Monday, May 21, 2018

Project Utopia: A Libertarian Science Fiction Anthology

 Space explorers, time travel, artificial intelligence, the politics of freedom. What could be better?

Russell Hasan continues the proud tradition of libertarian science fiction with this contribution to the genre, a short fiction anthology featuring seven science fiction stories. Here you will find “Project Utopia,” a flash fiction story about control and freedom, “Stealth Stars,” a longer story in which an astronaut explorer lands on a strange planet and struggles to make sense of its political system, another story about a plot to travel back in time to destroy the philosophy of Objectivism before it begins, a story about a hero’s quest to defeat a sinister secret society of scientists bent on world domination, and other charming science fiction tales, each with a slant in favor of freedom.

If you like science fiction or libertarianism, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to like in this short fiction anthology.

Story One: The Invaders

“We’ve received intel from the CIA agents embedded in the ambassadorial party that was invited aboard the mother ship. The purpose of the aliens isn’t trade. They plan to demilitarize Earth and then strike while our defenses are lowered. Their goal is conquest.”

The television screen in Colonel Shaw’s office shows a parade in honor of the aliens’ arrival marching merrily down 5th Avenue, with the Mayor of New York City and the aliens’ leader riding in a convertible at the front, waving to the cheering crowds on the sidewalks. The alien leader is a small humanoid with gray-green skin and enormous eyes. A wreath of red flowers is tied around the alien leader’s neck.

“I can’t believe it,” Lieutenant Emerson says. “Their broadcast to Earth was so beautiful. How they were forced to abandon their world when it was swallowed by their sun, how they travel the cosmos, going from world to world, seeking out other sentient life and trading with them. How they have become the pollinators of intergalactic technology, undertaking millennia-long voyages at a pace remarkably close to the speed of light, going from planet to planet to enable the inhabited worlds of the universe to trade and communicate.”

“And you believed them?” Shaw asks.

“It was their promises that got me,” Emerson continues. “They promised to sell us the best of their technology in exchange for the raw materials we have and the products of our entertainment industries. They promised to double the quality of life of every human being on the planet. All they asked for was that we make them feel at home during the two-hundred years that they planned to orbit around Earth before leaving for their next voyage. They insisted that we give them shelter and deactivate our weapons systems so that they would not feel threatened. They insisted that the governments of the world allow free trade between the alien traders and Earth’s businesses, with no taxes or restrictions on the goods that flow between Earth and their ships. And they demanded that no nations engage in any wars while the aliens were here. They demanded world peace for the next two centuries, and we were ready to give it to them. I thought it was because they wanted to help us.”

“Lies,” Colonel Shaw says. “All of their promises are lies. We welcomed them with open arms; that was our mistake. We should have been more realistic. We wanted to believe in a savior from the stars; we were hopelessly na├»ve.”

“I realize that now,” Lieutenant Emerson says. “But I just had this idea that if aliens ever arrived they would come upon us like gods, and lift us up to their level, and teach us how to be happy and civilized—how to achieve the next stage in our progress as a species, how to be better than human. I think everyone has that dream in the back of their minds, in some way.”

“Well, you should rid yourself of that dream, Lieutenant, and be quick about it,” Colonel Shaw says. “We’ve got work to do, if we’re to save mankind.”

“What is your plan, Colonel?” Private Smith asks. A group of twenty soldiers and officers, the garrison of the military installation codenamed Colorado 28, are crowded into the colonel’s office.

“We can’t trust anyone,” Shaw says. “The report stated that aliens have already infiltrated the White House and the Pentagon. All communications are suspect. But Colorado 28 still has three nuclear warheads left over from the last war. If we aim them at the mother ship we should be able to destroy it. The report indicates that the aliens don’t have good air-to-air defense system. We can strike before they know what’s happening, and end this horrific threat before humanity is enslaved.”

“Can we do it?” a soldier asks. “Can we be the heroes to save mankind?”

“I have faith in us,” Shaw says.

“It won’t be easy,” Emerson says. “Remember, the control panel for those warheads is locked with passwords that only our superiors at the Pentagon know. I doubt that we can con them out of the Joint Chiefs. And the control deck is guarded by a squad of Marines—intensely loyal Marines who won’t act in opposition to orders from Washington. The Pentagon has been fooled by the aliens, or so it seems. To act in contradiction to the Pentagon’s orders would be treason, and our chances for success are slim.”

“When it comes to saving the planet, we must make use of our ingenuity,” Shaw says. “There is a backup control panel in the basement bunker, and I think that our technicians can activate it and bypass the control deck. We’ll key in the missile ignition before the Pentagon knows what’s happening. All that is required is for us to act quickly and silently, and with absolute unwavering obedience to my plans. Turning on the backup controls in the bunker will alert the Marines, and they will try to stop us, so many of you will be assigned to prevent them from reaching the bunker. Some of you might have to die in battle with them, but it will be a small sacrifice to make in exchange for preserving our freedom from the tainted hands of the outsiders who seek to destroy our way of life. You will be remembered as the martyrs who saved us from slavery. We will go down in history as the heroes who saved the world. Everyone will love us. But it will not be easy. Everything has to go right for us to succeed, but we can do this, and by God, and in the name of America the beautiful, we will do this! We’re going to rescue Earth from the invaders!”

“Yay!” the soldiers cry enthusiastically.

Shaw sends a group of soldiers out to defend the positions in the halls leading to the bunker; he takes six soldiers and Lieutenant Emerson and heads to the technician’s mess hall.

“You… and you,” Shaw says, grabbing the two top technicians. “We need your help.”

“Yes, Sir,” an army technician says, saluting.

“I need you to activate the backup controls in the bunker. We need to get control over the missiles and bypass the main control panel.”

“But, Sir, if the controls on the main deck are broken we should try to fix the main control panel, it would be much easier than—”

“Do not contradict me! I am a superior officer and I will not be questioned!” Shaw screams. “Now are you going to follow orders or are you disobeying a direct order?”

“No, Sir! I stand ready to carry out your orders, Sir!”

“Good. Let’s go.”

The party arrives in the bunker, a moldy, dusty series of cavernous rooms in the basement of the installation. The technicians go to the backup control panel and begin tinkering with the controls.

“This system wasn’t designed to be used when the main control panel is still operational,” a technician says.

“I’m not interested in excuses! Do as you’re told!”

“Yes, Sir!”

Lieutenant Emerson hears distant gunshots echoing down from the higher levels of the installation. He exchanges a gaze with Shaw, but the Colonel’s eyes are unwaveringly confident.

“Sir, I have something to ask you,” Private Smith says.

“Yes, Smith?”

“Well, when this is all over, and the aliens have been defeated and we’re celebrated as heroes… I know that Doreen filed divorce papers. I don’t know if it’s too soon to ask, Colonel, but I really respect you so… would you mind if I asked her out? I know it would to be hard to see me with your ex-wife, but, well, shouldn’t the guy she’s with be someone you know, and not a stranger?”

Shaw pulls his gun out and shoots Private Smith in the head. A spray of blood shoots out from his skull and his corpse falls to the ground.

“What the Hell are you doing? You just murdered a man in cold blood!” Emerson cries.

“Sacrifices must be made in order to save the human race from those alien scum who want to oppress us and steal our wealth,” Shaw responds.

“It was never really real, was it?” Emerson asks, horror washing over him like a pool of ice-cold water. “You never received that message from the CIA. The aliens really want us to achieve world peace, and that scares you, because you’ll have nothing left. This is really about your ex-wife Doreen, isn’t it? This is how you vent your frustration, through violence. You lunatic!”

“Who do they think they are, telling us that the way human civilization has progressed is barbaric?” Shaw snarls. “Who are they to tell us we’re evil? There’s nothing wrong with using a gun to force someone to do what you want if you know better than they do! People are weak, they need someone with a spine to stand up for them. We need our nukes, we’ll be vulnerable without them! They’ll ruin us, they’ll take our planet and make us their slaves! I can see it in their beady little eyes! It’s the eyes, you know, if you look inside of their eyes you see winter, and darkness, and the absence of all light and all hope. Humans need help, we need a strong government to support us. And once I liberate Earth and destroy the alien threat, then the boys down at the Pentagon will love me, the world will make me its leader and I will guide our nations to order and stability!”

Emerson draws his gun and points it at Shaw, and the other soldiers follow suit.

“What are you doing?” Shaw asks. “Didn’t you hear what I said? You’ll all be my top men once I rule the world. We’ll have everything we want, people will love us! And we’ll be happy!”

“The Colonel has gone crazy. Take him into custody,” Emerson says. “Radio the Marines and tell them the coup has been foiled.”

“No! I order you not to listen to him! Do as I say, fire that missile!”

“Shouldn’t we listen to him, Sir?” one of the soldiers asks. “The aliens are… weird. Shouldn’t we strike first and take them out now, before it’s too late?”

Emerson pauses for a moment to consider this.

“It’s true that we are warriors,” Emerson says. “But we never fired a bullet that wasn’t meant to protect freedom and save those we loved from harm. We swore to serve America. We swore to protect American citizens, and to make the world a better place. What will make the world a better place, peace or war? The alien’s technology or isolationism? The answer is clear. Now will you do your duty or won’t you?” The soldier thinks about it, and then nods his head. The soldiers take Colonel Shaw away.

“To think, that the future of the human race was nearly destroyed by one man, by one man’s bitterness,” Emerson muses, looking down at Private Smith’s corpse. “Maybe the aliens can’t save us, maybe our salvation can come only from within. Or maybe we don’t deserve to be saved, and the aliens will realize that. And maybe some human beings don’t want the aliens to help us, maybe they just don’t want to be helped. Maybe some people like the horrors of this world, the way some people like to pick at their scabs, and there is no hope for us. And the aliens will see that and leave us to die. Colonel Shaw could be an isolated incident, or he might be the harbinger of an anti-alien hatred that could destroy our civilization. Well, if there is a danger to America then I will fight against it; that is, after all, a soldier’s lot in life.”

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