Saturday, February 23, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 13

The green in the station was even larger than the green located in the dome, if that was at all possible. Birds cried out overhead, and monkeys swang from vines. The humidity was stifling. Mona's face broke into a smile.
"What is this area called?" She asked the AI.
"This is the biodiversity level for recreation and the prevention of space fautigue." The AI said. "It is based on the rainforests of South America."
"Its beautiful." Mona said.
"This area has been self-sustaining for the last two hundred cycles." The AI said. "Care should be taken to ensure safety from hazardous animal species."
Mona could see one of those species. From a distance a large cat was eying her, lounging on a tree limb. It flicked its tail lazily back and forth, golden eyes shining. Mona walked carefully, having no intentions of becoming the next meal.
"We have something like this back at the dome." Mona said. "How common are they? I mean, were they. before the Rot?"
"A biodiversity area can be found in nearly every level three habitat throughout the Colonies on Mars, Alpha Centauri, Titan, and on numerous geodesic domes on Earth." The AI said. "Such an area is fully funded by the Colonial agreement in any new construction of said areas."
Mona walked through the path provided. It turned to dirt in some areas. There was a roaring waterfall nearby, spanned by a catwalk. As she passed Monarch butterflies flew around her head, their wings beautiful shades of orange and black. Underneath the catwalk the waterfall turned into a gently flowing river.
On the other side was a control station, with a corpse in a chair. She was able to ignore it somehow, at this point slightly numb to the sight. In front of the corpse was a recording. It showed the sideways triangle transluscently displayed over it that meant PLAY, which meant that the recording was, in fact, paused at this moment, or stopped at the beginning of its cycle. She gently eased the chair with the skeleton over to one side, and hit the button. A middle aged woman appeared, with bright reddish-orange hair and pale green eyes.
"-Chief science officer Moira Mctaggart." The recording began. "We have retreated aboard this space station, in an effort to develop a solution to the worldwide viral outbreak known as RT-582. More commonly called the Rot. The virus seems to work on both organic and inorganic material. It seems to spread through simple touch, although there is some evidence that it can be carried on wind patterns." The woman on the screen took a deep breath, and the video ended. From there the flex screen shifted into a tile pattern, with a list of available files, all of which seemed to focus on the woman. Mona chose the next available date and pressed play.
"-Findings today have been unhelpful, to say the least. RT-582 has shown a half-live of nearly half a millenium. Thats five hundred years. Which is not to say that anything will be left standing by that time. Projections show that within six months..." The woman on the screen appeared to be blinking back tears. "Within six months ninety-eight percent of all life on Earth will be gone, for all organisms larger than a bacteria. To include plant and animal life. There is some small chance that insect life will continue, but mostly populations will be decimated by a lack of plant life."
"-What will the world look like? I imagine a vast desert. Not a sandbox, mind you, when we think of a traditional desert like the Sahara or Magobe, but a lack of life. A lack of...of anything."
"-Its staggering to think about this. Within this generation, we have enabled true AI. We have established self-sustaining power sources. Harnassed energy materials that were once the realm of fiction. All of that, all of these accomplishments, are going to be gone now. I should say, gone from Earth. Alpha Centauri and Mars still have a chance."
"-But even then, there is the possibility that the half-terraformed Martian climate will not be sufficient. Or that the existing technology produced will not sustain life indefinetely. Bare in mind that all the Colonies have been established as just that, Colonies, not as self-contained units. In their non-native habitations, there is the distinct possibility that human life will be extinct from those areas within a generation."
"-I'm a little drunk right now. I've tried to hold off on that, but its been very, very hard."
"-Found a crew member dead today. An Ensign from engineering. He was severly decomposed. I assisted with Doctor Forman with the autopsy. He had ingested a modified dosage of RT-582, apparently in capsule form. It caused almost instant death, followed by the severe composition. The only good news is that the dosage appears to be made in such a fashion to lack the severly contagious function of the species threatening all life on Earth."
"After a little research in which the security officer interrogated some of the Ensigns colleagues, the story came out that this sort of pill is getting popular right now among young people on Earth. The idea being, I guess, if your going to die slowly, and everything you know is going to be rotted away, why not just end it now? I am ashamed to say that I dont completely disagree with this sort of nihilism. Although I will do everything in my power to fight against it."
"We lost communication with the North American Mega-City today. The Pakistani and Korean Mega-Cities have been gone for nearly three weeks now. Things are really strange up here. People move about there duties in a sort of trance. At least ten people have been found dead from the Rot pill, but no one really talks about it. When I do talk to people- like Doctor Forman, its about things like how beautiful space is. How many stars there are, how many possible habitable planets. Everyones avoiding the problem staring them dead in the face."
"-I believe I had come up with a long term solution to the Rot. I say long term, because as long as it runs through its virulent primary strain, this solution wont work at all. In co-ordination with the Chinese Mega-city, which I should say is the last Mega-City at this point, we have come up with a sort of seed- pod of extremely potent mixture of organic carbon based flora. The pods can be dumped into the atmosphere, at which point they will produce a chemical rain on the target location. Which may have certain hazardous effects for any surviving population, but who's to say there will be one, at that point.
Anyway, this chemical laden rain, it will 'salt the Earth' as it were, with a mixture of seeds and extremely nutrient rich fertilizer. Its designed to be a mix of simple trees, grass, wild oats. The sort of basic mixture that can support the very bottom end of a food chain.
Now, for the time being, we do not have enough of said seed pods to support a large area. But the good part is the nutrient mixture in the cloud cover should produce several rains. So there should be one area completely covered, maybe a hundred square kilometers, but a larger area partially dosed, five hundred kilometers or a thousand or so. And in that area, as long as the Rot has run past its half-life, there should be some sign of life. Green growing things."
The woman in the video wiped away a tear. "Maybe I'm talking to some visitor from Alpha Centauri, or maybe I'm dealing with no one at all. Maybe this station has long since burned up in orbit. But there is a chance to restore what weve done. Human beings have been the butchers of this planet. We've raped her and in the process killed ourselves. If we do return, I hope that it will be on different, better terms."
In the next video Moira looks shaky, ill at ease. She isnt wearing make-up, and her eyes are darting around the room. There is a little red pill in her hand, that she holds up close for the camera. "I'm going to take it." She whispers, which she does, tossing her head back to swallow. Immediatedly her eyes go wide with horror. She brings both hands to her throat in the universal gesture for choking and whispers, "Oh, God."
What happens next is swift and terrible. There is a sound not unlike burning paper from the video. Her skin is eaten inside out. Her eyeballs fall back into her head, her lips pull back from her teeth, until finally all that is left is a withered husk of a skeleton, that matches the husk Mona has found inside the chair. Mona wishes the chair was empty, so she could sit down. She feels overwhelmed. By all of it. The state of the world, and the knowledge of how it ended.
When she looked across from her she saw the control panel.
It was an old fashioned analog control panel. The kind of thing that was a little more reliable than a touch screen, or at least thought to be that way. Knobs and switches, that sort of thing, along with two screens that looked old to the point of possibly being powered by transistors. In each of them was a picture of some sort of large white cylinder, sticking off a vestigial appendage of the space station. One screen read SP-1 and the other SP-2. From the video Mona acertained that both were the Seed pods the scientist had been talking about in the recording.

Monday, February 18, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 12

The meeting between Big Tate and Khef went astonishingly well, as far as Yaryl could tell.
The two men talked in private, for a while, and when Yaryl was called back in the room they were laughing like old friends.
"Where did you find this guy?" Tate said. "I've been waiting for an offer this good for some time."
"Oh?" Yaryl said. "What is it?"
"We have the sort of services our friend Tate provides in the Mega-City." Khef said.
"Whores and such." Tate added. "And a little drink, didnt you say?"
"Thats right." Khef said. "And what I proposed, is an idea that comes straight from the leader himself, the monetization of such services."
"I'm a business man, such as it is." Tate said. "And the prospect of expanding my business on a large scale is damned appealing. Would anyone care for a drink." He winked at Yaryl. "Ive got more of that good thousand year old bourbon, if your interested."
The men all drank, and Big Tate leaned back in his chair and sighed noisely. "Now the thing that gets me." He said. "Is when you use all these objects- the explosives and such, there will be an immediate backlash by the Guard on my part."
"It might not be immediate. They would have no evidence."
"It dont matter. They wont be looking over for a orgy of evidence. They'll know something went boom, or someone got shot, so's they'll be looking for me. And in this Colony, they're arent a great many places to hide. This here's sort of an open secret. I dont cause no trouble so they'll let me stay open for business."
"What exactly are we talking about here?" Yaryl asked.
"The felling of your government." Khef said.
"And governments tend to enjoy staying about, and protecting themselves. Least from what Ive read, and my limited experiences." Tate said. "So if I'm to be blamed, I need to skedaddle. I've got a fallback position in the piles. I'll lay out, until things die down."
"And thats where we come in." Khef said, pointing at Yaryl. "Our objective is to make sure the why of it is placed loosely. To spread fear and doubt. Most importantly, to make the people doubt the ability of the government to provide any sort of protection."
Back at Yaryl's quarters, as Khef and his men worked on the explosives, Yaryl asked, "What happens afterwards?"
"We've already discussed this." Khef said, dismissively.
"But I mean, long term." Yaryl said. "You defeat this Colony. Fine. What next? What happens to any of us?"
Khef smiled. "For your answer." He said. "Unbutton your shirt, and place your hand on the black mark on your heart. And you will have it."
Yaryl did as he was told.
And just like that, he was transported into the presence of the leader.
He was the same towering masked giant from the holding cell, only know clad in a grey and black uniform. He looked capable of any sort of murder and violence. They were on a platform, and down below legions of Black Century raiders were cheering and screaming.
"Do you know what they are, Yaryl Rogers?" The leader pointed.
Yaryl thought he might piss himself. "No sir." He stammered. "I d-dont."
"They are a means to an end. Every great empire has such a means. The Romans had their legions. The Nazis had their Stormtroopers. The Americans had their Marines. Every empire. Do you know what an empire is?"
"I th-think I do, sir."
"An empire is a working method of civilization. Notice I said working. If man were good, no such thing would be needed. But man is cruel and wrong. He has destroyed this Earth, rotted away all manner of life, and nearly killed everything. Man must be guided by a firm hand, clenched in a fist." The emperor made that gesture. "For every Cicero, there was a Ceaser. Every James Cameron had a George W. Bush. It was written across history, great thought and philosophy only comes about in an environment safe enough to cradle it, and that safety comes from the strong arms of an empire."
The leader reached over, to touch Yaryls shoulder. "Do not think yourself a traitor. The colony was doomed from beginning. It was simply a colony, after all, and not a true model of society. Rather think yourself a friend to civilization. If we do not usher in another golden age, it will at least be another age, another chapter in the book of man. And when you've faced extinction, that is truly saying something."
When Yaryl came back to himself, tears were streaming down his face.
"Did you hear what you needed?" Khef asked. "Then good. Let us begin in earnest."
Witington was teaching her class, when the first explosion went off.
She was in the library. Some of her students had nagged about that, having class in the library instead of out on the green, under the trees, but she had insisted. She wanted to do more than teach from assigned texts today, she wanted each child to pick out a book and read it. Books were key in her mind, to unlocking the riches of society long ago, and Before. Only later when things were over with, did the sickly feeling come that making this decision had saved all their lives, and hers as well.
The shockwave ruptured one of the walls, and shoved her out of her chair. She was laying on the ground for more than a few minutes, trying to reconcile the bell ringing in her head. She could see the children crying but not hear them. Kela was not crying, she was twitching slightly and lying on her side. There was fresh blood on her head. Witington said "Kela." That is, her lips moved but no sound seemed to come out. She tried to remember what to do about a head injury. Not to move the victim. Check if their breathing. She put a finger underneath Kela's nose, and slowly, she felt the bit of warm air come out.
When she staggered out of the library, to the main chamber under the dome she saw what the attack had done. The green was burning. The trees and grass were on fire. At least one person was on fire with them, swaying back and forth, arms in the air. Where were the emergency systems? At last they cut on, and billowing foam shot out of automated nozzles, battling the flames.
Her hearing was just coming back when the second explosion went off, and the third. One seemed to come from above, inside the dome, the other nearby outside. She saw Colonial Guardsmen scrambling nearby. Was this it, then? Were they under attack? Were the raiders just outside, waiting to kill them all, and rape/eat their corpses? She had never really put together a plan, for that eventuality, and the shudder of fear moved through her visibly, until her bowels gave way, staining the front of her dress.
That night was a hard one.
They found out one of the flaws in their Colony. There was no real place for a mass casualty event. The clinic took in the injured, and the sick houses took in the ill and dying. But the victims of the five explosions did not fall into either of those categories. There were amputations. There were burns. There were people with shrapnel peppering their bodies, or foreign objects piercing their skin. With her self-taught medical training, Witington did what work she could as a nurse. She tried to hide back the tears, when she saw the bodies. They piled up the bodies in the morgue, on tables covered with sheets, but they soon ran out of tables, and laid the dead on the floor. Then they ran out of sheets. She managed to fall asleep in a side closet of the clinic, and was woken by Berks shaking her shoulder.
"I know its asking a lot." He said. "But the Council needs to convene."
"Your right." She stood up. "We should of done it earlier."
Berks gave her a hug, suddenly, and the sudden affection sent shudders through Witington. "I was afraid I lost you." He said. "Us old fuddies need to stick together."
"I'm fine." She said. "Really, I am. I was with the children, in the library."
Berks face went slack. "Oh God." He said. "How..."
"Kela was knocked unconscious. The rest of them should be okay."
"I saw the bodies." Berks said. "And I saw that there were some of them, the little ones. I didnt know what to think."
They killed children, Witington thought. They killed children and people enjoying what may be the last piece of green on Earth. She started to shake again, not with fear this time, but anger.
"Lets go." She said.
All four of them were there, Witington, Berks, Yaryl Rogers and General Veers. "Lets begin." Berks said, "by stating the facts. General Veers?"
"At ten-twenty-three AM today." Veers said, "There was a series of five explosions in five seperate locations throughout this Colony. Fifty-seven people were killed and over two hundred were injured."
There was a moment of silence, as this information sinked in.
"The Colonial Guard has been fully mobilized." Veers said. "A perimeter has been set up around high value areas. Access to the dome has been restricted to emergency personnel only. The targets of the explosion are as follows: An open-air marketplace, the biodiversity area, the produce storage area, a technical area with prototype equipment, and a holding facility inside the Guard military compound."
Witington ticked over the list, and her fears grew. "In english." Veers said, "They hit the market, the fresh food, the trees inside the dome, the Droid, and our prisoner."
"Where is the Droid right now?"
"We have recovered his body." Veers said. "That is, one of his body. It is unresponsive."
"That doesnt mean his dead." Berks said. "Or off-line, or whatnot. The last time I spoke with Markus, he told me he had overridden the programming of the dome to supplement his own."
"Regardless." Veers said. The body is unresponsive."
"What about the food?" Witington asked.
"The produce was utterly destroyed." Veers said. "However, the embryonic storage area was unharmed."
"So the attackers were smart." Yaryl said. "They didnt want to destroy all the food- or at least not our ability to get food. They just wanted to take out what we had."
"The marketplace was were the heaviest casualties were inflicted." Veers said. Due to the highest concentration of citizens. As for the attack on the Guard itself, the raider prisoner was killed." Veers paused. "And several plasma weapons are unacounted for."
"Theres no doubt in my mind, then." Berks said. "It was them. We are at war."
Veers slammed his fist down. "We have been sloppy!" He exploded. "We allowed too many refugees in, too fast. Now innocent people are dead."
"It does appear that way." Yaryl said. "I move that we formally sequester all recent citizens until we resolve this issue."
"Now just a minute!" Witington said. "Your going to blame innocent people for this? Simply because they havent been here as long as the rest of us?"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny-chapter 11

Yaryl Rogers stood stock still.
He could hear the leader sending a voice, straight into his brain.
I know you are here.
The Century's time is coming soon.....
Mona woke up with Arril tugging on her arm.
"Five more minutes." She said.
"I'm hungry now." Arril told her.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Aleph was next to her, snoring contentedly. Vague images of the night before crawled through her mind. It had been a long time, she thought. At least he was a little bit cute. Then she remembered she was in her underwear.
"Get out of here!" She told Arril.
"But I'm hungry."
"Give my a chance to get dressed. Then we'll get breakfast."
They made their way up the twists and turns back to the dining area. The synthesizer prepared them eggs and bacon, with biscuits, coffee, and orange juice. Arril dug into his plate eagerly. Now that Mona wasnt starving she could taste the difference in the synthesized food. It was just a little bit off, not quite perfect to what she had had in the dome. But still, she remembered her youth. MRE's or rations, or more often nothing. When they had half finished Aleph joined them.
"Slept in?" Mona teased.
Aleph nodded. "I guess I took the opprotunity. Not a lot of chances to do that in the Guard."
"Whats on the agenda for today?" She asked.
"Explore!" Arril said.
"Thats a good idea." Aleph said. "We need a better grip on whats out here. The controls systems, the life support. As well as a ride back home."
"Thank you can drive us back?" Mona grinned.
"The flight up here was automated." Aleph said. "Maybe the one back will be as well. And if not, we can get that AI system to give us pointers. If all else fails, there might be a simulator or tutorials."
"I want to find out more about that synthesizer." Mona said. "Get that sort of tech back to the dome, we can reproduce it and solve the food problem."
"Agreed." Aleph said. "Bet from here on out," He pointed at Arril. "We stick together. And that means no running off, okay sport!"
Arril nodded.
The cheery AI led them up to the Control center, navigating the way with a constant stream of bits and pieces long forgotten. "Did you know the colony on Alpha Centauri has based their starships on Virgin Galactic! Its a fact! Also, this model of space station is often reffered to as a "Sisko" in honor of a television program from the late twentieth century? Its a fact!"
"Where is Alpha Centuari?" Arril asked. "And what television program?"
The AI beeped. "Alpha Centauri is one point two light years from Earth." It said. "And the television program was called Gene Roddenberry's Wagon train to the stars: Deep Space."
"Thats a crappy name." Arril said. "I like Star Wars."
The doors slid open and the AI intoned, "Welcome to the bridge!"
Herer Mona let out a little gasp. The overwhelmingly ordered, white, clinically clean appearance of the rest of the space station was gone. There was some sort of red emergency light flashing on and off. Between five or ten of the decaying skeletons were here, taking up several console chairs. Touchscreen panels nearby looked cracked, or displayed error messages. There was a large screen in front, which displayed the red and white font of Virgin Galactic, in broad letters across a starry screen that Mona recognized as a screensaver.
"Arril." Sgt. Aleph said, "Why dont you stay back here with Mona while I take a look around?" It was  a wholly unnecesary little speech. The child was already hiding his face in Mona's shirt. Aleph slowly walked the length of the bridge, pausing at every corpse. Finally he made his way back to the elevator shaft. "It looks clear." He said.
"Is there anything we can do from here?" Mona asked the AI.
"All bridge functions secured in emergency mode." The AI answered. "A staff level password is needed for authorization."
"What about the life-support." Aleph asked. "Hows that working out?"
"Atmospheric and gravitational systems on line and stable."
"Lets get out of here." Aleph said. "No reason for the kid to see this."
The next stop was the docking bay.
"Right back where we came from." Aleph said, tapping a nearby console. "Think you can get into this thing?"
Mona spent a few minutes working on a touchscreen. "No." She finally concluded. "Were locked out of any sort of staff member authorization."
"So does it tell us anything?"
"Nothing good. Its calling the vehicle that flew us up a single-directional pod."
"What does that mean?"
"Far as I can tell, its a one way vehicle for something that flies us up here." She pointed to a nearby ramp marked DEPARTURES. "With their being an entirely different one way vehicle to fly us back."
"What kind of system was that, to do anything?"
"From what I would guess? A luxury one. An automated trip into space and an automated trip back. You could eat or drink on the ride, have fun once you got there."
Aleph shook his head. "They had so much back then." He said. "And didnt even think about it."
He pointed to an area marked MILITARY RESTRICTION. "That looks promising. Lets check it out."
The military area marked a different look to the station. The clean white interior gave way to hardened steel, made for function. When they reached a locked door, Aleph took out a keycard and swiped it. The door beeped and hissed open.
"Whered you get that?" Mona asked.
"Found it on one of the stiffs on the bridge." Aleph said. "I checked the civilian crew as well. Looks like the civvies had a different way of handling their security."
"Retinal scanners." Mona said. "I saw one on the bridge."
Aleph whistled. "Would you look at that."
Through the window, floating in a field of debris sat a starship that was clearly built for one purpose; war. Weaponry bristled off its sides and nose. It resembled nothing more than a sleek metallic bird of prey.
"I think that's our ride." Aleph said. "If we can only figure out how to get the thing to work."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny-Chapter 10

In the morning Yaryl introduced the dome technicians to Khef, his new personal aide, and asked for full access to all programs. He was suprised enough for his mouth to drop open when he was granted it. Throughout the procedure he was sweating bullets.
So Khef was the contact inside the dome. One of the other men was in training to become a technician. The other two were enlisted into the planetary Guard. With a little glad-handing to General Veers, Yaryl had arranged a promotion for both. After the first days work was done, Yaryl suffered painful diarhhea. Khef pulled him to the side, afterwards, in Yaryls own quarters.
"You arent well." Khef said.
"I'll be fine."
Khef shook his head. "If I can tell others can tell. You are a key part of this task. Two individuals today came up to ask about your well being."
"I dont have anything." Yaryl said. "No Rot or Dysentery."
"But you have fear." Khef said. "Fear is the mind-killer. Your mind is a treasure box for the Century and our Leader. We need them, both in good working order."
Yaryl took in a deep gulp of air. "I dont mean." He said. "I dont mean to fear."
Khef smiled, suprisingly warm. "Do you think we are savages?"
"No!" Yaryl said. "I mean, I didnt say that."
"But you were thinking it." Khef said. "You were thinking that my brothers and I were going to swoop in, and put everyone to the knife. Burn this dome of yours to the ground."
Yaryl kept silent, but nodded.
"It has been discussed." Khef said, "The possibility of keeping a two- tiered society within the Black Century. For example, this area would be under a different ruleset than the Mega-City. In keeping with your unique...traditions. What sort of meat you eat, and so forth."
"I hadnt thought about it." Yaryl said.
"What I want to convey to you now." Khef said, "Is that all this, it will still be here. The dome will be here. The houses and markets and such. Even these little on this Rotted Earth did you get them to grow?"
"Genetic Engineering, from the domes archives."
"Genetic Engineering." Khef repeated, as if it were some sort of magic. "It could become a symbol of our civilization. The century trees. Not everything must be blood and pain and chaos. That is only the birthing pains, for what is to come next. We will create something with strength and order, and there will be a future for our world." Khef's handheld communicator lit up. He looked at it and his eyes went wide. "Something urgent has happened." He said, "That needs my immediate attention." Without another word, he left the quarters.
After he was gone. Yaryl noticed that the communicator was still on the table. He picked it up, and plugged in into a flex screen nearby. He picked it up and plugged it in. There was information on it, coded in a way he couldnt understand, but what he immediatedly got were the pictures. There was the Black Century, with their guns and armor and tanks. There was someone horrible looking, with a metal mask over his face that Yaryl assumed was the leader of the raiders. Finally there were the meat pens.
His face twitched as he stared at it. All those people, mostly guant, mostly naked. The pictures told the story in a slideshow. They were kept in the pens, and herded. They shit in corners and ate from troughs. Finally they were butchered, a single spike to the head, and a knife across the throat. The absolute worst of it was a banquet feast at the end. It contained far more civility than he assumed the raiders had, officers dressed in crisp uniforms, smiling ear to ear, next to pretty women. On the table was a baby roasted on a spit. Yaryl put the flex screen down.
There was still time. He could go to General Veers, and tell him everything. It would mean banishment, most likely, but it was better than this. He could make up some story. About how he was forced to do it, how they had blackmailed him. No! Better yet, he would tell them he had discovered a plot. A few refugees he had vouched for, had turned out to be assassins. He would report the entire thing, and come out a hero. But Khef and the others would talk. They would implicate him? And what of all his hard work? He could be the leader of the Colony, under the Black Century! Well, if not the leader, than assuredly some sort of governer. Here he was nothing more than a third rate merchant, and ugly besides. So what if they ate human flesh? According to that old bitch Witington, a lot of the refugees did the same thing. Besides, it would be kind of funny of they chopped her bony ass up, and ate her. Not a lot of meat to go around....
As Councilman Rogers sat in his quarters contemplating the consequences and potential rewards of his betrayal the supreme leader of the Black Century sat in his GameStation room and contemplated as his Avatar was led inside the military quarters of the Colonial Guardsmen, restrained. He was making a recording of everything that he could see at the time. There was certainly a lot of information to process in. He considered the events that had directly preceded his capture. The rest of his men were busy fighting to the death, with the non-lethal weapons he had foolishly assigned them for this simple mission, when he had the notion to drop his weapon and raise his hands in surrender. It was apparently something that took the Guardsmen off guard, so to speak.
From there it was a suprisingly long ride in a cramped ATV to the Colony. The Leader took the opprotunity to place the avatar in standby mode, and get up and stretch. He opened up screens switching on one of the standby bodies he kept. The Century would not be rudderless, not even for a minute. To ensure this, and quell any rumors, he had the other leader body run a simple program where it walked through the ranks, making a public appearance. Then, using a degree of foresight, he contact Khef through their bond and told him of the events that had transpired.
When the ATV arrived and he was ushered into the military quarters, he was stripped out, and all his hidden weapons taken from him. He was not completely defenseless, of course. The mask was surgically attached to his face. The was an explosive secreted inside it, powerful enough to do some short-term damage. Take the head off the body, and maybe do a little additional harm to anyone standing nearby. But now it was time to wait. Wait and be patient.
The planning paid off. An older, fat Guardsmen came in, with shiny silver stars on his collar that meant high rank.
"I'm General Veers." He said.
"A pleasure." The leader replied, "I am the Black Century."
"Do you have something else you can call yourself?"
"It doesnt matter who I am, does it?" The leader said.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Today is a bad day: A Manifesto

I got in a fight with my wife at six o clock in the morning today, and I dont really feel like writing the next chapter in my newest book. Instead I'll tell you a little bit about why I do what I do, and how I do it.
To start with, I work a bad job that I hate. This is not a plea for sympathy or anything. The job pays me well enough to live a comfortable middle class existence. I simply hate it. If you were to go back in time and tell the ten year old me, or the fifteen year old me "For the rest of your life you will work for the ______ as a ______" he would be pretty upset.
I have given up on this job completely. Every day I do the bare minimum. I will never be promoted, or transfer to a better location, I simply will exist in this space.
I have little to no contact with my family members. They live a thousand miles away. I call my parents maybe once a month. They are all a part of a small cult of religious fundamentalist, which I dont approve of and have been excomunnicated by.
I believe my wife hates me, and is planning to get a divorce once she finishes college. I believe this because she tells me this directly to my face, and often. She also criticizes my weight and body odor, among other things. I have been trying to stay at work longer and longer to avoid her.
The one thing that keeps me going is my writing.
Everyday I start out with a goal of two thousand words. Whatever story I am writing, add two thousand words to it, for at least five days a week. Once I've written a length of thirty to fifty thousand words, I cut the umbiblical cord, get a cover made up, and ship my baby off to the Amazon Kindle store. I have been doing this now since 2010. I have started making actual money since 2011.
The highest royalty check I have been paid is $1400. The average is around $300. When I started I made nothing, didnt sell a copy.
My wife controls the finances with an iron fist (although she doesnt work) but the money I make off of Amazon is mine. I spend it on stuff I enjoy, mostly books or comics or video games, which she criticizes.
I write whatever I want. Usually military fiction, based on my time in the Marines, or genre fiction, such as science fiction or fantasy. The worlds in my head are mine and mine alone.
I have gotten five star reviews, and I have gotten one star reviews. I dont give a flying fuck either way. I dont care if anyone reads my work. Thats not why I write. If you like it, good for you, but the same if you dont.
This feels good to get out.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Prologue

Mona awoke in the morning to the gentle sounds of her Ipod alarm. She tried to place the name of the band, or what kind of music it was. Rock. Folk rock? No, indie rock, alternative, from the early twenty-first century. She lay there for a minute or two longer, letting it all soak in, and not wanting to get out of bed. The sunlight was coming in gentle through her hab window. There was static on the pod for a second, and then the voice of Berks came across with the mornings broadcast.
"Six twenty four in the morning...a good morning to you, and to all the residents of our fair is yellow ticket day for fresh produce from the dome...sixteen days since our last dust storm, lets be prepared...lets get out there and do our part for humanity!"
The Ipod switched back over, and she finally placed the band as Wilco.
She had MRE coffee, but didnt want MRE coffee. There was real coffee in the dome. A scarce amount of coffee plants had been cultivated, carefully, that the first-class citizens had jealously hoarded and cultivated. Real coffee. With real milk from one of the dome cows, or goats even. Goat milk wasnt half bad. Anything to clear out the fog in her head. But she had a blue ticket, not a yellow one, so there was no ration for her today, from any of it. Which meant that she was going to have to hit up the market. She looked around in her hab for something decent to trade, and found a flex screen. She rolled it up and put it in her jacket. A quick look in the mirror, brushing back her stark white hair, and then it was out the door she went.
Mona lived at the edge of the Joshua trees, which was as close to the dome as she wanted to get. The dome loomed over everything, and if she wanted she could have gotten a pass to live inside. But there was a cramped feeling in there, for her, a loss of connection. What good was green growing things and tech marvels if it wasnt part of the world? For her, real good game from what already was. Like the gnarled tree out her window. It clung to life, gene-engineered to live in the soil of the Rot- festered Earth that could seemingly hold nothing. This was a small miracle. Soon more would come, and the green would take hold. It was a dream that nearly all shared.
At the market it was a general bartering for items crafted in the dome, scavenged from the piles, and a mix in between. The highest price items were food. Food was once a currency, with rations being used to exchange goods and currency, and still could be used that way, from time to time. But many folks were doing better than that, and used electronic currency inscribed upon their Colonist identification, the way folks did in the time before. She made her way over to Abdul, whose face lit up when he saw her, with a wide beaming smile.
"Miss Mona! What will you be having."
"Do you have real coffee?"
"Beans fresh from the dome, if you have the credits!"
"Do you take trade?"
"If its good? Of course!"
Mona leaned in close, to minimize the chance of a thief seeing what she had, and snatching it away. She activated the flex screen, running through a few programs, and a movie clip.
"Ah, Miss Mona, I already have a laptop!" Abdul said.
"This has everything your laptop has." Mona said, and more."
Abdul looked it over and shrugged. "As you say. I can give it to my son, or trade it otherwise, follow me, please."
An off-duty Colonial Guardsman was standing by the tent flap of Abdul's stall. Inside was a variety of produce, apples, mangoes, tomatoes. Abdul opened a small package and inhaled the flavor. "As I said, fresh beans. I roast them myself, and I grind them.." He put the beans in a small machine..."Here!"
Soon the tent was filled with the smell of fresh, hot, coffee. Mona savored her cup, letting the caffiene slowly seep into her, waking her up for the days routine. Abdul sipped his own cup. "How is business these days?" Mona asked.
Abdul scowled. "Everyone wants fresh and better." He said. "In the old days, when the dome was sealed up, everyone was content with rations. Or MRE's. Whatever you could get! But now, people want what they can get. They say, Abdul, your meat is rotten, or, Abdul, your bananas are going brown. Get your own bloody bananas from the dome, I tell them! But they dont listen. They would rather complain to me."
"Still." Mona said, "At least they can eat."
Abdul shrugged. "I liked it better before." He said. "With the old council, everyone knew their place, and the riff raff stayed out near the piles. Now we take them in."
Mona finished her coffee, and thanked him graciously.
She made her way back to the dome. A Guardsmen checked her ID badge as she went through. Inside she felt relief, fresh air, oxygen generated from the last trees on earth. The sound of animals. Witington set up her classroom right in the middle of the green, usually, making the technicians move around them. Mona thought it was the right thing to do. This world belonged to the children, or at least it would, one day. The Junker Girl stood quietly, and listened.
"Can anyone tell me the name of the story we read yesterday?" Witington asked.
"Noah's ark!" A child said.
"And what did we learn from Noah's ark?"
"God is mean." A boy said.
"Thats not it! Your stupid!" A girl replied.
"Your stupid."
"Well, Sam." Witington said, "No one is stupid. And what actually can be a very grown up lesson."
"So God is mean?"
"Well." Witington said, "What they call God in the story, we call nature. And nature can be mean, sometimes. Things can be hard in life."
"Like for the ref-you-gees." A boy said, struggling with the word.
"Thats right." Witington said, "Like with the refugees. Most people dont have what we do here, in this dome. Can anyone tell me what we have?"
"Thats right." Witington said, "And the reason we have those things is because we have what is called a controlled habitat. And in the story, Noah's ark was a controlled habitat. It contained two of every animal."
"Teacher." a child said, "Is there every animal inside the dome?"
"I can answer that." Mona said. "There isnt. But we have the genetic material for most of them."
"Hi, Mona!" Some of the class said.
"Class." Witington said, "Can anyone tell me what genetic material is?"
"Its the building blocks." A boy said. "Its the stuff things are made out of."
"What sort of things?"
"People like you and me." The boy said, "And plants and animals."
"Thank you, Arril." Witington said. "And that is another way this dome is like the ark. What was the Rot? Can anyone tell me?"
"A bad thing." A girl shyly said, "That killed everyone, a long time ago."
"Yes, Elie." Witington said. "The Rot was a bad thing. It killed almost everyone, and almost everything. But a few lucky people managed to stick around, and a few things werent destroyed. And we are the great-great-grandchildren of the ones that did." Witington clapped her hands. "Now is everyone ready for Ms. Mona's class trip?"
The children cheered.
At the trucks next to the dome, Witington told Mona, "Thank you for doing this. They look forward to your trip all week."
"I should thank you." Mona said, "Someday I might have kids myself, and you teach our only school."
Witington smiled. "Is there someone I should know about?"
"No." Mona said. "Not since-" She willed herself not to say Skip.
Witington gave her a hug. "You've gotten so tall!" She said. "Your were a little whisp of a thing when you first got here."
"All grown up." Mona said.
"Well." Witington said. "You were pretty grown up to begin with."

Monday, February 4, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 8

The supreme leader of the Black Century awoke on what was once a very nice guest suite inside Mega-City Alpha. He had fallen asleep in his t-shirt and jeans again. It was one of his favorite t-shirts, referencing a series of video games known as Call of Duty from the early twenty-first century. The jeans were pretty good too. Hopping out of bed, he went to put on a pair of checkerboard Vans and brush his teeth. Instead of a shower, he applied deoderant. Breakfast was a few handfuls of sugary cereal. The basics out of the way, it was time to go to work.
The GameStation room consisted of a solid screen that curved around a corner to another. On the floor in the center was a biometric sofa that looked something like a bean bag chair. The screen saver was currently on, showing an aquarium of exotic fish. He clapped his hands and it dissapeared. The first person view of the dictator came up.
Over a hundred of the raiders were genetically linked to his controls here in the suite. Mostly he used the dictator. The dictator had started life as a very tall, muscular soul, with a half-rotted face. Now the leader dressed him in something that looked between Cobra Commander and Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Appearance was everything, when you dealt with a legion of bloodthirsty cannibals. A voice synthesizer helped too, made the dictator sound like a cross between Bane and Darth Vader. His aide was droning on in the boardroom.
"Five hundred infantry." He was saying. "Fifty-seven tanks. Eighty-four trucks."
"The numbers dont mean anything." The leader said, through the dictator. "The Colonists have those Plasma weapons."
"It is possible we can overwhelm them through sheer numbers." The aide said.
"And then what? Pillage everything? Rape the women, and eat the survivors?"
The aide looked nervous over the top of his glasses. "There are certain protocols that we have established."
"Here's the problem." the leader said. "No one had these sorts of weapons. Everyone used small arms. And then, suddenly we have this great technology from the time before. How long were we fighting the Piss Yellows?"
"Approximately three years."
"Three years, of skirmishes and major battles. And then gone. In one round from these Colonist, what was left was hardly worth mopping up."
"We have benefitted from the lack of competition." The aide said.
The dictator leaned in close. "Do you know the difference between a cannibal and a regular person?"
"No." The aide stuttered. "No, I dont."
"A cannibal looks at you and sees a piece of meat. A source of foodstuffs he can use. If you dont give a cannibal something new to do, some new target, he's going to look at you and get hungry. Are you interested in becoming dinner?"
"No. No sir."
"Me neither. We need this colony. We need it burnt to the ground, and all its secrets revealed."
The aide said coughed slightly. The dictator wondered if he was getting sick. A sick aide would be no good. He would have to go to the meat pens, and he would know it. What was his name, anyway? Once there had been an aide named Sephers. Sephers was a good one, kept the books straight and troops fed. Some idiot had let loose with a stray burst from an AR at a banquet table and Sephers had caught a slug right between the eyes. The dictator had had the man flogged, but it turned out to be a fairly valuable warrior, so an execution was out of the question.
The dictator opened up a picture-in-picture in the GameStation room to the feeding pens. The livestock area looked a little overcrowded. Some of them were crying, and almost all of them were naked. He sighed. If you stressed the herd out, frightened them to much, the meat tasted worse. You fed the people. You kept them warm and safe. You gave them a place to shit and sleep. And then, you thinned the herd a little, and slaughtered what you needed. You cooked the meat and seasoned it if that was available. There was a variety of things you could do with pork, and long pork was still pork. There was a bored looking raider standing guard to the pens, and the dictator opened up an intercom channel to him.
"This is your leader." He snapped. "Find some clothes for the meat."
The raider jumped up, panicking. "What do I use?"
"Use sacks if you have to." The dictator said, "But keep them covered."
From there the dictator jumped back into his usual body for public appearances, and set it walking with the GameStation controls. It was always good for the men to see him visible, lest anyone get any ideas.
He had the barest inklings of what the program was used for before he found it. A way to remotely control prisoners, and send them off on televised deathmatches. Once a man was infected with the virus most of his willpower shut off completely. He became little more than a puppet. Such puppets had allowed the dictator to rise to the place of power he possessed. He was a one man Hydra. If one body was killed in a battle, another took its place, wearing the same clothing, possesing the same synthesized, mechanical voice. The men took a sort of superstitious fear to him, which worked well for his purposes. Immortality was hard for primitive cannibals to overcome.
Most the time he appeared before the Upper Caste of the Mega City. These were the raiders who had distinguished themselves, through battle or some other skill. He had encouraged them to adopt a larger tone of civility than the rabble. Standard rules applied, mostly unspoken, such as,
1.Cook food before eating it, whenever you can help it
2. Avoid wearing trinkets made from human flesh
And to these he had stretched the rules further. Wear a uniform. Avoid beating the whores in public. Think about not eating all the children, sons could be useful. His goal, his utmost, striving, goal, was for the Black Century to become more than just a strong group. He wanted it to become a country, like Imperial Rome or Nazi Germany. He had appropriated much of the imagery, the strong use of black and dark grey, occasions of bright red. There was hope in the dictators heart, beneath all this. If man were to survive, he would need to be strong. The world was ruined, from what could be seen. What hope did they have otherwise?
The dictator scanned through the comm channels, from inside the GameStation, until he found what he was looking for. A patrol was about to leave out, headed through the west gate. He cut into their traffic. "This is your leader." He said. "Do not disembark until told to do so. I will be joining your expedition."
The patrol was light. Eight people in two vehicles, light technical trucks for quick capture. The commander saluted crisply, in his dark grey uniform with a red beret. The rest of the raiders were adorned in the standard black patchwork of scavanged clothing that bore the mark of their tribe. At least they are in black, the dictator thought. Uniformity does make a difference.
"My lord." The commander addressed him.
"Commander." The dictator said. "The purpose of this patrol?"
"Standard encapture."
"Number of targets?"
"Four possible. Two male, one or two female."
"Use non-lethal force, unless challenged directly." The dictator said. "We need the stock for the pens." To their credit, the raiders did not grumble about this, or contradict him. The dictator made certain he had a heavy barreled Assault Rifle for himself, just in case.
The patrol left through the west gate, making good speed. Outside the west gate was a derelict section of the Mega City itself, that had succumbed to Rot at a somewhat greater speed than the sections inhabited by the Black Century. Far enough in it, among the sands half-swallowing doors and windows, a scavenger might be tempted to find shelter, and look for food. It was a great big honey pot of a trap, an easy target for the raiders, who constantly needed fresh meat for the pens.
A twinge of sadness came through the dictator as he sat on the biometric sofa in the GameStation room. Times like this he wished he could go out in the real thing, feel the wind through his hair. But still. He resolved to straighten his puppets back, and look presentable for the men. Appearance was everything.
They found the stragglers when the convoy took fire.
It was nothing too major. Light small arms fire from a handgun, or a pair of handguns. The bullets cracked near the trucks harmlessly. The reaction, or in the dictators eyes, overreaction, was nearly immediate. The entire convoy opened fire on the burned out, half buried structure where the muzzle flashes were barely visible.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 7

She had never been flying before.
It was one of the many wonders from the time before that had dissapeared. Once men had gone through the air like birds. For that matter, once birds had gone through the air like birds. But now the skies were barren, until today.
The screen showed them what was happening. The pod was moving through the air quickly. The piles grew smaller and smaller, until finally they were of similiar size to the colony, until the dome was nothing more than a silver blip.
"I feel sick." Arril said.
"Try to hold it in." Mona told him, but it was too late, and the boy vomited in front of his seat. From the back seat Sgt. Aleph looked pretty green himself. Mona steeled herself, trying not to think of what was beneath them, or rather, what was beneath the floor of the pod. Nothing. More and more nothing. And if they fell, that nothing would last a long, long time.
"Now exiting atmosphere." The pod said, in a reassuring female voice. "Please remain seated, during orbital procedures."
"What the hell is this?" Aleph said.
The display on the screen changed. The sky grew darker, and less blue. The stars came up all of a sudden, white dots on an endless black. Underneath them the land was now a globe, that Mona recognized as the globe. The Earth. From in front of Arril, globules of vomit floated before his face.
"Its space." Mona said. "Were in outer space."
"Thats not possible." Aleph said. "It has to be some kind of trick, or display."
"I feel funny." Arril said. He unbuckled his restraint, and started to float inside the pod. His face lit up in amazement.
"Is that a trick?" Mona said. "I'd like to see how its done."
The pod approached the space station, and everyone shut up again.
The space station was an enourmous creation. It bristled with vanes and spines, and seemed to have arms that went off in every direction. For Mona it was the dome all over again. For Aleph and Arril it was something new and impossible, that nothing had accounted for before.
"Beginning docking procedures." The pod intoned. "Please remain seated, while artificial gravity is established."
And just like that, Arril went crashing to the floor, his vomit globules splattering comically on his head. The airlock hissed, and Aleph helped the boy up. When they stepped through, they were in the Space station.
The space station walkway was all white, with large windows on either end. One side showed the vastness of space, on the other, Earth loomed below. There was a smell inside of dust, of a vastly old tomb. Arril pointed to a bench. "Wonder how long he's been there."
Mona stifled back a gasp. There was a corpse on a bench, facing the window of the walkway. Not the sort of corpse Mona came in contact with from time to time in the piles, fresh and oozing, but a skeleton, whose skin had long since turned to dust. Aleph trained his plasma rifle on it, and walked over. The corpse did not stir. The Guardsman nudged it with the muzzle of his weapon, and the skeleton fell over, sending up a small cloud of dust.
"Dont look." Mona said. "Arril, sweety, dont look."
"I think its cool." the boy said. Then he grimaced. "It hurts to walk. And I smell bad."
"We need to get you cleaned up." Mona told him, wondering where they would be able to do that.
"He doesnt smell like Rot." Aleph said. "Whatever it was, it happened a long time ago."
"Can you help carry Arril?" Mona said.
The three of them came fairly quickly to the central hub, but not before passing several other corpses in similiar states of decomposition. In all of them, the effect was the same. They were facing the stars, or the Earth. What had happened to them? Was this part of the Rot, some unseen side effect? Was it in the air right now? Would Mona feel the urge to sit down, and then simply starve to death, facing the universe? It was almost too much to think about, so she put her mind away from it. There were priorities. Medicine for Arril, first, and then finding out where they were, and then, maybe, there would be time for other mysteries.
At the central hub, which seemed to be a spire that ran the breadth of the space station, Aleph was frustrated by a touch screen panel. "I dont understand these symbols." He said.
"Let me try." Mona told him. It was a mass of AI symbols, living code for machines. She had seen it before with the Droid. She skimmed through the code looking for something that said start, or enter, and then flipped it. The display popped up directly in front of Aleph, startling him.
"Shit!" He exclaimed.
"Welcome, travelers!" Beamed an attractive female hologram. "Welcome to Virgin Galactic's Orbital Station. Ask any questions to your representative."
"Whose a representative?" Mona said.
"This construct is an artificial representative of the Virgin Galactic family." the holo said.
"What do you mean, family." Aleph said. "There's more of you."
"In this case, family refers to a multi-national incorporated conglomerate." The holo said, cheerfully."
"My leg hurts." Arril said.
A map appeared on the panel. "First aid is available on level three-A." the holo said. "If you are having difficulty walking, a service cart can be provided to you for an additional charge."
"We'll take one of those." Aleph said. "This kid is getting heavy."
"Wait a minute." Mona said. "Are you available throughout the station?"
"That is correct." The holo said.
"Then we want navigation." Mona said.
"Additional charges may apply."
"It doesnt matter." Aleph whispered. "I suspect any of the people we would have owed money to are dead."
The cart managed to drive itself just fine to the first aid station, where for additional fees in long defunct currency, the chipper AI talked up a storm the entire way about the many features of the location. In the first aid station itself, the AI managed to talk Mona through giving the boy a scan to determine where the break was in his leg, setting the small robotic splint, and giving him an anesthetic. After that, Arril was able to walk again, which made the small party a degree more mobile.
"I feel better." Arril said. "But I'm hungry now."
"Visit the dining section for fine world cuisine!" The AI said,"All food synthesized."
"We should be careful." Aleph said. "What if whatever it is that killed these people off, is in the air?"
"What does synthesize mean?" Mona asked.
"Synthesication is artificial genetic reconstrution." The AI said.
"No." Mona said. "We really need to see the dining hall. Lets go now."
The AI was a little basic in its commands, so the trio ended up having Thanksgiving dinner.
This was a feast none of them had ever seen. The smell was enough to send hunger pangs shooting through Mona's stomach, roast turkey with graving, bread stuffing, beans, potatoes. The synthesizer hummed and popped out one dish after another. Arril fell into into ravishly, and soon despite themselves, Mona and Aleph did the same. There was a synthetic wine to go along with dinner, lightly carbonated, and the Mona was feeling somewhat tipsy afterward.
"Its good." She said.
"I'll say." Aleph said. "You stay on rations most the time in the guard."
"I eat meat sometimes." Arril said. "From the dome. This was different than that, but still good."
"This could save us." Mona said.
"I think were doing okay." Aleph said. "I mean, yeah, I could use a lay down and a bit of a nap, but overall I think I'm all right. You fixed the kids leg and our bellies are filled. What more do you want?"
"No." Mona said, "I mean the colony."
there was a silent pause.
"We dont know how long this station has been out of comission." Mona said. "But the AI was able to make us this meal. If we can do the same thing on a larger scale, we can fix the food problem."
"The food problem." Aleph repeated. He looked over at the boy, who was snoring gently in his chair.
"Do you know what I'm talking about?" Mona asked.
"I've heard rumors." Aleph said. "About the number of stragglers we get every week. The resources and everything. But I'm not really paid to think too much into it." He burped. "But after this, I guess I will. I havent been this full in a long, long, time."
"We've gotten used to living on a reduced calorie diet." Mona said.
The quarters the AI showed them to had a series of beds, underneath a wide window that showed Earth above, or below, or more likely simply beyond. When Mona went to sleep she felt happy and strangely hopeful.