience.

Cyborg: The word cyborg stands for cybernetic organism and it is a synthetic being that possesses at least some organic material.  Essentially, it is nothing more than an android with flesh.  The amount of flesh it possesses, and where it is located, is irrelevant, as long as the underlying structure is mechanical.  In the real world, we are yet to develop what I have just described.  In the realm of science fiction, however, is another story.  Cyborgs have already appeared in several science fiction stories.  Two such examples are the Terminator and RoboCop.  With the Terminator, it is nothing more than an exoskeleton android that is surrounded by living human tissue.  This living human tissue is designed to disguise the true identity and nature of the Terminator.  And as long as the Terminator possesses this tissue, it’s still classified as a cyborg.  However, as soon as it loses its tissue, it becomes classified as an android.  RoboCop on the other hand can be a little tricky.  RoboCop was created from the corpse of Alex Murphy, and since OCP started off with the body of Murphy, it could be argued that RoboCop could be classified as a bionic.  But for a person to be classified as a bionic, he or she needs to be alive when the implants are put into place.  The use of Murphy’s body after he died was just a formality.  This is due to the fact that for the RoboCop project to work, OCP needed the training and experience Murphy acquired over the years of being a cop.  In all tense and purposes, RoboCop is nothing more than a machine that just so happens to possess a human brain and some other organs to allow the brain to function.  The only reason why people would call RoboCop a bionic is because OCP put a human brain into one of its machines.  But just because a human brain could be found within the metal skull of RoboCop doesn’t qualify him as a bionic, though a moral debate can arise surrounding his humanity, which was addressed in RoboCop one and two.  For a person to be considered a bionic, synthetics need to be added to the human body, not the other way around.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Sci-Fi Tech

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Twenty One

Chapter 21

With the nature of his organization, Crow believes that being proactive is essential.  Being stagnant is detrimental in and of itself in everyday life, but this is magnified for governments, political movements, and organizations like the New World Power, which have to deal with ever changing political situations, both globally and domestically.  The world has been shrinking for the past several centuries, a situation that has been accelerated since the initiation of the industrial revolution back in the eighteenth century.  During this time, it was still possible for a country to remain isolationist without suffering much, if any, economic decline.  But this ended in the early part of the twentieth century where technology developed to the point where international free trade could no longer be avoided if a country wanted to survive and remain economically viable as a major economic player.  Countries that remained isolationist saw domestic, social decay while the rest of the world went on without them, bravely marching into the future.

This is why Crow wants to remain on top of national and global events, with politics in particular, so that he can be properly informed on the situation and so that he can act accordingly to events as they develop. And this is why he wants the New World Power to be informed on such matters as well; so that it can act appropriately and take advantage of the situation that the world provides them. And not unlike the CIA, the New World Power relies upon newspapers and other news outlets in order to obtain information and intelligence. What better way to learn about another country then through its own media sources?

For politically related news, they rely heavily upon the L.A. based newspaper, the Political Herald. The Political Herald is a newspaper that is dedicated entirely too relaying information about politics. One of its guiding principles is to remain neutral on every matter. It could be argued that the paper’s motto is similar to that of the TV show Dragnet; “Just the facts, ma’am.” They adhere to this principle so strongly that they don’t even allow an opinion section to be published in their paper, though there have been people and organizations who claim that they have been biased. However, when these claims have been leveled against the Political Herald, it’s generally because the Political Herald revealed something unpleasant about a particular politician, organization, or movement in their quest to relay relevant information to the people. Even when people approach the Political Herald for the first time, they think that it has to take a political stance; liberal, conservative, moderate, or something in-between. They have trouble wrapping their minds around the idea that something can truly be neutral when it comes to politics. But that is what the Political Herald tries to aim for; relay the facts as best they can and allow the people to make up their own minds and form their own opinions. And the Political Herald uses a large range of different sources in order to obtain their information. And one such source it uses, at least in the U.S., are the journals which Congress will publish on occasion relating to their proceedings.

With how the Political Herald is set up, it’s divided into the following four sections: 1) The Front Section, which covers the major headlines that are worth knowing, 2) The National Section, which covers what happens in the U.S. and in Washington, D.C., 3) The International Section, which covers global events, and 4) The Regional Section, which covers the particular state the reader is in and the major city which they are near. Through these different sections, it will go over bills that are currently being debated. As it does, the Political Herald will boil it down to language which the average person can understand and what it would mean if it gets passed.

It also does political profiles on elected officials. This ranges from politicians to judges to sheriffs. Any person who holds public office will have one of these profiles drawn up on them. It gives information such as what office they hold, what political party they belong to, what their platforms are, what area or district which they represent or serve, what committees they are on, if they are appointed to a position or not, and what their voting record is, if that information is relevant to the position that they hold. And with the advent of the internet, it’s become much easier for the average person to find one of these profiles.

And when election time comes, it provides a more detailed profile on each candidate, regardless if they belong to a major party, a third party, or is an independent. It wants to let everyone know exactly who is running. Information is power, and the more information which the voting public knows, the better chance that they might make an informed decision. The Political Herald also discusses confirmation hearings that occur, such as the one that will occur with Sonia Sotomayor for the U.S. Supreme Court following the presidential election.

The New World Power also uses Twitter to its advantage. Twitter is, in and of itself, harmless, like most everything else that the New World Power uses. It’s just how the New World Power uses it that it becomes dangerous. Twitter represents the free flow of information. And that information is generated by its users and its users alone. There are politicians who use Twitter to post what they are doing. And on occasion, they post things which they probably shouldn’t have posted. It is because of situations like these that the New World Power follows every politician’s Twitter account in conjunction with other media and information sources in order to track what they are doing and capitalize on inadvertent sharing of information. Knowledge is power; never more so than in politics and war.

With the intelligence they have gathered, the New World Power uses this information to pursue its objectives. However, members of the New World Power aren’t always used for some of these missions. At times, the New World Power will use associate organizations to achieve their ends, which helps prevent the actions that are being pursued to be traced back to the New World Power. These associate organizations generally consist of gangs so that whatever happens, it can be attributed to gang violence instead of any other cause or motive. The New World Power sees these gangs as pawns; sacrificial objects to be discarded when their usefulness is gone. This also helps to protect its membership when something goes wrong. If it does, the New World Power wouldn’t have lost any of it members and the organization wouldn’t be directly effected. This helps in making a smokescreen so that a connection won’t be made between the New World Power and the events that unfolded. And even if the New World Power is suspected of being involved, it would be difficult to pin it on them. But despite their use by the New World Power doesn’t mean that its in charge of the gangs. The New World Power just does what it can to manipulate and take advantage of them.

But there are occasions where money needs to exchange hands for the New World Power to achieve their objectives. This can entail skimming or stealing money from the gangs they manipulate, as well as things such as weaponry. However, most of the money which the New World Power obtains is through the stupidity of the average American. This is done by obtaining financial documents that haven’t been properly destroyed before they are thrown out. These people fail to realize that with these financial documents, they contain important personal information which can be exploited by dishonest and disreputable people, and the New World Power isn’t afraid to use such people to achieve its ends.

In order to obtain these financial documents, the New World Power has some of its members and associates work in places like recycling facilities in order to grab financial documents so that other members can use the information that’s available on them. These documents include such things as bank and credit card statements where all the important information is presented clearly on the front page. How the New World Power uses the information can vary. Sometimes, they skim off a little for a prolonged period of time whereas sometimes they just take a large sum of money and then forget about that account. Some of the larger accounts that the New World Power has access to, they’ve been leaching off of for years. They’ve even found undestroyed credit cards which they’ve been using. This is why people should destroy their financial records before throwing them out; to prevent themselves from being taken advantage of and to prevent themselves from possibly getting into trouble with the law because whatever these unscrupulous people do with their financial information, it would be traced back to the lawful owners, not the criminals.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Twenty

Chapter 20

For anyone who is in school, the summer has a bad habit of getting away from them. When school officially comes to an end, that is when your summer vacation begins and you have a few months of freedom to do essentially whatever you wish without having to worry about getting to class or concern yourself with coursework. But as summer progresses, days begin to blur and before you know it, its over and you have to get ready for school once again. For Shannon, this was no exception. She worked, visited her grandparents, and even managed to hang out with Penn when he was at Huntington Lake. She actually spent the night up there because they were having too much fun for her to leave early. Part of the festivities included having a barbeque that night accompanied with playing card games and copious amounts of drinking.

Back in L.A., besides working in the diner, Shannon participated in some training for the New World Power. This consisted of some informal classroom training accompanied with physical training activities. The physical training was disguised as adventure training so that the New World Power can train their recruits in public without drawing any unwanted attention. This training that the New World Power has the recruits do is essentially preliminary testing to determine if the people who are partaking in it will be good candidates to become full fledged members of the organization. If a person does pass this preliminary training, then they qualify for the full fledged training. But in order for them to partake in the full fledge training, they need to be sponsored by a current member of the New World Power. If they manage to complete this later training, then they will become full fledged members of the New World Power with the sponsoring member helping them learn the ropes of the organization. With the training that she did over the summer, Shannon was able to pass it, qualifying for the full training later on.

Back at UCLA, as the student body returns for the fall quarter, Shannon meets up with some of her friends. With the exceptions of Penn and Yaniv, she hasn’t seen them all summer long and they have some catching up to do. With Yaniv, the two of them were able to hang out due to the fact that Yaniv took a class or two over the summer quarter. It was during this summer quarter that Yaniv finally decided on what he wanted to study; the origins of the stories that are found in holy books of the Western world, i.e., the Tanakh, the Holy Bible, and the Qur’an. He found parallels between the stories found in these holy texts and stories of ancient mythology found in Europe and the Mediterranean before the Abrahamic religions came in and took over. Intrigued by these parallels, Yaniv decided that this would be a good path to pursue.

It’s about a week before classes begin, and Shannon meets up with some of her friends to engage in some mindless nonsense before returning to the rigors of school. What they plan on doing is play video games for as long as they possibly can before succumbing to sleep, with some of them actually making it all the way to morning. Some of them who fell asleep during the night will start playing again once they wake up the next day. For her, this is the final release of summer. However, this isn’t true for all of her friends at this gaming party. Some of them will most likely flunk out of school because they spend more time playing games then actually attending class or do any form of studying. Some of these people are serious gamers and login in an absurd number of hours and they do it just for the hell of it. A few of them have actually spent their entire summer playing games. They attended some LAN parties and played some online games, such as World of Warcraft. One of them actually went to the hospital for dehydration and malnutrition because of this. Another one will actually manage to make it to graduation, but just barely.

Shannon arrives at her friend’s place, lucky enough to have found a parking spot close to the house. She walks up to the door and sees a note posted to it. It essentially says not to ring the bell or knock on the door, but to give the host a call. There’s even a note over the doorbell in an attempt to prevent people from ringing it, which so far, has worked. This is to prevent them from disturbing the host’s parents. They were nice enough to allow him to host this party, as long as it didn’t interrupt or disturb them during the night. They also want to be able to get into the kitchen without much trouble when morning comes.

Seeing the sign, Shannon calls her friend. Getting through, she says, “Hey. Could you let me in?”

“Sure,” her friend says. “I’ll be right down.”

The host comes and opens the door. From there, they head upstairs to the family room where most of the people are. However, computers and gaming systems have also been setup elsewhere in the house. This includes the kitchen and dining room area as well as the upstairs bedrooms. In the dining room, four or five desktops have been setup on the dining room table with one person using his laptop as he sits in one of the living room chairs. Besides having all of these computers hooked up, there are cables running through the open door leading into the kitchen, which also consists of the breakfast room. With the table there, two more desktops have been setup. And besides the computers, a game console has been connected to the small TV the family has there. With the upstairs bedrooms, three computers have been setup in the guestroom with another two located in the host’s childhood bedroom. In addition to the computers, the host’s Sega Genesis is in use, with Mortal Kombat being the primary game played on it. There’s also a third bedroom upstairs, but it’s empty of computers to allow people to sleep if the situation calls for it.

But the family room is where most of the action is with several computers hooked up throughout with essentially any available, desk-like surface taken up by a computer. This includes the poker table, hobby table, and the computer desk itself. One person is also sitting in an Eames chair, though he isn’t using the ottoman. This Eames chair is actually an original, bought when they were first being made back in the 1950’s. Besides the house computer, two more computers have been hooked up around it. A part of this desk was built so that a TV can be placed on it, which it has, though on a lower level than the computer. Hooked up to this TV are three game consoles; Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64. Though only one console can be used at a time, all three will be used before the night is over. With the big screen TV in the other half of the room, a PlayStation 2 and Xbox have been setup and are being used. Walking into the room, Shannon is spotted by Toby.

“Hey,” Toby says happily as he gets up to greet her. Not wanting to block any of the people’s view who are playing on the big screen, Toby steps over the back of the couch.

“Hey,” Shannon replies as she gives Toby a hug. “How are you doing?”

“I’m good. How about you?”

“I’m doing well.”

“Well,” the host says, “make yourself comfortable. Whenever possible, feel free to join in on any of the games.”

“Sounds good,” Shannon replies.

With the game consoles, the games being played are generally either fighting games or first-person shooters. With the computers, the players cycle through games such as Command and Conquer, Doom, Aliens verses Predator, Diablo, and Starcraft. Since the family room, the bedrooms, and the kitchen/dining room area are each separate LAN’s, each network is able to play a separate game if the players wish to do so. In regards to communication between these different groups, text messaging is used to cutout any unnecessary noise between them. When she can, Shannon manages to get in on some of the action.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Nineteen

Chapter 19

Sitting out on a public bench, Crow is eating a meal he got from a food truck. He got an assortment of items, consisting of two burgers, a cheese quesadilla, chips, donuts, and a drink. Generally speaking, having extraordinary abilities is a high caloric situation. Even if the person doesn’t actively use their ability, their body needs to consume more calories than the average person, as a means of compensation, for it to function properly. With psionics, this is due to the fact that their brain has developed in a way that makes it more complicated than that of the average human being. This “advanced” brain development allows it to perform the tasks that characterizes psionics, but in turn, causes it to require a greater blood flow. This blood flow ranges from twenty-five to thirty percent while at rest, depending upon the individual, compared to just about twenty percent for the average human. This means that more nutrients are taken to their brain in order to be used. As a consequence, psionics will tend to have more blood in their bodies than found in the average person.

As he is enjoying his meal, Crow is watching people play a game of soccer. Knowing the danger of sitting out in public, Crow took some steps to protect his identity. This includes the growing out of his facial hair to blend in with his goatee accompanied with the wearing of clothing such as a baseball cap. But he doesn’t try too hard to disguise himself. Otherwise, he would draw unwanted attention to himself, contradicting the whole point of having a disguise in the first place. And on the whole, this tactic works because people have essentially just left him alone. But just because he is sitting by himself doesn’t mean that he is alone. There are New World Power members not to far away, though they do what they can to stay out of sight.

Eventually, arriving at the location to talk to Crow is T-Bone. Going out in public generally makes T-Bone a little bit nervous. This is in part of him being black. In this society, they tend to stick out. And since he is six ten and a wanted fugitive, this makes it even easier for him to be spotted. Upon arriving, he greets some of the New World Power members to let them know what’s up so that they won’t get antsy when he goes up to Crow. He eventually makes his way over to him with a newspaper in his hand and takes a seat, though not right next to him.

“Hey,” T-Bone says.

“Hey, yourself.”

“Who’s winning?” referring to the game.

“Not really keeping track. Just enjoying the game. What’s up with the newspaper?”

“It has some information for you inside.”

Leaving the newspaper alone for the time being, Crow asks, “What’s the information about?”

“Do you really think its best to talk about it here?”

“Stop worrying. It’s unlikely that anyone will overhear us. And even if they do, all that they’ll get are snippets and they won’t be able to put any of the pieces together if they do manage to hear us.”

“Ok. It relates to the Biosafety facilities that you’re interested in. Both of them are Level 4 Biosafety facilities. The first one is in San Antonio and is privately operated. It’s named, uh, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. The second one is at Georgia State University in Atlanta. That’s all that I can remember except for that these two facilities aren’t adequately protected despite the nature and importance of them. The documents should give you more details.”

The information in the documents indicate that the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research has an outside window that looks directly into a room with some very nasty germs in it. It also lacks sufficient security cameras, detection alarms, or any visible armed guards. Georgia State University lacks complete security barriers and its integrated security system is insufficient. It also lacks any live monitoring by security cameras.

“Good,” Crow says. “Very good indeed. I’ll be sure to pass on this information to those who are going to need it.”

T-Bone is curious about those who Crow is referring to, but it’s probably better not to ask. And even if he did, he’d most likely be shutdown. Most likely, it’s one of those situations where it’s on a need-to-know basis, and he probably doesn’t need to know. He probably wouldn’t want to know anyway, even if he is given the opportunity.

After a moments pause where Crow eats some of his food, he continues. “Isn’t the United States grand? It’s the only superpower left in the world with a military that no longer has a rival but retains its Cold War spending budget. And it has the strongest economy in the world with a currency so stable that it’s essentially used as a global currency. But yet, it doesn’t take care of its veterans, fails to properly educate the next generation of its own citizens, overlooks the working class though it claims to be fighting for it, and utterly fails to secure important facilities that deal with biological agents that, if an outbreak occurs, can lead to massive casualties. And with the ease which people are able to travel, it can quite easily become a global pandemic. God bless America.” Crow says these last three words ironically. Given the fact that Crow is an atheist adds an extra layer of irony to it.

“You’re a Nihilist.”

“You’re probably not that far from the truth.”

Crow probably sees himself more as a revolutionary anarchist than anything else, but Nihilist is just as applicable. A revolutionary anarchist, at least from Crow’s perspective, supports a formal, centralized government, but in order for it to be successful, the old one essentially needs to be thrown out and allowed to start anew. This philosophy can be compared to one of those teardown houses, a structure so old and decrepit that it is essentially falling apart and the only way for it to be improved upon, let alone livable, is to tear it down and construct a completely new one in its stead. Nihilism, with a capital N, refers to the nineteenth century Russian activists who promoted the use of terrorism and assassination to achieve revolutionary reforms. Looking at the two side-by-side, it’s easy to see the comparisons and understandable why T-Bone made it.

With the information delivered, hidden inside a daily newspaper, and the conversation essentially at a natural stopping point, T-Bone decides that now is a good enough time as any for him to leave. “Well, unless there is anything else you need, I think that I’ll be heading out.” T-Bone stands up as he says this.

“Na. See you later.” But after a moments thought, Crow says, “Before you go, I have a quick question. I was just wondering, why did you bring me this information yourself and not have someone else bring it?”

“Probably for the same reason why you are here; I needed to get out and grab some fresh air. Enjoy an open area. Staying inside for too long can become depressing. I don’t understand how shut-ins are able to handle it.”

“Ok.”

“And be careful about those roach coaches. Those things are shady. You don’t know what they are carrying.”

“Goodbye, Thomas,” Crow says a little sardonically.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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“Fifth Estate” Timeline

“Fifth Estate” Timeline

September 1, 1939 – World War II began when German invaded Poland.

December 27, 1941 – Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, which drew the United States into World War II. (The day that will live in infamy.)

July 16, 1945 – The Trinity test was conducted by the United States, which resulted in the detonating of the first atomic bomb and ushering in the Atomic Age.

August 6, 1945 – The second atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” was detonated over Hiroshima, Japan.

August 9, 1945 – The third atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

September 2, 1945 – World War II ended.

October 24, 1945 – The United Nations officially came into existence.

1950’s – Individuals with extraordinary traits and abilities “officially” emerged on the national scene within the United States.

November 1, 1955 – The Vietnam War began.

1956 – Robert De Soto was born.

March 2, 1965 – The United States initiated Operation Rolling Thunder which consisted of the United States bombing North Vietnam, thus officially bringing the United States into the war.

Late 1960’s – Early 1970’s – Anti-mutant hysteria first peaked within the United States.

April 30, 1975 – The Fall of Saigon occurred, marking the end of the Vietnam War.

July 21, 1978 – Kenneth James Collins, a.k.a. Crow, was born.

1980 – Robert De Soto won his first political campaign.

August 19, 1980 – Thomas Malcolm Clark, a.k.a. T-Bone, was born.

December 26, 1991 – The Soviet Union officially disbanded, marking the end of the Cold War.

Summer of 1997 – T-Bone was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.

June 19-20, 1999 – Crow graduated from UCLA; NWP was officially created.

January, 2001 – T-Bone escaped from police custody after attending his mother’s funeral.

September 11, 2001 – The Twin Towers in New York were attacked and destroyed by terrorists.

September 18, 2001 – October 9, 2001 – The U.S. anthrax mail attack occurred.

October 7, 2001 – The War in Afghanistan, led by the United States, started.

October 26, 2001 – The Patriot Act was signed into law.

Late April, 2002The attack upon Los Angeles International Airport occurred.

March 20, 2003 – The Iraq War, led by the United States, started.

August 23 – August 30, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina struck, devastating New Orleans and accompanying areas.  A local psionic emerged on the scene due to the disaster, gaining some national press coverage.

Spring of 2007 October of 2008 – The events of An Enemy Within occurred.

December 2007 – September 2008 – The Great Recession occurred due in part to the financial and banking situation within the United States.

November 4, 2008 – De Soto won his bid for U.S. Senate; Barack Obama won the presidential election, making him the first black president of the United States.

December 2008 – Crow escaped from police custody with the help of the New World Power.

January 20, 2009 – Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.

June 12, 2009 – Iran held its presidential election, which resulted in political protests and civil unrest.

December 18, 2010 – The Arab Spring began.

October 20, 2011 – Crow got his hands upon a Soviet era submarine armed with nuclear warheads.

July 4, 2020 – Crow officially declared independence from the United States.

April 19, 2029 – Crow achieved his objective of creating his own country in the western portion of the United States.

2034 – Crow was ousted from power in a secret, bloodless coup by other members of his government.  This was led by T-Bone and was caused by the fact that Crow was heading down the path of tyranny and dictatorship.  After being ousted, footage was released of Crow voluntarily stepping down from power without the impression that he was coerced into doing so.  From there, Crow headed south into Latin America.

*Notes*

1)    This is a makeshift timeline consisting of some selected historical events that occurred in our recent history to help put the events of the “Fifth Estate” universe into perspective.  It also consists of, from our perspective at least, some future events within the universe to give an idea of where it is heading.

2)    This timeline is written from the perspective of the United States.

3)    This timeline is written from the perspective of Dr. Xerek and that his perspective represents the present, even though it is at an undetermined date in the future for the reading audience.

4)    This entry will be updated on occasion as I deem necessary.

 
 

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An Enemy Within — Chapter Eighteen

Chapter 18

The quarter is over and everyone is preparing for summer break. Shannon has managed to pass all her classes, though she struggled through her biology class. Luckily, with Terrence’s help, she managed to get a C in the class. Basically, after talking with Professor Simms, Shannon started sitting next to Terrence for the remainder of the class, and whenever test time would roll around, she would read Terrence’s thoughts whenever she would have trouble on a question, though Shannon did spend more time studying for the class, both with Terrence and on her own. And as some college friendships would go, Shannon and Terrence would fall out of contact after their summer break. And in relation to her arrest, Shannon did have her day in court and the whole situation was put to rest with essentially nothing more than some stern words from the judge.

Generally speaking, during summer break, college students who have apartments that are off campus will not renew their lease for another year nor go to month-to-month, creating a large market of available apartments. But this is not the case with Shannon. She intends on staying at her apartment due to the fact that she plans on spending most of her summer vacation in Los Angeles. Of course, she will travel back to Fresno in order to visit her grandparents and some high school friends, but she doesn’t have any major trips planned and she wants to continue working at the diner. She also doesn’t want to dump her share of the apartment responsibilities upon Marc. He’s a nice guy and she feels like that wouldn’t be fair. Also, she will need a place to stay when classes startup again. Shannon also has plans that deal with the New World Power. She will be receiving some training from them, which is scheduled to start tomorrow. She doesn’t know how long this training will last, but if she does well, she could earn sponsorship within the organization, and that is something which she really wants to achieve.

During this great collegiate exodus of students from UCLA, Shannon manages to meet up with Penn. When she arrives, Penn and a small group of his friends are packing up a small fleet of vehicles. Besides an assortment of duffle bags and suitcases, scuba equipment is being packed into the vehicles as well. Even though Penn’s car is already packed, he’s helping out his friends get ready. Penn stopped by Shannon’s apartment earlier in order to pick up his equipment that he left there, but apparently, he didn’t grab everything for Shannon has something that belongs to him and will be necessary for his trip.

“Hey, big guy,”Shannon says.

“Hey,” Penn replies with a big smile on his face.

“You seem to have forgotten something.” As she says this, Shannon shows the glove that goes to Penn’s dry-suit.

“Thanks,” Penn says as he takes it. “I would have been in trouble if I had left this behind.”

If Penn didn’t have this glove, he wouldn’t have been able to make a seal when he put on his dry-suit, and that would have meant trouble for him. When you suit up to go scuba diving, you have to dress appropriately, not unlike when you get dressed for cold environments on dry land. With how wetsuits work, the material is permeable, allowing water to seep through and come into contact with the skin, which is then heated by the body. The water would also become trapped between the body and the wetsuit, acting like a layer of insulation. This is fine, but only up to a certain temperature when the body would no longer be capable of heating the water for it to be comfortable. With dry-suits, an air pocket is created around the diver’s body, allowing the diver to swim in very cold water comfortably.

“Are you taking your equipment to Scotland?” Shannon asks. “I thought that you had stuff there already.”

“I do. But I’m not going to Scotland. At least not at the moment.” Penn’s matrilineal grandparents, who favor Scottish nationalism, reside in the Scottish city of Stirling, and he visits them at least once a year, generally during the summer. And even though Stirling is landlocked, with the only body of water being the River Forth, Penn still manages to go scuba diving, though he has to travel out of Stirling in order to do it. So far, his favorite place to dive in Scotland is at Lossiemouth, even though it’s over three and a half hours away. Penn is such an avid diver that he took a year off after high school in order to do it, managing to log a few hundred dives in the process. Also, during his trip to Scotland, Penn makes it a point to visit Khublai Khan, a Mongolian barbeque restaurant that serves some exotic meats. But right now, he has other plans for the near future with his friends. “The boys and I are planning on doing a scuba trip.”

“Where do you guys plan on diving?”

“We plan on diving off of a few spots along the coast, such as Monterey Bay, then we plan on going inland to do a few lake dives. There’s one lake in particular that has sparked my interest.”

“Really? Which one?”

“Huntington Lake. Have you heard of it?” Penn asks because Huntington Lake is in the western Sierra’s and about an hour and a half out of Fresno. He inquires just on the off chance that she knows of it.

“No I haven’t. Why has it sparked your interest?”

“Because it has a wreck in it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. A B-24 crashed into the lake in December of 1943. I think they were looking for another plane that went missing a day earlier and became disoriented in the process.”

“Do you think that its still there?”

“Well, the plane was found in August of ‘55 and the people in charge decided not to salvage it. So, to the best of my knowledge, the plane should still be there.” At the depth which the plane is located, the water temperature is just above freezing, which severely retards the effects of corrosion. And since it’s completely submerged in water, it’s tucked away from the corrosive effects of oxygen, which protects the plane that much more. And when Penn arrives at the lake and prepares for the dive, he will hear that when the six bodies were recovered from the plane, they were in such good condition, it looked as if they were sleeping; their skin and clothes where that well preserved. That’s why Penn and the others will have to use dry-suits, to prevent themselves from freezing to death or become so cold that they wouldn’t be able to complete the dive. But since Penn already wears a dry-suit whenever he dives, this won’t be a concern for him.

“Where will you guys be staying while you are up there?”

“We know someone who owns a cabin up there, so we’ll be staying there.” This guy also owns a condo up there, but since he rents it out, and it is already booked for the time that Penn and his friends will be up there, it won’t be available to them, even though it would be of greater convenience for Penn and the others if they had access to it.

“Well, when you go up there, could you give me a call? I just might be in the Fresno area.” Depending upon what their schedules look like, Penn maybe at Huntington Lake while Shannon is visiting her grandparents. Whenever Shannon travels to Fresno, she generally decides to drive. It’s cheaper than flying and she wouldn’t have to deal with all the hassle at the airport. Also, she won’t have to spend anytime just waiting around for the plane to arrive. However, the downside is Route 99, which is a long and boring drive. It’s nothing but straight driving with nothing but farmland found in every direction. It’s also used as a major trucking route through the state. If she was a child, Shannon would count how many trucks she saw on the trip as a way to keep herself entertained. There’s also the threat of tule fog, but that’s something which Shannon is yet to encounter on her trips, though it’s something which her grandma constantly worries about. If their schedules overlap, with the lake’s proximity to Fresno, Shannon may just do a day trip and visit.

“Can do.”

“Well, I’ll let you get back to packing and I’ll see you later.”

“Seeya.”

At that, Penn and Shannon give each other a hug. Shannon then gets into her car and Penn returns his attention back to packing, where he receives some playful ribbing from his friends.

 

(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in An Enemy Within

 

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