SEVENTY-NINE, 2.0

I knew. When the sky lit up red and yellow and then white, I just knew. No one else can claim that. They’ll tell you they knew, and that they yelled it from the rooftops and all of that nonsense.  But I actually knew.

What did I know? I can’t say specifically. I’m not restricted from saying, I just really don’t know the specifics. I’m not knowledgeable enough to break it all down. The technical aspects of it all are beyond my simple mind’s comprehension.

The Philosopher II was one of a kind, everyone knows that. Out of hundreds of people who worked on it, I don’t know any of them personally. All of those workers must now be depressed, likely blaming themselves.

Well, almost all of them. See, I just overheard a couple of them a short time before the explosion. That’s how I knew, how I saw it coming. But I didn’t do enough, once I knew. Maybe that means I’m as complicit as the rest of them.

When I’d overheard the workers at the pub, I thought they were talking about the latest Tesla model or some other such machine, something unimportant that might just lead to a factory recall within a few months and then everyone would forget about it. But no, they were actually talking about the Philosopher II Space Shuttle.

The general public, if you recall, didn’t invest much time or interest in the Philosopher program. The peace-keeping missions were a turn-off to the war mongers and profit-hungry divisions of the U.S. Government. No one really believed that peace could be achieved with the alien races discovered around Saturn.  But since we couldn’t know for sure without actually traveling to them and trying to communicate, world leaders felt it was wholly necessary to start the Philosopher missions.

Philosopher I, it is known, made it to Saturn, but our crew had failed to awaken from Cryo-sleep in time to start up the ship’s central computer. This was a tragedy, though there are still some who call it a conspiracy, who think the aliens actually killed our crew before they could radio home for help. There are 6 hours of dead-air, static-filled nonsense from the time the ship arrived at its destination to the time all power was shut off. The computer systems had been waiting for human coding to be entered to continue running, an emergency security measure that was meant to ensure that any secrets on board would remain known only to humans.

Again, the conspiracy rumors are nonsense. I should know, since I started them all.  Yes, I was against the program from the start. Not for profit motive or because I’m a supporter of war, or that I distrust the aliens. Not entirely, anyway.

No, I just wanted to be left alone. There is too much fighting on our own planet, and not enough sensible talk. Why bother spending time, energy, money to communicate with an alien race, something that could possibly take hundreds of years, when we could instead build bridges with each other, on this planet. Why not put the effort there?

So I created the theories around the Philosopher I crew’s deaths, and built a lot of traction. And then Philosopher II was commissioned and nations around the world started working together. I had failed to convince people about the alien killers, and after a time even I thought the theories were bogus. I had been labeled a nut-job, and basically ignored enough over time that I could start over, anywhere I wanted, even with the same name.

But then I heard about the Philosopher II’s problems, and no one would listen. Even though they were real problems. There were going to be mechanical issues, the men said.

Engineers, I figured they were, and they were loud and boisterous in the pub, but the rest of the bar ignored them. I gathered they worked in the plant that had built the rocket engines that would take the ship out of earth’s atmosphere, and decided to listen more closely. They talked about the plans for the rockets, and the new kind of fuels being utilized.

Then the tall one, named Roger, said that he’d received his final payment and that the other one, Steve, should cash in as well.

“On what?” Steve asked.

“Just tinker a bit, make sure the ship doesn’t make it out of the atmosphere.”

Steve seemed annoyed more than pissed off, and just laughed and shook his head, “Why the hell would we do that?”

“They want it to fail. Don’t ya see? Think of all the things the aliens could be bringing to us. To earth. A lot of harmony. Something bigger than ourselves, that answers more questions than asked. The chaos, the madness. People would ignore God, and when you start to think there’s no God, you only have anarchy. They don’t want anarchy. War, they can deal with. But chaotic, unpredictable anarchy? That’s the end of all things.”

Steve had gone quiet, staring into his beer. He promptly drank it and left the pub, not uttering another word.

Roger then looked at me, raised his glass. “To the Philosopher II.” I nodded in return, mind turning over.

How could I not say anything? This would be a disaster.

Despite my early views and theories on the whole venture, why would I want to intentionally not tell the press, or the people, about their beloved government’s desire to allow the deaths of dozens of scientists and innocent people?

But the few outlets I spoke to ignored, me, thought me a kook again, and stripped me of credibility and humility in front of their employees. When I wrote to government representatives, the only response I received was a mundane general letter, “Thank you for your concern.”

And now, here we are, the remnants of the Philosopher II cascading down to the oceans, a ship blown to a billion pieces because people grew afraid, and mindful of their power.  I won’t rest until everyone knows the truth.

You can read this and ignore it, or you can do a little digging on your own. Find the workers, the engineers who did their jobs in building this rocket and hunt them down and ask them, “Did you do your job?” Find the one with the shifty eyes, the sweat on his brow, and the flicker of fear on his face.

That’s the man who will tell you everything even, when he says nothing.

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