The Truth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


When the President of the United States pressed a green button in front of him, it seemed to the millions watching like nothing at all had happened. What happened in fact, was beyond imagination.

Submitted: March 26, 2018

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Submitted: March 26, 2018

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On December 31st, 2049, at 23:55, the President of the United States addressed his nation in a historical speech, describing shortly the current state of affairs on Earth (suffering), referring to their well-known cause (terrorism), and telling the public about his dream of a new era without terrorism, telling them about how had he dreamed of ending it by counting down from ten and by pressing a green button in front of him at the end, like a child. It was an unseen event in the history of the United States of America for the president to make a speech on the eve of the new year at this hour, and the people were astonished by what they heard because what was said was far from what they used to hear (plans of action against terrorism to stop the suffering). Yet, the astonishment turned to consternation when the president started counting down from ten while at the same time a green, illuminated plastic semi-sphere, the shape of a tennis ball cut in half, suddenly appeared and raised slowly to its resting place, in front of him.

To assure national awareness, the speech had been publicized by the media from earlier on, but it had not been announced that the countdown for the new year would also be the countdown for a new, bright, and magnificent era for human civilization. When zero was reached, the green button sank firmly into the desk to where it came, under the pressure of the most powerful right hand in the world and in front of the eyes of tens of millions participated in the countdown. While the feelings of all the people watching the scene during that ten seconds might be described as shock, there was no name for the feeling of the people whom the button had been designed to kill, who did not even have five more seconds to live.

The activation of the SLAT network at the very first seconds of 2050 was undeniably a historical moment, a milestone or a turning point as you wish, and got itself a well-deserved, steadfast place in history. The result of pressing that simple green button, as documented in the entry titled “End of Terrorism” on the world’s public history servers, was the killing of hundreds of thousands of men and woman located in different places all around the world, in less than five seconds, by a network of five hundred armed satellites later known as the Self Learning Anti-Terrorism Network. “The electronic signal to order the machines to start the mass execution”, the entry continued, “had been sent by the president of the United States as a present to his nation and to our civilization, promising to wipe terrorism out of the surface of Earth forever, at last”, and, continued with the president ending his new year speech counting down from ten and pressing the button in front of him, and at the same time wishing a happy new era to his nation and to all the people around the world, live on tv.

Many over forty will remember that speech and its final seconds vividly and with a wry smile. It was an awkward moment: Nothing happened when he pressed the button. The millions watching the speech thought that something had malfunctioned and imagined him pressing the button again and again till his face is reddened, giving up. Had his consultants watched some good-old science-fiction movies in their youth, they could have come up with the idea of putting a big screen behind the president showing a world map with thousands of blinking dots all around it, the blinking dots turning to red for a split second then disappearing, five seconds after the president had pressed the button. But, how could they? The people on earth had been doing nothing but to suffer because of terrorism for decades. Hundreds died every day, everywhere. The pubs, restaurants, theatres, concert halls, stadiums, all the public places for entertainment and socialization in short, were under constant terrorist attack. Public transportation was not available due to the lack of vehicles (the majority being beyond repair or destroyed by terrorist attacks) and for security reasons. The feeling of safety long gone, people were wishing one another a good night in the evening and only hoped to see each other the next morning, like the people in London during the Blitz, or the people in Berlin during the RAF’s Battle of Berlin in return.

So, nothing seemed to be happened when he pressed the button, while what happened was beyond imagination. The Earth, in its four and half billion years of being, had not seen anything like it. Every single corner on Earth was alight for five seconds, straight blue lines descending from heavens like millions of lightnings firing at the same time, the angels of death. No thunderbolts cracked afterwards, as if the sound waves had been killed by the process too, only silence, not even a scream, for the ones to scream for their loved ones were also dead. Dead men could not scream and dead men could not take revenge. It was the end of terrorism on earth forever, at last.

*

Later, polls showed that most people on earth welcomed the event and acknowledged it as a turning point towards the better in the history of the development of our civilization, while very few thought of it as a black stain inscribed on our foreheads which we had to live with forever, for the collateral damage was high in terms of innocent lives, like people sharing the same building with just one terrorist, living on floors above his, being killed too. More than ten thousand innocent people were killed during the mass execution, but there had to be a price to pay for the one-way ticket to a better life. There were also some academics who argued, as usual, that the new armament would be the end of humanity one day, but their argument did not get much attention from the public because they knew that it was the same argument some other academics had come up with while criticizing the CERN decades ago, and the public knew too, that Earth still existed and have not yet been sucked into a man-made black hole.

*

The network consisted of 500 satellites which had been sent into the orbit one by one according to a ten-year plan, the first phase of “Operation Lightning”, initiated by the US Army at the end of 2040. It was the year terrorism had hit the modern world with all its might, using all kinds of new technology and all their available weapons, killing 186,584 people in total in a single day around the globe. The people killed in the organized attack were not from the middle east, no, not some Muslim sect massacring some other Muslim sect as always, but were citizens of the most civilized nations on Earth. More than fifty thousand in the US, around eighty thousand in European countries, forty thousand in Russia, and, almost all the tourists (mostly from these countries) vacating in exotic places like Phuket and Hawaii and alike shared the same fate that day. China, Australia and Japan were, for reasons, spared from the attack. China, probably for being the main provider of weapons, Australia certainly for bending on its knees and selecting islam and forcing its rules as a country since 2036, and Japan, sadly for still being under the effect of high radiation, the result of North Korea’s nuclear attack in 2038. North Korea on the other hand, was no more. There is an entry in the same history servers detailing the demolition of the country in 2039 by the NATO, titled “The Erasing of North Korea”, the details of which are irrelevant.

The first phase of Operation Lightning had been planned to take ten years, but the network became functional right after the launch of the first satellite, for the information gathered by the satellites were stored and processed earth-side by a farm of thousands of super computers, meaning, the network had been in orbit for ten years before the activation of its lethal weapons. It was watching, listening, learning, like a class of students in full attention, without any curious child to distract them, gazing from outside the window.

The people following NASA news feeds sensed that something unusual was going on after the first few months of the operation, after thirteen launches had taken place in three months. They wrote in their blogs like mad that something big was happening, may be thousands of them, but no one would be able to solve the puzzle until the speech of the president on the last night of 2049, which was understandable. It was a long-term project, it had been kept strictly confidential, and it was known by only a few officials at the highest places.

After the first phase was completed at the end of 2049 as planned, with all five hundred satellites in orbit, the second phase was executed successfully during the first five seconds of 2050 as previously mentioned, so that the third phase of the operation, which had been planned to execute forever, could be initiated. The satellites with their powerful weaponry were touring around the world, their safety switches turned off, so the straight blue lines could be seen from time to time, killing whatever remained of the terrorist organizations whenever they raised their heads from the underground shelters they were hiding in. They were a species long extinct, and our civilization was determined to keep it that way. The people called the straight blue lines “angels of death”, which were in fact superbly concentrated laser beams, able to break down anything on their way to its molecules. The terrorists did not just die, they vaporized, were completely disappeared without a trace, except a deep and perfectly circular hole dug into the ground where they were standing. For a long time, until the people got accustomed to the absence of terrorism (people take things or their absence for granted after things have existed or not existed for some time), the people ran to the place where the angel of death had landed and filled the hole with fresh soil, then planted daisies or violets into the soft ground. They did it not as a memorial for the unworthy life that was lost, but to replace evil with good.

*

Fifty years later, On January 1st, 2100, during the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the big event, terrorism was removed from the dictionary too by a parliamentary decision, for the word did not mean anything to the new generations, and for it reminded the elderly of an epoch they did not want to remember. The angels of death had not been seen for more than eighteen years, but the five hundred satellites were still touring around the world, aimlessly. There was nothing much to learn for them, except the monotonous daily life of billions of people. The super computers had to continue processing the data though, and were consuming too much power. It became the focus of criticism that the same power could have been employed for some other cause, that it was a waste of resources, and that humanity had not come this far by wasting its valuable resources as such.

As a matter of fact, scientist and software engineers had already been working on re-programming the network for five years behind the curtains, since the politicians had decided secretly to utilize the network for the wellbeing of humanity in other possible ways. The engineers accommodated the latest learning algorithms and the best software languages and practices available to them to re-program the network. The goal of the new project, “Operation Shield”, was to intervene in matters where some person was in danger, in other words, to prevent crime.

The initial programming was completed in three years. Though it was relatively easy to program for preventing the source of danger, it was a very complicated task to stop the preventive action in cases where a person was in danger because of some other person but it being unintentional, like in a traffic accident. Preventing that danger meant killing other people for the sake of one person, which was unacceptable. There was also war to consider, where people were in constant danger by the actions of other people, being intentional. The system should not have acted in that case either because war was always fought according to a signed contract between two or more countries and the warriors were also fighting under a contract they had signed knowingly, so it was their choice to be in danger. Police and special security forces, doctors, prison officers and many other professions whose members had to use force or had to look like doing harm from time to time, were also excluded from the list of danger sources, with the condition that they were on duty. There was only one community excluded from the list without any condition: The children and adolescents, under eighteen. All this was a challenging task for the engineers which made them proud of themselves when finished.

During the testing phase, which took two years to complete, the quality assurance team created imaginary danger situations at an isolated spot somewhere within the boundaries of vast lands designated as military zones. Before starting each test run, the data gathered by previous learnings was erased and the network had to start learning from scratch. The team then activated the network aiming only at a hundred square meters, the perimeter covering the situation, for safety.

The team had implemented more than six thousand scenarios to simulate various kinds of dangers where a victim, the only living being in the one hundred square meter perimeter (paid generously), was wounded either by a throw of a small stone or by being hit by a stick or was hurt by a similar kind of action. There was never a second time. Both the software and hardware had ever failed. The dangerous situation, when about to be repeated, was always overcome in milliseconds by a single straight blue line descending from the heavens, before causing harm to its victim. The tests were reported to be successfully completed on February 2100, and the green illuminated button was once again installed under the surface of the office desk of the President of the United States of America.

The SLAT was renamed to SLAC, the Self Learning Anti-Crime Network, and on March the same year, the president pushed the button again, not in front of millions after a speech this time for no one was listening to things like that anymore, but in front of the high commanders of his army and the head of the National Security Agency whose job had been in question for fifty years. The SLAC, receiving the new orders and having its previously learned data erased (but archived) started to look into the world below from a different perspective. It started looking for situations after which a person was killed or wounded, to prevent it the next time.

After the activation of the SLAC, the world never witnessed a criminal event twice. One person was stabbed, one person was gunned, one person was raped. One and only one person suffered from a specific kind of crime, not the second. It was such a success, the related entry in the history servers was titled “The End of Crime”. Crime rates all around the world dropped by 99 percent, and all the criminals were killed before committing the crimes which also lifted from the shoulders of our civilization the burden of feeding and clothing them in prisons, hence, hit were two birds with one stone.

Towards the end of July, however, the network realized something significant. It was analyzing the data it was collecting for months as always and concluded that there was a secondary danger to the wellbeing of the people it had been designed to protect. It started looking for situations after which a person was killed or wounded... or got sick. The network was a thinking and learning being, and decided that getting sick was a danger to the person of interest.

Besides, what was the threshold of the level of danger for the network to prevent? That parameter did not exist. Any kind of danger counted. Was a microscopic organism floating close to the nostrils of a person not a danger to him or her? Yes, it was.

The network learned in three months that specific kind of microorganisms like viruses, microbes, bacteria and mold, floating by millions in the open air at any time, affected the people badly after a certain amount of time. They were a danger for the person in question, were not in the exclusion list, therefore should have been prevented.

When the network made the decision on July 28, 2100, at 01:28:37, it took forty minutes and thirty-two seconds for the SLAC to wipe out all the microorganisms close to the nostrils of any person on earth, killing with it the person itself. It was the end of humanity on earth forever, at last.

*

He was God for God’s sakes. Why didn’t he see it coming? But maybe it was better not to take his role as God so seriously. He was a being just like the ones who named him “God”, a little more advanced that’s all, and could not be blamed for what had just happened. Besides, this was not his first creation to destroy itself, and God was not the only name he had been given.

He was from a civilization who had originated on a faraway planet, so far and moving away from us so fast (by the continuous expanding of the universe) that it could never be reached. It was also not accurate to confine their existence to any planet or galaxy or cluster or universe now. They came from a blue planet just like ours to be frank, but reached their current level of advancement a billion years ago, which gave them the ability to manipulate all boundaries of space, and time. It was a civilization who did not need a blue planet circling around a middle-sized star to live on anymore, but a civilization who created it. They played with time like a toy. They could bend it or stretch it or break it, whenever and wherever they want. Once they had control over time, the distances, however great, became unimportant, so they had eyes over the entire universe as we know it and farther, reaching into other universes as well. They were so advanced, their capabilities were incomprehensible for the unfortunate last creation of his, or to its predecessors, who somehow managed to destroy themselves after two or three million rounds around their star, even before advancing to the point of leaving their galaxy or solar system, every time.

If we were to think in worldly terms, that would make him a student, and a successful one. He never failed on any project assignment so far, and did have no intentions whatsoever to fail on this one either.

Math is god independent, and it was the same math being used to calculate the grade for a project even at their level of advancement:

 

 

Points

Achievement

05

Find planet. Send required material. Start life (Obligatory, abort on failure)

10

Manipulate DNA to form human (Obligatory, abort on failure)

10

Farming

10

Industrialization

05

E=MC^2

10

Out of atmosphere (Alive)

10

Landing on another planet (Alive)

10

Out of Solar System (Alive)

10

Out of Galaxy (Alive)

10

Out of Cluster (Alive)

10

Contact with human from experiment of classmate (Alive)

100

TOTAL

 

According to the rules, he could interact with the experiment for only three times after the first two obligatory achievements, no more. That was what the project was all about anyway, to see how the human species would progress getting different kinds of help at different stages of their existence. He needed to make them succeed on as many achievements as possible so that he could get a good grade.

What was it after all? You were to look for a planet in the goldilocks zone of a random star (billions to choose from) which has fuel at least for a hundred million more years (billions to choose from) and to send in some water in the form of ice and the correct mixture of chemicals by using any asteroids or meteorites on a path to hit the planet, and wait (5p). Once the atmosphere is formed and the evolution took place, playing with the DNA of the most similar species to create man was child’s play for him (10p). It was also the last obligatory achievement of his home project.

The tough part was to manipulate the species correctly to make them progress. He learned after five trials that, after the creation of human species on a planet, he better waited for a little bit more, until the species dominated the planet and controlled other living things on it, which they always did. After three more trials, he decided to wait for the verbal communication to mature and then to interact, but ten more trials later decided that waiting for the writing to be discovered before taking any action would produce better results. But despite the very hard work and all his attention, the maximum grade he had achieved so far was 60, before his new civilization destroyed itself. He must have been doing something wrong.

In all his trials so far, he witnessed his creations looking for something powerful above them, something they could trust, something that would help them with things they can’t control, like the wellbeing of their loved ones who were away, or stopping natural disasters that killed them in masses. They even asked for food or water when they did not have enough. It was weird. Why did not they accept life as it was and did not work hard to make it better, and instead pleaded it from some being they could not see or hear? A being that never answered? But it was the same with all his trials, so he accepted it as human nature.

Because of this unalterable nature of human species, he had used the first of his three allowed interactions by communicating to a particular person to put up a rule set to ensure the continuity of the species (basic hygiene, disallow incest, disallow copulation with other species, ten commandment, thou shall not kill, sacrificing a sheep instead of the son etc.) but each time, he was either late for someone had already claimed being the representative of him and had imposed his own rule set first, or, he acted first but his rule set was overridden later by some of them who claimed to be the “real representative” of him, slandering the original.

Since it was always the same, he gave up trying and succumbed and continued to do the same either early or late. The civilization, after learning how to survive and to take care of itself, and having their god, always discovered farming (10p). Industrialization also was almost always guaranteed (10p). He then used the second interaction to ensure significant progress in math, and the third, in medicine. Other sciences followed suit automatically. For instance, E=MC^2 was in most of the experiments discovered (5p). The progress in physics was always achieved to a degree, and more than half of his creations left their atmosphere (10p). That was the breaking point. While in about one third of the experiments the subjects were successfully landed on another planet (10p), in half of them they never reached one. For the rest, they rather crashed into the nearest planet, dead (0p). So, it worked, but only to that extent, summing up to a maximum grade of 50 or 60, never more. He was feeling queer about it and even though he could bend or stretch time, the project had a deadline. He decided to try something entirely different this time.

 

He decided to tell them the truth.

*

On December 31st, 2049, at 23:55, the President of the United States addressed his nation in a historical speech, describing shortly the current state of affairs on Earth (progress), referring to their well-known provider (science), and telling the public about his dream of a new era without any boundaries, telling them about how had he dreamed of crossing all, including time and space, by counting down from ten and by pressing a green button in front of him at the end, like a child.

*

He was not God, but he was proud.

 

By only letting them know the truth, he not only got a full grade but created a civilization in some other place and some other time so advanced, he was looking forward to meeting them.


© Copyright 2018 Oguz Ozgul. All rights reserved.

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