The Probability of An Ideal Ending | Teen Ink

The Probability of An Ideal Ending

November 28, 2018
By andromedia SILVER, Portland, Oregon
andromedia SILVER, Portland, Oregon
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” - Oscar Wilde

October. Year 2018.

CNN – Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

Time – Trump Plans to Tear Up a 31-Year-Old Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Now What?

New York Times – What Land Will Be Underwater in 20 Years? Figuring It Out Could Be Lucrative

The Washington Post – Bomb scares and the politics of the apocalypse

The Guardian – Passing the baton: will young people take up the fight to save the planet?



June. Year 2038.

New York Times – ‘The Probability of An Ideal Ending’ Tops NYT Bestsellers List For Ten Weeks Running

CNN – Traitor or Hero? Political analyst behind controversial book revealed to be 17: Alexandria Ross

The Washington Post – Battle of Syria Comes To An End Thanks To U.S. Army Led By Teen Commander Cortez



November. Year 2038.

Smoke rises from the city sidewalk, caressing the atmosphere with pale tendrils before being swept away by eastern winds. The young girl lets her gaze briefly linger on space and sky as she exhales, lets the traffic become a muted blur of color beside her, lets the cacophony fade. She allows herself to revel in being alive. To be quiet and thoughtless and calm in the midst of insanity – that is bliss.

Then someone jostles her, shoves right up against her shoulder; how dare they, just who do they think they are, and with hardly an apology! A mumbled ‘scuse me, and they’re off. Alexandria is furious, for rarely does she find serenity, and when she does, her personal space is to be revered.

Her fury is just enough to make her miss the approaching woman until she’s too close to ignore. “Miss Ross, you seem a little–ah–pissed off at the moment. Walk with me?”

Her venomous tongue, ready to strike, abruptly withdraws. Alexandria assesses the situation: several unlicensed black automobiles dispersed throughout traffic, four well-built men in the crowd. There’s no getting out of this.

She stuffs her hands in her jacket pockets–Alexandria can go along with the farce, but it doesn’t mean she can’t still look annoyed–and shuffles alongside the woman as she heads in the direction of the empty lot where Trump Tower once stood.

“I didn’t take you for the smoking type.” The woman looks straight ahead, never once sparing her a glance, but she no doubt gave Alexandria a thorough once-over while she was otherwise occupied. Not that she needed to. She has all the intel she needs on her from the NSA. Probably knows the exact coordinates of every dirty piece of laundry on her bedroom floor.

The shrug Alexandria gives her is obnoxiously adolescent. “Addiction. It can happen to anyone.”

“It’s not even an e-cig. And you’re not even legal.”

“What can I say? I’m a traditionalist. Oh, and as long as we’re honing in on details here, Miss Cortez, I’d like to point out that neither are you.”

Cortez’s eyebrows raise ever so slightly, and Alexandria offers a crooked smile. “The makeup may be enough to fool the masses, but I’m afraid I don’t constitute as part of the masses.”

“I know perfectly well that you’re not part of the masses,” she says, “but you didn’t recognize me on sight. For a few minutes there, I actually had some hope of avoiding psychological probing.”

“With the NSA on your case? Doubt it.”

She takes a sharp breath. “So let’s talk business.”

“Let’s not.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, Cortez. I’m not in the mood. You got that, Kissinger?” Alexandria’s talking directly to her chin now, crouching down and speaking at the embedded microchip beneath her skin, where the FBI Director is overhearing every word. “I offered my services a long time ago, but you were an old wrinkly idiot and thought it was in your best interest to expose me. You’re a fool. If Liu hadn’t taken that Vladimir bastard down with him, we’d all be dead right now.”

“Or under Russian hegemony,” adds Cortez.

Alexandria barks laughter. “Even worse! Come on, Joan, lose the mic. Don’t worry folks, I won’t hurt her. You can even keep your cronies around if you want. I just want to talk.”

“And if I don’t want to talk?”

She grins, baring teeth. “Aw. You know you do.”

Joan’s shrug echoes hers; it’s an easy concession. “Lose the security,” she says, and the team drops back, the cars fall behind.

Alexandria snorts. “You’re either really high up there, or really low, if you can get them off your back.”

“I’ll answer to the former. The American government needs me much more than I need them.”

American government!” Alexandria exclaims. She’d assumed… “How long did it take them to wrestle you away from Puerto Rico?”

“Not long. Got a citizenship treaty between them and made them hand me over, in a flash.”

“Why America?”

“I’m amazed you speak of your own country with such disdain.”

“Americans don’t believe in America,” says Alexandria. “Stay here long enough, and you’ll realize that. Any patriotism is a fad. We were on top of the world for a second and we still somehow believe that we have power and influence over all of Eurasia.”

A beat. “Well,” Joan says. “Let it not be said that your arrogance didn’t precede you.”

Alexandria’s smug smirk makes Joan shove her unceremoniously to the side, and she stumbles. “Don’t let it get to your head, you crazy puta.”

“Tell me, Cortez, why are you really here?”

They’ve reached the lot. No one’s touched the place since its demolition. Joan’s eyes climb up, high, higher, as if Trump Tower still stands and she is trying to see the top. Alexandria begins to follow her gaze but on second thought drops back down to her face, where she stares with a certain intensity that distinguishes her from every other teenager on the face of the Earth.

Joan’s skin is olive, and her eyes are the shade of unforgiving obsidian. Her hair, though, is dark, dark, dark, growing out of its buzzcut and falling past her ears. Alexandria would not deny that she is beautiful.

“Doesn’t matter,” she says softly, as she stares at the sky. There are no stars anymore, made invisible years ago by light pollution and smog. “Doesn’t matter why I’m here. The world’s at war, what matters?”

Does she doubt herself? Alexandria’s seen the videos. Joan’s talent for strategy is unmatched. Alexandria may be proud, but she isn’t stupid. “You saved the world once. You, of all people, can do it again.”

Joan laughs, shakes her head. “Of course I can win the war, Alexandria. But whoever rules the world will fail and we’ll have another war and then who will have I saved? Only you could have brought the Earth together. You know that. I know that. But no one else seems to know.”

“So that’s why you came.”

“That’s not why I came. No one agrees with me. You’re too young. Too inexperienced. Too reckless. They keep telling me there’s a reason you weren’t recruited.”

Alexandria winces. It’s a calm reaction, considering. “Here to rub salt into an old wound, then.”

“You’re the perfect candidate for President. Perfect. What does experience have to do with anything? I’m twenty and they’re making me lead armies!”

Joan looks to her in despair. “I want peace. Not for me—I don’t know what peace is. But for my grandmother. For my baby brother. For the drafted child soldiers who wanted to come home and rest and live their days without the threat of death looming over them. You’re right, Director Kissinger was an idiot, and he screwed you over. But for Christ’s sake, you’re Alexandria Ross. Fix it. Don’t hide out in NYC and pretend you weren’t the most brilliant political mind this world has ever seen. We need you. And to hell with the feds panicking watching the live feed right now. They can fire me and I’ll stay at your waterlogged basement in Chelsea until another country comes calling.”

Alexandria is taken aback by her outburst and is disgusted to find herself pleased about it, too. “I barely know you.”

“And I barely know you! But I’ve read enough of The Probability of An Ideal Ending to know that you’ll do what’s best for this world. It might not be for the best reasons, but who cares. Honestly, at this point, who cares?”

Finally, Alexandria thinks. A person with sense.

“Where were you when I wanted a girlfriend?”

Joan smiles. “You never wanted a girlfriend.”

“Not entirely true. There was a ten-minute period of my life when I briefly considered it.”

“Ten whole minutes! What a waste. Took me ten seconds.”

“Having you camp out in my basement while I work on taking over the world doesn’t sound like a just-friends kind of situation, though, you have to admit.”

Joan stares at her with a straight face for several seconds before she breaks into laughter. “If I weren’t the commander of the American militia and you weren’t the future President, I think I would actually consider it.”

“I don’t know, sounds like a good match to me.”

“Are you our future President, Alexandria?”

Alexandria looks at her, into eyes that ask so much of her. No one else has ever looked at her like that—not her parents, not her teachers—not since, well, ever. It’s a look that takes her breath away.

She gave up on that dream of the presidency when the White House exposed her and sullied the name of The Probability of An Ideal Ending. It was a devastating blow, with her publishers coming out and saying they knew she was seventeen all along and that they were proud of her for trying, which hadn’t made it any better. But Joan is right. Her youth makes her weak in the eyes of the world, and she has accepted it, instead of proving her worth in some other way.

They never were taught how to defy the odds. Only how to calculate them.

So she gives the answer she would have given if Joan had asked her the question three months ago. “Of course I am.”

“Good,” she says.

They both know the conversation is over, but neither of them move. This fascinates Alexandria. Terrifies her. She finds that the rest of the world is dissolving; all she sees is Joan, and her thoughts nearly cease to continue.

But she grabs ahold of herself.

“See you around, Cortez.”

“See you around.”

She remains for a moment before turning and walking away, briskly, down Fifth Avenue, and she feels like she’s letting something special out of her grasp. But what is she supposed to do, take the girl home to her mother?

Seven seconds gone and she already wants to see Joan again.

“My basement’s always open!” she shouts, cupping her hands around her mouth. Her scarf suddenly billows and she pulls it down just in time to see Joan wave without looking back.

Satisfied that they’ll meet again, Alexandria stands watching until Joan disappears into the multitude. She crushes her dying cigarette beneath her boot before turning around.

Time to take over the world.



October. Year 2018.

The Desert Sun – Hanging onto the hope that future generations keep America strong


March. Year 2039.

CNN – Political Upstart Alexandria Ross Turned Presidential Candidate: ‘The Probability Of An Ideal Ending Is Statistically Close To Zero, But Still Possible.’

The author's comments:

This short sci-fi story was inspired by recent events occuring in the news and political climate again and again in modern media.

Most concerning to me was the recent report that climate change is accelerating at such staggering rates to the point that humanity only had twenty years before the world would face disasterous consequences.

I did school projects where we researched the disasterous effects that continued sea level rise would inflict on our major coastal cities (like New York.) This fact was briefly mentioned in the reference to the NYC neighborhood, Chelsea, being "waterlogged," in the idea that sea levels would have risen to the point where the Big Apple was partially underwater.

This speculative fiction came to me in a discussion I had with a friend about the scary future we face in terms of both international relations and politics, and especially concerning climate change. Themes of war, the draft, privacy, surveillance, nationalism, and social issues arose during this discussion that I turned in my mind for days afterward. This is the brainchild of that conversation.

However, I do not consider my piece a dystopian work. There are notes of hope and humanity purposely emphasized in the story. There is an (admittedly cynical) teen trying to change the world through her writing, and an immigrant soldier who wishes the best for a country she was not born in. These are universal American themes we can all relate to.

I believe that in the future, human emotions and love will not disappear: things like flirtation, and humor aren't non-existent just because the story takes place years in the future. It's seen through the school-yard crush between Joan and Alexandria. It's seen in the obligations Joan has to her family and soldiers. It's seen in the shame Alexandria feels from being ridiculed for her work.

The story (and news outlets) constantly asks of the "next" generation: what will you do? Can you keep our future strong? Will you change our world for the better?

This seems at odds with the constant reminder that the younger generation is often regarded as "powerless," in both today's culture and by adult characters in the story. It seems that our generation is expected to both save the world and remain complacent to the way that current leaders are running it. I wanted to give a voice to these future teens, who impacted their communities in ways that were often distorted by authority figures. For this idea, I was most inspired by the student leaders in the "March For Our Lives" shooting, who used their voices to create change in a system that they did not control.

In 2018, and in future years, this question endures. It is a neverending cycle, answered in different ways by different generations and different individuals, and I wished to illustrate that in a way that resonates with today's teens.

Finally, the title, "The Probability of an Ideal Ending" is a satirical take on all the calculations and speculation that people have on the future. Statistics and numbers on the odds of our demise have no guarantee on what our reality will be. The future is unpredictable and scary, but the only way humanity has any hope of influencing it is through action.

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