Hope in the 23rd Century

H.O.P.E. IN THE 23RD CENTURY

CHAPTER 1

Regina bit down on a chickle stick releasing its sweetness when something struck her from the right. She, the gum stick, and her purse sprawled across the airport breezeway floor. The man lying nearby sat up as two armed security officers rushed toward him.

“Stop!” one security officer yelled, thrusting out a hand laser. “Stop that man!”

People scattered as Regina struggled to stand, her eyes glazing over from the impact. The man sprang up and slid one arm around her neck. She watched as he thrust a twentieth-century handgun toward the two jogging officers. Every muscle in her body knotted up.

“Stop right there, or I’ll kill this girl.” Cleaning the cobwebs from her brain, Regina couldn’t process the events fast enough.

“Let her go,” one officer said, as though he was having a friendly discussion. “Give us the weapon, and we’ll work this thing out.”

“No!” The man backed away increasing the choke hold around Regina’s neck. “The H.O.P.E. Union of Nations is trying to take over every country on Earth. Down with Humans on Planet Earth. Freedom for God’s world and God’s people!”

The man waved his gun. “I want you two H.O.P.E. dopes to throw down your lasers.” As Regina regained clear thinking, she calculated that the officers’ hesitation indicated they were concocting a plan.

“Do it now!” the man said, plunging the gun muzzle against Regina’s temple. The full impact of the situation hit her like a landslide, and it almost stopped her heart. Her air intake quivered with staccato-like gulps until her lungs nearly exploded.

One of the guards stepped forward. “There’s no need to involve an innocent girl. Release her and—”

The man pointed the weapon and discharged it, hitting the approaching officer’s leg.

The explosion stung Regina’s ears. “No! What are you doing?”

The man shoved the gun against Regina’s temple again. She sucked in her breath only to discover the fresh air poisoned with gunpowder. “Shut up! Just shut up!”

Regina nodded, and then noticed her arms shaking.

The wounded officer had dropped to the floor and grabbed his leg. Groaning, he gawked at the pool of blood accumulating near it. Regina gasped and almost fainted.

“Okay … okay!” the uninjured guard yelled. He dropped his laser and stepped back with his arms slightly raised. “Please, mug, no more shooting.”

“Get his laser.” The man waved his weapon at the wounded officer.

The standing officer stooped over his injured comrade and reached for the weapon. “All right. I’ll do anything you say. Just don’t hurt the girl.”

“Easy! Real easy now, or the next shot will blow a hole in this girl’s skull.” The man’s voice shook like a volcano about to erupt. The uninjured officer eased the hand laser from his partner. He lifted it pinched between two fingers as if it were a vile of nitroglycerin. The mug swung his handgun around to the uninjured officer.

Regina couldn’t tolerate the tension any longer.

How can this happen to me? How can a right-wing terrorist gain entry to one of our airports?

She inhaled short, jerky breaths and remembered what her father always said, “When facts were obscured with non-reason, that was the time to act.” Regina gulped deeply and tried to think of a way to act.

“Now, drop it!” The terrorist shoved the barrel against Regina’s temple again, but the officer hesitated as though he had conceived of a plan utilizing his comrade’s laser while he still held it.

He’s calculating the risk! I can see it in his face!

The man banged the gun barrel off Regina’s head a few times.

“Ow!” she screamed.

The officer threw out his hands. “Okay! Take it easy.”

The terrorist’s gun clicked as he drew back the trigger. Regina stopped breathing and stared into the officer’s eyes as she watched him weigh his chances.

I have to do something, or it will end in the termination of my life. “Why are you doing this to me?”

The man butted his forehead against the back of her skull. “Because I have faith in our God that He will deliver our people from your bondage if my people help Him. The great ductor helps those who help themselves.”

Ductor?” Regina said.

“Our merciful God.”

Regina shook her head. “I read about your group. You’re right-wing, fundamentalists bent on keeping the world from unifying under one human banner.”

“Racing us prematurely to the end times.”

Regina pulled up one arm and eased her hand on the man’s forearm around her neck. He smacked it away with the gun barrel. “You’re secretly based in the underdeveloped nations waiting to come into the H.O.P.E. Union. Why must innocent citizens of H.O.P.E. be subjected to such terrorism?”

“To keep you from taking over the world and alienating it from God.”

Regina panted. “B-B-But most people of religion l-l-live happily in H.O.P.E. where they are fr-fr-free to practice their b-b-beliefs.”

He dug the barrel deeper into Regina’s scalp. “They have been tricked, because they are not true believers. They no longer evangelize. The entire world should be united all right … under the banner of our great and powerful ductor.”

While the man spoke, Regina slipped her left foot behind his. She leaned backwards, and, as the man lost his balance, she lifted her left leg raising his higher, spun, and smashed her left elbow into his throat.

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