Stardust Stories, Chapter 1

Chapter 1
“Wherever you are, I wont stop searching. I need to know…”
                                                          Memories – Within Temptation

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…”

Through moving shadows, he can see the distinct forms of three people. They are armed. He has only a sharpened stick and a couple rocks that look like they could hurt someone.
As he lays his head back against the tree, he looks up at the stars. “We came from the stars.” he reminds himself. All the indoctrination sessions in the cognitive correction centers could not change his belief. All this, the Capital, the Labor Centers, even the Re-Education Facilities, it all came from stardust.

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!

To be continued in Chapter 2

3 responses to “Stardust Stories, Chapter 1

  1. Before the collapse I was doing well, training in archery, hand to hand, and pole arms then it all happened war broke out among the united states and I found myself on the run from warlords hunting and my skills being tested, I was leading the life of a fugitive until i was able to settle down in a woodsman camp and there I was able to once again continue training, shortly there after I found myself back on the run and I started west where I found myself in farm country and took up farming for a bit, then the worst of it came, one night as i was about to go to bed some militant police force broke into my house i thought I was doomed, they had set ablaze my crops and invaded my home i am guessing to make an arrest, but they didin’t get very far, I had grabed a few things like a bow a quiver and a few blades and the clothes on my back and uped and left my farm burning in the distanceand then i found my way here(to be continued in the rp)

  2. Chapter 2

    Capture the wind

    “Take me out in to the black, tell ’em I aint coming back…”
        Ballad of Serenity – Joss whedon

    The mission to Mars was dashed. BSA astronauts were more than upset at the last minute changes to the mission profile. Instead of the crew of five humans going to the Mars colony, it would be ten highly advanced robots going to the mystery ship. Lost in a hundred fifty thousand years was the irony of the mission. The ship that was lost and forgotten by humans, found by robots. 

    BSA laboratories had been advancing their space propulsion systems all through the last 50 years. The early NASA designs for a theoretical FTL drive, based upon space field warping principals developed upon Einsteins theory of general relativity, were upscaled and tested on small probes. However this was the first time a truly large vehicle would test it.

    The Mars Explorer, designed to house five humans, food, water, medical and other essentials, for a nearly year long trip, was gutted. Instead it was filled with the large multi-task robots and fuel containers for the worlds first test of a space warping drive. In fact, that was the cover story for why the mission was scrapped. The BSA claimed, instead, to be testing the drive. But in truth, they were trying to keep their knowledge of the alien ship from the publics knowledge. The fear of what would happen, should religious hysteria break out, made the decision paramount. Though religious belief was far less common than a mere forty years ago, it was still a powerful social and political tool. 

    Thornton Abercrombie was not a religious man. In fact, he was a man of science. Still, he found himself questioning all he believed in, realizing that not only did aliens exist, they had visited Earth, or at least appear to have. Of course, it never occurred to him that he was part alien. 

    As he finished checking the autonomy programming of the last of the robots, he assessed the overall likelihood that this was all for nothing. But a space race was underway. Russia had nothing that could actually leave orbit, but they did have control of what once was the International Space Station. It was now their primary space base. China had nothing that could carry a meaningful load, but did have the financial power to fund Russia’s development of a ship. Already they announced their intention to build a large ship, capable of traveling to Mars, or beyond. However, they would be depending on nuclear ion drives. Slow, weak and next to useless for short trips to a nearby planet, BSA scientists realized they were intending to try to get to the alien ship first, claiming it, and its technology. To prevent this, they threw all their technological might into a mission to not only secure the alien technology, but to prove that British Space was superior to anything else. Or, it would go down as the greatest flop of all time. 

    None of that mattered to Allison Keller. Space, rockets, aliens… none of it interested her in the least. She was only concerned with the Purity Officer that was following her. 

    It was a foolish gesture, just a momentary squeeze of the hand, with her “friend” Katerina. She was sure nobody saw it, and it could be easily explained as just an innocent gesture of friendly adoration. Surely the PP could understand that. But she knew it was far more. They had been lovers for seven months now. Unless the PP had caught them on in-house monitoring, since it was law that all places of human occupation be randomly monitored for impurity, they couldnt know different. Allison had been careful to place lamps and large plants in positions to partially obscure the most likely camera angles. It was illegal to fully block them, but there was some leeway allowed for accidental vision obfuscation. 

    She turned a corner, quickly backpedaling into a walk down apartment door. There she turned her back as if she was inspecting the flower box near the door of the old brownstone. 

    The PP officer turned the corner, quickly walking past her. Allison stepped up and onto the sidewalk, going back around the corner as the PP scanned the crowd ahead of her, looking for Allison farther down the street. 

    As she disappeared around the corner, she was already ringing Katerina, to warn her about the PP. 

    Meanwhile, the PP officer began to hurry into a crowd of citizens, angry at being ditched, and determined to capture a suspected morality offender, she pushed and shoved her way through, but she couldnt find the short, dark haired girl. At least, not this time. 

    Katerina, meanwhile, had already been visited, and had panicked, giving the PP a quick story about how Allison had come on to her, but she had been morally outraged and scorned her. Allison was now a wanted fugitive. 

    The call was monitored, and Katerina played the role of victim well enough to entrap Allison. After only a minute and some odd replies, Allison realized what was going on and hung up. Time was running out. She was now a state criminal, from this moment, she had no friends. 

    Knowing that if caught, she would be forced to fight in the Patriot Games, she left behind all she owned. To return to her flat would be suicide. The PP would be waiting there. 

    She had only one chance, the Rainbow Express. An underground group that was known for smuggling fugitives to Canada. If she could just escape the Theocracy, she might live to see her 19th birthday in six weeks. 

    Damn Katerina, that back stabbing bitch. She was angry at her, but reason reminded her that when the PP knock, its wise to give up anyone or anything they ask. They had no oversight, no laws bound them. They could do anything they chose to, in the name of morality enforcement. 

    She ducked under an awning, catching her breath. Where would she find the Rainbow Express? She looked up, wondering if the God the theocracy espoused was so hateful and hostile towards anyone impure, really existed. Maybe the only thing up there were stars. For the first time in her young life, Allison wondered what was out there, in the black…

  3. Chapter 3

    Like Jackals… 

    “Catch the feeling, it’s going around.
    Yeah the streets are jamming,
    the clock is ticking down.
    Feel the chills, on your skin
    the fight’s about to begin.”

    The Fights About To Begin – Hinder

    The official designation of the LH-93R is the Beholder, but to the average citizen of the Theocracy, its merely called a “ghetto bird”.

    The Capitol, Vicksburg, employed, at last count, over two hundred thousand of the drones. Before the autonomy software development of 2027, that would have required at least as many human pilots, but not anymore. Since Spring of 2028, the ghetto birds flew on their own. 

    The software was all housed in a massive complex stationed outside Jackson Mississippi, the central command element for the Morality and Public Propriety Ministry. 

    The drones were merely the tendrils of the cyber mind that observed the human population. Minister Graham controlled the public face of the PP but the cyber mind ran the actual surveillance aspect. Key phrases as well as cranialfacial anthropometry were stored in the cyber mind and when a citizen spoke key words or phrases, or matched the facial features of a known “terrorist” were picked up, they could be tracked or terminated as required. That fact was kept from the public, who were under the impression that it was all under human oversight. 

    Armed ghetto birds flew slightly higher than the unarmed observers. The citizens might catch a glimpse of the highly visible observers, but they were unaware of the armed drones above. 

    After a powerful storm the pollution would be thin enough to see the drones, but on those days, they simply flew higher. If anyone was discovered discussing them, they were collected by a “friendly” PP patrol, for a “friendly discussion” on the moral priority of ignoring them. After all, “if you are not doing anything wrong, what do you have to fear?”

    Originally the Theocratic Confederacy had extremely lax gun laws. “God, Guns, Greed” was their motto, but after a few threats of civil unrest, gun possession was legislated a class 1 felony, punished by immediate execution. This was a problem for Allison. The PP had access to any weapon they felt was required for the mission. Allison was a morality offender, a class 3 felony. Gays, perverts, atheists, and any religious follower other than State Approved Christianity, which truthfully was as close to true Christianity as radical Islam is to the commonly practiced variety, were routinely hunted down and used for the Patriot Games. More dangerous offenders like smugglers or actual rebels were terminated quickly. 

    Allison needed something to defend herself. Already she had eluded the PP by changing her hair and using makeup to camouflage her facial features. Lipstick made her mouth seem larger, she used eye liner to make her eyes seem larger. Eye shadow exaggerated her nose shading to make it appear wider. While none of that would look normal, or be effective up close, it was good enough to prevent the ghetto birds from recognizing her in a quick scan.

    Still, she travelled at dusk and dawn when the light and shadows were constantly shifting and changing. It allowed her to get all the way from NOLA up to Charleston, but she had also left a definite trail. Stolen food, clothing, even transaction key fobs were tracked by the PP. It led them along a fairly direct path right to her. 

    The typical PP agent had all the advantages. Armor, night vision, surveillance drones, wireless communication, and weaponry gave them a one hundred percent apprehension reputation. The truth however, was somewhat closer to seventy eight percent. A few, resourceful ones to be sure, escaped the Confederacy. But the Church required the books to reflect that nobody escaped justice. If the people ever got the idea that the Church was not in absolute control, they might lose control. 

    Thus was created the Patriot Games. Created to control the population, they were mandatory viewing, but the PP didnt need to use much force to convince the average citizen to watch the games. 

    All children between the ages of 10 and 14 were forced to watch the Games during their Faith and Reflection period at school. By the time the girls were at the age of marriage, and the boys were of age to begin militia training, they were fully aware of what would happen to them should they become offenders. Fear, instituted early in age, kept them in line. 

    Allison knew what awaited her if caught, and she knew, fight to the death being apprehended, or fight to the death in the Games, it made no difference. So she was perfectly ready to use a gun, if she could find one and figure out how to use it. Women, by law, were not allowed to handle guns. Nor could they vote or decide their medical treatment. That was decreed by the Church in the 2023 Status of Female Citizens Act. After the age of 14, a girl was at the discretion of her parents as to who she would be married to. Allison had been married to a man forty six years her senior, but he died after just three months, leaving her to survive as best as she could. She found ways. She became an accomplished thief. 

    However, once she crossed into the DMZ and into the Frontier, she would have nothing to help her. No gun to hunt, no skills or survival equipment, not even a destination or map to get there. Canada was somewhere North, but Theocracy Education forbade any discussion of it. To Allison, it was just some mythical castle in a far away land. But wherever it was, whatever it was, she knew that it was her only chance at a future. 

    Meanwhile, the Mars Expedition Ship was being loaded and a course set to rendezvous with the alien ship. The BSA was confidant that the FTL drive would work. Ironically enough, the PRC Intelligence Ministry also was fairly confidant the theoretical drive could work, but they were far from building one. Stealing a ship, however, was not beyond their means. However, that would require help from the Kremlin. That was the part that Chen had yet to figure out. 

    In the orbit of Saturn’s moon Tethys, Cassini was gleaning more information about the alien ship…