Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Science fiction  ➡  Military

Earth: The Future is History

Earth: The Future is History

Book #1. Humanity Series.

By Gabriel Dica

Copyright 2015 Gabriel Dica

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this eBook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting my hard work.

Contents

Note from the author

Earth: The Future is History

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 1:30 PM, Local Time

Monday, April 12, 2320

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 6:30 AM, UTC

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 1:45 PM, Local Time

Tuesday, April 13, 2320

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 6:45 AM, UTC

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 2:15 PM, Local Time

Wednesday, April 14, 2320

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 7:15 AM, UTC

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 2:30 PM, Local Time

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 7:30 AM, UTC

Final note from the author and excerpt from Book #2: The Ashan Report

Note from the author

Pollution, wars, global warming, corruption, famine, water shortages…

Ignorance.

All-important discussion topics around the world today – debated in councils, voted in governments, argued in summits, presented relentlessly across the globe.

Do you wonder what would happen to us if we fail to solve these problems? What mankind might become? How our own humanity will be reshaped and twisted to accommodate new realities?

With the “Humanity” series, I invite you, my dear reader, to use my imagination as a tool to shape and see the dark, possible future of our mistakes.

My name is Gabriel Dica and I’d like to thank you for reading my book!

Earth: The Future is History

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 1:30 PM, Local Time

The bright, yellow sunlight entering the room through the large windows does little more than emphasize all the dust floating in the air. The old, scratched metal and wood furniture is almost a luxury for many. But despite the desperate period humanity is trying to overcome, children still go to schools, students still graduate universities; hope is not yet lost for them, they might still have a future. The full room is buzzing with all the students talking, finding their seats. The protest taking place just outside their windows is causing a lot of noise; the building, a reminiscence from the old era, repurposed years ago for the Civil Council’s University in Jakarta, is right next to the small park in front of the newer Council Hall. No one seems to notice or care about the uproar happening close by.

The room starts to quiet down as professor Jawaad Noya, the most important name in human, social and political sciences in the world – and one of the greatest minds of this era – enters the room. The tiny woman, well in her fifties, wearing her usual two-piece white suit and large purple hat, is in extreme contrast with the faded, gray, dusty room she finds herself in. She was appointed by the Civil Council to hold a special lecture for today’s celebration – a welcome chance for her to inspire the young minds attending.

After a brief moment of analyzing the class, she makes her way to the podium.

Noya: “Good afternoon class. Please be seated.”

All the senior students are present, quietly watching the professor as she sets her tablet on the stand.

Noya, with her head down, scrolling through her notes, addresses her audience: “Who can tell me why we’re all here today?”

One of the young minds, seated near the center of the classroom, stands up and answers her obvious question, ironically: “Today is the day that marks two-hundred years since we sent the terraforming probe to Asha. Or, more accurately, today marks two-hundred years of incompetence, professor, and we’re all here to celebrate it!”

The room seems slightly amused, softly whispering to each other. Unimpressed, Noya barely shows a slight nod, before addressing the student: “I see. It’s great that you can see the “incompetence”, as you call it. I assume you don’t agree with it?”

The young student: “Of course not! The situation we are in… It’s unacceptable! “

Noya, still looking down at her tablet: “I agree, it’s unacceptable.”

After a short pause, she lifts her head and looks at the young student: “So, what exactly are you doing to change it? Aren’t you just as “incompetent” as everyone else? Hiding under apparently pertinent excuses… “I’m just a student, what can I do?”, or “That’s not my job, our leaders should solve problems, not me!”. Is any single one of you doing anything, anything whatsoever, to change the unacceptable state we are in today?”

Puzzled, the student quietly sits down.

Certain that she’s captured the entire room’s attention, Noya starts slowly walking around the podium, making soft hand gestures, delivering her speech: “The word you’re looking for is not “incompetence”, but “ignorance”, I think. Of course, this isn’t new. It’s not something happening only in the past twenty years… Or even the past two-hundred years. No. Throughout our entire history we can clearly see it: egos more powerful than common interest, assigning blame instead of finding solutions… History, my young and eager minds! History is an indistinguishable entanglement of truths and lies, written and told and learned by all of us and all those before us… And everyone that is yet to be born, as we, right now, at this very moment, are writing the history future generations will read. Remember this: the past is a tool, offering us a way to look back and forever wonder how we could have done things differently; a way for us to clearly see the crucial importance of key decisions… after they’ve been made. Of course you can see the “incompetence” now, after learning about our history, after reading about the effects our past decisions had. And of course you can unquestionably determine what should have been done, instead of what had been done. “Why did we choose so poorly?”. The never-ending discussions that start with that simple – what if…? –“

Noya stops walking and turns towards the young student: “But what are YOU doing different from all those before you?”. Walking back to the center of the podium, she quietly signals him to stand up.

Noya: “What’s your name?”

Reluctant, the student stands up: “Filip, professor…”

Noya: “Unfortunately, my dear Filip, my initial question wasn’t about our reason for gathering here today, but for the reason we are all here, mankind.”

Noya turns to the rest of her audience: “So. How did we get here, on the brink of extinction, as a race? What are those crucial moments when we should have chosen differently?”

The question comes as a surprise, all eyes lost in thought, contemplating, searching for an answer to this unexpected question. They all thought she was here just to offer a lecture, not ask them to participate.

Noya, just standing there quietly, patiently, waiting: “Anyone?”.

A young, blonde woman stands up: “There are hundreds of reasons why we’re in this situation, perhaps hundreds of known and unknown decisions that led us here. But I think, probably one of the most important reasons why we’re so close to failing as a race, is because of all the wars, the endless fighting for territory and resources, for control. I believe that’s what kept our ancestors from focusing on what should have been done…”

Noya: “Wars. Good, let’s start with them and we’ll slowly work our way towards the true reason we’re here.”

Noya: “Filip, time to test your knowledge. Let’s go back to the formation of the World Alliance. What caused it? What determined the entire human population to demand it?”

Filip, being a passionate history reader, seems relieved to be asked about a topic he knows well. But everyone else is just wondering what the professor is doing, this doesn’t seem to be a typical lecture.

Filip: “I believe the mechanism that led to the signing of the World Alliance was put in motion in the early 21st century. Sure, we know now just how important the health of our planet is, but back then no one seemed to care. Not really. Despite a few attempts to work together and slow the accelerating decay of our planet, despite signing agreements several times, the world’s leaders of that period never seemed to truly grasp the importance of their decision to ignore nature – or all the scientists making endless pleas to pay more attention to our precious world. Their focus was somewhere else entirely: high consumption rates were driving the economy of that period; in turn, the economy was dictating politics, so it’s no surprise that a lot of territories were involved in wars over natural resources all over the globe. Back then humankind was geographically divided into countries, each with its own leader, each considering itself more important than any other, each struggling to obtain control over more and more resources. It’s hard for me to imagine what it must have been like, hundreds of leaders all wanting what someone else had.”

Noya, interrupting Filip to address the class: “Indeed. It’s hard now to realize the incredible friction and tension this must have involved. With no central leadership, Earth was heading in 195 different directions, that’s how many different countries and different leaders we had. Imagine the improbability they would all agree on or decide together a common direction to follow.”

The noises outside seem to be getting louder as the protest is moving closer to their building. Noya points to Filip, telling him to continue with his story as she walks to the open window and closes it.

Filip: “The Third World War started over an area now known as the Syrian Strip, an area of strategic importance for several, conflicting powers. It’s not entirely clear what caused the final escalation that lead to the entire world entering the war, but tensions had been growing for years; the historical records of that period are conflicting and different entries from different nations are telling very different stories, so we don’t even know the exact date when the war started, we just know that it was somewhere in the Autumn of 2017.”

Noya: “I want to make something clear to all of you, because I know most of you are imagining a world war much like the fighting we’ve had last year: a world war is exponentially more devastating and consuming than a revolution. A revolution generally involves less militarized conflict, certainly less heavy arms – like tanks or armed aircraft – and definitely a lot less so called “weapons of mass destruction” – like bombs that could destroy entire cities or weaponized viruses that can eradicate entire nations; the damage caused by a civilian revolution trying to overthrow the leadership is considerably less than the heavily armed forces waging wars for competing nations. A war that involves the entire world is absolutely devastating!”

Noya, turning to Filip: “I appreciate your knowledge on the subject, but let’s jump forward a little. We don’t want to bore everybody with details.”

Filip smiles in agreement and decides to skip some of the details he already had planned. “After the Third World War, there were almost thirty years of sporadic peace with only localized armed wars. But previous tensions were never resolved, so the world again joined in another, even more devastating war. In the late 21st century, the peoples of Earth were still divided, barely surviving, recovering after the Fourth World War. Years of bombardments and blatant disregard for nature left eleven billion people struggling with heavy pollution and global water shortages. Water and air pollution meant crops couldn’t be effectively grown anymore and famine became one of the highest problems. To add to the poor state everyone was in, solving these problems became increasingly difficult as technology prices were spiking due to the depletion of the much needed rare earth elements consumed by the wars.”

Noya: “And that’s just part of the problem. Competing megacorporation interests, corrupted politics and opaque religions, all with their own agendas, were effectively blocking any kind of chance mankind had to survive. Earth was at its worst, incomparable with any other period in our history. And instead of solutions, leaders seemed to be preparing for yet another world war…”

Noya signals Filip to sit down as she’s taking over the story.

Noya: “History’s inaccuracies sometimes deprive us of the most important details: it’s unclear why, but in the winter of 2102 the riots started, quickly turning into the largest revolution the world had ever seen, rivaled in magnitude only by what we experienced ourselves last year. The trigger is believed by most historians to be the bombing of a water purification plant by a group of religious extremists, sparking rage in the civilian population. The revolutions that started across the entire globe lasted for months; the loss of life was unprecedented, but despite the overwhelming odds they were fighting against, people did not back down, demanding significant changes in the power structures of the world. And during this lengthy, brutal fighting, for the first time in human history people realized that their goals were no longer set by governments or corporations or religion, but instead they were fighting a battle of their own, all wanting the same thing – a key moment in a long series of events that slowly pushed us to being what we are today. And driven by their newfound unity, coordinating attacks across the planet, the civilian population managed to overthrow most governments and convince the remaining armies to join them. However, although governments and armies were defeated, the religious structures of the world were not backing down, trying to impose their desire for more control.”

Professor Noya stops for a moment to analyze if her students are still interested or if she’s losing them to boredom.

Monday, April 12, 2320

It’s almost dark. Time to stop for the night.

My rifle, my suit and my training… That’s all I have, it’s all I need, all I want. Up here, in these dangerous and isolated mountains, any unnecessary weight would just slow me down – and in this frigid, rocky, snowy, slippery terrain, being slow means being dead. One wrong step, one wrong decision, if I lose focus for just one moment it’s all over… But I can’t die, I can’t fail. My mission is too important.

I don’t even have a tent; all I have is my suit to keep me warm for the night. Time to go to sleep.

I’ve been an explorer all my life, always wondering, always trying to find what others couldn’t. Searching for the truth in an ancient whisper or clearing a rumor buried by millennia of indifference – that’s what I do, that’s what I’ve always been good at. Really good. They say I’m the best, with more Merit Awards and places named after me than anyone else. Figures… I’ve always been more at home here, in the wilderness, alone, than I ever was anywhere else. Here I understand how things work, how things should be, how every little thing has its own place – here, I find serenity in a natural, perfect order. That’s my secret, that’s how I’m able to find the things everyone else missed – I clearly see anything out of place. And I guess this is the reason why I’ve been chosen for this crucial mission. There’s no one better to find out if they’re right, the truth behind this elusive rumor, this dangerous whisper… Well, that or the fact that no one else dared to venture in this unforgiving terrain… alone… with no chance of rescue… and very limited supplies… But even now, here, even in this never ending sea of low mists and high peaks, in the most dangerous corner of our planet, even here I see the beauty… Incredible!

The first rays of light feel like sand in my eyes… Time to wake up.

I can’t believe it’s already morning… After nine days of running and climbing, I’m tired, I’m wet, I’m cold. My minimal gear is barely enough for surviving; comfort is out of the question. Not even a tent, not even a sleeping mattress. I know, I know! I remember my training: “Weight is your enemy, weight slows you down, if you’re slow – you’re dead!”. I’ve heard this so many times… I’m miserable. But I can’t stop! What am I doing here? What am I looking for? This isn’t how I normally do things – I have months of research and preparation and planning, managing resources, gear and personnel before I start any expedition. No, this is anything but normal. Instead of months of research I had months of survival training, gear training, climbing training. Infiltration training, shooting training.

I just finished eating my morning rations. Time to move.

The first few days of the mission I was excited, I was going to explore a place no one even dares set a foot on, a chance to conquer the ultimate challenge, a chance to have my name placed indisputably on top of the Hall of Explorers Wall. But after nine days of long runs and climbs, my excitement was drowned by fatigue and discomfort. Three days ago I started the final climb, towards the top of the tallest peak in this area. Three days of continuous climbing – slippery and frozen rocks, barely any spot to anchor down for the night, an almost vertical wall to overcome, a constant and exhausting wind… I’ve never felt this miserable in my life… But I’m eager to finally get to the top.

I can see the peak, it’s almost within reach. Time for the final push.

The red and white rocks remind me of the beach where I grew up. There were no rocks there, just an endless blanket of reddish sand with a strange, white glow just before sunset. I hated that place. There was nothing to see, just sand and water. That’s one of the reasons I left: there had to be more to the world than just sand and water; I wanted to see new things, new places… And now I hate this place – there’s nothing to see, just rocks and snow… But at least I’m somewhere new, a place no one else can tell me about because no one else has ever been here. A strange feeling takes root… A simple idea that I didn’t have time to allow it to crawl into my mind before just now… I haven’t realized until just now how effective my training is – so focused on my mission, so focused on my next step, grip, breathing, rations, mapping; so focused that I couldn’t think about anything else. And now I’m so focused on this growing feeling that I can’t think about climbing… “No one else has ever been here” … But what if the rumors are true…? What would that mean? Everything would change. With a painful final effort, I reach with my left hand up and grab the ledge, pulling myself on the flat top of the peak.

Every muscle in my body is aching. Time to stop and catch my breath.

I guess for someone chasing rumors for years, it’s strange that I don’t put much faith in them. It is what it is, a rumor is only a rumor until proven true or false. So why is this one so different? Why do I care? Why am I so sure everything will change if I find what I’m searching for? For the first time in a very long time, I don’t understand myself and I don’t trust myself. Maybe I don’t want to find anything? …That’s not even a possibility.

I get up and slowly start moving towards the other side of the peak. As I walk, more and more of the valley in front of me becomes visible. The wind seems to be getting stronger, sometimes lifting the snow in powerful bursts and carrying it everywhere, in the entire valley. I struggle to get a better look in the distance, to make sense of the terrain through all the snow and mist. Wait… something’s not right, something doesn’t fit. Right there! Down in the valley, the snow looks different…

Could this be…?

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 6:30 AM, UTC

Secretary Nazari’s hologram: “The President is ready for you, Admiral Sterrow. We’re ready to begin.”

The Admiral had been staring at the blank console for an hour, slowly caressing his thick beard, lost in thought, waiting for the War Council to gather back on Earth. The recent developments are troubling, but ultimately of little consequence; the course of action is clear – move the invasion schedule forward. So why was the council assembled? Even the President of the World Alliance was there, interrupting his busy schedule to attend. No, this was about something else…

Turning around and looking towards the adjacent meeting room, he realizes for the first time just how big the command area is. He’s not a young man anymore; his once pitch black curly hair gave way to the scanty gray bobs barely visible under his standard white and blue cap.

For a brief moment he smiles, finding his recent realization funny. Of course the command area is big, the whole ship he commands is enormous – a first generation spaceship aptly named Santa Maria, the first with the new Titan class designation, currently orbiting Asha – designed to command, control and transport an entire fleet of weapon systems, denial systems and carrier systems; everything, from the small automated drones to the huge transports are housed inside the Santa Maria. Of course the command area is big; twenty-five officers responsible for all the different systems, all assigned to their individual, complex control units – large, transparent, holographic half-spheres, centered around their leaned back, bulky chairs. All twenty-five control units are positioned in a crescent around and above a large area in the floor – the combat information display, C.I.D. – that provides a real-time holographic representation of the Titan and its surrounding area, along with dozens of pertinent information channels about the battlefield. In contrast with everything else there, the Admiral’s command stand is simple, just a metallic platform surrounded by a plain handrail, placed halfway on the empty side of the crescent formed by the control units, well above everything else in the command area.

As he enters the meeting room, he stops for a moment and quickly checks that his white and blue uniform is straight.

Quantum entanglement communication and holographic projection makes the empty area suddenly transform in a lively populated room, with all the War Council members arguing around a long, rectangular table; the President seems agitated, arguing with a new face, but is interrupted by the Admiral joining the meeting. Secretary Nazari makes a subtle gesture, inviting Sterrow to take his place. The ten war councilmembers are seated on both sides of the table, with the president on the far end. The only person he doesn’t know, dressed in a well-fitted silver suit and unbuttoned white shirt, doesn’t seem to have a place, instead just standing next to the President’s chair.

Back on Earth, the Admiral’s hologram appears just as the room settles down. All eyes are directed at the President.

President Locke: “Welcome Admiral. “

Standing straight, just opposite of the President, Admiral Sterrow quickly salutes: “Thank you, sir. It’s good to see you again.”

President Locke: “Likewise, Admiral. At ease. As you can see the entire War Council was assembled; today we’re holding a special meeting. But before we get started, there’s something you need to been informed about, a somewhat recent development…”

Admiral Sterrow: “Sir?”

President Locke, considered by many too young for his position, is sitting in a large, comfortable chair. As always, very careful about his appearance, he straightens his striped tie as he informs the Admiral with an indifferent voice: “Last year it became apparent that Earth’s civilian population was no longer satisfied with our… strict leadership. World-wide riots started and things degraded fast. People were demanding a drastic change in how decisions were made. We were left with only two options: turn our weapons against the population, or accept the Civilian Council in the decision making process.”

Admiral Sterrow: “I take it we now have a joint civilian-military leadership?”. He turns his head to the new face in the room.

President Locke: “Yes. Meet Alexander Hofmann, Admiral. He’s the…”

Alexander Hofmann, with a subtle smile on his face, doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. Just as the President is trying to make the introduction, he starts walking towards the Admiral’s hologram, analyzing him, and abruptly ending his sentence: “Call me Alexei, Mr. Sterrow. I’ve been selected by the Civilian Council to attend all high-ranking meetings and observe, maybe ask a few questions every now and then. Don’t worry, I won’t get in your way. I’m just here to understand… how things work.”

President Locke, visibly upset by Alexei’s lack of etiquette: “Don’t interrupt me again, Hofmann! Allowing you here…”

Still smiling, with a calm but firm voice, Alexei again interrupts the President: “You forget, Mr. Locke. I’m not here because you allow it; and I’m not here as a courtesy extended by your leadership. I don’t have “President” before my name and I don’t need it as I represent the Civilian Council; we hold the same amount of power now; we have the same weight in any decision.” His smile fades and his look is more serious: “Don’t confuse me with one of your errand boys. I don’t even understand why your position is still called “President”; you and your predecessors were never elected, your government is nothing more than a war council and all leadership thriving under you is nothing more than a corrupt gathering of mindless warmongers; any values the World Alliance had were lost… if there were any to begin with; any respect and support you ever had from civilians has degraded into hatred. My point, “Mr. President”, is that if I want to interrupt you, I…”

President Locke quickly opens his mouth to respond, but before he gets the chance, secretary Nazari firmly interrupts them both: “Gentlemen! Don’t we have somewhat more pressing matters to discuss?”

President Locke: “…”

Alexei: “…”

His many years of dealing with politics leave Admiral Sterrow unimpressed by the younger men’s bickering. He tries to break the silence: “The invasion is advancing according to schedule; the initial unit production is almost complete and most of the machinery is already operational. Except for the fact that we had a minor intrusion yesterday, nothing… noteworthy happened since my last debriefing.”

Alexei: “I wasn’t present during the last debriefing. In fact, I wasn’t present during any debriefing. And considering that now you don’t answer only to Mr. Locke, I’m going to ask you to explain a few things for me.”

The ten councilmembers, sitting quietly and observing so far, now seem more agitated; they clearly don’t agree with a civilian presence in their War Council, asking questions. But Alexei doesn’t seem to even notice them.

Admiral Sterrow: “With all due respect, sir, we simply don’t have the time to sit around conference tables. The invasion has entered its most critical phase and with yesterday’s events, I need to start coordinating…”

Alexei: “That’s exactly the point of this meeting. We’re not so sure the current plan for this invasion is in Earth’s best interest anymore, Mr. Sterrow! We, you and I, need to decide what our course of action will be in the following weeks.”

Somewhat annoyed, Admiral Sterrow doesn’t hide his emotion while defending the orders given years ago: “Earth’s best interest, sir? We’re doing this for Earth. This is the culmination of a two-hundred-year mission. We’re here on a two-year deployment, away from our families, risking our lives, some of us never returning home, all of this because Earth lost its capability to sustain itself, because we need access to new resources, to a new planet. Please explain, sir, how is what we’re doing here not in Earth’s interest?”

Alexei: “In due time, Mr. Sterrow.”

A military man his whole life, the Admiral turns towards the President, not because he respects him, but because his rank demands approval from his superior: “Mr. President?”

President Locke, bored by the entire reason of this meeting, answers with a tired, faded voice: “No point in arguing with him, Admiral. Trust me, I know. Just… play along.”

Alexei: “Mr. Locke admires you, Mr. Sterrow; he speaks highly of you. I want to assure you that your loyalty is not in question. We all understand your dedication, and we thank you for it. So how about this: I’ll start. I’ll tell you a little history lesson and help you better understand what, and who you’re fighting for.”

Admiral Sterrow: ”Sir, what is this, exactly? I know very well what, and who I’m fighting for!”

Alexei: “I assure you, you don’t. You’ve been a military man your entire life. Your parents, military as well? You’ve lived a privileged life, Mr. Sterrow. I bet you’ve never traveled outside the controlled borders. You’ve never seen Earth for what it’s truly become, you’ve never seen your praised Alliance for what it really is. Allow me to open your eyes, Admiral!”

Alexei turns around and addresses the entire room: “You know your military history, no doubt. But what do you know about the formation of the Civil Council and its research over the years?”

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 1:45 PM, Local Time

Looking for a change in pace, professor Noya decides to have one of her students continue with the story, so she asks Filip to stand up again. Her lecture today is different, carefully planned so that in the end she can make a crucial point; a point that, if remembered at the right time, might just make enough difference to break the cycle. That is, if anybody lives long enough…

With a straight face, she turns to Filip, now standing: “What do you know about religion, Filip?”

Filip, surprised to be chosen again, answers her question: “Well… I know that while in ancient times it started as a guide of sorts for what was generally accepted as “good moral values” for people, it very quickly became just another form of control, holding tremendous power over people’s thoughts and actions. Of course, people didn’t see it that way back then. Blind to its true purpose – the purpose it holds today – they fought for the right to worship superhuman-like, all-powerful deities – generally called gods – with many different names depending on the doctrines they represented. Like so many things back then, religion was also divided in hundreds of types, forms and sizes, with different rituals, goals and leadership.”

Noya, analyzing Filip from top to bottom, decides to intervene and continue the story: “Shortly after the Last World War ended, the riots started and quickly evolved into full-scale revolutions. It was during that time that religious leaders saw a selfish opportunity to profit by expanding their borders and increasing their following – the number of followers a cult had was detrimental to its power. To gain more trust, they started supporting the fighting in any way they could: dispatching representatives to the front lines to aid the wounded and perform rituals on the deceased; clothing, food and water shipments; establishing supply lines to the most affected areas; rebuilding torn settlements. They achieved their initial goal by proving themselves to be an invaluable ally for the common people. But after the fighting stopped, in exchange for their support they started demanding a more decisive role in the new leadership being formed across the globe. Some of them even demanded the unification of all nations that believed in the same gods, ruled of course, by “divine” leaders – this was unconceivable at the time. It was these demands for more control that sparked even more hatred in a population already sick and tired of fighting control – that is, control that was not carefully monitored by the civilian population. Although the religious structures were viewed by most as an integral part of community, especially after their recent proof of the good they could do for the common people, religions themselves – or more accurately, the act of believing in any god or higher power – had been slowly loosing popularity over the years. Cult leaders were promoting their respective deities more than ever; but it was normal, common, ordinary people that had fought and bled and died in the recent wars; it was men and women that had to fight against poverty and famine and violent, corrupt leaders; men and women from all races and religions across all regions of the globe, united by a common goal; it was human resilience that ultimately led to stopping the fighting, not divine intervention. People realized how similar they are, despite their differences, despite what gods they believed in; and for the first time they realized just how similar all their different beliefs are, how no matter what god they worshiped… they all promoted similar higher moral values. And it was just these moral values they decided to preserve. So in an unprecedented moment, people demanded a fundamental change in the holy structures across the globe: a major shift, from worshiping deities to achieving more tangible results. Of course, it took many years and several minor changes, but this event laid the foundation of what we have today: a self-sustaining organization simply known as “the Church”, equal in its function across the entire planet; controlled by common people, sustained by common people, with its only goal to help the common people.”

Noya, turning her eyes to the floor and opening her arms, with a soft voice: “And finally… there was global peace, not a single war on the entire planet.”.

Everyone in the room is silent.

But the moment doesn’t last long and Noya quickly turns around and heads back to her stand. Picking her tablet up and quickly scrolling over some notes, she lifts her head and again addresses the students: “Wars… Sure, those ended. We haven’t had another war in over two-hundred years. But peace…? That didn’t last long, did it?”.

Tuesday, April 13, 2320

We expanded so much in the past two hundred years: small towns grew to become vast megacities filled by seamlessly interconnected buildings; planet-wide transport networks emerged, connecting unending production hubs to the green tops of the living areas; monitoring stations spread in every corner of the land, keeping a close eye on the unpredictable wildlife, tagging and monitoring all movement. And yet we know so little about what happened before our expansion started. Or the exact reason it was triggered. Or why at the same time, the wildlife became increasingly violent, to the point our very existence started to be threatened. We do know that around the same time something happened here, in the mountains, something that isolated this area from the rest of the world, something that won’t allow our scanners to get any usable readings, something that shifted and changed the terrain to the point it became so unstable. We also know that all these events are connected; we just don’t know how. Over the years we tried to get some answers, to explore this mysterious land, but anything we sent inside never came out, we never learned anything useful. Eventually we gave up wasting resources on this pointless endeavor.

But I’m here now, trying to do what no one else could. And surprisingly I’m still alive.

Last year something happened, something that led to me being here: our planetary monitoring stations picked up on what appeared to be a small asteroid burning up high in the atmosphere. Its projected trajectory placed the crash site in the center of this area. That seemed like a strange coincidence, but we get hit by hundreds of small asteroids every year – they usually simply burn up in the upper atmosphere and never make contact with the ground; we didn’t think much of it at the time. Knowing where it came from seems like important information now, but we never built sensors to monitor beyond our atmosphere; it never seemed like a priority with all the important things happening on the ground…

Only days later, the tremors started: small scale quakes, sometimes up to ten daily. Our scientists focused their attention here, but without any way to look inside, all they could do was to wait and observe the effect that rippled outside of the isolated area. Even so, they were busy: just a month after the tremors started, a strange, thick, dark fog started coming out. The whole area was already covered in dense mist, so dense that we couldn’t see anything past the second row of peaks – but this was different, it almost seemed… unnatural. And when our scientists analyzed it, five percent of its composition couldn’t be identified. That’s when the rumors started… That’s also when we focused all our attention to determining what was happening inside; we started building new technologies to allow us any way to penetrate what seemed like an impenetrable, invisible, intangible barrier. One of these technologies started picking up strange, previously unheard, metallic sounds originating from somewhere in the center – and whatever was causing these sounds was not only expanding, it was also accelerating its expansion rate.

The decision was made to go inside and investigate.

We couldn’t send any tech; we tried many times before but anything we sent in just stopped working after a very short time. There is no physical barrier isolating this huge area from the rest of the planet, so we can simply walk inside. And over the years, some of us tried to reach inside and explore. Most never came back, but those that did, mapped only a very small portion of the outskirts, reporting increasingly uncontrollable confusion the further inside they tried to reach.

I was contacted and began my training shortly after; and they started researching a way to get me in and out alive.

By the time our scientists developed the suit I’m wearing – a biomaterial that grows naturally, combined with a small lifeform found in the ocean, shaped in a specific pattern with a hardened exoskeleton made from a rare resin; my suit isn’t really a suit, it’s more like a living, breathing organism that protects me, the only reason I can survive in here – the isolation bubble around the mountains had already started slowly expanding. We came to call this isolation bubble “The Dead Zone”, an area where nothing known to us can survive; and we don’t even know exactly why. A scientist theorized that the observed effects are consistent with an unknown signal somehow interfering and disrupting our brain functions… maybe. But that still doesn’t explain why tech doesn’t work inside…

The lack of data allowed rumor and speculation to flourish: from the destabilization of our planet’s core to a new form of intelligent wildlife to creatures from another planet. But rumors are just rumors until proven true or false. That’s why I’m here, why my mission is so important. I must find out what’s causing the Dead Zone to expand and how to stop it. It’s crucial.

I haven’t moved today. After spotting the anomaly in the valley below me, I decided to take my time and analyze my options. I’ve entered the Dead Zone ten days ago and haven’t seen any movement, any sign of life, no trees and no animals, no structures, nothing, just rocks and snow and wind. And with some distance still to cover before I reach the center of the Dead Zone, I didn’t expect to find anything in this valley. But something is definitely here. The wind is picking up the snow and carrying it across the valley, except one small area nearby – it looks like the wind is… going around it somehow.

I’ve spent enough time on this peak. Time to start moving again.

I jump down the cliff and start moving towards the anomaly. For some reason I find myself clenching the rifle like my life depended on it. My rifle. What a false sense of security it provides… Because our advanced weaponry doesn’t work in here, they had to design for me something that more closely resembles an ancient blunt weapon than a rifle – it’s basically a long barrel and grip made from a strong resin, just like the exoskeleton of my suit; it fires high pressure compressed gas projectiles – it’s somewhat effective over short distances, but the reloading time is terrible. It was interesting shooting physical projectiles out of a long tube in training, but here, if some unknown wild animal were to attack me, I’d be dead if I don’t manage to kill it with the first shot. But a false sense of security is better than nothing, so I grip the rifle tighter and keep moving towards the anomaly.

I was right, the wind is going around this area. I stand back as I try to analyze what’s causing it, but nothing’s visible, except the snow under this zone is smooth, like the wind hasn’t touched it in years. I start moving forward, I need to get inside to dig up the snow so I can investigate what’s causing it. But I hit myself on an invisible wall. The small area is encased in some sort of energy field. Wait… It resembles the energy fields we use to protect the wildlife monitoring stations; but why is it here, how is it still operational? I thought nothing worked inside the Dead Zone. Some sort of old tech, maybe? Some old design that isn’t affected by whatever is disrupting everything in here? Is that even possible? But if anything was placed in here, I would have known… And where’s the field emitter? It should be right in the middle of the field! Strange…

Today, all our tech receives wireless energy transfers from a network of emitters placed across the planet, but before this technology was implemented we used to carry energy through buried cables to power everything. If this is an older design, maybe it still uses cables. I start digging around the field and soon enough I find a cable leading me deeper inside the Zone.

But it’s almost dark. Time to stop for the night.

This simple, daily routine is starting to be annoying! Light, wake up, move, climb, dark, stop, sleep. Repeat. Finding this anomaly is the most excitement I’ve had in days and I’m still no closer to finding out what’s happening here. I hate being here, completely isolated from everyone else. I used to like being alone, but here, in the Dead Zone, I’m completely cut off, I hear nothing, I see nothing, here I’m truly alone. And I don’t like it.

Speaking of my daily routine, time to go to sleep.

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 6:45 AM, UTC

President Locke is annoyed by this entire situation. He views the Civil Council appointee, Alexei Hofmann, as nothing more than a distraction, a courtesy he extended to the civilians. In his mind, choosing not to turn the weapons at his disposal on the population should have been met with applause and gratitude, not interference in the W.A.’s affairs. He did them a favor, and this is how they repay it?! No, in his mind, Alexei holds no power, he’s nothing more than an insignificant pawn in a world lost without the W.A., an organization Locke controlled unhindered.

President Locke, standing up: “Enough of this! Earth is dying, already on borrowed time! The decision to invade Asha has already been made! We’ve built the ships, we developed the invasion infrastructure, we’ve trained the personnel! All I have to do is say one word, one word and Earth is saved! Under MY leadership!”

Alexei knows well what the President thinks about him, about him being here; he made it clear several times. He compares him to a child playing with power he doesn’t truly understand, fighting for a cause he doesn’t really grasp. He means well: saving humanity is everyone’s goal today. But saving it no matter the cost? Saving today at the expense of tomorrow? Have all other options been explored?

Alexei doesn’t care much for the President’s outburst, he’s of no consequence and his only purpose is fulfilled: placing him in the same room with the man controlling the greatest power humankind had developed, the Titan class Santa Maria ship. Alexei already controls, through the Civil Council, a billion strong revolution army across the globe, hidden from the World Alliance. A billion people – tired of waiting for the W.A. to save Earth and disgusted with the open corruption that was infecting all levels of leadership – were ready to start The Last Revolution, as they proudly call it. Infiltrated in all levels of the current leadership and even on the Santa Maria, they were just waiting for Alexei to get Admiral Sterrow on their side. There was a contingency in place, in case the Admiral decided to remain with his current allegiance – start a mutiny and take over his ship; but it was risky and even if successful it would delay the invasion. That was to be avoided, if at all possible.

Alexei decides to ignore the President’s agitated state. He often had outbursts just like this one, so no one in the room paid too much attention to it. However, as tensions started rising, it was clear that time was running short. He decides to skip on the Council research and turns to the Admiral: “Let me ask you: do you know what was decided shortly after the Jatko Genocide, behind closed doors, by your World Alliance?”

Admiral Sterrow, also unimpressed with the President’s outbursts, turns his look to Alexei, curious about the point he’s clearly trying to make. “Two things: survival at all costs and exclusion of the public from the decision making process for highly sensitive matters. In my opinion, a sad day remembered by history as a grave failure of our leadership, a day we almost lost whatever humanity we had left inside us…”

Alexei, happy with the Admiral’s response: “And yet you are loyal to the same leadership that keeps making similar decisions today. Oh, don’t look so sad Admiral, we lost our humanity long before that; this invasion had been set in stone for centuries, assured by our ancestors; how we move forwards with it is, however, our choice. Anyway, that particular day is sad for something else entirely: that was the day the World Council laid the foundation to becoming the corrupt, selfish, militaristic dictatorship it is today!”

President Locke: “Here we go again! You can’t even go one full hour without hurling insults at the World Alliance! An alliance that saved humankind from extinction and…”

Alexei, looking straight in the Admiral’s eyes, looking for a reaction: “Saved?! You merely delayed the inevitable! What do you have to show for your two-hundred-years of absolute power over an entire planet? People are still starving and choking while you, the fundamentally corrupt leadership that you have become, control every single gram of resource we scrape. All leadership here on Earth basks in luxury while…”

President Locke: “We?! You don’t “scrape” anything! It’s the Alliance that builds, mines, transports and processes every single gram of mineral we can find! You just sit back and wait for the resources to reach you! You don’t do…”

Secretary Nazari: “Gentlemen!!! Stop acting like children!!! Earth doesn’t have time for your egos! Or enough space for it, for that matter!”

Secretary Nazari, realizing what she just said to the world’s leaders: “Oh! … Um… Sirs… … I m-m-mean, we should… at least try to act professional and…”. Slowly she retreats backwards in the poorly lit corner just behind her.

Alexei: “…”

President Locke: “…”. He sits down in frustration, mumbling something unintelligible.

Alexei, amused: “I admire your candidness, Miss Nazari! I imagine “Mr. President” doesn’t have many people like you around him.”

Alexei: “Tell me, Mr. Sterrow, on Jatko, did we kill an entire planet for nothing?”

Admiral Sterrow is wondering what this meeting is really about. The line of questioning seems out of place. But for now, he decides to play along. “No, sir, we did not. We found much needed resources, similar to our rare earth elements. After starting the mining operations and extracting them, we were able to start building advanced technology again and managed to delay the Earth’s Expiration Date by another hundred years. It was an incredible achievement, sir!”

Alexei: “Yes, another pivotal moment in our miserable history! Allow me to offer some insight. Your mighty World Alliance found another one hundred years of life for Earth. In itself, indeed a great accomplishment. But here’s a short recap, to put things into perspective: when was the W.A. founded?”

Admiral Sterrow: “2105, sir.”

Alexei: “And when did we accomplish this incredible feat, prolonging an entire planet’s life by one-hundred years?”

Admiral Sterrow: “2108, sir! Where are you getting with this?”

Alexei: “And what was the W.A.’s next major accomplishment?”

Admiral Sterrow: “Sending the second probe to Asha.”

Alexei: “And when did this happen?”

Admiral Sterrow: “Spring, 2120, sir…”

Alexei: “Admiral, I know you are military, loyal to the end, fighting for the… whatever W.A.’s cause is these days. But even you must see that something’s wrong here! It took you only three years to achieve something incredible, but it took you twelve years to send a lousy probe?! And two-hundred years later Earth is still dying, mankind is still doomed!”

Admiral Sterrow: “Sir, adapting the atmospheric destabilization device to Asha’s…”

Alexei: “No, no, no! That’s a public excuse, not a real reason. After your praised alliance discovered the resources, you made the news public to the entire population. And of course the people cheered and praised and thanked you! So much that they started basking in the fame and glory that your achievement brought them, forgetting the wars and revolutions that got them elected only three years before! Enough to trigger a reversal to their basic instincts they had just before the unification: competing, stealing, lying. So much that they couldn’t let go of that insatiable feeling; after the news of the discovery started to fade away, they sought other ways to maintain their power. But with no more wars happening, no more territories to control, no more bragging rights to rub in other people’s face, what could they do? They started controlling the flow of resources arriving from Jatko. And instead of distributing them across the planet or using them to build the technology needed to save us, they were selling them to the highest bidder, regardless of what that meant to the planet, to its people! This, my dear Mr. Sterrow, is but a clear symptom of a much more severe, underlying problem with humanity! But I’m getting ahead of myself…”

Admiral Sterrow, disturbed by Alexei’s accusations: “I am loyal, sir! I am dedicated, sir! I’m a fighter, willing to gladly sacrifice myself and my men if the need arises for what I believe in, sir! But I am not going to just stand here, having my beliefs ridiculed by a civilian! A civilian that I am fighting to protect! Sir!”

Alexei: “It may not seem like it now, but I do appreciate all your sacrifice, more than you think. And there’s a vastly important reason why you and I are meeting today. But for now, all I want to say, Mr. Sterrow, is that perhaps your loyalty and dedication are misguided, your desire to fight and sacrifice directed towards the wrong cause. My words are not directed at you, but at the organization you represent.“

Alexei: “The second probe we sent to Asha, the orbiter data we gathered, the increasing development of the ashans, all these events, what do they tell you, Mr. Sterrow?”

Admiral Sterrow: “That our probe landing on their planet at the same time they started evolving isn’t a coincidence.”

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 2:15 PM, Local Time

Professor Noya: “This is when we realized the truly grim situation we were really in. Decades of ignorance and consuming wars had taken a huge toll on the planet and its precious resources. Shortly after the fighting ended, scientists started looking for ways to solve the food problem. It very quickly became apparent that we had no way out. The most essential resources for building advanced technology were either depleted or running out. Without advanced technology, we had no way of reducing pollution, which was already causing extreme weather events, destabilizing the ecosystem, melting the polar caps and flooding most coastal areas; without reducing pollution, both in the air and in the water, there was no way to grow more crops, at least not at the scale needed.”

She again turns to Filip: “So? Where did that leave us?”

Filip, already standing up, turns towards his colleagues as he starts talking: “No more breathable air, no more drinkable clean water, no more food and no more resources to build the new technologies that would help. Scientists calculated that in little over 100 years, Earth would become unsustainable for human life. The news of Earth’s expiration date caused wide-spread panic, but with recent events still fresh in their minds, instead of looting and rioting people turned to each other, helping in any way they could to solve the problem. It was the year 2105 when humanity finally, truly, realized that it can either work together and have a chance at survival, or stay divided and slowly die. It was on March 1st 2105 when the World Alliance was officially signed into existence, the first time in human history when all the world’s nations were swearing allegiance to a single civilian-controlled entity, dedicating all their remaining resources to a singular purpose: saving humanity. A proud moment, celebrated to this day.” That same year, the newly formed World Alliance started repurposing all military technology that survived the Last World War for a desperate search for new resources. The first World President, General Archer H. Davis, voted in office by the vast majority of people, was given full and unrestricted control over the entire world’s military to use it as he would see fit. And as a true symbol for mankind, President Davis rose above the challenge and in just one year a plan was already created, voted and approved.”

Noya, with her head down, looking at her tablet, mumbles: “Sadly, decisions were never made that fast ever since”, interrupting Filip and drawing attention to herself. Clearly un unintended action, she doesn’t seem to care.

After a short pause, Filip continues: “The plan was… ambitious, to say the least. After the W.A. was formed, it very quickly became apparent that Earth couldn’t be saved; not in the short time it had left and not while it was consumed by its huge population. We, humanity, had to relocate. Previous studies were checked and rechecked and now there was no doubt left: our planet would become completely unsustainable in only one hundred years; a new planet had to be found, soon. Technology wasn’t the problem; four world wars provided an abundance of instruments at our disposal. The energy shield invented in WW3 would protect us from radiation and debris on the journey to the new planet. The quantum communications and atmospheric destabilizers invented in WW4 would help us terraform a new planet while maintaining communication with Earth. The massive ships necessary to transport us to a new world were just years away from being built.”

Noya: “Skip the details, Filip. We don’t have all day.”

Filip: “The real problem was that we didn’t know where to go. Space exploration was effectively shut down shortly after the beginning of the third world war while all funding was directed towards the war effort. We knew our own solar system didn’t hold any promise, extensive research had already been performed on it before. We needed a planet with conditions close to Earth’s: gravity, temperature, atmospheric pressure. The last one was, and still is, one of the more challenging problems; the atmospheric stabilizers have a very narrow operating margin. So no planet in our solar system was suitable for colonization, not at the massive scale we needed. Mars was selected as a contingency; but moving to Mars and remaining there indefinitely – its low gravity and its effects on the human body were something to be avoided, if at all possible.”

Noya: “Okay. Let’s jump ahead to the invention of the first negative mass engine: the Alcubierre Drive; better known as a Warp Drive today.”

Filip: “In the summer of 2107, more than twenty-thousand probes were dispatched to analyze the conditions on twenty-thousand planets spread across the galaxy. In a proud moment for mankind, that marked the first field deployment of the Alcubierre Drive, outside test conditions: a tremendous leap forward for space travel. NASA – the foremost authority on space exploration before WW3 – had already proven it would work before it was permanently closed. We just picked up the research after the W.A. formed, and with a whole planet of scientists working together, it only took 6 months to build the first working prototype. It was imperative we developed it into a working technology; without it, we would have spent decades or even centuries moving between solar systems – something that we could complete in mere moments using the “warp drive”. Fitted with these engines and quantum communication units, the probes that survived the transfer to other planets started transmitting data within seconds of deployment. Nineteen-thousand planets analyzed and only two candidates were viable. They named the planets Asha (Hindi for “Hope”) and Jatko (short for “Jatkotoimet”, meaning “The way forward” in Finnish). Asha was rich in the ore and minerals we needed, but its atmosphere required years of terraforming. There was also a problem with the probe, giving some strange readings just before its communication unit overloaded and we lost contact. Why it malfunctioned is still unknown. Jatko’s low-depth scans revealed only small quantities of usable ore and minerals, but its atmosphere was perfect to sustain human life. It was believed that the resources we needed could be found deeper underground, deeper than we could scan from orbit. It seemed like the more promising candidate between the two planets. On December 29th 2107 we sent a research team to further investigate the planet from the surface. By New Year’s Eve, the harm was already done.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2320

I’ve been moving faster than usual, following the cable, hoping it will lead me to some answers. I haven’t seen anything yet, but as I’m closing to the center of the Dead Zone, I’m bound to find something soon.

The cable seems to continue through a gap in the side of the mountain in front of me. As I peek through the hole, I realize that it’s not too thick and I can continue following the cable on the other side. But it’s too long to go around it, so I’ll have to climb over. Another climb… luckily this is a short one.

The rocks aren’t so cold here, no ice on them. I climb a lot faster, excited to reach the end of my journey. In mere moments, I’m on the top, pulling myself up on one side and standing up to see the far side area in the center of the Dead Zone. I’m the first of my kind to see it.

With pride and joy and excitement I move towards the far ledge, eager to see what lies on the other side.

… ?

What is this? Structures? Here!? Strange looking buildings, arranged in a disorganized spiral around a massive, tall center piece; movement; immense machinery spinning, whirring, digging, transporting huge quantities of rock, processing it; a dark cloud of black fog rising from the center building, spreading over the entire area; deafening, constant thumping noise; strange creatures commanding the machinery, organized together in square patterns, moving, all carrying weapons. What is this? What are they doing here? What’s their purpose? This can’t…

My thoughts are interrupted by loud noises behind me. As I turn around, I see them, these… strange looking creatures running towards me, generating loud, repetitive noises, their weapons pointed at me. What do they want? What are they doing?! Instinctively I grab my rifle, I grip it hard, desperately trying to aim it and defend myself…

***

Admiral Sterrow: “Colonel Harris, report!”

Colonel Harris: “Two shots, sir. The ashan is dead, situation contained.”

Admiral Sterrow: “Did it get any transmission out, Colonel?”

Colonel Harris: “Negative sir. The containment bubble is still in place.”

Admiral Sterrow: “Good job Colonel. Get back to H.Q.! We need to report back to Earth and advance the invasion schedule of Asha.”

Colonel Harris: “Yes, sir!”

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 7:15 AM, UTC

Alexei, analyzing the absent looks of all the present councilmen: “Of course it’s not a coincidence, we triggered an entire race’s rapid evolution! And just like the mistake we did on Jatko, we did it because we “didn’t know better”! That’s who’s giving you your orders, Mr. Sterrow. People who “don’t know” any better. Like small children, they stumble in the dark, they break things, and all they have to say after is “Sorry, we won’t do it again”? These are the people leading Earth and they have no sense of responsibility!”

He turns his attention to Sterrow: “I need you to realize who you work for, soon, before we reach the conclusion of this meeting.”

He turns to the War Council again: “Are you even sure that, considering what they are, they don’t know we’re coming?”

The councilman next to the President, on his right, responds: “We constantly monitor them from orbit and there are no indications that they are aware of our presence, sir. We have very efficient tech against that. After we analyzed the data we received just before the first probe’s communication unit overloaded, we theorized that the ashans were using some sort of wireless communication between themselves, some sort of telepathy. We took precautions when we sent the second probe, but we didn’t consider that the entire planet is connected, so the second probe’s communication unit overloaded as well. It took more research, but we are now fairly certain we can shield our tech from them, and ourselves. And with the help of Captain Herut’s report, we’ve developed tech to effectively shield entire areas, making them invisible. That tech has been deployed and tested with the construction of our unit production facility on Asha.”

Admiral Sterrow: “They still don’t know about it, so yes, I’m sure they don’t know we’re coming.”

President Locke is quietly observing the unfolding of this meeting; he is briefly disturbed by someone entering the room and whispering something unintelligible in his ear.

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 2:30 PM, Local Time

Noya takes over the story: “We effectively wiped out all life on an entire planet in just one day. In our righteous quest to save our species, we managed to eradicate countless others. A simple, unforgivable mistake, contaminated the planet and killed every living thing on it. A day forever engraved in history as The Jatko Genocide. Although the name is inaccurate – there were no intelligent life forms present – it describes the outrage Earth’s population had to the news. But nothing happened, no one seemed to want accountability for this event. In the years after, the World Alliance became increasingly opaque, less informative about their actions. We can only guess about what decisions were made behind closed doors.”

Noya: “Filip, how did we manage to kill everything on an entire planet? And why aren’t we already living there right now?”

Filip: “It was a virus, one that we brought with us from home. It rapidly underwent extreme mutations and within hours it was attacking and infecting every single cell on Jatko. And as soon as something died, it started a rapid decomposing process, releasing an unknown, toxic gas in the atmosphere. This was a planet-wide, extremely fast process. Between the unknown gas and the new, unknown strain of the virus, it was decided that the planet was no longer viable for colonization. We did, however, manage to find some usable ore deposits deep below the surface. President Archer ordered the start of a mining operation on Jatko and the dispatch of a second probe to Asha. Mining operations began the same year and with the output it provided, scientists estimated Earth’s total collapse point would be delayed by another hundred years. With this monumental achievement, Earth seemed no longer imminently doomed and hope was restored to an entire planet”.

Noya: “As I said in the beginning, history is a great tool that gives us perspective, a way to look back and wonder how we could have done things differently. Looking back now, on this key moment, seeing the unfolding of future events in their entirety, I cannot help but wonder how things would have turned out if we made different choices about handling this accomplishment.”

Filip: “This reminds me about the “incompetence” I first mentioned. It took the World Alliance from 2105 to 2108, only three short years, to develop a functioning warp drive, scan thousands of planets and begin mining operations on one of them. But another twelve years would pass before the completion and deployment of the second probe to Asha. How is that possible? What were they focusing on, if not on saving everyone?”

Noya: “It’s called corruption, Filip. A word that’s been used so many times that it lost its meaning. You hear it everywhere, every single day, over and over again; and yet you don’t perceive it for the fundamentally broken mechanism it builds. And in our current state, there’s not much we can do about it; no matter how many riots or revolutions we have, no matter how many times we change our leadership, or in fact who we place there, corruption will still show its ugly teeth, sooner or later. Because this is but a symptom of a much, much worse, underlying problem with humanity!”

Noya smiles with the realization that she’s moving forward too fast. They must not be told what the real problem is, but come to that conclusion themselves. “Filip, tell me about the second probe we sent to Asha.”

Filip: “The probe, the first of its kind, equipped with a first generation terraforming platform, was deployed in the spring of 2120. Initially transported to a high Ashan orbit, it immediately started recording data while gradually, slowly degrading its orbit to achieve better and better scan resolutions. This mission was vastly more complex than the probes we previously sent; we were looking for a lot more data, performing deeper scans from orbit, gathering weather patterns, learning all we could about existing life forms before sending a manned mission, trying to determine what caused the failure in the communication unit for the previous probe and finally determining the perfect landing site to start the terraforming process. After a few months of data gathering, it became clear that the planet was inhabited by some sort of intelligent life. It appeared to be a somewhat primitive civilization living in small settlements, with no apparent signs of advanced technology.”

Noya: “Intelligent alien life finally discovered! Were it not for the dire situation we were in, this would have been perceived as the monumental event it was. Instead, it was met with a bitter-sweet response. We had finally found out we weren’t the only intelligent civilization in the galaxy… but this alien civilization was standing on the only planet that could ensure our survival. The news was more bitter than sweet…”

Filip: “I just wish I knew what they looked like… W.A. didn’t release any more information about them, after the initial news.”

Noya: “My guess is that they avoided building sympathy for the ashans, turning them into an abstract concept so that when the day came to occupy their planet, it will be easier for us to cope with the event.”

Young, blonde woman: “Why haven’t we invaded them yet? We’re dying, we have a planet we can take, so why not just do it? I think we should go there, wipe them out and start building a new home!”

Filip: “Really? You would take the decision to wipe out an entire civilization just like that?”

Young, blonde woman: “Look, it’s us or them. Simple! What’s there to think about?”

Noya: “Quite a lot, actually. Are you sure there aren’t any alternatives? The W.A. certainly hoped there are: over the years, they’ve dispatched tens of thousands more probes to scout countless other worlds. Unfortunately, none were viable. And with the passing time, we stopped looking for alternatives. So Asha and its inhabitants, we came to call ashans, became an obstacle between us and our survival.”

Noya: “What happened to the probe? Did it start terraforming?”

Filip: “After mapping the entire planet, we moved the probe to a low orbit and started preparing it for landing. Even though most of us were supporting an invasion, our leaders failed to come to any decisive conclusion. Instead, a cautious course of action was chosen: we’d land the probe in a naturally isolated part of the planet and start a partial terraforming process. The area chosen for landing was surrounded by high mountains, void of life, effectively isolated for the primitive ashans, but rich in resources we could use. The terraforming process would convert only the area within those mountains to Earth conditions – and keep it that way until a final decision would be made. We landed the probe in early 2121. Although we lost contact with the terraforming unit shortly before it landed, the orbital module dispatched by probe confirmed it landed safely and started the automated process. Again, it seemed like the communication unit had overloaded, and again, we still don’t know why.”

Noya unintentionally mumbles: “YOU don’t know why.”

Realizing that she’s just said that aloud, she quickly adds: “There must be someone, somewhere that knows why. Some high-ranking official helping in the invasion’s planning…? Moving on. What happened next?”

Filip: “The orbital module continued operating. And not long after the terraforming unit landed, it started sending back strange readings, abnormal spikes in its communication unit. We had to move it to a higher orbit to avoid whatever was causing the anomalies. And soon after, we started seeing changes with the ashan population: they started travelling vast distances to live closer together; at first, we thought it was some kind of migratory behavior, but when they started building new structures, developing new technologies; and we understood that… well… we didn’t actually understand anything. At least that’s what the W.A. reported… Maybe they know more about that as well, professor?” says Filip jokingly, suggesting some sort of conspiracy might be at work.

Noya ignores his remark and continues: “Back on Earth preparations were made for an invasion force, but it was unclear if it was going to be necessary, the leadership was reluctant to make any kind of final decision. However, as a safety net, technology was still being advanced for this purpose. We waited and we monitored for years, watching the ashans slowly transform into an advanced society, developing new technologies at an astounding rate, building cities and connecting them with advanced transport networks. The few images the W.A. released suggested that they were all working together, the entire planet in unison. Their only enemy seemed to be the wildlife. But with no wars, no feuds, no territories to fight over, they advanced in the hundred years we watched them more than we have in millennia. And it happened right in front of our eyes.”

But Filip catches her attention and interrupts her speech. The tall, well build young man has lost the smile on his face. Now he seems worried, evasively looking down at a device in his hand. Professor Noya squints her eyes as she tries to get a better look, but he’s in the middle of the room, too far to see what he’s holding; nothing stands out about him – all she can see is his plain gray t-shirt and messy short hair; but now, looking closer, he does seem a few years older than the students surrounding him. Perhaps he’s tired or bored by the long history lecture?

Although eager to make her point, she decides a pause is better suited: “Before we take a short break, I want to leave you with this: by this point in our history, Earth had a little over eighty years before reaching the predicted deadline. The year was 2221 and we weren’t any closer to saving our planet than we were a hundred years before.”

The room is noisy again, all the students standing up, making their way towards the exit. But Filip isn’t moving; he’s just standing there, looking straight in Noya’s eyes.

Thursday, April 15, 2320. 7:30 AM, UTC

Alexei: “Let’s go back to your answer about the related events on Asha. Again, what does that tell you?”

Admiral Sterrow hesitates, hiding his true thoughts from the President and all the councilmembers: “… Nothing of consequence, sir… “

President Locke now seems very interested in how the conversation is evolving, leaning forward on his chair, with his elbows resting on the table; someone slightly opens the door to the room, looks at the President and makes a subtle gesture with his hand, receiving a short nod back.

Alexei doesn’t notice anything; he is too focused on the Admiral. He slightly raises his voice, determined by a rising sense of urgency to show Sterrow just how bad the World Alliance is: “But it is of consequence, Mr. Sterrow! You just don’t want to admit it; your loyalty towards the W.A., won’t allow it. Brainwashed to believe in their cause and follow their orders without question since you were a boy, taught to not seek deeper meaning in crucial events. We caused their rapid development, we caused their sudden evolution. In a way, the ashans are like our children. And we simply decided to destroy them! We could have made contact, talked to them, convinced them to allow us on their planet. But the deciding military minds were too afraid we’d be met with a negative response and that in the process we’d compromise our chances of an invasion by revealing ourselves too soon. There’s nothing we can do about it now, it’s too late. But when the decision to invade was taken, there was still time! This falls entirely on your corrupt World Alliance, Admiral! Our greatest minds helped us put everything into perspective; now we clearly understand what needs to change in order for us to break the cycle of destruction! Now I need you to see it too!”

The President is now standing up, calm, carefully tucking his shirt in, almost like he’s preparing to leave somewhere. The councilman on his left keeps looking at him, worried.

Alexei, sensing that something is wrong, quickens his words: “I know you’ve read the report Captain Ayala Herut made on the ashans and I know it raised some doubts, Mr. Sterrow, about the people you swore to serve! I need you to think for yourself, Admiral, if at all possible uninfluenced by anyone else in this room!”

President Locke quickly changes his expression; no longer calm, he is now puzzled, worried.

Another councilman, sitting close to the Admiral’s hologram, so far entirely absent of any reaction during the entire meeting, raises his head, suddenly interested in what is happening, looking directly at Alexei.

Alexei keeps taking to the Admiral, his entire attention dedicated to him: “Let me help you do just that, let me help you open your eyes! I know you’ve read the Ashan Report, but have you seen the uncensored version? The original, just as Captain Herut recorded it?”

President Locke did not expect this; how did he manage to get his hands on the very sensitive recording?! He’s shocked, his eyes wide open, worried, agitated. He reaches forward, trying to grab Alexei, but he’s too far. He quickly turns to the councilman on his left: “DO IT! NOW!”. The councilman quickly reaches inside his pocket.

With the sad realization that time has run out, Alexei presses a concealed device on his wrist, calm, contempt, looking straight in Sterrow’s eyes, trying to communicate a final sense of urgency. At the same moment the councilman close to the Admiral, immediately takes a device out of his pocket and sends on a prewritten message: “Get her out! NOW!”. With the message underway, he raises his eyes, looks at Alexei and makes a subtle nod in confirmation.

Admiral Sterrow: “Unedited version…? The original report was altered?! I’m leading the invasion of an alien planet and you’re withholding information?! Mr. President?!”

But it’s too late. The meeting room is again empty, all holograms gone, the ship’s computer informing him of the obvious: “Connection lost. Trying to reestablish.”. But nothing happens.

The Admiral just stands there, in the empty room, thinking, trying to find some meaning to the rapid escalation of the events he just witnessed, unaware of what is happening back on Earth. But after only a few moments, the computer breaks his concentration: “Transferring… File transfer complete.”

He starts walking to the console next to the door to see what transfer the computer was mentioning. But just before reaching it, the hologram reactivates and the council room reappears. Sterrow turns around: this time it’s only the President, alone, right next to where the Admiral was previously standing, focused, his head slightly tilted down, his eyes locked on Sterrow, his hands by his side, slowly moving from the heavy breathing: “Admiral. You are authorized to begin the invasion effective immediately! Your orders have been dispatched to your ship’s computer.”. And with a low, deep voice, almost like an aggressive animal snarling, communicates the final order through his gritted teeth: “Get it done, Admiral!”. The hologram shuts down just as the President is turning and walking away.

Sterrow takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a moment, instinctively accepting his order; but he immediately remembers about the file received and with one hand he checks the console. It seems to be a holographic recording called “The Ashan Report”.

Determined to find out what was happening, he starts playing the recording.

Final note from the author

Thank you for reading the first part of the Humanity series. If you enjoyed it, please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer. And if you’d like to tell me what you loved, what you hated, or simply say “Hi” – check out my author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/gabriel.dica

Thanks! Gabriel Dica

p.s.: Keep reading, you’ll find a short fragment from the next book.

The Ashan Report. File #1. Year 2221

“Gazing through the window at the world outside. Wondering, will mother Earth survive? Hoping that mankind will stop abusing her, sometime.” … The music fades away as the increasingly louder alarms come into focus – Captain Ayala Herut is slowly coming back to reality after she briefly fainted, again, from the huge forces her ship is experiencing. The cockpit is shaking violently, the frame is twisting and growling like a wounded animal desperately clinging to life; the ship is racing towards the ground in an uncontrollable spin, despite the Captain’s best efforts. Her whole body is constantly being pushed to right, forcing her painfully into the side of her chair. Her vision is coming back, but all she can see is a continuous trail of red lights from the panels in front of her. With all her strength she struggles to reach the controls, but it’s almost like the ship is fighting back; the lateral forces are too high, beyond the ship’s breaking point, she can’t move a single muscle; she’s pinned in her chair, a passive spectator to the unfolding of her imminent death. The ground is getting closer and closer. In total contrast to the Captain’s state of mind, the ship’s computer is very calmingly announcing the inevitable: “Warning. Altitude loss. Ten kilometers. Warning. Altitude loss. Eight kilometers.”. The ship’s tail breaks apart and the sudden difference in pressure causes the Captain to be brutally thrown forward in her chair, only to immediately come to a sudden stop because of her safety restraints. “Warning. Altitude loss. Six kilometers. Warning. Altitude loss. Four-thousand meters. Altitude loss critical. Impact imminent. Eject! Eject!” But the Captain can’t do anything, not even reach the ejection lever. In the last moment before the impact, she takes a deep breath, accepting her faith…

John: End of simulation!

John opens the door to the training room and with a big smile on his face he turns to Ayala: “I thought you said there’s nothing that could possibly happen, ever, anything, to keep you from landing on Asha!”.

Captain Ayala, trying to catch her breath, breathing heavily, clenching her teeth as she’s starting to feel the pain in the chest caused by the safety restraints, sketches a small smirk from the corner of her mouth: “A micrometeorite? Really?”

John: Yup!

Ayala: During reentry.

John: Yup!

Ayala: Just as I was making the final course correction, the worst possible time to get hit.

John: Yup!

Ayala: Seriously! What are the odds of that?! Is that even possible?

John: Sure it is! I mean, it’s in the realm of possibility. Barely… Kind of…? Hey! You said you can handle “anything”! Anything! So I got creative… All the other simulations were boring; you were passing them too easily. At least this one was fun!

Ayala: Fun, huh? As soon as I can move my right arm, I’m going to hit you! Hard!

They both start laughing as Ayala is getting out of her chair.

Ayala: John, you’re a hell of an engineer and sim programmer, but please make it less painful next time, will you?

They start walking towards the debriefing room.

John: Ha! And what will you learn if I do? I work my ass off to make these training simulations as realistic as possible. Look, we don’t know what to expect on Asha, not really. So yes, foreign objects hitting you on reentry while performing sensitive maneuvers – now you know you have to eject a lot sooner; fake die here so you don’t die for real over there.

John stops walking and faces Ayala, placing his arms around her shoulders: “What have I told you, over and over? Come on, say it with me.”

Ayala: Pain is my friend. Pain will keep me on my toes. Pain will keep me alive.

John isn’t Captain Ayala’s superior. He’s just a civilian. He is also a genius and an invaluable part in designing Ayala’s ship – a prototype design with the sole purpose to take her to Asha and back. And after the months he’s been assisting with her training and supervising all the ship modifications she was requesting, he is also her friend.

John: Oh! I almost forgot! There’s a General waiting for you.

Ayala: What?! You should have started with that! When did he request me?

John: I don’t know… A few hours ago…?

Ayala: I swear! As soon as I can move my right arm…

John: I know, I know! You’ll hit me hard.

Ayala rushes towards the briefing room and she almost stumbles and falls as she enters the room. General Beckett is sitting down in front of a monitor, closely watching the recording of her last training mission. Ayala’s commanding officer, Colonel Sterrow, is standing behind him, explaining her maneuvers.

Ayala: Captain Herut reporting, sirs!

The General keeps watching the recording and with a serious, low tone addresses the Captain: “I see you just crashed and died, Captain. What does that say about you?”.

Ayala: That I’m the best damn pilot you’re going to find for this mission, sir!

Colonel Sterrow briefly smiles, but turns serious again as the general stands up and walks towards Captain Ayala.

General Beckett: Oh? And why is that Captain?

Ayala: Respectfully, sir, they’ve been trying to get me to crash for months. They threw everything possible at my sim missions and failed. They had to implement the impossible to finally get me to crash… Sir!

Colonel Sterrow: And that’s why she’s the best. Although her ego could use some work… Captain Herut, meet General Beckett. And now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s sit down and have a chat.

Colonel Sterrow and General Beckett knew each other for years, since they first enrolled in 2185 and they became friends shortly after. Military etiquette was not a priority between them.

General Beckett: Tell me, Captain Herut, do you like history?

Ayala: No, sir.

General Beckett: Too bad, I’m going to ask you anyway. Do you know what the military was like before? Before we had space travel, before the World Alliance that you now serve was formed?

Ayala: Well, sir, I know it was more… strict.

General Beckett: And what has changed over the years?

Ayala: The different branches merged into a single entity under the full control of the W.A. There are no more terrestrial troops. The Navy doesn’t exist. All we have is a few ships in orbit around Earth and their personnel, sir.

General Beckett: And why do you think that is, Captain?

Ayala: There was no need for them anymore, sir. Almost all forces were disbanded or repurposed to aid civilian efforts. A considerable portion of resources was redirected to build the transit ships, to move Earth’s population to a new planet – most military technology was cannibalized for this.

General Becket: And there we have it. The big dilemma. Asha is our last chance for survival, but it’s inhabited by a species we know nothing about. If they’re as advanced as the initial reports suggested, they might not like us moving on their planet. They might fight for it. And we don’t have the forces to do anything about it. But, in the end, the matter is simple: we must take that planet, no matter the cost. That’s why we’re sending you there: assess their military power and their predisposition to fight us so we can figure out what kind of preparations we need to make, the amount of forces we need to train and the kind of technology we need to develop.

Ayala: … Sir? I thought I was going there to assess their level of development, to learn what kind of civilization they are and if they are as advanced as we are, to start looking for alternatives. From what you’re telling me, it seems like an invasion is already planned…

General Beckett: Alternatives, Captain? We have less than eighty years before Earth can’t sustain us anymore, before humankind dies. We’ve sent thousands and thousands of probes looking for alternatives and not a single one was found. Do you want your grandchildren to live on Mars? With its week gravity and week radiation shielding? It’s not a feasible long term solution. The few resources we found on Jatko will soon run out and then we’re truly out of alternative!

Ayala: What about Jatko, sir? Is it still uninhabitable?

General Beckett: We conducted hundreds of experiments and we just can’t kill the virus. It’s mutated so severely after our last attempt to kill it, it now lives even under the surface, in the soil. We can’t risk sending the entire population there! We’ll keep trying, of course, but it looks like a losing battle. So you see, Captain, one way or another, we’re going to Asha! Or we all die trying.

Ayala: … You being here, sir – does it mean my mission is starting?


Earth: The Future is History

A dark and deeply corrupt Earth, all but destroyed by millennia of human ignorance, is already on borrowed time. Having exhausted all other possibilities, our final chance for survival lies with an alien planet and its inhabitants. We have the technology, we've gathered the resources, the path to survival is clear... but things are never that simple. The first book in the science fiction universe created by the "Humanity" series, "Earth: The Future is History" shows us a glimpse of how the world looks like in the year 2320. "Earth: The Future is History" tells a story about the triumph and failure of mankind, a story of how we ended up in such a dangerous situation and the impossible decisions we had to take along the way. --- Pollution, wars, global warming, corruption, famine, water shortages... and ignorance. Do you wonder what would happen to us if we fail to solve these problems? What mankind might become? How our own humanity will be reshaped and twisted to accommodate new realities? With the “Humanity” series, I invite you, my dear reader, to use my imagination as a tool to shape and see the dark, possible future of our mistakes.

  • ISBN: 9781329773844
  • Author: Gabriel Dica
  • Published: 2015-12-19 17:35:09
  • Words: 14738
Earth: The Future is History Earth: The Future is History