His arms feel like lead. In his head he knows that his heart isn’t beating so loud that it will give away his hiding place, but he prays to any God that will help him. “Please, don’t let them find me…”
A camera zooms in, capturing his face. The audience catches a breath in their throats. This is it. This is why they watch the Patriot Games. The moments before the kill. Even as he draws his last breath, they feel a rush. Blasphemer! Denier of State Doctrine. How dare he think for himself! Now he will pay the price, along with those different people. The people with dark skin, the gays, the amoralists and the free thinkers! They all eventually get caught and sent to fight to the death in the Patriot Games. And now Travis was trapped. The three hunting him would soon turn on each other.
The commentator speaks quietly, as if he can be heard by the combatants. “Yes, this is the moment. The three in this pack are definitely going to deal justice out to the political terrorist. Then, we shall see if the gay couple will turn on each other, or will the impure thinking whore take one or both out?”
In a moment its over. Travis closes his eyes as the blade slashes at his neck. He opens them a moment later, his empty gaze taking in the vastness of space. Jupiter is visible near Mars. He briefly wonders if he will be able to fly in his next life.
“Now things get interesting.” the commentator says, almost with glee. The four hundred and twenty seventh Patriot Games is drawing to a close. In a matter of hours it will be over and the Capital will begin selection and training of the next batch of dissidents. The public must be entertained.
Meanwhile: One point two billion kilometers away, Saturn is reaching its perihelion and Earth is but a far distant speck of light in its gaseous sky. The old space craft, Cassini, is dying. Its solar panels barely function. It was decades ago that it was forgotten. Its mission ended in late 2017. The probe went dormant, its sensors passive for anything outside what its programming considered “normal” space junk. The batteries spark to life as it senses something that ought not be here. A large mass, metallic, symetrical and apparently, not of naturally occurring materials was detected.
Cassini activates its sensors. Most of them long ago ceased functioning, but the few remaining capture distant images of something in the rings of Saturn. Before it loses sight of it, as both Cassini itself, and the object continue on their respective orbits, it takes telemetry, sending it to Earth. Sending it to ears that long ago stopped listening.
Beijing, China: Peoples Republic Space Ministry.
Senior Colonel Chen takes a deep breath. The coffee, as usual, tastes terrible. Unless its American coffee, it may as well be tea.
The daily reports are inconsequential as usual. By the time anything reaches his desk, his subbordinates have sanitised it to prevent his knowing of their failures. Did they truly believe he was naieve to believe that they were running the Peoples Liberation Army with a budget almost half of what it required? He knew that by the time each department head skimmed from the budget, that even that much was reduced. No, they didnt.. whats this? An American space probe? A coded signal from… Saturn
Chen can be seen grinning as he peers closer to the report. Yes, an American space probe. It isnt a typo. How long has it been since America existed in any meaningful way? Forty, fifty years now? Since the Revolution that destroyed their country, they have been little more than some third world shit hole. He always knew, having been raised in the State system, that religion was evil, if a concept such as good or evil could really be quantified or classified. In America, the religious extreemists formed an uprising and deployed dirty nuclear weapons, devaststing Northern cities.
Sure, a dirty nuke was next to useless in the grand scheme of things, but the terror they caused drove people out of the cities. The carnage of mass panic, the death tolls as people murdered each other to get out of the cities, it was many times greater than the deaths from the radiation. The displaced population then swept through the farm belt, ravaging the crops in a failing attempt to find food. The Army was useless, many of the volunteer members simply went to what was considered “home” and the government fell apart quickly. The year of 2014 was the last time he could remember anything being broadcast from America for many years.
It was only when the Theocratic Confederacy began broadcasting their propaganda, that he realized that America was truly gone. In the end, it wasnt the Soviets or the Islamists or even his own country, that destroyed America. It was the paranoia of its radicals that killed the very country they swore to defend with their lives.
He was nearly laughing as he pushed the button that summoned his administrator. He would contact Moscow. If anyone could decode this message, it would be either he PRC Intelligence Ministry, or the KGB. He hoped it was the Ministry. The KGB was known for giving him only the intelligence they wished him to share. Even with the spies and the cyber viruses that stole data from the Kremlin, he knew he never had all of what they knew.
London, England 2047: MI6. Office 17b, East wing.
Leftenant Colonel Hamilton replaced his tea cup on the saucer that protected his elaborate mahogany desk. The antique piece had cost him nearly a months pay, all totaled. Still, it was a proper desk for a proper officer. Until he reachedthe rank of Brigadier, he was stuck in this rather smallish office. Still the view is rather pleasing, though a bit off.
He noticed the same thing that Chen, his counterpart in China would notice later. Knowing that the time delay from the old American Keyhole satellites was a little less than an hour, this due to their positioning and the lack of them still functioning, and the fact that Bejing had only managed to hijack a dozen, he figured that Bejing would know about this signal very soon. Moscow, on the other hand, was probably already working to decode it. Fortunately, he was reading it verbatum, as they had shared the encryption with the yanks before that terrible bit of business so long ago.
As he wipes his spectacles, he considers for a moment. The Russians have no means to exploit the information, assuming they can decrypt it in a reasonable time, say a week at most. Beijing would probably do it faster, but that assumes they would care.
He sips another bit of tea, wondering if its any better as a Brigadier. “Captain Stanley, could you ring the BSA, I wish to speak to a Leftenant General Morrison.” The game was afoot, as a Mr Holmes would say. The British Space Agency had been working on a manned mission to Mars. The robots had assembled a small base there, somewhere near the origional site of America’s Curiosity rover. If they could alter the plans, there was a better than not chance of reaching this object before the Chinese. Hell, they might very well have a real UFO.
The pictures are blurry, the images wouldn’t convince anyone, but a symmetrical object was really there. Nature doesn’t create objects that look perfectly, or as nearly perfectly symmetrical like this. Nature also doesn’t create them out of exotic alloys and poly-carbons similar to the top secret Chobham armor that the Kingdom still guarded closely. Further, nature did not create an object like this, of those materials, and make it hollow with a density that hinted at man made. The sensors of Cassini had determined, based upon the gravitational effect on the dust near it, that it was far heavier than it looked, which in his mind suggested armor. It was… a ship!