𝗔 𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗘𝗿𝗮

𝘣𝘺 𝘒𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘯 𝘋𝘦𝘴𝘢𝘪


Ronnie, an athletically built yet mild-mannered accountant, and Brigit, his neighbour, a diminutive housewife, had gathered at a nearby park on a fine summer afternoon to listen to what they assumed would be a mundane government announcement.


They awaited the arrival of their friend Philip, the editor of the community newspaper, whose family they would join for a picnic later that afternoon.


Meanwhile, the crowd gathered, growing into the hundreds.


A short, plump man ascended the podium and launched into a wordy preamble, introducing the new Finance Minister, Earl Hughes, Jr., who was about to deliver his first public announcement.


“Oh, I wish they’d get on with it,” mumbled Brigit under her breath.


Just then, Philip appeared and rushed to take his position among the crowd beside his friends.


“Did I miss anything?” he asked furtively.

“Not really, but what took you so long, mate?” Ronnie’s baritone voice bellowed with its distinct slow intonation.


“Same old — kids got art therapy today and Alice insisted I drop ’em off...”


Just as Philip was about to add more detail to his truthful account of familial responsibilities, the three friends shifted their attention to Earl Hughes Jr., who had stepped up to the podium.


Hughes tapped the microphone gingerly and cleared his throat before he began to speak:


“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to report on the annual revenue from your local mining and refinery operations. Although this year we’ve experienced a severe economic turndown, I’m happy to report that we’ve realized a healthy profit from our revenue streams, all of which has been redistributed to stakeholders in relation to their original investments. The final figure for quarterly profit is three hundred and seventy fi...”


Before Hughes could even finish reporting the numbers, the atmosphere suddenly became saturated with boos, hisses, and growls until finally, several objects began to fly in the direction of the podium.


Ronnie looked his two friends in the eye and roared, “This guy’s a lying piece of shit — he’s hiding something!”


Enraged, the three friends now joined the crowd relentlessly accosting Hughes. One spectator took off her shoes and threw them at Hughes while another took the microphone and started beating him over the head with it. Thud, thud, thud boomed the speakers. Still others launched themselves at Hughes, reaching for his throat, all the while hurling insults and invectives, invariably calling him a liar.


Just then, with a singular motion of his strong arms, Ronnie picked up Brigit and hurled her towards the podium, grinning with delight as the woman flew through the air, defying gravity.


Landing squarely on her feet beside Hughes like a graceful ballerina, Brigit shot a quick nod of gratitude at Ronnie, and in an act quite alien to her character, the petite mother of two children growled fiercely and bit squarely into Hughes’ right thigh, refusing to let go even after her mouth had filled with the sticky, salty-sweet blood of her victim.


Soon, she found herself battling others who wanted a piece of Hughes.


•••


Earl Hughes, Jr. was indeed guilty of deceiving the public. After barely fleeing the press conference alive, he confessed that some of the profits from various community projects under his control had ended up in personal, off-shore accounts.


And that wasn’t the end of it. He also revealed further troubling truths about himself, from marital infidelity to a shocking admission of sexual depravity and bestiality.


That a corrupt, chronic liar like Hughes could rise to the level of minister was an aberration in the second decade of The New Era, as it was called.


That evening, The Great Saviour, founder of the Truth and Veracity Party, and Supreme Leader, a wise, old, august Sweeni Vlac, now about a decade into his life-term as president, addressed the nation.


He began by boasting, as usual of how he had single-handedly sparked the so-called ‘The New Era’ that had greatly reduced the levels of dishonesty in society.


In his usual tone, Vlac summarized with great ideological zeal, his ‘War on Deception’ — the impressive strides that had been made toward honesty since he had been forced, years earlier, to take extreme measures in the face of epidemic levels of corruption and deception.


He also spoke of the work that remained to be done to weed out the various ‘Out-liars’ among the citizenry, who had somehow managed to evade the ray.


•••


The ray...


The ray was a new form of radiation that Vlac claimed to have discovered himself. It could be broadcast at great distances and yet could still be counted on to target particular biological structures, down to a very precise range, as determined by Vlac himself, in this case, the human brain.


It was no secret that by deploying the ray, Vlac had caused widespread brain damage among the public, which had actually been his aim all along — a medium-sized lesion in the left temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex, to be exact, which impacted roughly 96% of the population.


While the effects of the ray had led to some mild to moderate language impairments (along with, in a few cases, much broader cerebral dysfunction), it also gave a majority of people the uncanny, almost superhuman ability to spot a liar from a hundred miles away.


After the ray, not only could citizens detect lies, but their brains were essentially rewired to express uncontrollable violence when they were lied to. The reaction was relative — a harmless white lie might elicit a minor beating whereas a more robust lie or serious forms of deceit would provoke a murderous response, up to an including blind, cannibalistic rage.


Vlac had foreseen that mob rule by legions of angry, human lie detectors would mete out justice more thoroughly and effectively than costly police forces and legal structures with their endless proceedings, inquiries and investigations into uncovering ‘the truth.’


In a way, it was a stroke of genius. Vlac had given the power to the people, but in the process, he had irreversibly damaged their brains!


For 96% of post-New Era citizens, the truth was literally and viscerally self-evident. As such, the old ways would never cut it in The New Era — business and politics were thoroughly revolutionized. Many professions, among them lawyers, telemarketers, marketing execs, public relations personnel, and car salesmen went the way of the dodo.


Almost overnight, the legal and tax codes were abridged from several volumes to a single page.


And Vlac wasn’t finished — the case of Earl Hughes, Jr. had ignited a renewed, crusading spirit in the elder statesman and great architect of The New Era.


That night, Vlac spoke of the serious challenge his administration still faced and spoke of his desire to finally bring ‘Out-liars,’ like Hughes, into the fold.


He particularly scapegoated the deaf, because the ray had not impacted their brains the same way, and he pointed out that they could still engage in deception through sign language.


“A handful of deaf have the power to usurp the Truth and Veracity Party’s goals,” he declared, “The deaf must be dealt with swiftly and severely.”


He also noted the advances made by government scientists in perfecting the ray and building more powerful boosters so that dishonesty could, once and for all, be obliterated from society.


Sweeni Vlac’s pictures were plastered everywhere across the land, as were his most famous catchphrases: Truth over Deception! Liberty through Veracity! Long Live The New Era!


•••


Kennedy Valdis was at home, timing himself as he dismantled and reassembled his shiny, black Heckler & Koch, MP5K 9mm fully automatic submachine gun, going though his well-timed gestures over and over when he saw a shadowy figure of a person on the other side of his apartment’s frosted glass door.


The shadow bent low, slipped a piece of paper through the gap at the bottom of the door and disappeared.


With a cigarette dangling precariously from his mouth, Kennedy placed the weapon on his coffee table and walked over to the door. He picked up and unfolded the note which, as he immediately noticed, was written in the typical chicken scratch of post-New Era, ray-induced dyslexia:


YUOR ATETNDNACE IS RQEIUERD. A MITING HAS BEEN SHCDELEUD FOR TMOMRORWW AT THE UASUL PLAYSE. BE TEHRE @ TOO PM. WE’LL BE ECXPENTIG U. TURTUHFLULY YORZ...


After he set the note ablaze with a lighter and tossed it into a nearby ashtray, Kennedy crouched down to pet his dog Erebus, a strong, beautiful black Labrador mix. Kennedy ran his fingers firmly through the dog’s warm, thick fur.


Erebus tried to attend to his master as best he could, his tongue dangling out, as usual — he had been hit by the ray as a puppy and suffered serious brain lesions. Years earlier, a few days after the powerful initial ray had struck, Kennedy had found Erebus convulsing on the street, taken him in, and slowly nursed him back to health. Alas, the dog’s attention and motor deficits as well as his periodic seizures would be permanent.


“Good boy,” Kennedy intoned, “If only you had found some shelter before the fuckin’ ray hit... But it’s ok, you’re a good boy, aren’t you?”


Erebus licked the top of his master’s hand, glanced up blankly at Kennedy for a moment, placed his head back on his paws and closed his eyes.


“Motherfuckers,” Kennedy hissed under his breath, “Fuck Sweeni Vlac and his War on Deception.” Just then, Erebus turned on his side and began to convulse, his eyes rolling backwards.


“It’s ok, boy, it’s just another seizure — it’ll be over soon,” Kennedy soothed Erebus and tried his best to stabilize him as uncontrollable muscle movements rippled trough his little body, making the dog bounce like a drop of water on a hot skillet.


•••


The next day, Kennedy went to the meeting place as instructed. It was the basement of an abandoned church, on the outskirts of the city.


Naturally, since the beginning of The New Era, churches had been abandoned. Honest priests were mostly spared, given only minor beatings for their lies about God and faith, and were permitted to find another occupation, whereas the chronically dishonest priests met the gruesome fate of being torn to pieces by their congregation on the first Sunday after the ray had been deployed. Either way, churches no longer held a claim to truth, no more than the courts, both made redundant by Sweeni Vlac’s powerful ray.


This particular church was now the temporary headquarters of the group that Vlac referred to as ‘The Out-liars,’ consisting of those who had managed to protect themselves from the ray.


Trying his best to go unnoticed, Kennedy skipped over a fence and walked through a cemetery before finding himself at the backdoor of the rather imposing stone structure.


When Kennedy approached, the large oak door swung open and he was quickly ushered to the basement by a guard.


“Are you armed?” asked the guard.


“Yes,” replied Kennedy, “Just a sidearm, and this...” said Kennedy, pointing to his right fist with his left index finger.


“I was asked not to take any chances, Mr. Valdis,” was the guard’s retort. “Fine, take it,” Kennedy shot back as he handed the man his pistol.


After he was waved through, another set of heavy wooden doors were opened to reveal a grand salon with a checkered floor, surrounded by large, heavy stone columns.


On the wall behind the table was a quote from Hesiod’s Theogony, inscribed into a hanging wooden plaque and boldly written in proper, pre-New Era script:


“Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.”



“Have you seen the view from atop Mount Ida, Noble Shepherd?” a female voice called out, trying to annunciate the words, despite profound deafness.


“I have, but I don’t like the air up there,” Kennedy verbalized, “Too thick with rays!”

“You didn’t recognize me, my dear child?” the woman asked, now signing her words with her hands as she emerged from the shadows.


The woman, who was dressed in flowing gold and purple robes, now extended her arms, inviting Kennedy to embrace her.


“Alethea! My goodness, the years have been kind to you!” Kennedy started gesturing in sign language, his hands moving frantically.


“Don’t mock me, young man!” Alethea responded in sign, smiling, the creases on her face and blotches on her rapidly signing hands revealing her advanced age.


She briefly disengaged from the hug, grasping Kennedy by both his arms, smiling as she looked him up and down, and then pulled him back in for a tighter embrace.


“You’ve grown even stronger,” she signed when they disengaged again.


“Well, it’s been a while since you’ve seen me,” Kennedy moved his hands to express himself.


“From the moment I covered your head with ‘The Cloak of Thoth,’ I knew you would be the prodigal son!” Alethea beamed.


“I can never forget that day, seven years ago when I first laid eyes on you,” she signed, “The image of you, an awkward teenager wandering the streets, totally unaware of the ray that was about to scorch your cerebral cortex... Your image was, oddly, one of defiance mixed with innocence in the face of unspeakable barbarity.”


“You saved me from the ray, Alethea, there’s no doubt about that — my neurons are eternally grateful!” Kennedy smiled and bowed gallantly.


“And what beautiful neurons you must have, my child!” declared Alethea.


“Come, I want you to meet someone,” she signed while leading Kennedy towards the front of the room.


“Kennedy Valdis, this is Yu Li Ying, from the Han Confederacy. He’s not familiar with sign language.”


“Call me Tommy,” said the man, extending his hand.


Another man interpreted what the man was saying in sign language for Alethea.


“Yu Li Ying? Tommy?... ‘You lying to me?!’” Are you kidding me?!” Kennedy exclaimed.


“That’s not actually my name,” the man shot back, throwing hands up in innocence.


“Well done, my child — his name was intended as a test,” exclaimed Alethea, “Forgive me!”


“You must understand, we can’t take any chances these days,” she signed to Kennedy passionately, “If you had been exposed to any booster rays that Vlac likes to dispense randomly at concerts and other gatherings, you would have tried to attack our guest and your brain wouldn’t even have been able to figure out a simple pun like that — we had to make sure you hadn’t been compromised.”


“I see,” signed a mildly dejected Kennedy, holding out a ‘Y’ hand with the wrist tilted slightly backward, palm pointing forward, moving his hand downward a bit forward then back up and down again, the distance of his hand from his body revealing the fact that he had acquired sign language later in life.


•••


“Tommy has taken great personal risks to find us,” Alethea signed to Kennedy, “Nevertheless, I’m not sure I can say that I trust him just yet...”


“Yes, Tommy is my real name,” assured the man, “I am from the Han Confederacy and I come in peace.”


“Well, for one thing, there are no foreigners allowed in Vlac’s kingdom, unless they agree to be zapped — and who the fuck would want that?” Kennedy barked, still a bit annoyed that he had been put to a test.


“That’s easy... I snuck in. In fact, there are many ways of entering and exiting Vlac’s fortress without being caught by the ray at the border provided you put your mind to it,” said the man, pointing to his head with his index finger.


“Luckily for him, one of our people found him before he got himself into any trouble,” Alethea signed, dismissively nodding her head in Tommy’s direction.


“As I told Madame Alethea, I have verifiable intelligence that Sweeni Vlac is planning to deploy his ray on a global scale. We’ve intercepted dialogues between Vlac’s Truth and Veracity Party and upper level officials in the Han Confederacy — we believe some of our people have somehow been converted to Truthism. My mission was to sneak in, notify you, and offer any assistance I could.”


“How can we be sure that Mr. ‘You Lyin’ Tommy’ over here isn’t actually leading us on?” Kennedy signed to Alethea.


“Bring out The Numbskulls!” Alethea commanded with a flourishing of her hands, putting her hand up to her ear and waving it side to side to indicate who she was referring to.


In a matter of seconds, guards paraded out several undernourished, pathetic looking, heavily chained individuals who had been exposed to the heaviest of Vlac’s ray and suffered the most horrendous physical disfigurements combined with severe brain injury.


“Human lie detectors,” Alethea signed with disgust, “Although they’re repulsive and antithetical to all that we stand for, we keep a few on hand for exactly these types of situations.”


“Oh shit!” Kennedy reeled, unable to look at them.


“Now, Tommy, please tell us everything, from the beginning, if you will,” Alethea managed to intone clearly despite her profound deafness signing simultaneously from habit, “As you can see, lying is not an option. Be forewarned, should you bend the truth in the slightest, you will find yourself locked in a small room with these monstrous — and very hungry — Numbskulls!”


“I have absolutely no intention to deceive you,” responded Tommy, unfazed by The Numbskulls.


•••


“So, I suppose he was telling the truth,” Kennedy signed to Alethea, reluctant to fully accept the verdict delivered by the group of drooling Numbskulls who had remained serene throughout Yu’s informal deposition.


“Unless he’s found a way to fool our Numbskulls,” Alethea signed back, lifting a contemplative eyebrow.


“Vlac needs to be stopped,” Kennedy stressed, “We can’t allow that madman to expose innocent people in other countries to his fucking ray.”


“I’m glad to hear you say that, my child. We’ve been training you all these years for this moment — you need to storm the Central Command Complex and take out Vlac, once and for all.”


“I thought you’d never ask!” Kennedy signed gleefully.


“There’s no one else who can pull this off, my child — all our hopes rest on you.”


“I’ve been looking forward to this day,” Kennedy smiled.


“I don’t need to tell you how deranged Vlac is. You saw what he did to Earl Hughes, Jr...”


“Hughes?”


“Yes, Hughes wasn’t one of us, you know that don’t you? He was set up by Vlac.”


“I had an inkling. But how the fuck could he have been set up?”


“We think Vlac might have a ray that can reverse the brain damage,” Alethea signed, “And he uses it on his high level officials... He needs sacrificial lambs and places an army of buffers between himself and the people to cover his own deception.”


“Well, that was a real win for Vlac,” Kennedy signed back, “Not only did he frame Hughes for embezzling money that was destined for his own accounts, he also used Hughes to launch a crusade against us and justify further deployments of the ray.”


“Excellent, my child, you’ve figured it out! But the events also raise a complication,” Alethea signed with her hands, “After the Hughes debacle, they’ve placed brain scanners in all public buildings and they’re checking everyone to make sure their left temporal lobe is thoroughly scarred.”


“That’s not good.”


“Fortunately for us, our new friend from the Han Confederacy has brought us a nifty piece of technology that can fool the scanners... However, it will require some minor brain surgery, Kennedy — I hope you’re okay with that.”


“Oh sure, implanting foreign technology into my brain, what could go wrong?!” Kennedy signed while smiling playfully, “Let’s go for it!”


“I’m leaving you in the capable hands of our doctors — the only medics left in the land — I trust them with my life, and so should you.”


And with that, Alethea turned and walked out of the room.


•••


“Mr. Valdis, wake up!” Kennedy heard the phrase being repeated, chiming and echoing through his brain.


“The surgery was a success,” the doctor grinned, “Your reflexes seem fine and I’ll need to give you a verbal and written test to make sure your language skills are intact, but it seems everything is in order.”


“Great, doc, but I’m still a bit disoriented.”


“That’s just a side effect of the anesthesia — should be gone in a few minutes,” said the doctor, “Now, Mr. Valdis, even though the surgery went well, we can’t be certain that the device will fool the scanners. You see, we don’t have any of their machines here to do a test run.”


“If Tommy says it’ll work, then it’ll work,” Kennedy replied, recalling Tommy’s honest testimony in front of The Numbskulls.


“Amazing piece of technology, really,” said the doctor.


Kennedy, noticing the scan on the wall, asked, “Is that my brain scan?”


“Indeed it is,” the doctor explained, “You see the dark patch over here on the left hemisphere — that’s the lesion Vlac’s ray produces,” said the doctor.


“And notice here,” he continued, “the thickened nerve projections into the amygdala, in the limbic system... Even though you haven’t been zapped, the device we implanted at the base of your skull fools all types of scanners to display the telltale scars of the ray, fortunately, without the horrific behavioural side-effects.”


“I’ve always wondered, doc — how does a black spot on the brain turn people into raving, cannibalistic lunatics when they hear a lie?”


“Well, that’s easy,” replied the doctor, “When we listen to spoken language, our brains try to make sense of the words, which drowns out the tonal quality of what’s being said. Vlac’s ray scars the language comprehension areas, amplifying the tonal qualities of what people hear, allowing them to detect the subtle tonal trademarks of a lie. And with the thickening of associative pathways into the midbrain, this brings out uncontrollable, animalistic rage in a person when they’re lied to.”


‘The ray of truth will set you free,’ that’s how Vlac describes it, doc!” cackled Kennedy with sarcasm.


“The ray is a devious and very specific method of mutilating the human brain, Kennedy. And to do it to millions, without accounting for differences in brain size and unique morphology of cerebral sulci and gyri, causing widespread damage... Well, that’s just criminally insane.”


As if on cue, Alethea walked into the recuperation area where Kennedy was now sitting up on the edge of his hospital bed, nurses removing various tubes from his body.


“I was told the surgery went well,” she signed.


“I’m good to go,” declared a triumphant Kennedy.


“There’s a final bit of training that you require before embarking on this mission, my child,” Alethea added, “Once you’re finished here, I’ll be waiting for you downstairs.”


•••


“We’ve spent years developing this device,” Alethea confided to Kennedy.


“We call it ‘The Simulatrix,” she explained, spelling out the letters one by one in sign language, her eyes pointing to a helmet studded with electrodes attached to a box, “When you put this on, you will enter Vlac’s brain and get a glimpse of how his twisted mind works — you will gain access, albeit briefly, to his memories and innermost thoughts.”


“You will need this knowledge to outsmart him,” she added with emphasis.


With that, she placed the helmet gently on Kennedy’s head and instructed him to relax.


“Just sit back, my child, the machine will do the rest. When you’re done, a car will come for you and take you to Vlac’s compound in the Central Command Complex.”


With that, Alethea kissed Kennedy delicately on the cheek and wished him luck, “The next time we meet, this fucking New Era will be over,” she signed, “It will remain only as a nightmare in our collective memories.”


“Either that or I’ll be dead,” signed Kennedy, eliciting a frown from Alethea.


“I will not let you down,” he corrected, moving his fingers and hands deftly to express himself, as his eyes went blank and he fell deeply into the abyss of Vlac’s convoluted mind.


•••


Hours later, a dark sedan dropped Kennedy off at the Central Command Complex. Kennedy exited the vehicle calmly, heading straight for the main doors.


Once inside, he found himself in an expansive atrium humming with activity.


He took a moment to look around while trying not to appear conspicuous. On the main wall, written larger than life in Latin was the phrase, Veritas radium mea — ‘The truth is my ray.’ The phrase was flanked by The Truth and Veracity Party’s emblem, a red satellite dish aimed at the sky.


All the other signs in the building were written in the regular, post-ray dyslexia.


Kennedy proceeded directly to the security checkpoint to gain access to the Truth and Veracity Party’s inner sanctum.


“We’re required to ask, have you had any brain surgery recently?” asked a guard.


Kennedy was stunned by the question. He knew the guards were dimwits, selected for their ferocity when confronted with a lie, but he was half certain he’d be found out if he were questioned deeply.


“Brain surgery?” he parroted the guard, incredulously.


A few more guards wandered over, probably sensing the faint tones of deceit in the air, surrounding Kennedy in a semi-circular fashion.


Just then, to the side, a man who had just been caught in a serious lie seconds ago was being devoured by guards, each one taking turns biting his flesh, causing spurts of fresh, crimson arterial blood to splatter everywhere. A few of the guards who had come to screen Kennedy drifted off to take in the grisly scene, which gave them a perverse sense of pleasure.

That unfortunate man, now on his way to a painful martyrdom, was no doubt sent by Alethea to serve as a distraction.


Kennedy mumbled a soft ‘thank you’ under his breath to his guardian angel — Alethea could help him up to this point, but from now on, Kennedy would be on his own.


“In answer to your question, officer,” Kennedy said coolly, regaining the guards’ attention, “You know very well that practically no one has the ability to perform such complex medical procedures in our glorious New Era.”


That seemed to do the trick.


The remaining guards began to calm down when he responded with simple truisms.


Fuck it, Kennedy thought to himself, from now on it nothing but the truth.


“What’s the purpose of your visit?” another guard snarled.


“I’m here on an important mission — and after I’m done, our country will be a much better place,” Kennedy replied.


The guards relaxed some more.


“One final question — are you in possession of any arms?”


“Absolutely,” Kennedy said, pointing to his left and right fists, in turn with the index finger of his opposite hands.


The guards laughed and drooled a bit, ultimately waving him through, commanding him to move along.


•••


Once inside the labyrinthine complex, Kennedy found he could navigate the corridors easily thanks to having experienced a simulation of Vlac’s mind.


He made his way directly to Vlac’s office on the top floor, easily passing through another checkpoint by telling the truth that he was there to complete a critical mission.


When he arrived outside Vlac’s office, Vlac’s male secretary asked if Kennedy had an appointment.


With great dexterity and swiftness, Kennedy grabbed the back of the secretary’s head and smashed it into the desk, rendering him unconscious. Then he tied the man up, gagged him, and shoved him into a supply closet.


For Kennedy, the moment of truth had arrived — Sweeni Vlac was behind the next set of doors.


Kennedy kicked the doors open and stormed in.


He immediately recognized the skinny figure of the frail dictator standing behind his desk looking out the window, his back turned to Kennedy.


“I was expecting you,” Vlac said, enunciating the words slowly and deliberately, “I’m not armed — you wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man in the back, would you, Mr. Valdis? ...Much less the Supreme Leader and Great Saviour of this nation?”


“Your scanners are good, but your info was received just a tad too late, otherwise I wouldn’t be holding you at gunpoint,” said Kennedy, “Now move away from the desk and come around to this side!”


“I suppose there is no use reasoning with you, pointing out the strides we have made in creating a truthful society. I suppose you want to throw that all away — typical anarchist that you are, insolent Out-liar.” Vlac hissed like a snake.


“You’re right, asshole, there’s no point,” Kennedy glared, “I won’t be swayed by your highbrow, Truthist bullshit. All I need are my two eyes to see the damage you’ve done to the people down there.”


“This is where your little misadventure ends, anarchist!” Vlac declared.


A sudden flash of metal in Vlac’s hand made Kennedy instinctively dive behind a heavy column, but he was a millisecond too late — the ray had grazed him and he felt a faint numbness at the base of his skull.


•••


“The brain wars have hardly begun! My ray will redefine humanity in ways that an insignificant, mendacious rebel like yourself can hardly imagine, fool!” Vlac yelled, pointing the ray gun at Kennedy.


Kennedy raised his arms to protect his face.


“You should’ve shot me when you had the opportunity, you degenerate anarchist,” said Vlac menacingly, “Now tell me, vermin, who sent you here and where are your fellow Out-liars hiding!?”


“Or what!? You gonna eat me?” Kennedy spat blood, lowering his arms.


“See this weapon in my hand? Another shot from it will turn you into a dribbling idiot,” Vlac hissed.


Just then, Vlac’s guards entered the office, weapons ready.


“I’ll handle this scumbag myself,” Vlac turned his head to yell in their direction.


Before anyone could act, however, Kennedy’s dog Erebus burst through the door growling and latched his jaws onto one of the guard’s arms, bringing him down.


Taking advantage of the distraction, Kennedy swivelled on his back, executing a type of break dance maneuver, and with a swift, singular movement, retrieved his machine gun and began to spray the guards with bullets.


The guards fell, one by one.


Then he jumped up onto his feet and kicked the ray gun out of the aging dictator’s hand.


Kennedy looked Vlac in the eye and delivered a powerful punch to his face, knocking him out cold.


Finally, he called Erebus over and pet his dog vigorously, “Good boy!” he exclaimed.

“But I know I got you once with my ray,” Vlac managed to say as he regained consciousness, still in a partial daze.

“The implant protected me,” Kennedy replied, “You have some powerful enemies in the Han Confederacy and they are even more committed than your enemies here.”


“The Han — they’re animals,” Vlac spewed.


After a bit of a struggle, Vlac suddenly realized that he was restrained in his desk chair — Kennedy had tied him down tightly.



Next, Kennedy walked over to a television camera in Vlac’s office and flipped the switch, making the cameras go live, instantly broadcasting to every TV set in the realm.


“You’re a snake Vlac, and now everyone’s going to see exactly what you really are...”

“Fuck you, you dishonest, Out-liar piece of shit!” Vlac managed, spit flying from his mouth like venom.


“We’ll see who’s the dishonest one,” Kennedy said, looking directly at the lens of the camera. “The people love me — I’m their Supreme Leader!” screamed Vlac.


“Then, won’t you tell the good people, Supreme Leader, about your secret bank accounts under various aliases,” Kennedy demanded.


“Secret what!? What accounts?”


“Tell them your real name, then — it’s Calvin Eews! Sweeni Vlac is merely your name read backwards! No one noticed that clever lie, because technically, it’s not really a lie.”

“No!”


“You’re no scientist — you were a preacher before you became ‘Supreme Leader!’ That’s right, Calvin, tell them how you stole the plans of the ray and killed the originators, who were planning to use it to heal people!”


“You are insane!”


“How about telling the people about all your mistresses and how you have been deceiving your wife!”


“Absurd!”


“Tell them that you can reverse the effects of the ray from those you see fit and use them to get what you want!”


Vlac was silent this time.


“Go on, tell the people how you used Earl Hughes Jr. to line your own pockets!”


“I did no such thing,” Vlac mumbled.


After this final denial, one of Vlac’s guards, barely alive and bleeding profusely, became enraged and began to slowly claw his way towards Vlac, intending to attack him.


Kennedy stood over the guard and put him out of his misery with a clean shot between the eyes.


•••


“You see, it’s no use, Vlac,” said Kennedy, turning to Vlac, “The whole world is watching and you’re sending unconscious signals despite your best efforts — the emperor is naked and your human lie detectors know that you’ve been deceiving them!”


“Now, tell the people how you never used the ray on yourself, you cowardly, hypocritical scumbag,” commanded Kennedy.


“I did, but I did — I was the first guinea pig... to — to — to prove its safety and efficacy!” Vlac squirmed.


“Well, in that case, I was among the first group of men to set foot on the moon,” said Kennedy.

“What? What are you talking about?”


“Yes, my mother was Mona Lisa; she was a model and she posed for DaVinci,” Kennedy continued, telling one obvious lie after another.


Vlac smiled nervously, “I don’t see what you’re getting at,” he said.


“I just lied to you, twice! And they were big lies!” Kennedy responded, “And you didn’t even flinch — admit that you’re a fraud and you might leave this room alive.”


“I’m finished,” said Vlac, hanging his head low.


Vlac followed this up with a final, pusillanimous attempt to escape his fate: “Listen, I’ll make you the new Minister of Truth — it seems you’re a decent person!” he told Kennedy, his eyes begging for mercy, “You can have all the money you want!"


Kennedy let out a hearty laugh.


“It’s over, Vlac. If you want to avoid a slow, agonizing death at my hands, you’re going to tell me what I need to do to reverse the brain damage caused by the ray,” Kennedy demanded.


After Vlac had told him what he needed to know, Kennedy guided him down the halls of the Central Command Complex and brought him outside, where a large crowd had gathered, growling.


“After I’m done here, I’m going to reverse the polarity of the ray and heal the people whose brains you’ve damaged,” said Kennedy turning to Vlac, “But I’m afraid the end of the New Era won’t arrive fast enough to save your worthless ass!”


With that, Kennedy threw the dictator into the crowd, watching with satisfaction as he was torn to pieces by monstrous human lie detectors of his own making.



Kirtan Desai (they/them) is an interstellar fan of science fiction and fantasy who dabbles in writing speculative fiction and poetry. They live with their cat Jonesy and alternate between Earth and Altair VI.


A Speculative fiction ZINE