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It's long been said that pregnant women have been going missing from Northern California at alarming rates. But is this really true? Or is the entire idea a twisted hoax?
Few months ago, I did an extensive two-part write-up on the case of Laci Peterson, a young pregnant woman from Modesto, California who was murdered by her husband Scott Peterson in 2002. For whatever reason this case has stayed in the public eye for almost two decades and although her husband is behind bars waiting execution for the murders of Laci and her unborn son, rumors still swirl online that Scott Peterson is innocent and was railroaded Modesto Police Department and the rabid media. If you are interested in this specific case, I would suggest you read my two-part right up which you can find here. https://www.reddit.com/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/ie57ja/extensive_twopart_write_up_on_the_murder_of_laci/ and https://www.reddit.com/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/ie5c6h/extensive_twopart_write_up_the_murder_of_laci/
In case you are unaware here's a brief rundown of Laci Peterson's case. Laci Rocha Peterson was 27 years old 2002. She was married to a 30-year-old man named Scott Peterson and the couple was expecting a baby in February of 2003. Christmas Eve 2002 Laci Peterson went missing and her husband Scott soon came under suspicion. Within days Scott was the prime suspect in Laci’s disappearance. The case of the pregnant mom to be and her handsome husband soon became a media sensation that garnered more attention than anyone ever would have expected. Within a couple of months, it emerged that Scott had had a number of affairs and was uninterested in being a father. Several years later he was convicted for the murder of his wife and son. Laci's body washed up on the shores of the San Francisco Bay less than a mile from where Scott Peterson was fishing on that fateful Christmas Eve, nearly 100 miles from the Petersons’’ home. Due to the passage of time only Laci's torso was found.
For reasons that are somewhat unclear to me, Scott has hundreds or even thousands of supporters online who are convinced of his innocence. Scott's family has paid for several documentaries to be made (Such as the ID network’s “The Murder of Laci Peterson”) that have painted Scott in a good light and made the jury and investigators look like bumbling idiots. Even though Scott has been in jail for 16 years, his supporters still rally around him and create Facebook pages, Innocence websites, petitions, and even primetime documentaries to tout his innocence.
One of their favorite things to bring up is the fact that five pregnant women went missing from the Modesto area within a couple of years Laci going missing. Many Scott supports have claimed that there was clearly a serial killer or a cult targeting pregnant women in the area and that this should create reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of Scott Peterson. Some defenders of Scott have even gone so far to say that all the women missing have similar characteristics. One Facebook page claims that all the missing women were pregnant and Hispanic or Hispanic- passing, like Laci*. On one of the Petersons’ family websites, it claims that many of the women were found in water, and were health conscious as well. If all these things were true, a serial killer would have be considered as a possibility in Laci’s case.
*Just to clarify, Laci was full Portuguese and passed for Hispanic. Her missing flyer even had to note that she was white, but did not look white.
The case discussed most extensively online is the case of Evelyn Fernandez whose headless body was also found washed up on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Various articles and documentaries have talked about the similarities between Evelyn's case and Laci's case, but they also point to these five, other mysterious women who went missing in Modesto during the same timeframe. Evelyn's case has gotten some media attention due to documentaries but it didn't seem like the other women had their stories documented anywhere.
The discovery of Evelyn’s case with circumstances which were so similar to Laci Peterson's disappearance, has also reminded people that attractive, white (or white looking), middle-class women get more media coverage than anyone else. The cases of people such as Evelyn fall by the wayside, meanwhile Laci's case is remembered decades later. And what about the other women? Surely, they deserve some attention as well.
Today, I planned on remembering the women that didn't get the media attention while also looking into the similarities and differences between these women’s cases and the case of Laci's murder, but I discovered something that I did not expect. These pregnant women so often talked about in documentaries and online simply don’t exist.
As many of us know, intimate partner violence is a major problem all over the world. Sadly pregnant women are more likely to be abused or killed by partner than non-pregnant women. Some studies have even shown that homicide is one of the leading causes of death for pregnant people. Most of the time the woman's current or ex romantic partner, and usually the father of the child she is carrying, is the perpetrator of these crimes. When I sat down to write this piece I expected to find stories that fit this scenario, however, this wasn’t the case.
The only information I could find was information on Evelyn and Laci. Begrudgingly, I decided to use the list on ssi.com (which stands For Scott is Innocent), and I found a list of 20 women on this website who the author (Scott’s family and the SPA team) claimed disappeared under similar circumstances to Laci “near” Modesto. However, as I began exploring these cases it quickly became apparent that a majority of the missing persons cases bore no resemblance at all the disappearance and murder of Laci Peterson. And the term “near Modesto” simply meant in California or Washington state. Most of the cases mentioned on the website are solved. But most importantly, some of the women on the list do not even exist and the citations provided for them are websites that don’t work or articles that don’t exist.
Some of the women listed were missing at one point but have since been found alive (1 or 2). Another group were women who were missing at one point but whose cases have now been solved (4). Some cases are mostly solved, but remain unprosecuted (6-7). A fourth group of women on the list, completely do not exist (6, although 2 appear to be a simple mistake). In other words only 4 or 5 of these cases have the potential to be related to the murder of Laci Peterson. Only three women on the list came from Modesto, none of whom were pregnant and two of the cases happened in the 1980s, decades before Laci vanished.
The people on this list come from different backgrounds, regions, races, and ages. Some were mothers or grandmothers, others were high schoolers. As far as I can tell, the five mysterious women who are all pregnant and missing from Modesto never existed. This false piece of information has been spread by Scott Peterson’s supporters for years. Not only is the narrative of a serial killer stalking the area false, it is incredibly rude and disrespectful to these women who have passed on. The Peterson family are using people’s daughters’, mothers’, and friends’ stories to create a false narrative in order to exonerate Scott Peterson, a family annihlator, who is exactly where he needs to be. Let’s look at these cases that are supposed to “prove” that pregnant women were going missing from the Modesto area. All names are taken from the SII website.
Jeannine Sanchez Harms of Los Gatos, California (90 miles from Modesto) went missing in July, 2001 after a night out. The 42 year old worked at a computer company and was not pregnant. Harms case was cold for a few years but has since been solved. Her killer, a spurned lover of Jeannine’s, has since passed away and the case is considered solved and closed.
Toni Clark of San Francisco was a senior in high school and a talented athlete in 1990. Clark was driving home one night when she was struck from behind by another vehicle and presumably flew into the San Francisco bay. Her body was never recovered and she is assumedly decreased. The driver of the other car was tried for vehicular manslaughter but was not convicted as Toni’s body was missing and the jury felt that the no one could prove that Toni had actually died. Toni was about six weeks pregnant at the time. Her case is tragic, but law enforcement believes it was nothing more than a fatal car crash.
Karen Modaffi is one of the women listed on SII.org but she doesn’t exist.
Kristen Smart, a Cal Poly student was a college freshman when she was last seen. She was not pregnant and lived 217 miles from Modesto. The main suspect in her case is a man named Paul Flores who was found to be in possession of some of Smart’s bloodied jewelry. He has never been charged in her case. Law enforcement has confirmed that this case is not related to Laci’s case.
Tera Smith was 16 years old and not pregnant in 1998 when she vanished from Redding, California, 250 miles north of Modesto. The blonde high schooler left her home one day to break up with her boyfriend- a married 29-year-old father. She never returned home and her body has never been found. Tera’s boyfriend was sentenced for statutory rape due to Tera’s age but has never been charged with her murder or disappearance. It is considered closed.
Heather Marie Carpenter was 22 years old in Aug 2003 when she attended a party, doomed to be her last. Carpenter was living in Redding (a five-hour drive from Modesto) and was not pregnant at the time of her death. Patrick Michael Larmour confessed to killing Carpenter and was sent to prison. The case is solved and closed.
Angelina Evans was last seen in Sacramento in May 2001 when she was 26 years old. She was seven to eight months pregnant. She went for a walk, and was never seen again. Very little information is available; however, the case does bear a resemblance to Laci Peterson’s story.
According to SII.org, Consuelo Lomeli, was apparently 8 months pregnant when she last seen in 2002 in Tulare, California. She apparently disappeared with three or four of her children. However, I can find no information on this case. The only place their names are mentioned at all are on a Charley Project blog post comment section with no additional information. It appears she was found alive. This case does not exist.
Guadalupe Areias like Consuelo above was apparently 8 months pregnant when she was last seen 11/26/2001 Longview, WA. However, this person again does not exist.
→ A little digging has led me to believe that Guadalupe they meant to mention was actually Guadalupe Castro who disappeared in Washington state after going to meet with her estranged husband, Gergorio. Sadly, Guadalupe and her older daughter Agueda age 3, have never been located. Gregorio fled the area and has not been seen since shortly after the disappearance of his family. He is considered the prime suspect.
Jeanette Gomez Espeleta of Fullerton, California, a five-hour drive from Modesto, was last seen in November 1998. She was 8 months pregnant. Jeanette was excited to be a mom and had a baby shower planned when she went missing. Jeanette’s ex-boyfriend who was purportedly the father of her unborn child, confessed to killing her and dumping her body in the ocean. He took investigators to the place he dumped her body and although her body was not recovered, he is in prison and the case is considered closed.
Ornaith Murphy and her husband Kieran Murphey were both last seen 12/16/2001 aboard their vessel Sola III which was docked in Jack London Square, near Oakland. The couple were both Irish nationals in their 50s. Ornaith was not pregnant. She and her husband are believed to be lost at sea or victims of a murder suicide. Either way this case does not bear resemblance to Laci’s murder in any way shape or form.
Wendy Jamie Abrams-Nishikai was last seen in Berkeley in 1989. She was not pregnant at the time. Very little information is available.
Amparo Aguilar, age approximately 18, was purportedly last seen in 1999 East Palo Alto. Very little information is available. This woman may be no longer missing, meaning that this case, does not exist.
Kristen Modafferi went missing June 23rd 1997 in San Francisco. She was attending summer classes at UC Berkeley and she was not pregnant at the time. Kristen’s case is odd but there is a prime suspect in her case.
Kathy Irene Sweet, 32, had been dead only a few hours when a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy found her nude body inside a pickup parked in a north Modesto almond orchard Jan. 14, 1998. She was not pregnant at the time of her death. Her death is believed to be homicide but no other information is available besides one Facebook post from the California DOJ. This case in Modesto bears little resemblance to Laci’s case.
Teiaar Nakea Rowe of Stockton, California was 24 years old when a farm worker found her body dumped in an almond orchard. Teiaar was not pregnant when she passed away. The only information on her case is one Facebook post, and one find a grave memorial.
Lynsie Ekelund, was a physically disabled college student in her early 20s when she disappeared from Placentia, California a six-hour drive from Modesto. She was not pregnant. Her 2001 disappearance was solved after a confession from a man named Christopher Michael McAmis who led investigators to her body. Her case is considered solved and closed.
Ruth Bender, 33, was last seen getting into a green van at the Greyhound bus station in Modesto in 1986, according to the SII.website but his woman does not exist.
→ I believe the woman they tried to profile was actually 15-year-old Susan Robin Bender who went missing in Modesto after getting into someone’s car in 1986. Susan was acquainted with Loren Hertzog, a serial killer and he is presumed to be her killer. An old friend of Susan’s is also a suspect.
Ruth Leamon, 16, went to a Modesto store for a soda in 1982 and never returned. Like Susan, Ruth knew Loren Herzog and he is presumed to be her killer. Leamon was not pregnant when she went missing. Herzog and his accomplice, Wesley Shermantain were in jail at the time of Laci’s disappearance.
Evelyn Hernandez - See information below. Law Enforcement has a prime suspect and the case is considered solved, but not closed.
All in all, four of the women’s cases are solved and closed (Lynsie Ekelund, Jeanette Gomez Espeleta, Jeannine Sanchez Harms, and Heather Carpenter). Seven cases are not closed but have been practically solved (Tera Smith, Ruth Leamon, Susan Bender, Kristen Smart, Kristen Modafferi, and Toni Clark). Five cases-Karen Modaffi, Consuelo Lomeli, Guadalupe Areias, Ruth Bender, and Amparo Aguilar-do not exist at all. Aguilar and Lomeli may have been located alive. Ornaith died at sea in what was most likely an accident.
The only cases that are unsolved are, Teiaar Nakea Rowe, Kathy Sweet, and Angelina Evans, Wendy Abrams-Nishikai, and of course Evelyn Hernandez. Let’s take a closer look.
Teiaar Rowe was found dead in Stockton, California in an almond orchard. Rowe was 24 or 25 years old at the time. She was clad in only a black-and-white skirt. Detectives said they believe someone dumped Teiaar Nakea Rowe's body in an orchard after killing her elsewhere. The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department located Rowe's car in south Stockton. Rowe left behind a husband, four siblings, and several children. Her cause of death was stabbing. Rowe was a similar age to Laci, but she was not pregnant. Rowe was also African American and she was not found in or near the water. If you have any information on Rowe’s case, please call the San Joaquin county sheriff’s office cold case unit at (209) 468-5087.
Kathy Irene Sweet was found dead inside her boyfriend’s truck in north Modesto in 1998. Kathy’s boyfriend has been questioned and partially cleared by the sheriff’s office. Sweet was in her 30s at the time of death. Sweet also used the name Kathy Irene Meadows and sometimes went by the name Cindy. She was not pregnant, she was white, and she was not in water. Tragically, there is only one Facebook post on this case; that is the only information available. Please call Stanislaus area crime stoppers at 209-521-4636 if you have information on this crime.
Angelina Evans was 26 years old when she was last seen in Sacramento, California in May, 2001. From the Charley Project,
“Witnesses saw Evans get into a pickup truck painted black with primer. She has never been heard from again. Evans's family members told authorities that it is uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. A baby was abandoned shortly after Evans was reported missing, leading to speculation that she was the child's mother. That theory has never been confirmed. Evans's case remains unsolved. Evans's family says she was associating with a rough crowd at the time of her disappearance. She is a Hiram Johnson High School dropout who left behind five children when she disappeared. She was living in a motel on Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento.”
Like Laci, Angelina was pregnant and in her mid-20s. However, she is not Hispanic or Hispanic passing nor was she found in water. Angelina was believed to be a doe who was found in a burnt-out dumpster in June, 2001, but DNA has ruled it out. If you have any information about Angelina’s disappearance please call the Sacramento Police Department at 916-264-7895 or 916-264-5655. This case unlike the others is somewhat similar to Laci’s case.
Wendy Jamie Abrams-Nishikai, age 21 was a UC Berkeley student with a young daughter. Wendy was last seen on Halloween 1989. She was not pregnant at the time. Although her race is listed as white, she could pass for other races such as Asian or Hispanic/Latina. Abrams-Nishikai is still missing and very little information is available in her case. If you have information please contact the Berkeley Police Department at 510-981-5938.
Evelyn Hernandez- For years, Evelyn has been called the other Laci. Her case was first compared to Laci’s case by attorney Matt Dalton who was briefly a member of Scott Peterson’s defense team.
Evelyn Hernandez was an immigrant from El Salvador who was living in San Francisco in 2002. She was 24 years old and had a five-year-old son named Alexis who she was raising on her own. Alexis’ father was a man in a navy who Evelyn had briefly dated but he was no longer in Evelyn or Alexis’ lives. By age 24 Evelyn was working in the medical profession and was dating a mechanic named Herman Aguilera. Evelyn was 39 weeks pregnant in May 2002, when she was last seen at a convenience store near her boyfriend’s home. Some sources say she was last seen at her son’s school on the same day. At the time Evelyn had just discovered that Herman, the man she had been seeing for quite some time, was actually married. According to family members, Herman was upset that Evelyn was pregnant and told his friends that he didn’t want another child. On May 7th, 2002 Herman reported Evelyn and Alexis missing. In July a pair of legs and a torso washed up on the shore of the Bay only a few blocks from Aguilera’s work place. DNA testing showed that the body was Evelyn’s. Herman immediately “lawyered up” and his wife provided him with a rock-solid alibi. Herman has since left the area but law enforcement has always considered him the prime suspect in the murder of Evelyn and the disappearance of her son Alexis. Tragically, the body of Evelyn’s full-term baby boy, Fernando, has never been located. Please call the San Francisco Police Department at 415-553-1071 if you have any information.
This story is all too tragic, and the parallels to Laci’s case are astounding. Evelyn and Laci were about the same age. Both women were hugely pregnant. Both were recovered from San Francisco Bay, headless and armless. But most importantly, neither appear to be the work of a cult or serial killer, rather both were most likely victims of domestic violence. Evelyn’s case may mirror the case of Laci but it does not prove that pregnant women were disappearing without a trace. Besides this story, none of the other women disappeared or died in circumstances similar to Laci Peterson.
Let’s look now at the cases of the pregnant women
Toni Clark died it was likely a tragic car accident in San Francisco, 90 miles from Modesto.
Guadalupe Castro was last seen in Washington state, 1000s of miles from Modesto, and her husband is most likely to blame.
Jeanette Gomez Espeleta’s case has been solved. Again, her boyfriend was perpetrator. And she lived in San Diego area, not anywhere near Modesto.
Angelina Evans’ case is a little like Laci’s but there is not enough evidence to know anything for sure.
Evelyn Fernandez’s case is similar to Laci’s but her boyfriend is the most likely suspect.
What about those in Modesto?
Kathy Sweet was not pregnant and was in her 30s when she was found dead in Modesto. Very little is known about this case- but it doesn’t bear any resemblance to Laci’s disappearance and murder.
Susan Robin Bender age 15 from Modesto went missing in Modesto after getting into someone’s car in 1986 at the bus station. Susan was not pregnant. Susan was acquainted with Loren Hertzog and Wesley Shermaintine, a serial killer pair who are presumed to be her killers. An old friend of Susan’s is also a suspect. (Shermantine and Herzog, the Speed Freak Killers, were in jail at the time of Laci’s disappearance.)
Ruth Leamon, 16, went to a Modesto store for a soda in 1982 and never returned. Like Susan Ruth knew Loren Herzog and he is presumed to be her killer. Leamon was not pregnant when she went missing. She is also white and the case does not resemble Laci’s case
In conclusion, I set out to write up the cases of the missing pregnant women from the Modesto area but instead I discovered something stranger. After reading about all these people and looking into the unsolved cases, I think it is safe to say that the missing, pregnant Modesto women don’t exist and the outcry about a serial killer being involved in the murders of Laci or Evelyn, was not a misunderstanding. It was a well calculated, fear mongering tactic used to by the Peterson family to create doubt that simply doesn’t exist. And the media ate it up like a salacious sex scandal. So, the next time your friend tries to convince you that Scott Peterson was nothing more than an adulterer, and that a serial killer or satanic cult was actually to blame, remind them that the victims of the killer don’t even exist. And without victims there isn’t a crime spree.
[Serial][UWDFF Alcubierre] Part 69
Zyy and Xy floated alongside one another, their thoughts flitting back and forth as they tried to make sense of how to proceed. This was only their second negotiation, and the first experience with Premier Valast had been highly alarming and deeply troubling in its end results. While it is unclear whether they could have reached a better outcome, Xy remained fairly certain that descending into singletonism, engaging in forbidden merges, being ostracized from their collective, and then exiled to the hinterland of the galaxy was sub-optimal. Still, they must proceed, there was to be no resisting these currents. An errant thought pulsed out from the Left, a quiet wish that they belonged to another line, one that wasn't dedicated to the observer purpose-specialization. Their very nature leaned against intervention and action, and it was doubly difficult for a Left, who was inculcated with a strong desire to drift toward calmer pools than the roiling rapids of the Right.
Zyy offered comfort through an emotion-thread, seeking to soothe Xy's frayed mental state. Xy accepted the emanation, wondering at Zyy's perseverance given all the Right had endured. Zyy was still injured, and the Right's many damaged cilia would take time to recover, but Zyy's resolve was strong and had grown only stronger since the XiZ collective had formed. Their existence among the Xiz had been a comfortable one, largely free from upset or surprise. It had also been stagnant. The Zix Collective had been through generations, carefully isolated from the rest of the galaxy and scrupulously following the rules set down following the establishment of the collective.
There was no opportunity for growth within the Zix. They were born to a role, assigned a partner and designated a float to occupy. Until the discovery of the Sol Object, their entire life had been spent in that role with that partner in the float. How could they develop any strength when there were no currents to struggle against? How could they know what they were capable of if all they did was what they had always done?
The Zix were weak because they did not attempt to be anything else. They were isolated because they feared connection. They did not progress because they feared change. They did not grow because they were comfortable being confined.
The XiZ would not make those mistakes. Even if Xy became uncomfortable, it would find resolve in Zyy's desire to fight. There would be new rules. New ways of doing things. They were more than their line and their rank. They were the future of the Zix.
And such a future could only be guaranteed by discarding the isolationism of before. To survive, they must have allies. They must find a means to establishing themselves with the Humans.
The initial attempt at establishing a diplomatic effort had been concerning. Both Zyy and Xy had expected to discuss their interests with Human Jack. Unfortunately, they had been informed that, since diplomacy was not Human Jack's purpose-specialization, and could not create a binding agreement, they would be required to deal with another. Human Amahle had been introduced shortly after as the Human best suited for the discussion. To both Zyy and Xy's surprise, Human Amahle had quickly developed a flow of conversation. She was quite different from Human Jack, but Xy found her to be quite pleasing. There was a structure to her communications, one that Xy and Zyy found easy to interact with and build upon.
Still, there were some concerns.
Zyy: Is the Elephant alive?
The events at Halcyon remained a mystery, but Zyy and Xy had been able to draw some conclusions from the information available from the First Armada's usage of the wormhole. The Elephant's ship had entered and had been followed by a number of additional ships. Some of these ships did not return, including the Elephant's. The wormhole connecting Sol to Halcyon had been shut off quickly afterwards. Given the conventions within the Combine Compact, it was unlikely in the extreme that Halcyon would permit a garrison from an unknown species in their space, and so Xy had surmised that the missing ships had been destroyed. Zyy agreed.
The ramifications of such a battle were unknown. They had attempted to discuss the matter with Grand-Jack, but there appeared to be some issue in communication as many of Human Jack's responses were disjointed and lacked their normal flow. Their conversation with Human Amahle had no such issues.
Ambassador Mandela: Yes, Fleet Admiral Joan Orléans is alive.
Zyy: We did not see the Elephant's ship return. What occurred in Halcyon?
Ambassador Mandela: There is much information to share, but it must be a part of an agreement between our species.
Xy: We desire an agreement as well.
Ambassador Mandela: It would be best for both of our kind. Humanity is new to the galaxy and lacks understanding. We have learned much from our encounters already. We seek to learn more.
Xy: We are a newly formed collective. It will take time for us to become established. We will require resources and protection.
They would need to divide to continue. Two were sufficient to start a collective, but not sufficient to grow one. A spit would increase the resiliency and guarantee the diversity of the collective. Currently, an injury to either Xy or Zyy significant enough to prevent a future split would greatly reduce the cognitive diversity within their collective by depriving it of a Left or Right line. They had already been fortunate that Zyy's injuries were not of that scale and that Zyy had protected Xy from injury during their merge.
However, a split would leave the XiZ Collective vulnerable for a period. As Superiors, dividing would produce two Minors, which would have substantially reduced capabilities for a period and could not be entrusted with the command of the Float. One would need to divide before the other, with the remaining Superior guiding the Minors through the process of ordering their new minds. Such a process was a time and resource intensive effort under the best of circumstances, and these were not the best of circumstances. The sub-float was not a nursery and possessed neither the size nor the nutrient production capabilities typically available when Minor split occurred. Additionally, and most concerning, neither Zyy nor Xy were a Breeder, which ensured that any split would not produce highly clarified, purpose-driven minds.
This meant they would likely require an additional period before becoming useful, and the nature of their consciousnesses would be unpredictable. At least, that is what Xy had been instructed would occur during its Zix indoctrination. There was at least some evidence of the truth of that matter in the blurred consciousness Xy now possessed since its merge and split with Zyy. While recent events had certainly helped evolve Xy, it could not be denied that its views and values were altered by the mixing of its consciousness with a Right. It had a flexibility it did not possess before. A willingness to take chances and to countenance things that no sensible Left would accept.
Xy did not consider this a bad thing, which was a neat encapsulation of exactly how much it had changed. A split of either of them would form two new consciousnesses, each of which would bear hallmarks of their forebear, but, without the guidance of a Breeder, be highly variable from a base set of characteristics. This could be good or it could be bad. Much of the future of the XiZ would be dependent on it and there was little either of them could do to control the outcome.
To survive, the XiZ would need to follow a specific order of operations, one with volatile outcomes, and one that must not be disturbed. All of these factors meant securing protection was essential.
Ambassador Mandela: We are prepared to offer a mutual defense treaty, one that would treat any act of aggression against the XiZ as an act of aggression against Humanity itself. Before such a treaty could be enacted, a complete disclosure of known threats would be required so we can evaluate the ramifications of such an agreement.
Xy: Threats to Humanity and threats to the XiZ are the same. We will provide information.
Ambassador Mandela: You mentioned resources. What resources will be required?
Thoughts flitted back and forth between Xy and Zyy as they considered how best to order this request. There were many needs. A reliable power source not tethered to Human ships. Building materials to expand the float. The base minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins to expand the float's nutrient production. All were required to survive.
Xy: A full recounting of all needs will be provided. Many of these needs will be persistent.
Ambassador Mandela: Any alliance can include an economic component. In addition to resources, transit services, technology trade, communication networks, and integration into Human trade are all possibilities. Of course, the last would require a series of preliminary steps to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
Human Amahle was quite accommodating. Zyy registered its enthusiasm with a pulse of emotion, but Xy remained uncertain. Xy agreed that ensuring their future required an alliance with the Humans -- they simply did not possess the ability to build from a single float -- but there was danger in becoming too integrated. They were dependent on Humanity, but they did not want to remain so indefinitely. Zyy, predictably, was less concerned about such an outcome. The Right believed that their currents flowed together, and there was little to be gained from trying to separate them without cause.
The matter was important. It would impact negotiations and priorities. Xy reached out with another cilia, intertwining it with Zyy to establish a specific thought-thread to the debate, uncluttered by the other line of thoughts they exchanged. Xy pushed the importance of self-determination, of ensuring they retained their separation from larger bodies that sought to dominate them. Humanity and the Zix were different, but they were also the same. This would be the moment of the XiZ's greatest leverage, and this treaty would define their future interactions. A path to independence was important.
Zyy contemplated this, letting its thoughts flow through its cilia so Xy could better understand the deliberations that occurred within the Right. Zyy felt a bond with the Humans that Xy did not, and it made judging the situation more complicated. An emotion-thread joined the thought-thread, its contents surprising to Xy. For all of Zyy's actions, it felt the loss of the Zix Collective keenly. It did not desire the separation and regretted that the currents of the First Cascade had required the outcome. Humanity offered a surrogate of sorts, a place to belong in a hostile galaxy.
Zyy understood Xy's insistence on preserving the path to separation, but wished such an outcome would not arrive. Even with a split, it would be some time before there were enough Xiz for a sense of community to develop. Zyy believed their collective of two was a new beginning, and one it was eager to explore, but it could not help feeling adrift in the wake of the First Cascade, unmoored save for its connection to Xy. It was then that Xy came to appreciate that their reliance was mutual. They formed a loop among themselves, each reinforcing the other. Xy drew strength from Zyys' perseverance. Zyy drew strength from Xy's stable camaraderie. It had been enough to get them this far, but both wanted more.
Zyy wanted to belong again.
Xy wanted to no longer need to belong.
The desires were reversed. The Left felt as the Right and the Right as the Left.
They had changed. They were changing. They would change.
Xy reached out another cilia, establishing a new emotion thread. They were more intertwined now than at any point since their merge. Each could feel the consciousness of the other, their minds drawing closer. Xy thrummed out reassurance. They would rebuild the community. It would be strong. It would be independent. It would welcome them, because it would be them.
But they must have their own current. One that could sustain itself with its own strength. The XiZ would become a Great Flow all of their own.
Just as Xy found the conviction to continue on by observing Zyy's courage and perseverance, Xy was surprised to sense Zyy's reliance upon Xy.
Zyy's cilia curled and unfurled, letting Xy's confidence and belief wash over it. Zyy did not let Xy's thoughts replace its own, it simply allowed those thoughts and the emotions to fill in the insecurities it possessed. Zyy would trust Xy on this matter.
Xy: We will consider an expansive alliance, but we will require access to our own power as a precondition for any agreement.
Unlike the other responses, this did not arrive immediately. Only after a long pause did the reply come.
Ambassador Mandela: There is much to discuss.
Xy subconsciously imbibed fluid, swelling in size, the noncommittal response triggering its natural defense mechanisms.
Xy may want the XiZ to be independent, but Humanity clearly did not.
"No," Joan said.
"This is a delicate negotiation, one that the Secretary General has tasked me with." Amahle said. Red heat boiled in her stomach, but she kept her tone neutral. Amahle was not going to let this person get the better of her, despite Joan's almost preternatural ability to get under Amahle's skin. Joan was simply another obstacle on the path to peace. Another petty warlord who favored fire and destruction over crop and construction. For the better part of two decades, Amahle had been piecing together consensus in the face of intransigence. She had stitched together the fiefdoms and warring factions of her homeland into the nation of Bantu, carrying on the work of a dynasty of diplomats that could be traced back to Nelson Mandela, her ancestor and the man who had helped deliver his nation from apartheid.
Joan nodded, "Of course, but the answer is still no."
Amahle felt an immediate impulse to push back, to defend her mandate and ownership over the process, but knew it would be futile. The escalation would only play into Joan's hands, who somehow managed to remain calm even while killing billions and running trolley cars over babies. Amahle elected for a new tact. "Explain your position, Fleet Admiral. I am not a member of the United World's Defense Force and I am not here to take orders from you. If we are to partner on this negotiation, then the decision making principles we will follow should be understood and agreed upon between us."
Joan gestured toward the screen, "We cannot provide them with an independent power source."
"I'm not sure on the science here, but I suspect--"
The Fleet Admiral shook her head, "No, it's not a question of ability. We have already demonstrated that we can power their vessel. It's a question of whether we should cede our control over their vessel. I am saying we should not."
Joan offered her a cool glance.
"It is a sincere question. Why should we retain control over their ship?"
"Because it is essential leverage in our interactions. It provides us with a basis for gaining the things we want -- access to wormholes, information, and so forth -- without undue risk to our interests."
"I see. And these interests cannot be safeguarded otherwise? Only through negative incentives can our budding alliance be secured?"
Joan arched a brow, "It's been my experience that people respond better to the stick over the carrot."
"I wasn't aware you had tried the carrot before, Fleet Admiral," Amahle replied, her tone carefully neutral.
"The carrot is always offered before I am called upon. The fact I am so frequently asked to resolve matters should not be lost upon either of us."
"I see, just as you have resolved matters at Halcyon?"
Joan did not respond. Amahle looked up from the console containing the text interaction with the XiZ and found Joan looking at her. "What?" Amahle said.
"Since you are disturbed by the outcome at Halcyon, you continue to assume I am." Joan leaned to the side of her chair, bringing her closer to Amahle, who was seated beside her, "But I am not disturbed by the outcome. It would have been better if there was no loss of life. It would have been better if more of our interests had been secured. It would have been better if a great many other things had occurred, but I have done as I saw best and see little evidence an alternate course of action would have secured a superior outcome." Joan leaned back now, and returned to staring at the Admiral Bridge's displays. "You are welcome to continue rehashing this discussion if you would like, but it will not progress the negotiation that is your primary task."
Amahle had to admit she was impressed. She had never seen someone be indifferent, homicidal and condescending all at once. Truly, the Fleet Admiral was an impressive specimen. "There is a natural confirmation bias to your world view, Joan. You are only called upon in the small percentage of times when all else has failed. The Secretary General knows what your presence means, which is why it is so rarely relied upon. The fact that you have been utilized frequently only speaks to the dangerous times Humanity of this era. Still, the United World owes a great deal to you and your methods and we have survived because of them." Amahle took a breath, "But we have not thrived because of them. You have been present to pull us back from the edge, but that is different than building a future. The nations of the United World are bound together in common cause, not scared by overwhelming threat. If we are to build an alliance among the stars, we must demonstrate Humanity is trustworthy, and what better way of doing so than extending trust and support to a species that relies upon us?"
"We cannot lose access to wormholes."
"We could lose access to them even if we relied upon the stick. We require their cooperation to utilize the worm projector. When the need for that was greatest, it was you the recognized that the carrot was better than the stick. You were the one who asked Jack to speak with them, to provide them with a friendly voice and someone they would listen to. Why didn't you just tell them that they either opened the wormhole or you were going to destroy them?"
"I am aware of the value of compromise, Ambassador, and I am willing to utilize a range of tactics to optimize outcomes, but we need not compromise here and doing so may dramatically impact Humanity's prospects. Providing the Xiz with their own power fundamentally changes the nature of our relationship in a way that seems difficult for us to receive adequate compensation for. If we provide them with power and the use it to escape, what then?"
"Then we would be in no different position than the XiZ refusing to comply or any other number decisions that they might make that we have no control over."
"If they are alive and under our control, we will always possess more options than if they are not under our control."
"That's not true. They could just as easily decide to destroy themselves rather than be subjected to whatever perceived leverage you might attempt to apply. All of which would cost us the benefits tied to a willing and engaged ally. We also have the opportunity to demonstrate how Humanity conducts itself, to present an alternative version to the marauding barbarians that destroyed a capitol and unleashed a galaxy-ending plague."
Joan chuckled and shook her head ruefully, "I'm afraid that impression is indelible. It is the first and the most lasting."
"We can change it. Regardless of history, there is always the possibility for reconciliation. The United World is a testament to it. But if that future is to be possible, we must stop burning bridges before they are even assembled."
"And you believe providing the XiZ with power is essential to this outcome? You'll simply give it to them in hopes of the universe providing you with some karmatic compensation?"
Amahle smiled now, "Of course not. I'm an diplomat, not a charity. I am simply saying we should not take unequivocal positions until we have a full understanding of what may be possible. Our priority should be to obtain a long-lasting alliance that furthers the goals of both species. Access to their own power source is a primary goal for them. Very well, it is good we understand that. We will provide them with our own aspirations and we will negotiate an outcome and monitoring regime that ensures both sides are better for having interacted with one another."
Joan was quiet again, her eyes still focused on the blinking screens displayed on the wall of the Admiral's Bridge. Amahle could only wonder at the machinations winding their way through the steel trap of her mind, but would take silence over an immediate disagreement. After an interminable period, Joan tilted her head in acknowledgement, "Very well, Ambassador, I am open to exploring options. I will restate that I am highly skeptical of an agreement that entails providing power to the Xiz, but I will not prejudge the matter."
"Your position is understood, and I will keep your concerns and priorities in mind as we continue," Amahle said, opening up the prompt to the XiZ.
Ambassador Mandela: There is much to discuss.
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