A Political Parable
The beginning of Mastema’s most recent Earthly endeavor started with a high-speed chase in a stellar void at the outer edge of the Cygnus Spiral. Just as the Council’s patrol craft was about to capture his escaping disc with a tractor beam, it disappeared through a flickering wormhole that closed as fast as it had opened.
“We’ve lost him,” Sahket declared to her shipmate Ptah, as they observed the area on the scanner inside their disc.
As Ptah studied the detailed star map, he seemed unconcerned, “Mastema will show up soon, he can’t help making himself the center of attention. Egotistical self-absorption was his undoing before, and he’ll expose himself again.”
Known for inciting mayhem across local and distant star systems, Mastema had most recently hustled his way around the quadrants of the Milky Way. His origin remains unverified, although some galactic historians claim he had been a leading Council member in Andromeda. Having been exposed as brilliantly devious and corrupt, and attempting to usurp the Council’s authority, he was excommunicated. He departed, bringing his destructive enterprises to neighboring galaxies.
Long before this recent escape, Mastema had been apprehended by the Intergalactic Rangers after a number of illegal planetary interventions. He was subsequently tried, convicted, and sentenced to Three Solaris centuries in solitary confinement on Hades, the closest and hottest planet orbiting Tau Ceti.
The warrants for his initial arrest were based on his infiltration and degradation of isolated, inhabited worlds. Mastema and his disciples had repeatedly found civilizations steeped in self-absorbed struggles, on the cusp of converting to a pacifist, creative, balanced ecology.
Mastema was an expert at finding corrupt individuals, predisposed toward detestable and despicable activities. He would support their efforts to infiltrate organizations and governments, sowing confusion, discord, and destruction.
His efforts resulted in the dominance of hostile leaders and disruptive forces on numerous planets. In a variety of realms, he had set back civilized evolution by millennia.
Mastema’s signature activities were creating chaos and raising havoc. He prided himself on being the antidote to peace and creativity. One of Mastema’s interventions had resulted in the complete self-immolation of a world; his proudest achievement.
He was so successful that many cultures blamed him for all catastrophes, even when he wasn’t involved. On the most undeveloped worlds, he was considered a demonic god, though Mastema’s prowess was over-rated; he was reliant on finding and tempting willing collaborators.
Mastema had a powerful magnetic spirit and could appeal to the lowest common denominator of beings; dragging civilizations down by igniting the sense of persecution in the suffering and fueling materialistic greed among the wealthy. As his greatest efforts initiated planet-wide wars, their visibility led to his first capture. And before his recent escape, it seemed his relentless antics were ended.
When Mastema was apprehended the first time and brought to trial, the Supreme Prosecutor, in addition to laying out his crimes in detail, claimed his behavior demonstrated a prime example of how defying the doctrine of non-interference in the lesser evolved planets could result in disaster.
Although few could disagree this was relevant to the accused, a senior member of the Council pointed out that benevolent alien contact and intervention had occasionally prevented complete extinctions.
This stirred the never-ending debate surrounding rules of visitations to the so-called lonely planets, those where inhabitants thought they were solitary sentient life-forms in the universe. Most pundits agreed with conventional wisdom; initiating contact for any cause beyond stealth surveys, held many risks.
While visitations for a variety of benign activities were tolerated, the Council remained vigilantly opposed to direct intervention. Even if there was well-intended action, they insisted planets needed to evolve independently.
Although his activities brought up the intervention debate, Mastema’s use of induced pandemonium was universally condemned as contact of the worst order of magnitude.
Mastema never wavered in his own defense, claiming all charges that he colluded with the greediest and most toxic inhabitants of various planets had been manufactured by critics. Even in the face of evidence and testimony before the Council, he relentlessly repeated that reports had been faked. And nothing was his fault, it was all his enemies doing. He reveled in a perpetual state of denial.
Even as they took him away after the sentencing, he kept repeating, “I am the victim.”
Mastema’s current romp through the Milky Way came when he seemingly repented after nearly five decades of his sentence. He admitted his guilt and pleaded for forgiveness; claiming he had seen the error of his ways.
Immediately after Mastema was moved from a maximum to a medium-security area, he managed to escape, assisted by loyal allies.
A specialized team of Council Rangers was dispatched, and Sahket and Ptah were in the lead disc, following Mastema’s flight path. They had caught up to his beam ship just before it disappeared in the wormhole.
Ptah turned toward a smaller screen adjacent to the star map as he spoke to Sahket, “We need to focus on where he’s likely to show up. Let’s analyze his course and profile some of the outlying sectors. His ability to do harm is limited to a small number of undeveloped planets. And he’ll go to a place where he’s previously found fertile ground.”
Sahket turned her colleague, “I just hope we find him before he does too much damage.”
After losing the rangers, Mastema’s fleeing craft emerged from a branch of the wormhole in the gravitational periphery of Solis, a G2V class star. He dropped below light speed and immediately vectored towards Earth, a destination he knew well. Mastema initiated an orbit of his favorite blue planet, considering his next venture.
This visit was going to be very special. In the recent past, he’d made quite a bit of trouble, including inciting two World Wars and a number of genocides.
Having previous experience in degrading Earth’s development, he knew the intricacies of human weaknesses. His previous efforts had fueled religious warfare and persecution by supporting the rise of various horrific tyrants. He also took responsibility for entrenching the use of fossil fuels and delaying the rise and benefits of solar power.
His success could be linked to most of the continuing conflicts on the planet. But destruction could not be assured without further meddling.
After an initial survey, Mastema confirmed his expectations. Some technologies and industrialization were still threatening the ecological balance of the planet, but signs of higher self-recognition and less destructive behavior were promising to turn the balance. Creative patterns were about to dominate, with more enlightened leaders taking control.
Without his intervention, within 100 years, Earth might achieve homeostasis. However, he saw that those who recognized the economic advantage of dominating energy reserves were still in power. And their need to manipulate the poorer and working classes was still apparent.
This precarious situation provided the ideal environment for Mastema’s endeavor. By supporting the greediest, most corrupt members of the elite class, he would promote discord and fear, tipping the balance, insuring things would only get worse.
Mastema would evaluate, choose and seduce a few targets; but a primary dupe would be needed to catalyze current events into a disastrous crisis.
With his uncanny ability to find allies, Mastema identified an unscrupulous member of the ruling class with unparalleled ambition. His profile was ideal; a delusional narcissist who could be transformed into a deadly tool with unlimited power.
Mastema set his disc down in a forest just west of New York City. On Earth, it was 1998.
Donald had just departed his midtown office when he told his limousine driver to stop at a burger joint and get him his usual fast food dinner. As he waited for his driver to return, Donald gazed out of the window, watching people walk by on the busy street. Impatient for the food to arrive, he had few thoughts in his mind beyond the recognition that he was hungry.
When he turned to look out of the other side of the limo, a wisp of a man with thinning gray hair and a goatee, wearing a three-piece suit, was in the seat next to him. He was shocked.
“Where did you come from? Who the hell are you?” Donald protested.
Mastema was at first silent, then held Donald with a hypnotic stare, “To your first question, most recently, New Jersey. Regarding the second, let’s just say I’m someone very much like yourself with a little more experience. I’m also the man who can make you President of the United States. Does that give your hunger pause?”
Donald attempted to process all of this and said, “How the hell did you get in here. And let’s say I believe you, how the hell will you make me President? What’s it gonna cost me?”
“Stop saying hell! Just listen. You’ll need to do everything I ask of you, which isn’t very different from what you’re doing now. Just some minor changes in your priorities.”
“Why should I trust you? And will you take cash?”
“You don’t need to trust me. Judge by the results; you’ll get more money, more influence and more fame. Then you’ll be the most powerful man on the planet. And no cash, I only want your soul.”
“Never thought about it, but my soul must be worth the presidency. I’m in, when do we start?”
Mastema touched Donald on the shoulder, “My boy, you’ve done so well already. Just keep your focus on casinos, beauty pageants, real estate, and golf courses for a few more years. Many of my protégés work in these areas and will be very supportive. I’ll let you know when you’re ready to take the next leap.”
There was a knock on Donald’s window. He turned and lowered it, grabbing the bag of food from the driver. When he turned back to look at him, Mastema had disappeared.
Not long after the first meeting with his new mentor, Donald publicly announced his interest in becoming president.
In their subsequent encounters, Mastema said that the single most important quality he should develop was keeping everyone mystified about the specifics of his opinions and plans. He insisted that Donald continue developing a persona that had no doubts about the future. He should always have an answer to everything, even when he knew nothing. Mastema declared, “Never say: I don’t know.”
“That sounds just like me,” Donald said with a strange, wide grin.
Few took Donald’s entry into politics seriously, but this wouldn’t matter. Mastema knew it was better that he was not considered a contender until it was too late to stop him.
Donald met regularly with Mastema over the following few years, and at other times he felt Mastema’s presence guiding his activities, decisions, and words.
When Mastema told him it was time for him to raise his public visibility further, through reality television, Donald at first rejected the idea, saying, “It was for the bottom-feeders of society.”
“And whose votes do you think you’ll need to get elected president?,” Mastema retorted.
With further encouragement from Mastema, Donald developed a following through his television persona. Mastema said, “It doesn’t matter right now what they think of you, the mass recognition is giving you the platform you’ll need in your campaign for president.” After a pause, he added, “Whatever the subject is, only project your self-confidence and your ability to reject others.”
Mastema’s domination of his mark continued. He encouraged Donald to travel internationally and appear publicly as much as possible; and most importantly, to begin seeding discontent.
From when he first met Mastema, Donald felt a new sense of power and dominance, particularly around women. His growing need to be popular and conquer the political world was mirrored by an increased desire to re-create his pornographic fantasies. Whether he had to pay outright for sex or sway women with his wealth, his neediness only expanded.
Mastema advised Donald on his dalliance. “You can use your money to use these women or keep them quiet, but do not trust anyone else with this task.” He added, “Be particularly careful when you are overseas, there are eyes everywhere.”
Donald retorted, “I have a terrific fixer. He takes care of all those kinds of things for me.”
“Don’t give away your power to anyone, you’d not be the first politician to fail because someone you held loyal turned into your nemesis.”
“There are some people I have to lean on, but I can cut them out anytime,” Donald said with self-assurance.
He usually obeyed Mastema’s every suggestion, but he decided to continue entrusting others with shuffling his personal cash and cleaning up his messes. Mastema wouldn’t need to know.
And Mastema was more concerned about bigger issues.
“Increase your criticism of the status quo,” Mastema said, “even if it means contradicting yourself or being hypocritical.” He kept repeating, “Never drop your self-confidence, present yourself as having the cure for everything.”
“But what if they find out it’s not true?” Donald asked his guide more than a few times.
Which gave Mastema the opportunity to rejoin with his oft-repeated phrase, “The truth is a lie, yet to be found out.”
Mastema had Donald set upon a path that was molding him into the ideal presidential candidate.
Mastema insured his disciple never strayed during the campaign. “You must encourage the disenchanted to project their discontent onto current leadership. Tell them it’s time to drain the swamp. The people who vote for you actually believe your dynamism will save them.”
When Donald was caught in a lie or criticized for previous actions, Mastema invoked his core strategy, “Deny, deny, deny, and if necessary say: that was then, now it’s different.”
Although Donald’s candidacy was seen by many as a joke, Mastema never doubted his man would win. His advice guided Donald through the most difficult moments.
When a recording surfaced of Donald at his worst, it was Mastema who gave him the ridiculous excuse for his crude and misogynistic comments about women. “Just say it was meaningless banter. You won’t lose a vote.”
Indeed, Mastema’s advice immunized Donald from scandals that would have ruined most other candidates.
Donald’s perspective and words were straight from Mastema when describing the country in a state of bedlam.
“Washington is broken, and our country is in serious trouble and total disarray. Very simple. Politicians are all talk, no action. They are all talk and no action. And it’s constant; it never ends.”
Mastema incessantly reminded Donald that his rising power was born from the masses of disheartened, downtrodden, and disenfranchised. “Speak to them of the challenges they face and how you will fix it. Your success will be directly related to your ability to lay blame,” Mastema preached.
Despite historical analogies, few had comprehended or foresaw how that appeal would enable the candidate’s ascendancy.
When Donald won the election, the first part of Mastema’s plan had been secured. He had shepherded his disciple into a position to invoke planet-wide chaos. The devastation was about to begin.
What surprised those who woke up to Donald’s demonic behavior was the willingness of many people, particularly politicians all around the world, to support the new President. His maniacal impulse to destroy everything should have made him a pariah.
Mastema knew that the corrupt and compromised would quickly join his proxy in selfish and greedy behavior. He focused on guiding Donald toward policies and appointments that would support his efforts to increase conflict and end environmental protectionism.
Some of Mastema’s favorite devotees from previous forays to Earth, whose destructive careers had been eclipsed, were brought back to support and defend Donald’s horrific agenda.
As Mastema had planned, Donald’s belief in himself swelled. He independently embodied a destructive force that no one had witnessed on Earth for decades, reminding some of the greatest genocidal dictator of the 20th century.
However, Donald needed Mastema’s advice when he feared his enemies were closing in or when he was accused of impropriety. Mastema reminded him, “Deny, deny, deny, even if it means contradicting your own words or actions.”
This gave Donald some solace as he continued his outrageous presidency. But despite his self-proclaimed success, his critics only became bolder and louder. “I’ve done everything you told me, but they won’t stop,” Donald complained, “and every time I say I’ve done nothing wrong, I can’t help thinking that all along I’ve been colluding with you. If they knew that, I’d have hell to pay.”
“Don’t say hell!” Mastema demanded, “And calm down and stop worrying.”
Mastema attempted to minimize the apparent danger from the President’s investigators and enemies. “I’ll protect you, they can’t harm you as long as you remain committed to my guidance.”
This would distract Donald for a short time. But despite his outward self-confidence, he was secretly worried.
Donald confided to Mastema that he was concerned about losing allies because of his continuing support for the gun lobby, anti-abortionists, and a circus of right-wing extremists. Mastema laughed and said, “Don’t worry, and whatever else you do, keep those people happy. Never cross them or it will be your undoing.”
Publicly Donald’s tirades at his accusers increased while expressing growing fears to Mastema, “they are getting closer and closer on the money trail. You said not to worry when the Russians helped with the campaign.”
Mastema comforted him. “You are the most powerful man on the planet, your destiny is to shape the future like no other has done before, don’t be concerned about anything else. Repeat that there was no collusion. And keep attacking the news media!”
It was with this encouragement that Donald overtly identified one of his biggest enemies, labeling the press, “The enemy of the people.”
Donald became more obsessive in his public complaints. He confided in Mastema, “The investigations are only heating up. You know they’re putting pressure on every one of my past associates and they are starting to talk. I’m in big trouble.”
“Just say you hardly knew them and you had no idea what they were doing,” Mastema advised. “And return to your base supporters, get them fired up. Your power didn’t come from the Congress or the courtroom, so it won’t be taken away there.”
“I thought my power came from you. That was the deal, right?,” Donald asked.
“Sure,” Mastema answered with his sly grin, “But don’t forget to assure re-election, you need those fools who believe you are the answer to their problems. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have some insurance by stacking the courts with judges who will stand by you when they’re needed.”
It seemed as though nothing could stop Donald. It didn’t matter that he’d lied repeatedly, or that numerous investigations and court cases were leading to his door. He took swipes at allies and befriended the most despicable of international leaders.
Even as continuing investigations looked into the illegal activities of the president, Mastema assured Donald of his power and encouraged his darkest thoughts.
Donald mused, “Why don’t I just start a war? Congress and those investigators won’t dare mess with the commander in chief when he needs to lead the country into battle.”
With this rhetorical quip, Mastema knew his disciple had finally taken on the full persona of his master.
Sahket and Ptah entered the Solis system not long after Mastema. However, two decades had passed on Earth, providing plenty of time for Mastema to invoke turmoil. They arrived recognizing his signature activities and identified his primary ally.
Mastema had secured the Presidency of the United States for the worst possible leader; the planet was in a pre-chaotic storm.
They had gathered data on the current state of events. Ptah switched off the screen and said, “Hopefully, we’ve arrived in time to prevent complete devastation, but this is a mess. I suppose the good news is that Mastema is working with his alter ego regularly, so we can corner him easily.”
“The Council will need to be advised and give consent for the method of capture,” Sahket said calmly, then added, “we also need to wait for the additional rangers.” After a long gaze at Ptah she said, “Perhaps we can have an influence here and reverse this potential tragedy.”
Ptah smiled at his companion, “Are you suggesting an attempt to turn things around by making contact with some of the Earthlings? We’d be contradicting Council intervention policy.”
Sahket nodded, “This is one of those occasions where bending the rules is absolutely justifiable.”
After a long pause, Ptah agreed, “Our thoughts are the same. Let’s do what we can.”
Sahket was at the controls as she dropped the disc from orbit into a small clearing in a wooded grove, at the center of Manhattan for their first task.
It was early morning in New York City and the air was already warm with the waking spring day. Michael waited on the corner for the light and then crossed Fifth Avenue and entered Central Park. He walked slowly, feeling confused and tormented. The emptiness of the park made him feel lonely, but he needed some quiet to think.
Not long before, government agents had gone through all of his files and personal possessions. They were in pursuit of evidence of any illegal activities he might have been involved with relevant to their investigation of the 2016 Presidential campaign.
He found an empty bench under a huge tree a few minutes inside the park and sat down with a sad frown. Michael couldn’t understand how things had gone so wrong so quickly. He’d helped Donald non-stop in his bid for the presidency. No one could have done a better job at tying up legal issues and watching Donald’s back.
Then he seemed to be cut out by White House insiders. And now he was depicted as a loser. Maybe he was.
Michael looked up as a youthful couple, both in metallic jogging suits, approached at a trot. They stopped just in front of him and asked if they might sit down. Somewhat surprised, Michael agreed, and they sat on either side of him.
“If you’re with the press, I have nothing to say,” Michael said with false joviality.
Sahket smiled at Michael and with her eyes gained his trust. She then spoke, “No, we are not with any media nor do we have any subversive agenda. But we are very much aware of your predicament.”
“Who isn’t?,” Michael said, and then thought for a moment. He added, “Predicament is a nice word for it. But it implies a way out, and I can’t see it. It feels more like a dead end.”
Ptah said, “Sometimes the way out can be found by simply taking a stance, a position that you know is the noble choice.”
Michael considered this for a long while and then said, “Sure, but I thought I had made noble choices, now I feel betrayed. I was loyal for so long, I’ve been played like a fool.”
“I wanted to work in the White House.” Michael continued, “Donald told me it was important that I stay outside and protect him from here.”
“You do know what’s important to you?,” asked Sahket.
“I guess,” Michael said meekly, “my family, my country.”
Sahket said, “As long as the highest of moral values stand together with family and country, you’re on the right track.”
Michael confessed, “I thought I was working for the good guy, but not only has he let me down, he seems to be screwing everything up. He hasn’t kept any promises he made to me or anyone else, and he seems to be more interested in making friends with enemies and making enemies of friends.”
Sahket responded, “Sometimes we are attracted to those who have no moral compass, just for the thrill. Their power is a dangerous whirlpool of negativity and destruction that we don’t see until we get out of it; if we can.”
“I’m really not a bad guy, I thought I was protecting him from harm,” Michael confessed, “and like an idiot, I said I’d take a bullet for him.”
“Remember this,” said Ptah, “you’re not the primary villain in this story, don’t allow others to try to depict you that way.”
“Your decisions will be much easier if you keep the greater creative good as your prime directive,” Sahket said, and then touching him on the shoulder added, “you’ve seen that a lot of damage has been done by the actions of one man, however that makes us realize an individual can make a big difference in turning this around. Perhaps inspiring others to do the same.”
“Who are you two?” Michael asked, suddenly realizing the intimacy of the conversation with these strangers.
“Think of us as friends,” Ptah said.
He and Sahket stood up and she added, “We’ll be with you, along with millions of others who will understand your decision to do the right thing.”
Michael sat and watched them jog away until they disappeared down the path. A sense of joy and responsibility he hadn’t felt in ages rose up within him. He realized it was the first time in a long while he could smile genuinely.
Mastema appeared in the Oval Office just after the election results confirmed that Donald had lost.
Donald screamed, “Where have you been. I’m in trouble.”
“Don’t worry,” Mastema said calmly.
He told Donald that he never has to concede, that even if all the recounts and courts confirmed the results, the devoted would stay with him. There were many ways to win.
“Now you show them who you really are. On the day they attempt to certify the election, fire up your people and they will attack your enemies.”
Mastema had given this advice to kings and dictators many times before.
Over the next few weeks, Ptah and Sahket continued to meet with others who had lost their infatuation with Donald and encouraged them to do what they could. Some were more receptive than others, but overall they felt the tide was turning.
Donald was losing his influence and allies, even though a huge number of the masses still believed his lies. No one was sure if he would leave the White House.
When a team of rangers finally arrived with the Council’s orders, they mapped out a plan for Mastema’s arrest. It was on the eve of the inauguration of the new president.
“What about our deal?” screamed Donald.
Sahket and Ptah and the unit of rangers under their command surrounded Mastema in the middle of the Oval Office.
Donald sat at his desk with a look of panic on his face.
The ranger’s cloaked mother ship hovered above the White House; the Secret Service and all other occupants had been induced into a temporary stupor.
Mastema had been secured quickly with both physical and energetic restraints.
Sahket spoke directly to Donald. “You have colluded with this escaped intergalactic convict and although you were subject to his subversion, you are complicit with his intentions and actions. We have no authority to take you into custody as of yet, however, I advise for your own interests that you cease and desist your current efforts at destabilizing Earth.”
Although wide-eyed, Donald really wasn’t listening, he could only shout at Mastema. “You said I could trust you, what am I gonna do now when you’re gone? I have no more friends. The law is after me. They’ll take me away in handcuffs.”
Sahket summoned Donald’s attention with her eyes and voice. “Your tirades and policies are the last things this Earth needs right now. You should confess to every deceptive and destructive activity you’ve undertaken. The misguided people who voted for you need to hear your confession. It will be your only salvation.”
Donald was shaking with fear and shrieked at Mastema with a trembling voice, “I don’t need you anyway, and you won’t get my soul!”
The rangers surrounding Mastema closed ranks as Ptah commanded them, “Take him away.” Mastema gave no resistance as they paraded him towards the door.
Just before he walked out of the Oval Office, Mastema stopped and turned back to Donald with a twisted smile and said, “My boy, your soul was forever mine on the day we met.”