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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
they were growing more brazen in their assaults on Jovian ships,
he thought, they’re probably getting desperate.
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.
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.
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.
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
On top of
all of that, collectively they were some of the greatest minds in
the solar system.
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.
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.
it was nice that someone had taken the time to design a new child’s
toy given the gravity of recent events.
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.
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.
Dr. Bowman got the ball rolling, “Nice to see you, Josem.”
apologize for being late…”
and I only arrived moments ago ourselves.”
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?”
all tried to speak at once, he raised his hands as if to hold them
You first, if you please.”
“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.”
asked, “Any evidence it’s harmful?”
“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.”
of the lighter gravity?” the governor asked.
have supplements to overcome that, and we can now produce more.
It’s worse than that,” she said.
governor called on Mackenzie to deliver his report.
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
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.
“I thought we had ceased mining operations in the belt?”
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.”
asked, “Are they making any demands?”
said simply, “Not yet. They have only told us that they indeed
have them. I have something else to report.”
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.”
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.”
asked, “What makes you think they’re going to be that aggressive?”
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.”
thought Mackenzie’s analysis was accurate, and apparently so did
moved on, “And you, Gregor? What dire news have you to report?”
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
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.
moved to wind things up, “Dr. Bowman, what do you need to investigate
this new tissue degeneration as you call it?”
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…”
continued, “Do you have immediate concerns regarding the children?”
at Garcia, who said nothing and then replied, “No, not really.
cut her off, “Yes it’s impossible.”
at Mackenzie. “What’s your advice regarding the hostages?”
taken desperate action. Our response should be…tempered. Immediate,
but not desperate.”
long while, the governor looked at his military advisor and said,
“It’s time to assemble the fleet again.”
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…”
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.”
said nothing but as he exited he turned and gave Lopez one last
look, and the governor noticed.
someone has some concerns about the children after all, he thought.
“Are we going to war again, Josem?”
“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.”
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.
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.
one in particular up to the light.
one?” he asked. “It reminds me of that new game some of the
kids are playing, see what I mean?”
showed several humanoid figures gathered in a circle with a small
disc floating above their heads.
asked, “Who’s making that toy?”
Bowman nor Garcia had an answer.
home with a heavy heart.
the governor doesn’t ask for much, he thought.
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.
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
could he want?
left him confounded. With all that was happening, the governor
had taken an absurd interest in a new toy he had seen the children
then. He would ask Brannon about the toy.
his call for donations and then patiently waited for Brannon to
come home. He did not have that long to wait.
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.
fortunate for him, thought Gregor.
I think I’m ready for a more challenging set of courses, especially
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.”
smiled back, “Sounds good. Calculus is a little mundane…”
Keyes is letting me study one of her old textbooks she used at Princeton,
back on Earth.”
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.
kind of nine-year-old kid uses a word like mundane?
that new game you kids are playing, what’s it called?”
looked puzzled, “What game do mean, dad?”
where you kids have that ball suspended over your heads.”
laughed, “That’s not a game, it’s an exercise.”
know, like you exercise to build your muscles. It’s an exercise
for the mind.”
you get it?”
sure what you mean.”
those floating balls for you?”
son laughed, “Those aren’t balls, they’re orbs.”
these orbs come from?” He was growing frustrated.
looked truly puzzled, “They’re everywhere. Can’t you see them?”
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
it’s not important. I’ll leave you to do your homework, I
have some work of my own to do.”
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.
flopped down on his bed and called for an orb, and spent the next
hour exercising his mind.
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.
down, the governor got right to it. “How’re my grandchildren?”
staring at his father for quite a while, then called to his children,
“Jennifer, Hamid, come here. Jennifer, bring your violin.”
came tumbling out of the playroom, seven year old Jennifer dragging
her violin behind her.
for your grandfather,” he told her.
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.
interminable silence, Rashid asked him “Would you like to hear my
five year old son’s new theories in the field of microphysics?”
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?”
giggled, and Hamid added, “They’re everywhere.”
makes them for you?” he asked.
only bought more laughter out of the children, and then they ran
back to their playroom, unaware of the concern of their elders.
“Is there anything I should know?”
shrugged, “You know as much as I do. All the children born
on Ganymede are scoring well into the genius level on IQ tests.”
the fleet being assembled? Some people are nervous that we’re
going to war again…”
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?”
I’ve never missed a speech, you know that.”
sister has never finished writing one in time for me to look it
over before I deliver it.”
at each other and embraced, Rashid asking, “You’re going to lead
the fleet, aren’t you?”
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.”
lay in bed staring at the ceiling, the younger woman he had fallen
so suddenly in love with sleeping quietly beside him.
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.
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
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.
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
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
at her breathing silently beside him, smiling in her sleep, the
child she had just told him about tonight developing in her womb.
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.
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.
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.
ship, one that was not fashioned by human hands.
was enough to strike fear into the heart of any rational, peace
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?
by what he knew he must do, he contacted Dr. Bowman on their private
channel. She needed to prepare for surgery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
be successful, Brannon?” Jennifer asked.
he answered. “But we shouldn’t count on it.”
we have to fight just to exist?” she demanded.
“We’re not the first species to ask that question.”
while she said, “Are the adults afraid of us?”
Some are, anyway. I think.”
afraid of them,” she said defiantly.
“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?”
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.”
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.”
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.”
everyone know.” She closed her eyes, concentrating very hard
for a few seconds, and then opening her eyes she said, “Okay.”
wondered how she did it.
the children seem to have some special talent, he thought, all
of them… except me.
himself that the other kids all sought his advice, even approval,
but if he had some special talent, he hadn’t found it yet.
of the ships lifted off, and they watched in silence as the flames
from the engines lifted them into space.
she asked, “Are things going to change, Brannon?”
is the only true constant in the universe,” he said.
him in the arm, “Now you sound like my brother!”
talks about time travel and interdemensional matrices. The
disturbing thing is that he actually sounds like he knows what he
is talking about.”
her head in silent agreement.
was just a series of orange dots strung across the sky now, only
the burn from their engines giving away their presence.
they do fail?” she asked.
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.”
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.”
it when you talk like that, why don’t you say you just don’t know?”
and gestured towards the edge of the cliff, “Race you to the bottom!”
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
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.
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.
later, they got one.
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’.
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.”
“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.”
and Mac exchanged glances, and then al-Adsani said, “I’m not sure
what you mean, Mr. Hanson. Just what weapon are you referring
your nukes, a big one, left over from your little battle.
Undetonated. So far.”
is this nuclear device?”
on Ceres, of course.”
“Impossible. I lead the team that mined the belt. Ceres
wasn’t even in position at that time.”
asked, “Can we see this device?”
“Land your fleet. Of course we can use the supplies.”
Then he cut the transmission.
spoke, “Cheerful enough chap, I suppose. But the nuke… if
it’s not one of ours, whose is it?”
you think, Mac?” al-Adsani asked.
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.”
let’s land and see this thing. Whatever it is.” Then
he added, “Stay in your environmental suits if we enter one of their
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.
were children, they weren’t revealing themselves.
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.
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
is a bomb, he thought, it must be the largest ever made.
feared that the situation was slipping beyond his control.
“That ain’t one of ours.”
“What’s the casing made of? What kind of tests have you run?”
flatly, “We haven’t been exactly poking around. We’re not
scientists. We’re survivors.”
“I’m a scientist. Can I run some tests on it?”
on a private channel with someone, Hanson nodded his consent.
“Any objections, Governor?”
I think we can all benefit by identifying this… object,” al-Adsani
some gear from the ship. I’ll be back.”
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.
we just delivered five hundred gallons of water, food, medical supplies…”
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.”
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.
they had literally turned this asteroid (and a few others) into
refugee camps, for refugees that had reached the end of the line.
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.
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
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
It’s hollow,” Garcia said.
“What the hell’s inside?”
“I don’t know.” Then he added, “Not yet, I don’t.”
“Who buried it there?”
fused into the rock itself, by incredible temperatures and force.
As for who…” Garcia offered.
said, “Dr. Garcia, do you think you can learn anything more about
this…this shell as you call it?”
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.”
was stunned, but he was quick to issue his denial. “Absolutely
not. We need you on Ganymede. There we can care for
could say anything more, Garcia popped open his faceplate, inhaling
the infected oxygen of Hanson’s ship. It was decided; Garcia
would be staying.
in the governor’s eyes, and Mackenzie secretly wished to see him
explode in anger. But he did not.
calmly and shook Hanson’s mechanical hand. “Everything is
agreed upon, then?”
Governor.” After a moment he added, “Thank you, I…we won’t
please forward all your data to Dr. Bowman. It’s been a pleasure
left without another word, and the governor did not shake Garcia’s
hand on the way out. He didn’t even make eye contact.
walked briskly towards their own ship, Mac asked, “What’s this extended
you when we get there.”
behind the governor, Mac suppressed a smile.
does not like to be disobeyed, he thought.
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.
still groggy from deep sleep, but he was alert enough to remember
that he wanted some answers.
are we doing here, sir?”
began to lecture, “Apparently, thousands of years ago, there was
life on Mars. Before the last conflict, my source on Mars…”
a source on Mars?”
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.”
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.”
we decide whose hands are the right hands?”
to destroy the ship, at all costs. Let humanity advance at
it’s own pace.”
not alone. That thing embedded in that asteroid, what do you
know about that?”
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.”
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.
then Governor, what we do now?”
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.
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
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.”
simple enough. How are we going to destroy the ship, anyway?”
the necessary device with which to do so. It’s surgically
implanted, by Dr. Bowman before we left.”
going to detonate yourself?”
why I bought you along, to cut it out.”
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.
interrupted, “Mac, we’re headed for the northern plains, close to
the pan-Asian settlement. I have the coordinates.”
was shocked, “Why aren’t we heading for the North American Alliance?”
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.”
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.
got bumpier and both men lost faith in their survival before the
retros fired and the craft glided to a relatively smooth landing.
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.
six other rovers surrounded them, each with at least one person
with a weapon trained on them.
their hands and surrendered. It was all they could do at this
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
to my planet, Mr. Vice President,” he said.
replied, “It’s been a long while since I held that title.”
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?”
Chan replied, “You are much more than that, much more.”
his fingers across the edge of his desk, smiling all the while.
the governor asked, “Just what is it you think I can do for you?”
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,
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.
“I want all the information that the government of the United States
had on, what is it you called them, UFO’s?”
no such information. Why would you want such information,
nodded towards Mackenzie, and again the guard activated the device
on his neck, and again his screams filled the air.
this living hell with a wave of his hand.
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.”
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.
Mac heard a female voice somewhere in the darkness repeat the word
“governor”, then through tears he heard her ask, “Father, is that
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.
held the young woman in his arms as she sobbed, begging his forgiveness
for getting caught communicating with him. And calling him
were clear enough; he knew what he was seeing.
just keep getting curiouser and curiouser, he thought.
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
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.
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.”
and the bearers of tragedy left without another word.
silently contemplating her future.
first single mother, she thought.
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.
known the truth- that her father and Mackenzie were still alive,
but enduring incredible torture, she might have cried even harder.
END PART I