GALACTIC SUPREMACY ebook by novelist79

VIEWS: 455 PAGES: 389

SCI-FI, SPACE SAGA, 388 pages: A profound and epic adventure, space armadas converge in the mysterious interstellar frontier. Wormholes, time-travel and unimaginably advanced technologies wreaking havoc, the humble Confederacy is forced to navigate through a very treacherous realm of geopolitical intrigue. Lurking in distant nebulas unknown enemies prepare to strike, massive military strategy takes center-stage and secretive diplomatic manoeuvrings hold the very fate of the galaxy on the line. Tactical cunning and deception becoming the norm, a desperate race for ultimate power consumes the rival space empires. Amid the escalating tensions, fascinating remnants of the ancient past are brought together, age-old mysteries are uncovered and great energies are unleashed in fury. Immersed in legendary relics of mythic proportion, revolutionary progress awaits and colossal starships collide...Once-thought impenetrable space fortifications are breached, long-lost races re-emerge in the spoils of combat and expert scholars spend nightly hours engrossed in the unfathomable - deciphering linguistic complexities - hoping to make the decisive breakthrough. Amazingly superior beings intervene with impeccable timing, and a new and prosperous galactic order appears destined to arrive. An intellectually-stimulating tale, ancestral prophecies are fulfilled and courageous heroes are born, rising from the devastating debris and rallying their proud nations. Inspirational in scope, it is an action-packed thriller which evocatively encompasses the values of liberty and morality. This science-fiction saga brings a resounding and hopeful message of the triumph of knowledge and the power of unity. Galactic enlightenmentawaits, but will the Confederacy unlock the dangerous interstellar secrets before it's too late?

More Info
									GALACTIC SUPREMACY


    CHRIS MANIERI
Wordclay
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403
www.wordclay.com



© Copyright 2009 Chris Manieri. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the
author.


First published by Wordclay on 8/19/2009.
ISBN: 978-1-6048-1499-6 (sc)


Printed in the United States of America.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.
                                                                               iii



                                 PREFACE


        It is one of the greatest questions in humanity’s curious psyche –
one with immense philosophical implications, one which has compelled
conjecture from the ancients, garnered great speculation, and still
continues to fascinate: Are we alone in the universe?

          Using modest numbers in Drake’s equation, a mathematical
formula cleverly designed to predict the total number of intelligent
communicating species in our galaxy alone, it can be reasonably estimated
that there may be at least several of such extraterrestrial civilizations
inhabiting the Milky Way. Of course, in this case predict is the operative
word; no one can make such a definitive statement for certain and some
doubt entirely whether we will ever encounter alien life-forms – not even
willing to speculate in the slightest that some broccoli-like vegetable is
flourishing on a far-off planet. Even this, however crude-sounding, would
have considerable repercussions in modern scientific thought. Even the
discovery of the tiniest alien microbe would excite flocks of scientists and
send, as some might describe it, theologians scratching their heads back
to the drawing board, immediately raising doubts about our centrality and
specialness in the universe. How unique is the Earth? This truly is a vital
question and one that will surely become at least better understood in the
coming century. In the true Copernican and Galilean fashion, just as the
heliocentric view replaced the outmoded geocentric models, the once cast-
aside field of astrobiology may come to prominence in the near future with
some interesting surprises, comparably drawing many parallels to earlier
revolutions of thought. Perhaps this field will indeed provide us with further
evidence, an extension of this notion, which is indicative of the human
species representing something that is not so much distinctly rare in
exceptionality but perhaps an example of the merely commonplace and
average.

          Now, to clarify this position for the insistent conservative out there,
unaccustomed to such progressive thinking, I must also say that human
life can still be considered sacred and valuable. In fact, such speculative
scientific discovery would only provide new perspectives to enhance our
understanding of ourselves, while confirming humanity’s intrinsic meaning
in the universe. I am fondly reminded of an interesting line from Star Trek:
TNG, the particular episode entitled “Time’s Arrow”, featuring the
mysterious character Guinan conversing with the nineteenth century Mark
Twain as they debated some rather intriguing philosophical matters. With
the metaphor of a diamond representing a sentient, intelligent species,
                                                                             iv

Guinan insisted that even though many such civilizations may inhabit the
galaxies, it would in her eyes, not at all diminish the precious value and
sanctity of such life, even if many diamonds were known to exist, to
continue the apt comparison.

          What is the purpose of humanity in the greater scheme of it all?
Are we just a lonely planet, its common people left to fret the centuries
away with competitive corporate-economic greed, war and nationalist,
cultural political divide as we strongly cling to idealized ethnic national
boundaries – this occasionally intertwined with positive progress but
overall a pattern truly unrewarding and unfulfilling? Or, are there others
out there, looking back at us through the night-sky with their own
telescopic equipment, wondering the same questions? We must continue
the recent globalized effort with more alliance, unity and integrative policies
– this is the trend of the future. We must strive for something greater,
something more noble and gallant – for the exploration of the unknown and
the pursuit of infinite knowledge. Eventually, and this is an arguable
statement, Earth itself, in all its greatness, will no longer satisfy us and our
preoccupations – just like Europe no longer satisfied the colonial powers
as they set sail on their fateful oceanic voyages.

         Particularly, this critical knowledge of the frequency and
abundance of life in the heavens, and its inherent sophistication in
evolutionary terms, is undoubtedly decades, perhaps centuries away from
even rudimentary comprehension. Yet, at the same time, it is quite
fascinating to imagine the possibilities. Unfortunately, in the present
period, domestic planetary concerns may quite understandably impede our
march into the stars. It will happen eventually: humanity’s expansion into
the depths of space, this march into the stars – I believe it is truly only a
matter of time. Then, naturally, many questions such as these and other
associated astronomical curiosities will begin to be elucidated as we probe
deeper and deeper into the still-elusive corners of our stellar
neighborhood. But until then, our creative imagination – our stories – will
have to suffice and this is precisely the inspiration for my tale. I believe it
is crucial that we seek to add a dose of the profound into our lives here
and there before the mere mundane routine of daily life becomes a granted
simplicity – we must explore the possibilities and venture forward.

          Considering the immensity of the universe – millions of galaxies
containing billions of stars – it would almost be exceedingly arrogant and
quite self-centered to assume that we are the only life-forms inhabiting the
seemingly infinite reaches of space. To speak simply in the language of
statistical probability is one matter (for even extra dimensions can be
represented mathematically), but to contemplate the actual discovery of
another alien race out there among the stars – whether manipulating
simplistic pre-industrial tools, wielding laser-firing starships, or something
                                                                             v

entirely beyond our understanding – would surely constitute a great
moment in the history of mankind.

          Or, considering our own warlike past and the recurring clashes of
rival factions and civilizations, which has unfortunately become so
engrained in the very fabric of history, perhaps it would be best if we were
truly alone in the vastness of the cosmos. For many, such an idea may be
acceptable; but I would make the proposition that a solitary existence of
this kind might ultimately become dull, lacking excitement and intrigue: the
opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we acquire vast quantities of
new data, the chance to comparatively share experiences, but, more
importantly, the chance to gain an entirely new perspective on life and how
truly valuable it is. Is peaceful co-existence possible between foreign
space factions or will the same ancestral patterns of imperial competition
inevitably repeat on a much larger scale, when humans make the bold and
daring leap into the next geopolitical arena? The prospect of hostility in
space between interstellar adversaries has already been dramatized and
fictionalized abundantly. But, much more profoundly, what I have
attempted to portray in the subsequent tale, in addition to the periodic star
skirmish, is the unity-inspired principle of integration – somewhat idealistic
in scope – but once realized almost limitless in power and capacity. It is
an ideal and vision of great morality. Of course, this is all speculative –
science-fiction has to be.

          Whether E.T. is out there is a matter of opinion and will remain so
until the definitive evidence presents itself, but one must concede, at the
very least, that strictly in mathematical terms it would not be at all
outlandish to consider the chances. It is no doubt that such evidence, if it
ever arrives, would have numerous ramifications and in all likelihood dwarf
all expectations. The true space age still awaits us, but enthusiasts fear
international problems may very well prolong and postpone any real
concrete efforts for quite some time. How long will the human race have to
wait to see its first permanent Moon colonies…? One million colonists on
the lunar surface…? Martian cities? Will New Washington, New Moscow,
or New Beijing ever be founded on another world? Difficult and audacious
it will be, of course; but we must progress not with daunting fears, but with
inspirational hope. The collective spirit of exploration – once so rich and
vibrant in our souls – has dampened and faded away, like a dry, wrinkled
autumn leaf slowly spiraling to the ground.

         It must be reawakened; Vivaldi’s winter symphony must progress
to spring – our creative ingenuity must be harnessed once again. Just like
a grand Beethoven sonata, the starship is an ingenious work of beauty –
from an engineering and technical perspective – as it launches into the
cosmos. Humanity’s space program must launch again. The symphony
will be a mix of crescendos and diminuendos of course, but in the end –
                                                                            vi

obstacles and dangers recognized – the long-term benefits will outweigh
the shortcomings. Like any great business venture (or enterprise), the
initial costs and risk of failure looms large in the psychological masses, but
it will be these same masses – these audience members – that will erupt in
overwhelming rapture and applause at the recognition of eventual success,
as the orchestra takes its humble bows. It may take generations to realize
substantial goals, but what pride to be among the first to take part in this
journey - this potential harmonious masterpiece of brilliance. One day our
successors may look back at the next few decades as the classical age of
space travel – the crucial first steps in a long pursuit towards epic
knowledge and reward. The first notes have already been composed, but
much awaits us.

         Perhaps, on a planetary scale, as I allude to in the following
pages, an alien encounter might be the only compelling-enough and
sufficient impetus for the nations of the world to really co-operate with each
other, not under a veil of uneasy diplomatic protocol and suspicion but
with sincere, practical unity. Then and only then, perhaps, will a species
find the need to collaborate in unison and go beyond its comfortable
barrier-ridden routine, conceivably to ensure its survival or successful leap
into the next frontier of space. One only needs to gaze briefly into the lens
of history to perceive such an instinctive concept clearly. The Greek
Athenians and Spartans, later to become intense rivals in the
Peloponnesian conflict, put aside their political and ideological differences
to unify as one valiant Hellenic army against the larger and dangerous
Persian threat mounting precariously in Asia Minor. And, one must
remember a great naval battle: an alliance of Christian forces coming
together to halt the Ottoman advance in the Mediterranean in the epic
engagement of Lepanto. Hopefully, military-defensive requirements will
not be the catalyst triggering this spark, but instead actual genuine motives
of planetary progress, advancement and positive change for the
betterment of the people will inspire such much-needed action. Common
interests, common goals and common beliefs may one day propel us deep
into the stars.

         As mentioned, maybe it is a good thing we haven’t yet had a run-in
with a hostile Klingon-like neighbor, but purely from a standpoint of logic
and the law of averages, it would seem completely plausible to imply the
likelihood of other worlds emerging with the suitable conditions and
necessary biological ingredients to give birth to life. It is already generally
accepted and widespread knowledge among the scientific community that
Mars – our most interesting of planetary cousins – was very likely covered
by seas of water in its early years. And the moons of Jupiter and Saturn,
most notably Europa and Titan, hold great possibilities for the existence of
exotic micro-organic life. And these are merely examples within our own
star system. The number of extra-solar planets – worlds orbiting other
                                                                            vii

stars – continues to grow rapidly as planet-finding techniques improve
greatly and new discoveries continue to make astronomy headlines. It
appears only to be a matter of time and technology before the first Earth-
like planets are spotted – raising tantalizing consequences. Still, some
skeptical scholars, supporters of the rarity of Earth, contend that a plethora
of variables had to coincide and coalesce optimally to allow life to prosper
and evolve: stable plate tectonics, ocean coverage, a perfectly sized
moon, Jupiter’s presence, atmospheric conditions, ice ages – a myriad of
habitability factors that would be extremely difficult to duplicate repeatedly.
But once again, one must be reminded simply of the vast enormity of the
universe, which by sheer size should remain relatively undaunted by these
petty challenges.

          Of course, this is the great Fermi’s paradox: Where are they?
Intriguingly, the answer may lie in the hypothetical realm of extremely far-
advanced technology – a conceptual image I run with in the novel. And
one may easily find counter-objections to the idea of such far-fetched
technology, claiming such fantasies will never be possible. Will we ever
find a loophole in our unfortunate understanding of the galactic speed limit
of light, of which no violation seems presently possible? This would clearly
put a damper on the idea of travelling the stars, with such a depressing
limit to the maximum velocity allowed by the standards of current physics.
But, as scientists point out, sometimes utterly new discoveries and
breakthroughs can render once-regarded bastions of theoretical thought all
but obsolete. Are wormholes possible to artificially create? Are there truly
extra dimensions of space-time in the universe? Our lifetimes may never
grant us the answers to such questions, but I am again reminded of a good
line, uttered by the science-fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, when he stated,
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic…”
The advanced technology of another sentient species has no limits, I
humbly propose to my readers.

         Just as we once thought human flight or breaking the sound
barrier was impossible, the exponential nature of technological evolution
necessitates an open-minded tolerance of the seemingly magical and
impossible. And it may be precisely this magical technology of another
alien species – concealing their existence from us – that prevents us from
detecting the traces of others out there. Perhaps, the opposite is true: an
extraterrestrial race, pre-radio in its technical ability, perhaps even
Neanderthal-like in its evolution, would be too primitive, especially if it was
rather far away from us, to provide any measure of detectable signs. Most
likely, both conceivable permutations, and all stages in between, would be
represented in some fashion – this being an ambitiously open-minded
view.
                                                                          viii

          The question of whether the human species is alone in the
universe stems from the much larger context of science and philosophy, of
which the ultimate goal is to unravel the very nature of existence and
reality. Whether it is delving deeper into the atom and probing the
mysterious subatomic realm to unlock the most fundamental of secrets or
surveying massive stellar nebulae, galaxies and star clusters to advance
our astrophysical comprehension, the scientific ambition remains the same
– to better understand the universe in all its complexity. Interestingly, a
predominant theme in this pursuit is the remarkable idea of a unifying
force. Something that appears to have originated with the ancient Greek
thinkers, who attempted to characterize and explain the world in terms of
one all-encompassing substance or abstraction, whether it was air, water
or even Pythagorean-inspired mathematics, such efforts are also prevalent
in modern day physics as scientists strive to unify the four distinct forces
into one all-powerful equation or grand theory. Even among the greatest
of intellectuals, Newton, Maxwell and Einstein, this process of supreme
unification – whether of gravity or of all the forces – appears to hold great
significance and fascinating, almost awe-inspiring power.

           If we are to apply this same fundamental principle and mentality to
a geopolitical framework, it becomes clear that the world would
unquestionably stand to benefit from a similar, globalized, international
unity. And although it appears – at least at the present – exceedingly
difficult to combine the world of quantum mechanics with that of general
relativity, and similarly, intricately difficult to unite the unique cultural
entities and nationalistic factions of the planet, once the world does attain
such unification – something that is certainly hindered to some
considerable degree, but in the realm of definite possibility – then there
would be no telling what humanity will be able to achieve and ultimately
aspire to become. To quote John. F. Kennedy, who made this memorable
statement in an era that was marked by increasing tensions in an
uncertain, arms-racing Cold War atmosphere: “For in the final analysis,
our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all
breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all
mortal...” Humanity, as it has demonstrated time and time again through
its maturity and recent history, overcame that particular time period of
tension and has the remarkable capacity to continue to triumph over
adversity as it continues to progress. But until a planetary species can
reach a certain level of unification, it still clenches on to its barbaric,
savage past of lingering national, racial, cultural and ideological divides.
As mankind begins to embrace the modern space age, an incredible
milestone and one that was ushered in and inspired by President Kennedy
himself, it must be ensured that the movement into this new and exciting
frontier is marked by peaceful and international cooperation – such that
would resemble this incredibly powerful, historically sought-after harmony.
                                                                          ix

         We must shed our primitive, self-centric view of the cosmos and
embrace the great future. As we move forward into this new of era of
sophistication and innovation, the endless possibilities of existence – the
very dreams of our ancestors – await, ready to be fulfilled. With the same
driving force that compelled Magellan and Columbus to explore the world’s
oceans and probe into the mysterious, humans must venture beyond the
shores of Earth’s comfortable proximity and into the fruitful, glorious
unknown.

          The Spanish found improbable wealth and vast treasures awaiting
their arrival and exploitation in the New World, but we must remember that
their conquistador-inspired destruction of the Incas and Aztecs – new
illness exposures aside – was carried out in large part due to their
advanced advantage. Yet we can distinguish the levels of both
civilizations’ capacities - the energy-usage, technological factors
considered - by only hundreds of years. As we look out into space, it can
be overwhelmingly uncomforting or very enticing to consider the potential
difference in the comparison of galactic species, developing, uniquely
evolving and progressing perhaps millennia behind us or millions of years
ahead of us – the universal scale being much larger in the dimension of
time. Some suggest that this may be a contributing reason of our failures
to detect any aliens or advanced Q-like entities; with their inexplicable
technology they would be perhaps simply disinterested with mere amoeba
– with archaic triviality which we may represent to some very sophisticated
outsider. The Carl Sagan-inspired movie, Contact, suggests an allegory
for the aliens’ view of Earth: “…Why would someone go out of their way to
visit some ant colony in Africa…?” Why would they care about our still-
immature Earth species, struggling to cooperate amongst ourselves and
still years away from harnessing the full power of the planet and immediate
stellar surroundings?

          But then again, if remarkably an alien faction was roughly within
the same stage of development and represented a similar civilization-type
or status – renowned physicist Michio Kaku explains in length the
parameters of this Kardashev classification system – then it almost
compels immediate action. Why are we not preparing, assuming alien life
is predatory and hostile, constructing defenses, guarding our solar frontier?
One may argue that the chances of an encounter with a species at a
precisely similar stage of technological development would appear
scientifically unlikely, but it is within the realm of possibility - however
remote. For the purposes of dramatic and fictional worlds, however, there
must be some exceptions: this unlikelihood is ignored for the intentions of
creating a suspenseful storyline. Exo-politics and astrobiology: these are
all speculative fields, but one thing is for certain. Humanity must do
whatever is necessary to rid itself of its earthly concerns and begin the
movement further into space. Are we too comfortable with our present
                                                                              x

state, too static and content with our subway-to-work routine, too confident
of our dominion over the world, while others plan their invasions, as H.G.
Wells said in his classic War of the Worlds? I’m not suggesting a Mars-
based invasion of Earth any time soon. Despite what seemed complex
valley systems, resembling waterways and ancient canals, the NASA land-
rovers have explored what has thus far proven to be a very geologically-
interesting but lifeless Martian surface, probing away without interference
for months, save the intermittent hindrance of bad weather and dust
storms. But this does raise the question: are we too content with this
present lifestyle, not ready to embark on a bolder campaign into the stars?
The Mars example may refocus the debate: why not be satisfied with
machines doing the exploring for us, why risk the threat to human life as
some may contend? Perhaps… but nothing can compare with the feel of
alien soil on space boots for the first time – for the creative human
component – for the multitude of tasks humans can resourcefully and
spontaneously devise. Most importantly, it is simply part of our nature to
explore.

         It is safe to assert that many in 1969, after that fateful year,
envisioned that the first few years after 2000 would have much more
promise and progress from our initially-spectacular space program: moon
settlements, perhaps private space craft, and our own colonial invasions of
the Red Planet. But this Jetsons’ vision – this ambitious futuristic view
inspired by the amazing Apollo program – never materialized. What
happened? Why the delay? Why the dwindling enthusiasm? Yes, there
have been many innovations since: thin flat-screen laptops, tiny cell-phone
cameras and a host of other advances in all fields, but overall, it is the
corrupted corporate system which seeks merely higher and higher profits,
competing with other corporations to better serve the consumer and
ultimately the selfish, unregulated pockets of their high-level executives.
Imagine if such effort, such united strength, was pooled, not just by a
handful of government agencies, but by many over a much wider
spectrum, serving the interests of humanity’s progress and future, serving
the profound goals of our humble ancestors. Why the odd historical oddity
of 1969 to 1972, dates later historians will look back at with curiosity, not to
be repeated with the same energetic vigor for decades, perhaps more? It
is a remarkable complex – similar to the military-industrial complex in a
way – in that the more noble goals of the people are not taken into full
account, where industrial-corporate capital takes disproportionate
precedence. This is not in any way meant to discount or dishearten the
great free enterprise and capitalistic system, but rather, we must, as an
internationally-connected world, work closer together to strengthen these
systems – to work for the betterment of the species and for more
meaningful values in life.
                                                                           xi

         Einstein once said, “Religion without science is blind; science
without religion is boring.” Perhaps religion has something to do with this
question. To suggest that divine intervention has something to do with our
solitary uniqueness in the universe will inspire some and raise the
disapproving eyebrows of more Copernican-like promoters of the notion
we are merely average, living on an average planet, in a typical star
system, in a unspectacular corner of the galaxy, in a regular, common
galactic neighborhood.

         Others will point again to all those necessary, already-stated
factors – ones that must be fulfilled in their optimal habitability areas in
order for life to flourish. Our existence, the fact that we beat the odds is
simply a miracle some would say. The fact that Earth’s especially delicate
molecules and cells (amino acids combining to make proteins required for
DNA, for example), the fact that the first proto-life forms were given the
time to survive and evolve, points only, such proponents would say, to the
miraculous and incredible, to the realm beyond the logicians’ scientific
toolbox. This role cannot be so easily discarded.

         Ultimately over millions of years, the process, still shrouded in
much mystery, continued into more complex life – larger multi-cellular
organisms, amphibians, and then nature experimenting with the very
intriguing gigantic reptilian phase of dinosaurs, and finally primates. With
asteroid and comet impacts, ultraviolet rays, and multiple threatening
hazards ripe with abundance, the preliminary stages necessary to even
allow for the rise of the modern, intelligent, Homo sapiens species must
have been jeopardized on numerous occasions. With the dominance
humans now enjoy over the planet, it must be hard to envision such
struggle. Was it a monotheistic God’s inspiration and guidance that
assisted the evolutionary process, a Clarke-like alien monolith or an extra-
sophisticated Von Neumann probe of some kind? Perhaps the journey
from unicellular to plant-life to vertebrate to sentient life-form is more
commonplace than we are anticipating? Perhaps, galactic civilizations do
arise, but are spaced out, distributed (divinely or not depending on your
inclination) in such a framework that would make contact between them
exceedingly difficult or not possible at all, save some incredible technology
and extra-dimensional manipulation of space-time-energy that would take
an eternity to reach. Perhaps we are specifically prevented from
encountering other space-faring races by some awe-inspiring entity or
galactic club, holding onto some kind of transportation device only they
possess, avoiding the inevitable clash of civilizations which would be
unimaginably horrific in scale. Maybe there are other races out there, but
they are just too remotely far away (one species per galaxy for example) to
permit this sought-after exchange of information. The speculation can go
on forever…
                                                                              xii

          But what an incredible exchange of information that would be: it
would represent a hypothetical Holy Grail of this field. This is, I think, the
most tantalizing aspect of it all – the prospects of what could be learned:
The Library of Alexandria of all knowledge. It would take scholars years
just to skim over that kind of fascinating database. How would we
compare our experience to theirs: historically, biologically, philosophically,
politically, linguistically… as the list goes on and on endlessly? The areas
of comparative interest would seemingly multiply as each new onlooker
brought a new perspective and expertise to the fold.

          It would seem a bit lonely if we were to be truly alone. It seems
like a lot of empty space: a starship cruising along the empty, barren,
lifeless star systems with no one to share, communicate or collaborate
with. We must explore, we must go out there, whether or not we run into
Incan treasures or not. Eventually the expansion into space will yield
much more benefit than tangibility can offer – it will provide profound
discoveries to inspire posterity. For it is in the pursuit and fulfillment of this
need to explore in the Columbian fashion – so very imprinted in the depths
of the human soul – the need to satisfy the deepest of curiosities and
uncover the greatest of mysteries, which enriches and provides some of
the most significant meaning to life.

          And, if mankind is not yet permitted the answer to one of its most
fascinating questions – if one is not privileged in their lifetime with the
solution to this simultaneously philosophical and scientific inquiry – then at
the very least, we can always rely on our always great imagination as
human beings to satiate these age-old curiosities as we gaze in blissful
wonder at the miraculous stars above…
                                                                    xiii




Note to the Reader:

All names of characters, places and associated designations
inherent in this book must be understood to represent their
appropriate English equivalent. For the purposes of simplicity,
names of extraterrestrial beings, aliens, their planets and foreign
worlds are portrayed in conventional Earth-like terms, but it must be
realized that the alien species fictionalized in this work are of course
involved with their own distinct cultural customs and communicating
in their own languages, as would be most logically reasonable if
indeed such life-forms existed out there in the universe.
                      xiv




PART 1: UNIFICATION
                                                           xv




65 million years ago: when dinosaurs still roamed the
earth’s continents, before mammals began their ascent to
dominance, at a time long before humanity’s arrival, long
before the great civilizations of antiquity, in the primordial
infancy of history…
                                                                                1

                                PROLOGUE


          The darkness of space, illuminated by the glow of countless stars
scattered throughout the infinite depths of the universe, always fascinated
Johnson. He stared pensively at the mysterious realm of space through
the large observational window in his luxurious quarters of the ship.
Usually captains and high-ranking delegates were reserved the privilege of
residing in some of the more comfortable living spaces aboard a
spacecraft – this particular interstellar vessel truly an engineering marvel in
its latest state-of-the art sophistication. The endless boundaries of the
universe are just waiting to be explored thought the veteran astronaut, his
gaze now particularly intrigued with what looked to be a cluster of stars
deep in the distant void. Several questions occupied his thoughts, echoing
in his head, How many galaxies are truly out there? Is there life on other
planets? The magnificence of the cosmos, in its overwhelming scale and
picturesque beauty, served as a wondrous source of alluring awe — the
heavens never ceased to amaze.

         Ensberg, the computer scientist on the journey, interrupted his
reverie, “Captain, we have encountered…” he paused, attempting to
characterize the crisis, “…some minor difficulty.” He rephrased, “…some
turbulence.” Although not terribly elucidating and contributing to the
captain’s now increasing stress, he settled on that simple explanation,
anticipating the engineer to make a more definitive diagnosis. The door
only slightly ajar upon his arrival, the scientist briskly entered the room –
his puzzled expression an ominous indication of potential hazard.

        Johnson tried to hold back some obvious frustration as he turned
to acknowledge the notification. A fleet captain for ten years now, his
involvement in some of the lunar missions and early colonial assignments
easily made him the most experienced astronaut on the ship — and the
best choice to command the much-coveted, highly hailed operation.
Although much older than his counterparts, he had the same inspiring
enthusiasm, and thirst for knowledge that resembled the younger, less-
seasoned astronauts. More significantly, he carried with him an aura of
wisdom, consistently apparent to the officers, which was well-respected
and aptly admired by the entire crew.

        Rising from his seat, a hollow feeling permeated his insides.
Rarely did he experience such nauseating discomfort.

       “We need you in the command center,” Ensberg continued, “The
engines are experiencing some problematic instability.”
                                                                             2

        “I’m on my way,” Johnson replied, eager to discover the source of
the problem.

         Thus far, he believed he had crafted a positive judgment of his co-
worker. Approving of his computer specialist, not only because of his great
expertise in the field, but also due to the strong work ethic his colleague
had demonstrated throughout the extensive training process, he regarded
Ensberg as an asset. He was best known for his enviable and speedy
repair jobs; something increasingly evident to Johnson, he was especially
adept at rerouting auxiliary power, channeling the ever-important extra
joules of energy in times of distress. The two men had prepared for this
particular assignment for months, handpicked among the planet’s best.
Expectations were high; but, of course, they were always were.

           The captain’s mind now raced as they exited the room. Any
difficulties associated with the propulsion systems never boded well on an
interplanetary voyage of this kind – the nearest starport now thousands of
kilometers behind them as they continued their steady star-system
advance.

         Walking hurriedly through the ship’s corridors to the command
center, they quickly approached the vessel’s main control room. Centrally
located within the ship, the room was constantly occupied to perform all
the ship’s functions, monitor its crucial systems and study the surrounding
space. Fleet designs gradually becoming more crew-friendly and
streamlined, this was a moderately-sized vessel; it had an oval-shaped
hull, with smooth wings on both port and starboard, giving the craft a sleek,
maneuverable look. Powered mainly by nuclear energy, rocket thrusters
were at the rear of the craft – now expelling plasma in a threateningly
intermittent way.

        Gasperi, the main engineer on the voyage, had noticed the
discrepancy and was presently monitoring the fluctuations and attempting,
rather unsuccessfully, to remedy the escalating situation. As he was now
making the determination, something was evidently causing some
dangerous interference, but attempts to ascertain the source of the
disturbance were all fruitless, yielding nothing in the way of plausible
answers.

        Repetitively, he tapped away at his computer controls, desperately
endeavoring to make the preliminary bypass procedures. His efforts
continually insufficient, he heard the audibly-increasing footsteps of his
superiors and then diverted his attention to watch as they entered the
command center.
                                                                                3

        In unison, Johnson and Ensberg dutifully assumed their respective
positions at the sides of the room. The captain nodding at the two
crewmen occupying navigation controls, he glanced at his own readings
and immediately sighed in recognition of mechanical breakdown. A view-
screen above their computers showed a small brown-grey object, which
Johnson knew was the planet, looming in distance. Sitting down to
analyze some data, he noticed more aggravation from the engineer.
“What’s our engine status?”

         Gasperi turned from his computer again, his face showing a
glimpse of panic. Finally, he had made the realization, “This area of space
is abundant in radiation. It’s affecting the systems.” The engineer was
typically optimistic about being able to make repairs, but Johnson could
easily observe that his colleague was deeply disturbed by the unforeseen
dilemma.
         “Radiation,” repeated Ensberg, worried.
         “What’s our position?” Johnson showed his concern.

         “We are approximately forty million kilometers away from Titus,”
replied a noticeably busy officer, the main pilot on the mission. One of
three inner planets in the solar system, Titus was a terrestrial, barren world
dominated by craters and volcanoes with a thin, mostly hazardous
atmopshere. The previous operation, three years prior, had unexpectedly
failed to reach the planet – still an unexplained mystery – the ship declared
missing after a vast and ultimately disappointed search effort. With
renewed vigor, this crew’s mission was to successfully voyage to the still-
unexplored world, survey the surface and oversee the construction of its
first permanent surface colonies.

          Gasperi, speculating in rising terror, was now beginning to realize
the cause of the former vessel’s baffling disappearance and assignment-
failure five years prior. Were they now ensnared in the same trap –
advancing towards a similar fate, towards similar devastation?

        “I can’t get this bypass to work… Damn these Reliant-class
vessels – they barely finish the test procedures before launching these
prototypes into the fray!” Gasperi had lost his patience.

           “The Portman’s a fine ship, the construction teams did a fine job –
let’s try to remain civilized here…” One of the first vessels to be
commissioned from the new Reliant-class design, the Portman was
considered a premier craft by many on the homeworld. But, of course, not
everyone shared that view. As Ensberg reflected quickly, Gasperi was
always a bit reluctant to accept change, especially radical ones, and the
new engineering schematics must have fueled a good share of headaches
for the engineer.
                                                                               4


         “And it’s not a prototype – it’s a state-of-the…” the captain was
interrupted by the usually courteous crew. If anything, it was a sign of
much anxiety mounting.

         “The amount of radiation is increasing in this area of space,”
reiterated Gasperi, still shocked by their precariously progressing
condition. The engineer was one of the five astronauts in the command
center at the time - each one now studying their readouts with increasing
worry. A ship of exploration usually included fewer people, but due to the
extended nature of the mission, an additional complement of
approximately one-hundred personnel were onboard - each provided with
their own private quarters. Among this impressive workforce, there were
numerous scientists, including several chemists, astrobiologists, and
geologists to study the planet, perform experiments and most notably
several construction-engineer specialists to build the designed colonies.
“Power levels are slowly dropping,” continued the engineer with irritation.

           “I just lost our communications,” said Ensberg, “Without radio
contact, they will presume our ship was lost, or even…” – they dreaded
what Ensberg would say next – “…destroyed.”
           “I’m losing control of the ship!” yelled another officer, clearly
growing in terror.
           “Captain, come and look at this…” the officer’s speech seemed to
trail off - her anxiety evident.
           Johnson approached the piloting console with newfound urgency.
            “The ship seems to be taking damage — the hull is at 80%
integrity.”
           “What? What’s the cause?” he asked, stunned.
           “I don’t—.”
           “The engines are still losing power.”
           “Without sufficient energy, we will be unable to reach the
objective… or return home,” added Ensberg, but the thought had already
entered Johnson’s mind. He returned to his computer to monitor the
energy levels of the ship and noticed the warning, just as Ensberg
announced it to the rest of the crew.

         “Oxygen is on a steady decline; CO2 levels are rising.” Ensberg
turned to face the view screen, and glanced at the small, rocky planet – the
ship’s destination seemingly more unattainable with the alarming passage
of time. He worked steadily on the controls, trying to stabilize the deadly
increase of carbon dioxide by activating the reserve supply of breathable
air. He knew his survival and the success of the mission were greatly
jeopardized. Never had he encountered such a menacing predicament,
system after system succumbing to power-draining, deterioration. Even
                                                                               5

his legendary system-skills seemed dangerously inadequate in the face of
this inexplicable horror. “Unable to compensate.”

         “Can we leave the area, take another route and avoid the radiation
or whatever is causing these malfunctions?” Johnson asked openly,
directing his question to everyone.
         “I can’t control the ship,” repeated the pilot, “Navigation is close to
failure… it’s not responding!” She was beginning to lose hope, “I don’t
understand.”

        The ship spun in all directions, “Reading some sort of distortion…
came out of nowhere…” The officer was incredulous.
        Suddenly, his earlier notion about space seemed to change –
instead of fascinating and mysterious – it had become a very empty and
unforgiving place. Taking a second to observe his frantically working crew,
the captain desperately did not want this merciless vacuum of space to
become the resting place for his talented and well-prized team.
        Officers yelled in panic, “Engines in critical condition.”

        “Auxiliary reserves inoperative…” Ensberg was furious.
        “Damage is severe; the hull is at 50%…”
        “Oxygen supply is low…”
        “Energy levels dropping...”
                                                                           6


                                 Chapter 1


        A majestic spacecraft of the Domian Confederacy gradually
decelerated into the sector and approached the second planet in the
system.

         Captain Maxwell, in a rather reflective mood, gazed at his small,
handheld computer device. Seated in his authoritative command position,
he could oversee the entire crew scrambling about, checking systems,
running scans, and sporadically notifying him of important updates. As
they went about their hourly work, an odd but humbling feeling of tranquility
seemed to surge through his soul – a blissfully euphoric state like a bird
soaring powerfully and harmoniously through the sky. For, at this present
moment, nothing seemed remotely capable of disconnecting the grasp of
commanding influence he now felt on a very personal and collective level.
He slowly felt his fingers clutching in the palm of his hand. Immensely
proud of his planet’s – his species’– achievements, the awareness of the
Confederacy’s well-established dominion over the new frontier of space
brought great, unthreatening comfort. They had spread their wings,
broadened their horizons and expanded into the stars just as the ancients
had proliferated with commercial sea colonies. To him and to many
others, it was simply a matter of progress and technological succession, as
an almost unstoppable force was carrying his destined people to their
manifest and glorious grandeur on the stream of time. But, remembering
the ancients, he hoped this opulent prosperity would be more permanent.
Space, as had already been proven on numerous occasions, was
fascinatingly unpredictable, and his innate wisdom, amidst the pride and
triumph, seemed to rationally and simultaneously, learning from the
greatest of teachers – history itself – warn of such self-proclaimed
supremacy, such superior arrogance. Vigilance, humility, and prudence
were always good compass points to follow, he reminded himself, pausing
again to catch a glimpse of a crewman working away at the sensor-science
post.

         A navigator by trade, exploration was truly his first passion. He
contended that politics could always follow, to be conducted by the
diplomats, admirals and the like. But, of course, the two would have to
collide and intermingle inevitably – such was the life of a fleet captain.
And, although he had commanded his vessels into the miraculous abyss of
space all his life – treasure-troves of discoveries discerned and still to be
unearthed – a sense of mystery still pervaded: only a fraction of the galaxy
was charted. It would be impossible to predict what would await them –
what encounters they might meet in the unseen quarters of the universe.
And if history was any guide, he was sure there may be other powers –
                                                                               7

lurking in the distant nebulas, waiting for their prime moment to strike –
ready to challenge that particular prosperity.

         Checking his own readouts and satisfied with his vessel’s current
trajectory, he continued his contemplation. An intriguing phenomenon
occupied him momentarily: for although the backdrop was interstellar
space and the medium starships, sentient life’s intrinsic behavioral nature
seemed to forever rest, however great the intellectual-social evolution
seemed, on the same basic civilization-inspired framework that had
propelled the ancients into the seas and now propelled the present
generation into the stars – the same foundations of instinctive survival-
based competitive rivalry, in all its national-political, economic and
ideological manifestations. But perhaps the movement into space, he
pondered, would provide the final impetus for that much-needed social-
intellectual revolution – an enlightenment of sorts he thought - to transcend
the historical pattern, and inspire a better future. On the threshold of a
new era, he could sense the spirit of optimistic change – first vaguely
identifiable, now readily palpable – increasingly evident among his people;
but there were still many unknowns to uncover, many star systems to
navigate…

         The intended destination now became much more visible on the
computer panels aligning the room - each officer providing his or her own
technical perspective in unraveling the planet’s characteristic properties
and features. The moment was one of delighted jubilancy; the
Confederacy was at its Augustan peak and opportunities seemed
boundless. Tapping a few buttons on the device, he finally decided to
record his thoughts - perhaps for his future self, but more profoundly
perhaps for posterity:
         It is with a deep sense of satisfaction mixed with a great sense of
historical significance that I begin writing this personal chronicle. Our
people, with inspiring energy and in a span of only decades, have made
the exploration of space our most enduring objective. We hope to
renounce and relinquish our barbaric ways of the past as we progress
forward in this new age of discovery.…

         One of the scientists turned from his console and made the report,
         “Captain… nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, widespread vegetation,
no indication of intelligent life, approximately sixty-percent liquid water,
forty percent land distribution, mean global temperature twenty degrees
Celsius, primitive bacteria-like life-forms present…”

        “Suitable for colonization?” Maxwell shifted his focus to the officer.
        “An ideal candidate for expansion, sir.”
        “Good. Notify Space Command. Inform them that we have
discovered a potential planet.”
                                                                            8


         A sense of accomplishment ensued. The exploratory vessel - just
recently commissioned to locate suitable worlds on the northwestern
frontier – motioned closer to the planetoid, its scanners collecting
information in seconds. The gathered sensor acquisitions sufficient, the
captain checked his stellar maps – a small computer monitor adjacent to
his seat – and considered his next course adjustment. Vitally aware of the
need to continue on schedule, Maxwell looked to his pilot, “Continue our
course into the Tours sector.”

       After a relatively long period of peace enjoyed between both the
Torians and the Sollarians, two of the major nations on the planet Domus,
the two governments joined in a rare, combined venture to form the hailed
Space Command. Finally, after years of settling worldly rivalries and petty
feuds on the planet, the two factions were ready to begin the daunting, but
rewarding task of space exploration. Within years, an impressive armada
of space vessels was assembled, colonies were founded within the home
system as well as beyond and the borders of the new Confederacy grew,
expanding outwards in territory and creating a space dominion that now
stretched several hundred light-years across. A crucial breakthrough in
starship propulsion had considerably accelerated the process; each vessel
was now fitted with advanced nuclear fusion-antimatter systems, making
possible further commercial gains and ushering in a new era of what
seemed to be unbridled growth and affluence.

        But the Confederacy’s early existence and foray into space would
not be marked entirely by success. Although the united and globally-
governing institution of Space Command insisted that the colonies were
part of an integrated Confederacy, several space settlements were
founded separately by the competing blocs, creating some significant
tension as each outpost sometimes harbored distinctly different cultural
identities – some loyal to their original nation. Only a few colonies, mostly
the inner settlements closest to Domus, could claim that they were mostly
fused cohesively. It was undeniably a significant dilemma for the newly
established organization; one that they acknowledged required urgent and
imperative correction. If left unfixed, top experts deeply believed that such
strains on the union could easily escalate into internal dissent and turmoil.
But this type of problem was to be expected among the inhabitants of
Domus. After centuries of intermittent war and suspicion between the two
countries, it was a logical development that some of this residue of distrust
and hatred would thrive among the population, fueling the creation of such
separate space settlements. In fact, only the latest Treaty of Vorsalle,
signed a century ago, had stopped the most recent of warfare between the
rival states. The epoch of peace ensured by the armistice allowed the
industrialized nations to finally focus their efforts on more pressing global
concerns. And once problems such as world poverty, disease and even
                                                                             9

an environmental crisis were remedied, the two nations joined hands in the
creation of Space Command and were prepared to embark on a new era
of enlightenment, unconstrained by lesser worries.

          Content with their progress thus far – six planets and two moons
had been identified for potential colonization – Maxwell readied his crew
for their return.
          “Captain, starport Alpha-8 is signaling.”
          He responded, “Open a communications channel. This is the
starship Intrepid. We have completed our mission. Permission to dock in
hangar?”

          “Acknowledged. Standby Intrepid.” The impressive spaceport,
housing over a thousand crew personnel, contained a ready complement
of available vessels, mostly scout ships tasked with surveying the distant
areas beyond the Confederacy’s periphery. Situated in an outlying sector,
this station was one of the most remote signs of Domian presence. Built
fifteen years ago, it was designed as a base from which to launch
additional ships and establish further bases – in the typical expansionistic
way of the Confederacy. And, although extending their domain was
regarded as immensely valuable, the long-standing tradition and
commitment to republican ideals of democracy was always maintained in
due form - colonial representatives were established lawfully.

          In all the discoveries made in the last century, the Domians had
only encountered one other sentient, space-faring race, an intriguingly
sophisticated people known quite simply, as the pronunciation of the name
was impossible, as the Species 2. Perhaps a crude and partial term, it
caught on quite quickly despite its rather unscientific nature. Their
kingdom stretched for several light-years to the west of the Confederacy,
and, although they proved to be a most hospitable, friendly race, not much
was known about their culture. Domian scholars insisted on studying the
alien civilization thoroughly, but Space Command was more interested in
sharing starship technologies and acquiring new system specifications
from the knowledgeable nation in the initial meetings. Among the sparse
information obtained about the Species 2, it was understood that they were
a much older civilization, priding themselves on their years of gathered
insight, a race of people that established their space realm much earlier
than the Domians. There was even rumor that in a distant region of
Species 2 space there existed an alleged ‘holy sector’ – a group of star
systems populated by great temples and monasteries, enriched with
ancient, mostly incomprehensible, hieroglyphic-like script, which most
researchers believe to be a commemoration to a several-millennia-old epic
still shrouded in myth. More pertinent to Domian interests, however,
Species 2 diplomats told their counterparts, quite patriotically, several
riveting accounts of their legendary war with another race – one that
                                                                           10

Domians had not yet stumbled upon in their journeys. Supposedly, the
Species 2 tell of a conflict that lasted decades between the two powers
and finally resulted in the establishment of a ceasefire and vast swathe of
Neutral Zone between the competing empires – a zone of space still
regarded as a graveyard of ships. An almost fabled region of space, the
Species 2 warned them to respect the zone’s boundaries or become
unwelcomed intruders into a geopolitical web of centuries-old mistrust and
quarrel. The Confederacy’s elite bureaucracy, regarding their first
encountered space nation as a crucial ally, wisely complied with Species
2’s only request and relations between the two powers had prospered ever
since.

        “Captain, you have been cleared for docking. Proceed.”
        “Thank you,” Maxwell terminated the communications link and
nodded at his crew.
        “Well done. Another mission complete and another colony in
preparation for the ever-expanding dominion.”
        “Long live the Confederacy!” They joyfully saluted the chant; the
atmosphere was hopeful and positive.


                                 Chapter 2


          Clark unleashed a massive surge of laser cannons and
torpedoes in concert, smashing the helpless vessel.
         “Nice shot!”
         He continued firing in rapid succession, each ship becoming the
next victim of his cascade of weapon volleys.
         “Four more…Fire!” The accompanying admiral observed intently.
         Clark pumped his fist in anger - his last two targets evaded the
incoming torpedoes with their pre-programmed maneuvers.
         The instructor shook his head in disgust. “Well, you improved on
your previous effort.”
         “Prepare to restart.”
         The military exercise was well-rehearsed and practiced on
numerous occasions until the weapons officer had developed a well-
harnessed proficiency. The chain-of- command organization highly valued
by the Domians, the Confederacy utilized the old-style military system for
officer ranks, with the lower official of course, adhering to their superior’s
orders at all times.


      The admiral pressed a few buttons on the simulation’s controls,
“Ready… begin.”
                                                                             11

           Clark trained in an actual Confederacy starship, but the weapons
and enemy targets were fabricated simulations, designed to test the officer
in all facets of armament training. The challenge lay in the need to quickly
and accurately fire off several weapons to destroy or disable the eight
enemy targets in a limited time frame. Each level was progressively more
difficult, involving shorter time intervals and more intuitive enemy targets,
intended to evade, providing a true assessment of the officer’s prowess.
Clark had not yet been able to destroy more than six targets, and, though
his ability was well above the required average, the admiral felt he was
capable of much greater achievement.

          Although the Confederacy had yet to encounter a hostile species
in space, the size of the now well-established space dominion necessitated
a ready military force to provide, at the very least, basic defense for the far-
flung colonies and protection for the vital trade routes between outposts.
Many of Space Command’s leaders, supporters of policies of non-
aggression and peaceful expansion, did believe that the republic needed to
have a substantial force to protect against a possible future threat to the
Confederacy or to Domus – the natural planetary capital of the association
– in addition to basic policing enforcement. They asserted a logical
inference based on simple biologic-evolution understandings, that it was
vastly fortunate that their first encountered species had been so friendly
and unassuming, and surely felt that not all space-faring races would be as
modest and reserved as the pious Species 2. With greater territorial
growth and expanding settlements, the first priority of the administration
was not to neglect the security of Domus itself – the economic nucleus of
the space association. The third planet of a five-planet star system,
comprised of three terrestrial worlds and two gas giants, Domus consisted
of three continents encompassed by a vast ocean. Two of the major
continents, home to the Sollarians and Torians, were separated by the
Central Sea – a long, narrow body of water between the nations. The third
continent was a smaller land mass that was colonized by both of the
planetary factions once they had reached the necessary technological
aptitude and matured sufficiently past their dark-age origins. The two
continental nations progressed from their primitive ancestors to their
medieval-feudal societies to the modern, progressive era that they now
enjoyed with relative quickness, as political ideas and technical theories
were readily shared between cultures. Only relatively recently however,
was there a drastic demographical shift from largely agricultural- agrarian
principles to the industry-driven, booming urban settlement that had now
become the norm. The Domians themselves, a humanoid race that
evolved from lesser primates, were a well-cultured people that valued the
enshrinement of freedoms, social justice, historical appreciation and
scientific progress.
                                                                             12

        Clark began firing with greater ferocity, attempting now to better
adapt to the changing circumstances. He worked his computer controls
with unprecedented speed, accurately destroying target after target, the
simulated evasive patterns inadequate to quell his impressive display of
firepower. He approached the final stage of the exercise, the admiral’s
voice becoming audible in the distance, “Anticipate the enemy. Link the
torpedo controls with the laser cannons settings.”

         Clark gazed quickly at the targets; his hands danced on the
controls, desperately trying to establish the required weapons lock.
Instantly, a red light appeared on the console indicating the successful
acquisition of the target – its specifications now pouring in from the scans
on a nearby screen – Clark slammed the final button and the ship was
consumed in flames.
         The admiral walked over, obviously impressed. “Success. A great
improvement over the first time you attempted the exercise. Very good.”
         He nodded in acknowledgment, breathing a sigh of relief.




          “Unbelievable,” Louis consulted his computer to reassure himself,
“I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
          “Well, you’re not the most experienced of astrophysicists. I’m sure
it’s nothing significant.” Rousseau continued his calculations at a nearby
station, unconcerned with his colleague’s findings.

        His usual arrogant remarks no longer dazed Louis, who was quite
accustomed to his candidness. He could vividly remember their first few
months together on assignment; the two were chosen to lead a study to
advance the field of evolutionary cosmology. When the scope of the
investigation widened to encompass not only galactic formation, but in
addition, an in-depth scrutiny into the beginnings of the universe itself, the
usual discussion inevitably turned sour – conflicts of opinion becoming
commonplace. As he recalled, they didn’t particularly bond like compatible
molecular compounds. The experience was definitely trying in those early
days of collaboration. Although such a controversial topic was bound to
produce heated exchanges even among the most cordial of colleagues,
the clash of the two astronomers – Rousseau with his ego-riding
superiority complex and Louis with his young, brilliant, yet low-esteemed
nature – was probably more akin to a matter-antimatter outburst.

        However, the two had managed to meld their differences to some
degree since then, growing to understand their respective idiosyncrasies of
character. Louis made efforts to compromise, recognizing the veteran’s
                                                                              13

credentials and prestige, while Rousseau reluctantly decided to turn down
his aggressiveness – blunt comments aside.

         “This is remarkable. You have to take a look at these telescopic
images.” The two scientists were situated in an astronomical laboratory on
the island province of the northern continent, just west of the mainland.
Geophysicists and seismologists alike agreed that ancient volcanic activity
was mostly likely the cause of the formation of this island millions of years
ago. Home to the largest space-viewing equipment on the planet, the
complex was recently constructed – part of the new science initiatives
funded by the Sollarian Council.

          With a population of close to five hundred million in its entirety, the
Sollarian continent, in the northern hemisphere, was politically divided into
six provinces. Its centralized capital Soltar, a metropolis of over twelve
million, was located in the south-central region. Statistically, most of the
inhabitants resided in the western, coastal cities and urban centers along
the Central Sea – the industrial heartland – in addition to significant
settlement along the eastern coast. The capital, a mix of historical
landmarks and modern architectural spectacle, was the pride of Sollaria –
representing its cultural heritage as well as its advancing progression into
the future. It was well-known that significant competition existed between
the two capitals of the respective nations, something that was more
prevalent in the post-industrial era. Building projects and skyscrapers
continually dotted the landscape as both cities and their administrators
attempted to outdo the other – a civilian manifestation of the ever-growing
arms race and excessive militarism of the time. Such competitive
tendencies still remain engrained in the mindset of the two nations to this
day. There was a stark historical contrast between the north and south –
Sollaria and Toria – that had divided the two on a deeper level, beyond the
obvious geographic separation of the two land masses. The southern
continent, after its consolidation – a unification process that paralleled the
north’s – had always adhered to more autocratic, despotic tradition of
political rule, distinct from their northern neighbors who always pursued
less repressive and more individualistic, liberty-inspired policies. It was no
surprise then, that in Space Command’s inaugural days, the Torians were
reluctant to agree to such openly egalitarian and avant-garde principles – a
concession in the organization’s early days that still lingered bitterly . No
doubt, among other things, it at least contributed to, if not began to fuel,
what has become now an increasing and prevailing disinterest with the
association on the part of the Torians and their widely-held and
controversial claim that it is mainly administered and dominated by
Sollarian interests. Even as astronomers and astrophysicists, it was easy
to recognize the difficulties associated with integrative political entities
such as Space Command, ripe with inherent and internal impediments,
                                                                         14

which slowed processes and bogged down procedures in an idealistic, but
beleaguered system.

         “It is very unusual,” Louis continued. The two professionals
studied stellar phenomena – everything from star and galactic intricacies to
nebulas and black holes. They were even tasked with detecting potentially
threatening asteroids and near-Domus objects that had the terrifying
possibility of colliding with the planet.

        Rousseau finally approached his associate’s desk, not expecting
to uncover anything of consequence. It had been a long, tiresome day,
one of almost uneventful and routine simplicity.

         “Take a look.”
         He peered through the gigantic viewer and noticed a bluish-purple
object. He looked up at his counterpart clearly puzzled, “Some kind of
spatial disturbance,” finally providing his colleague with some due
recognition, “You’re right – it’s something I’ve never encountered before.”
His mood piqued somewhat.
         “What do you think it is?”

         Rousseau appeared very pensive. “It’s definitely a mystery. And
according to the computer, it is located. …” he paused in disbelief. “No,
that can’t be right.”
         “According to these calculations, it is located right here in this
system, surprisingly close to Domus.”
         “Really… that’s odd. Usually, such galactic configurations are
prevalent near distant nebulas, or galactic centers … but usually not in
ordinary interstellar space.…” Louis showed an odd display of intellectual
rationality. He rarely articulated as confidently.

        “Agreed. This is strange.” He transferred the image to the nearby
screen in greater focus, as 
								
To top