Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Hites 72

This week we have Stories by:


Norval Joe <--------- This week's WinnerWinner
Jeff Hite

Under Callista
By Norval Joe

Panicked and anxious shouts sounded through the door of Alphonse's small chamber. He looked up from his philosophy texts, scowled and pondered the door, and the sounds beyond. Most of his lifetime had been spent in this very room, researching and compiling the history, philosophy and literature of Callista's most recent millennia. The room had barely room enough for his bed, a desk with a chair, and book cases that reached from floor to ceiling. It was cramped, his knees were continually bruised from knocking against the chair and bed frame.
Many considered him the ultimate authority on Callista's past and paid him handsomely to present lectures and teach classes at their various organizations and gatherings. He accepted, graciously, whatever amount was paid, and promptly turned it over to the brotherhood; the order of scholars, of which he was a member, vowed to chronicle and preserve knowledge of the past. He would gladly share his lifetime of learning for free, the brotherhood didn't require payment for their services, but they didn't discourage it either.
In his lifetime he had never heard shouting in the hallways of the brotherhood, but hearing it now, he knew it could only mean one thing; Ganymede had learned of their existence, again.
There was a sharp, urgent tap at his door. A familiar voice asked, "Brother Alphonse? You are wanted at the council hall, immediately."
"Yes, Brother Wender, I will leave right away." Alphonse announced to the door, and the man standing beyond, and then to himself, "Indeed, it is Ganymede. For a brother to interrupt and risk such impropriety, it must be a very serious situation."
He entered the crowded council room. In contrast to his own chambers, this room was brightly lit with lighting bars set into the ceiling every few feet. Eighteen of the brothers sat in the front three rows, other acolytes and trainees sat behind. Alphonse approached the front of the room and slowed as he reached the head table. He waited for the head council to acknowledge his arrival.
"Brother Alphonse," a small, shriveled, man slurred. Watery eyes squinted as Alphonse waited for the declaration.
"Brother Alphonse," he said again, "you are recognized by the council and requested to speak freely, yet concisely. Ganymede approaches. We require your understanding and wisdom. Please advise us."
"Yes, My Lord, Head Council." Alphonse said and began his discourse.
"In my studies, I have found evidence of four such invasions in the past 200,000 years. There are other references to the Ganymede before the period, but the accounts are apocryphal and untrustworthy. The four historical instances are similar and indicate that the Ganymede do not maintain records. They have been surprised to find us here each time."
He stepped to the council table and placed a clear, red, crystal box in the center, between the three council men. The shriveled man looked from the box and toward teh man on his left. Once eye contact was made, he indicated the box with a tip of his head and nodded at the other man. The second man reached out to the box and pressed down on its top with the palm of his hand until there was an audible hum. Seconds later a large graphic displayed on the plain white wall behind the head council.
"You see displayed the appearance of the Ganymede on each of the four invasions. Physically, they have evolved little over the 170,000 years between their first and last invasions, though their clothing has changed and their weapons fluctuated in effectiveness."
The third councilman who had sat silently with his eyes closed, suddenly spoke. "Are they going to attack us, Brother Alphonse? Or can we continue this pleasant discussion all day?"
"Lord Second Advisor," Alphonse said, unflustered, "most definitely. With each invasion they have treated us aggressively. The oldest two invasions, upon becoming aware of our presence, they began annihilation of our people almost immediately. On the third, they pretended diplomacy for a short period before an almost complete genocide. The fourth invasion was unclear if they even knew that we existed, as they landed their ships for a short period of time, took some soil samples and left."
Brother Alphonse paused, choosing his words, then continued, "within five years, the Ganymede returned with a countless number of assault ships and bombed the surface repeatedly. The bombing went on for more than a year. It was as if they knew they were destroying our food sources. Our farms, being within 2 meters of the surface, were vulnerable and disrupted by the bombs. Nearly ninety percent of our farm land was destroyed. We are all aware, reckoning time for our modern era began at this most recent near extinction of our people, to commemorate the hardships they faced at that time."
"Very well," the chief councilman said. "We have our decision to make. We have suffered at the hands of the Ganymede, historically. After the last invasion, our forefathers established a defence, which we have faithfully maintained and preserved for this very eventuality. We have the power to vaporize the invaders from our atmosphere, and extend our retaliation to the very moon of Ganymede itself. Brethren, how do we stand?"
Brother Alphonse stepped to the side of the chamber as many of the brethren leapt to their feet in exclamation.
"We are a peaceful people, we cannot assault other living beings, even in self defense," one man shouted.
"We may not survive another genocide by these consistently aggressive barbarians," countered the brother to his side.
The head councilman was on his feet, though unsteady and leaning on the chief council's table. All were silenced when they saw him stand. "We will take a few minutes to contemplate. In silence," he added with a watery scowl. "You have your voting orbs. Make your choice and place the orbs in the reader, before you leave the room."

One thousand kilometer away the long, flat, copper ships of Ganymede, approached their sister moon, Callista, black silhouettes against the glow of the largest planet in the solar system.

Jupiter Was Home
By: Jeff Hite

When I was sent to this priest, I didn't understand why. I still am not sure why he is so important to our cause. I have spent the last three months tracking him down, and now I sit in his small chamber waiting for him to speak to me. When he finally spoke this is what he told me, as best as I can remember.
It was only ten years before the beginning of the Martian Earth wars that Jupiter and it's many moons were settled. Jupiter itself could not be settled due to it's size, but like a mini sun, it's radiation could be harvested for power and, although only though only a dim reflection at one tenth the size of Sol, light. Jupiter, for all of it distance from Earth was a natural place to establish new homes. It had many attributes that made it a suitable place to go. First there was water, Europa had water, and it was close enough to supply the other pseudo planets in the area with all they needed. Io and her mother planet, did a dance that caused huge discharges of energy, that if carefully managed could be harvested and used to supply power for many things, Callisto and Ganymede had stable land that could serve as homes and research stations. There were other things of course. The escape velocities on these planets was low making transportation between the islands in Jupiter's sky if not cheap, much less expensive than it was on the large planets. An of course if you were to choose a jumping off point to the edge of the solar system and beyond, then Jupiter with it huge gravity well that could be used to sling shot a space craft, made perfect sense. So when the Earth Martian war began, the Jupiter colonies Seceded from the Planetary federation in an attempt to stay neutral, and out of the war.
The war, from the opening salvo, was a very ugly and dirty war. It is now known through investigations that Earth sent a troop ship to Mars in an attempt quell the uprising and the desire by the Martian government to unshackle itself from the earth centric Planetary Federation, then deceitfully attached and destroyed their own ship. They were able to Blame it on the newly formed Martian Militia, and use the attack to justify an all out assault on the Martian colonies. Once this information came to light, it did nothing to stop the war. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The Martians outraged at the fact that Earth would provoke a war in such a way, and Earthlings disgusted that the the home world was provoked into such a tactic, fought all the harder to defend their home.
For many years the outer systems were left in peace. The Jupiter colonies became a refuge for civilians on both sides, and for the so called rovers that had been the primary transportation franchise between the planets since the space industry became a commercial venture. But, it was was short lived. The war that has now gone on for more than five decades was bound to draw in the rest of the solar system. The Jovian system, with her newly established colonies on the moons Saturn were to be no exception. These planets and their moons where ripe with resources, which both of the waring planets where in desperate need of.
At first the rovers were more than happy to provide transportation for goods services and people who were interested in fighting in the war. But as both of the planets economies began to collapse under the weight of paying for the lengthy war, many rovers were forced in the service. Some of them, second generation spacers, were seen as better pilots and captains then planet born humans found them selves in the middle of battles in a war that was not their own.
In the sixth decade of the war it was almost ended in a stalemate by two rovers, who had both risen to the rank of admiral in the opposing fleets. They were from the same family, and although distant were cousins had grown up together on a transport ship.
The two cousins, named Marcus and Alexander, were brilliant strategists, and they had arranged the largest battle between the two planets since the wars opening years. They massed to star fleets, with the best weapon systems that both sides could provide, and were to meet and do battle deciding the fate of the war in the space between Jupiter and Saturn. Both man had earned the reputation of being ruthless commanders, known for executing men for not following orders, and so when the fleets met and no one fired a shot, no man underneath them questioned this action.
Alexander and Marcus where able to effectively siege both sides of for nearly 6 months. Earth and Mars sent battle groups to infiltrate and capture or kill the two commanders, but as both of the cousins had the newest and greatest technology both sides had to offer, they were easily and quickly dispatched, and so the stalemate continued. It was not until the twenty second day of the sixth month of the siege that Marcus received word form a Earth commando group that they had captured his cousin and were taking him back to earth for trail that the battle had to begin again.
Marcus sent a group of his trusted men to liberate his cousin, and then with an unknown earthling commander as the new admiral of earthling fleet. He proceeded to destroy earth's fleet, ensure that the losses on both sides were nearly equal, so that neither side would gain an advantage. Reports for the few survivors on both sides say that in the waning hours of the battle, the commando vessel that had captured Alexander was seen docking with the Earth Flagship, shortly before it was rammed into the Martian flag ship. The two cousins were presumed to have escaped on the commando vessel, but had not been heard from of seen since.
This is the History to the last ten years of the war. Both sides suffered greatly at the battle of the traders as it has since been called. Since that point both sides have attempted to rebuild their fleet, and then have both put in place rules governing the ranks and status of conscripted members of their military. Since then the rovers have been hunted as outlaws, but are still desirable as captains of smaller vessels and pilots due to their long background in space.
When he finished telling me the history of my peoples involvement in the war, much of which I knew but some of which I did not, he was silent again, presumably in prayer. It was not until much later that I understood why he told me all of this.