Coming April, 2019…
The Ganymede Legacy
In the year 2455, humanity flourishes. Through the use of bio-nano-technology and the ruthless leadership of The Origin Council, the human race has expanded to colonize much of the Helios system. However, the 12 members of the Council, nearly immortal thanks to their access to advanced technology, faced many challenges during their reign. The War of the New Republic was one of those challenges.
Alice Reshna was an operative of the Council during the war. She was specially trained to succeed in the most difficult and important of missions, one of which saw her journey to Ganymede to finally put an end to that horrific and pointless conflict. There, she had one purpose: proceed to the drop zone and release the payload, and by doing so, end the war. She didn’t know what the payload was, but she had been assured by her superiors that it would put a non-violent end to the conflict. And so, a dedicated tool of the Council as she was, she completed her mission.
Then, everyone on Ganymede died. In an instant, the hundreds of millions of people there were turned into ashen dust. Alice, however, was unharmed – the only survivor of the largest technological disaster in human history.
Her existence was shattered by her mistake, and she would have ended her own life, but that wasn’t allowed by the Council. They needed to know what had gone wrong, and how Alice had survived. So, for two years, they studied her, trying to understand the mystery of her survival. When their studies were complete, Alice expected them to kill her, but they didn’t. Instead, they released her and assigned her to one of the outer colonies as a taxation enforcement officer.
There, she wiled away her boring, monotonous days by drowning her sorrow and guilt with alcohol. Each day was a living hell for her as she tried to find some meaning in her existence beyond the needless deaths of so many. She contemplated ending her own life every day, but always, her hand was stayed by one hope, and one purpose. She had to somehow make amends for her mistake. Only then could she grant herself the mercy of death.
Then, after living that hell for 6 years, she received an order. It was a recall directive, sent by the Council themselves. She didn’t know why they wanted to speak to her in person, but she knew there was only one way to find out.
Read on for a special sneak peek at this action-packed, character-driven, Sci-Fi adventure.
The Ganymede Legacy
A wave of fear grew within Alice as she slowly, but purposefully, walked forward. Her arms hung stiffly at her sides, seemingly glued to her torso, and her hands were tightly balled into fists. She had been filled with apprehension since she had first entered the beautiful, imposing, and behemoth space station through which she walked. The station had been referred to as “The Ark” for as long as she could remember, though she had no idea what it’s official name really was, or how old it was. Whoever had bestowed that name, and why it had become the name which everyone in the Helios system used, Alice didn’t know, but she had been told by one of her superiors within the Origin Council Special-Ops Division (OPSOD) that it had been taken from the name of a vessel in a proto-ancient human myth.
As Alice continued walking down the immense entry hall of The Ark, she couldn’t help but marvel at its beauty and its massive scale. The hall was walled with titanium and stretched before her majestically, seemingly infinite in its length. At least, it went on further than her implant-enhanced eyes could see, she thought, as she tilted her head back and looked up at the stars. In their millions, they twinkled above her, clearly visible through the transparent bio-polymer ceiling hundreds of meters above.
Bio-Polymer was a technology that had only been around for the prior century, and though many took it for granted, Alice had always been amazed by the little organic machines that comprised it. If so programmed, they could reproduce using only the hydrogen molecules around them for fuel, expand into any shape and density, and form materials with wildly different properties. Mostly, the technology was used in the construction of near-lightspeed capable ships and weaponry, but occasionally it was put to truly good use, particularly in the field of medicine.
At least the tech was doing some good out there, somewhere, Alice thought, as memories of people she had killed with the help of that technology tried to push their way into her mind.
When her eyes traveled back down from the stars above, she caught sight of her own reflection flashing back at her within the smooth wall of titanium to her left. She stopped and looked into the reflection of her dark brown eyes and admired their clarity. She saw fear within them, but not enough to make her turn and run away from what she was there to do. As she stared at herself, she couldn’t help but appraise her appearance. Her hair was cropped at her shoulders and shone with a deep auburn hue. Her dark, caramel toned skin was a product of her previous assignment on a moon with only light shielding from the radiation of the sun, and also by the fact that her father had been an Oberonian. At least, that’s what her mother had told her, for she had never seen her father in person.
Alice shook her head and banished the distracting thoughts that were clouding her mind. If nothing else, she reasoned cynically, perhaps the Council would think her beautiful, and if they did, maybe that would sway them to treat her with leniency. As she continued to appraise herself, a wave of disgust grew within her and she had to look away.
Then, she started walking again, but with greater urgency. As her steps echoed through the entry hall, she couldn’t help but recall the events that had preceded the conversation from which she had learned where the name of the Ark had come from. It had taken place during the battle of Ganymede, almost 8 years ago. It was there that the sole remaining forces of the New Republic had made their last stand against the Origin Council.
The New Republic had fought a long and difficult campaign and had initially found success with their superior numbers, popular support, and the rich natural resources of the Jupiter colonies they controlled, with their plentiful titanium and trillium reserves. The New Republic spoke of ideas that had long ago become taboo and unfamiliar to most of Humanity – Ideas like individual freedom and liberty, and promises to eliminate the use of bio-nanotechnology in humans. Though alien and regressive, those ideas seemed to light some rudimentary and animalistic spark within many, many people, and the speed and urgency with which they took up the cause of the New Republic had taken the Origin Council by surprise.
What was initially a radical fringe group had quickly mutated into a full-fledged fighting force. They applied themselves with a maniacal dedication, rigor, and industriousness that didn’t seem possible until they made it a reality. There had been many dark days for followers of the Council and for Alice herself during the first months of that particular war.
Everything they had worked so hard for, the peace they had founded, the systems of control they had established, the regulation and advancement of technology, and the improvements in the quality of human life they had instituted. All the causes, and their core, the way of life that Alice had fought for since she had joined the OPSOD when she was just 17, had been threatened. And if they were lost, what would that mean for humanity as a whole? It would be a step back into an unspeakably horrible past. The past is death, the future is progress and if there was one thing humanity could not do and hope to survive, it was to return to the ways of the past. That was at the heart of the Doctrine of Origins, and those were the fears and motivations of everyone who followed the Council. Those fears provided ample justification for the terrible crimes committed by the council and their subjects during the war, as it was clear that victory was the only way forward for humanity, no matter the consequences. They all did what they had to do in order to win. Alice did what she had to do, just like everyone else.
Alice quickened her pace as the memories racing through her head flashed in her mind’s eye with more speed and intensity. Why had her thoughts gone back to the war so readily? The terrible memories she carried from that conflict seemed always on the edge of her thoughts, polluting even the most mundane of tasks, the most mundane of mental pursuits.
Suddenly, she became aware of her tightly balled fists. As if trying to crush her fear by squeezing the life out of it, her fingers had ratcheted down into her palms with so much force that it caused her to feel pain within them. She stopped walking and looked at her hands, now marked with indentations caused by the pressure of her fingernails against her palms. Then, she spread her fingers, stretching them away from one another as far as they could go and returned her hands to her sides.
With a deep breath, she continued walking, now making a conscious effort to avoid balling her fists. She couldn’t afford for even that small gesture to be seen and taken as a sign of aggression or anger. Any such display in this place could be an even greater mistake than the those she had already made. As she continued down the endless hell, her mind unconsciously went right back where it had just been: the war.
Ultimately, even numbers and natural resources can’t compete with technological advancement and after all the fear and all the fighting, the same thing that had brought about the Council’s rise to power in the first place also turned the tide in the war of the New Republic. The sheer technological advancement and adaptability of the Origins Council and their forces had assured that the victories of the New Republic were all slowly, and horrifically reversed.
The Battle of Ganymede, unique in that it was the final battle of the war, was also unique in its brutality. Alice remembered Captain Shonn, a widowed father of 5 who had served the Council since the age of 15. He was as intelligent, kind, and dutiful a man as she had ever met, but he was also melancholy. There was a strain of sadness within him which came through only in his longing and intense stare. He had given her one of those deep stares during their final mission on Ganymede 8 years ago.
She had followed her Captain’s orders exactly and without question as their team of 3 had first prepped for that mission aboard the Council’s flagship “Progress” which had been in high orbit above Ganymede. Prior to deployment, they had received injections of bio-nanites which would protect them against any primitive nano-technology defense measures the New Republic may have had in place on Ganymede.
She remembered the injections clearly for two reasons. The first was the pain. Pain as only someone treated with nanites to the limit of human survivability can know. The second was that the injections had been personally administered by an Origin Council High Scientist. A rank held by only 20 people, some, Origin Council members themselves. The fact that such a routine process would be handled by one of such high rank signified to Alice just how important their mission was. After recovering from the debilitating pain of the injections, they had entered their stealth dropship and had descended to the surface of the planet without incident – the bio-polymer exterior of their ship doing its job by protecting them from detection by New Republic surface defense measures.
Still robotically walking down the seemingly endless entry hall as her memories consumed her, Alice was startled out of her revery by a deep voice that echoed loudly and imposingly through the high chambers of The Ark.
“Operative Alice. You’re finally here. The Council has been waiting a long time for you…”
Alice surmised that the man had taken advantage of her retrospection by standing out of sight in one of the many deep vestibules that lined the enormous entry hall, waiting for her to pass, then startling her from behind when she walked by without noticing him. She stopped walking and slowly turned toward the voice. When she caught sight of the ambusher, she was more startled than the moment before when his voice had broken through her vivid and agonizing memories.
The man appeared to be in his mid-fifties, but because of his access to medical technology, he could be three times that age and Alice wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. He towered over Alice’s slight frame as he walked toward her. She recognized him not by his short blond hair, or the scar above his right eye, but by the large section of his right jaw where human flesh and bone should have been, but was instead replaced by the milky white shimmer of 4th generation organic nanites that had assembled into a configuration designed to replicate his natural facial features.
Why he allowed the tiny organic machines to be shown in their natural appearance, a dull, silvery grey, shimmering and flowing mass, rather than have them programmed to match his skin tone, Alice didn’t know. Maybe to intimidate, maybe to impress upon the people who saw him the level of technology to which he had personal access.
The man was Redden Norwalk, Executive Director of the Origin Council Special-Ops Division, and her highest ranking superior, apart from Council Members themselves. The lapel pinned to the collar of his black, skin-tight shirt – A golden eagle within a triangle, within a circle – confirmed who he was to anyone who might not be familiar with the horror stories about him that detailed his appearance, and other unsavory aspects of him.
Alice had heard many of those stories from her fellow operatives during missions, from farmers on the outer colonies, and from her own mother, many years ago. She quickly snapped to attention and placed her right hand over her left eye, the military salute and proper greeting for subjects of the Origin Council. The man casually returned the salute and continued speaking, this time more quietly as he slowly approached her.
“Yes, waiting a very, very, very long time. Weeks too long in my opinion. Hell, waiting 5 seconds for you to show up is longer than I would call acceptable.”
Alice quickly decided that silence was the best option, at least until he asked her to speak.
“Why the hell would the Origin Council, flawless in their judgment though they may be, order me to drag a disgraced operative from the asshole of the solar system, all the way here, to the heartland, to the hallowed space of the Origin Council to have a personal audience with them?”
After a brief period of silence, Alice decided this wasn’t a rhetorical question and decided to answer.
“My apologies sir, I don’t know. I wasn’t given any details. I received a Code 4 general recall order and I…”
Already teetering on the edge of panic due to her upcoming meeting with the council, the addition of Director Redden to the mix had proven too much for her to maintain the appearance of calm. Her nerves had gotten the better of her and she was rambling.
Redden’s gaze intensified as he stared into Alice’s eyes as if trying to divine some aspect of her from within her own sight. Alice thought she saw a glimpse of a shimmer behind his left eye and imagined it was probably outfitted with level 4 operative ocular enhancement, allowing for an array of enhanced sight capabilities. Alice’s own ocular enhancements were level 2 and allowed for targeting enhancement, atmospheric analysis, and biometric recognition. She could rapidly and accurately coordinate combat actions, operate, aim and fire over 300 weapons without error, determine if an environment was safe from toxins and nano-tech defense mechanisms, and identify about 80 percent of the core human population just by looking at them, and that was with only level 2 enhancement. She had no idea what Redden could see when he looked at her, but she knew it was more than what she could see of him.
Redden cut through her panicked rambling and continued his line of thought as if she hadn’t spoken, the pace and intensity of his speech increasing with every word.
“I offered them a free choice from my collection. My best operatives. Good, hardworking men and women who have never made a mistake during a mission, who have never expressed a thought to question the causes and directives of the Council, except when it was absolutely right that they do so. The absolute best people you can find. Not a single one of them has ever given me a reason to show them my bad side. But no, they ask for you. For you specifically. ‘Bring us the Ganymede operative’ they told me. And it was very easy for me to understand who they meant, you see, because you were the only one who survived Ganymede, weren’t you?”
He became even more intense as he spoke, each word seemingly pushing him further into the depths of rage and brutality for which he was so well known.
“Not just the only operative to survive, but the only human. Everyone else was gone within a few minutes, but not you, you somehow survived. It would make sense that if you survived, some others might have too, but no, it was only you. Some second rate, low ranking female operative with no special talent or intelligence at all.”
“You are the woman who pushed the button on Ganymede…” Redden continued as his voice filled with resentment. “…and if it were up to me you would be executed for high treason.”
He leaned closer to Alice, his face mere inches from hers and his voice suddenly fell to a low whisper.
“Hell, I would do it right now, myself, with my bare hands around your throat. I would watch the light leave your eyes with a smile on my face, knowing that I had done humanity a favor.”
A maniacal fervor had overtaken Redden and Alice didn’t want to see that manifest into something more, something that would cause him to harm her. She had no strong desire to live another day, but she had already experienced enough torture in her short life to satisfy the insane urges of any demon in hell. So, she recalled her de-escalation training and quickly tried to defuse the situation.
“Director Redden, Sir, I know you lost a lot of friends on Ganymede, I know you lost family, your son… I know what it feels like to lose family too, and I also lost a lot of friends on Ganymede.”
Pain blossomed within Alice as she nicked that hidden wound, but she might have only had one chance to explain herself to this man, and her ability to live or die in peace depended on his understanding, so she numbed the pain with the sheer force of her will and continued.
“I lost the love of my life on that god-forsaken moon. I watched him come apart right in front of me. Like a fire charred from the inside, I watched his skin turn black as he died. The only thing left of him was dust. You weren’t there but you must have seen me testify after Ganymede. I told the truth then, and I’m telling you the truth now. I didn’t know what would happen when I pushed the button, all I know is that I was ordered to proceed to the release zone and push it. I was given orders by my Captain who had received orders directly from Executive Director Marcus. I don’t know how I survived… And to be honest, I wish I hadn’t.”
Redden listened to each word intently, and as Alice spoke his eyes looked away from her face and moved to the stars above them. His face softened by an almost imperceptible amount and a sneer broke across his lips. When he spoke, his voice had taken on a new timbre of emotional pain combined with cool derision.
“Marcus was a fucking moron. I told him so to his face. I told him he was going too far, and that the technology hadn’t been tested enough. Do you know what he said to me? ‘Glory to our Origins, glory to the cause. Peace at any cost, at any risk.’ The goddamned delusional, zealous maniac. He wouldn’t hear reason. He was the one calling the shots on that operation, but he was an idiot. He didn’t know that I had more people loyal to me in the operative corps than he did. I ordered all of them to find and destroy that package, to prevent its release at all costs. I tried to stop it, and I would have if it wasn’t for you.”
This revelation and the casual disregard with which it was uttered stunned Alice.
“You circumvented your superior? That’s treason, sir. Do the Council know about this?”
“Why the hell do think they made me Executive Director after Marcus killed himself?” Redden answered. “You know the creed. Unerring judgment is rewarded above all else. I was right, and that bat-shit psycho was wrong. Even treason is forgivable if you’re right, and following orders is punishable by death if the orders are wrong enough. Which is exactly why you deserve to die.”
Redden didn’t know that Alice had had that same thought swimming in her head every day for the last 8 years. Guilt overcame her as tears welled in her eyes, just beneath the surface. Alice wanted to run, to go back to her outpost in the outer colonies, to enforce taxation on farmers and miners, drink her way to oblivion, and simply live out her mundane days until the Council in all their flawless judgment would simply decide to turn her off.
Why had she even obeyed the recall directive, and journeyed to The Ark?, Why hadn’t she simply ignored it? It would have taken months for a team to find her and extract her, and by that time she could be somewhere else. If she wanted, she could have escaped the council and their operatives and lived the rest of her life in self-imposed exile just as she had intended ever since she stepped out of the brig of the Council Ship’Progress’ 6 years ago.
In spite of Redden standing there before her, awaiting whatever pathetic excuse she could muster, her thoughts turned to her memories and she stood before him in silence.
For two years after Ganymede, the Council’s scientists had held her on a colossal ship and studied her. They didn’t blame her for the deaths of millions, for it had been their decision to release that cursed payload, but they did want to know how she survived while everyone else had died. It took them two years of “study” to decide that her body could provide them with no more information.
The pain she experienced as they injected her with their data gathering machines and as they took pieces of her to analyze in different atmospheric conditions had nearly driven her mad. She had disassociated from herself for much of that time, and the only thing that had kept her sane was one purpose, to find Captain Shonn’s now orphaned children, and apologize to them, for that was all she had to offer.
It still amazed her that she was able to escape that torment with her wits and memories intact. When they were finally finished with her, she expected they would finally dispose of her once and for all, but they surprised her in the end. After those two years, they had simply released her as if nothing had ever happened, reinstated her rank, declared her innocent of any wrongdoing and granted her request for a simple taxation enforcement posting. Like a lifeless husk, she had lived that gloriously mundane existence until the recall directive had arrived 2 weeks prior.
As walls within herself came crashing down, she could barely speak except to try to make order out of her senseless existence.
“That’s why Director Marcus went directly to Captain Shonn”. Alice said quietly. “He did know that you had compromised his operatives. He knew that you would stop at nothing to prevent the release of the package. And he knew that Captain Shonn would never betray his orders. Shonn had integrity. He was a good man. Marcus knew he could be trusted to complete the mission.”
An eerie change came over Redden as his anger seemed to leave him and be replaced by cold derision.
“A good man…” He said wistfully, then shook his head and abruptly started walking down the entry hall, towards Alice’s fear, towards her judgment, towards her fate.
“C’mon, we don’t don’t want to keep the Council waiting any more than they already have. I don’t know why the hell they want you here, but the sooner I get them talking to you, the sooner I find out.”
Alice was filled with trepidation and stood still, instead of following Redden. What else could be waiting for Alice at the end of that hall except for further torment? Did they simply wish to discover some obscure piece of information regarding the mission? When they learned it, would they kill her, or was she simply a loose end, but one that required some special analysis before disposal. Would they hold her captive once again, and subject her to the needles and knives, and lasers of their medical scientists?
Whatever the truth was, she felt there could be nothing good for her at this audience with the Council. She should have turned around and walked in the opposite direction as Redden had, and damn the consequences. She should have left the station and fled from the Council…
But for what? What was her life anyway? What did she have to save? Everything she cared about or believed in had been taken from her. With one push of a button, her life had ended. They called her the sole survivor of Ganymede, but the truth is that she had died on that moon, just like everyone else.
Alice took a slow step forward, then another, and followed Redden down the hall. She quickened her tempo in order to draw even with him as she tried to calm her mind, and then matched his pace. When she drew even, she turned her head and looked at him, searching for some aspect of him within his angry visage. She didn’t know what she was looking for but whatever it was, she didn’t find it. She turned away from him and didn’t look at him again, for she could finally see the end of the immense entry hall. They were nearing the end of the nearly infinite journey from the shuttle bay to the Origin Sanctum.
After several minutes of silent walking, they reached their destination. The elaborately carved archway that grew before them was barely visible in the minutes prior, but it was now clearly visible. It spanned nearly 200 meters above them and 300 from side to side, as realized as she measured its size with her ocular implant.
As they got even closer, the details of the Archway become clear to Alice. Smooth silver sculptures of eagles and lions, dragons and humans covered the entirety of the arch, at least as far as Alice’s nanite enhanced vision could see. Perhaps Redden could see a bit further and confirm for Alice that the sculptures continued for the entire length of it, though she had no desire to ask him.
As they drew even with the arch, Alice noticed a shimmering liquid substance that passed from edge to edge of the arch. It was as if looking into water, but beneath the surface, you saw only another continuing part of your existing world, rather than a reflection. Alice could see the other side, but there was nothing of note there, just another hall like the one in which she now stood. Alice paused before passing through the barrier and quickly ran an atmospheric scan to determine if it was harmful. Redden must have noticed her pause and quickly understood her concern, because he looked at her pointedly, and unless it was a phantom of her own thought, a hint of compassion had entered his gaze.
“It’s fine.” He said. “A simple defense mechanism. That’s all. I’ve been through it a million times. It’s not gonna ruin you any more than you already are”.
He turned and walked confidently through the barrier, and after a few ragged breaths, Alice gathered her courage and followed.