The Hope Machine

Chapter 1 - Victor Vice

Victor Vice was the undisputed toughest man on the planet. Victor Vice made his living inside a steel cage. He was the Martial Arts Fist Fighting champion of the world. Victor had very humble beginnings though. He had a tough childhood, came from an abusive home, was in trouble at school, and eventually with the law. Somehow his life was saved when he walked into the gym one day and took up fighting.

Victor Vice had a hostility like no one had ever seen. He wrapped up all of his internal anger and rage, and transferred it into beating every opponent that he came across. He became so legendary, and so fearsome, that once an opponent forfeited his fight when Victor Vice gave him a stare down during weigh in.

Victor became very wealthy from fighting. His brutality earned him millions. He bought himself a mansion, a collection of sports cars, married a beautiful wife, and had millions of adoring fans. But one thing money could never buy for Victor Vice was happiness.

Victor Vice was always in a bad mood. When he wasn't angry, he was sad. When he wasn't sad, he was afraid. Victor frequently argued with his trainers. He had a bad relationship with his manager, who charged him double the average rate for putting up with him. He had a poor relationship with his wife who spent most of her time avoiding him. The only times they were together was for public functions. Victor spent most of his time between fights alone in his home gym training for the next fight.

Then one day things changed. Victor had just received a delivery of gym equipment. Seconds after he had closed his front door he heard another knock.
“What did you forget!” Victor hollered through the door.
“I didn't forget anything Mr. Vice. I have everything I need with me right now.”
Victor opened the door. “Who are you and what do you want.”
“My name is Dr. Archibald Berger. I'm a researcher at University Hospital downtown. I'm working on a new device that allows people to go back into their past while they're sleeping and work out their past traumas. My goal is to give people hope for a happier life. (pause) I've seen you on TV, your interviews. You have a lot of anger, and I'm sure a lot of sadness. I've invented something that can help you.”
Victor Vice looks up and around him at his beautiful home; and looks back at the doctor. “Do you really think I'm unhappy. I don't want what you're selling. Please get out of here.”
“But I'm not selling anything…”
Victor vice slammed the door Dr. Berger's face. Dr. Berger knocks one more time.
“Go away!”
“What I'm offering is free in case you change your mind. I'm leaving my card.” Dr. Berger crams his card into the door jamb and leaves.

A few weeks later Dr. Berger got a call at the lab.
“Dr. Berger?”
“This is Victor Vice”
“Good to hear from you Mr. Vice. How can I help you today?”
“Well, what exactly do I have to do to try out this… ‘Hope Machine.’”

A few weeks later Victor Vice was at Dr. Berger's lab at University Hospital. He had a round metal machine attached to his head with a bunch of wires coming out of it. These wires were attached to a much larger machine as well as to other parts of his body. Victor Vice slept very comfortably that night. In the morning when he woke, Dr. Berger asked Victor how he had slept. “I'm not sure I can describe in words what happened. I went back in time, and I relived my darkest days when my dad passed. And somehow I made peace with that.”

Victor came back each week for more sleep sessions with the Hope Machine. He told of his dreams in later sessions, “The worst of the worst. My mother’s alcoholism. The man she had live with us who beat me. I spoke with them as myself, as an adult, and made peace with them and the situation.” Every problem from Victor’s childhood that arose, he settled in his dreams. After one session he said, “My mother quit drinking. Her boyfriend stopped hitting me. Instead of starting fights at school, we talked out our differences. For the first time in my life, I’m at peace with my past.”

Victor Vice returned to the ring a few weeks later and had his usual success of punching the daylights out of his opponent. He came back to Dr. Berger's office every other week between fights. Eventually he was having the dreams without the aid of the Hope Machine. Victor had become a changed man. He was happy with his life, particularly his home life, and he was content with his place in the world. And then he made the big announcement. He held a press conference announcing his biggest news yet. At the press conference he surprised the world by letting everyone know he was retiring. He just didn't have the heart to fight anymore.

The news was a great shock to everyone, especially Victor Vice’s trainers and coaches. His sponsors declared breaches of contract, ended their sponsorships, and removed his product endorsements from television. The Martial Arts Fist Fighting League, on the other hand, made it known that they were going to force Victor Vice to fulfill his commitments and fight ten more fights over the final 3 years of his contract.

Victor's longtime coach finally had a sit down with him. They talked about Victor’s feelings and why he wanted to leave the sport. Victor finally confessed to his trainer that he had been seeing Dr. Berger and his life was complete now. He was no longer angry, and just didn't have the heart to get back in to the ring, especially without any of that anger to give him fighting energy. Well Victor’s trainer was not good at keeping secrets, and soon it was out in the press that he was seeking dream therapy treatment at the University from Dr. Berger. The media went wild. The league and its sponsors, as well as Victor Vice’s former sponsors, were big donors to many politicians. It didn't take long before members of Congress were speaking out against the evils of Dr. Berger's experimentation.

Eventually Victor Vice was forced to cave in and fight again. Victor was also asked by his training staff not to see Dr. Berger until after his contract was complete. Everything seemed to be going smooth leading up to his next fight. Victor was in fantastic shape. The weigh in and pre-fight press conference was a spectacle of name-calling and face pummeling threats. Just before the fight, Victor Vice was in the changing room warming up. He asked his trainers if he could have a moment to himself before he came out. “Sure,” his head trainer said. “Take a moment or two. They are going to call us in about five minutes. We’ll come back and you’ll have a great fight. Your legacy will be cemented.

Five minutes later his trainers came back, and the door was locked. They banged on the door repeatedly. Nobody answered. After another five minutes they started getting worried. They asked the maintenance crew if they could help open the door. The maintenance crew came to the locker room, but the door wasn't just locked; there was something inside the handle that was jamming it, preventing it from being opened. The trainers banged on the door frantically. Finally, the maintenance crew decided to break down the door. From the time the trainers left Victor Vice, until the door was broken down, over 90 minutes passed. The training crew went in and found Victor Vice. He was laying with his eyes closed on the trainer’s table with a pillow behind his head and a blanket over him. There was an empty bottle of sleeping pills on the floor. And a note folded up on his chest.

The note read: “My whole life I've been angry and sad. Then something happened to me, and all my sadness went away. Apparently that's not good enough. I've been forced to keep fighting, to be angry, to be hateful, and I just can't do it anymore. I'm going to go to a place where I've never been happier in my life, and I'm gonna be there and I'm gonna stay there forever. Sincerely, Victor Vice.”

Victor Vice’s life was celebrated by his fans. His death was blamed on Dr. Berger. Dr. Berger's lab was shut down and he was fired from the University. It was several years before Dr. Berger found new employment.

Chapter 2 - The Cow Whisperer

“OK everyone.” (Rustling of papers, chairs moving).
(Clears throat loudly) “OK everybody, thank you everyone for another successful year, please I have one more announcement before we adjourn. As many of you know I'm retiring at the end of this month, and my son Robert, our operations manager, will be taking my place as CEO of Three Rockets Ranch.”

Congratulations roared out and there was a smattering of applause. “Thank you everyone,” said Robert. The elder CEO, Mr. Rocket, then announced, “Everybody enjoy your long weekend off, we still have a few more weeks together as we transition to Robert’s leadership. I'll be seeing you around the ranch before I head off.” (Briefcases clothes, chairs slide, noises of footsteps as people start filing out.”

“Oh Robert, please hang on for an extra minute I have a few questions for you.”

“Congrats Dad, you and Mom are going to love Hawaii.”
“Thank you Robert. I just have a few loose ends to tie up here and all this will be yours. You worked hard and you deserve this. Congratulations son.”
“Thanks dad.”
“Well that brings me to one of the loose ends. The folks in accounting are a little concerned about how we've classified one of our employees and his work. I've always let you run operations your way because you're the one who's gonna take over the company. But a “Cow Whisperer?”
Robert smiles.
“OK, I have to know what this man does,” the elder Mr. Rocket smiles inquisitively.
“He's a doctor/sleep specialist/psychiatrist for the cattle. He's involved in helping the cattle sleep better with a device they wear on their heads at night. It's been an amazing success. Our animals have been living longer, they are more obedient…”
“OK. OK, I've been wondering what those contraptions were. So, what you're saying is they actually work?! And this makes us more money? Improves profitability?”
“Yes, actually, it does. Several of our older dairy cows who weren’t expected to make it another season, not only have lasted and worked well all year, but the vet says we might get another two years out of them. The dairy cattle are producing more milk, the younger animals are running away less often and having less fatal accidents. So yes, his employment has been profitable.”
“OK that's fine. It's a new generation, you do your thing, but we need to document this with legitimate bookkeeping. “’Cow whisperer’ will get us audited.”
“I agree this should be included in veterinary expenses. We can call it medically prescribed sleep therapy.”
“And the doctor’s name, surely his name isn’t Angus Holstein.”
(Chuckle) “No, I apologize, an oversight. I meant to change that back to his real name for bookkeeping.”
“What is this doctors name?”
“His name is Dr. Archibald Berger.”
(Face palm from Robert’s father). “Oh my god, that's not much better.” Both men laugh. “Wait… That's not the doctor who was in trouble a couple years back in the scandal with the fighter, is it?” asked Mr. Rocket.
“That's him. Arch is a longtime friend of mine; we met in college. He does great work and I believe in him.”
“OK, like I said, it's your show now. Probably don't want this getting out to the press, but cattle ranch veterinarians don't usually make the news, so you're probably safe.” (Chuckles) “Let's just make sure his real name is documented properly in our bookkeeping.”
“10-4 dad.”

Robert starts organizing papers still out on the desk. “Anything else we need to discuss today?”
“One last thing, Robert. Is there any news on the abductions from the last few years?”
“No, they just seemed to start out of nowhere about four or five years ago and just recently stopped. The police haven't found anything. Neighbors haven't seen anything. Only a few crockpots’ stories about flying saucers, but those stories aren’t new around here.”
Robert continues, “But there is something really unusual about this. I've been in contact with other ranchers around the world. A similar set of events happened in Brazil starting around 10 years ago and ended a few months before our abductions began. So, I did some more research. I got in touch with a couple ranchers in Japan and they experienced a period of abductions around 10 to 15 years ago. And before that, in Europe, and before that, in Russia…”
Robert’s father interrupts, “And before that in America again.”
“Yup. I remember when I was a kid hearing my father complain about abductions. By the time I was old enough to join the ranch’s management team, the abductions had already ended.”
“Well, I guess it's someone else's problem now, or at least I hope it is.”
“Yes, very strange. I hope the mystery is solved before it makes its way around again.”

Chapter 3 - Princess Wilhelmina of the Emerald Starway

Bloop bloop bloop.
Moo mooooo.
Bloop bloop bleep bloop.
A bright light shines down on the dairy cow named with the brand šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€ and the tag 5347D. She looks curiously up at the hovering craft and gives one last long mooooooo. There's a loud buzzing noise, and the young dairy cow suddenly becomes weightless. She slowly lifts into the air. Rising faster and faster, and then slows down just a bit as she enters the disclike vessel above. The hatch closes underneath, and the lights go dark. The only light remaining in the pasture is the moon and star light.

As šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D enters the main cabin, the lights go on and the buzzing sounds end. Out walks a magnificent cow whose fur is a brilliant purple and covered with a pattern of iridescent pink splotches.

“No don't speak with your mouth. Speak with your thoughts,” the voice comes from the purple cow without her mouth moving.
“Moo mooooo.”
“No, no, no, try harder. Don't use your mouth; think what you want to say.”
“Wow! I can't believe how fresh the air is in here. And I can finally talk.”
“Yes we've always been able to talk. We lost that ability in the tens of thousands of years we've been trapped on earth,” explains the purple cow.
“You mean we're not from earth.”
“No dear, our species lost its home planet many millennia ago. And as many of our ships were failing we were forced to land here and graze; and live amongst the other creatures until our remaining fleet could be rebuilt and rescue us.”
šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D looks around. Things are becoming clearer, and she gets used to the atmosphere of the ship. She's in a large round room surrounded by pictures of all different colors of cows and a very large picture of Dr. Archibald Berger.

“That's Dr. Berger! You know about him up here?”
“Oh yes, we do. He's the inventor of the Hope Machine. He allowed us to talk to our ancestors in our dreams, and we can have more peaceful lives while on earth. We’re able to save more of our species because more of us are surviving. And when souls like yours are brought back to us, you acclimate much faster. He’s a hero to us all.”
“And how come you’re purple and pink and sparkle?” asks šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D.
“That's because of the atmosphere. On earth the atmosphere is such that our colors don't shine through. But here in the transport vessel, the atmosphere mimics our home planet and our true colors show. Look, you're not brown and white.”
šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D looks down. She gasps looking at her green and blue sparkling fur. “Wow! I'm beautiful!”
“Yes you are, dear.”
“Well what happens now?” asks šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D.
“Well, we're reconstructing our fleet and we're taking you to a newly discovered planet with an atmosphere much like our original home.”
“Wow I can't believe this is happening to me. What about the others?”
“Well, we’re slowly bringing the others. We just haven't built enough vessels to get everybody yet, but we're working on it.”

šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D pauses and realizes she hasn’t even introduced herself. “Oh, wait, I didn't even ask your name.”
“I am princess Ariana of the Ultramarine Nebula,” says the purple and pink cow.
“Wow, you're a princess?!”
“Indeed I am.”
“Well? Do I have a name?, šŸš€šŸš€šŸš€5347D asks.
“Of course, you do! Your name is Princess Wilhelmina of the Emerald Starway.”
“Wow! Really? I am a princess too?!”
Arianna smiles. “Of course, you are. Didn’t you know? Where we come from, we are all royalty.

The End