Just as Nelson predicted, Ace and Dot became media sensations and every global news network and entertainment show wanted to talk to them. The offers came at all hours of the day with booking agents and even show hosts themselves pleading them for an audience. Luckily for them, Ace and Dot were very accommodating. They diligently talked to every host and booking agent, and tried to make as many shows as possible. Hanging up their uniforms, they went on the air in trendy human clothes, smiling and joking as if they spent their whole lives in front of the camera.
In private, Ace groaned at the articles and statements of pundits who dueled with each other in their political commentary shows. Unlike their colleagues in entertainment, surprisingly few of them were calling on either him or Dot, and so the pair continued to loom large on every TV screen on the planet, making sure that eventually the political commentators would be left with no choice but to invite them on their shows in due time.
When Ace wasn’t on television in a black suit and crisp custom fitted shirts that came in charcoal, red, silver and other neutral shades that made him look just a little more human, he was in a lab. He was a soldier for well over a millennium, but he was a scientist first, and it was his scientific background that helped to arm the Nation. Some of the finest scientific minds on Earth spent hours with him, studying the vast repositories of ancient alien knowledge and bizarre otherworldly fossils that showed evolution at work on a cosmic scale on worlds all across the galaxy. Ace explained the mysteries of black holes, strange matter, the functions of gravity, and the strange nature and meaning of the Big Bang.
Scientists hailed the fossils, formulas, documents, and designs as stunning breakthroughs in solving ancient scientific mysteries, shedding a brand new light on the universe around them. Their wildest dream, access to the libraries of alien species hundreds of thousands of years ahead of humans in their scientific achievements, had come true. They even had experts ready and willing to clear up any and all questions for a fairly modest fee, at their beck and call. On the neo-traditionalist front however, the scientific knowledge relayed by Ace was met with vicious hostility. A prominent critic of science, technology, and secularism wrote about them with venom.
“Once more the Darwinist cult tries to fix their crumbling theory with dubious ‘evidence’ for their anti-God propaganda. This time, no longer able to keep their arguments on Earth, they’ve turned to some freak of nature alien with cockamamie theories and fantastic designs he stole hundreds of years ago without proper understanding of what they actually are and who made them.”
Ace, not known for turning the other cheek, immediately wrote a reply to the article, noting that it grossly misinterpreted evolution as well as every other theory in question to create absurd straw-men arguments that had nothing to do with the theories the author bashed.
“The only things I could find in this article,” Ace concluded, “is an endless string of insults and semantic games. He simply imagined something easy to refute and refuted it without paying any attention that what he’s refuting is his own wild imagination rather than the theories currently being considered by science. In all my years — and that’s a long, long time if you’re keeping count — I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such willful ignorance of such basic scientific concepts. If famous writers with loyal audiences of millions have such deep gaps in their scientific knowledge, it’s a sign that something is getting lost in the transition from the classroom to the real world.”
The response article only enraged the critic who vehemently insisted that Ace proved him right by not addressing his arguments, conveniently forgetting to note that his arguments had nothing to do with the scientific work he attacked so eagerly. But then again, his faithful fans would never try to read Ace’s counter and he could easily get away with omitting any fact he wanted. Ace wasn’t fazed in the least, knowing that nothing he would say would ever sway the critics who hated him for what he was and by extension, all his work, no matter what evidence he could provide.
Meanwhile, Dot became a staple of late night talk shows beloved around the world for their sudden surge of new material. She amazed the public with stories about alien societies, sex and sexuality in the darkest, deepest reaches of the galaxy, and even touched on alien and cyborg religions. Her charming smile and charismatic oddness easily won over the hearts of millions of viewers. Soon she was featured on the covers of virtually all entertainment magazines while tabloids buzzed about her supposedly wild sex life after she lip-locked with a popular talk show host on a dare during an appearance.
With a playful nudge from Nelson and Ace, she even posed for a few men’s magazines, showing off her perfectly sculpted body in the bare minimum of clothing. Her breasts were often covered only with her small hands as she winked from the holographic covers. A notable number of male readers loved her, flooding editors with letters praising them for allowing the whole planet to take a more intimate look at the cute cyborg’s body. Their wives and girlfriends inquired about Ace who consented to a very similar series of photo shoots in entertainment magazines, which spun it as a study of what anatomy the cyborgs still has in common with their human siblings.
The scar on his stomach immediately ignited an interest in the details of the war with the Rexx. Steve and Christine were joined into the media frenzy, talking about their experiences in the Nation’s military, giving amazing accounts of vicious, bloody interstellar battles, complete with high resolution pictures and clips made by the space probes which helped coordinate the dogfights.
As many predicted, the neo-traditionalists didn’t take what was happening on TV and in the news too well. Accusing Dot of having no morals or decency, they called her a “space slut” for all her risqué magazine covers and her “shameless discussion of sex acts on shows that children could accidentally come across.” They attacked Ace’s photos as well, labeling him a freak showing off his “mutilated and emaciated body” based on the cyborgs’ complete lack of visible body fat.
But the most venom was aimed for Steve and Christine. Without mercy, Gene’s attack dogs tore into them with their fangs, accusing them of treason and labeling them false heroes. The pundit who once wrote the now infamous article advocating the deportation of all the progressives into deep space along with the Nation wrote:
“It’s pathetic to see two people who were once proud warriors of our world brainwashed by the alien freaks running around mostly naked just to spite us. They’re being let out like trained dogs by the Shadow Nation to convince us that the alien freaks are good people although I don’t think I’d even call them people.”
Even Gene winced when he read this tidbit.
“Isn’t it a little much?” he asked her sternly.
“No,” she replied. “Actually, I’m toning it down.”
“Toning it down? That’s toning it down? Have you ever looked at a dictionary in your life? You just attacked two people who everybody thinks saved Earth from the Rexx! You wanna make the whole damn campaign into a mockery of itself because you need more air time? Is that it? Is that what you want?”
“I’m allowed to attack anyone I want,” she hissed in reply. “You told me to be nasty so deal with it.”
“I told you to be nasty,” fumed Gene, “but not being a total ass! I am not going to defend you next time you get in trouble if you insist on undermining me and Newman with your publicity stunts.”
During a softball interview on a neo-traditionalist talk show just a few days later, she challenged Ace to a public debate with another string of insults aimed at Dot, Steve, Christine, and him. Ace politely declined.
“I don’t know,” he said in reply to her challenge. “I took psychology in college but I’m not a licensed psychiatrist with enough experience to handle such an extreme case. I better leave this to the experts.”
But it wasn’t just the neo-traditionalists fuming over the Nation’s popularity and what they said on global TV. Progressive commentators who thought that Ace and Dot would be sympathetic to their party line also got a rude awakening. Instead of advocating the idea that the Nation’s interest in Earth was merely humanitarian, the cyborgs made it clear that the Nation was there simply to conduct business and grow its economy.
“Yes, we are making a profit,” agreed Dot with the progressives who railed on the Nation for supposed profiteering. “But how else do we keep our economy going? Every economy reaches saturation and has to move to new markets to stay afloat. You get technology and in exchange, we get money to make new technology. What’s so wrong about that?”
“Well you’re just propagating the caste system established by an insensitive elite that cares nothing about the working man,” growled a progressive pundit. “We thought you would evolve beyond money and beyond profit mongering, but I guess the working man might as well give up and get shafted by a new class of masters.”
“What caste system are you talking about?” asked Dot with utter confusion and in vain as the radical progressives maintained that the Nation was exploiting the common folk for their greedy gain without any elaboration as to how this was being done.
Tina was concerned, urging progressive commentators to back off the Nation’s mascots. Grey fumed every time he saw those who used to be his staunch defenders in the media urge him to scrap the old trade agreement with the Nation and start a new one. Looking at the plans they advocated, Grey shook his head in horror, knowing full well that these proposals were highway robbery sure to drive the Nation away. His only consolation was the fact that the vast majority of people on Earth liked Ace and Dot and couldn’t possibly care less about what came out of the pundits’ mouths. Magazines with their interviews flew off the shelves. Two movies about the Rexx War from the Nation’s viewpoint were being made and heavily advertised. Talk shows still invited them. For five solid months, they made headlines with no signs of a slowdown. In late May of 3508, political commentators of the highest caliber started calling. They were no longer able to monopolize the public discourse about the Nation, and had no choice but to put the cyborgs on their shows.
Certain that Ace would be far too inexperienced to handle an assault on the air, a prominent neo-traditionalist pundit invited the cyborg for a half hour segment. Ace accepted and soon found himself sitting across from a pastor turned televangelist pitching a book with the rather timid and unassuming title of “Alien Menace: The Alien Plot to Enslave Humanity.” After five minutes of the televangelist’s rants, the toxic host asked Ace if he had anything to say. A cold, hateful grin spread across his lips.
Ace who sat in a sleek metal chair wearing a black suit with a charcoal shirt unceremoniously un-tucked, and the buttons on his collar undone, paused for a moment and smirked.
“Well Pastor Lombard,” he said. “It’s an interesting book and I’d like to read it sometime. I’ll look for it in under sci-fi and fantasy.”
“This is a non-fiction book,” corrected Lombard.
“Is that what it says on your copy?” asked Ace. “Can I see that?”
He twisted the thin plastic book in his hands with, looking at something inside before closing it and softly putting it on the glass table.
“Sorry. I didn’t realize it was misfiled,” shrugged Ace.
“Listen Ace, I compiled this book based on many months of very exhaustive research,” seethed Lombard. “If you have a problem, read my twenty five pages of notes and references before you mouth off.”
“I have a better idea,” said Ace and took out a computer the size of a cell phone.
The computer brought up a holographic screen and keyboard. As the stunned pundit and Lombard tried to somehow object, Ace took the book and scanned its contents into the computer. With a beep, an entire rainbow of colors lit up on the holographic screen, mostly dark shades of red and yellow. Ace frowned and shook his head.
“As you might know,” he winked, “scientists today use excellent software to fact check papers. Really amazing stuff. I put in the text I want to fact check and the software goes out to virtual libraries and scans the referenced material so I know whether the article cited in a paper really does contain the information cited.”
“So you just ran the Pastor’s book though that software?” asked the host with visible dismay.
Ace sighed and delivered the post mortem.
“About 47% of the references do not have the cited information, another 25% come from outdated sources and have been taken so out of context, they’re useless, and another 15% are just talking points borrowed from opinion books, shows, and articles. And unless you live in some parallel universe, you can’t cite opinion as fact. In total, about 87% of this book are random, unsupported claims. Well 87.35% if you’d like an exact figure.”
For the remainder of the show, Ace verbally eviscerated the irate pundit for wasting his time and his constant baseless attacks on every citizen of the Nation, and then went on to steamroll Lombard for passing off random, wild claims as research. Their “freedom of speech” defense hit a wall with him.
“You talk about freedom of speech,” he replied with a cold, sadistic smirk, “but both of you wrote articles in which you said, and I quote, ‘we should deport the progressives to Pluto so they don’t pollute the news with their bias.’ I’d say the only freedom of speech you care about is your freedom to mouth off and to give your loyal audience a confirmation of their fantasies instead of admitting that you’re making this stuff up as you go.”
Pundits watching the show took heed. The next neo-traditionalist broadcast that pitched Newman’s and Lombard’s conspiracy theories was produced in secret. Harold Glenn, the host of the show, said that Ace refused to appear after being invited and proceeded to bash the Nation in relative peace. That peace didn’t last long after Ace happened to catch that show while channel surfing, listen to Glenn’s excuse why he wasn’t involved in the debate, and realize that he was never invited. The e-mail he sent to every global wire service was seen around the world the next day.
“If Mr. Glenn lacks a spine to talk to me in person and insists on lying about why I’m not present, our doctors are more than willing to implant a brand new synthetic backbone for Mr. Glenn at no charge.”
In his office, Gene smiled and sighed after reading the retort that made Harold Glenn an overnight laughing stock. He underestimated the Nation. He assumed that just because they haven’t set foot on the planet for centuries that they would be out of the loop, confused, and unable to play the media game. He admitted to himself that Ace, Dot and Nelson were nobody’s tools and knew exactly what they were doing.
Across town, Tina faced the same dilemma. She was so sure that she had enough control over her pundits. She was confident that a few extravagant perks would woo the Nation to endorse progressives and support their party line. Just like Gene, she now understood the true nature of the Nation. They bowed to no one and they used every television appearance, every interview and every magazine cover for their own goals, wielding their vast cache of advanced technology as a trump card that allowed them to make it seem as if they were above the political fray and to bend the media to their whims.
The political consultants who once regarded the entire world and the amazing alien empire as their playthings had been used to create a brand new political and social power. The Nation’s representatives were now superstars whose names were on the lips of every resident of planet Earth. A single comment made by Ace, Nelson, or Dot was zapped around the planet and had the power to sway public opinion. If any of them spoke, the world listened. The contacts they made in the social clubs and lounges around Diplomat Lane cemented their power, ensuring that the news would mention the Nation for a long time to come…