Jorus, the leviathan interplanetary ship, left Europa nearly a year ago and was now reaching Earth-proper. It was the year 3551, and Humans still mainly lived on the once-blue planet. The population of the colonies on Mars, Europa, and Titan all totaled over 1.1 million people—most of them, over three-quarters of a million, on Mars. The second largest grouping, approximately one-third of a million, lived on Europa. Just a couple of thousand settled on Titan. Considering that humans had been a space-faring species for over a thousand five hundred years, that was a lot of eggs to put into one basket after so many years!
That basket, of course, being Earth.
Captain Alund Reinholm and his crew of 1,000 were trekking to the human homeworld. It was hard for Reinholm and his crew to believe that their small, but modern, societies had actually been an offshoot of the pathetic planet. The dried out third planet from the Sun was now more like, as an ancient phrase went, a third world!
The immense oceans that had once swathed the planet were now dried, cracked seabed exposed to the hot atmosphere. There were some large bodies of water on Earth, but those were now the size of some of Earth’s largest seas of the days of old! Quite a far cry from the expansive Pacific and Atlantic Oceans from the history books. Hundreds of years ago, the scientists on Mars (at that time, the only colony outside of Earth) had warned the scientists on Earth and their governments against planet-wide, seawater conversion technology.
Humans constructed thousands of seawater conversion plants throughout Earth’s oceans and seas so the Earthen populace could utilize the undrinkable water. This was because the humans had over-consumed the freshwater they did have on Earth, about a thousand years ago. Back then, freshwater was only about two percent of the Earth’s share of water on the whole planet. Given the billions of humans that inhabited Earth back then, along with their insatiable use of freshwater, it was inevitable that the consumable water ran out. Hence, the seawater conversion plants.
But hundreds of years later just as the Martians predicted, the oceans and seas on Earth were sucked dry by the conversion plants. As if that weren’t bad enough, humans had continued to artificially warm the planet’s biosphere, which, of course, made the evaporation of water occur at a faster rate than normal—which sped up the vanishing of Earth’s fresh- and saline-waters. As a result, Earth’s population gradually plummeted. From its height in the 22nd century of around eleven billion people, by the time the 30th century rolled in Earth’s population leveled off to around five billion. And even then, the population of Earth fluctuated because of wars, natural disasters, and diseases. Some in Captain Reinholm’s generation estimated Earth’s population to be closer to four billion.
All the same to the captain and his crew, billions of impoverished Earthens still was a lot bigger than the barely one million colonists away from Earth! Captain Reinholm and his crew had been transporting tens of thousands back to Europa with them for the past six years, though the dispersion program had been going on for about forty-seven years. Scientists, actuaries, and governmental officials had done the calculations: in order for just one of the planetary (or lunar) colonies to come up with one hundred million Earthen immigrants within fifty years, there would have to be two million Earthens transported every year, for that fifty year stretch…and that was just for one of the colonies! The redistribution program was not planned to run concurrently, given the different stages of terraforming that Mars, Europa, and Titan were each undergoing.
Mars, the most settled of the three solar-colonies since it was the closest to Earth and with the best ecological conditions for humans, was the first to be used under the program. In its pre-colonial era, Mars’ atmosphere had an average temperature around –81 degrees Fahrenheit and an atmospheric pressure that was only a fraction of a fraction to that of Earth’s. But with extra oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide—which also helped to warm up the planet, added to its biosphere, within a century Mars was a lot like living on Earth’s Polar region on their warmest days! During Captain Reinholm’s generation, Mars still had several more millions to go to reach their quota, so the Martians were still shipping their fellow humans to their red planet.
And for the past few years Europa had been added to the program as the Jovian moon’s new atmosphere and climate finally reached a point of sustainability for a few million more humans added to its biosphere. Pre-colonial records had showed Europa to have an average temperature of –230 degrees Fahrenheit while its planetary pressure was laughable—something like one hundred billionth of that of Earth’s! But since Europa at least had traces of molecular-oxygen in it’s atmosphere, humans were able to terraform the once-icy planetoid into a living biosphere. Even during the days of Captain Reinholm’s generation Europa still had a very low atmospheric pressure. It was a characteristic of the moon that was not likely to ever go away, even when the terraforming process would be completed.
Titan, by far the least hospitable with its –289 degree Fahrenheit average temperature in its pre-colonial days and its atmospheric pressure around 60 percent stronger than Earth’s, was yet in the process of terraforming. If the Titanian Collective wanted to ship over a few thousand Earthens, they could. But that would be all they could help facilitate from Earth. Just to be safe, and at the suggestion of their scientists, the Titan Collective decided to wait another ten to twenty years before they took on any Earthens.
But the long-term goal was for each solar-colony to sustain a population of around one hundred million people from Earth meant that Mars, Europa, and Titan all needed to ‘grow up,’ as it were, as planets; even Europa and Titan, being that they were moons of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively.
“She’s looking browner every time we come here, isn’t she,” Captain Reinholm commented to his second-in-command; his eyes staying on the monitor as it displayed an image of Earth and it’s moon. He and his crew worked for the Europa Collective. It was a semi-governmental body of coordinated efforts by the various colonies on Europa. They came together when a need warranted an alliance.
“I can’t help but feel hopeless, sir,” Ester Kolnan shared. She stood next to the captain as the two readied their crew for landing procedures. “How did the Martian Collective do this past round?”
The captain grimaced at her question. “Well, let’s just say they had virtually every square inch in their ship filled with Earthen immigrants.”
“How many,” she curtly asked.
Commander Kolnan’s head snapped in her captain’s direction, out of disbelief. “How were they able to squeeze in seven thousand more?”
“I’ve no idea…probably took out some furniture and made extra space for them.” Reinholm shrugged.
The crew was busily working their machine terminals so the descent to their destination could begin. Finally, they were entering the Earth’s atmosphere with their 1,500 foot long Jorus. There was some turbulence, but the landing phase in their mission was off to a good start. The immense curving horizon still had some wisps of clouds, and as the Jorus past through them, Earth’s drought-stricken landscape flashed right before the crew’s eyes. What was the Atlantic Ocean was now an ocean of ugly, brown dirt that seemingly went on forever! In truth, there were puddles of water on the expanse of the ocean floor. But the little ponds that were there were merely the size of football fields, some even less. But being within such great scale of desert, such ponds did not register with the human eye upon entering Earth.
The Jorus finally lowered to their rendezvous point. It was one of those blasted desalinization plants that helped turn Earth to its prune-like state. Like most of the water conversion plants dotted across the Earth, this facility had been decommissioned for at least a hundred years and now served as a spaceport, where, for over forty-five years, tens of thousands of humans had congregated and embarked on space vehicles that carried them to Mars. And now the solar system-port was servicing one-way departures for Europa. And many years after that, it will be the Titanian Collective’s turn to take on some of the burden of Earth’s children.
The conversion plants came in many different styles and sizes, but they were all generally huge techno-beasts. The smallest model standing at the height of a thousand feet, while the deluxe models reached into the sky at three thousand feet! The height was so that the desalinization plants could tower above the ocean and sea levels, of course depending on where a plant was stationed. Given that the average depth of oceans on Earth before the desalinization era was over 12,000 feet, most of the conversion plants had to be built closer to the continental shelves throughout the planet, where the water level was a lot more shallow. Even for fourth millennium technology, 12,000 feet was simply too steep of a water depth to conquer. However, as the ocean and sea levels gradually shrunk, only then did humans begin to venture out into the middle of the oceans with their desalinization towers.
The water conversion plants looked a lot like the skyscrapers of old, but with landing platforms sprouting out from their trunks, as it were. The bottom one-third of the plants tended to have intricate conduits and house-sized pipes for vacuuming up the ocean- and seawater.
After a while the captain finally saw the spaceport with his naked eyes. It looked like a gigantic, soaring architectural column with nodes protruding all around the structure. After the Jorus docked with Solar Port Reckoning, Captain Reinholm ordered his crew to commence with the bureaucracy of tallying the Earthens at the station and had them compare the list with the passengers that lined up to board the ship. The Colonial Collectives and some Earthen governments had worked out a system that whenever a round of Earth immigrants were scheduled to set sail for the solar colonies, all of the tens of thousands of passengers were issued the same-colored jumpsuits that had identification embossed on them. For this particular batch, the color was deep red. It was a way to maintain control over each grouping of immigrants. For one thing, if it so happened that a batch of Earthen immigrants were congregating at one of the solar ports that was close to a city, the immigrants would be easy to spot with the ridiculously bright jumpsuits. It wasn’t the Collective’s nor the Earth-governments’ intentions, but it was almost like the immigrants were criminals among society. A kind of 36th century version of the scarlet letter imprinted on their entire person. On the other hand, the immigrants had to wear the jumpsuits on Earth for just two days, prior to their trip to their new home. Besides, for many others on Earth who had not been chosen by the Earthen-governments’ lottery, many were actually jealous of the immigrants. On many occasions, a few that were chosen by means of the lottery were killed and their assailants had taken their identity…just so they could get off Earth with the hopes that life in one of the Collective Colonies would be more advantageous.
Another reason why the jumpsuit system worked well was because the Earth governments had manufactured exactly eighty thousand jumpsuits for each immigrant batch. No more, no less. That way Earth-side knew precisely how many were issued for the amount of immigrants scheduled to go to the Collective. The importance of consistency wasn’t just a matter of bean counting. The Earthen governments and the Colonial Collective had to carefully ship the right amount of people over, given how sensitive the nascent biosphere of Europa, Titan, and even Mars were. Of course, the governments had to customize jumpsuits for children or others of unique needs, but in the end the official count was always eighty thousand…officially. This was part of the reason why Captain Reinholm and Commander Kolnan were surprised that one of the Martian ships had transported well over the quota for their trip. It was standard practice that the captains of most ships did not officially complain to the Earth governments upon learning how their colleagues had cheated on their quotas. For most government-employed military people wanted to relieve Earth of some of her children as much as possible, and as soon as possible. Needless to say, scientists from both Earth-side and from the Collective would have different to say.
As the immigrants walked toward the Jorus, family by family with some individuals straggling in the midst, they all passed through devices that both sanitized them and scanned them for any potential pathogens. Any virus or bacteria found at a significant level within any individual was either irradiated in the system or the individual was pulled from the queue and another would take that person’s place for the migration. That was something none of the captains of any ship would turn a blind eye to!
While the Jorus crew handled the logistics of organizing the loading of the immigrants onto the ship, which was under the charge of Commander Ester Kolnan, Captain Reinholm was escorted into the solar port by armed guards. Earthen guards were also used to watch over the immigrants during those crucial two days prior to sailing Colony-side. Again, too many other citizens of Earth were tempted to kidnap many of the immigrants to escape the conditions on Earth.
The captain was led by his escort to the pinnacle of Reckoning where there was a sprawling office over-looking the whole affair of the shipping of the human cargo. The long line of immigrants snaked toward the several gates that lead to the Jorus. Hundreds of years ago, the room was used as the control room for the desalinization process of the Atlantic Ocean. It was now used to control the onslaught of the waves from the sea of humanity headed for the Sol system’s outer settlements. Amidst the workers at their meta-computerized consoles was Majordomo Tenesa Lucindo. She was the ruler—some would say a despotic one—of the nation-continent of Surmerica. In the ancient days, Surmerica was known by its Anglo nomenclature of South America. Since Solar Port Reckoning was situated not far from the Cape Verde Mountains (once considered islands when the Earth had oceans), the solar port was under the jurisdiction of Surmerica. The majordomo was at Reckoning for an inspection of the port and to ensure that the quota for Captain Reinholm’s crew was being maintained…
“Captain,” Majordomo Lucindo greeted Reinholm as he stood a few feet away from the petite, elder woman.
“Majordomo,” was all that he reciprocated with a brisk nod of his head. It was no secret that the two did not particularly care for each other.
Lucindo had finished giving orders to a couple of the workers then gestured to Reinholm that they should walk over to the office that belonged to the director of the spaceport, whom was sent to do other tasks by her highness. The door automatically identified the ruler via biometric technology and opened up as she and the captain entered, then closed afterward.
“Why did you not tell me of several breaches of the quota by your colleagues,” the de facto queen shot to the captain before the sound of the closing door had even evaporated into the air.
Stunned, Reinholm simply stood there in the center of the director’s office. “Please, forgive me, your highness, but often we hear rumors from other ships and even from the immigrants themselves. With care I say this, but my job is to command my ship, not to do the work of bureaucrats!”
“Captain, you and your comrades are bonded by the contract between the Colonies and Surmerica to transport eighty-thousand immigrants. Part of that contract unambiguously states that if one of the commanding officer of any of the contracted vessels comes into knowledge of deliberate disregard of that quota, he or she is required to inform the host-Earthen nation!” The majordomo sliced right through Captain Reinholm’s heart with her burning eyes.
Alund lowered his head and took a breath before responding. “Yes, but the key phrase from that clause stipulates that the breach must be proven, and of the rumors I’ve heard I could not prove one of them. And if I were to inform your government, you would accuse me of substandard work for not being able to back up my claim of a deliberate disregard of the quota rule!”
The captain must have had a good point, because Majordomo Lucindo remained silent and slightly nodded her head. If he didn’t know any better, Reinholm could have sworn he saw a sign of respect on her face.
“Yes…fair point, Captain. Anyway, that’s not the main reason why I wanted to talk with you.” Reinholm narrowed his eyes for curiosity. She continued. “I’ve been hearing rumors myself, Alund. Disturbing ones. It seems that many of the Colonial Collectives citizens’ hospitality toward their Earthen brethren is beginning to wane…Alund, I need you to be honest with me here.”
“I always am, madam,” he said with a smirk and a shrug. Captain Reinholm had many occasions when he told the majordomo what he thought of her.
“Do you know of a conspiracy among some in the Collectives to do—horrid things with some of the immigrants once they’ve arrived there?”
Again, the captain’s eyes strained as he shook his head. “I don’t understand what you mean, Majordomo.”
Lucindo sighed and lightly stepped toward a window that displayed the Jorus—at such height on top of the tower, the ship looked to be a toy. Tiny dots moved around and toward the ship. It was the immigrants, looking more like insects than humans; which was an appropriate image for the majordomo at the time, considering what she had to tell the captain.
“Captain, I can understand the colonies’ situation. There they are, millions of miles away from Earth in their own worlds, and then comes word from Earth that they had to adopt several million more people on their fragile ecosystems!”
“To be fair, Majordomo, the Colonies, ourselves, agreed to this. It was not coercive. Plus, people had been talking about the possibility of planetary migration years before our ancestors began the program. It wasn’t exactly a surprise invasion of Earthens, madam.”
“Oh, I don’t argue that, Alund. Look, all I’m saying is no sovereign nation or colony truly wants to take on immigrants, if they didn’t have to. Some just have a better attitude about it than others.” Reinholm had disagreed with the statement, but kept it to himself. “Captain, if you and your comrades back on the Colonies need help integrating our Earthens, just say so!”
Now the captain walked up to the window to join the continental ruler. “Majordomo, I still don’t understand what it is you’re saying to me! What are these rumors you’ve been hearing about the Colonies?”
“Many of our people end up in slavery at your colonies, Captain. And those are the fortunate cases!”
“What!” Reinholm looked at her, dumbfounded.
“Yes, that’s the word that’s gotten back to me…many of the immigrants are forced into mining at the most dangerous areas of Mars and the moons. Earthens tricked into giving their government stipend to indigenous colonialists. A disproportionate share of our young people are sold into the sex-slave industry…but, like I stated earlier, Captain, there are worse things going on with our people at your colonies!”
Captain Reinholm made no effort to refute her. He honestly had no idea that any of the events the majordomo recounted to him had occurred, if, in fact, those rumors were to be believed. She took a couple of steps closer to him and talked with a whispered voice.
“I’ve also heard that many Earthens are being murdered there and their bodies are somehow ground up and used for fertilizing some of the crops, while some immigrants had their blood sucked out of them during medical check-ups without their consent! It’s believed the colonialists use the immigrants’ blood for transfusion in medical emergencies and, in some cases, for experiments to see if the colonialists can bio-engineer blood that won’t boil out in space. I’ve seen secretly captured images that show the results of those experiments on Earth-immigrants’ bodies…!”
The captain looked at the majordomo with disquieted eyes.
“Oh, my. You really haven’t heard of these events happening on your colonies, have you?”
“Rumors, madam. You said it yourself!”
“So, no one has approached you or your crew about any of this?”
The captain slowly shook his head as he stared out the window, transfixed on the Jorus.
“Alund, my fellow Earthen-government officials and I really appreciate that in most cases the diaspora program is working. But none of that will matter if even one case of these alleged abuses proves to be true! Just because our people are taken under the colonies’ wings does not mean that we are third-class citizens, there to be experimented on like we’re some human livestock while your people get fat off us! Believe you me, Captain Reinholm, if these rumors ever get out to the greater population of Earth, you are looking at a cosmic war!"
Just then, Reinholm broke from his trance and whipped his bearded face around and looked the majordomo straight into her eyes. “Is that a threat, madam? May I remind you that Earth came to my ancestors on Europa for help! I wouldn’t chop off the hand that feeds—“
The captain stood motionless, realizing what he was about to say.
“What’s the matter, Captain,” Majordomo Lucindo asked sardonically, “finish your sentence.” Both knew that such an aphorism would be used in bad taste, given the accusations that the majordomo was leveling against the Collectives.
“Do you have a reproduction of any of these allegations,” he requested, ignoring her taunt.
She reached into a built-in pouch located on one of her upper-sleeve of her jacket and produced a copy. She then handed it to the burly man. “I anticipated you’d ask for one.”
“You seem disappointed that I’d want actual proof, or a documentation at the very least!”
“Just to warn you, Captain, several other Earthen-governments and my own administration have already launched an investigation into the matter.”
The little meeting just kept having more surprises for the poor captain. He unfolded the sheets of paper and began to skim over the report.
“Well, I think an investigation is certainly appropriate. I only wish you consulted the Collectives’ governments before you did so!”
“What, and have some of the perpetrators of these acts aware of our inquiry?” Reinholm’s eyes slowly rose from reading the outlined report and met the majordomo’s eyes. “Yes, Captain. We’ve crossed referenced those rumors and, unmistakably, certain prominent names within the Colonial Collectives tend to pop up over and over again…how does your batch of immigrants look today, Captain?”
It was a clear signal to Reinholm that the majordomo was inserting herself, and Earth-side in general, as the dominating player in the long-time, Earth-Colonial Collectives relationship. For hundreds of years, the colonies on Mars, Europa, and more recently on Titan were all treated as equals with Earthen-governments. But as the diaspora project continued over the years, there were strains that developed in that cosmic consortium. The lack of material resources tended to do that to societies.
“It’s going well, so far, madam,” Reinholm responded solemnly.
“Good…I’ve already checked in with some of your people and it looks like this will be a good trip for you, Captain. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance!” She turned and walked out of the office as the door parted for one of Earth’s most powerful, tiny women
The last of the Earthen immigrants were still lined up and inching their way toward the screening detectors that lead to the Jorus. Commander Ester Kolnan, placed in charge of the operation by Captain Reinholm, had delegated the few stragglers to a couple of subordinates as she went inside Solar Port Reckoning to freshen up a bit before the ship voyaged for the Europa Collective. When the captain saw her inside he informed her of Majordomo Tenesa Lucindo’s threat of war between the Colonial Collectives and Earth if the reported abuses of the Earthen-immigrants persisted.
“What are we going to do, Captain,” the young woman asked as she and the captain carefully talked among a hoard of people within the towering spaceport. It wasn’t just a leisurely stroll within the base. It was also their way of ensuring none of the red-clad immigrants were loitering around for whatever reason.
“Well, contact the Collectives’ rulers, of course! We can’t let this despot intimidate the Collectives! We’re doing Earth a favor, I hope you haven’t forgotten that as well!”
“But, Captain, she’s only making these threats because she, apparently, has some evidence showing that her people are being maligned by ours! Isn’t it wise to look into it ourselves instead of taking a partisan position on the matter?”
Alund thought on Ester’s words for a moment as they continued their surveillance within the port. Both were constantly peering in the nooks and crannies in Reckoning. No lingering immigrants, that they could see.
“Yes, Ester, that would be one of the things we’d have to suggest to the Collectives. But keep in mind that the Majordomo is of a new school of thought that seems to be more pervasive on Earth these days. That Earth should have supremacy in the solar system and the colonies be damned!”
“Sir, you know me…I’m one to follow orders without thinking twice. But, speaking freely, Captain, this situation will spiral out of control! One of the last things our colonies need is a war with Earthen-governments! Besides the normal pains and sufferings that any war costs on society, our colonies back on Mars, Europa, and Titan will have to put up with revolting Earthen-immigrants!”
The two went down the last flight of stairs within the Reckoning. Commander Kolnan continued. “It’s psychological as well as tribal, and has always happened in human history. The diaspora of any particular group of people will usually side with their people and place of origin—even if they’ve never been there! Riots will occur, possibly even a low-degree civil war!”
“All right, Ester, you don’t have to be so dramatic,” the captain said nonchalantly, waving her off.
She took in a breath, measuring herself, making sure she did not step out of line. “Yes, Sir…just thought I should mention it.”
With their last inspection complete, Captain Reinholm and Commander Kolnan reported one last time to the officials of Solar Port Reckoning before taking off for Europa. It was very cordial, but both Reinholm and Kolnan noted that the Majordomo was nowhere to be found. Afterwards, the Jorus was blasting its engines and the huge, cylindrical transporter had soon left the confines of the dying planet.
In the ancient days of space voyaging, humans took a bit longer to reach Sol’s outer-bodies. Often, people had to undergo suspended animation while their craft hurled through space in order to conserve resources and energy. By Captain Reinholm’s generation enough advancements were made that such long-term, induced pseudo-sleep had long been out of practice. A trip out to Saturn from Earth still took several months to traverse via a ship typical of Jorus’s caliber. But it was a lot faster than the days of space antiquities.
It had been about a week since the Jorus crew had left Earth. They yet had several more weeks before they reached Mars, where they would re-stock upon spaceboat fuel and food for the crew and the Earthen immigrants at any of Mars’s several space ports. During such time, some of the Jorus crew had taught classes, as it were, on the cultures and rules of colonial society in Mars, Europa, and Titan. With such ratio of 1,000 crew members to the 80,000 immigrants, much of the courses were given in large numbers at a time, sometimes via virtual communique, other times by several crew members all at once…and that’s when the power to the Jorus surged.
From his quarters, Captain Reinholm summoned one of his ship officers to determine what happened. The communication system was a part of the emergency power backup for just such occasions.
“Yes, Captain,” the husky woman responded at full attention on Reinholm’s liquid monitor. The only light sources, at the moment, on the ship came from various emergency equipment. Some smudges of light also glowed from the liquid monitors scattered throughout the ship.
“I think you know why I’m calling, Jacquoline…and how long before we have full power?”
“Should be within five minutes, Sir!”
“Good.” The captain then worked his terminal so that the next image was of Jorus’s top security officer. “Chongle, I want all your people at standby at the immigrants’ quarters.”
“Yes, Sir,” Chongle curtly replied as he visibly waved the command to some of his subordinates that were out of transmitted sight of the captain’s monitor. The monitor blackened and the liquid rectangle dissipated as Reinholm turned in his chair to check out vital telemetry on the ship. His monitor was, for obvious reasons, also on emergency power-mode, as was all the liquid glass monitors within Jorus.
While the captain patiently read the various reports in his computational in the darkened cabin, some of the Jorus crew began to whip out their emergency kits, making the command cabin laced with hand-held spotlights. After a couple more minutes, Reinholm called up Ester to see how her area of the ship was holding out.
“Captain,” she inquired after her image formed in the glassy liquid on the captain’s computational.
“Commander, when was the last time the ship’s been inspected?”
“Oh, I don’t know…nearly a year before we left for Earth. You think the power surge has anything to do with the ship’s maintenance?”
The captain thought for a moment as his eyes drifted toward the main liquid monitor of the command deck, displaying nothing but stars that moved so slow in their perceived motion, that for all practical purposes the stars were static. “I don’t know…are the auxiliary engines doing their part?”
“As far as I can tell,” Ester said as her eyes glanced toward a corner display, indicating how the ship’s emergency systems were functioning. “So are the life supports, the water, the induced gravity…oxygen levels are great.” She shrugged with a dismissive face. “Sir, the Jorus is an older boat in the fleet.”
Alund nodded his head reluctantly. He then thanked the commander for her work and cut communications with her. Of course, all the systems-check that she conferred with him was available to the captain from the command center. But he just needed an additional set of trained eyes to be sure. The ship continued its course on emergency thrusters for the next ten minutes before the entire power finally kicked back on. Humans being what we are, regardless of the era, several of the crewmembers applauded and whistled out of joy. Even the captain, who was as straight as they come, had to throw out a yelp. After all, hibernation was rarely used in space travel anymore. Not with the advancements in speed…it would have been a very long and boring trip if the Jorus had to proceed at a fraction of its capacity!
“Chongle, my friend,” Reinholm announced for the benefit of the command crew as well as for the security officer, “I promise you a ration of Martian liquor when we finally dock there!” The command center was filled with guffaw. Usually, with such banter there’s a reply, at least, an equally benign one.
“Captain Reinholm,” a woman’s voice came from the main liquid glass in the front of the deck. From the looks of her, she was in her late-forties, handsomely-built—almost like a mid-sized man, and she had a very serious countenance to go with it all. “Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Shelnai…otherwise known to the diaspora project under the nomenclature of DNA Codifier 1,961.” The captain glanced down at her upper-chest area and saw her immigrant identification number, embossed on her red jumpsuit. She continued.
“I’ll get to the point, Captain. Your ship has just undergone a mutiny. I’m sure by now you’ve pieced together that your power-loss was due to our commandeering the Jorus. I suggest that you do not order the remainder of your security crew to try to countervail us—“
“—wait a minute,” the captain broke in, indignation finally settling in after the shock of the events. “What do you mean by, the remainder of my security crew?”
DNAc. 1,961, her face on all the monitors in the command center, looked away for a second, an expression of regret on her lined face. “We offered your security to place down their weapons, but not one heeded our request.”
There were gasps within the center. Alund’s eyes closed tightly as he slowly lowered his head. “Why are you doing this,” he put to her once he raised his head.
For a few seconds, Shelnai seemed to be considering how to respond to the captain’s inquiry. “I’m sure you’ve heard of the so-called rumors about the desecration of our fellow Earthen immigrants by the hands of your Colonial Collectives.”
From his peripheral vision, Alund could see several of his command crewmembers glance at one another. Apparently they’ve heard of the rumors and he wondered if Ester had told them…at this point, it was moot! There was no kidding himself about the issue. Shelnai and her people had already proved themselves to be taken seriously and there was no sense in provoking her by playing coy.
“If you’re referring to the alleged abuses by some of our fellow citizens back on the Collectives’ soil, yes. Yes, I’ve heard of the rumors. But—“
are quite real, Captain,” 1,961 interposed, agitated. “In fact, several of us immigrants on this
ship have lost relatives and friends by the hands of the Collectives!”
“Okay,” Reinholm said, a bit impatient now, “let’s say that these rumors are true. All right, I agree with you, something should be done. But what does hijacking my ship have to do with it? You seem like a person with strong leadership qualities. You should already know that there are grievance procedures for situations you’re in, and trust me, what you are doing right now is not one of them!”
“Captain, when the ship arrives at Mars-proper you and the rest of your crew will debark. Is that understood?”
Alund cast a ponderous glance at his most senior crew in the command center at the time. He shrugged at the captain’s glare. “Now hold on, Shelnai. I’m a ranking member within the Collectives. I might be able to pull some strings for you. That is, if you’ll let me help. Secondly…” He straightened in his chair, careful not to sound too confrontational. “How do I know that all you’ve done was cut the main power? All I have to go on is your word, Shelnai, and I’m afraid that I don’t know you well enough to consider it a good currency.”
Shelnai simply shrugged. “Has your chief of security even contacted you lately?” Alund felt a chill run down his spine. DNAc. 1,961 continued. “And what about the rest of the security officers? Wouldn’t they have—“
Captain Reinholm blurted out to Ester over his communications as he keyed in an
emergency code to her, “tet’naught
The captain, like most of the commanding officers in the suite, held his breath as he waited for the crisis logistics to kick in from Commander Kolnan’s team. By that time there should have been a total blackout in the ship and a total loss of power. Not even emergency power would have worked in the tet’naught action. In theory, the crew would have at it with whoever the mutiny instigators were, kind of a pile-up on the assailants while Kolnan’s team did special ops throughout the ship…but that did not happen. Not this time. The ‘naught procedure was used by Reinholm’s crew only one other time of the years he’d been in charge, and even then it was for a single crew member that was suffering from a psychotic breakdown during a war.
The captain had last talked with Ester just before the ship had regained power. Apparently, DNAc. 1,961 had that covered as well. In fact, her virile face had a bit of a smirk to it on the liquid glass monitors scattered throughout the cabin.
“Captain,” Shelnai finally said with a patronizing tone, “the ratio of each Colonial vessel during the diaspora transporting phase of immigrants is eighty to one! You had to have seen a mutiny in the diaspora program in the works, eventually. Especially with the way you Colonialists have treated us Earthens!”
Alund looked at a nearby officer who had been trying to contact anybody over the communications system. The officer solemnly shook her head toward the captain.
“Would you like to see proof of our offensive abilities, Captain,” Shelnai questioned, incredulous that he would.
Reinholm normally would want to see proof that his enemy had either captured or killed his people. But then he thought of the implications of his surviving crew seeing the casualties. As most military people would conclude, he decided against it. “No,” he finally responded, and just as he did so, an indicator beacon chirped on his console.
“Ah, that would be some of our reinforcements,” Shelnai stated matter of fact. “Well, go ahead, Captain Reinholm, take a look for yourself…you should see about sixty Earthen immigrants securing your front door.”
The captain keyed instructions on the computational to display for him the lobby area that lead to the command center. It was simulcast on all the liquid monitors in the center, including the large one at the front of the suite. The image was a split between 1,961’s face and the lobby. Indeed, just as she said, there were scores of heavily armed immigrants standing in a semi-circle around the entryway to the command center. Alund could also see some of his crew seated on the lobby floor cross-legged with their hands clasped upon their heads. Several of the red-clad Earthens were pointing some mean-looking rifles at the Jorus crew. Those same guns had belonged to Captain Reinholm’s own crew…so, the diaspora immigrants had done this mutiny without any foreign weapons. That was even more embarrassing!
“Okay, you’ve convinced me,” Alund stated with genuine resolution to the facts at hand. He sighed and then gestured to his command crew to stand down. Some had brandished their own weapons, but it was clear that DNAc. 1,961 had successfully check mated the captain at this game. “You mind if I ask what has become of my second-in-command?”
Over the monitors, those in the command center saw Shelnai quickly snap her head in a direction where, apparently, some of her people held Ester. A few more seconds later and Shelnai stepped aside and let the commander step into view. Colonial Collectives guns were visibly pointed right at her head. Her face was bruised and bloodied, but she seemed all right.
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Ester immediately said, her head shaking and her voice cracking.
Alund threw up one of his hands, trying to discourage her from getting herself into further trouble. “Ester, don’t worry about it. I just wanted to make sure you were all right…put Shelnai back on.”
Ester was roughhoused out of the way as the lean woman, her mid-length hair pulled back into a disheveled bun, stepped back into the monitor.
“Shelnai,” the captain said, “I’m curious…what is my crew supposed to do during the rest of the trek to Mars?”
“The Jorus has hibernation capabilities, doesn’t it?”
The captain’s stomach tensed up. “The Collectives discontinued the use of transit hibernation generations ago. As did most interplanetary liners.”
“True, but as a fail-safe most government-issued crafts are equipped with cryogenic stations…that will be yours and your crew’s brig for the remainder of the trip, Captain.” She smirked again. Clearly she knew she had the upper hand over the captain.
Provoked by such arrogance, the captain came out a bit more aggressively. “Tell me, DNA Codifier 1,961,” he said, attempting to remind her of her status in life, “did you craft this scheme or did you get help from the Majordomo?”
That remark caused everyone in the command center to flick their heads toward the captain, some with their mouths gaped. Even some of Shelnai’s people were surprised by the captain’s insinuation. For her part, Shelnai seemed to stir with discomfort. This time the captain had won points.
“Open the command center now, Captain,” Shelnai demanded, her mood quickly souring.
“I knew it,” Alund said quietly with satisfaction. He then turned toward his crew and nodded his head, indicating that he wanted the doors to the command suite opened. With a simple push of a button from an officer, the industrial-grade doors slid open.
There was a stream of red jumpsuits pushing their way into the command deck, each immigrant with a Colonial rifle jutting from his or her face as they took aim at the Jorus command crew. 1,961 was at Commander Kolnan’s section of the ship, so she was not there to sit at the captain’s chair after the coup became official. But she had the look of victory on her face, broadcast on every liquid glass monitor within the command center as her people forcibly removed the Jorus crew from the center. One of the other Earthen immigrants, DNA Codifier 25,031, went to Captain Reinholm’s station and simply stood before the communicator as he talked with Shelnai…he wanted to reflect the symbolism of her being in command, even to the point of him not sitting in the seat.
“Shelnai,” 25,031 said over the computational monitor, “the ship’s ready for your command!”
This time Shelnai gave her warmest smile yet over the fluid monitors. “All right, Michael. Great job, mate.”
“Should I contact the Majordomo and let her know?”
DNAc. 1,961 thought for a bit. It was tempting for her to relish in the conquest that she and her comrades had planned for so long and had risked their own lives, while the continental queen sat back at her meetings with other heads of state, millions of miles from where the action was taking place. Truth was, it wasn’t only Captain Reinholm that did not get along with her. Even her own fellow Earthens found her personality hard to swallow. But, in the end, it was because of Majordomo Lucindo’s leadership did any of this happen, and for that, at the very least, she should have that much respect.
“Yeah…I suppose we should, huh?”
The young man nodded with a smirk, understanding Shelnai’s apprehension, and started to contact the Majordomo.
“Wait, Michael,” Shelnai interrupted, a hand suspended in the air. “Tell the others on the other ships first…I think they should know before our beloved Napoleonette!”
Word about the Jorus mutiny spread to the myriad of synthetic space habitats found across the solar system. The other mega-boats taking part in the diaspora program had also gotten word of the coup. First the message was smuggled to the other immigrants via a complexity of communicative technology, then, as what always happens, rumors began to spread to the non-immigrant population as well. And, of course, rumors of the Jorus mutiny had landed on Mars, Europa, Titan, and Earth. For those colonies within the Collectives it was disconcerting hearsay. For such rumors could only encourage many of their Earthen immigrants to also revolt against their society. There had been thousands—perhaps hundreds of thousands!—of Earthens in the Colonial Collectives missing and/or found dead. In many of those cases, the immigrants were simply never found again. So, for the many immigrants being shipped off to the Collectives or already there, to them the rumors of the revolt were just the spark they needed for their own mutinies. And before you knew it, there was a solar system-wide uprising of the Earthen immigrants! Not just on the various ships transporting the immigrants, but at Mars, Europa, and Titan. Even Earth itself and several artificial planetoids did not escape the revolution.
Over the next several years more facts about the human diaspora project surfaced. Thirty-sixth century versions of the news media investigated various connections between Earth governments and the Colonial Collectives. There had been, in fact, a conspiracy by many Earth-based governments to “relieve” the planet of many of its citizens. It had started so many years ago when the diaspora project first began. The reason for the project was accurately told to Earthen citizens back then: Earth’s human population growth and our depletion of its natural resources had, indeed, surpassed its carrying capacity. By that time the ocean and sea levels had dropped enough that it had finally alarmed humans throughout the globe.
Where the conspiracy came in was when those certain Earth governments disguised their diaspora program as a simple ecological easement scheme…that by convincing Earthen citizens that they were being sent to the Collectives and would receive comparable living standards was an outright deception! The Earthen governments knew they did not have the public funds to maintain their expatriates in the Collectives, nor did the governments intended to. This was the absolute worst of the conspiracy…
Earthen scientists hundreds of years ago had already calculated the losses to the Earth’s biosphere as a result of human activities and its resulting effects on humans because of it. Scientists, their respective governments, and with the help of some private feudal lords, devised a grand scheme to “cull” the human population. They reasoned, if we can’t reverse the worsening of Earth’s ecological balance to our favor, then we’ll have to manage our presence on the planet! However, there still were many ancient beliefs about being ‘fruitful and multiply,’ as well as a general atavistic attitude toward human reproductive contraptions, even in the thirty-sixth century. And since such strongly held beliefs would only be defended if they were challenged by Earthen authorities, the governments decided to take a more tactful approach to the issue…the lottery system for the diaspora project. As an ancient saying from Earth went, in so many words, you have to make them want it!
Another detail that came out of the media was about the very governing Colonial Collectives system itself. It was discovered, via vintage records—both virtual and analog—that all three of the Collectives were, in fact, extensions of various Earthen governments! Again, to utilize a venerable metaphor, they were simply a store front for those Earth-based governments, designed to convey the progress of humanity’s endeavors into the outer solar system. To put it even more directly, the colonies on Mars, Europa, and Titan were glorified slaughterhouses of humans from the start! Clandestinely, for nearly fifty years, governments of Earth had a system of politely killing their fellow human beings…several mysterious disappearances here, lots of unsolved murders there. And some of the factories within the colonies on Mars and a few more on Europa (Titan was far too nascent for high industry at this point) had actually been turning out food—ground beef made not from bovine cattle, but from homo sapiens.
That shipment of protein was shuttled back to Earth each time a Colonial ship had gone out to Earth to pick up more immigrants. The ground meat was then distributed to a very hungry planet Earth, with all its billions of starving or near-starving citizens. This perverted system saved billions of Earth notations for the Earthen governments, especially when you factor in shipment costs to and from Earth.
Needless to say, this discovery was a pivotal moment in the downfall of the Colonial Collectives system.
Over time, many Earthen government officials were forced out of office. Many were incarcerated; many more received capital punishment. Yet many more fled to any number of the artificial planetoids within the Sol system. Some were even assassinated by the more fundamentalist types in society. The Colonial Collectives slowly dissolved into mere shadows of what they were. Many people, both on Earth and in the former Collectives, credit the wise, albeit crass, woman on Earth who had stood up to the diaspora program, Majordomo Tenesa Lucindo. She and her first, brave group of immigrants had started what would later be called the Grand Earthen Revolution of 3551.
Unfortunately, what the Revolution did not do was solve the ecological drought that Earth remained under, even many more centuries afterwards. Some scientists suggested that humans on Europa and Mars export some of their respective permafrost to Earth, to be converted into freshwater for humans. But there was no way that would be enough to substitute the once-great oceans and seas of planet Earth. The desalinization process hundreds of years ago had simply bled the planet dry.
Generations later, some scientists, the ones who later became kings and queens of New Humanity, sought ways to continue some elements of the diaspora project. That is, they commenced with the transporting of Earthen citizens from Earth to Mars, Europa, and Titan, in time past known as the Colonial Collective. Yet even more years later, other destinations within the solar system were added, from the other moons of Saturn and Jupiter, to a few of the larger asteroids in the asteroid belt. For these wise scientists had finally convinced all civilizations on Earth that it was well-beyond time for humanity to leave its point of origin. The best humanity could do at that point in history was to pollinate the solar system, but do it wisely. And to learn from our mistakes and deliberate practices and policies that destroyed the children of Earth’s home.