The Green Revolution started in the 1940's, and was dedicated to finding new agricultural solutions to solve rising problems of crop failures, insufficient harvest, and thus combat world hunger and conflict through innovation. In the 1960's, it scored its greatest victories, providing enough food to feed billions.
This was something new. The world was gripped in a new movement, dubbed by some to be The Hope Revolution, in honor of Hope Island, and the five young people who led the charge to change the nature of the world.
The Planeteers. They were not rich or powerful, but they cared. Called together by Gaia, the conscious soul of the Earth, they were given authority over the five elemental powers of Life, in the form of gold bejeweled rings that defied explanation. Armed and commissioned to put a stop to the senseless destruction plaguing the world, the five went to work.
It was an awesome and terrifying responsibility to lay on five young adults, but their duty to their people compelled them to answer the call, because having touched the power for themselves, they knew that if they could not find a solution that humanity could live with, the Earth had it within her power to put a stop to it, and likely doom human civilization.
And so the Earth poured its hopes for balance into a team of five humans. Kwame, a miner from Africa. A calm and gentle soul, with a gift for natural leadership and a deep love for his homelands, given the Power of Earth. Wheeler, a construction worker from North America. Deeply protective and loyal to his family and his team, with a love for making things grow, given the Power of Fire. Linka, a small town farmer from Europe, fiercely independent, and uncompromising in her purpose and her love for the trees, given the Power of Wind. Gi, a former student from Asia, with a brilliant analytical mind, and a great knowledge of how things worked, given the Power of Water. Ma-Ti, a village boy from South America, with great compassion for all living things, and an open minded love for all the world, given the Power of Heart; over life and the energy of living things.
Their quest began with them finding their way to each other from widely diverse countries and ways of life across the world. Their first Mission was a success, destroying an immense mobile Oil Rig, which had been strip mining the oceans illegally, on behalf of rich and powerful kingmakers and profiteers; a ruthless financial institution known as The Corporation.
During the course of that secret mission, The Planeteers used their five powers combined, and summoned an unfathomable force of pure creation, so beyond their comprehension that they were terrified of what they had unleashed. It was a blast of power that let loose a new genesis on the world, creating a new continent for the first time since Dinosaurs ruled the earth. It was an act of foundation that made the whole world sit up and take notice. The Hope Revolution began with a roar.
What set The Hope Revolution apart was that it ignored so much of what people relied on. The Planeteers sought no funding, proposed no laws, endorsed no leader or nation. Their message went to the people. Their celebrity after the formation of Hope Island caused crowds to flock to them, and they took full advantage, sometimes going door to door. The Hope Revolution focused on individual action, and individual success.
One woman called out to Linka that she and her family couldn't do anything, couldn't afford to change their ways. Linka had gone into her home personally and shown her she was wrong. Kwame did the same with businesses, Wheeler with city dwellers, Ma-Ti with farmers. Gi had set up their communications, and The Planeteers began holding online classes to dozens of nations across the world, where the borders had been closed to them, or time did not allow a personal visit.
Kwame had made the first online address, and it quickly became one of the most watched videos in internet history.
"Hello. My name is Kwame Deka, and not long ago, I was just like you. All I can tell you is what I know to be the truth. That you can make a difference. Even if it's only a small one, it's something that wouldn't have changed without you. This world is for all of us to live on, and we can't afford to wait for someone else to fix the problem. If the big problems don't have solutions that you can see, then get busy on the little ones. If it seems hopeless, just remember that nobody can stop you from trying, except you. That doesn't just apply to the environment. It applies to anything you care about! The Power Is Yours!"
The Power Is Yours Campaign had lasted for months. The Press had left them alone after a while, though their missions still got the front page every time. When their appearances became less shocking, they never failed to draw a crowd. Sometimes they appeared at a business or a store and started to talk to people there about ways they could make a difference. Ma-Ti would usually just walk out into the middle of a busy road, unafraid of the traffic or the people, and just start to talk.
Gi visited a Recycling Center. People who worked there were thrilled to have a celebrity. They gave her the full tour, answered her questions. Most of the employees called their friends, or family. Those that were in the area came to see if it was true. Eventually, Gi's tour was done, and she stood outside the building and spoke to them.
"Recycling a single can takes 5% of the power, money, water and effort it would take to make a new one." Gi said to them. "Every tonne of paper recycled saves 13 trees. But it also saves 4100 kilowatts of power, 30,000 Liters of water. In a world that faces energy and water shortages every day, that's no small thing. When I was inside, I was told that there is a serious problem with contamination. When you throw garbage in the recycling, it contaminates the collection. That garbage that you throw in the recycling bin comes back to you, in degraded recycled material, to say nothing of the recycled goods that are discarded or no good because of that contamination. You may be doing it without realizing! not all kinds of plastic or even paper can be recycled. Any recycling center will tell you what can and can't go in the recycle bin. Thirty seconds research on the internet saves a lot of work picking out the stuff that can't be used. The Power is Yours!"
Kwame simply walked into an office building, and waited for people to notice him. The majority of the workers there worked administratively. Whole levels were dedicated to cubicles of workers. Kwame stood in the middle of them, and made his case.
"Back home, my father owned a mining company." He said to them. "Before I took on this calling, I was getting ready to take it over. I worked in the Mines, and I worked in the offices, getting to know the people who would work for me one day. What you guys do every day, I have done too. You can make a difference here, and not even notice you're doing it. For instance, how many of you live off coffee?"
Pretty much every hand went up, with a self-deprecating laugh.
"Most coffee shops will let you bring in your own mug to use. most of them are thrilled, less stuff they have to pay for. A lot of them offer reusable coffee mugs to bring back with you. That alone will stop Styrofoam going into landfills. When you're here at the office, the same thing applies. A regular coffee mug instead of disposable cups. is it really so hard to rinse it off and let it dry? In this office alone I can see three printers. Ink cartridges can be recycled, refilled and put back into use, at 10% the cost of a new one from the store. now I know that this company has a recycling program, but I'm looking around and I see a trash bin in every cubicle. You are the ones who decide what you throw away. Every worker goes through a full grown tree worth of paper every year. If you need something to write down a note on, turn a piece of paper over. Don't think that looking after the environment is something that you should be embarrassed about in the workplace, or something that should be limited to your home The Power is Yours!"
It sounded like the smallest, most inconsequential of things, but that was the power it held. Things that people could easily do, they did. And when they realized they wanted to do more, they went looking for bigger and grander things they could do.
Their first campaign stared slow, and grew like a wave. Most treated it like another social movement. A fad to be embraced and soon forgotten by the kids. But adults were invited in too. The Planeteers got their internet following organized, and the crowds that followed to hear them speak got together to continue what was started.
The Planeteers were fighting despair and depression. The whole human race saw the world's problems unfolding. Those that didn't have the numbers or the information could still tell that the world was changing. They could feel the summers getting longer and the winters getting harsher. But most of them simply watched, sickened, saddened, worried; and waiting for a solution.
The Planeteers were quickly considered to be that solution, set to make the problem go away. The five of them quickly pushed that idea aside, and fought the sense of hopelessness with everything they had, trying to motivate people. Small things first, then larger and larger.
And it was doing some good. The feeling of change was spreading. People were taking notice. One by one they started to involve themselves. People who were only just signing petitions were suddenly doing more. If nothing else, they started to ask questions, wondering where their food came from, or how their power was generated.
The Hope Revolution was making a difference.
Kwame looked at Lizzie Quinn, perturbed. "I'm sorry. 'Captain Planet'? Say that again?"
"Which part?" Lizzie asked brightly, knowing she was doomed.
"All of it."
"Look." Lizzie said patiently. "The World Watchers want a mascot. A lot of their number are kids. Edutainment, it's called."
"And this is what they came up with?" Kwame asked. "Liz, we're trying to do serious work here. Some of the most important work that has ever been done. You think, that if we made the symbol of that work a blue skinned green haired cartoon character in red boots, we'll get more kids interested?"
"Not me. The World Watchers." Lizzie explained.
"How stupid did you think you would sound pitching that?"
"A lot less stupid than the kids would feel watching the show."
Kwame sighed. "What else you got?"
Lizzie smiled. "You've all been invited to a Black Tie Fundraiser. Show up and the donations will go through the roof."
"What's the cause?"
"You are. After a fashion. The Planet Foundation has investments and charitable causes all over the place. Education, clean-up, green-tech, recycling drives, swap meets. They've been doing good for a lot of people. Some of them see a benefit in keeping your little proteges funded for a while."
Kwame thought about it a moment. "This... will do good?"
"And the people who stand to gain are the ones who started their movement in your name, with your blessing. You don't show up and..."
"And we're ignoring the people who look up to us." Kwame finished. "Okay, we'll be there."
"And you have a visitor. You won't want to take this meeting, but he wouldn't take no for an answer, he came personally, and his time is valuable."
"Who is he?" Kwame asked, intrigued.
Kwame and Lizzie turned. The door had opened, and in had come a man in a well tailored suit, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a granite jaw. He looked like he could be a newsreader.
"I'll step out, let you two talk." Lizzie said, ducking out.
Holland smiled at Kwame. "Do you know who I am?"
Kwame wasn't in any way intimidated. "Should I?"
"My name is Bertrand Holland. I'm running for Congress."
Kwame's face hardened. "I'm sorry, Mr. Holland, but it's not going to happen."
"You don't know what I'm going to say yet."
"Yes, I do. I've heard it before." Kwame said lightly. "You're prepared to dramatically increase our press coverage and make us somewhat wealthier if we support you, your policies, or your campaign in some way."
"Something like that."
Kwame sighed. "Mr. Holland." He said politely. "We have stayed out of every political debate that has ever come near us. The Planeteers are strictly apolitical." He almost smirked. "And... pretty much anti-politician too."
Holland almost cackled. "I know. I never get tired of watching you rip the US Ambassador apart. Still, I was hoping you would make an exception in my case, given my platform."
"My district is currently the most pro-environment in New York State, due in no small part to the five of you. Your movement is spreading. My opponent has been tied to The Corporation for his last four campaigns. If I take the Eco-Stance, I can beat him. My campaign promises the first bill I pass will be to require by law the use of recycling technologies for all businesses and industry employing more than twenty-five people."
Kwame nodded. "Good luck with that. But you'll have to do it without us."
"You won't support me?"
"With the exception of Wheeler, we're not even legally allowed to vote for you." Kwame said honestly.
"There could be benefits in working with me."
"There are downsides too." Kwame said. "We have a Mission. One that politics has proven unequal to solve. In all the times we've been on TV, have you heard us endorse a petition, a law, a vote, a candidate? Ever?"
"No indeed. But I know why. You're worried about tying yourself to a politician, who will hang you out to dry."
"No, we're not worried. We know. A politician can only plan as far as the next election. We have to get things done. I wish you luck, and if you manage to get elected, I hope that you can do some good, but frankly, the whole point of the Planeteers is that nothing else worked. And the whole point of the 'Power Is Yours' campaign is that we can't wait for anyone else to do these things for us."
Holland seemed unconcerned. "Well. Looks like it was a shorter meeting than I thought."
Holland left the room, his annoyance hidden well.
Lizzie shrugged. "Yup. I could have told you he said that."
Holland sighed. "I know. But I had to try."
"For what it's worth, I took a look at your proposition. I think it'll be a great victory for the environment. But I don't see how you'll get it to work. It's expensive, and it's new. Anything expensive and new is doomed in politics. Especially since The Corporation is backing your opponent."
Holland nodded. "I know. Wish me luck."
Lizzie headed out. "I have to get back to work."
"Me too." Holland said. The second Lizzie was out of the room, he pulled out his cell phone. "You were right, Mr Stumm; they refuse to, in any way, play ball."
Stumm didn't seem to care. "I told you that would happen. Don't worry about it. There are other ways. You know what to do?"
"Good man." Stumm disconnected.
Bligh, his head of security, turned to face him. "So. Can I assume the word is given?"
Stumm smirked. "You've been waiting for this a long time Bligh. We start taking care of the problem today. I'll announce tonight at the Party."
Bligh nodded. "I'll handle Levinson." She pulled out her phone and speed dialed. "Mal, it's me. The operation is a go."
Even in New York City, farmers and organic growers had their place. There were twenty eight open air markets that took place during the week, at least one every day, and at least ten of them all year round.
Fruit, veg, meat, poultry, milk, everything that could be grown, preserved, and eaten was for sale. More then two hundred local farmers had their places reserved, and from time to time, casual sellers could try their luck.
Of course, there was a price to pay for such a chance.
"Early." JJ moaned.
"Yes, it is a touch early." Polly said cheerfully.
"The sun isn't up yet." JJ moaned.
"Think of how much you'll get done."
JJ's eyes flew open. "Oh, right." He reached into his bag and pulled out his books. "Geography."
"Thought you hated geography."
"That's why I haven't done my homework yet." JJ groaned. "I hate geography because every class for the last six months has worked Hope Island into the conversation somehow and everyone turns to stare at me, and skipping homework doesn't help that."
Polly's cell phone rang. She handed it to JJ without answering. He hit the button. "Hey Bro."
"Hey, bro." Wheeler answered. "What time is it there?"
"6:30. You forget already?"
"I figured I should check. What on earth made you get up at 6:30 in the morning?"
"Farmer's market." JJ responded. "Me and Polly have been busy."
"Buying or selling?" Wheeler laughed.
"Both. Polly wasn't using her spare room, and every community garden in New York state is trying to recruit me since my family got famous for making things grow."
"Good grief, my brother: Farmer Joe." Wheeler laughed. "Got a lot to sell?"
"Enough to fill a table at the market."
"Find the regulars." Wheeler advised. "They'll barter. Polly will love you if you can trade for some meat, or flour or sugar or tea. Stuff she uses and can't get from you."
JJ nodded, though his brother couldn't see it. "Huh. You done this before?"
"As a buyer. Never grew enough to sell. Went a little nuts one summer and came back with way too much. Hold on to any spares. I'll show you how to preserve them." Wheeler advised.
JJ sat up straighter. "You will?"
"Oh didn't I tell you?" Wheeler quipped. "We'll be in New York tomorrow night. We got put on the guest list for some Black Tie gala."
JJ was thrilled to hear his brother would be in town, and wanted to say half a dozen things, but he started with the most important. "You can't tie a tie."
"That's tomorrow night's problem." Wheeler quipped. "What have you got tomorrow night?"
"There's a thing with the Planet Foundation."
"Blow it off."
JJ laughed. "Okay. After that there's this thing on TV. It's actually a retrospective on you guys. Want me to tape it?"
"Why? I was there the first time."
JJ laughed again. "See you tomorrow night." He disconnected the call, and checked over the table he had. Onions, garlic, cucumbers, gherkins, tomatoes, lettuce... all of it grown in his brothers... in his container garden. After their father had shipped out with his unit, Wheeler had turned the large bedroom into an indoor container garden. When Wheeler had left home to take up his Mission, JJ had inherited it. Since he didn't eat as many vegetables as he should, and had expanded the garden; he had plenty of leftover produce.
The regular customers got there early. "Excuse me..." One of them said. "But are you Wheeler Johnston's brother?"
JJ smirked, despite himself. "Yeah. Yeah I am."
The woman was delighted, looking over what the table had to offer.
Polly leaned in. "We gotta charge more for this."
Wheeler's advice turned out to be very accurate. JJ was able to swap whatever didn't sell for loaves of bread, bottles of milk, bags of sugar... He was mildly amazed at what was available at the Farmer's markets, and Polly was more than thrilled to have variety in her groceries without spending anything.
It was a lesson he applied to school immediately the next day. More than a third of the kids in his class weren't happy with what they had, and JJ had skillfully organized a swap meet by recess. Those that came drew attention from students, and even a teacher or two who joined in.
"All right, let's get some business done." JJ said cheerfully.
"I've got a meatloaf sandwich." Emily said. "My dad won't believe me when I say that I'm vegan now."
"I got a muesli bar. Choc coated." Offered Ben.
"No, no good. Vegan. No milk products."
"Emily, for you, I got a cucumber salad." JJ said, trying to be smooth. He and Emily had made eye contact a few times, and he was trying to show off a bit. "Tupperware is a remarkable thing. Cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, shallots."
Emily was thrilled. "Organic?"
"Grew it in my brother's garden."
The swap was done in seconds. The meatloaf sandwich was traded for chocolate milk and crisps, which JJ traded for a Sloppy Joe.
JJ grinned. Life had become so much easier since he discovered the barter system. The usefulness of the system had spread quickly, and by lunchtime; Baseball cards, collectables, lunch, snacks and everything in between was going back and forth.
Plus, he got to spend the entire lunch break with Emily. She was looking for a new set of friends. Her father had suddenly been cleaned out by the economy, and her mother, and her friends had all suddenly realized that they were poor. Moving to Brooklyn was rough after living her whole life on Fifth Avenue, but it had awakened her to how hollow her life was.
JJ had a few suggestions.
Emily signed the last of the entry forms, as the receptionist smiled and slid her an ID Badge. "Welcome to the Planet Foundation." She said.
"Thank you." Emily fingered the badge, and wandered toward the Common Room. The walls had framed newspaper articles about things they had done in the Community, colorful info-graphics about environmental facts...
She was being watched by the members; who were working on small projects, watching movies, some were playing pool, or darts...
She paused as a man came up to her, holding out a hand for a handshake. "Hello. David Coulborn, I run International Organization from this local chapter of the Planet Foundation."
Emily shook his hand. "Emily Sturgess."
Coulborn smiled in a welcoming way. "Hello, Emily. You're new aren't you?"
Emily blushed a little at the attention. "Yessir."
Coulborn led her into the Common Rooms. "Well then, lets show you around. JJ?"
JJ turned around and saw Emily. He had a goofy grin on his face instantly. "Emily, you made it!"
Emily smiled, relieved to see someone she knew. "Hey, JJ."
JJ was staring. Blink! Don't stare! Blink your eyes JJ! Be cool, just this once. Move your eyelids up and down! "I'm glad you came." He said, trying to play it casual.
Emily shrugged, demurring a little. "I just joined up a few minutes ago. I… don't really know what I'm doing here."
"Oh good, you two know each other already." Coulborn said in relief. "JJ, I have to get to the studio. Can you handle things for a few hours?"
"I thought the show was tonight."
"It is, but they're filming a few things in advance."
"Of course I can handle it." JJ said easily, showing off a little.
"Thanks. Have a good time." Coulborn headed off.
Emily smiled at JJ. "You're a big shot around here, huh?"
"A little bit." JJ grinned. "Let me show you around, introduce you to a few people. It may not look like much, but it's real."
Emily was pleased with that. It was exactly what she was looking for.
The Planeteers were about as spread out as they'd ever been. Their 'Power is Yours' Campaign had sent them out across the world, and they covered more ground when they split up. Between missions, they continued their awareness campaign. Every now and then they appeared together for special events, or to plan out their next Mission.
Wheeler had taken a flight to his own personal appearance to New York, where he would meet up with the others. He was getting his bags from the Terminal when his cell phone rang. He checked the caller ID. "Karen Gillys, voice of a nightingale. What can we do for you today?"
Karen was smiling, he could tell. "I'm in the Congo; I've got a tip for you."
Wheeler stood upright swiftly. Karen was always chasing a story. She knew that The Planeteers were her best bet to get one. They had been good for her career, and she had repaid them by letting them know where they could be of use. "I'm listening."
"There are agreements in the Congo about logging. About which trees are protected. There are about half a dozen logging operations for the locals that don't belong to The Corporation. One of them is planning to move on some protected woods tomorrow night your time."
"The woods in question are in a protected zone. After you shut down logging in the Amazon, lumber yards are freaking out."
"We noticed. They started sending armed guards along with their loggers." Wheeler put in.
The Planeteers always went on missions as a group. For 'The Power is Yours' campaign, they split up, going to as many different places as they could. As such, they had often had to co-ordinate their schedules with each other through Lizzie, or over the Internet.
At this it wasn't necessary, as they were all arriving at New York. Wheeler left word for all of them to meet him at the JFK Airport Lounge. Once they were all there, they picked a quiet spot, and he briefed them. "Karen says they have our schedule. The Charity Benefit for Green Tech in New York? They plan to do their work on the same day."
Gi shook her head. "These people aren't criminals. They're workers, trying to get money for their work."
"Areas for them to cut down trees have been defined. They're after protected lands so that they don't have to pay fees, and they're doing it tomorrow so that they don't risk facing us. We've been taking apart loggers and strip miners for months."
"And if we don't show up at the Fundraiser here in New York, all they have to do is hold off for twenty four hours." Linka put in.
Gi smirked tiredly. "Anyone remember the good old days when nobody knew who we were?"
"Nope." Wheeler laughed. Then froze. "Oh, damn!" He pulled out his phone and speed-dialed his brother.
"JJ, listen…" Wheeler began.
"Bro! I forgot! I'm sorry!" JJ sounded horrified. "I'm so sorry! I'm still at the Planet Foundation meet. Something came up." His voice dropped. "Her name… is Emily. Isn't that a great name?"
Wheeler almost dropped the phone. "Yyyyeah."
Wheeler was still trying to catch up. "Yeah. Ya Sure You Betcha."
"Thanks! And I will tape the show for you. See ya, Bro!"
They both hung up.
Linka was watching this out of the corner of her eye. "Everything okay with your brother?"
Wheeler looked blankly at everyone. "He was busy after all… Her name, apparently… is Emily."
Linka and Gi in particular found this to be very funny.
Kwame was openly sympathetic. "In the mood to set something on fire?"
"Oh hell yes."
Humans mark time in events. Moments of change. Moments that change their lives, shake their perception. I mark time in stretches of life. I can remember back to the time when my continents were large and few. I remember the Calamity when fire and cold came from above and the great Beasts died. I remember when humanity stopped eating from my trees and began sowing their own crops.
I too can become guilty of complacency. The Sin of Convenience is not exclusively one of Man. I too let things go too long because I did not pay attention. And now I am paying very close attention. The Humans are a beautiful thing. All that remains to be seen, is whether I will watch them in the future, or remember their loss.
Do you really think that you can save them?
They can save themselves.
They will fail.
Only time will tell. Why have you returned?
You are the one who craves Balance in all things. Did you really think that giving Power such as this to barely mature humans would not demand an immediate equal and opposite reaction?
Karen Gillys had won a Pulitzer for getting the interview with Linka and Wheeler. She wondered sometimes if she won because her piece was that good, or because she was the only one to get screen time with the Planeteers up to then. On the whole, it didn't matter. She became one of the most talked about TV reporters of the Generation, and her career was set with Planeteer stories alone.
And they gave her plenty of news to work with.
And now, her network was running a special on the whole Planeteer phenomenon. Her interview was to open the TV Special, with plenty of clips included afterward.
For all their fame, there was very little in the way of footage of them using their abilities. They knew how difficult their job could be, and they kept the cameras away while they were on their missions. Karen had covered the after effects and the results of their Missions for months, and the Planeteers gave interviews, gathering public awareness whenever they could.
As such, she sometimes knew where they were better than their own families did. She was willing to play by their rules, and keep herself in their good graces. Such compromise had given her a lot of exclusive scoops on her competitors.
Today was no exception. The Planeteers were after loggers in the Congo, and they didn't dare put that on the news till they'd gotten away. Karen was there with them. Her press credentials had helped the Planeteers into unfriendly countries on more than one occasion, though that had to be kept secret, or she would be finished as a Journalist.
The Loggers were not part of The Corporation, and they knew that their funding came from lumber. Since the Planeteers had shut down a similar operation in the Amazon, several lumber yards had started sending along armed guards to protect their earth movers and lumberjacks.
Thus far, it hadn't helped.
Karen had booked herself and her cameraman into the nearest thing to a hotel the area had, and waited out the almost certain battle taking place in the nearby jungles.
In the meantime, her laptop was set to pickup a live feed from her network, and she waited for her cue.
Polly looked up as the door opened and slammed shut quickly. "Sorry! Sorrysorry!" JJ was breathing hard.
Polly was nonplussed. "Where have you been?"
"I was with Emily, and we hung out and we talked about the city, and we talked about school, and then we got pizza and she got vegetarian because she's vegan, and then we went to the arcade and then we-"
"Whoa, back up." Polly stopped him. "Who's Emily?"
JJ calmed down swiftly. "Did I miss the show?"
In Africa, Natali and Matali hurried to get themselves situated. The clinic at the Mission had become part of the Global Planet Foundation network, in honor of the personal connection between the Clinic and Kwame's late sister. They were getting global attention and funding for the first time since it opened, and as Kwame's friends, they took over his volunteer work there.
"What time is it in America?" Natali demanded. "According to the website, the show was at 8pm, 7pm Central. What is that to us?"
Matali checked his watch. "It should be starting soon. Hurry!"
"Good evening, this is Dan Pierce with a Special Edition of KBX Broadcast News. Every year, we like to look back and explore the events of the last twelve months. Though we are in July, this week marks a milestone in world history. The whole world was stunned when the face of the Planet changed. First reports suggested it may be the end of the world. Next reports staggered the domain of the possible. Market trading was suspended within two hours of the news, global tensions spiked, and war was all but inevitable for a day. And even now, with questions answered and tensions cooled, there are no satisfactory answers to the questions left. Today marks the six-month anniversary of the Hope Island Phenomenon.
Everybody can remember where they were the day the world reported that there was a new mysterious Island, appeared spontaneously in the ocean. Reactions to the discovery of the Planeteers and their message have been varied in the extreme. Six months later, and it's clear they're here to stay. Here at KBX Broadcasting, our own experience that day was as unique as anyone else, with the near loss of our own Karen Gillys. Karen?"
Karen picked up her microphone as her Cameraman cued her. "Thanks Dan. It's been six months since I reported the arrival of Hope Island. In the months that followed, I've covered the Planeteers working across the globe; I've interviewed all of them at least once, and I've covered reactions to the, quite literally, Earth-Shaking event. Everyone has a story to tell and an opinion to share, from the Vatican to The Corporation, to the previous leaders in ecological reform; and the man in the street. It's no exaggeration to say that they've taken over a significant portion of my career."
"Now Karen, you've worked closely with them for the last few months, what's your opinion on the situation?" He said in her earphone.
"I've covered charities, I've interviewed resistance fighters, and I've spoken to foreign aid directors. Working with the Planeteers is like all of them put together. Their frustration at getting sidetracked and blocked from their cause is matched only by their determination to let nothing stop them."
"Karen, some detractors say that's the problem."
"Dan, the early opposition to the Planeteers came from the business sectors, worried that having a more militant opposition to resource harvesting might affect profits negatively. That opposition has been more or less put to the side because it hasn't happened. The current opposition comes from people who are worried for worker safety, or for international incidents."
"What do you think?"
"I think these people come from all over the world. They don't have a political agenda. How could they? I covered the story when aid was prevented from reaching war-torn areas on security concerns, and political reasons. Georgia, Syria, Gaza. The Planeteers don't have that problem. Their leader, if they have one, is African. None of them come from the same continent, let alone the same government. Plus they're all civilians, and they live on a newly colonized land in International Waters, recognized as an island nation that has no political power at all."
"So the threat of international incident is not widely considered a problem any more. What about the other worry you mentioned. You said that some quarters are concerned about worker safety."
"Yes I did. Since they're still going after illegal strip-mining as a priority, that's not a big deal yet, but in some isolated cases, they have gone after legitimate loggers, some legal chemical dumping… Their powers are well documented. Some people who work in these fields are understandably concerned."
"Worried about being cut down by their superpowers?"
Karen allowed herself a smile. "Remember when that was crazy talk?"
"Is it crazy talk now?"
"No." Karen said with certainty. "The things they can do are real. I've seen it. So have thousands of others."
Gi's mother Yumi came into the living room and yawned hugely, sitting next to her husband at the table. He never took his eyes off the TV. "What'd I miss?"
"Just that reporter lady, talking about them." Gi's father Kim said.
"It's not unusual for celebrities to have causes, or for them to use their fame as a spotlight on serious issues today." The anchor was saying on TV. "What sets the Planeteers apart is that they became famous for the cause they were pursuing."
"That and they conjured an Island into the middle of the ocean." Yumi mumbled around a mouthful of tea.
"You managed to talk your daughter into telling you how they did that, yet?" Kim demanded.
"They're sticking with their Gaia story." Yumi murmured. "Why is it that anytime Gi does something you don't understand or agree with, she suddenly becomes 'my' daughter?"
Kim shushed her, and they returned their attention to the TV.
"There's been a lot said on the subject of what makes them stand apart." The anchor was saying. "But perhaps the most startling difference is the direction they take their cause. To tell us more, we have with us tonight, Director David Coulborn of the Planeteer Foundation, a not-for-profit organization started in honor of the Planeteer Movement. Mr. Coulborn, thank you for joining us."
"Glad to be here."
"You are the Director of the local chapter of the Planeteer Foundation. An organization that started up after the Hope Island Phenomenon, and has been described as a more influential youth organization than the Boy Scouts of America."
"That's true, but it's not an accurate statement. The Foundation is not limited to America; it has chapters opening all over the world. Secondly, it's not a youth organization. It's open to anyone who wants to join. There is no age requirement, no fees to pay. We have some divisions that focus on young people, such as the 'World Watchers' but they are largely focused on community services and education. Most every member takes part in local and personal awareness campaigns and they go home and make changes for themselves."
"Now, you say it's not a youth organization, but clearly the majority of your members are under eighteen."
"As a percentage, that's true." Coulborn conceded. "But that number is still going up every day. We had several thousand members signing on within the first two weeks. Sometimes whole families join up at a time. Adults too. There's a higher percentage of youth, because when they want to do something, they often need a support mechanism. Adults just do it themselves."
"Tell us about the connection between your group, and the Planeteers."
"They were instrumental in starting us up, but to be fair, we're largely independent of them. We have the same purpose. And that, I think is the point. No fees, no demands. Just an opportunity to get a lot of people together, teach them about some of the problems that face the world today, and give them a way to help out in their local area."
"The Clean Up New York Campaign has been getting some very positive attention."
"We've been turning empty lots into community gardens, we've pledged recycling campaigns, and taken part in volunteer programs designed to clean up the Hudson River, Central Park, and the West Side. That's our group specifically, but there are plenty of others doing the same across the world. The Planeteers aren't bound by state lines, and neither are we."
"Some critics of your group say that you're practically setting up a cult of personality around the Planeteers themselves."
"I wouldn't say that, no more than any other A-List stars anyway. The difference is that the Planeteers have been spending a lot of their celebrity on individual actions. Kids can see the news as well as anyone else can; and they can pretend it's somebody else's problem just as well as we do. They, and adults, and for that matter, me myself, find the idea that you can do something to help very appealing."
"We all remember the now famous Planeteer Campaign."
"The Power Is Yours." Coulborn quoted with a smile.
"That phrase has become something of a rallying cry in your organization."
"Mine and many others. We're making a difference in the world, and we're still growing. Household waste and power consumption in New York has dropped significantly. We're actually seeing a difference! Our local members have organized a weekend trip to upstate New York for another Clean Up America, as well as restoring some park land that has been cut down and damaged over the years."
Polly leaned over on the couch, trying not to distract the boy. "You're remembering to be careful about needles and stuff right?"
JJ nodded. "They teach us all about cleanup stuff pretty good. They're pretty careful about things like that. I'm learning a lot from them."
"You told Wheels you're a member yet?"
"He knows. He's thrilled." JJ took a bite of popcorn. "But I'm still going to Hope Island sooner or later."
Polly didn't have an answer for that.
"Mr. Coulborn, thank you for coming, and good luck in the future."
"Not all attention has been favorable of course. Controversy surrounds the formation of Hope Island, the numerous arrests made in the days that followed, and the investigations that followed on the USS Saratoga. Here with us now to discuss the arrest of Alexander Appius, Former CEO of The Corporation, who'll you remember was voted out and turned over to police by his own Board of directors; to say nothing of the numerous conspiracy theories that followed, is our panel of Legal Experts..."
Lizzie was watching the TV with half an eye, following the coverage. The Planeteers were some of the most talked about celebrities she'd ever handled, and more than a few people had spoken out against them just to get their pictures on TV.
But the controversies about the Corporation refused to go away. There were still a lot of conspiracy theories about the deals that must have been made, and what the whole story really was. Lizzie knew there was more to the story than had been made public, but she had the good sense not to ask.
Then her phone beeped and she had a much more difficult day ahead of her.
The ground rumbled and the workers dove clear as the bulldozer tilted sharply, the earth under its treads simply falling away.
Kwame dove behind cover as the guards took another shot at him. He moved down the length of the stone wall barricade, the rock flowing upward from the earth as he ran along behind it in a crouch. The wall of rock kept pace with him amazingly, guarding him from the incoming fire.
A moment later Wheeler dove over the rock wall to join him, hugging dirt.
Kwame paused and hauled him up to sit upright against it.
"I'm okay! I'm okay!" Wheeler assured him. "I lost the girls!"
They are with me. They are safe. Ma-Ti's voice whispered gently in their minds.
"We had a simple plan, didn't we?" Wheeler asked Kwame in outrage. "A simple, easy to figure out plan. How come it never goes smooth?"
Kwame sent Wheeler a calming look. "Nothing ever goes according to plan Wheeler." He gestured over their barricade. "They had charges set in the tree-line! They knew we were coming!"
"We have a bigger problem than that! The charges set off a fire."
Wheeler! We need cover!
Wheeler peeked up over the edge of the wall Kwame had made, and spied two of the guards. "Fire!"
The attackers were surprised as their weapons grew red hot in their hands, and panicked when they realized the flames were in the weapons. They threw them aside quickly as the machine guns exploded into flames, the gunpowder in their magazines catching alight and exploding.
It gave Gi and Linka enough time to dive over the wall to join their team-mates.
"Where's Ma-Ti?" Kwame asked sharply.
"Please! I can't keep track of that kid when there isn't somebody shooting at me!" Gi retorted.
"Gi, we have to get those fires out or we'll do more damage than the damn loggers would!" Wheeler snapped. "What's our best bet for water?"
"There's a creek coming from that ridge." Kwame put in. "Ground water, it's not too deep or fast…"
"I know, I know! Linka!" Gi said urgently. "I can't get to the fires! Smoke's too thick!"
"Wind!" Linka called, and a strong wind kicked up briefly, sending the smoke toward their opponents, blinding them. The wind was guided, keeping the thick black smoke together as it was sent toward their foes.
They four of them ducked as more bullets came over the barricade Kwame had conjured. And then the roar of an engine. It was getting closer, suddenly close enough to be heard over the flames.
Kwame raised his head enough to get a look and ducked again as bullets whistled past. "They've got one of the earth-movers going. They steered it this way!"
"I've got it!" Wheeler growled, and rose to attack. "FI-"
Kwame tackled him back down as more gunfire rang out. "They know where we are! They'll keep us down till the bulldozer runs us over!"
"Should we make a break for it?" Gi asked anxiously as the bulldozer engine got louder and louder on its approach.
"No cover!" Linka disagreed. "They'd shoot us down as we ran."
They were still trying to figure out what to do when another roar came from the burning tree line. Out of trees exploded almost half a dozen Rhinos, Ma-Ti riding the lead one. They charged the earth-mover, scattering its guards and slamming into the huge machine like living battering rams. One heavy crunch, then a second, then a third, and the treads broke, the machine left stuck as the engine whined uselessly.
The gunmen got back to their feet, aiming at Ma-Ti with their weapons.
Kwame was up instantly. "Earth!"
The guards aiming at Ma-Ti dropped suddenly, as the ground beneath their feet gaze way. As the dust settled, the fallen guards looked up blearily to find themselves trapped in a pit, twelve feet deep, which had appeared suddenly beneath them.
Rising to their feet, the Planeteers took stock of the battlefield. The earth-movers had all been destroyed or abandoned, and the guards were either trapped, or running for their lives.
"They're backing off! It's over! It's over." Kwame shouted. "Let them go! We have to get this fire out before it spreads to the forest."
Wheeler took off for the nearest edge of the fire. "I can make a fire ring while Gi heads for the creek."
"Gi, you and I will divert the creek this way where you can use it. Linka, you help Wheeler direct the fire away from the trees! Ma-Ti, get the forest creatures clear, check on the injured, and make sure the healthy don't come back this way!"
"And make it fast!" Gi called cheerfully. "Dinner's at seven!"
The Planeteers almost laughed at that, as dawn broke over the forest.