There was a full moon out so the ambient light was good. Diana flipped off the thermal imagining and relied on the external camera. She zoomed in on the approaching humanoids. The first images shocked and amazed her.
There standing in the field were what appeared to be humans. They were humans in the basic physical form. The adults stood between five and half to six feet. As you would expect, the children's height varied by age. All of the humans had skin that was an alabaster white, which tended to reflect the moonlight with a slight luminescence. Diana looked down at her own creamy brown skin. No doubt, her skin color would seem as strange to them as theirs did to her.
Even stranger was the fact that they wore no clothing and their bodies were completely devoid of hair. Not even a wisp on the heads of the males or even the females. However, the most marvelous detail of all was their eyes.
The eyes of the queer humanoids were easily three times as large as a normal human's eyes. The irises had no color pigment, just the pink found in albinos. Diana felt a shiver run up her spine looking at the creatures that were so familiar and yet oddly alien.
"This is us?" Major Tom whispered.
Diana nodded her head. She knew that evolution tended to take quick long leaps based on environmental factors. Did humans become nocturnal albinos from living underground after a nuclear holocaust? Surely, the decades long nuclear winter that followed reinforced this new trait. Their faces now resembled the Tarsiers of Madagascar more than they did their own human ancestors.
"Major, raise the navigational shields."
"Yes, ma'am," Tom replied softly keeping his eyes glued to the monitor.
They watched the humanoids all night. The humanoids still communicated with each other, but their language had evolved enough that Tom and Diana could not make anything out from the recordings they took. They also tended to act more animalistic than human. Tool use was back to the basics of early man and the small tribe looked upon the Zephyr with curiosity and fear. Long before sunrise, they left the glade.
Diana and Tom went to their bunks and slept a restless sleep filled with the dreams of hairless, frog-eyed humans walking around with wooden spears. It was still late morning before Diana awoke. Even though she had less than eight hours of sleep over the last couple of days, she could no longer stay in bed. Her mind was racing with questions about how this strange world came to be.
Without waking the sleeping Major, Diana slipped out of her bunk and entered the cockpit. She sat in her flight chair and looked up the progress report of what computer had determined. Diana was surprised to find that the DVDs had faired better than she expected. The computer attained more information off them than she thought was possible after the ravages of war and time.
With a sinking heart, she read over the analysis. Diana was so engrossed in the reading that she did not realize she had been there for over two hours until Tom walked up behind her.
"Find anything out?" Tom asked giving Diana a slight start.
"Yes, Tom," Diana said sadly. "You better take a seat."
Tom sat down in his chair and looked at the colonel. If the colonel had used his first name, Tom new that something was dreadfully wrong. "This is serious, huh?"
"I'm afraid so," Diana replied and sat there trying to find the words of how to begin.
"I've got more information about that dictatorship I was talking to you about. It was not Mexico or Brazil. Tom, I don't know how to tell you this, but it was the United States."
"What? How? When?" Tom sputtered out the questions. His brain was still trying to grapple with the idea that the United States of America, the poster child for freedom had wound up like Nazi Germany. It simply was not possible.
"I don't know where to begin," Diana faltered.
"When did the war begin?" Tom asked straight out staring Diana right in the eyes.
"The final exchange happened sometime in the year 2075 if we base it on the last report that I was able to find."
"You are telling me that the U.S. and the U.K. became mortal enemies just a few years after we launched the Zephyr?" Tom shook his head. It was impossible.
"That's what is strange; according to the report the U.S. had been becoming more autocratic for decades."
Tom just stared at Diana. He could not form any words. His mind was at a standstill trying to comprehend the bombshell the colonel had just landed in his lap.
Diana turned towards the monitor and pointed to the screen. "According to this, the United States had set up concentration camps to take care of dissidents. They would round up troublemakers and have them just simply disappear off the face of the earth. ` "The government monitored personal phone calls and emails, and libraries and postal workers kept tabs on their customers. Neighbors would watch neighbors and anyone thought to be suspicious the government instantly rounded up and imprisoned without due process."
"When did this begin?" The major asked in a sullen voice.
"Remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks?"
"Yeah, my grandfather told me of them often. He told me of how we went into Afghanistan and defeated the Taliban. Utilizing the global goodwill that the U.S. had attained after the attacks and the combined efforts of all nations lead to the defeat of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. We even had our national debt paid off within ten years of the year 2000. Because of that we were able fund this space program with your country."
"Major, this is where it gets very strange. History as we know it changes here. After Afghanistan the U.S. invaded Iraq."
"Why? There were no Iraqis among the terrorists in the al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center."
"True, but there were many reason given. Most of the excuses to go to war turned out to be false. However, they public did not find out about it until after the fact of going to war with Iraq. Nonetheless, by going to war with Iraq, al Qaeda found a new breeding ground for terror groups. Your country went in record debt funding the war. It even ran ads on the tellie supporting the war. Many people in the Middle East felt that the U.S. was going to invade them so they decided to fight back. Therefore, things escalated.
"As more terrorist attacks exploded around the world the U.S. surrendered more civil liberties for the sake of security. The president assumed more power and congress became a mere spectator. People were persuaded to vote in certain ways by using fear tactics. Before long, the American citizen had voted away their rights and voted in a dictator.
"The U.S. government also did away with the Geneva conference conduct of war. Prisoners were tortured and humiliated. Soon it just was not just terrorists; it became criminals, and then even ordinary citizens. The same thing happened with phone tapping.
"The U.S. then started to solve all its problems by going to war. Every citizen at the age of eighteen had to join the military for a mandatory four-year enlistment. The United States occupied Mexico and much of Central and South America this way, not to mention most of the oil-laden countries of the Middle East. Even a war with North Korea erupted. This is when France and Germany stood up to the U.S.
"Soon France and Germany had been reduced to nuclear cinders. The rest of Europe and Canada declared war on the U.S. The result you see outside your window."
Major Tom sat there silently looking down at his feet. This never happened in the world from where he came. This was simply impossible. Then something else hit him.
"The flash! When the quantum flux matrix malfunctioned, it did not just send us into to the future. It sent us to an alternate timeline."
"That's how I see it, Major."
"Then the odds of us getting back to our time and place are very remote."
Colonel Diana nodded her head in agreement. "But we have to try. If for no other reason that to find a better place than this."
Major Tom looked up to Diana, "Colonel?"
"I still don't understand how it all started."
"Major, look at who the records say was the president during the first eight years of 21st century."
"That's not possible; he lost that election in 2000."Posted by deg at March 23, 2006 8:30 PM