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Welcome To The Post-Truth World


Chapters: 8 Pages: 48 Word Count: 13,657 Genre: Science Fiction/Action/Adventure

Chapter 1: The Politicians

Two reporters stood in the media pen within a packed stadium of sixty thousand people. On the field, there was a large sign towering behind the stage. It read "Gregory di Conti/2028" - "Restoring American Supremacy."

Supporters in the bleachers cheered and waved giant foam hands that said, "America #1". Many had traveled great distances to see the man who stood at the podium.

“America has been brought low by dissenters and naysayers, conmen and parasites,” di Conti cried over the speakers. “We have been tricked by people who reject our nation’s Judaeo-Christian heritage – the irrefutable truth that America has been and always will be a Christian nation – and into believing that we must worship the government instead of God. Those who brought this civil war down on us will face a day of reckoning.

“I make you this solemn promise. America will not only be great again. It will be mighty. It will not only be respected. It will be feared. Christianity will become the dominant religion on Earth. The Islamists will regret striking down Lady Liberty, as well as the Russians.” Di Conti thrust a finger high. “And I tell you now, no one will ever challenge us Americans again.”

One of the reporters scanned the audience, a cold sweat dripping down his brow. “Man, the crowd is really eating up this crap. Don’t they understand what he’s proposing?”

His friend, Joe, shrugged and peeled off a candy bar’s wrapping. “Look, Ed, Trump said he would drain the swamp of corruption and put Hilary Clinton behind bars.”

“What does Trump have to do with any of this?” The first reporter asked.

Joe took a bite out of his candy bar. “Did Trump drain the swamp as he said he would?”

“Well, no. His administration had more executives from Goldman Sachs than Obama or Bush, and don’t get me started about the personal corruption.”

His friend chuckled. Bits of chocolate sprinkled over his wide midsection. “And what about Clinton? Is she rotting away in some jail cell right now?”

“No, she’s not,” the first mumbled. “But he did get Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.”

“That was about all he got done,” the second reporter said. “Donald Trump proved that our democracy is working. That it will never fail. Oh, he tried to undermine it by attacking the courts and the free press and attempted to destroy the First Amendment by changing libel laws but his efforts ultimately fell short, just like he failed to get his border wall built.”

The second reporter gestured towards the crowd, which chanted “death to gays” and “all liberals must die.” They looked like they were ready to kill someone.

“Trump was a showman,” his friend added. “He didn’t mean half of what he said, and di Conti is no different. This is political theater. Di Conti is playing to his base, propping himself up as a strong man, which in these uncertain times, is what Americans want.”

“Maybe, but what if di Conti isn’t like Trump? What if his words aren’t political theater?”

The second reporter finished his candy bar and tossed the wrapper into a nearby trash can. He grabbed for a soda bottle. “Trust me. They are.”

“But if you suspect everything di Conti says to be a lie, how can you know when it's not?”

“Welcome to the post-truth world.” Joe took a gulp of his soda. “Words, like facts, have no meaning. Everything is just a feeling. Bullshit is the new truth.”

***

Two hours later, Governor Gregory di Conti, flanked by Secret Service agents, walked to his limo. In the distance, thousands of protestors booed and screamed. A group held up a banner: “Governor di Conti, A Proud Member of the Christian Taliban.”

Di Conti sneered. The Taliban? How dare they compare him to those desert-dwelling devil worshipers? Once he became President and repealed the First Amendment, he would have those rabble-rousers skinned alive and impaled on wooden pikes.

Di Conti entered his limo, and it whisked him away. He stared, brooding. “Heretics and infidels. Soon you will know the wrath of the true disciples of Christ.”

His cellphone rang. He picked it up and checked the caller id: Revelation 9:13-21.

Di Conti gulped. He placed the phone to his ear. “Yes, master.”

“The civil war we have engineered progresses nicely,” Supreme Inquisitor Abbot said. “The Heavenly Benefactors are most pleased.”

“I must admit I did not think the public would be so receptive to our message.”

“People are angry. Trump and Pence failed to make America great again, and Wellman has all but handed away America’s sovereignty to foreign bankers.”

“And our civil war has removed the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.”

Abbot chuckled. “Indeed, and the Corporatist Democrats have learned nothing from their years of fighting Trump and Pence. President Wellman’s empty platitudes will fall on deaf ears. But don’t become complacent, my most loyal of servants. Francis Downey has decided to make a third party bid on a progressive socialist platform.”

Di Conti recalled the charismatic billionaire. A lifelong progressive who styled himself after FDR, Downey had the finances to run a successful campaign.

Di Conti sighed. He could beat President Wellman, but Downey…

“I think the time has come for Downey to meet an Inquisitor,” di Conti said.

“Hum. Perhaps. But his death must be made to look like an accident.”

Di Conti leaned back in his seat. “I think that can be arranged, master.”

“Okay, come up with a plan and present it to the council. But remember, timing is everything. We want to remove Downey when it benefits us the most.”

Di Conti nodded. “Don’t worry. His death will only strengthen our hand.”

***

Billy Wellman stared out the window of his limo, with Manhattan in the foreground. His thoughts were troubled by a conversation he had the other day.

“Son, you’re a Wellman,” his father, the President, had said. “You should be at my side.”

Billy recalled slamming down a newspaper, with the headline reading “The Battle of Los Vegas Has Been Won, but 17,000 of Its Citizens Are Dead.” “Your policies have led America to civil war, father. You can’t blame it all on Donald Trump. Trump didn’t sell half the federal government off to satisfy foreign bankers. Trump didn’t declare war on the breakaway states. You could have let them go, but didn’t. Now look where we are.”

“And what do you suggest? That I allow this nation to be torn apart? That’s treason.”

“Treason? This country is already torn apart. Why can’t you and the other Democrats see that? Are you so out of touch with the common man?”

Billy grabbed his whiskey glass and nursed it, mindful that he couldn’t consume too much. He had an appointment with Francis Downey, the only man in America who had any hope of defeating both his father and Governor di Conti in the general election.

Treason? The Bible says that Christians have an obligation to honor their parents. He was about to side with his father’s political rival. What did that make him?

Billy glanced left. Skyscrapers lined Central Park West, still a glorious sight, even in an age when America faced the worst economic depression in its history.

His limo came to a stop next to a new skyscraper, between Trump International Hotel and Century Apartments. It surpassed Trump Hotel by five floors, and it was an elegant building with a slit in the middle and outdoor greeneries running up its sides. Poking out from its summit was a latticework of solar panels, giving the structure the look of a gold-encrusted javelin.

Billy got out and walked towards it. The Downey Futuristic logo hung over its doors.

He lingered under it, again wondering if he was making the right decision. He sighed. “I haven’t committed to anything yet. I’m just seeing what my options are.”

Billy entered and took the elevator to the penthouse. The speakers boomed.

“People say that coal, petroleum and natural gas still have some life in them. Other say it is Russian antimatter, but here at Downey Futuristic, we see fusion, wind, geothermal, thorium and solar powering America’s homes. Downey Futuristic has become the global leader in renewable energies, making some of the most ground shattering breakthroughs in fusion research. Clean, cheap and limitless energy, that’s the Downey way.”

The elevator halted, and the ringer chimed. The doors parted, revealing a spacious atrium.

Billy strolled past scaled-down mockups of wind turbines, solar collectors and geothermal plants. Above him hung a fusion reactor titled A.L.I.C.E.

Billy stared up at it before entering Francis Downey’s corner office. The man sat at his desk with a phone in his hand. “I’m sorry, Wilbert, but I’ve got to call you back.”

Francis got up and greeted Billy with a firm handshake. Billy winced. Man, he was strong.

“I’m glad you could make it,” Francis said, then let go.

“I’m happy that you would see me.”

“The son of the President and a war veteran? I would be a fool not to. Let me show you something.” Francis grabbed Billy by his shoulder and directed him to another model of the A.L.I.C.E. reactor. “The A.L.I.C.E. stands for Advanced Laser Inertial Confinement Environmentally-friendly fusion. It is my solution to America’s economic woes.”

Billy nodded. “I’ve read about it. It uses laser beams to heat up a sphere of highly dense deuterium to initiate a fusion reaction. A cheap and limitless source of energy.”

“And safe. Unlike fission plants, it can’t meltdown, nor does it produce waste to pollute Mother Earth and most important, it can't be refined further to make nuclear bombs. However, that’s not why we’re here.” Francis headed to his desk and planted his ass on its glossy glass surface. “So, I must admit, I’m surprised that you would side with me. Your father is—”

“Misguided.” Billy paused. Did he just say that out loud? Yeah, he did. “His austerity policies have needlessly prolonged this economic depression.”

France bobbed his head. “One could argue that he had no choice. It was the only way to lift the crippling sanctions the other nations had placed on us.”

“The War of the Sands ended seven years ago. Haven’t they punished us enough?”

“American pride contributed to the worst war in history,” Francis said. “The Middle East is a nuclear wasteland. Over two hundred million dead. Many around the world, including our former allies, feel we haven’t suffered enough or that we haven’t learned our lesson. They continue to believe that the sanctions and austerity will keep us in check. That’s their true purpose. If our nation is to ever recover, we’ve got to fight back, and your father won’t do that.”

“Exactly.” Billy sighed. “All he thinks about is paying back America’s creditors.”

Francis crossed his arms. “And what about me? Do you think I’m unchristian-like?”

Billy considered his words. Francis Downey was no saint. Having made his first million at the age of sixteen, he had a reputation for being a playboy, throwing wild parties that no devoted Christian like Billy would partake in. Word was that he had started to clean up his act, perhaps a sign of maturity, but he was still unmarried and an atheist.

“You’re not perfect,” Billy said, “but at least you’re not a Democrat selling himself off as a watered-down Republican, like Hilary or my dad.”

“I’ve often wondered where we would be if Bernie Sanders had run against Donald Trump.” Francis snorted. “But the DNC would never have allowed it. In their arrogance, they handed the presidency to Trump and will likely do so again with di Conti.”

Billy grimaced. “Which is why I can no longer support my father, but you… you’ve put three billion of your own money on the line to save America.”

“I find I have little choice. I have no real desire to become President, but I fear what di Conti will do to America and I don’t trust anyone else to stop him.”

“I know what you mean. Trump troubled me, but di Conti… he gives me the willies.”

Francis walked over to the window. Trump Hotel took up much of the view. “Trump was many things. A raging egomaniac. A womanizer. A demagogue. But he wasn’t an ideologue. He didn’t believe in the insane conspiracies he peddled. He just wanted attention. The spotlight. Dangerous, but only because he was impulsive, thin-skin and spiteful.”

Billy nodded. “But di Conti’s different. He believes his own bullshit. I think he’s insane.”

Francis gave him a look. “Insane? No, but religious zealotry can come across as insanity.”

“Religious zealotry? I’m a god-fearing man, but—”

“God-fearing? I’ve never liked that term. Shouldn’t God be a loving parent?”

“You know what I mean. Di Conti is no Christian.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Di Conti is a Christian. It’s just that the Jesus Christ he worships is not one you or I would recognize.”

“No disrespect, sir, but aren’t you an atheist? Can you make that judgement?”

“I prefer the term humanist, but yes, I’m not convinced there is a god. However, I’ve studied The Bible, The Torah and The Quran.”

Billy stepped forward. “I would like to hear your thoughts on The Bible.”

Francis crossed his arms. “The Bible is an artifact of man. It tells you nothing of the natural world, but a lot about people, both past and present.”

Billy cocked his head. “How so?”

“Well, for starters, it informs you on how the people who wrote it saw the world.”

Billy nodded. “Go on.”

“But more importantly, The Bible tells you a great deal about people today. The Bible is a series of stories, the first, Genesis, separated from the last, Revelation, by more than a thousand years. The values presented change across its pages. Which stories people latch onto, which ones they highlight, illuminates who they truly are, their inner soul you could say.”

Billy listened, engrossed by the billionaire’s every word.

“Take di Conti,” Francis said. “I’ve watched his speeches. He brings up Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 13 and 1 Kings 18. These aren’t stories about Jesus healing the sick, or of the Israelites providing meals to wandering travelers. No, they’re about God and his followers slaughtering people of different faiths. About rape, murder and betrayal.

“This informs me that di Conti is a small, insecure worm of a man. He uses The Bible to give his bigotry and his contempt for his fellow human beings a veneer of legitimacy. But understand, this tells me nothing about you Christians or what you believe in, just about di Conti.”

Billy contemplated Francis’ words as he too stared out the window. His assessment of di Conti seemed dead on, but why couldn’t the rest of America see the man for what he was? Were they all gullible, or had Trump and others like him conditioned people into not taking politicians seriously anymore? Had this post-truth world dulled people’s judgement?

“Civil war is raging along the West Coast and around the Great Lakes,” Billy said. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead. Millions displaced.”

“Yes, and the public is now considering electing a man open to using nukes to end it.”

“I thought Trump would have taught us the folly of electing demagogues, the dangers of succumbing to our worst fears, but we’ve learned nothing, haven’t we?”

“A lot of people are hurting under your father’s administration.”

Billy exhaled. “Like they did under Obama’s.”

Francis crossed his arms. “Obama thought incrementalism was good enough. He pointed to the stock market as a sign of his success, but the stock market is a poor indicator of economic health, and while we saw job growth under his administration, if you look just below the numbers, you would realize that many paid far less than the jobs that came before them. The Washington elite might have been oblivious to this, but the coal miner or factory worker who lost their jobs because the world is rapidly changing weren’t.”

Billy nodded. “All they saw was an empty bank account and mounting debt.”

“More than that. They lost any sense of meaning. Any sense of purpose.”

“And Trump preyed on that. We survived him. I don’t think we’ll survive di Conti.”

“That’s the fear that keeps me up at night.” Francis turned and once again offered Billy his hand. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. I want you on my team.”

Billy hesitated. Was he ready to commit? What other choices did he have? His father would only lead America further to ruin, whereas Downey…

Billy took his hand, aware that he’d sealed his fate. “Thank you, sir. You won’t regret it.”

Chapter 2: Father and Daughter

Three months later, Mellissa Pavlovich walked down a long corridor at the side of Supreme Inquisitor Abbot, her father. The sounds of swords clashing rang beyond the steel doors at the far end. Abbot made a gesture, and the doors swung open, as if by magic.

They passed them and made their way down a catwalk above a large gymnasium. Fifty feet below, hundreds of Inquisitors trained with swords and guns. They moved with inhuman speed, so fast that many of them deflected bullets with their blades.

Mellissa recalled her own upbringing here, and the various scars it left. She brooded. What had her training made of her? An assassin for a cause she didn’t believe in. She couldn’t care less whether Christianity, Islam or Secularism took over the world. They were human concepts. Human ideals. What had they done but bring her pain and suffering?

Mellissa imagined living a normal life, going on dates and falling in love. She sneered. Like her father or the High Council would ever allow it.

And who would she date? The only male Inquisitor was her father.

Abbot turned. “Your thoughts betray you, daughter. I sense defiance in you.”

Mellissa struggled to keep her emotions in check. She both loved and hated her father. Part of her would never forgive him for killing Aunt Catherina.

Abbot squinted, and Mellissa felt his mind probing hers with his telepathy. She cleared her thoughts, allowing him to see only what she wanted him to see. Her father was powerful, the most powerful telepath among them, but even he had limits.

Abbot frowned. “Your skills are improving. Still, I see in your eyes what I once saw in your aunt’s. Don’t make her mistake. Obey the council without question.”

Mellissa snorted. The council. All but her father were humans. Why did he tolerate them?

“I thought you now led the council, father,” Mellissa said.

Abbot sighed. “I do, but there are things you don’t understand. Advances in cloning have reached the point where we can now mature a fully-grown Inquisitor within a few months. Many on the council feel that we would be better served if we fielded ‘short lived’ clones.”

Mellissa scanned the gymnasium. Many of the combatants looked identical to each other. She strained to see clearly. Was that Aunt Catherina fighting herself?

Mellissa took a step forward, but Abbot grabbed her by the shoulder. “Don’t.”

She stared up at him, horrified. “What have you done?”

“I have resurrected your aunt. Her clones will do what she refused to do in life.”

Mellissa turned and gazed down at the clones. They battled with the same ferocity that her aunt had shown, though they lacked her grace and skill.

Abbot pulled Mellissa towards him. “I have a mission for you.”

“A mission? What kind of mission, father?”

Abbot jabbed a finger into her forehead. A man in his late fifties appeared in her mind: strong, handsome and sporting a peppered-colored beard.

“Francis Downey.” Mellissa gasped. “The charismatic billionaire?”

“Yes. He threatens Grand Inquisitor di Conti’s ascendancy to the presidency and our long-term goal of world domination.”

Mellissa grimaced. “I take it you want me to eliminate him.”

Abbot nodded. They stepped outside onto a balcony overlooking a scorching hot desert. More Inquisitors trained with repurposed tanks. A small army.

“I have mated with countless women over the years,” Abbot said, “but your mother was the only one I ever loved. That didn’t stop the High Council from putting her down when she got too old, as the protocol regarding breeders demands. You are all of her I have left.”

Abbot dipped his head. “I shouldn’t assign you this mission. You’ve just turned thirty, and thus your Inquisitor mating cycle begins. The need to find a mate and reproduce will, in time, become all-consuming. But the council wishes to test your loyalty.”

Mellissa sneered, disgusted. “So, the council too believes I will turn out like my aunt.”

Her father gazed down at her. “Yes. That’s why you must prove them wrong. Understand, daughter, I would hate to see them make clones out of you.”

Mellissa thought of Aunt Catherina. “I understand, father.”

***

Three days later, Billy Wellman sat in a dressing room, sporting a black business suit and a red tie, with a U.S. Air Force pin buttoned on his right side. A woman dabbed powder over his cheeks and then applied gel to his dark curly brown hair.