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If We Talk

Not that far in the future, a few years after the kids learned to use surface-plus computers…the Armed Forces of Earth offered a course called War Animation for Peace (WAP).

The course was a hit with the younger cyber crowd. It took six years of intense dedication and you learned how to annihilate computer-generated space invaders.

If you passed you got a great condo with golden skylights, an air truck and a hunk of spending money. You worked six hour shifts, four days on ─ four days off…and had a holiday every three months. You could go to almost any place on earth or the moon for R & R.

They called you a WAPER (War Animation for Peace Employee Patriot). You worked in a cool WAP module that was big enough to house a dozen old fashioned 747s. Except there were no 747s. Just two thousand other WAPERs.

You hung out in an ergonomic leather chair, under green tinted lights and you concentrated on three screens in front of you.

The air was lovely with extra oxygen to keep you sharp and it reminded you of a lemon grove.

The screens showed computer-generated attackers headed toward us.

These images were developed by the Armed Forces to teach earthlings how to repel a real, honest-to-goodness space invasion in the unlikely event one ever happened. It was the ultimate computer-war simulation game.

Runners brought you food and drink. You could even get a massage. Your job was to destroy the incoming computer generated warships, even though they did not always seem that hostile. Some were advanced stealth vehicles.

Sometimes you worked alone and sometimes when the imaginary enemy seemed to overwhelm earth, your fellow WAPERs came to your aid. After each victory you were awarded goodies — everything from a year’s supply of chocolate chip cookies to a new speed boat.

Everything was hunky-dory as long as you took your job seriously and followed the various directives. (The seventh directive prohibited communication with the incoming phantom attackers.)

And who would be stupid enough to open up such a communication, because the Armed Forces would punish you. No one ever tested the directive because all of the WAPERS had been given extensive personality scans.

There was, however, a way you could cheat the test. Becki Dunlop, WAPER second class, had not really cheated, she just hadn’t told the complete truth and on the day of the scan there was some minor hiccup in the software. After all, it was made by a company that had at one time been called Microsoft.

Becki was a borderline rebel. A bit of a trouble maker. She started a conversation with one of the so-called incoming cyber attackers.

Becki probably wanted to get found out and fired for she was bored with the endless games and war theories and she did not like her condo anymore, she was not even allowed to repaint it.

She felt bad because she knew what a great disappointment her failure would be to her parents and her brother and her sister.

Maybe not her sister, her sister had always known Becki was a trouble maker and had never forgiven her for making life miserable when a new boyfriend showed up.

On Sunday at 4:17 PM Director Brainwaite’s face appeared on all 6,000 WAP monitors.

He talked in that warmly father voice of his, a voice that you could trust, a voice that inspired devotion. “My dear brave Wapers,” he said. “On behalf of the our Forces I want to thank each of you for your efforts and dedication.”

He brushed perspiration from his forehead. “Some of you have suspected that the computer animation space vehicles you have repelled over the years are in fact authentic craft from a distant galaxy.”

Many of the WAPERs exchanged glances. Were their suspicions true? They didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“We could not give you the full information concerning the invaders you have encountered,” continued the director. “You would have cracked under the pressure.”

That meant that the simulation games were fake. The WAPERs had been fighting some kind of space invaders. Wow!

One of the WAPERS raised his hand, asked, “What about the theory that the invaders were coming in peace?”

“The chance was only 63 percent,” said the director. “A risk that we could not take.” “So we killed thousands of voyagers?” asked another WAPER.

“Yes,” said the director. “Regrettably, our figures were flawed. The invaders, or voyagers as you call them, escaped their own world before a supernova destroyed it.

“They wanted to co-exist with us. They wanted to become a part of our world. This is one of the few places in the universe they could exist. Where life has a chance.”

“Then we better stop killing them,” said another WAPER.

“Oh, that we could,” said the director. “They have determined that we are too savage. An hour ago they released a combined Theta Ray.”

On every WAPER screen a blue light appeared. It grew larger and bluer.

“What does that light mean?” asked another WAPER.

The director sighed. “It has no adverse effect on plant life and will actually cure what little global warming we have. Tragically when the blue light envelopes earth, all humans will evaporate.”

“What if we tell them we are sorry and we made a terrible mistake and beg them for a chance to live?” asked Becki.

“Too late — we have had no chance to communicate with them,” said the director.

“I’ve been talking to one,” said Becki. “He has been talking to me.”

“That’s against the rules,” said the director.

The blue light on the screens became bluer.

“I’m sorry,” said Becki. “And while I’m apologizing I should say I am also sorry that I left my communications link open and the voyagers just heard everything we said.”

“Oh, that it were possible,” said the director.

At that instant the intense blue lights on all the WAPER screens became a lighter blue, just like the hue before dawn. The blue light disappeared.

“All things are possible,” said a voyager’s voice over Becki’s headset. “If we talk instead of destroy.”

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