In Jupiter's Shadow
by Daniel C. Smith
forum: In Jupiter's Shadow
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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In Jupiter's Shadow


           The laser-tips affixed to the ends of his ice-axes, as well as to the crampons on his space boots, made it possible for the tools to sink their teeth into the super-frozen ice cliffs of Ganymede.  Literally he inched his way up the face of the wall, but he knew now that he was working against time.  Jupiter would rise in less than six minutes, and he was still twenty meters (at least) from the top; he needed to push himself if he was going to make it.  Instead, he stopped to rest.  In the latter stages of a degenerative neural disease (for which there was no cure), Colonel Brannon West was finding for the first time in his life that there were times that he just could not push himself.

          How long, he asked himself, a year?  Eighteen months?

          Doctors could never be specific when you wanted them to be.

          He forced the thoughts from his mind and attacked the ice as though it was his enemy, and of course he made it to the top just in time.

          Jupiter was rising.

          Standing at the precipice of the one thousand meter-plus cliff, his eyes wandered about the icy plains below.  Over six hundred ships, including one the largest ever built by humans, the Grissom, lay scattered in and around the foundation of what would be the first of six main geodesic pressure domes, over a thousand meters in diameter. All of the workers below went back to work as Jupiter reached it’s zenith; watching the dedication with which they applied themselves to their task filled West with a certain sense of pride, for he was certain that he had done the right thing five years ago, and again a little over a year ago.  His mind reeled with the tumultuous series of events that had brought him, all of them, here to Ganymede.

         The first half of the twenty-first century witnessed the violent dissolution of the nation-states; after the bugs and the bombs stopped flying, the only institutions still standing strong enough to step in and maintain order were the multi-national corporations (the same corporations who built the bombs and manufactured the bugs).  

         And step in they did, gladly.

         Uniting all of what was left of the armies of the world into The United Global Forces, and with complete control of the food supply and three-fourths of the world’s land, the Corporate Supreme maintained order on a scale heretofore unmatched in human history.

         But after almost three centuries of industrialization, the Earth’s resources were nearly depleted, and Corporate Supreme looked to the moon to solve a plethora of problems (the Martian colony had been founded before the war, and the American and Asian factions on the planet were not being cooperative with Earth’s new government in relinquishing the fruits of their labors, and interplanetary distances made enforcement rather difficult).  Although the lunar colony was a magnificent achievement, the solutions that the Board had been hoping for never manifested, and the lunar colonial project quickly became an economic drain.  Such a drain, in fact, that many Corporate officers (behind the scenes, of course) began pushing for more destructive, and final options regarding the colony.

         But such a course of action had always been considered unethical, until 2029.

         The lunar colonists were among some of the finest minds (and healthiest bodies) on Earth, and such a class of people eventually came to resent being custodians of nuclear waste and ore miners.  When they filed for independence in front of the World Council, their ambassador was arrested and executed.  And West, formerly a captain in the United States Marine Corp and now a colonel in the UGF, was dispatched with seven ships, all carrying nuclear weapons, to destroy the colony.  

         It wasn’t the first time in his life that West questioned his orders, but it was the first time he ever disobeyed them.

         His troops, most of them former US Marines as well, were more loyal to him than the UGF, and none of them were exactly comfortable executing fifty thousand men, women and children, either.  They left most of their ships in a stationary orbit overt the colony, with the nukes programmed to detonate in the event of any incoming, hostile ships.  Then they landed and surrendered to the governor (and former vice president of the US) of the lunar colony.

         Corporate Supreme, bitterly disgruntled but ever so practical, turned their eyes outward and away from the moon, which had not turned out to be the El Dorado of the twenty-first century.  Instead, their gaze was now fixated on the moons of Jupiter, specifically, Ganymede, for it was that Galilean moon that was made up of what was quickly becoming the most precious and sought after commodity on the face of the Earth: water.

         Without water, not even Corporate Supreme would be able to maintain order.

         Ganymede had what was necessary to ensure that Corporate could maintain power, except for colonists.  Not even Corporate could pick out fifty thousand healthy, intelligent human beings from the billions of war-ravaged souls that were left.  So the Council made a proposition to the colonists: in order to guarantee a cessation of hostilities, the lunar colonists, supplied by Corporate, could simply accept exile on Ganymede, where Corporate probes had found the most prime conditions for colonization.

         The colonists accepted (Governor al-Adsani knew that West’s barricade would not last forever) and of course the troops under West’s command and the colonel accepted the Governor’s invitation to join them in their new adventure.

         Neither the colonists nor the troops had anywhere else to go.

         But West and al-Adsani suspected all along that the Council had other reasons for this offer of sanctuary in the shadow of Jupiter, and recent telemetry seemed to confirm that their worst fears were proving right.

         There was a fleet of military ships on the way from Earth.

         Not many troops, but enough firepower to do more than intimidate.

         In an hour he and the Governor would lead a town meeting in the cargo hold of the Grissom, where they would tell the rest of the colonists what they were facing.

         And more importantly, what they planned to do about it.

         But their plan could not succeed without the colonist’s help and at least tacit approval, and convincing some of them to join their crusade could prove difficult.  If West an al-Adsani failed this afternoon to persuade the colonists of the righteousness of their cause, all would be lost.  He took one last look out over the colony, and then, backing up a ways so he could take a running leap, jumped from the edge of the cliff.

         He was falling; slowly in the light gravity, but still falling.

         He fought the urge to fire his jetpack right away.


          Colonel Brannon West grew up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, but because of his dark skin (his father, an African-American from Oklahoma and KIA in Viet Nam, 1972, the year he was born) he never really felt like he fit in with what he thought of as his mother’s people, and until the he was an adult he never really knew many of his father’s people.  It was when he was eighteen and left the reservation that he found his own people, the Marines.  Since the day he joined up he never thought of himself as anything but a Marine, and he relished the responsibility that came with it.  He didn’t like war, quite the opposite.  But he was good at it.  A fierce warrior, a good leader, and after thirty years in the service, West had more combat decorations than there are asteroids.  And now, facing certain death, he was preparing for the last battle of his life, and the stakes had never been higher.

          He stood outside of his own small tempo-dome waiting for the governor; al-Adsani insisted that they arrive at the meeting together.  As the governor’s ATV appeared in the distance, West reflected on how little he really knew the man.  He was familiar with the resume of course: Josem Al-Adsani, American-born (his parents were immigrants from Lebanon), educated at Yale, congressman and later senator from Indiana and then, when anti-Arab sentiment was at an all time high in the US, he landed himself in the vice presidents office.  Of course, after the war, Corporate offered him the posting on the lunar colony (many of the colonists were from the United States).  

         But it frustrated West that he could never put his finger on what it was that made al-Adsani so likable, or such a well respected leader.  Al-Adsani was resented by all of the colonists when he first arrived on the moon, but he had used his personal skills to endure himself to every last one of them.  When they called him governor, they said it with respect and affection.

          But West still thought of him as a quiet man, too quiet for American politics in the twenty-first century.

          West hopped into the ATV, and speaking over his helmcomm he said, “Afternoon, Governor al-Adsani.  How’re…”

          Looking straight ahead the Governor interrupted, “I saw you climbing today, colonel.”

          West felt it was an accusation, “Yes… well…”

          “I saw you jump from the cliff.  What if your jet pack failed to fire?”

          “I climb to clear my mind, to focus… you should try it sometime.  You could come with me…”

          “I am depending on you,” was all al-Adsani said.  Then, after a moment he added, “I am not a… climbing man, colonel.  How have you been feeling otherwise?”

          “I’ll live long enough for this… I promise.  Besides, the plan doesn’t depend on me…”

          “You still haven’t told me your plan, colonel.”

          “I’ve mined the asteroid belt, right where I charted their ships would come through…”

          The Governor was astonished, “When?  How?  We haven’t launched any ships… we don’t have anything to build mines with…”

          Now West interrupted, “On the journey out here, I had a couple of ships fall off from the fleet when we passed through the belt… as for the mines well… the ships I used in the barricade over the moon base were empty…”

          “You were bluffing?” al-Adsani started laughing, and it occurred to West that in all the time he had known the Governor, he had never even seen him smile, let alone laugh.

          They approached the Grissom, and the sight of it never failed to leave West in awe.  Over a thousand meters end to end, and between passengers and crew she could carry twelve thousand people (most of them in deep sleep).  

          Parking the vehicle al-Adsani asked, “How could you be sure that such measures would be necessary?”

          After a moment West asked, “Do you really have to ask that question?”

          “I see your point.  Colonel, I want to ask that you forgo your introductory speech this afternoon, let me deliver this news…”

          “Of course, sir.”  Suddenly West felt as though there was something the Governor wasn’t telling him.

          Once inside the Grissom’s vast cargo bay they took the dais and West gazed out at a sea of concerned faces.  

          At least four thousand, he thought.  He knew the rest would be watching via telescreen.

          Al-Adsani marched to the podium and said quietly, “I never thought I would begin a speech with the words “my fellow refugees”… but here we all are.”

          The murmuring crowd broke into laughter and then instantly quieted.

          The Governor spoke, “Ladies and gentlemen… I will not mince words… we are in dire straits.  We have completed construction of two power plants and several aero and hydroponic gardens, our own food stores will last another three years… five if we follow Colonel West’s plan of rotating several thousand of us in and out of deep sleep.  Within five years we shall surely be self-sufficient, to the point we could be capable of growing as a colony, and more importantly, as a people.  However, we face a serious threat from Earth…”

          Someone in the audience stood and West recognized her as Dr. Cindy Bowman, the one who originally diagnosed his condition back on the moon a little over a year ago, “Governor, are the rumors true?  Are they really going to ship their nuclear waste all the way out here?  Everyone knows there are ships…”

          “… on the way.”  Al-Adsani finished for her.

          “Dr. Bowman,” he began, “those ships do not contain nuclear waste.  They are carrying a military force.  Nuclear waste is the least of Earth’s problems.”

          The room quieted down.

          The Governor continued, “Approximately ten years ago, Earth, ecologically speaking, reached a point of no return.  Again, I will not mince words.  Planet Earth is dead.  We are standing on the only water source in the in the solar system, and Corporate feels that with water they can maintain control until who knows when…”

          The crowd started to stir again, and Bowman asked, “Can’t we work with them, supply them with water?  Heaven knows there’s enough of it here…”

          “There are other factors, doctor.”

          “Such as?” she challenged.

          “As some of you may be aware, many world powers, including the United States, experimented with biological weapons,” al-Adsani began, “ and during the Pan-Asian siege of America’s west coast, a commander in Seattle released a small amount of an experimental virus, a supposed neuro-toxin…”

          The room was completely silent.

          “… I am sure you were all familiar with the so-called smart bombs of the last part of the twentieth century?  Governments everywhere were trying to develop ‘smart bugs’, and the US succeeded.  The virus, known as THX 311, has mutated, and worse- it was designed to attack human DNA from the inside out.  Within five years, the population of Earth will be reduced by at least eighty percent, and those left alive… would not be recognized as human by anyone here.  They’re mutating… Corporate thinks they can deny the truth… forestall the inevitable, but the virus is airborne, and it is constantly adapting.  The virus is the reason Earth-lunar visits were halted two years before we departed for Jovian space…”

          Again Bowman interrupted, “But what about Mars?  Surely they are in a position to supply food… they should be producing…”

          “Again Dr. Bowman, it’s not just a matter of food.  Or water.  The reality is quite plain: Earth is dead.  There is nothing we can do for them, we must save ourselves, and that includes stopping the fleet of ships on it’s way here…”

          “Will the Martians help us?” someone hollered from the back.

          The Governor paused before answering and West thought, Here it comes… here comes what he hasn’t told me…

          “One of the factions on Mars, we don’t know if it’s the North American or Pan-Asian, has established a cloning facility…”

          His voice faded as the words and their meaning sank into the stunned population.  Cloning had been illegal since it was perfected; all the nations signed a treaty banning any research on the subject.  Everyone assumed Corporate continued the ban.

          Al-Adsani continued, “Our intel reports that Corporate has contracted with the Martians to produce an army… for what purposes we can only imagine.  Again, I will not mince words: our lives and the future of the human race depends on our stopping those ships…”

          “And what of the next wave of ships, Governor?” Bowman asked.

          West stood and said, “They’re sending everything they’ve got… it’s now or never.  We win this, and it’s over.  We’re home free… but we need volunteers…”

          The Governor interjected, “Merely to man ships for a blockade, we have a plan and we think we can avoid any major military confrontation.  Those interested report to my ship on the eastern plain, we’ll be assembling our fleet there.”

          Everyone knew without any official announcement that the meeting was over and West and the Governor soon found themselves speeding over the icy terrain.

          “How come you didn’t tell me about the clones, Governor?”

          “I’ve only known about them since this morning…”

          “This morning?”

          Al-Adsani was slow to answer, “I have a… source on Mars.  Our communications are most confidential…”

          “A source?  On Mars?”  West was astonished.

          “As I said, our communications must remain confidential…”

          “It’s the North American faction, isn’t it?” West asked.


          “That’s producing the clones.  It’s the North American faction, right?”


          They were silent until they reached West’s tempo-dome.

          As West exited the craft the Governor said, “Get some rest colonel.  Maybe you should forgo you’re climbing…”

          “One of these days I’ll get you to climb with me, then you’ll see how easy it is to forgo it.  I’m fine, Governor.  Really.  I’ll live long enough to pull this off… I’ll see you tomorrow, we’ve a lot of work ahead of us the next three days.”

          “Yes colonel, tomorrow.”

          Pulling away the Governor felt a small vibration against his chest from a pocket deep inside his suit, not once but three times.

          That could only mean one thing.

          Great, he thought, great… more… information from Mars…


          Al-Adsani replayed the message three times, thinking that his ears had deceived him.

          Sometimes, mixed in with the random EM interplanetary noise that already existed were hidden messages between the Governor and what he referred to as his ‘source on Mars’.  To your average mid-twenty first century listener the noises were just random bleeps, indistinguishable from the rest of the static.  But the trained ear could recognize Morse code.  And with so very few people left who knew Morse code, al-Adsani felt confident that their communications were private.

          If not, someone would lose their life, and he would lose all credibility.

          The scope of the last communiqué left him dumbfounded.  No, more than that.  He was shaken to his very core, or if he really believed he had one, to his soul.

          However, it did nothing to change the current situation: an armada of ships was on its way from Earth and the Martians could produce fifty thousand genetically enhanced clones every ten months.

          The prospects for the colonies survival were grim indeed.

          Outside the spacecraft his family’s tempo dome all was quiet, and he felt a deep gratitude for that.  At least for now, his two teenage children, Sara and Rashid, were safe, and that had to mean something.  Still, he wondered what the future held for them.

          For all of them.

          If only Jennifer were here… he thought.

          He and the president, for security reasons, were never even allowed in the same room together, but the rule did not apply to spouses.  While he and the children were visiting space station Sagan, his wife accompanied the presidents husband on a fund raising tour where they were victims of one of the very terrorist attacks that precipitated the downfall of Earth’s governments (and cleared the path for a global takeover by the corporations).

          After the dust settled Corporate offered (ordered) him the post of lunar governor.  Corporate felt that with al-Adsani sharing a national heritage (American) with the vast majority of the colonists, his leadership, or rather his following their orders, would be more easily accepted by the colonists.  But al-Adsani found that he had to work harder than ever before in his life to earn the trust and respect of everyone in the colony, and eventually he did.

          He was a politician, he had always been able to adapt.

          But no place could ever be home again without Jennifer.

          He stared out of the portal, surveying the colony.  As always, there were thousands of men and women engaged in construction and occasionally he could see a small craft lifting off, then flying overhead and landing on the eastern plain.  He noticed the cliff walls were dotted with lights, as several caves had been utilized to set up gardens; a foam-like substance would be sprayed along the cave interior, which would, after a few minutes, harden and become airtight.  

          He smiled at the irony.  Even as humans were reaching out to the outer planets, they were going back into the caves.


          As an amateur archaeologist on Earth he had poked around more than a few archaeological sites (from Alaska to Peru) and he had poked around more than a few caves.

          And he had seen more petroglyphs than he could remember.

          And now he, and perhaps a handful of others, knew that deep in the caverns of Mars were walls that held their own petroglyphs, their own painted records of the beginnings of a race’s history and emotions, a history of existence separate from his own, the human race.

          The solar system had been home to another race of people before the human race.


          Everywhere out across the frozen tundra were signs of people struggling to make this ice encrusted planetoid a home.

          He hoped that they would get that chance.


          Once again West found himself sitting beside the Governor speeding over the snowy surface in the ATV, but this time there was another passenger.

          Turning, he introduced himself, “Colonel West… it’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person.  I’m Gregor Lopez.”

          Shaking hands West said, “Yes thank you…”

          The Governor said, “Mr. Lopez was our first volunteer.  I’ve made him our liaison with the rest of the volunteers.”


          Lopez was beaming with pride, “My wife is pregnant… we’re going to have the first child born on Ganymede… I figure I have as much at stake in this as anyone else.”

          “I see,” West answered.  His mind flooded with emotion as he thought of his own father heading off to war while his mother was pregnant with him.

          And never coming back.

          “Something on your mind colonel?” al-Adsani asked.

          “Clones. We have to take out that cloning facility, a preemptive strike…”

          “I’m no military expert,” al-Adsani began, “But I think it will be difficult to launch a preemptive strike as you say…”

          “But…” West seemed adamant.

          “One battle at a time, Brannon,” the Governor said, “providence will provide the answers…”

          “I didn’t know you were a man of faith, Governor,” West retorted.

          Al-Adsani sighed, “I am not, but alas, we are running out of options… perhaps divine intervention is all we can hope for.”

          West muttered, “I was thinking more along the lines of nuclear intervention…”

          The Governor cut him off, “I will not authorize the use of nuclear weapons on the Martian surface.”

          West was shocked by that last statement, as well as the tone in which it was delivered, and decided to let it go (for now) and Lopez pretended as though his helmcomm was off.

          Soon they reached what would be the lead ship in the defense fleet, and West was gleaming with pride as he saw his troops busily refitting the ship with plasma cannons and a torpedo launcher.  Inside the craft Dr. Bowman and a Dr. Garcia waited to discuss plans to set up a MASH unit on one of Jupiter’s outermost moons, Thebe, with West and al-Adsani.

          West named the lead ship the Giap after a general in father’s long forgotten war; like General Giap, West was hoping he could wait patiently while technologically and numerically superior forces brazenly walked into his primitive trap.

          The Governor made the cursory introductions all around and the five of them sat down to discuss their plans.

          Dr. Bowman began, “Of course I hope our services aren’t needed, but we will have our medical crews landing on Thebe by the time the Earth fleet reaches the belt… we’ll await any casualties…”

          Al-Adsani said, “Good, good.  As you all know we’ve had no shortage of volunteers, we’ll have full crew complements on every ship.  I think the colonel’s plan will minimize…”

          “Just what is that plan?” Bowman asked.

          After a few moments of silence West spoke, “This is of course confidential… however on the journey here I had two ships fall off from the fleet while we were passing through the belt… I mined the belt right where the fleets coming through with enough megatons to precipitate a meteor shower that few ships will be able to survive…”

          “You mined the asteroid belt?  On whose authority?” Bowman demanded.

          “No one’s authority, doctor, I was simply… thinking ahead.  Which brings us back to cloning facility…”

          Al-Adsani shifted uncomfortably in his seat, staring at West.

          “Unless,” the Governor began, “we can find a way to guarantee a surgical strike on the facility itself, I will not sanction any military action on the Martian surface.”

          “What is it you’re not telling us this time, Governor?” West asked.

          After a moment, he swore the four of them to secrecy, telling them that in his judgment the news should “… be withheld until, well, at least for now.”

          Speaking almost in a whisper, he said, “I have information that deep inside several caverns near the northern polar region of Mars several… petroglyphs have been found… earliest estimates date the drawings around twenty thousand years ago…we cannot simply bomb at random, there’s no telling what we could destroy.  We have an obligation to the pursuit of knowledge to find another way.”

          Everyone was silent.

          Finally Garcia said, “Extraterrestrial life.”  There was awe in his voice.  “That certainly tops my bit of celestial news…” he mumbled.

          “Celestial news?” West asked.

          “Hmmm… oh, oh, I’ve discovered a comet heading our way, it’ll pass within a half million kilometers of us…” Garcia said.

          Lopez leaned forward and asked, “How close will it come to Mars?”

          “Mars?” Bowman asked.  “Why…”

          Suddenly West was interested, “A matter of providence doctor.  How close, Dr. Garcia?”

          Garcia shrugged, “Forty thousand kilometers…”

          The Governor, West, and Lopez all smiled at each other, and West, cocking an eyebrow asked, “How’s that for divine intervention Governor?”

          Avoiding the question the Governor simply said, “We launch our fleet in seventy two hours.  Both fleets should arrive on their respective sides of the belt fourteen days after that.  Colonel, I believe you and I have an inspection to perform?”

          Suddenly West started shaking and fell to the floor.

          Bowman was at his side instantly, sending Garcia for her med kit.  

          As West lay there having a seizure (which would only become more frequent) al-Adsani felt truly frightened.

          Without West, he felt that the people would lose faith in the plan, even lose the will to defend themselves.

          He doesn’t understand how important he is, al-Adsani thought.

          After a few minutes Bowman had him stabilized, but she didn’t want to move him yet.  Not for a while.

          Looking up from the floor West said, “Don’t worry Governor, we’ll launch on time.  Everything’ll work out…”

          “I know, colonel, I know.  Gregor and I will complete the inspection for you.  You just rest until we launch.”

          “Yes sir.”

          Bowman shot him full of tranquilizers at that point and he slid easily from consciousness.

          “I’m not sure if he’s fit for…” Bowman began.

          “He has to be,” the Governor cut her off.  “Mr. Lopez, let’s complete our inspection, then we’ll go over crew assignments.”

          “Yes sir.”

          With that the pair exited the Giap, leaving Bowman and Garcia to care for Colonel West and to ponder the more intellectual aspects of war.


          The small Jovian fleet had held their position just thirty thousand kilometers from the outer periphery of the asteroid belt for almost three days when the armada from Earth entered the belt (drastically cutting speed).  West was heartbroken when the two largest ships, the Chevrone and the Kohl split company for the crossing.  He wanted both of the big prizes- take those away and Corporate had no fleet with which to threaten the colony.

          Still, the Chevrone and at least three dozen of the more heavily armed ships were on trajectories that bring them with two kilometers of a rock known as ADF-3701, which, if they didn’t alter course, would solve over half of their problems.

          Overall, West thought, things are looking good.

          In the Giap with him were Lopez (working the communications station) and the Governor at pilot.  West monitored the entire scene from the converted navigation station.  

          “Gregor,” West said, “once the Chevrone advances another hundred thousand kilometers, I estimate another twelve minutes, send out a red alert order to fall back, let’ em think we’re turning tail and running.  Remember to initiate a systems shutdown at the one-minute mark… Lopez, you paying attention?”

          “Hmmm… oh sorry colonel, I was thinking…”

          “You need to be paying attention, not thinking,” West said.  Then, “I’m sorry Gregor.  I know you have plenty on your mind, but you need to focus.  For their sake.”

          Lopez sat up straight, “Yes colonel… systems shut down at the one-minute mark… I’ve already got the orders to fall back waiting.”

          The Governor said, “Colonel, I don’t suppose you have some aces up your sleeve, so to speak??”

          West smiled, “Yeah, as a matter of fact I do.  We managed to sneak three Cobra fighters out of their hangars at the moon base… they’re hiding out in rocks about a hundred thousand kilometers up the belt- they’ll have a head start on rebooting their systems after the EM pulses, as will we if everyone follows orders, hopefully they’ll be able to mop up… after the rocks stop flying and they can come out.  Right now my main concern are our ships… we have to put a lot of distance between ourselves in a short time or the shock waves could push us into each other…” 

          “Shockwaves?” Lopez asked.

          West asked, “Scared Gregor?”

          “No… no of course not… I just didn’t realize the waves would catch us this far out…”

          West said, “I’m scared.  How ‘bout you Governor, you scared?”

          “Of course I am,” al-Adsani answered, “I’m afraid of dying, I’m afraid of failing… but most of all I’m afraid I’ll never see my children again.  Only a fool does not know fear.”

          “Fear’s a good thing Gregor, it keeps you on our toes,” West said.

          “I hate to interrupt gentlemen, but I think the Chevrone is almost in position,” said al-Adsani.

          West looked at his screen, fighting the urge to detonate the mines; if he could just wait a few more minutes, the Chevrone could take most of the Earth fleet with it.

          The behemoth vessel continued through the belt, almost kissing asteroid ADF-3701, with the rest of fleet falling into position just as West hoped.

          West punched a few buttons and said, “Shut us down, Governor.  Give the order to fall back Mr. Lopez.”

          The Jovian ships begun falling back, and then each blasted engines full while shutting down all electronic systems aboard their crafts.

          By the time the captain of the Chevrone grew concerned over the curious actions of the Jovian ships, it was too late.  ADF-3701 exploded into a million pieces, spraying destruction in every direction.  Three giant boulders, at least two tons each, hit the Chevrone full force- there was nothing left of it and the resulting explosion took the three-dozen ships accompanying it down as well.

          And now, all the ships, Earth and Jovian, were dead in space, lifeless as a result of the EM pulses from the mines.  Aboard the Giap confusion reigned as the ship hurled along, riding a shockwave.  The G-forces had al-Adsani and Lopez pinned down, but somehow West managed to claw his way to a portal.

          He was desperate for information on the battle, and with all systems dead his eyes were the only way he was going to get any.  When he looked out into space, he saw that the Kohl had already regained power and was turning tail and running.  He started to panic; with the Kohl, Earth could launch another attack.  Among the rest of the Earth fleet, however, tactical instability was setting in.  He witnessed two ships simply turn into each other in an attempt to escape the meteor shower his mines precipitated. 

          He was frustrated that he couldn’t see his own ships, and he wondered how the Earth ships were able to power up so quickly.

          Suddenly the Giap’s power returned and al-Adsani was able to stabilize their position.

          “I want contact with the fleet, now!” West barked.

          Lopez desperately tried to get the comm system up and running when the Governor said, “Brannon, come take a look at this.”

          Outside the portal they could see the Kohl now clearing the belt, still intact.  However, there was a Cobra (single pilot craft) right on her tail.  If fact, it looked as if the Cobra were intent on ramming the larger ship.

          The Governor said, “One Cobra… it won’t do much damage…”

          “They’re all chock full of C-4… it’s supposed to be a last resort…” West mumbled.

          “Whoever it is they’re going to overload their engines,” Lopez cried, “I’ve got some systems up colonel… monitors show that craft is overloading it’s fuel cells…”

          “He’s going to fly right up the Kohl’s ass… I’ll be damned…” West stopped talking mid-sentence and began floating aimlessly in the zero-g.

          “Colonel,” the Governor called, “Brannon, Are you okay?”

          There was no answer, and a few minutes alter when a voice came over the comm system asking for casualty reports, Lopez uttered, “Just one.”

          Their ship was rocked again when the Kohl exploded- the chain reaction caused by the Cobra lodging in her exhaust port (and the subsequent detonation of the C-4) rendered her complete destruction.  The rest of the Earth fleet (maybe a dozen ships) had turned around and were headed back to Earth.  Al-Adsani thought about chasing them dozen, but saw little point.  None of the surviving ships could make it this far again without a larger supply ship such as the Kohl or the Chevrone.  Most of the crews on those ships would starve before they reached home. 

          The colonists had successfully de-fanged Corporate Supreme once more under Colonel West’s leadership.

          The Governor ordered the Jovian fleet back home, full speed.


          The laser-tips affixed to the ends of his ice-axes, as well as the crampons on his space boots, made it possible for the tools to sink their teeth into the super-frozen ice cliffs of Ganymede.  Literally he inched his way up the face of the wall, and he knew now that he was working against time.  

          Jupiter would rise in less than six minutes, and he was still twenty meters (at least) from the top; he needed to push himself if he was going to make it.  Instead, he stopped to rest.  But thinking of West and his desire that this be done specifically at Jupiter rise, Governor al-Adsani found it within himself to push and started attacking the ice as though it were his enemy, and he made it to the top just in time.

          Jupiter was rising.

          As the gas giant ripped apart he dark canvass of sky and assumed its place as King of the Sky, he lifted the pouch that he carried all the way up the face of the cliff and released the ashes of Colonel Brannon West.

          Silently he wondered how long it would take for the ashes to reach the ground- and then realized that it didn’t matter.  The ashes had all the time in the universe.

          He tried not to look down; for the life of him he could not figure out what drove him to climb up here instead of just taking a shuttle.

          He remembered the first time he met West- when the man landed the battery of ships that had been sent to destroy the lunar colony on the lunar plains and surrendered.  

         That day West set in motion the founding of the Ganymede colony, and perhaps the salvation of humanity, al-Adsani told himself.

         He turned his gaze sunward, away from the dizzying height of the cliff.  He thought he spied Earth, a tiny dot tracing its way across the solar disc.  His heart ached at the statistical reality: ten billion people, all on death row.  There was nothing that could be done for them.  

         And Mars.  Over a hundred thousand human beings (separated into two factions that soon would surely degenerate into civil war) and a cloning facility that could produce an army of fifty thousand every six months…

         But even as stood there stargazing, two volunteers in a heavily armed ship were rendezvousing with a comet halfway to Saturn.  The governor was confident that the facility would be rendered inoperable before the first clones fully gestated.  However, this would certainly injure relations between the Jovians and their Martian neighbors, and the mysteries surrounding the cave paintings might never be solved.

         Still, it had to be done.

         And who knows how many ships now leaving Earth will make to their stated goal of the asteroid belt to set up a mining colony- hopefully to supply the Martians and the Jovians?  Would they present a threat to the colony?  With all of the diseases they carried from Earth, they could never be absorbed into the Jovian colony.  Still, they would have to find a way to co-exist.

         He looked back out over the colony; everywhere there were signs of activity, of purpose.  And somewhere, in one of those ships on the plain, was the first child born on Ganymede: Brannon West Lopez. 

         Life goes on, al-Adsani thought, and then he realized that that was an awesome charge that the colonists were assuming, to insure that life, humanity and five thousand years of culture, would go on.  Though the odds were against them, here in Jupiter’s shadow, humanity would make one last stand.

         He took one last look out over the colony, and then, backing up a ways so he could take a running leap, jumped from the edge of the cliff.

         He was falling; slowly in the light gravity, but still falling.

         He fought the urge to fire his jetpack right away.




copyright 2005 Daniel C. Smith.

Daniel C. Smith:
In the arena of speculative fiction, I have over thirty short stories and poems either published or awaiting publication with various small press and semi-professional magazines, both print and web, including Bare Bone, Hadrosaur Tales, Not One of Us, Revelation, The Leading Edge, The Martian Wave and Scifakuest.  

In addition, I have published more 'mainstream' poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction in such venues as Inscape, Liquid Ohio, MindFireRenewed, and The SiNK.

You may contact Daniel C. Smith at