The team leader turned and his hands flew through a number of complicated signs. The faces around him looked grim. This was it. They dashed forward.
They broke through the barriers and took down the electric field within minutes. Three members of the team were down before they could take out the guards. However, it looked like they were in induced comas, so the team following behind them would be able to treat them.
The team surged forward and secured the lab. Most of the scientists surrendered immediately. However, the three scientists guarding the man covered in electrodes fought back. They were biting and scratching and hitting people with clipboards. One of them even tried to stab the team leader with his pen.
It didn’t take long to knock them out and leave them in a holding room with the others. They returned to the room to look at the man wearing the electrodes. It was the lead scientist and head criminal himself.
One of the team signed a question, “do we pull the plug?”
The team leader shook his head. “That’s for the clean up crew to decide,” he signed.
The team took their positions and waited. They had found and secured the latest threat to world peace. Now, it was up to someone else to get back the vowels.
Terrorism in the 25th century had become refined and deadly. As scientists finished their detailed map of the brain and its functions, psychoterrorists began to use the information to plot targeted attacks. In the most bizarre chapter of the attacks, one disgruntled scientist discovered how to steal all the vowels.
He built a machine that amplified thought waves, and used his own brain to give commands that were interpreted through his machine. He had presented prospective designs for the machine at a conference, but was unable to find funding. Investors thought it was too unethical.
Somehow he managed to build it anyway and use it. People could still remember that there were vowels, but not what they were or how they sounded. Those who didn’t know sign language were reduced to guessing games and charades to communicate.
After hours of confusion, the scientist sent his demands through a prerecorded message. He projected images of himself with money, a new laboratory, and a large crown onto every available screen worldwide.
After cutting off his access to the media, world leaders began to confer. They all agreed to ignore his demands. Teams were sent to find him and reverse his attack. Meanwhile, “w” was declared the new all-purpose vowel.
It took weeks to find the scientist and even longer to undo his work. He refused to cooperate, and was sentenced to solitary confinement. They led him from the courtroom kicking and screaming.
People were thrilled to have their vowels back. There were news reports of babies saying “mama” or “dada” for the first time and married couples finally able to say “I do”. It was a time of celebration.
In remembrance of the defiance against this and any other new terrorist attack, the English-speaking world gave “w” a place of honor. In a ceremony presided over by hundreds of heads of state and diplomats, “w” officially took the place of silent “e”, permanently becoming a vowel.
In the world peace garden, a new fountain was built, capped with a model of the letter “w”. The plaque at the bottom simply read, “In Remembrancw.” The scientist’s machine was duplicated and nations threatened to use it against each other, but no one ever did. It was forgotten after the next big threat came along.
Less than a century later, the strange story had become a short paragraph in grammar books. Children splashed in the fountain and had no idea that there was anything at all to remember. History is like that quite often, after all.