MFC/BPL

Martyr for the Cause by Ben Lacy

Copyright © 2009 Ben Lacy All rights reserved

The alien ship was inside the moon’s orbit before it was detected. An amateur astronomer was first to spot it. Measuring fifty miles in diameter, it came toward Earth at over a thousand miles a second. Ten thousand miles above the surface the ship pulled into orbit. The circumpolar orbit crossed the eastern United States, the middle of Asia, and a slice of Africa. For two days, the ship did nothing but continue its orbit around the Earth, one rotation every two hours. On the third day, the ship disgorged dozens of smaller craft, each about the size of a 747. These cruisers roared into the atmosphere at Mach 50. Their skins ignored the blazing heat of friction as they pushed the Earth’s dense atmosphere aside. The ships diverged when they came within a mile of Antarctica’s ice covered surface from where they scattered in every direction. Within minutes, they had crossed into the air space of every continent. Once over land, the ships went into what human scientists could only assume was a search pattern. In the next hour, they had passed over most of the inhabited land on Earth. The shockwaves from this hypersonic flight shattered windows, cracked cement, and blew out eardrums. Dozens died, a few of heart failure, more in car crashes. Countries with air forces launched their planes. The fastest could barely break Mach 2. Each time the jets crossed the intruders’ path, the alien ships would be 10 miles away a second later. The aliens never even had to change course. Once they completed their planned flight, they broke away as one to return to their mother craft.

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All attempts to communicate with the aliens both before and during this flight were futile. The aliens ignored radio. They ignored lasers. They ignored the massed lights of Las Vegas blinked in Morse code. An hour after the flight though, they proved they could communicate. Every television signal was interrupted and replaced with the aliens’ first broadcast. The creature that appeared on screen had a purple head shaped like an inverted triangle. The mouth was a perfect circle lined with thin, spiked teeth all around the perimeter. The rest of the face was a patchwork of octagons. The octagons looked more like hard cartilage then soft flesh. Most were shades of purple. A few were bright green or blood red. These might have been eyes, or ears, or something else. When the thing began to speak, its mouth opened and closed like a camera lens dilating. Whatever noise it actually made was heard through the television as English. “People of Earth,” it began, “we mean you no harm. All will be well if you do as we ask. We require that you kill Robert Samuel Martin. No harm will come to you if you do.” A still picture of a white man in his early forties replaced that of the alien. His face was fleshy and round. He was grinning slightly. His teeth were yellowed from cigarettes and coffee. He was going bald. The picture remained on the screen for another thirty seconds, then blinked out. Normal programming returned for about ten seconds. Then the network news teams broke in to announce the news again.

**********

Rob Martin wasn’t in front of a TV when the aliens demanded his death. He was at his job on Ford Motors’ assembly line in Ford’s Detroit plant. He continued to work for more than an hour before the police arrived. A neighbor had recognized him. Not knowing what to do, she called the police. They brought him to the precinct house without explanation. He was a bit mad, but his supervisor told him to go promising that the company would send someone to help.

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By the time Martin made it to the precinct house, the FBI had also discovered who he was. They were there to meet him. The local FBI agents immediately took him from the precinct. His wife arrived just as he was leaving. She tried to run up to him, but the agents and the cops formed a wall between them as they escorted Martin to a waiting Buick. He was taken to the airport and a charter flew him to Andrew’s Air Force Base in Maryland, just outside DC. From there, a helicopter flew him to the White House, and the Secret Service took charge. They brought Martin to a plush conference room that had a huge mahogany table in the center surrounded by large televisions each mounted with a video camera. They left him there alone. Martin was of course stunned by all this. He hadn’t been handcuffed and they hadn’t locked the door, but he was clearly a prisoner. He paced the room for thirty minutes wondering how long they would make him wait. Just as he was about to try the door, it opened; and a tall, whip thin man in his late forties entered. The man wore an expensive but conservative business suit. His long nose, piercing eyes, and tightly drawn mouth made him look like a hawk. The image dissolved though as he suddenly flashed a toothy smile and extended his hand. Martin realized he’d seen the man before on TV. He was someone important. Martin wished he followed politics more closely because he couldn’t remember who his host was. “Hello, Mr. Martin, I hope we haven’t kept you waiting here too long.” Martin shook the man’s hand. “It’s been like waiting to see the dentist.” The man gave him an odd look, just for a moment, and then chuckled softly. Martin wondered whether his sense of humor seemed inappropriate, but he never could help himself. The newcomer sat in one of the leather chairs around the conference table and gestured for Martin to do the same. Once they were both seated, he said, “My name is Thomas Church. I’m the White House Chief of Staff. Do you know why you’re here?” “No, please tell me. Nobody would tell me a thing.” “Of course not. It wasn’t their place to tell you; besides, we had to make sure your lack of comprehension was genuine.” Church got up from the chair and placed a DVD in one of the players built into the back wall. He then positioned himself to watch Martin as Martin watched the alien’s broadcast for the first time.

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“What the hell was that?” Martin asked once the brief clip ended. “Something that played on every TV on the planet. What do you think of it?” “I don’t know what to think. That thing said my name; the picture looked like one of me. I don’t remember having any picture like that taken though.” “You don’t know what their interest is in you?” “No!” Church leaned forward until their faces were inches apart, “Have you ever had an encounter with an alien? Have you ever seen a UFO?” “No and no, and I always thought people who claimed they did were nut jobs. At least until everyone saw Them that is.” “Very well, Mr. Martin. For now, you’ll stay here in the White House. It’s for your own safety.” Church stood up and started moving toward the door. “Wait, what about my wife and kids?” “Would you mind taking a lie detector test?” Not allowing Martin time to respond, he continued, “Don’t worry, the police are looking out for them. We’ll try to let you see them soon, but for now, we think it’s best they stay home.” Church quickly left the room, wanting Martin off balance. While the Secret Service agents escorted Martin to his new home, Church headed for the West Wing. He strode quickly down the halls, ignoring the various underlings who tried to catch his eye. He turned down a section of hall guarded by Secret Service agents. Ignoring them as well, he went into the room at the end of the hall. It was an even larger, plusher conference room. Everyone had arrived except for the President. Church waved to an aide standing at another door across the room. The aide nodded and went to get the President. Church nodded to the assembled men and women as he moved to his seat at one end of the table. Just as he reached his seat, the President entered. “All right Tom, what have we got?” the President asked while taking the seat at the other end of the table. “An ordinary, blue collar Joe as far as I can tell.” “We’ve managed to do a pretty thorough background check for the time we’ve had,” John Taylor, Director of the FBI, offered. He looked down at a bulging file.

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“Robert S. Martin, age 43, graduate of Roosevelt High, one year of community college, served four years in the Air Force, honorable discharge. He’s worked for Ford the past 13 years on the assembly line. Married to Laura Martin, age 39; they have three children, Robert Jr., 16, Sarah, 13, David, 10. He’s a registered Democrat, but with no overt political affiliations. No criminal violations worse than a speeding ticket. He’s never reported seeing an alien, and neither has anyone he knows that we’ve been able to interview.” “Could that somehow be a fake record?” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Halsey asked. “Not unless a lot of people are lying or have somehow been brainwashed. We’ve interviewed people all the way back to his pre-school days, and we’re doing more still.” “Tomorrow, we’ll send him to Bethesda for a complete medical exam. Then we’ll give him a lie detector test,” Church added. “So, we still don’t have any ideas on why they want him dead,” the President said in frustration. “I take it we still can’t get any response from the alien mother ship?” “No, sir,” General Halsey answered. “What I don’t understand is why they want us to kill him? Why don’t they just tell us to hand him over?” Attorney General Sandoval asked. “I don’t know, Carmen, but I don’t think we’re going to like the answer,” Church told her.

**********

“No, we have absolutely no intention of killing anyone. We would like to ask our guests from the stars to please talk with us about this. I’m sure there is a non-violent solution to this problem.” Bob Martin was watching Thomas Church answer questions at a press conference. He’d been placed in a comfortable room with a private bath on the third floor. The windows were barred though, and this time, the door was locked.

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Martin took small comfort in Church’s denial that any harm would come to him. It wouldn’t be hard for them to just make him disappear. The aliens would be happy, and the public would pretend to believe whatever excuse was made.

**********

The next day, Martin was taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital. His blood and urine were sampled; he had an electrocardiogram and MRI, and he was X rayed from head to toe. From there, he was taken to FBI headquarters and given a lie detector test. All the medical tests showed him to be a normal human. The lie detector test confirmed that he knew nothing about the aliens. The Cabinet was going over these results when an aide burst in and turned on a television. The aliens were making another broadcast. “It has been more than a terrestrial day since we last spoke to you and still Robert Martin lives. We see that you will require a demonstration of the seriousness of our demand.” The camera view changed to an overhead shot of an island, surrounded by blue water. Scattered around the edge of the screen were smaller islands. The view pulled in closer to the island. A large airfield and a port were separated by a number of large, prefabricated buildings. Several military ships were at anchor. “Diego Garcia,” General Halsey whispered just loud enough for the others to hear. Suddenly the screen went blindingly white. For a moment, whiteness was all that could be seen. Then the view pulled back. A giant cloud of dust and smoke was rising up over the ocean, spreading out toward the surrounding islands. “God damn them,” Halsey shouted, reaching for one of the phones in front of him. “Wait, General,” the President stopped him, “what was that?” “Diego Garcia, a base in the Indian Ocean we share with the British. There must be two thousand people there.” Halsey picked up the phone and started shouting for answers from the person waiting on the other end.

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“What do we do now?” the President asked. Everyone started talking at once. Halsey’s voice though drowned them out. “Dammit, I want a plane, a satellite, anything that can get us some pictures of that island. I don’t care about radio interference. Do what it takes!” Church watched the chaos in silence. He had a sinking feeling that he was going to be the one who would have to decide what to do next. He was about to try and call for order when he saw that the alien had reappeared on the screen. “Look,” he pointed. The room fell still. “In exactly 48 hours, if Robert Martin is not dead, we will do the same thing to the city of Baltimore. Forty-eight hours after that we will strike Philadelphia, then New York City.” The screen went blank for a moment, to be replaced by the network program. Everyone stayed silent for a long moment. Then Halsey put the phone down. “We’ve got a confirmation. Diego Garcia is gone. The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt is in the vicinity. They’ve reported something resembling a nuclear explosion, but didn’t detect any missiles or projectiles. The place apparently just blew up. Counting the ships, there were probably over 2,500 people.” “All right folks, we’ve got to decide what to do now,” Church began. Some of them looked at him with disdain, shocked at his coolness. He ignored them. “We have two days; can we evacuate Baltimore?” “Probably,” General Halsey said, “We have plans to evacuate a city in case of a disaster. Baltimore’s probably already being evacuated anyway. I doubt we can do Philadelphia as well, and New York’s out of the question. They’ve picked a nice, crowded triangle for their attack pattern.” “Can we strike back?” the President asked. All eyes looked at Halsey. “Our ordinary missiles won’t reach. We do have a payload of eight warheads mounted on an Atlas rocket. It would reach, but we only have the one.” Apparently, Church thought, the military had already been preparing for the worst. “Do you think it will work?” “Not a chance.” “You don’t think a nuke can damage that thing?”

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“It doesn’t matter if it can. It’ll be like sending a snail after a Porshe. Their ships are so fast, they can knock it down before it gets within a thousand miles.” “We shouldn’t attack. We’ll only be risking more aggression,” Secretary of State Leveland told them. “They’re going to blow up Baltimore; how much more aggressive can they get?” Halsey responded, his voice rising. “But if it’s a futile gesture? We have another option.” “We know, Philip,” Church said, “and we need to discuss that more. But I don’t think we should just give into the aliens’ demands without at least trying to resist. I propose that we proceed with the evacuation of Baltimore, and that tomorrow, we launch an attack on the alien ship. We’ll warn them. Maybe the threat will get them to talk. If all that doesn’t work, then we’ll discuss the final option” They argued for another hour. In the end though, no one had any better ideas, and the President consented to the counterattack. As they were all leaving, Church pulled John Taylor aside, “John, maybe it would be a good idea to bring that guy’s family here.” Taylor looked at him and silently nodded in agreement.

**********

“In our latest Gallop poll, 33% of the American public agreed that Robert Martin should be executed, 22% were unsure, and 45% were opposed. 52% of the public favors military action against the aliens in the wake of the destruction of Diego Garcia and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. 38% are opposed. The President will hold a press conference tonight to discuss his plans in this crisis. Sources at the White House have stated that the President will order a nuclear strike against the alien ship.” Martin had done nothing but watch TV for the past eight hours. It was all about him, the aliens, and the attack on Diego Garcia. The guilt over what had happened to all those people weighed upon him. He knew that in some way it was his fault, at least his fault in that he was still alive. He found it almost funny that a day ago he only had to worry about his own death.

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His depression lifted though when his family arrived. His wife ran into his arms. The kids immediately crowded around them, hugging them both. Everyone cried. It would be several minutes before they stopped. Thomas Church watched all this on a television in his office. He was a hard man. He was calculating, cold, and logical and everyone knew it. That was why he’d had to end his own presidential bid after the New Hampshire primary. That was why he was a great chief of staff. He could make the tough calls. He already knew what the call here would have to be. In the past, this ability had always been a source of pride. Now, it was a curse that was going to make him a modern day Pontius Pilate.

**********

The rocket blasted off from a hidden base in the Nevada badlands. The President and his staff watched on three televisions, each showing a different view. The rocket slowly pushed off the Earth’s surface. Once it reached the upper atmosphere, the shield in the nose cone slid back to expose a video camera through which the rocket’s destination could be viewed. For long minutes, only stars could be seen. Slowly, they could see one star growing brighter, eclipsing the others. As the image grew, the camera lens adjusted to reduce the sun’s reflected light, and they could make out details of the alien mother ship. “Five-hundred miles,” Halsey looked up from a computer screen, “four hundred miles, I can’t believe it. I think it’s going to make it.” The ship had expanded to fill the screen. From long minutes to quick seconds, the rocket and the ship came closer and closer. A giant funnel springing out from one part of the alien sphere now filled the screen. The military thought this might be where the ship’s engine was. It came even closer. Everyone watching pulled back slightly as the ship rushed toward them on the TV. The screen flashed white. They turned to look at another TV that provided a view from DEFSAT 2, a military satellite that had pulled into a matching orbit with the alien ship. A burst of light

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flared from where the ship had been struck. The light slowly faded and the entire ship came into view. They stared at it for a minute. Finally, they realized that the ship was undamaged. Again, it fell to Church to break the silence, “I think they’ve demonstrated where things stand. It’s time to discuss the unthinkable. Carmen, what’s our legal position here?” “Our what?” the Attorney general sputtered. “We have no legal position. We don’t even have a right to hold the guy. You’re talking murder, plain and simple.” “That’s not quite true,” Taylor interjected. “The President can declare a state of national emergency which would suspend constitutional rights.” “During the emergency, but afterwards we can be made to answer for what we’ve done,” the Attorney general replied. “What are our allies’ positions?” the President asked. “The Vatican says murder is wrong under any circumstance, they advise prayer and continued attempts to negotiate,” the Secretary of State told him. “Everyone else says, ‘Do what you have to’.” “Look, what if this is a test?” the Attorney general asked, trying to forestall the inevitable. “Maybe it is, Carmen. But what’s the right answer?” Church looked around the room. One by one the others all nodded in agreement. The attorney general bowed her head, then nodded as well. The FBI director stood up, “All right, how do you want to do this?”

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“After the failure of today’s attack on the alien mothership, 76% of Americans agreed that Robert Martin should be executed, 15% are opposed, with 9% undecided. The White House has imposed a media blackout on what they will do next. Now we take you to Baltimore, where the evacuation is nearing completion. Jim what …” Laura Martin turned off the TV in a near rage.

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“I can’t believe them, what cowards.” “Calm down honey. Thousands are already dead; what are they supposed to do? I just wish I knew why they wanted me. I guess I’ll never know.” Martin held on to his wife, who started sobbing in ragged bursts. They turned toward the sound of an “ahem”. Thomas Church was standing at the door looking on. “Mr. Church, you can’t let them kill Rob. Please, don’t.” Robert Martin increased his grip on his wife to prevent her from charging Church. Church had steeled himself to show no emotion. The only evidence of any was the pasty, whiteness of his face. “Mr. Martin, tomorrow we’ll be taking you away from here. If you have anything you wish to take care of before then, I wouldn’t put it off.” Robert Martin had prepared for death ever since that island had been destroyed. He was surprised at how calmly he took the news. He simply nodded. His wife, on the other hand, started cursing Church and struggling desperately to get at him. It was all Martin could do to keep hold of her. “Who will you kill for them next, damn you? I hope they come for you, you heartless monster.” Church quickly backed out the door, closed it and locked it. She was right of course. This was no answer, no answer at all.

*****************

Two hours before the destruction of Baltimore, the Secret Service escorted Martin to Church’s office. After last night, Church decided it best to avoid Mrs. Martin. John Taylor joined them, and the three of them, along with five Secret Service agents, walked out to a waiting helicopter. Climbing in, they took seats facing each other, four on one side, five on the other. Martin sat next to Church and across from Taylor. As the helicopter lifted off, Martin smiled and said, “Gee, going to a lot of trouble to off me, aren’t you?” Taylor looked shocked at Martin’s joke. Church though remembered Martin’s sense of humor and responded in kind, “Don’t worry Mr. Martin, it’s no trouble at all.”

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Martin laughed. Then he sighed. His courage spent and his nerves driven to the brink, he slumped into his seat and lay his head against the window. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the city passing rapidly below. He wondered what he should be doing with his last few minutes. He thought he should be treasuring them, but instead, he just wanted to get it over with. “You know, I just wish I knew why they want me dead. I don’t want to die without knowing why.” “Well, that’s one wish I can grant at least,” Church replied. “You can!” Martin sat up. “You can?” Taylor echoed him. “Yes, I can. Our mistake all this time has been focusing on you; what you might have done or who you might really be. It’s never been about you though. You’re like a lottery winner. You were picked because you were an ordinary, average American. They might have picked anyone.” “Why?” Martin asked, and Taylor nodded as he asked. “School yard bully tactics. Look, they’ve shown they can destroy us if they want, but controlling us is something else entirely. To control us, they need to break us, humiliate us. A people who would murder an innocent man to save themselves aren’t worth saving. Our will to resist would be destroyed. We’d do anything they wanted. We’d know it, and they’d know it.” “But if that’s the case, how can you kill me?” “Well, that’s the problem. As long as you’re alive, everyone will only focus on you as the cause of the aliens’ wrath. Life will be a death watch; will we kill you or watch another city go up in smoke? But as I’ve said, we can’t just give in to them.” He paused to let Martin think about that. “So, what would you suggest we do?” Martin turned and looked out the window again. They had left the city far behind and were crossing over a forest. He looked back at Church. “You’re taking me to Baltimore, aren’t you?” Church nodded. “If you die, it will be by their hand. Instead of being the cause of the problem, you’ll be a martyr to the cause. I know it won’t make any difference to you, but it’ll make a lot to everyone else.”

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Martin sat silently for a moment, then he nodded in agreement, “I think you may be right, Mr. Church. It does make a difference, to me too.” Church almost wished Martin wasn’t being so brave. In his own mind, Church was prepared to take responsibility for the murder of Robert Martin. Letting the aliens kill him might alleviate mankind’s guilt, but Thomas Church would accept no such balms. He had to turn his head away so the others wouldn’t see his steely eyes water. Fifteen minutes later, they were over Baltimore. They started down over Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor. “You know, they still might go and destroy those other cities,” Martin said, curious to know what would happen after his death. “They very well might, Mr. Martin. I don’t expect you to be the last to die. But at least they’ll know we won’t stop resisting. Maybe eventually, they’ll give up and go away.” “Well, tell everyone Robby said to give ‘em hell,” Martin laughed. “Don’t worry, Rob, a team of speechwriters are writing you a glorious final soliloquy.” The two both laughed now, even Taylor joined in. The helicopter landed right on a jetty, near the water. Martin and Church left the helicopter. The others started to climb out, but Church waved them back. For a moment, the two just looked at each other. To his own surprise, Church hugged Martin. “I’m sorry Rob; I’m so very sorry.” “I know. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault.” Martin smiled, “Besides, I’m not dead yet. Maybe, I’ll get lucky.” Church nodded, not really believing that. “Don’t worry about your family. I’ll look out for them personally.” Church pointed down the pier, “Do you see that bench, about a hundred feet from here? There’s a cooler sitting on it. You’ll find drinks and food. Good luck, Robert Martin.” The two shook hands. Church climbed back into the helicopter. Martin backed away as it took off, waving to them. Martin walked to where the cooler was. Barbecue and beer, “They’ve got me pegged,” he thought. He looked at his watch. He had about forty-five minutes. He looked up and down the harbor. The place was completely deserted. There was a lot of

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neat stuff here though. A line of shopping malls ran all along the harbor. Anchoring one end was an aquarium. Next to it, he thought he saw a submarine. He opened a beer, shoved another into one jacket pocket and a bag of the barbecue in the other. He headed for the submarine, munching a pork rib on the way. It was an old World War II sub. He took a quick tour through it then walked to the aquarium. The dolphins and seals had been freed, but most of the fish remained. “To bad they have to die also,” he thought. He climbed up onto a platform above the bleachers surrounding the pool where the dolphins performed. From there, he could look back onto the whole harbor on one side and out at the ocean on the other. “Thirty second to go. I wonder if this will hurt?”

********************

Church was standing in a bunker at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, when the time came. A flash of light blinded him even through the quartz goggles he wore. The light slowly dimmed, and a cloud of dust began spreading out over what had once been the city. “Well, that’s done,” he thought. “Rob Martin’s death will tell everyone that we won’t give in so easily.” He looked at the rising mushroom cloud and felt a bitter determination fill him. He had just been an accomplice to a murder. He wasn’t going to sell his conscience so cheap. Maybe Robert Martin could perform an even greater service.

Epilogue

Ten years passed. The crowd had gathered quickly on what was once the University of Colorado campus. Television cameras had been hastily set up and a podium quickly assembled. Armed soldiers surrounded the podium. An officer stepped

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to the microphone and announced, “Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States.” No band played Hail to the Chief as Thomas Church walked briskly to the microphone. There wasn’t time; they could maintain the broadcast transmission for a few minutes at most. The aliens wouldn’t take much longer to launch an attack. “Ladies and Gentleman, it has been ten years. Ten years since the sacrifice,” Church began. “I have come here before you today to deliver a message.” Church paused, then shouted, “Robert forgives you!” Cheers rang out from the crowd. Church smiled. He had spent the last ten years building Robert Martin into the world’s leading religious symbol. Martin wasn’t the first to die. He wasn’t the bravest, or smartest, or kindest either, but he was the one who had died to save mankind. More importantly, but never spoken openly, Robert Martin had been sacrificed to mankind’s fear. Guilt was a critical element in any religion, and it was a wonderful motivator. Robert Martin had galvanized the people of Earth into an army of fanatics determined to resist the aliens at all cost. Church continued his speech, “In ten years, we have not succeeded in destroying one alien ship, we have not succeeded in killing even a single alien, but in spite of that, we are beating them! They have received nothing from this planet but pain and hardship. When they tried to take our coal, they found it salted with nuclear waste. When they tried to take our steel, they found it brittle as glass. When they tried to force us to work in their factories, they found strikes and sabotage. The water has been poisoned; the food has been blighted. They have received nothing for their efforts and they never will!” Church paused and sipped some water to allow them to applaud, which they did wildly. Church waited a moment, then set a book on the podium, “I would now like to read a short passage from the Prophecies of Martin. The audience quieted, some bent their heads. With the virtual elimination of the electronic media, and the fragmentation of the remaining populous, Thomas Church had freely embellished and expanded the legend of Robert Martin without fear of anyone contradicting him. In fact, a desperate public had willingly embraced each new pronouncement.

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Thomas began to read, “And the aliens shall come to know the truth. The spirit of mankind shines above the petty greed and naked ambition of their would be tyranny. Their weak souls will force them to flee the light and return to the shadow where they will not have to see just how small they truly are.” Martin closed the book, “Chapter 12, verse 23.” President Church walked off the podium. Everyone quickly dispersed. It was time to go back into hiding.

******************** Just three weeks later, Thomas Church was standing in the War Room, a renovated mine shaft just east of the Great Divide, when a radar operator lifted his head from his screen and said, “They’re leaving!” The room erupted in noise. Everyone crowded around the main screens. A video link to a ground based observatory on the night side of Earth allowed them to watch as the alien flag ship slowly pulled out of orbit. Cheers went up around the room. Ten long years and the nightmare was finally ending. While the others celebrated, Thomas Church stepped to the back of the room. Right now, he was more scared than excited. Once he had realized that the aliens were only after conquest and plunder, he had known that the day would come when they would give up and leave. What he was less sure of was whether or not they would leave behind a cinder. Church had bet the lives of everyone on Earth that the aliens did only what profited them and would not act out of spite or hate. But he really didn’t know enough about them to do more than hope he was right. He watched the alien ship move out past the moon’s orbit, expecting it to open fire at any moment. “And mankind shall be renewed upon the Earth, free again to walk under a clear blue sky, the threat from the heavens gone forever. The Prophecies of Martin, Chapter 12, verse 24, the final prophecy,” a voice near Church said. Church looked around but he didn’t see anyone near him, only a statue of Martin, looking defiantly to the heavens. Church looked back at the screen, apparently the

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speaker and the prophecy were correct, the ship was picking up speed. It soon became too small for the observatory telescope to detect. The cheering grew louder. Church did not allow himself the luxury. There was so much to do. Millions more would die of starvation and disease if action wasn’t taken quickly. With the alien threat gone there would be nothing to keep everyone working together. Church turned and looked up again at Martin’s statue. He smiled. Maybe Martin still had a few more prophecies left in him.

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