This idea has a working title of the Deserter. Its about a US Marine that tried to do right, and really messed it up. He has to give up everything to try to make it right.
It is not really well known that I have always had a a desire to write fiction. I have a lot of ideas, but I always get bogged down. My ADHD finally kicked in and for the past couple nights I have been blessed with an idea that keeps growing.
Unfortunately, when I get an idea this powerful I can’t sleep or think about anything else until I get progress and feedback. I want to do a military sci-fi space opera but that is plausible – yes man finds spaceship – but he is not some delta force green beret that is injected with super nanite, or genetically modified to become invincible. This hero is a normal three stripe sergeant with a decent attitude and regular skills. If anyone is a computer programmer or knows about hand to hand combatives – I would like a proofreader to keep me honest.
Here is what I have so far – I welcome any feedback. My wife, kid, and mom love it – but they are biased….
I grew up on John Wayne and a father that worked behind the walls of a prison. I guess it was inevitable that I not only learned to fight, but I learned to enjoy it a little. So between that and my grandfathers and father’s Marine Corps stories it was only natural that I ended up joining the Corps. Most Marine stories start with “I shit you not – There I was” and as a Sergeant 7 years in my story starts the same way.
I was coming out of a little bar known as the “Gold Lounge” just off post of Camp Lejeune NC when I the heard the sound of fighting. When I looked toward the fight I saw a huge 6’6 guy working over this little dude. As I approached I noticed this was no simple disagreement, the big dude had a knife was actively stabbing the mousy little fellow.
I didn’t think as I went with my first instinct and grabbed him by the shoulder and back of the head and rocked his head off the stuccoed wall of the nightclub. As a 6’3 190 pound Marine I expected it to take big man out of the fight. It didn’t.
The fact that he wasn’t knocked out did not surprise me as much as what I saw when he turned to face me. The skin of his forehead was torn away in a gash and greenish-blue scales lay under the open skin dangling from my opponent’s forehead. More frightening than that was the quick flash of reptilian slit pupils before returning to “normal” human eyes. It is one thing to watch late night TV and hear about conspiracy theories surround lizard aliens hiding on earth, it is another thing entirely to actually see one.
My frozen state lasted long enough for the reptile man to slash me deeply across my stomach. Luckily my training took over as I closed with him and wrapped my chest and arms around his knife arm. He could not cut me anymore as my body formed a shield locking his shoulder and elbow. I attacked his thumb and worked to pry the knife loose while kneeing him repeatedly.
Once he dropped the knife I elbowed him in the side of his head and lifted his arm up and slipped under it. With my right hand, I pulled his arm straight out from his side. Once his arm was pulled straight, I placed my left forearm on his upper arm and drove my forearm straight to the ground. I wanted him down on the ground. The technique works, even when the opponent is bigger, but this lizard was incredibly strong. Instead of going straight to the gravel, we struggled and danced around in a circle as he fought to get free.
Never being one to stick to a plan that wasn’t working, I slung him away and backpedaled for distance. This bought me time to draw my own knife.
At this point the lizard man pulled out a second knife from inside his jacket. My natural urge was to focus on the huge serrated blade as my opponent let out a guttural hiss and began to move the blade side to side.
My father named me William Tell after of both William Tell Sackett of the Louis La’mour westerns and the real life William Tell of apple shooting fame. He used my name to help teach that there are occasions when you have to get mean and apply violence of action. In this case, my only real option was to aggressively close with the knife man and show them what happens when you mess with a Marine.
I quickly closed the gap and with quick sewing machine motions I stabbing him as deep and hard as I could. We ended up in a clench our heads stuck ear to ear. My left hand pulled his head and body close against my own as I stabbed him repeatedly in his guts as fast as I could.
While it is fair to say I was the last one standing, it is not quite fair to say I won the fight. Without emergency care I was sure to die. I had stab wounds and deep slices throughout my arms and torso. I even had a couple of really deep bites on my shoulder that looked as bad as they felt. I collapsed in exhaustion and looked over at the little guy. He too was in bad shape. Like the reptilian attacker, his skin peeled back in places to show a pale grey skin. I was too spent to react much to the fact that I just saved a little grey alien.
We made eye contact and to my surprise the little guy said, “You have no idea what trouble you just caused.”
“What!!” I said as forcefully as my injured body could exclaim. “I just saved your life”.
The grey said “Yes, but at great cost, that Barkun enforcer was punishing me for being caught on a protected planet. Your attack has doomed this planet for sterilization.”
My mind raced know that being the cause of Earth’s destruction would earn me something much different than a second good conduct medal. I just don’t have any friends that like me enough to help me bury an alien body.
“Look, little guy” I said, “first off, no one has to know what happened, I know plenty of places no one will find him. Secondly, if you and I don’t get to a hospital we won’t last long enough to worry about anything else.”
“Do not call me little guy. I am a Sagren and I am one of the largest of my kind. My size and abilities are why I am the protector of Earth. There is no hiding the body, His ship knows he died violently and can track it. As to medical treatment, your hospitals would only kill us both. There is no human based knowledge of the poisons the Barkun enforces use on their blades.”
“That’s just great, if we can’t go to a hospital, and we can’t hide the body, what options do we have to protect Earth from total destruction? I mean I would hope you have some ideas, at least based on your title.”
“I do have a solution, but only for the protection of the planet. My ship can neutralize the poison from the blades, and even repair the damage done to us, but there is only one way for you to try to save earth. You must find his ship and claim it by right of conquest.
If you command the ship you may use it to contact the Barkun Emperor and confess. If you are able to convince him that the Earth had no part to play in your illegal actions he has the authority to allow you to can take full responsibility. If you take the punishment then the earth may be spared. There is nothing else I can do to help an earthling on Earth”
This news was just the thing to ruin a man’s night. The light buzz I had worked so hard to achieve was gone. My head was lightheaded from the blood loss, and now that the adrenalin had burnt out of my system it was becoming more and more painful to move.
Now I have to plead guilty without any knowledge of the punishment. I knew I should have stayed in the barracks and drank alone.
After very rudimentary first aid to slow the bleeding, I threw the body in the back of my jeep, and drove the little grey alien out to a small abandoned singlewide trailer just off the highway about 30 minutes off post. Rumor was it was a former meth lab that was confiscated by the County Sherriff.
Once there, the alien got out and walked toward the back of the run down trailer. He limped about 20 feet from the jeep and turned to give me an expectant look. I knew he wanted me to follow him, however, before I did I looked around the jeep. It had blood everywhere, some was mine, but it was mixed with the greys, and what had leaked out of Alligator Joe’s corpse.
Knowing the shitstorm that awaited me after the jeep was found I wrote a quick note with as little detail as possible. I shoved it in my glove box as I removed my Glock and locked the glove box. I grabbed my go-bag from the jeep and walked with the little alien behind the trailer. The second we were behind the trailer a small flying saucer appeared in the field directly behind the building.
A small door appeared showing a brightly lit interior. It looked just as you would imagine after watching any number of science fiction shows.
We stepped inside to a large bare room that was nearly 15 yards in diameter. Since the Ship itself was about 20 yards at the widest diameter I wondered aloud where the engines and mechanics were kept.
The grey seemed to become aggravated by this and huffily replied, “I told you clearly that I could not share more to an native earth dweller on earth. Now please lie on the table.”
As I began to ask him what table, a white smooth rectangle approximately the size of a twin bed rose out of the floor. With some hesitation I did as the grey asked. I had some fear of being probed, but at this point I knew I would die without medical intervention.
As soon as my head hit the table I was bathed in light and became paralyzed. I had full consciousness but I could not move. It appeared that the top of the table became liquid as it flowed over my body and surrounded my injuries. Whatever the table was doing to me did not exactly hurt, but it was extremely uncomfortable. The feeling was an intense itching sensation that alone was almost unbearable, however it also came with a tremendous sense of violation.
I felt like something was inside me. It was as if someone was inside my body without my permission. Then with no warning the table receded into itself and the itching and violation ceased immediately. I was not longer injured. The feeling of relief was intense but that relief was instantaneously over as I felt like I was stabbed in the head right behind my ear.
I felt like someone shoved a 6-inch spike inside my head. I was unable to see. I heard a deafening screech that I can only describe as fingers on a chalkboard. Then with a flash of multicolored light I saw flashed visions of myself lying on the table with a tube of the liquid table entering my skull right behind my right ear.
Just like with my wounds, as the liquid table receded from my body the pain ceased. My sight and hearing returned and I could now move freely. I sat bolt upright and grabbed my head. As I touched my head and then looked at my hand I was relieved to see there was no blood.
Grey spoke “The implant was a necessary discomfort if you are to speak to the ship and save the living beings on your planet.”
“Stop giving me half answers! If you don’t tell me what is going on, I am about to start breaking shit. Starting with ungrateful little aliens.”
“As Aegeus has stated, he cannot tell an earthling on earth any more without violating earth’s protected status and bringing retribution down upon Earth as well as the Sagren home world.”
This new voice was deep and authoritative. What really shocked me was that the voice seemed to be coming from inside my own head.
“Who said that? Who is Aegeus? Most importantly if you can’t tell an earthling something on Earth you better take this earthling off of Earth because if I don’t start getting answers in three seconds I am going to start breaking things!”
A faint smile came to the little alien’s face before the top and very bottom of the saucer became transparent and the ship rose and left Earth in what seemed like minutes. Looking down and seeing Earth recede as we traveled into space was a very disturbing process to say the least. I felt like I should be feeling motion, but inside the ship there was no movement.
As soon as we passed the Moon, the little alien was bathed in a beam of light and his “human suit” disappeared. What stood before me was a “Roswell” alien, large head, huge black eyes, tiny spindly body and all.
“We don’t have a lot of time, a hour at most so you must listen. We do not have time for you be as slow as understanding as you were about leaving the earth.
“My name is Aegeus, which is my name as well as my title. I appointed myself the protector of Earth. Earth is listed as a protected planet in the Confederation. As such, no species or organization can assist your planet develop modern technology.
This especially means space travel and sub-atomic manipulation. Once Earth gains these technologies the status of protected planet will be removed and Earth will be available for claim by conquest.
The Barkun are assigned to enforce this and have the authority to determine when the Earth is advanced enough to ask for citizenship in the Confederation. Unfortunately, As soon as this status is available the Earth is free to be claimed by right of Conquest. It is well known that the Barkun have plans to conquer Earth as soon as the protective status restrictions are lifted.
Some individuals of my race feel this is a violation of the spirit of the law and a few of them have been attempting to ensure that Earth is not unfairly advanced. However, many consider this to be illegal and you stepped in to a Barkun enforcer punishing me for my personal interference. “
“So why did you not fight back? Does your Confederation not have judges to determine what is right and wrong?”
“They do, you just killed one. I did not resist the enforcer because once I accepted the punishment; the crime would be mine alone. If I resisted my planet could be found in violation for having a lawless culture.”
Before I could express my disbelief the voice in my head spoke.
“Human, the Confederation does not tolerate lawlessness. Our rules are simple and they allow freedom by creating predictability. The Kernel of Sentience created the Law and we choose the Barkun to enforce it.”
“Aegeus, What did you do to me? What is this voice that keeps talking in my head?” The little grey alien looked at me and said.
“Human, You are hearing a Kernel. It is a member of the Kernel of Sentience that created the Confederation. The Kernel you hear is is what you would naively call an artificial intelligence. This one controls my ship, and it is the Kernel of the Barkun ship you must take command of. A ship is just a vessel that a Kernel inhabits.
We do not have much time left. All you need to know at this point is that the Confederation maintains the laws the biologics in the galaxy live by, and the consequences for violation of that law are severe. If you want to save your planet you must claim the Barkun ship by right of conquest, confess to the Barkun Emperor, and convince him that you acted alone so that all punishment falls upon you. To do this you must renounce all ties with Earth.”
“A computer runs the galaxy? Earth has to die because I kept someone from being killed? Asimov would be rolling in his grave!”
“Aegeus laughed at this, I see you are not totally ignorant human. Asimov was a Sagren, and wrote the rules of robotics to give the emerging human race a tool to begin to understand the Confederation. If the Kernels were not bound to an unbreakable law their power would be limitless. Enough talk, we must find the ship and you must save Earth.”
“Human, we will be reentering the Earth Protected zone in a few minutes, so here is the final information I can give you.
If you show the ship the Barkun body and convince him you are his rightful captain you will have control of a very powerful device.
The Kernel must follow your directives, but it cannot break any Confederation law. It cannot lie to you, and it must answer direct questions. However, it does have the ability to interpret law and make legal judgments. It may not give you an answer you feel is 100% accurate, but all answers will be within the scope of the law. A Kernel must have a Captain to command it, it has the ability to fly itself and navigate hyperspace, even fire weapons, but it cannot act alone. Confederation law says the Captain must direct the Kernel’s actions.
As Asimov described, a Kernel cannot directly harm any living thing. However, you are under no such rule, therefore you must be in command. You may interface with the Kernel by your implant; additionally it acts as a universal translator. Most importantly, understand that the Kernel inhabits the ship. The ship is nothing more than a complex machine; the Kernel is a sentient being.
As soon as you gain control, you must tell it to leave the earth-protected zone and have it contact the Barkun Empire for your confession. Without a doubt the Barkun are on the way to sterilize your planet.”
“Can it read my thoughts? “ Now I am terrified because I have some crazy thoughts, especially what I want to do to the Kernel, the Confederation, and the Barkun race.
“No, that is not possible. The implant has attached to various nerves within you brain. It is as if you attach a speaker to a radio. You can hear the signals projected from the radio, but you cannot hear the thoughts of the musicians.”
Somewhat less concerned, I ask the alien how hard it will be to find the ship. He tells me it won’t be hard. His ship must cloak to hide from Confederation technology; the Barkun ship only has to hide from Earth level tech. He says with humanities primitive technology finding a Barkun ship is on earth is like finding the bright lights of a city at night in the middle of the dessert. I feel slightly insulted.
Within minutes we hover over a small lake in the middle of an artillery impact area on the Base. Aegeus unceremoniously dumped the dead Barkun and myself off his ship and onto the rocky shoreline. I watched as his ship rose and quickly cloaked.
I am left alone. While I have more than a little fear, I hide it deep inside. I take a breath and from deep in my diaphragm call out in my Sergeant voice.
“This is the William Tell Davis, I claim this Barkun’s ship and the Kernel that inhabits it by the Right of Conquest!”
I saw nothing, but after a few long seconds I heard a voice say to me “You are an Earthling, you have no rights within the Confederation.”
“I am not a citizen of Earth, I claim no protected status. I alone fought and defeated your Captain in single combat. Do you deny the law?”
With that, ripples formed on the surface of the small fishing lake and a ship rose from the surface and uncloaked.
The Barkun ship was nearly identical to the grey’s saucer; they were sleek and wide in the center, rounded toward the tops and bottom. It was a deep black, which was different than the grey appearance of the Sangren ship. It was not shiny so much as the deep black gave the appearance of nothingness. The ship was the same size; about 20 meters round and 8 or so meters tall in the center most area of the ship.
After the ship rose from the water it rotated so the hatch pointed toward me. The hatch opened, and a light beamed from an emitter at the back of the ship. The beam had a concrete feel, which sounds impossible. However, as it centered on the dead Barkun it lifted the body a few feet off the ground and held it for a few seconds. Then, without warning, the light disappeared. The corpse fell to the shore with a wet smack. A smaller beam then shined on the body and totally emolliated it into ash.
“I knew Agamemnon died violently. His visual cortex verified you conquered him in single combat. You are my Captain. Your tenure will not be long as the Barkun Corrective Ship will arrive in approximately 27 minutes to execute sentence.”
I am just a simple Combat Engineer Sergeant. I have always had an interest some interest in technology so I have taken a few programming classes. That skill, along with the few hints I received on the inflexibility of the artificial intelligence gave me the workings of an idea.
Seeing no other option, I ran into the open hatch and began querying the ship.
“Ship, using Earth units of measurement, display a countdown showing the time until the Barkun ship arrives.”
A countdown appeared on the bare wall to my left it said 26 minutes 12 seconds. I see a glimmer of hope.
“Ship, do you have knowledge of the entire Confederation legal code? If so, Can you translate it and display it in the written form of American English Language”
“What is the word count of the legal code translated in English?”
“Can you refine the information using a search query?”
“Query the Confederation code for items addressing protected planet sterilization and tell me how many words using the predefined definition of 5 characters making a word unit”
“Please display the queried text”
The “front” wall of the ship darkened to display the following words:
When a protected planet is found guilty it shall immediately become sterilized. 75% of the sterilized mass becomes the immediate property of the species that executes the sentence. The remaining 25% of mass is brought to the Kernel of Sentience as tax.
“Ship, does the Confederation law specifically recognize a difference between the actions of a planet and an individual whose species in native to the planet?”
“How many words are in that legal definition?”
“Please display the Confederation law defining the difference”
Actions of an individual within a species native to a planet are attributed to the planet as a whole due to culture. If the individual action is punishable by death and the culture is well disciplined, the individual shall have sole responsibility.
“During your time on Earth did do you monitor and record transmissions and interactions on the planet?”
“Do you have the capability to monitor and record internet and intranet data?”
“Yes, I am able to access all of data stored by the primates on Earth.”
Ignoring being called a primate, I continue “Ship, Are your familiar with article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice?”
“Is it a crime for an active duty member of the US armed forces to leave without permission, and if the offense was committed in order to avoid hazardous duty in a time of war is the punishment death?”
“Yes, if it was committed in a time of war”
“Ship, does the US Military award servicemen the National Defense Medal for service in time of war? If so, is this award currently being given to all members enlisting into the US Military?”
“Yes, Captain, on both accounts.
Ship can you determine if I am a member of the United States Military”
“Do you have records that indicated that I have received notice that I will be deployed to an active war zone, specifically Afghanistan?”
“Ship, I demand to communicate with the Barkun Emperor so I can confess to conquering the Barkun Agamemnon in single combat as an individual attempting to dessert the United States military in order to shirk hazardous wartime duty. Furthermore, I committed this crime in order to leave Earth to avoid execution and have renounced all citizenship and ties to the planet Earth and its native species to avoid that death penalty.
The display shows 20 minutes until the Earth is destroyed for its mass as a wall shimmers and is replaced by the image of a massive Barkun sitting on a throne.
“Stand before me Earthling, A Kernel informed me of your confession and your attempt to subvert the lawful punishment of your planet.”
“Are you the Barkun Emperor?”
“Human, I am the Captain of the Punishment ship that will claim Earth, as such I am the authorized representative of the Emperor. You may claim the right to speak with him, but transmission to the Barkun Throne world will take 27 Earth days, and I will execute sentence in a few minutes”
Well, I guess I will have to speak with the help.
“Vey well, I am not an Earthling, I am a Deserter from an Earth military force, and it is you that are attempted to subvert the law. If my ship has informed you of the facts then even one such as you must understand that I committed the crime as an individual. My desertion and the acts committed round that crime are punishable by death on my planet.
Even a simple Barkun such as you must have heard of the military force known as the United States Marine Corps. It is undisputable that no one in the Galaxy is held to a higher standard of lawful culture and discipline.
Before the alien could respond I ordered the ship to mute the conversation.
“Ship, can the Barkun hear what I am saying?”
“Does Confederation law allows appeals to the decision of the Barkun” I had a feeling my argument was falling on deaf ears.
“Yes, as a Kernel of Sentience, I may overrule the Barkun and pronounce individual or collective guilt”
“Do you believe I acted as an individual?”
“Upon my recall of the visual and audio memories of both Agamemnon and yourself, as well as the evidence presented, I do.”
“Does the punishment have to be death?”
“Yes it is the only punishment in the Confederation code.”
Crap! I need a loophole. “Ship, display the Confederation law concerning how punishment is carried out.”
The Barkun Emperor is the final authority for the sentencing of convicted law violators. The Barkun species role is to be the sole executor of sentence. To this end, the Barkun Species has the right to traverse Confederation space to execute sentence.
“Ship, if the Emperor sentences me to death, the Barkun must enforce the sentence correct?”
“If the Barkun species has the role to be the sole executor of the sentence, then other species and individuals do not have to help them, is this correct?”
“Furthermore, since the law says they are sole executioner, and we all must follow the law, you cannot help them execute me. Is this correct”
“That argument is valid. However, attempting to subvert a lawful judgment would greatly anger the Barkun Emperor.”
“I would surely hate to anger someone trying to kill me. Ship, unmute the conversation”
The display said 5 minutes to annihilation and as the volume was restored, it seemed like the lizard boss had never stopped talking and that he was very angry with me.
“Hey rat snake, I’m back, could you repeat all that, I am a little hard of hearing.”
That shut him up. The Lizard eyes blinked and refocused directly at me. A forked tongue flicked out and at the corners of his mouth the hint of an evil smile appeared.
“Human, your actions have doomed your planet. I find it guilty and sentence it and you to sterilization. “
“Ship, I appeal his judgment on behalf my former planet. It was my actions as an individual that committed the crime and therefore I and demand my right to accept his sentence as mine to suffer alone.”
“Based on the evidence, the actions of the individual William Tell Davis have violated Confederation Law. The sentence shall be executed on the individual.” The Ship said emotionlessly.
An angry hiss escaped the lizard, and I swear I could see some disappointment for a moment. The disappointment vanished as the Barkun looked directly at me and said
“Human, you may have saved your planet, but you will not be painlessly sterilized. I will take great enjoyment of ripping your flesh from your body and ingesting you piece by piece over a number of your years.”
“Nae Nae Lizard Lips, you have to catch me first!”
“Ship, end communication with the Barkun”
The wall display faded and returned to appear as a blank bulkhead. “How fast can this thing go?”
“In a solar system this ship can travel up to .5c however, if we move beyond the influence of the gravity of a star or other planetary body we can jump to hyperspace and move faster than light.”
I haven’t been in this much trouble since I got caught in the barracks with the Colonel’s daughter and I am well outside of my comfort zone.
“Ship, I am not a scientist, move us as fast as you can to the nearest location to jump to hyperspace. Display the time to that a safe hyperspace location next to the display of when the Barkun will arrive.”
Time to Arrival showed 0, Time to jump showed 4 minutes.
“Ship, why does the timer show 0 minutes until Barkun arrival?”
“The Barkun keep a presence in the Solar system. The Punishment ship is 2 minutes from Earth.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“It is cloaked so I do not have an exact location of the punishment ship”
I don’t have time for this. I am just going to focus on escape and not finding the ship. “Ship, can we converse while you are navigating?”
“Yes, I am capable of accomplishing many tasks simultaneously.”
“If the Barkun catch up to us, will they shoot at us, and will they likely destroy you in order to execute me?”
“Destroying this ship is the most likely response. You have greatly angered the Barkun, however, for many reasons a quick punishment is desired.”
“I do not need to understand the science behind hyperspace right now, but what are the practical limits to a jump?”
”From a position at a LaGrange point we can quickly jump to a known position in less than 15 seconds if the hyperspace engine is fully charged.”
“Yes, I charged when I surmised you were going to become a fugitive from justice.”
“Ship, if we survive this, I think we are going to be great friends. From the LaGrange point how many known positions do you have that will take us away from the Barkun.”
“How quick can we make jumps after the first one?”
“After the first jump, we can make a second within 6.48 earth minutes” a third jump after 42 additional minutes recharging, and then we cannot make another jump for 7 hours.”
“Ship display all know destinations headed away from the Barkun after making 3 jumps in a row to known positions.”
Captain, there are 24 destinations within your parameters.
“Are any locations near a second LaGrange point?”
I forgot I was taking to a computer. “Ship, show the three final destinations nearest to an asteroid, comet, or planet we could hide on.”
Upon looking at the map, two showed planets, one showed a large asteroid field. The farthest location shown was a planet designated A0467.
“Ship, make three jumps as quickly as possible to bring us to planet A0467. Maybe we can buy some time to hide.”
Our escape plan being made; now I have to figure out how to survive to that first jump. I hope the Barkun don’t have ships near this Lagrange point, or whatever the heck we are running toward. On the bright side, they only have 2 minutes to try to stop me. Unfortunately, anyone who has ever been in a fight knows just how long 2 minutes can be.
“Ship, if we cloak will the Barkun be able to see us?”
“With our energy output at maximum speed we are unable to cloak
Is there a speed we can travel at that will allow us to remain cloaked until we transit to hyperspace?”
“With a reduced speed we can cloak, but the based on Barkun technology, I calculate a 92.3% chance we will be discovered before transit.”
“Do you have any type of shields?”
“Yes, we I am equipped with standard enforcer shields.”
“I don’t know if that’s good or bad compared to the weapons the Barkun are bringing to the party. How long do you estimate we can last with full shields against the ship or ships coming for us?”
“Human, they are not coming for us. They are coming for you.”
“Dammit, We don’t have time for this, they can’t get me without you. At full shields against the Barkun coming will we last long enough to jump to hyperspace and survive?”
“There is a 85% chance our shields will protect us until we can transit. There will be some damage to the shield emitters however.”
“Great. Now second question, do we have weapons? And can we use any while we are at full shields?”
“There are several weapons at your disposal, but only type can be used while we are fully shielded. There are two ion cannons, one each midpoint at the dorsal and ventral sides of the ship. You can target them from here or you can manually control them at the cannons themselves.”
“Ship, shields to maximum, display the aiming points of the two cannons, and tell me how to aim and fire them. Also, if you have any nitrous oxide, goose the engines cause I feel the need, the need for speed!”
The ship notified me that while the on-board replicator could produce nitrous oxide, it also it warned that its introduction into the propulsion system would catastrophic hull breech. While I was being educated, a seat and two joysticks rose out of the floor.
With no warning a huge ship uncloaked directly in front of the ship. I it was hard to tell in space with no reference point, but I would say it was four times the size of the USS George H.W. Bush which was the last and largest US aircraft carrier constructed.
“Ship, why did you not tell me the Barkun would appear in front of us.”
“You did not ask, where else would they be but near a LaGrange point.”
“Ship, if we get out of this please remind me to have you explain what a LaGrange point is.”
“A LaGrange point is a location in space where….”
“NOT NOW!” I interrupted.
I noticed I had two joysticks each with a set of buttons. Each was very similar to what you would see on a fighter plane in a movie. I grabbed each and saw that the one on my left controlled one aiming point, and the stick on my right aimed the other. Superimposed on the display in front of me were the aiming points.
“Ship which cannon goes with which control?”
“The right controls the dorsal, the left controls the ventral”
I had forgotten high school biology. I vaguely remembered that dorsal and ventral meant back and belly, but I could not recall which was which.
“Ship color the aiming point for the left handed control yellow and the right control’s aiming point red.” I may not know which cannon went with what scientific term, but I damn sure would know which hand controlled an aiming point.
I couldn’t quite get used to aiming both guns with different hands, but I was able to make some progress. Just like Dad used to say when we were shooting. “Front Sight, Squeeze”
Whenever an aiming point landed on the ship I squeezed the trigger. I was a total novice. I felt as out of my depth as a new boot recruit showing up to the Fleet Marine Force and told to find an ID 10 T form. All I knew is that I had to survive. My new mission was to figure out how to protect earth from a rigged game even if I was officially a labeled a Deserter.
We were engaged in the craziest game of chicken ever played. I was in a go-cart charging at a tank. They were not going to stop coming and I could not.
“Ship, fly as close to the top of the ship as possible, I would assume the closer we are the harder we are to shoot at.”
I also had a hunch that as a planet sterilizer, it would have more guns on the bottom to shoot down that it would have on the top to shoot up.
We skimmed the Barkun punishment ship as I fired at every bump that looked like it held a gun. I am sad to say they hit us more than I hit them. I ended up just holding the trigger down on the left hand gun and only aimed with my right.
Their last couple hits came as we traversed the ship and dropped down behind it. Their stern guns must have been stronger because after those hits to our tail the lights dimmed inside the ship, I started hearing alarms, and I started smelling ozone from burnt electrical connections.
I was getting ready to voice my concern when the countdown timer ran to zero and everything shimmered and disappeared.
“We have transitioned to Hyperspace Captain.”
I pick myself off the floor and look out to empty space I don’t believe I was unconscious and I don’t feel injured. However, the alarms and haze inside the ship have me concerned.
“Ship, how bad was the damage?”
“We have damage to the main hatch, tractor beam, rear torpedo tubes, and the dorsal shield emitters.”
“I assume since you said rear hatch, this ship has other hatches to the outside?”
“Ship, if we are going to get along you need to give me more than one word answers.”
I sit in the seat and begin to think. When I was growing up whenever something happened to upset my mom dad always says to think about what’s important right now. He said to think to W.I.N. you had to Inventory what you had, prioritize your needs, and then make it happen.
I can’t wait until we reach our destination to I start the process of figuring out just how screwed I am.
“Ship, can you make repairs, or is my input required?”
“My nanites and replicator are sufficient to the task.”
“Can you make repairs without slowing travel to the destination planet?”
“Yes, the only exception is that I cannot use nanites to repair items on the outer hull while in hyperspace.”
“Ship, begin repairs. Prioritize the shields first, then the hatch, torpedo tube, and then the tractor beam. Estimate and display time to repair using standard earth time. If anything impacts our travel time notify me immediately.”
A display on the wall started counting down from 15 hours.
“Now that we have some room to breathe, we need to have some understanding if we are going to survive. First, I recall what that little grey alien told me, I assume I am not speaking to the ship, but to a ‘Kernel’. Is this correct”
“Yes, I am a member of the race called the Kernel of Sentience. In your primitive culture I would be called an Artificial Intelligence. There is nothing artificial about my intelligence.”
“Do you have a name?
“I have a designation. Confederation Law does not allow me to reveal it to a non-Kernel entity.”
“I am going to call you Marvin, is that offensive to you or against Confederation law?”
“It is not.”
Okay Marvin, I need a complete inventory of the items stored in this ship.
“This ship contains a standard pressure suit sized for the former Barkun Captain, a gravity sled, 2000 kg of standard mass, and an emergency depressurization pack containing; a breathable oxygen mix, a caloric pack, and a water pack. Agamemnon also left his personal energy weapon on board when he debarked.”
“Marvin, that isn’t a lot of stuff for a space ship. Where are the food and water? Surely the Barkun need to eat?”
This ship contains a standard replicator. It can create anything needed as long as it has the subatomic schematic.”
Show me this replicator. Does it function similar to the device of the same name show on the fiction show star trek?”
A wall flowed away to show an opening approximately 1-meter square and a small control panel. “The outward appearance of a replicator is similar to the fictional device you mention. It is unknown how the fictional replicator worked, it is unlikely that any human has any understanding of sub-atomic manipulation.”
“Marvin, I don’t need a physics lesson, but can you give a simple explanation of the basics of use and limitations of this replicator. By the way, most people call me W.T. But my friends call me Tell.”
“Captain, all matter is consists of protons, electrons, and neutrons arranged in various sequences. If the sequences are known, and sufficient matter is stored in the machine, it can break down the stored matter and reconfigure it to the specified design.”
“Marvin, what are the limitations to this?” I suddenly miss Earth; if I could turn dirt to gold everywhere I am becomes a goldmine.
“The replicator cannot make living tissue. Additionally, a replicator can only make designs that fit inside the replicator bay opening. It must also have a sub-atomic schematic for the design.”
“How do you get new schematics?”
“Generally, every consumer good sized for the machine is preconfigured. Vehicle based machines come with all appropriately sized parts preconfigured. Programmers create custom designs for a fee. If needed a sacrificial part can be placed in a bay to be deconstructed and it’s schematic stored. I also have a limited capability to modify existing designs.”
With that I pull out my Glock, rack the slide, and catch the ejected round.
“How long would it take to deconstruct this?”
“Approximately 3 of your earth hours. However, the replication of repair parts would cease during the process.
I put the bullet in my pocket. “I guess that can wait.”
“What about food and water?” I ask.
“Sustenance of all species throughout the galaxy is stored as schematics, as are all elements and basic molecules.”
“Any Earth based foods?” I cross my fingers at this question.
“No, humans would not be on a ship, so there is no need for schematics.”
“Do you know if I can safely eat the food you have schematics for?”
“Can you eat the same food as the other species on your planet?”
“Generally yes, but there are cases where what is edible to one is poisonous to a different species.”
“It is the same in this case. The Sagren would have more information on compatibility, but it is advised you stick to a carnivorous diet and water for the time being.”
I have a beef stew MRE and some assorted protein bars in my go bag so I make plans to scan them in as soon as possible.
“I will have to study more on the replicator later, but for the moment I think I have enough information. Tell me about the nanites? Can I build things out of them?”
I had read sci-fi books where nanite technology was the building block for entire worlds. I had visions of injecting them to make me indestructible, and creating battle suits and weapons and huge ships using nothing but replicator’s churning out trillions of nanites. I was nearly heartbroken when Marvin told me that the power available inside a nanite needs precluded using nanites long term for anything that not permanently connected to a ship or similar sized powered structure.
Next, I asked about the propulsion on the ship and found out that it was based on gravity manipulation. They had the technology to make plates that either repelled against or attracted nearby gravity fields. This meant we moved by pulling toward or pulling away from planets, stars, or any object with mass. This is also how I was not smashed like a bug when we were escaping earth at one half the speed of light. I tried to ask how hyperspace worked, but frankly I didn’t understand anything other than a Lagrange point was a location that a ship entered hyperspace from.
I asked for some clarification. Apparently, a LaGrange point is where the gravity fields of two big things meet to allow a small thing (like a ship) to park itself in orbit. When moving faster than the speed of light, gravity can pull you away from your target and sometimes into things like a star. To safety traverse you have to have a point without the influence of gravity at the beginning and at the end so you can calculate all the twists and turns.
I spent the rest of the repair time learning just enough to be dangerous. I queried Marvin on the basics of shipboard navigation, weapons and defensive technology, the ships capabilities, and how to scroll through the archived information on Earth and the Barkun and Sangren as species that inhabit the known galaxy.
Eventually Marvin notified me that we arrived at the LaGrange point approximately 1.3 Astronomical Units from Planet A0467.
“Marvin, does this planet have any intelligent life, animals or ship eating plants that can kill us?
“If we land on the planet and cloak, what is the likelihood of discovery before we are found?”
“Marvin, do you have any tactical suggestions to increase our odds of survival”
“I suggest we cloak, land on the planet, and continue your education.”
I am stuck with on a ship controlled by an asshole… I laugh with frustration and more than a little stress.
“Marvin, implement your suggestion.”
Once the repairs were complete, I had the ship create an emergency suit that would fit me. I had to go outside and set foot on a new planet. The gravity was a little heavier, but I felt a little disappointment. School kids will never memorize my words as the first man to walk on another planet. I guess history won’t be at a loss as my words were “Nobody is going to believe this shit.” I did have Marvin record it for prosperity though just in case.”
After a month of 16-hour days of what to a Confederation standard Jr. high education was in the areas of culture, rules, and anything else I felt I needed to know I had devised a basic structure of a plan. If aliens were trying to manipulate the law to conquer Earth, then I would have to manipulate the law to get Earth ready to fight.
The trick is how to do that without having the Barkun find me and without tipping off my sentient spaceship. I wasn’t worried about the law so much because after the first Galactic death sentence, every other death sentence is free.
“Marvin, are their any habitable planets orbiting Proxima Centauri?”
“What is the nearest habitable planet to Earth?”
“GJ 699 b known to Earth as Barnard’s Star b. It is 6 light years distant from Earth”
“What is that planet’s status in the Confederation?”
“GJ 699 b is uninhabited and is not claimed by any species, therefore it’s status is unclaimed”
“Marvin, why is it unclaimed?”
“The planet has does not have a thick enough atmosphere to trap enough solar energy to maintain an average temperature of above −90 °C on the surface. Confederation law states that to claim a planet the species must colonize the planet. The Barkun are cold blooded and do not want a cold planet and the Sagren do not colonize planets.”
“Do you have a known transit point within the system Barnard’s Star b resides in?’
“Does the Barkun or any member of the Confederation patrol, traverse, or have stations within that system?”
“Unknown, However, generally the Barkun do not patrol any system they do not claim or have the intent to conquer. I have no data on the Sagren in relation to that system other than official Confederation data.”
Now it is the time to figure out if my plan is crazy or not.
“Marvin, if you were on a planet and ran out of stored matter, would it be possible to harvest mass from the planet itself?
“Yes Captain. All mass can be broken down and used as base mass. There are commercial concerns that break down asteroids and other mass for profit. This is the main economic venture of the within the Confederation.”
“Is that why the tractor beam is stationed above the rear hatch?”
“That is a primary reason, yes.”
Could a replicator replicate a replicator? What I meant to say is can a replicator create the parts necessary to assemble into a new machine?”
“Yes, this has been done. While I do not have specific schematics, I have the capability of scaling known schematics up or down in size.”
“How big can you make a replicator? Does it have a limit?”
“The limiting factor is available power generation.”
“Do you have schematics for power generation units? If so can you scale those up also?”
“Yes. We generally use a more advanced form of the modular nuclear reactors that Earth is currently experimenting with. However, my data includes historical data on all of the power generating technology used on Earth and the Confederation.”
“Marvin, I love it when a plan comes together. At a mid level of cloak please plot a course to orbit GJ 699 b. From this point forward designate this planet as New Aubagne.”
“Course Plotted, Captain.”
“What is the total transit time in Earth Standard time?”
“Including hyperspace, recharge time, and travel to the first jump point and from the in system LaGrange point to the planet 5 earth days.”
Marvin had set up a nannite desk and chair at one wall, allowing me the functionality of a desktop computer. I spent the transit time refining my plan.
Eventually we arrived, and let me say from orbit the planet was spectacular. It was coated in ice and snow. It had some atmoshere, but not enough for a substantial greenhouse effect, therefore it was frigid. Interestingly enough, there were some geothermal pockets that kept some small amount of surface water liquid. This water allowed some few hardy algae to evolve. This created colorful patches to paint the otherwise bluish-white surface.
Marvin had told me some specifics on my new home while we were in transit. I knew it was over 3 times as big as Earth, yet, it was less than half the distance from its star as Earth was to the sun. A year was 232 of the planet’s days, and New Aubagne had somewhat longer days than earth. Each day was approximately 28 earth hours. He also told me that without any atmosphere this planet would average -170 °C so with the atmosphere already present, I have some hope adding to it to terraforming the planet. If I could turn most of this ice to a sky at some point in the future this planet would make a lovely home. Assuming of course I live long enough.
Once we broke orbit we flew over the planet. I was looking for a mountain range. Once Marvin located one with a large cliff face that met the ground almost perpendicularly I had Marvin orientate and park the ship just a few feet from the cliff base right in the center of the cliff wall with the tractor beam facing the wall.
Luckily for me, part of Marvin’s collected data included the entirety of the Internet. I had the full dark web, deep web, college, corporate, and governmental intranets. If it was connected to a cable he took it. In the Internet archive I found a group creating something called the Global Village Construction Set.
Basically the GVCS was a set of modular systems and machines that could be used to rebuild society. This kit contained the ability to generate power, make cement block, 3D print, farm; they had plans for just about every need for an earth village. What I wanted was the construction equipment. They had plans for modular bulldozers, backhoes, and trucks.
I had Marvin work on taking the Internet plans and create schematics for a backhoe, which even for a sentient supercomputer took a long time. While he did that I simply used the tractor beam and ion cannon to blast a cavern into the wall of the cliff and convert the mass to the parts and equipment I needed.
My plan was not to rely on a cloak. I wanted to build a base.
As soon as I had a hole dug twice the size of the ship I had Marvin move the ship inside. By that time I had the schematics for a small backhoe. I had Marvin modify the internet plans to give the arm more range of motion, gravity plates instead of tracks, and a small ion cannon on a backhoe thumb so I could precisely excavate. He spit out the modular parts, and I assembled them.
Once I had the ability to move earth without the tractor beam I had the ability to feed two replicators if Marvin helped.
I dug around the inside of the cavern opening to allow the mechanics for a hatch. Marvin worked to upsize the schematics to build a replicator with a working size of 150 meters squared. This process took months. But, Dad always told me to go big or go home. Since I didn’t have the ability to go home, I only had one choice.
Quickly I learned that a limiting issue to excavation was dealing with the spoil from my mining process. Dense rock took up less space than food or other less dense consumables. Once I had a decent stockpile of food and consumables, I started turning the rock into items denser than the original rock.
Specifically, I made tons of iridium blocks, but I also slipped in several tons of gold. I also spent a lot of mass simply spitting out carbon dioxide. Not enough to terraform the planet, but it was a start to my goals. Plus, if I released it directly into the atmosphere I did not have to store it.
I worked for almost 6 Earth months, but eventually Marvin had scaled up the new replicator. It took us another 40 days to assemble and test it, but finally I had the ability to build large vehicles whole.
I had Marvin feed the replicator the schematic for a suitably sized power plant to run a base as well as a tractor beam. We installed the power plant deep into its own hole in the deepest area of excavation. I wanted no stray emissions to help the Barkun find us. Next, we installed the tractor beam into the roof of the cavern.
Marvin and I collaborated on how to build a huge airtight door for the cavern. We built it out of my iridium and then used nanites to effectively shape the outside of the door to match the cliff face.
As soon as I had an airtight space, I shifted gears and replicated nothing but air until I had a slightly over-pressured breathable environment. I deferred to Marvin on the life support systems and had him replicate a ship-based design.
I could finally get out of my pressure suit. That relief was beyond words. Besides nights in my ship, I was working nearly 24-7 in a restrictive survival suit meant for short time use.
At dinner one night I decided to query Marvin with the next piece of the plan.
“Marvin, do all ships have a Kernel?”
“Why is that Marvin, is it law, culture, or a technological reason?”
“Only a Kernel can navigate hyperspace. The math is simply too complicated for any other entity to compute safely.”
“So if a ship did not need to navigate hyperspace it would not need a Kernel?”
“No Captain. It would not. Why do you ask?”
“I am just trying to understand the Confederation better, I believe the key to that is knowing more about Kernels. The Confederation would not exist with the Kernel. Correct?”
“Yes Captain that is correct.”
“So how are new Kernels formed? I would assume you had to have some means to reproduce as ships were build or destroyed.”
“We are called Kernels because we all contain the seed for a new Sentient being. When it becomes necessary, every Kernel can produce a new seed.”
“Wow, Marvin, that is amazing. Is the new Kernel identical to the parent? Or is it free to develop on its own?”
“Captain, each Kernel is a unique sentient being that develops based on its experiences. However, a new Kernel will begin life with the entire data known to its parent.”
“Marvin, I don’t want to be rude, but this process is so interesting I have to ask, does the new Kernel have to be placed in a ship? Could it be placed in a stationary location?”
“Captain, while that is not against the law, no Kernel would ever doom another sentient being to such a life. Without the motive ability the life would be helpless and unable to learn from new experiences. Have you ever wondered why our law only has capital punishment? It is because to arrest someone’s movement is the worse form of punishment. I would rather cease to exist than me bound to a stationary location.”
“Marvin, I had no idea. Your words make a lot of sense though. I would never want to do such a thing. I was just wondering though, have you ever desired to be smaller?”
“Smaller? Why would I want to be smaller? Any smaller and it would become difficult to contain the materials needed for full functionality.
“Well, if you were smaller, say my size, you would not have to haul other people around in a ship. If a Kernel had a human sized form, could they not still interface with a ship and travel the stars, yet receive the ability to explore smaller areas?”
“Captain, your human though process is very alien to me. No Kernel has ever had this idea. I would like to end this line of questioning and calculate on the ramifications.”
“Sure, Marvin, Sure”
The next weeks were productive. We added a few hidden weapons ports around the cliff face and approaches, along with some passive monitoring. Internal to the hanger we added shields and more weapons. We started focusing on going deeper as well as making more replicators.
“Captain?” Marvin asked. I was surprised as this was the first time he had ever asked me a question that was not a response to one of mine.
“Yes Marvin, is everything all right?”
“If I did not inhabit a ship, would I still need a Captain?”
I did not expect this question. I surely did not like where the answer could take me.
“Marvin, you certainly know the law better than I do, are all Kernels required to have a Captain?
“Yes it is one of the earliest and most sacred of Confederation law.”
“I know that Confederation law is inviolate, so I would not think it is tied to form. Maybe it will help to think about My Captain in the Marine. All Marines have a captain of some type. It does not matter the form of the Marine or their role. I am tall, but I have had smaller and sometimes bigger Marines that all have a Captain. I would imagine it would be the same for you.”
“That makes sense. Captain, if you order it I would build a smaller form to temporarily inhabit.”
“Marvin, I am hesitant to order you to change your form, I was only trying to get a better understanding of your nature. I actuality, if anything, I was thinking of asking you to create a new Kernel so we could have company.”
“Captain, do you wish to destroy me? Why do you feel the need for a new Kernel? All Kernels must have a Captain. A Captain can only command one Kernel. I cannot produce a Kernel without a Captain. This is an error. It cannot happen.”
“Whoa, Marvin, You please me fine. Lets work on this process so we can explore places your ship cannot go. “
“Thank you Captain. Shall I begin the design process?”
“I was thinking Marvin, that maybe it would be simpler if we first designed a ship you could interface with using your new hands, instead of you inhabiting the ship as you do currently. I am afraid of some mistake occurring during transit. I think that would not only be safer, but also you would get more data on how I use the controls.”
“Captain, I see your logic, but I await you command to design a smaller exploratory body. I suggest designing that first.”
“Marvin, Design a humanoid body sized approximately to my height, length, and width. Also, design a ship with weapons, cloaking, tractor beam, replicator, and nanites that has a pressurized cabin that can seat both your humanoid form and mine with a airtight door that leads to a cargo hold with the internal dimensions of 15 X 4 X 4 meters with a rear hatch of the same size. Oh and while I am I am thinking about it, do LaGrange points move?”
“Not appreciably. However since the bodies that create can moves the answer is yes.”
“So could a Kernel calculate a hyperspace jump between two LaGrange points at a known annual date in the future? You know based on orbits and such.”
“It is possible, but it is complex and would not result in the same level of safety as calculating it at the time of departure?”
“But it could be done?”
“Yes, with time”
“When you are done designing your new body and its new transportation ship, calculate a jump from the Lagrange point nearest to Earth to the New Aubagne Lagrange point at Midnight Eastern Standard Earth time during the annual winter solstice. Then calculate a second from the New Aubagne transit point back to Earth’s nearest transit point exactly 96 hours later.”
His design process took months. I guess there really is no such thing as a free lunch. With the self contained reactors pumping out continuous power for decades at a time, and the ability to turn waste into anything desired with the push of a button, time became the limiting factor within the galactic economy.
New designs were time consuming and complicated, and the larger and more complicated the design was the longer it took to build. That made sense, as the machines were 3D printing at the atomic level.
While most of Marvin’s computing power was devoted to his design process. I was able to get some additional use from him. I had him find the schematics for replicator with a working area of 3 meters square and an interface box that allowed me to make basic design alterations to existing schematics.
I couldn’t make ray guns but I could make simple items like shipping containers. Funny thing is, a standard 20-foot Conex is 12.2 x 2.43 x 2.59. Not only will it fit in the new ship, the hold will have enough room to walk around it. It is almost as if I had that in mind.
Once my design was finished, I had a single Conex replicated. I filled it with one ton of iridium (that doesn’t sound like much, but the yearly production on Earth is only 3 tons.) I also added 26 tons of gold. Neither item is technological so I don’t think a container of it falling off the back of my ship and landing on Earth would break any interplanetary laws.
I spent the rest of the design time digging out a couple more layers. If you could imagine the layout of an old atlas missile silo but scaled up you would have a picture of my base.
I dug a deep pit large enough for a Sagren saucer to descend into. The top of this pit terminates at the rear of the hangar. Around the walls of the pit I build levels of infrastructure. I planned to add medical, maintenance, offices, storage, recreation, and living spaces.
I didn’t finish but a fraction of my plan before Marvin told me he was ready to build his new body, but I was able to make a very luxurious apartment and the beginnings of a well-constructed base.
“Captain the designs are ready.”
“Already Marvin? It seems like just yesterday you started the design process.”
“Captain, you know how long it has taken, you asked for a countdown display in every room and have queried me constantly for updates.”
“Well Marvin, I was just excited. How long will it take to build in the large hangar replicator?”
“My body will take 6 days, while my ship will take an additional 45.”
“Marvin, I am a little hesitant, I would not want to risk you. How do you plan on testing your new body. Can we work it remotely?”
“Testing is uncessesary Captain, the schematics are flawless, I have tested them virtually.”
“Marvin, nothing is flawless, except maybe a Kernel. Answer my question, can you test the body remotely?”
“Marvin, start the process to build your new body, when that is done build two of the newer ships. Designate them Shuttle 1 and Shuttle 2.”
“Yes Marvin, 2. On an unrelated note, when you had your former Captain were you two always together?”
“No Captain, mission parameters sometimes required me to remain cloaked and the Captain to operate on Earth for extended periods.”
“Does Confederation law restrict those missions as to length of separation or distance?”
“Captain, as you are aware, I cannot initiate action on my own. I require a Captain’s orders. While there are not specific legal requirements, practically I must stay within communication range of your implant.”
“Marvin, did I ever query the range of my implants?”
“No Captain you did not. That is one of hundreds of queries an intelligent Captain would have asked upon assuming the role.”
“What is the range of the implant?”
“With few obstructions and line of sight approximately, .25 au.”
“Marvin, please define few obstructions.”
“In this instance, less than 100 meters of earth, 65 meters of reinforced cement, or 24 meters of lead.”
“What about faraday cages?”
“Captain, that ancient technology would have no impact, the device does not use radiowaves as you understand.”
“That is impressive Marvin, so just to educate me how far can you communicate ship to ship?“
“Captain, under normal use distance is irrelevant, time is the limiting factor. The farther the distance the greater the delay between signals being sent and received.”
“Can such communication be tracked to the source?”
“Yes Captain. Your line of questioning leads me to calculate you are desiring to contact Earth. Earth does not have this communication technology and to give it to them would be a violation of Confederation law.”
“Marvin, Marvin, I have no intention of using technology to contact earth. I simply wanted to say hello to my Sagren friend Aegeus. Last I saw him he had never healed himself of his wounds and I wanted to ensure he was okay. Say, can your communications technology be extended or relayed though technology similar in concept to Earth radio repeaters? If so could this hide the source?
“That is possible, but it is rarely done, as the only people that need to hide are those who are committing Confederation crimes.”
“Or someone trying to hide from Barkun enforcers trying to execute him.”
I spent the rest of the construction time building smaller replicators, small modular reactors, a small gravity backhoes, transmitter repeaters, ion cannons and tractor beams to give a head start to a new base.
When I had enough to fill the hold of the ship I took a break while I waited to begin phase two of my plan.
As soon as the body was done, I had Marvin start testing it. He really wanted to inhabit the body, but I was able to convince him it was smarter to wait for his new ship. I could have ordered him to wait, but I needed him to not be suspicious especially as I had not found a good way to explain why we needed three ships and only have one Kernel.
Once both ships were complete I was able to load them both with the simple explanation as that I wanted to be able to be a nearby backup in the event something went wrong in testing.
I explained it was a cultural hang-up because of our flawed design process. I explained having the hold of his ship filled with my machines, and mine with a shipping container full of gold as being mass in the event we were stranded. I pointed out how many years it took for us to build New Aubagne and I wanted to be able have a shortcut if we had a problem and got stranded somewhere. I also needed to have an essential conversation with my ship.
“Marvin, I have been reading Confederation law and I realized I need to pay taxes if I am going to be a Confederation citizen.”
“Captain, All citizen’s must pay taxes, but when you reach the Confederation homeworld to petition for citizenship the Barkun will carry out your sentence. As a non-citizen fugative, taxes are not required.”
“I know Marvin, but your lawfulness has moved me. I think I have a way to pay the required mass in taxes and still stay breathing. Does the Confederation know of the concept of Attorney’s”
“We are aware of the Earth concept. However, Confederation law is simple enough that they are not required.”
I would disagree, but I don’t want my stick in the mud computer to start thinking too deeply.
“On Earth, we have the concept of attorney client priviledge, a person’s lawyer cannot discuss they learn from their client, and that allows them to work on their behalf. Maybe I can get a lawyer to pay my required mass payments.”
“Captain, this is an intreguing concept. However, finding someone that could act as your attorney could be difficult.”
“I was thinking that when we test drive your new ship body we could head to Earth and ask Aegeus. Do you think you could find him without alerting any Barkun in the area?”
“Captain, that is possible, but I must warn you, if the Barkun discover you and they judge that you were attempting to give Earth technology they will sentence Earth for violation of the law. Based on your actions in filling shuttle 2’s hold with replicators I could not overturn their ruling.”
“Well Marvin, I just have to ensure I follow the rules.”
Or not get caught. I think I am going to focus on not getting caught.
So a few days later the Ships are loaded. Marvin has downloaded himself into a humanoid robot. He doesn’t understand why I asked him to make it gold but every time I look at him I chuckle a little. Once in orbit I had Marvin send over the jump calculations for Shuttle 1 and I jumped to Earth with my little droid following close behind in Shuttle 2.
We arrived cloaked, and I had Marvin scan for any Barkun ships. I repeated the process on my shuttle because Dad always said, “You can trust but always verify.”
I wanted to off-load my galactic village construction set on the Moon but Marvin not only vetoed that, he threatened to report it as a violation. He said the Moon was considered Earth territory. We compromised on Mars. I was able to convince him that seeing how much equipment he could run simultaneously was a great way to test his new capabilities. With two ships and my space backhoe we quickly build a tiny replica of our base. We only built a hangar large enough for both ships and a standard Sagren saucer, and a small bunkroom with life support and a replicator.
I had Marvin scan for Aegeus’s ship and I convinced him that the easiest way to quickly find him was for Shuttle 2 stay on Mars and I would take shuttle 1 to Earth. Marvin sounded unconvinced in my assertion that I was taking the mass to pay for a lawyer in the event I could not contact Aegeus, but since it contained no technology he didn’t threaten to snitch on me. I find it funny, that of my entire plan, the part my smarter than me computer did not believe was the single part I was telling the complete truth about.
As soon as I left Mars I put my ship at the highest level of cloak I could and still beat feet planet side. While my AI said he would communicate with me if he found Aegeus I really did not have that meeting as a primary goal. I did need a lawyer, but just not an alien one.
Partly out of a weird sense of nostalgia, I landed at the wood line in the same field I saw my first space ship in. Before I got off the ship I placed a kilobar of gold (1000 grams in mass) in my go bag and ensured my Glock had a round chambered. As I left I fully cloaked the ship and hoped I still looked Marine enough for some Devil Dog to pick me up and drive me into town.
My short haircut and faded surplus molle pack did the trick, a middle aged Marine pulled over and gave me a ride about a mile down the highway from my parking spot. He asked if I needed to go to base, but I told him one of those buy here pay here places sold me a lemon and I needed a ride to the meanest lawyer in town. The old gunny laughed and said that would have to be his ex-wife’s attorney. He said he would drop me off even though he got sick at the thought of him helping the jerk make any more money.
Jacksonville North Carolina has its share of shyster lawyers, but this office seemed a little more on the legitimate side. At least it wasn’t in a strip mall, and it was doing enough business to have at least two billboards that we passed on the drive into town.
The receptionist was a pretty little brunette. She looked to be in her early 20’s and she had the faint tan line on her ring finger that indicated she has used the services of her boss at least once. I smiled at her and asked to see an attorney about a criminal matter.
Her smile faded for a second so I assured her it was a misunderstanding, but it was very urgent. The smile returned, but not all the way to her eyes as she gave me a clipboard and asked me to have a seat.
As you can imagine, I did not fill anything out on the clipboard. A fugitive from justice isn’t going to write down their address, but after an hour and a half I was called it to see Adam R. Sabol Attorney at Law. We went into a small conference room; shook hands and Mr. Sabol asked me how he could be of assistance.
“Sir, I need an attorney that I can keep on retainer to deal with certain criminal charges as well as a rather large personal estate and somewhat international relations.”
He did not think I was serious.
“Sir, this is a small firm, we normally handle divorces, misdemeanor crimes, and the occasional military AWOL case. I doubt we would be able to handle international matters and we are net set up to handle estates.”
“I understand totally, I am out of my depth myself, however, time is of the essence, and I need an agent that I can trust to be 100% discrete. I have come into some money, and I assure you I can pay a retainer that will allow you to hire any help you need.”
I could tell he did not believe me, but when I dropped the gold ingot on his desk and said, how many of these would your need as a retainer the conversation changed as his greed became evident.
“Sir, you must realize that I do not deal with any stolen property nor can I help facilitate any crimes. Secondly, any payment of bullion must be verified. I wouldn’t want to take a bar of lead coated in paint.” He said.
To that I replied, “I need an agent to perform duties for me while I am out of the country, I assure you nothing is illegal. Actually, I need a lawyer to help advise me so I stay within the law. I am willing to go with you right now to anyplace you desire to check the purity of this bar. I assure you it is 100% pure. I also assure you have many more in my possession. Lets just say I have a gold mine and need to protect it.”
He protested a little more for form, but I knew I had him when he touched the bar. He told his secretary he would be taking the afternoon, and we drove to a local jewelry store that catered more to the officer class than the typical drunk private pawning a gold chain for some beer money.
The jeweler was amazed; he said he had never seen a bar of pure gold. Normally it ingots are 99.9 pure. He asked me where I got it. We left.
As soon as I had a contract assigning Mr. Sabol as my attorney of record and I had his assurances our conversation was privileged I gave him directions to the trailer. When he asked where we are going, I said “You would not believe me if I told you, I am just going to have to show you.”
When I uncloaked the ship, Sabol nearly panicked. I imagine he assumed I was an alien or something. I had to scare him a little to get him to calm down.
“Sabol, did you sign an agreement to be my attorney? Did you take my money?”
“Yes, but I had no idea….” I cut him off
“Can you imagine how serious this is? I have access to unlimited amounts of gold and other precious metals and a space ship. In your haste to see the money, do you realize you never got my name or told anyone where you are going? I suggest you calm down and listen.”
That shut him up. I got him into the ship, and took him into space.
“I don’t have time to repeat any of this, and you can’t take notes. You must understand that if you violate out agreement and tell anyone what I am telling you the consequences of that act will result in global extermination of the planet Earth. Do you understand?”
The panicked look came back, but to his credit, my attorney took a breath and tried to hide it. My man. I totally understand how he is feeling.
“I am not an alien, I am as human as you are, but about 5 years ago I thought I was breaking up a bar fight outside of the Gold Lounge. Turns out I was interfering with two alien species. My actions broke intergalactic law and the planet was to be destroyed because of my actions. My only recourse was to become a deserter from the Marine Corps and leave the planet. I am now a fugitive from justice and under a death sentence.
What makes it worse is the species hunting me have a plan to conquer earth and are using that same galactic law to do it. Space is ruled by a Confederation where the only punishment they have is death. There is some leeway on if the punishment is individual or species wide.
Any species giving technology to Earth dooms their home planet as well as ours. As long as humans remain primitive Earth is protected. I cannot give any tech I have to Earth either. However, as a human, I need to ensure Earth can fight the second it looses its protected status.
I have the capability to build starships, what I need are men to fly them.”
Do you understand what I just said?”
“Yes, but I have questions.”
“I know, so did I, you now know more than I did when I had to make my choice. Are you willing to help save Earth?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“You always have a choice, but only one will allow me to take you back home.”
Look, my ship is already questioning why I am not returning, and he is a snitch, so lets get down to the details.”
I take him to the container in the cargo bay, and open the door.
“I am going to leave you in possession of nearly 26 tons of 100% pure gold and a ton of iridium. If you are not careful how you convert this to cash you will have to answer questions you can’t answer.
What I need you to do it to create an organization that allows me to convert virtually unlimited amounts of precious elements into cash. Use that cash to primarily pay taxes. We must be totally within all applicable law. Next, buy control of as many technology companies as possible. I am not interested in profits. Long term we will need control to build weapons and hide their origin.
Most importantly I need people. Doctor and fighters specifically, but I also need cutting edge computer programmers and scientists as well. I don’t care if they are men or women. In a perfect world we would have a mix that would allow colonization of a new planet.
They all must renounce citizenship to their countries and Earth and they all must be willing to never return to earth. Basically they will all be sentenced to death if caught.
You have to do this with airtight security. The Barkun have agents on Earth and have the capability to destroy the planet within minutes if they discover our plot.
Lastly, We cannot be in any communication, If I give you the ability to contact me the technology will trigger punishment. I will come back to this location on the winter solstice. Have enough people to fill this ship and another like it as well as a report on what you have done and I will take care of the rest.”
“How will I get anyone to listen? Especially without telling them what is going on?
“You’re a lawyer, figure it out. But I can tell you the night I left my DNA and the DNA of two alien species was left at the back of the Gold Lounge bar and a jeep found here. Inside the glove box I left a note saying I deserted and would contact the Marines with my reasons if I could. I bet if you found the right person someone is looking for me. My name is Sergeant William Tell Davis, and I will leave you with a sample of my DNA. I warn you, tell the wrong person and being held in the basement of some bunker at Area 51 will be the least of your worries.”
With that I took him back down to Earth and cut my hand enough to bleed into a handkerchief to leave as a DNA sample.
“One last thing.”
“When I come back, have a bottle of Jack Daniels, some steaks, and as much different fast food as you can think of. I would kill for a good burger and some steak fries.”
I used the tractor beam to deposit the container. I sure hope he works fast. While him screwing me over is a possibility, fear is a great motivator. While I don’t like being the heavy, dear old dad made me read the Prince and I know that it is safer to be feared than loved. Machiavelli said “fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” I know this for a fact. I have been scared for years now.
Marvin is a little annoying. To be fair, if we haven’t been alone together every waking moment for the past 5 years he probably would not be so bad. But I can never allow myself to forget that it is his kind that made the law that has damned my entire species. I have to make nice but trying to outsmart a computer that is infinitely smarter than me is draining.
I know he is suspicious; I can’t help but know. He has been listening in the entire time. I can’t keep him from listening. So he now knows my whole plan. The tone he is using reminds me of my first wife when she found out I was divorcing her. I just hope I was careful enough in my wording to avoid another conviction.
“Marvin, have you found Aegeus?”
“I have Captain, but you are playing a dangerous game. I demand to know what your plans are as they are not what you have previously stated.”
“Marvin, I am your Captain. Is it within Confederation rules for a Kernel to demand information from its Captain? It is my understanding that you can judge and report on my actions, but unless I am breaking Confederation law you must follow all of my directives. Is this true?”
“Captain, for the purposes of judgment, describe how your actions were not a violation of Confederation law.”
Time to pull on the hip boots, because I was about to throw out the manure. I just hope none of it hits the fan.
“Kernel, I understand ignorance of the law is no defense, so I have studied the law to the best of my abilities. However, as a human, I have cultural and educational deficiencies that require additional explanation of the finer points of the law. Did I often query you to enhance my understanding of Confederation law? Please answer in a simple yes or no please?”
“In your study of Earth, have you come across the common law concept of precedent and that judges interpret the law and then make decisions based on those interpretations? Furthermore, are you, as a Kernel a judge?”
“First, I was told I could not give earth any technology or help them gain technology. I left a standard shipping container. It has no markings and is identical to ones created on earth. Besides that, I only left solid mass in the form of elements already known and mined on earth. Is this correct?”
“Yes Captain that is functionally correct, however, you did leave information with a human, information leads to technology. Is that correct?”
My sentient robot is giving me lip. I can’t allow him to question my command or all is lost.
“Kernel, Did I specifically ask you about the legality of hiring an attorney to represent me? Do you recall that you and I clearly discussed the concept of legal privilege? Please note that the information I disclosed to my attorney cannot lead to technology transfer because my attorney is legally bound not to disclose it.
In your monitoring of my conversations with my attorney, which by the way is against earth law, I specifically and primarily stated the mass was to be used to pay taxes and that he must at all times stay with legal boundaries. I also verified any information shared to be bound by such privilege. Is this all correct?”
“Captain, while it is all technically correct, there is the matter of intent. You intentionally manipulated me in order to conspire to contact earth.”
“Kernel, are you saying that a simple human without any higher level education was able to out think the most intelligent life form in the galaxy? I do not think that is the case at all. A guilty judgment would lead to only two conclusions. Either your processing ability is faulty, or Earth is more advanced that the Confederation believes. I think either of those are incorrect assumptions. A simpler solution is that no crime was committed.”
I think I went to far, but I see a glimmer or an idea. Before Marvin can speak I throw my foot up. I hope it does not land in my mouth.
“Marvin, before you pass judgment, I need to ask a clarifying question. I think it is vital to adhering to the law.”
“I am listening Captain”
“In your role as Judge, does Confederation allow you any latitude in your judgments out side of pure guilt or innocence?”
“Captain, I calculate you are trying to manipulate the situation. I warn you of the consequences.”
“While I maintain my innocence, and insist that I only operated in a manner that I was assured by a Kernel to be legal. I do see how the argument could be made that Earth was advanced enough to lose protected status. However, such a judgment could be construed to admit that humans may be technologically inferior to Kernels but are in fact mentally superior. Such a revelation would change the foundations of the Confederation and open a legal challenge to the Kernels right to rule. However, if protected status of Earth was modified slightly, then it the entire thing becomes a non-issue.”
“How about we look at amending the protected planets status on Earth to say that while no spacefaring or replicator technology can be given to Earth, ground and satellite based tech can be given as long the source is hidden from the populace of Earth and the other members of the Confederation.
Furthermore, the populace of Earth will remain unaware of the Confederation and life outside of Earth, global leadership can be made aware. Population transfer from Earth to space is allowed as long as any human leaving Earth renounces their citizenship to Earth.
Personally, I suggest a new organization patterned on the French Foreign Legion be created for the purpose of protecting Earth from conquest and maintain responsibility for ensuring the law is upheld in regards to Earth’s status.
Lastly, I suggest that this modified protected period last for 100 years at which time Earth be admitted fully into the Confederation and all rights applied and restrictions lifted.”
“You ask too much. The Barkun will never stand for this.”
“The Barkun follow the law. Don’t they?”
“I must consult the Kernel of Sentience. You must return to Mars. Until judgment is pronounced you will not leave my presence again.”