Jupiter’s Children, Part I
by Daniel C. Smith
forum: Jupiter's Children, Part I
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Jupiter’s Children, Part I


           This was his favorite time of the month, when the shiny surface of Ganymede was angled just right between Sol and Jupiter so as to cause refractions bouncing back and forth off of the moon’s surface and the paper-thin rings of Jupiter.  The result was a prism-like effect, multiplied a million-fold in a cascading series of EM bursts.  It was as if it were raining rainbows, a veritable fireworks display of photonic energies that would last almost nine minutes.  

          Governor Josem al-Adsani had been coming here of late to study the religious texts of his Islamic heritage.  Growing older, he had grown thirsty in a spiritual sense; he desperately wanted to make good decisions for his people, to lead them through this time, to survive.  Laughing to himself, he thought of his father and how impressed he would be to see his son reading the Qur'an- no easy task considering his father had not even acknowledged his election to the U.S. senate, or to its vice presidency, for that matter.

           On the opposite shore of Lake West he watched members of the first generation of humans born on Ganymede skip stones across the glassy surface in the slow motion of the lighter gravity of the Jovian satellite.  Their laughter resonated off of the thousands of triangular sections of alumicrylic that made up the geodesic domes that the colonists called home.  Sitting there, he wondered how his people had come so far in only ten years, and whether or not they would last another decade in the face of the new challenges that his old friend providence had brought to bear upon them in the last few months.

          Ten years ago when West had lead them into battle against the most massive fleet ever launched on a deep space assault, their victory had had an incredibly de-stabilizing effect on the governments of Earth.  The Jovian’s hard-won freedom had cut even deeper wounds in an already wounded civilization, leaving scars that would never heal.  As each nation struggled to assert themselves on the world stage, flexing their muscle with ground forces after expending their giant coalition of space forces in their effort to subdue the Jovians, tensions and tempers eventually exploded in a nuclear holocaust. 

          Several small ships escaped the final destruction and the crews slept their way to the asteroid belt, striking claims and forming a network of refugee camps, patrolled by ships that were intent on blocking the colonist’s efforts to mine the giant rocks for minerals essential to their own survival.   And although accepting these refugees would solve another issue of survival that Dr. Bowman had reminded him of so recently, that of a limited gene pool, there could be no accepting them- for they had carried the plagues of Earth along with them on their escape from planetary destruction. And in the last few months, the refugee ships had grown even more…abrasive, assertive, and definitely more organized.  

          Subsequently, all Jovian mining operations in the belt were suspended.  While the colony didn’t depend on what they mined from the belt, without such raw minerals their potential for growth was undoubtedly seriously compromised.  He wondered how they were surviving after the seven years since they first started staking their claims in the belt.  They could have carried only a limited amount of supplies with them.  

          No wonder they were growing more brazen in their assaults on Jovian ships, he thought, they’re probably getting desperate.

          Some ships of the wealthier families didn’t even try for the belt, instead taking refuge in the old lunar colony that the Jovian colonists had migrated from over a decade ago.  Telemetry reports indicated that the moon base was a city of darkness, the generators dipping below any safety lines (who knows how they reactivated any life support systems at all), and consequently they were also living on borrowed time.

          To make matters even worse, the same destabilization of governments on Earth also took place on Mars, and the two major groups of colonies, those in the southern highlands under the control of a North American-European alliance, and those of the northern plains under the aegis of a pan-Asian pact, had been locked in a brutal civil war for the last nine years.  After the destruction of the North American cloning facility and it’s potential numerical threat, the Pan-Asian colonists wasted no time in moving against their neighbors, and with the destruction of the entire Martian deep space fleets (from both sides) in the Jovian’s victory, that war was reportedly being fought in more conventional ways on the surface, more hand-to-hand combat, even swordplay.  Without the advanced weapons of their space troopers, the Martians had literally beaten their plowshares into swords- resorting to using agricultural implements to wage war upon one another. His source on Mars had relayed grisly, barbaric reports for years until stopping all communication unexpectedly six months ago.  

          At least two thirds of the Martian colonists (counting both sides) had been wiped out, as had the caves where the petroglyphs had been discovered.  Apparently the existence of the petroglyphs became known to the pan-Asian colonists, further fueling the hostilities as the two factions fought for control over the area that contained the ancient images, trapped in time and stone. 

          As for the ships that had headed toward Venus after the war, nothing had been heard or detected by their long-range sensors, but he knew that that situation of pleasing silence could not last for long.

          That was where things stood after a decade.  Although the colony itself had actually materialized into a city, with over two-dozen domes (some as large as one thousand meters in diameter) housing almost forty-five thousand people, their very existence was still threatened.  Yes, they were feeding themselves fairly well with the hydroponics gardens and algae tanks.  They pulled water and air right out their frozen moon’s surface, and power was a combination of solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric and offered endless amounts of clean energy.  

          On top of all of that, collectively they were some of the greatest minds in the solar system.

          But still there were things that he feared they might not overcome.  If the remnants of humanity did not destroy them, the lack of genes would doom them to eventual extinction anyway.  Two generations, maximum, that’s what Dr. Bowman told him.

          With Jupiter hanging in the sky he started walking towards a connecting tube to make his way to the civil section and his office.  He had a meeting with Dr. Bowman and Dr. Garcia and the rest of his unofficial cabinet; he was already going to be late.

          On his way he noticed a group of children playing with some sort of new toy by the water’s edge- a small, glowing ball that they somehow levitated over their heads until they passed it (somehow) on to someone else.  

          He thought it was nice that someone had taken the time to design a new child’s toy given the gravity of recent events.


          When he arrived at his office he was met by some of the gloomiest faces he could ever recall seeing.  Garcia avoided eye contact, while Gregor Lopez, now the education coordinator, seemed to have a look in his eye that pleaded for attention.  Obviously he had something important on his mind.

          And Mackenzie.  Although they had no military to speak of, Mackenzie represented the Marines who had followed West during the assault on Earth’s lunar colony, and he unofficially advised the governor on the military ramifications of any actions taken by the Jovian’s.  Mac had a face that could never be read, but he tapped his finger on the notebook he was carrying, letting al-Adsani know that he too had urgent matters to discuss.

          As always, Dr. Bowman got the ball rolling, “Nice to see you, Josem.”

           “I apologize for being late…”

          “Dr. Garcia and I only arrived moments ago ourselves.”

          He smiled and settled into his chair.  “Good.  Now that we have a quorum, we can conduct business.  Who would like to sound the death knell first?”

          When they all tried to speak at once, he raised his hands as if to hold them back.

          “Dr. Garcia.  You first, if you please.”

          Garcia said, “I have detected some sort of strange energy signatures within the rings.  I’m afraid it’s some sort of new radiation, and I’m afraid it could be harmful.”

          The governor asked, “Any evidence it’s harmful?”

          Bowman answered, “We have two patients in the hospital right now, some sort of muscular and tissue degeneration, like cancer, but worse.  I’ve never seen anything like it.”

          “The result of the lighter gravity?” the governor asked.

          “No, we have supplements to overcome that, and we can now produce more.  It’s worse than that,” she said.

          Then the governor called on Mackenzie to deliver his report.

          Mac didn’t waste any time.  “We have a hostage situation,” he said.  “Almost thirty hours ago, some Earth ships in the belt seized control of the Equinox, a mining ship owned by the Singh family, operated by the two youngest Singh’s and two other members of our colony…”

          The governor winced; the Singh’s had been on an expedition to find uranium to fuel their fission powered ships, including the Grissom, grounded for seven years now.   

          Bowman interjected, “I thought we had ceased mining operations in the belt?”

          Mackenzie answered, “The Equinox crew was in deepsleep, on one of the farthest missions ever attempted in the belt by one of our ships.  They didn’t get the call to return home until it was too late.”

          Al-Adsani asked, “Are they making any demands?”

          Mackenzie said simply, “Not yet.  They have only told us that they indeed have them.  I have something else to report.”

          “Go on.”

          “We have detected a…not so small fleet of ships heading for Earth’s moon, coming from towards the sun.  We think that those are the ships that headed towards Venus shortly during the last war.  Their trajectory reveals to us that they don’t have much fuel.  My theory is they’re headed to the moon to refuel and re-supply, then they’ll make a move on Mars.”

          Garcia asked, “Why Mars?”

          “Survival.  Mars has it all, the polar caps, and cropland.  And with the civil war still raging, what few Martians are left could easily be conquered, especially from forces that have a space fleet, no matter how small.”

          Again Garcia asked, “What makes you think they’re going to be that aggressive?”

          Mackenzie shifted uneasily in his chair, “We have Intel that those ships carried some very elite troops, mostly Russian, and that the ships are all heavily armed.  I think those ships and crews have been deepsleeping it in Venusian orbit, now they’ve awakened, and they’re headed for the moon, where they think can re-supply and then launch for Mars.”

          The governor thought Mackenzie’s analysis was accurate, and apparently so did everyone else.

          The governor moved on, “And you, Gregor?  What dire news have you to report?”

          Lopez handed everyone in the room a copy of his report on the first generation of children born on Ganymede, his own son being the first.  Charts and graphs aside, the governor couldn’t figure out why Lopez was so depressed.  Their children were geniuses; all one hundred and twenty-two born in the last ten years had IQ’s in the hundred and eighties!  

          Then Dr. Bowman brought it all home to him.  Statistically, it was impossible.  Something was out of the ordinary.  And as it was a complete unknown, it had to be considered dangerous.

          Al-Adsani moved to wind things up, “Dr. Bowman, what do you need to investigate this new tissue degeneration as you call it?”

           Bowman shrugged, “Just time.  Everyone’s working on it at the hospital, and all the science labs.  I hate to say, but we need to perform an autopsy on one of the victims as soon as possible…”

          The governor continued, “Do you have immediate concerns regarding the children?”

          Bowman looked at Garcia, who said nothing and then replied, “No, not really.  But statistically…”

          Again he cut her off, “Yes it’s impossible.”  

          He looked at Mackenzie.  “What’s your advice regarding the hostages?”

          “They’ve taken desperate action.  Our response should be…tempered. Immediate, but not desperate.”

          Al-Adsani nodded, “Agreed.”

          After a long while, the governor looked at his military advisor and said, “It’s time to assemble the fleet again.”

          Mackenzie stood, “I’ll have every available craft on the western plain in twenty-four hours.  I’ll notify the men and women who were in the last battle…”  

          Al-Adsani cut him off, “Relax Mac, hopefully this isn’t going to be a military operation.  Hopefully.  Only half the fleet, and I want vessels that can carry cargo, not armaments.  I’ll ask for citizen volunteers to fly the mission, for now, save the soldiers.  In case they’re needed in the future.”

          Mackenzie said nothing but as he exited he turned and gave Lopez one last look, and the governor noticed.  

          Perhaps someone has some concerns about the children after all, he thought.

          Bowman asked, “Are we going to war again, Josem?”

          He smiled, “God has made us victorious over our enemies, perhaps now He is watching to see how we act.  Remember the Berlin airlift from your history books?  We’re going to give bread and water to our enemies, and hope that they become our friends.”

          Bowman, stunned by such spirituality coming from the governor, said, “If only we could cure that damned virus, then we could absorb them into our colony…”

          No one in the room spoke.  Eventually Lopez excused himself, but not before the governor had given him an assignment: to ask for volunteers to take what few extra items the colonists had accrued and give them to a people that had so far acted with only hostility towards them, and to deliver said goods in what could easily become a military situation.  Then he matter-of-factly asked Dr. Bowman to secure as much in the way of foodstuffs and medical supplies that their calculations would permit and transport it all to the western plain within twenty-four hours.

           As always, Garcia found something to distract him.  This time it was a folder on the governor’s desk containing a few images of the petroglyphs from Mars.

          He held one in particular up to the light.

          “See this one?” he asked.  “It reminds me of that new game some of the kids are playing, see what I mean?”

          The image showed several humanoid figures gathered in a circle with a small disc floating above their heads.

          Al-Adsani asked, “Who’s making that toy?”

          Neither Bowman nor Garcia had an answer.


          Lopez went home with a heavy heart. 

          At least the governor doesn’t ask for much, he thought.  

          He wondered how his neighbors would react when he relayed the governor’s request, and he wondered whether or not the governor knew what he was doing, and he wondered how long it would take before the Jovians had to go to war again.

          He decided it would be best to send out a general e-message, requesting supplies on the governor’s behalf.  When he opened his mail files, he was taken aback by a message from the governor marked: Urgent, open at once.

          What else could he want?

          The message left him confounded.  With all that was happening, the governor had taken an absurd interest in a new toy he had seen the children playing with.

          Very well, then.  He would ask Brannon about the toy.

          He relayed his call for donations and then patiently waited for Brannon to come home.  He did not have that long to wait.

          At nine Earth years of age, his son was almost as tall as he was thanks to the lighter gravity of Ganymede.  Standing there, looking him in the eye, he noticed how much his son resembled his mother. 

          That’s fortunate for him, thought Gregor.

          “How was school?”

          “Dull.  I think I’m ready for a more challenging set of courses, especially in mathematics.”

          Gregor smiled and said, “I’m sure that you are.  Perhaps later we can assess your current level of understanding, and then design a course of study more appropriate for you.”

          Brannon smiled back, “Sounds good.  Calculus is a little mundane…”

          “You’re doing calculus?”

          “Yes, Miss Keyes is letting me study one of her old textbooks she used at Princeton, back on Earth.”

           Lopez was shocked.  His specialty had been literature, and his wife’s was biology.  He and his wife had always joked that they had each come from a long line of mathematically challenged individuals.  And his nine-year-old son thought calculus to be mundane.

          What kind of nine-year-old kid uses a word like mundane?

          “Brannon, that new game you kids are playing, what’s it called?”

          Brannon looked puzzled, “What game do mean, dad?”

          “The one where you kids have that ball suspended over your heads.”

          Brannon laughed, “That’s not a game, it’s an exercise.”


          “Yeah, you know, like you exercise to build your muscles.  It’s an exercise for the mind.”

          “Where did you get it?”

          “I’m not sure what you mean.”

          “Who’s making those floating balls for you?”

          Again his son laughed, “Those aren’t balls, they’re orbs.”

          “Where do these orbs come from?”  He was growing frustrated.

          Brannon looked truly puzzled, “They’re everywhere.  Can’t you see them?”

          Lopez decided to drop the subject.  The answers his son was giving were only leading to more questions to which he was afraid he would not like the answers.

          “I guess it’s not important.  I’ll leave you to do your homework, I have some work of my own to do.”

          After Brannon was alone he found it very difficult to concentrate.  He knew that his father was worried, but he didn’t understand what it was that concerned him.  And why couldn’t his father (or any of the other grownups for that matter) see the orbs?  After all, they were everywhere, including three in his room at this very moment.

          Brannon flopped down on his bed and called for an orb, and spent the next hour exercising his mind.


          Not content with merely having Lopez probe his Godson for answers, the governor stopped by his son’s home to talk with his own grandchildren.  Rashid gave an uncomfortable smile as he welcomed his father, the sounds of Jennifer and Hamid playing echoing from the other room.

          Sitting down, the governor got right to it.  “How’re my grandchildren?”

          Rashid sat staring at his father for quite a while, then called to his children, “Jennifer, Hamid, come here.  Jennifer, bring your violin.”

          The pair came tumbling out of the playroom, seven year old Jennifer dragging her violin behind her.

          “Play something for your grandfather,” he told her.

          She began to play an ancient classical piece, Dvorak, the governor told himself.  He listened intently as she played the piece with the precision and soul of a seasoned, professional musician; he was no expert in music, but he knew that he was listening to a prodigy.  When she stopped playing, he actually felt moved emotionally, something he had never experienced before simply from hearing a piece of music.

          After another interminable silence, Rashid asked him “Would you like to hear my five year old son’s new theories in the field of microphysics?”

          The governor said flatly, “No, that’s all right.”  When he saw how disappointed Hamid looked, he added, “I know less about physics than I do music.  Hamid, those little balls you children are playing with, where do you get them?”

          The children giggled, and Hamid added, “They’re everywhere.”

          “No one makes them for you?” he asked.

          The question only bought more laughter out of the children, and then they ran back to their playroom, unaware of the concern of their elders.

          Rashid asked, “Is there anything I should know?”

          The governor shrugged, “You know as much as I do.  All the children born on Ganymede are scoring well into the genius level on IQ tests.”

          “What about the fleet being assembled?  Some people are nervous that we’re going to war again…”

          “Hostages have been taken in the asteroid belt.  We’re going to confront the Earth ships with all the supplies we can spare, forge a working relationship.  It’s time to wage the peace, son.  Our victory was a catalyst that helped to bring about the final world war on Earth, I think we are obligated to help the survivors any way we can.  I’ll be making a public statement tonight, will you be watching?”

          “Of course, I’ve never missed a speech, you know that.”

          “And your sister has never finished writing one in time for me to look it over before I deliver it.”

          They looked at each other and embraced, Rashid asking, “You’re going to lead the fleet, aren’t you?”

          “Yes.  No choice, really.  I want the people in the belt to know I’m sincere about this policy; we have to coexist peacefully out here.  I’ll talk with you again before I leave.”


          Mackenzie lay in bed staring at the ceiling, the younger woman he had fallen so suddenly in love with sleeping quietly beside him.  

          Mac was good man, a brave man, but he did not like things he did not understand.  

          He did not understand why he was so concerned about the children being so smart, so advanced.  He had made some inquires of his own; apparently the children had been demonstrating other abilities beyond their accelerated learning curves.

          He didn’t like it when he had more questions than answers, and he did not have the trust in the governor as Colonel West did.  He had been a part of a contingent of United States forces engaged in the Battle of Britain, forces that did not receive the backup that they needed and felt that they had been promised.  Mackenzie had always blamed the doves of the administration at that time for their failure and loss of troops, doves that included al-Adsani as VPOTUS, the position that gave the governor access to so much information that the general public, or the military, never knew.  The loss of England to India was a loss that many U.S. soldiers took personally because until the bitter end, right or wrong, most of them felt that England was the only real ‘ally’ the United States ever had.  

          Mac remembered how many Brits fought (and died) at his side when US forces took California and Oregon back from the Pan-Asian confederation.   It was no small consolation that India’s (and China’s) tenure as world superpowers was short lived; eventually even their massive populations and powerful governments could not escape the snare of the economic trade webs of the multi-national corporations.

          Lying there, he wondered how his own beloved country had gone from ‘United’ to ‘Incorporated’, and he wondered why nobody saw it coming.  He knew that his was a heart heavy with resentment for the policy errors of the past, policies that he had risked his life to enforce.

          Yet he had served the governor and the colony as best he could in the last ten years, putting the past behind him, at least on a professional level.  He gave the best advice he could; the colony had been attacked once before, and he believed that the colonists needed to be prepared for all contingencies.  He had tried relentlessly to keep them prepared for the worst, which was what he considered his job.
Still, in spite of his trepidation towards the governor, he managed to fall in love with his daughter, Sara.  For some unspoken and silently agreed to reason, they had kept their relationship a secret, especially from her father.  Sara somehow sensed Mac’s distrust toward her father, and she was content to obey his unspoken wishes.

          He looked at her breathing silently beside him, smiling in her sleep, the child she had just told him about tonight developing in her womb.


          Al-Adsani couldn’t believe it, and he was grateful he did not faint during his speech.  He had never expected the communication device that he kept near his chest to ever vibrate again, but it did, and right in the middle of his speech.  

          He never missed a beat, calling for charity among the colonists in an attempt to avoid hostilities; the concept seemed to appeal to their sensibilities more than the last time he asked for volunteers to fly to the belt.  And after a while, they all realized the need to save what militarily trained personnel they had left for any future needs.  They also recognized his bravery and sincerity when he said he would lead the mission himself.  Still, most of the colonists, deep down, thought he was crazy, and yet they started volunteering for the mission after his speech just the same.  

          When al-Adsani decoded the message in his office, he was even more stunned than when he had heard about the cave paintings.  The fighting on Mars had grown even more intense during the past few months, even though the population of both sides had been decimated by conflict, raging over a piece of territory said to contain the greatest treasure in the solar system: a ship.  

          An ancient ship, one that was not fashioned by human hands.  

          The idea was enough to strike fear into the heart of any rational, peace loving man.

          Al-Adsani feared what either one of the Martian factions would, and could, do with the advanced technology that could be utilized from the ship, or even if the ship itself was space worthy- what was to prevent them from attacking Ganymede?  And what kind of weapons would such a vessel have?

          Disturbed by what he knew he must do, he contacted Dr. Bowman on their private channel.  She needed to prepare for surgery.

          Within twenty-four hours, Mackenzie had over a dozen ships loaded and staffed for the journey.  Mac had also readied the Burak, the governor’s ship as per his last minute request; and what a strange list of supplies, as if going on a journey of a half a billion kilometers.  Of course, there was also that large crate bought over from The Grissom, contents unknown. 

          Then the governor told him that the two of them would be flying aboard the Burak along with Dr. Garcia, he further confounded Mackenzie by telling him, in private, that the two of them would go on an extended mission after their visit to the belt- without any further elaboration.  Except to say, that is, that he had chosen Mackenzie for this extended mission because like the governor, he was a single man, without too many ties.

          Mac accepted his orders without question, and sent Sara a time-delayed email.  He told her that he loved her, that the future of everyone on Ganymede depended on their successful mission, and that he would be back in time to see their child, their first child he added, born.


          From the mountain peak that towered over Ganymede City, the same cliff that Colonel West used to climb, two small space suited figures stood watching the fleet depart for the asteroid belt.

          “Will they be successful, Brannon?” Jennifer asked.

          “Perhaps,” he answered. “But we shouldn’t count on it.”

          “Why do we have to fight just to exist?” she demanded.

          He laughed, “We’re not the first species to ask that question.”

          After a while she said, “Are the adults afraid of us?”

          “Maybe.  Some are, anyway.  I think.”

          “I’m not afraid of them,” she said defiantly.

          He laughed, “No one should be afraid of anything.  If we are to survive out here, we must let go of our fears.  That’s what the orbs are for, to teach us to control our fears.”

          Now it was her turn to laugh, “You sound so grownup!”  Then, “Why can’t the adults see the orbs?”

          “The people here on Ganymede represent the finest end products of the education system that was available to them.  Still, it was a failed system, one that conditioned rather than educated, always conditioning towards the impossible, rather than towards the possible.”

          “You’re a fountain of wisdom, like some ancient old man on a hill somewhere.”

          He was thoughtful for a moment, and then said, “Nine years can be a lifetime.  Besides, I’ll be ten next month.”

          “Do you know where the orbs come from?” she asked.

          “No, I just know that they’ve been here for a long time, and that they were…placed here, for us.  I think maybe we should be less conspicuous with our use of them… for now.”

          “I’ll let everyone know.”  She closed her eyes, concentrating very hard for a few seconds, and then opening her eyes she said, “Okay.”

          Brannon wondered how she did it.  

          All of the children seem to have some special talent, he thought, all of them…  except me.  

          He reminded himself that the other kids all sought his advice, even approval, but if he had some special talent, he hadn’t found it yet.

          The last of the ships lifted off, and they watched in silence as the flames from the engines lifted them into space.

          Finally, she asked, “Are things going to change, Brannon?”

          “Change is the only true constant in the universe,” he said.

          She punched him in the arm, “Now you sound like my brother!”

          “Your brother talks about time travel and interdemensional matrices.  The disturbing thing is that he actually sounds like he knows what he is talking about.”

          She nodded her head in silent agreement.

          The fleet was just a series of orange dots strung across the sky now, only the burn from their engines giving away their presence.

          “What if they do fail?” she asked.

          “I think we will have peace with those in the belt.  The ships landing on Earth’s moon right now carry a people…much less inclined towards peaceful coexistence.  But we have time, a little at least.”

          Through trembling lips she asked, “Do you know why we are different?”

          He did not answer her for at least five minutes, then he said, “Perhaps it is evolution, or destiny, or maybe it’s both.”

          “I hate it when you talk like that, why don’t you say you just don’t know?”

          He shrugged and gestured towards the edge of the cliff, “Race you to the bottom!”

          Laughing again like children, they both broke out into a run that took them right over the edge of the cliff, and they were falling, slowly in the light gravity, but still falling.  Both of them waited until they were less than ten meters above ground level before firing their jetpacks.

          Watching through a telescope some twenty kilometers distant, Rashid al-Adsani decided that not only were their children incredibly advanced, but they were extremely reckless as well.


           The Jovian fleet began transmitting their intentions to the people in the belt even before their departure and continued to do so for the last sixty days, and now as al-Adsani and his fleet hung suspended in space less than ten thousand kilometers off of Ceres, there still had been no response.  Many of their ships were anchored on this particular asteroid, forming a loose community of sorts, apparently their center of any organization.   The governor thought that this would be a logical place to search for someone in authority, if they could get a response.

          Twelve hours later, they got one.

          The view screen on the Burak activated and the three of them were face to face with the horrors of the last war on Earth.  A man with a face so scarred by radiation as to make him unrecognizable, and with only one arm, and a mechanical one at that.  He introduced himself as Reginald Hanson, and he told them that he was the leader of what he called ‘the Alliance’.

          The governor spoke, “Certainly you have received our transmissions?  You know of course our mission is one of assistance, and one to retrieve our stray ship and citizens.  I would also like to think of this as a beginning of a more cordial relationship, one that would most certainly benefit both of our peoples.”

          Hanson replied, “We have scanned your ships.  What is puzzling is why you would bring your own fleet so close in to your weapon, or perhaps you have to be that close in order to detonate it.”

          The governor and Mac exchanged glances, and then al-Adsani said, “I’m not sure what you mean, Mr. Hanson.  Just what weapon are you referring to?”

          “One of your nukes, a big one, left over from your little battle.  Undetonated.  So far.”

          “Just where is this nuclear device?”

          “Right here on Ceres, of course.”

          Mac interjected, “Impossible.  I lead the team that mined the belt.  Ceres wasn’t even in position at that time.”

          The Governor asked, “Can we see this device?”

          Hanson said, “Land your fleet.  Of course we can use the supplies.”  Then he cut the transmission.

          Dr. Garcia spoke, “Cheerful enough chap, I suppose.  But the nuke… if it’s not one of ours, whose is it?”

          “What do you think, Mac?” al-Adsani asked.

          “They think they have a nuclear device.  And they think they have control of it, but not completely.  They need one more piece of the puzzle, and they think we have that piece, otherwise they wouldn’t let us see it.”

          “All right, let’s land and see this thing.  Whatever it is.”  Then he added, “Stay in your environmental suits if we enter one of their ships.”

          Hanson sent a guide beacon and the twelve Jovian ships landed without incident.  Men and women rushed out to help unload supplies, most of them missing limbs or seriously crippled, their visor plates not enough to conceal the scars left by a depleted ozone or radioactive fallout.  

          If there were children, they weren’t revealing themselves.

          The governor’s party was escorted to what appeared to be an entrance to a cave, lights dangling from cables that ran who knew how deep inside the asteroid.  Another figure greeted them at the entrance.  It was Hanson.  Without a word he lead them into the cavern.  After walking for over thirty minutes, not really getting far in the light gravity, they came to halt in front of what Hanson and his people were convinced was a nuclear device.

          When the governor finally grasped the entire structure that was embedded in the rocky wall he was horrified.  The sheer size of it, over thirty meters from top to bottom, at least a third of that in width. 

          If it is a bomb, he thought, it must be the largest ever made.  

          The governor feared that the situation was slipping beyond his control.

          Mac whistled, “That ain’t one of ours.”

          Garcia asked, “What’s the casing made of?  What kind of tests have you run?”

          Hanson said flatly, “We haven’t been exactly poking around.  We’re not scientists.  We’re survivors.”

          Garcia said, “I’m a scientist.  Can I run some tests on it?”

          After consulting on a private channel with someone, Hanson nodded his consent.

          Garcia asked, “Any objections, Governor?”

          “No.  I think we can all benefit by identifying this… object,” al-Adsani said.

          “I need some gear from the ship.  I’ll be back.”

          Al-Adsani thought the doctor would run right off the asteroid the way he bounded out of the cave.   Then he decided to broach the subject of the Singh’s ship and crew.

          “Mr. Hanson, we just delivered five hundred gallons of water, food, medical supplies…”

          Hanson cut him off, “We have not even boarded the ship.  Its crew is still in deep sleep- they don’t even know that they’re hostages.  Come, I’ll give you tour of our encampment.  We can discuss what we can do for each other.”

          Hanson lead the governor and Mac from ship to ship over the surface of the asteroid, meeting the families who had escaped Earth’s final destruction.  They did have several children, but they all remained in deep sleep to conserve supplies.  The length of their hibernation had been a growing concern for their parents, but with the influx of supplies delivered by the Jovian fleet they could awaken them.  And feed them.  The people in the belt had been surviving on next to nothing; many had died from starvation and dehydration.  

          There were several suicides.  

          And now they had literally turned this asteroid (and a few others) into refugee camps, for refugees that had reached the end of the line.

          The governor and Mac told Hanson about the ships that had recently landed on Earth’s moon, about trading minerals for water, food, arranging medical treatment for the children, and Mackenzie told Hanson about the possibility of sealing off the tunnels much the way the Jovian’s did in the caves on Ganymede, to create large areas for community.

          Hanson didn’t say so, but he was impressed.  He was also secretly grateful that none of the Jovian’s had been hurt during their harassment.  He agreed to cease all hostile actions, and apparently he had the authority to ensure that promise.  He further promised to deliver several tons of ore to the colonists in exchange for water and other goods.

          Garcia entered the cabin, his face looking ashen, even through his visor plate.  He announced calmly, “Its origin is not terrestrial.  It’s an alloy of incredible strength, and yet the shell is incredibly thin.”

          “The shell?”  asked al-Adsani.

          “Yes.  It’s hollow,” Garcia said.

          Mac asked, “What the hell’s inside?”

          Garcia said, “I don’t know.”  Then he added, “Not yet, I don’t.”

          Hanson said, “Who buried it there?”

          “It’s actually fused into the rock itself, by incredible temperatures and force.  As for who…” Garcia offered.

          The governor said, “Dr. Garcia, do you think you can learn anything more about this…this shell as you call it?”

          “Given enough time.  Governor, I too have the cancer that has been developing among members of our colony.  I have perhaps a year left.  I’d like to spend it trying to solve this mystery.”

          Al-Adsani was stunned, but he was quick to issue his denial.  “Absolutely not.  We need you on Ganymede.  There we can care for you…”

          Before he could say anything more, Garcia popped open his faceplate, inhaling the infected oxygen of Hanson’s ship.  It was decided; Garcia would be staying. 

          Rage burned in the governor’s eyes, and Mackenzie secretly wished to see him explode in anger.  But he did not.

          He rose calmly and shook Hanson’s mechanical hand.  “Everything is agreed upon, then?”

          “Of course, Governor.”  After a moment he added, “Thank you, I…we won’t forget this.”

          “Dr. Garcia, please forward all your data to Dr. Bowman.  It’s been a pleasure knowing you.”

          The pair left without another word, and the governor did not shake Garcia’s hand on the way out.  He didn’t even make eye contact.

          As they walked briskly towards their own ship, Mac asked, “What’s this extended mission?”

          “We’re going to Mars.”

          “What for?”

          “I’ll tell you when we get there.”

          Walking behind the governor, Mac suppressed a smile.  

          The governor does not like to be disobeyed, he thought.


          Forty-two days later the Burak was hovering behind Phobos, hoping to avoid detection.  According to his source, neither group of Martian colonists had power enough to supply life support for much longer, let alone use any of the technology that required so much power.  But still, one never knew.  So they hid.

          Mac was still groggy from deep sleep, but he was alert enough to remember that he wanted some answers.  

          “So… what are we doing here, sir?”

          Al-Adsani began to lecture, “Apparently, thousands of years ago, there was life on Mars.  Before the last conflict, my source on Mars…”

          “You have a source on Mars?”

          The governor did not answer, he just continued, “… relayed several images of petroglyphs discovered in caves near one of the polar ice caps.  Those caves have since been destroyed.  But a few months ago I received information of another discovery deep in the caverns of Mars, one that I believe could prove potentially dangerous.”

          “How so?”

          “A ship.  A spacecraft of alien origin, possibly far advanced of anything we can even conceive of.  Such technology could be very dangerous if it fell into to the wrong hands.”

          “How do we decide whose hands are the right hands?”

          “We’re going to destroy the ship, at all costs.  Let humanity advance at it’s own pace.”

          “So we’re not alone.  That thing embedded in that asteroid, what do you know about that?”

          “Just as much as you do.  Nothing more.  Obviously, it further demonstrates that this solar system was home to another race before ours, perhaps more than one.”

          Silently Mac agreed that it would be best to destroy the alien craft, especially with those elite troops on the moon that he was sure would be headed their way.  God forbid if they should get their hands on advanced technology or weaponry.

          “All right then Governor, what we do now?”

          Al-Adsani got up and pushed himself in the direction of the cargo hold.  Mac followed in silence, patiently waiting for the governor to reveal his plan, assuming he had one.

          Once in the cargo hold, the governor maneuvered the large unmarked crate that Mac loaded at the last minute.  It was an ultralight glider, especially designed for use in the thin Martian atmosphere.  Several pieces had to be assembled and the pair worked through the night until they had accomplished all that they could inside the ship.

          Finally al-Adsani spoke, “Let’s get a good night’s rest, real sleep.  Tomorrow we’ll eat a good meal, then push all these pieces outside, hook ‘em together and land.  From there, we find that ship.”

          “Sounds simple enough.  How are we going to destroy the ship, anyway?”

          “I have the necessary device with which to do so.  It’s surgically implanted, by Dr. Bowman before we left.”

          “You’re going to detonate yourself?”

          “That’s why I bought you along, to cut it out.”


          The next morning came and they accomplished their task in record time, and then landed the Burak on the Martian moon by remote control.  The glider slid into the Martian atmosphere and Mackenzie began entering landing coordinates.

          The governor interrupted, “Mac, we’re headed for the northern plains, close to the pan-Asian settlement.  I have the coordinates.”

          Mackenzie was shocked, “Why aren’t we heading for the North American Alliance?”

          “My source…is among the pan-Asian leadership.  We’ll land about a hundred kilometers from the settlement, there’ll be a rover there, it’s all been pre-arranged.”

          Mackenzie had a feeling that he definitely didn’t like.  It only got worse when the glider began to shake and rattle, the wings acting as if they would snap off of the fuselage, propelling them like a missile into the surface.

          The ride got bumpier and both men lost faith in their survival before the retros fired and the craft glided to a relatively smooth landing.

          They made a hasty exit, the governor using a small handheld device to locate the rover.  They had landed over twenty kilometers off target; they had some walking to do.  Three hours later they found the rover, but when Mac tried to start it, he got no response.  He tried again.  And again.

          Suddenly six other rovers surrounded them, each with at least one person with a weapon trained on them.

          They raised their hands and surrendered.  It was all they could do at this point.


          Hours later they found themselves in a darkened room facing a man who claimed to be the Emperor of Mars.  Mackenzie recognized him from history; last name Chan, a high echelon military man in the Chinese army- and now he was an emperor, an emperor who was apparently very pleased with himself.

          “Welcome to my planet, Mr. Vice President,” he said.

          Al-Adsani replied, “It’s been a long while since I held that title.”

          The squalid little man smiled even wider.  “But that is precisely why I have brought you here.  Because you did once hold that title.”

          “Am I some sort of trophy?”

          Laughing, Chan replied, “You are much more than that, much more.”

          Chan drummed his fingers across the edge of his desk, smiling all the while.

          Finally the governor asked, “Just what is it you think I can do for you?”

          Chan nodded towards Mac, and a guard stepped out of the shadows and placed something on his neck.  Mac slipped out of his chair, banging his head on the table’s edge. Next he was writhing in agony on the floor, screaming.  

          Al-Adsani forced himself not to react.  After what seemed an eternity, Chan nodded again and the guard pulled the device from Mackenzie’s neck.  Mac continued to lie on the floor squirming, bleeding from where he had hit his head during his torture.

          Chan spoke, “I want all the information that the government of the United States had on, what is it you called them, UFO’s?”

          “I have no such information.  Why would you want such information, anyway?”

          Again Chan nodded towards Mackenzie, and again the guard activated the device on his neck, and again his screams filled the air.

          Chan terminated this living hell with a wave of his hand.  

          “You will tell me,” he said.  “Show our guests to their accommodations, then send a message to Ganymede.  Tell them that we have captured, and executed, two spies.”

          They were lead to a dark cell far below the room they had been in, and then thrown inside without a word from the guards.  The governor held Mackenzie for what seemed like hours before he got any response from his semi-conscious body.

          “Governor…what the hell…”

          Lying there, Mac heard a female voice somewhere in the darkness repeat the word “governor”, then through tears he heard her ask, “Father, is that you?”

          The governor carefully laid Mackenzie back to the floor and stood to embrace the young woman who had rushed towards him from the dark.  Mac recognized her instantly; she had been the communist party leader for the People’s Republic of Korea.  

          Al-Adsani held the young woman in his arms as she sobbed, begging his forgiveness for getting caught communicating with him.  And calling him father.  

          Mac’s senses were clear enough; he knew what he was seeing.  

          Things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser, he thought.


          “Thank you for coming to tell me personally, Dr. Bowman, Mr. Lopez.”  Sara al-Adsani just stared stubbornly at the floor.  Her father had been killed for some obscure purpose on Mars, and unknown to anyone else but her and her doctor; the father of her child had also been killed.  Few people even knew of their relationship, and none of them were certain of anything.  She decided not to tell anyone else right now, not yet.  She still had plenty of time.

          Lopez struggled to find something to say, and then decided that silence was the best course.  He himself was struggling to deal with the loss of his close friend, the governor, and with the responsibility that had been thrust upon him behind his back.   A ‘straw poll’ among the colonists had placed the title and responsibilities of Chief Administrator on his shoulders.  The colonists still had no functioning government, the governor had always acted on authority that he never really had.  But he had the trust of the colonists, and now apparently so did Lopez.

          “Sara,” Dr. Bowman began, “if you need to call me later you can, but I think we should leave you alone for now.  I spoke with your brother, he and his family should be here soon.”

          She nodded, and the bearers of tragedy left without another word.

          She sat silently contemplating her future.  

          Ganymede’s first single mother, she thought.  

          Then she snapped at herself; she would not be bitter.  She told herself that she would be grateful for the time that the two of them had had together, for her father’s memory, and of course for her unborn child, and then she started crying.  

          Had she known the truth- that her father and Mackenzie were still alive, but enduring incredible torture, she might have cried even harder.



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 chstop1@netzero.com