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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
The Lunar Dream
by Douglas McDonald
The Great Game
Bryan Logan was really getting to hate Luxembourg.
Well, only in the technical sense; Charlotte was only in Luxembourg as a bribe,
in order to maintain ESA funding. In actual fact, Charlotte was a small town of
20 people and several hundred robots on the moon, and over the past six days
Logan had got to hating each and every one of them.
He was a diplomat for the United States; he had been whisked away from a cushy
assignment as Ambassador to Australia to attend the Charlotte Conference, which
was intended to finalise and recognise the borders of the lunar territories. In
It was a desperately needed job; ever since the moon had been settled 14 years
ago there had been conflicts over who exactly owned what. Recently, these
conflicts had begun to get serious; a Chinese military detachment had destroyed
three Russian scouts which had entered their territory, and in response the team
had been detained by the Russians. The situation had been resolved quickly to
solve another dispute along the Sino-Russian border, but it was indicative of
Unfortunately, the job was a lot harder than simply drawing lines on a map. As
US representative, Logan was understandably in the best position; the American
Lunar Territories had 6000 people, a military presence at the South Pole,
advanced technology, and a seemingly bottomless pit of money. Plus, in more
prosaic geographical terms, they were more spread out; the other colonies were
generally reasonably clustered for easy resupply, whereas the Americans,
admittedly more by accident than design, had colonies stretching from Oceanus
Procellarum to Mare Tranquilitatus. There was no question that they would get
the largest share of the pie.
The next most powerful nation were, ironically, the second smallest nation in
the world (behind Tokelau). The Chinese Lunar Republic had the shortest history
of any nation on Earth; even the name was stale and bureaucratic, because they
hadn't got any significant geographical or political figure to name it after.
The Republic had been forced to fight for existence even from its cradle; after
having torn down all their statues and changed the names of all their cities,
they were promptly assaulted by both sides in the Chinese Civil War, who had
both claimed the colonies. What followed was history's first war fought in
space; communist and republican ships fought in orbit, while a nasty three-way
war was fought below. Finally, the Chinese Lunar Republic came to a compromise
with the Democratic Republic of China (who bore more resemblance to Suharto's
Indonesia than a democracy): they would supply them with helium-3 and cede Deng
Xiaoping Station to them, and would gain independence in return. The helium-3
was promptly used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, which ended the civil
war in a decisive and bloody way. Since that time, the Chinese Lunar Republic
had approached foreign policy as one approaches a fight to the death; they
resisted any attempt to interfere in their internal affairs, and had begun an
ambitious migration program to settle their vast empty spaces. Their population
were all trained in military tactics; they responded belligerantly to
territorial incursions, and threatened to use force to resolve disputes. They
were treated with respect by the other delegates; after all, they may have only
had 3000 people, but they were all on the moon, which was all that mattered.
Next in order of importance came the European and Russian delegates. They had a
small lunar population, but controlled the vitally important trade routes
through Avalon Station, which provided much of their wealth. The surface
settlements were practically insignificant in comparison; the largest, Gagarin,
had a population of only 100. They were given to the individual states of the
European Confederation or Russia to administer, mostly as a bribe for economic
contributions. The stations were highly automated, and were in many ways more
advanced than the Americans. However, they had the significant handicap of being
limited in terms of territorial expansion; they lacked the infrastructure to
take significant numbers of people to the moon, which would determine the issues
of the day.
Next came the Chinese. In the middle of the last decade, China had been an
ascendent lunar superpower; they produced more ore than the Americans, had an
equal and increasing population on the moon, and were even rumoured to interfere
in lunar elections. The Civil War had changed all that. Vast amounts of Chinese
infrastructure had been gutted or destroyed; their main transport ship had been
disabled and crashed into the surface, creating a glowing crater that was still
visible from Earth. When they were given Deng Xiaoping as a consolation prize,
the Chinese Lunar Republic had evacuated and then gutted the city, leaving it a
smoking ruin. They had 300 people on the moon, and were not expected to play a
The other two delegates were the up-and-coming hopefuls, India and Japan. India
had landed their first man on the moon in 2031, Japan only last year in 2034.
The ravages that the Chinese Civil War had wreaked on both their economies had
delayed many of their plans, but they were still ambitious and hopeful. The
unspoken purpose of the Conference was to keep them as much out of the loop as
Over six days of debate, the map was redrawn, reshaped, analysed and, in one
memorable incident, torn up and stuck back together with sticky tape. Finally, a
compromise was reached; one that satisfied most territorial demands, while
leaving ample room for expansion or colonisation. As they left, all seven
delegates had one shared thought. Those blank spaces on the map wouldn't remain
blank for long.
Until age 10, Jake Lawson was a normal child. He liked cartoons, sport, and
astronauts. He received OK school reports; he was obviously bright, but seemed
more content pretending to be a miner like his father than actually studying.
Even in primary school, he'd been picked out to follow in his father's
Then, in 2026, his parents had been picked to go to the moon, and he
subsequently became a whole lot less normal.
At first, he learnt through a combination of home-schooling and a video link
with Earth. Then, as the population exploded, he joined a small school. As
levels of poverty increased, the standard of teaching decreased; after all, the
government were trying to save money. Jake's marks declined.
Everything changed in July, 2028. During the mad 20 days of the revolt, his
father had tried to shield him; classes continued, he was ordered not to go out
without his father's permission, and a bodyguard was posted around him at all
times, in case Houston wanted to hit Lawson where it hurt. In the end, though,
nothing could protect Lawson himself.
On the last day, July 23, Jake was woken up early by the panic. In his pajamas,
he was forced into a space suit and hurried outside. He caught a glimpse of his
parents, talking animatedly to a group of armed miners, before being pushed into
a rover. They drove out of town at top speed, but were intercepted by a team of
soldiers, who blocked the road. What happened next was a blur; Jake remembered a
loud bang as the hull ruptured, and the windshield breaking into space. He
hadn't put his helmet on; air was forced out of his lungs at a speed that felt
like it would break his neck. He fell to the ground, coughing, clawing
desperately at his helmet, trying to fix it on with hands that wouldn't listen
to him. A horrible blackness welled up behind his eyes...
When he woke up, two days later, he was already being taken home to Earth. A
soldier told him that his parents had been killed.
After that, there was only numbness. And rage.
He was placed into the custody of his aunt in Boulder, Colorado. His marks
increased exponentially upon starting high school. He had previously been
extroverted and gregarious; now, teachers commented on his introversion and
quiet nature. The psychiatrists who the government had appointed saw it as
naturally part of the grieving process; when it went on for the rest of his
life, they were somewhat baffled.
Teachers also noticed another anomoly: every time they saw him, he was reading
some form of communist or socialist literature from throughout history. They
attributed this to his devotion to history. They couldn't have been more right.
He passed high school with flying colours, and won a scholarship to Princeton.
There, he gained a degree in medicine, with honours. Even before he finished,
Jake applied to NASA to serve as a doctor in one of the new northern
And so it was that in 2040 that Jake Lawson, aged 24 and just out of medical
school, returned to the moon.
Space had changed unimaginably since 2027. On his first flight, Lawson had
docked with the Enterprise directly using a reusable capsule; now,
customers were free to fly to orbit in any number of fully reusable spaceplanes,
where they would dock with one of nearly a dozen space stations in orbit. The
largest of these, Skywalker, had a population of nearly 1000, even
greater than Avalon in lunar orbit; it was rumoured that the US government were
considering a buy-out.
The stations were, of course, centrifugal; a cavalcade of irritating rich
yuppies had made nothing less acceptable. As the last baby boomers began to die
out, they had made a frantic rush on the moon, which they saw as guaranteeing an
immortality they felt as theirs by right. As a result, the space accomodation
industry was booming.
A large proportion of Jake's fellow passengers were from surprisingly poor Asian
backgrounds, and some couldn't even speak English. They were obviously
five-dollar lunarians, who had already become a cliched joke amongst comedians.
The Chinese Lunar Republic had a very small population by any measure; they were
desperate to gain cheap labour, even if this meant subsidising trips for poor
immigrants who obviously couldn't pay for themselves. Jake, who had paid
half-half for his own trip (the US government offered subsidies for skilled
lunar immigrants), felt guilty seeing people who were so obviously poor; they
certainly weren't going to get any richer. The rest of the immigrants on the
station were a mixed bunch; there were a few middle-class professionals like
himself, almost all going to Eagle City, a few miners going to Fra Mauro or
Apollo, and even a family of Neo-Goths, who were planning to go live in the
Lawsonian Commonwealth. They were...confronting, to be sure, even if their fake
scars kept coming loose.
While staring out the window (which wasn't advised; as the station was
constantly spinning, looking at Earth was a surefire way of paying for lunch
twice), Jake got a shock. He'd been told their ship was a Traveller-class
cruiser; having devoted most of his study to conditions on the moon, he had no
idea what that meant, and simply smiled and nodded. Along the side, though, he
could see Traveller was obviously a translation; the real name of the
class was the —·¨sˇŅ.
Well, he supposed it was obviously. The Chinese
Lunar Republic were becoming seriously wealthy from helium-3 supplies. Many
people had scoffed at the idea of a nation surviving on just one energy source;
obviously, they'd never heard of the Gulf states (although, admittedly, there
wasn't much left of them these days). Contrary to the predictions of some
experts, Earth's energy needs just kept growing and growing and growing, and so
a free port on the moon willing to sell to anyone (aided by Avalon's generous
tariff rates towards them, mostly to annoy the Americans) had serious potential.
With this money, they'd built a fleet of space liners, each capable of carrying
150 people each, to fuel their economic growth. They were reaching the limits of
what the nuclear thermal rockets the American Lunar Company had designed 20
years ago could do; it was said soon they'd have to go up to Orion-type engines,
or even further. Still, it was a magnificent spectacle.
Conditions, though, were somewhat bleak. Even with the government subsidizing
half the trip, Jake had been surprised how little it had cost; now, in the damp,
cramped conditions of the liner, he found out why. It wasn't mentioned in the
brochures that the ship carried 150 people at the cost of giving them actual
rooms of their own; the travellers were stuck in one big compartment, with
endless rows of bunks. The Neo-Goths complained bitterly. Still, it was only
Finally, Jake arrived in lunar orbit. He spent two days on Avalon (growing sadly
eclipsed by the Earth orbit stations in terms of quality, if not in wealth), and
then flew down to the rest of his life.
Excerpt from an advertisement in www.icwales.co.eu,
the main Welsh e-paper, on July 21, 2040
People of Wales! Glyndwr City needs YOU!
The new city, scheduled for construction in 2041 in the mineral-rich Lunar
Caucasus, is planned by the ESA as an entirely Welsh-administered area. There
can be no greater accomplishment on the international stage for our fragile
But Glyndwr will not be merely made of bricks and mortar. Our great Welsh city
on the moon needs people to carry on the traditions that have made our country
great. By 2050, the European Confederation plan for our city to have a
population of 250 people. Will YOU take up the call?
On the moon, the promise of a new life awaits. Riches beyond imagining lie
buried in the lunar soil, waiting for Welsh hands. We have always been a nation
of miners. Now, the mines of the moon await.
Apollo was...different. Almost unrecognizably
so, to Jake.
For starters, the population had boomed. When Jake had lived there in the 2020s,
Apollo was a small frontier town of 1000, barely 7 years old; now, a decade
later, the population had quintupled. The creation of both the Traveller-class
and the new classes of commercial liners had made space cheap to a degree that
would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier. The American Lunar
Territories had a population of 15000 in all, making Apollo not even the largest
city; Fra Mauro, now dangerously sprawling at 6000 people, was said to be like a
small Manhatten. They even had their own non-voting delegate to the US Congress,
marking the transition from an isolated mining outpost to a vibrant,
cosmopolitan part of the United States. Well, in theory, anyway; most of the
population were still thoroughly blue-collar, and incomes were still
significantly lower than in the United States. Still, it didn't look like
there'd be any uprisings any time soon.
Business was obviously booming; walking through the glass sidewalks (now an icon
of the moon) throughout town, Jake noticed that the road was constantly packed
with trucks, and that the railway station, previously just a few sidings, now
had 14 platforms and a constant stream of people in and out. Under Lang, social
conditions had grown better but the economy had, to a large degree, stagnated;
while this was understandably blamed on the Chinese Civil War, it had perhaps
contributed to the landslide victory of Bob Renny in the 2034 gubernatorial
election (moved back a year to coincide with the senatorial election; after all,
the previous system ensured that by the time you'd won your last election, there
was another one less than a year away). Since then, Renny had devoted his time
to laissez faire economic policies, which had contributed to massive industrial
development and lower taxes. Some of the old poverty was returning to the
suburbs, but the huge influx of wealth from the new mines and factories had
ensured that people were far too busy enjoying their newfound prosperity to
care. Well, except the poor, of course.
Renny had won a series of victories over the divided, scattered opposition. The
problem was that while 60% of the population opposed him, they were unable to
agree on who would be a better choice; the Progressives and the Democrats split
the liberal vote, thus allowing Renny a series of easy wins. Lunar politics had
developed into a three-party equilibrium, with the Progressives monopolising the
left-wing vote, the Republicans monopolising the right-wing vote, and the
Democrats monopolising the votes of those who didn't care much for either side.
As a result, control of the Senate was constantly shifting, as the three parties
formed unstable alliances. Lately, though, the Democratic vote had been
declining, to the point where some of the more excitable columnists predicted
the collapse of the party. More sensible analysts simply promoted more tax cuts
and greater spending on services, providing that sense is not always equitable
Lawson finally reached Mineone (pronounced 'mine-own' by the more snobbish
residents, although it was originally a contraction of Mine One, which
previously stood there. That didn't have the same class, though), a
reasonably well-off suburb on the edge of town. He came to a small, not
ostentatious house on the edge of town, and hit the buzzer.
Matheson opened the door. He blinked, then walked forward slowly.
Jake smiled. Matheson didn't.
'What the hell are you doing here?'
Over coffee, inside, Matheson raged at Jake. He was in his 50s by now, and
exposure to the lunar gravity had weakened his strength; still, a lifetime in
the mines was enough to make him truly fearsome when he wanted to be.
'You shouldn't have come back, Jake! Your father is still too deep a hurt for
most people here. Sure, they can make political parties around him, or against
him, and maybe even make statues of him, but they don't want a reminder of
him. You'll be a target for every goddamn extremist on the colony, both for and
'I'm a grown man, Mr Matheson, and I can do what I please. I have a job here,
and I intend to carry it out.'
Matheson snorted, and sat down heavily. 'Oh, that. And tell me, when
you're asked to do an abortion, what do you do? If you do, then 'Lawson's Son
Advocates Abortion.' If you don't, then 'Lawson's Son Pro Life'. Either way, the
party gets smeared, and-'
'Oh, shut up about the goddamn party. This is my life, and I don't intend to
live it in the shadow of what my father did.'
'Then go back to Earth, Jake. Leave this goddamn morbid rock, because whatever
you do here will be judged in the shadow of your father.'
Jake sat down. ''Goddamn morbid rock?' Hardly patriotic words from a senator.'
'The goddamn senate's powerless these days. The government like Renny, because
he's promised to give them back the governorship; there's not enough support for
the proposal yet, but give them time. Till then, Renny's happy to run the colony
like Houston with a heart.'
'Houston with a heart would still be Houston.'
Matheson pulled out a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. They'd only been
made legal the year before, and Jake could tell from the stains on his fingers
that Matheson had obviously been taking advantage of this. 'It's not just that,
though. It's the goddamn Territorial Imperative.'
'What, the northward settlement?'
'Yeah. The CLR started putting a bunch of bases in the north, so we decided to
carve ourselves out a piece. It's stupid, though, because we can't compete with
the CLR and can't try.'
'What do you mean, 'can't try?''
'Look at your mug, Jake.'
Jake turned over his coffee mug. On the bottom, 'Made in the Chinese Lunar
Republic' was printed under a series of Chinese letters.
'Think about it. Billions of poor Chinese and Indians and Indonesians, stuck on
a world running out of resource and time. The CLR uses those goddamn hulks up in
orbit to move them here en masse. It doesn't have to pay them much, since
there's no wage laws and the President doesn't look like losing power any time
soon, and so you get a huge cheap labour force. We can't cope with those kinds
of conditions, and so we shouldn't try.'
'But Renny is, though.'
'Yeah, by reversing everything that Lang ever did for this colony.' Matheson lit
up his cigarette. 'I'm retiring at the end of this year; I can't go back to
Earth, since 15 years of lunar gravity have done hell with my bones, but I can't
stay here, since Renny seems intent on turning it into one giant labour camp
again. I'm thinking of going into the Lawsonian Commonwealth, but there's only
so many Neo-Goths a man can stand. You, though, Jake...you should get a refund
on your ticket. This is no place for you.'
'I can't, Mr Matheson.' Jake got up, and pushed in his chair. 'I'm going north.
Thanks for the coffee.'
Excerpt from an article by the Lunar Herald, 19
Brooks Emerges As Candidate For Progressive Ticket
A straw poll in the Sodor branch of the Progressive Party picked the
controversial labor leader Edward Brooks, 56, as the party's leading candidate
for the gubernatorial nomination. Brooks, who rejoined the party in 2033 after a
widely-publicised split, came first on 36% of votes, ahead of Dr. Matthew
Talbot, the 2038 candidate, on 26% of the vote and Gerald Matheson on 21%.
Interestingly, Edward Lang, who served as Progressive Governor from 2029 to
2034, gained 14% of the vote, despite his poor medical condition and his refusal
to serve any more terms.
Brooks' strength within the party has been primarily attributed to his strong
position within the Builders' Union, which controls much of the party's central
Jake tried to keep a low profile during his few days in Apollo; even if he
didn't think his name would be the problem Matheson predicted, he still didn't
want any unnecessary distractions.
So, when he left his hotel on Eureka Street on the way to the train station and
found the glass sidewalk packed with a mob of adoring fans, he wasn't quite sure
how to react.
Some of them were carrying posters; 'Justice for the Workers' and 'Lawson was
right' seemed to be recurring slogans, even if the spelling was dodgy. The mob
were chanting his name, over and over again. Some looked up at him with tears in
their eyes. Jake briefly considered running, but it didn't seem right. He
stepped forward. The mob roared.
He cleared his throat.
'Thank you all for coming. It's an honour to see so many people who remember my
father, and who believe in his message. Thank you.'
The crowd roared. He tried to say more, but whenever he tried, the crowd reacted
so appreciatively that what he wanted to say got lost. People ran up to him and
pressed his hand. He felt himself drowning in the press of bodies. Far from hero
worship, he realised he was in serious danger of being crushed.
'Get the hell off him!'
He realised he was being dragged out. People were being pushed to either side.
Once freed from the mass, he fell to the ground, coughing. Matheson dropped him,
and glared at the crowd.
'He's just another man. Get the hell away from him, you goddamn vultures. What,
you don't have jobs?'
The crowd quietly dispersed. None of them had ever seen Matheson really mad
before. Jake looked up at him, and coughed.
'I warned you. If you stay here, this will happen every single goddamn day. You
think you can operate while signing a thousand autographs a minute?'
'I'm not staying here. I'm going north.'
Matheson snorted. 'Then a bit of fanworship's going to be nothing compared to
what you'll see up there.'
Jake pulled himself up, and brushed himself off. 'Thank you, Mr Matheson.'
'Take care, Jake. Stay safe.'
'I intend to.'
Jake caught the train to Copernicus. Ever since the US had 'stabilised' Sonora,
Coahuila and Chihuahua after the disastrous Second Mexican Civil War (it was
effectively annexation, without the bothersome trouble of providing services),
the rate of Hispanic migration to the moon had increased exponentially. It
wasn't a solution to illegal immigration, but it seemed one everyone was
reasonably satisfied with.
Copernicus, which had always been dominated by Hispanic migrants, had increased
exponentially due to its new status as a transport hub to the north. The
population of 1000 was still largely dominated by mining, but were becoming
increasingly cosmopolitan; Archbishop of Luna Eduardo Ortiz had begun to speak
out in favour of liberation theology doctrines, and as a result the town was one
of the richest per capita on the moon. Of course, the government couldn't stand
him, but considering his near-absolute power over the community he honestly
North and west of Copernicus were just dirt tracks. Across the vast crater of
Mare Imbrium, there were a dozen small communities. They were largely set up and
run by corporations, often just as placeholders so the US could use them for
territorial claims. The same process was going on all over the moon, with
Europe, Russia, China, India, Japan and the CLR constantly landing and shipping
new settlers to the north. There were no services, no amenities, and supplies of
water so low that many were becoming concerned of an approaching humanitarian
crisis. It was the perfect place for a Marxist doctor, and so Jake was a natural
He and a few other new colonists drove off in a reinforced, all-terrain bus to
Lambert, a small settlement in the north. Jake knew it had a population of about
150, and was set up by a company called Hillsong; beyond that, he knew almost
nothing. They were heading into the unknown.
When they arrived at Lambert, Jake was surprised to see what appeared to be a
small palisade around the town, made of lunar regolith. It seemed somewhat
useless to him. Inside, the town was made up of the so-called Lunar Bungalows;
inflatable designs, covered in radiation shielding. Primitive but effective.
Jake noticed many had pits on them, and an abandoned one appeared to have been
almost split in two.
Once they got to the church in the centre of town, Jake was becoming
increasingly unnerved. The ground was deeply scarred and pitted, even beyond
that expected on the moon; it looked like a war zone. The prospective colonists
pulled on their habitation suits (needless to say, glass sidewalks were a long
way away) and entered the church through the airlock.
Inside, there was pandemonium. Wounded and dying people lay on the floor; the
air was rent by screaming and crying, from the wounded and from their loved
ones. A priest ran up to Jake.
'What the hell took you so long? Get to work!'
Jake had always been an idealist. You had to
be, when you were probably the last Marxist left on Earth (he didn't use the
term communist, since he felt they had grossly misrepresented Marx's ideals). He
had always seen the moon in the same way his father had seen it: as a blank
stage where humanity could create something better and nobler than they had done
before, where history's mistakes could be discarded and the peaks of human
culture recreated anew. To Jake, his father's death had been the result of the
poisonous influence of Earth upon the pure idealism of the moon. As a result, he
had come not only to blame capitalism and the military for destroying his life,
but also the Earth itself. It was a viewpoint that, had he told anyone about it,
would probably have gained him much unwanted attention from psychologists;
luckily, Jake had always taken care to keep his views under wraps.
To see the dead and the dying, then, on a world Jake had always seen as a new
hope for humanity, was uniquely distressing. He got to work.
Most of the wounded were suffering from asphyxiation, hyperthermia or other
vacuum-related ailments; since it was nighttime outside, and had been for the
better part of two weeks, to suffer exposure to the open vacuum would be deadly.
Several people, though, had far more specific injuries; he extracted several
bullets, pieces of shrapnel, and in one particularly horrific case was forced to
amputate an arm which had been shredded beyond repair. It was obvious to even
somewhat so naively hopeful as Jake that there had been a battle here, and a
terrible one at that.
He seemed to be the only doctor in the settlement; he worked for hours on end,
with no rest and no food. His vision began to blur. Finally, exhausted, he gave
up. Concerned relatives clustered around him, begging to learn if their loved
ones would survive; he delegated tasks to impromptu nurses, pulled his helmet
and gloves back on, and staggered out. From there, things were a blur.
He woke up on a hard bed in a room that was better suited to be a closet. He
looked up, fuzzily; his body, still not used to the lunar gravity, moved too
quickly and he fell out of bed. He lay there for a while. There didn't seem much
point in getting up.
Finally, groggily, he pulled himself off the floor, and walked into the next
room. It was a small kitchen, hardly larger than his bedroom; a man in his
pajamas was making tea. Belately, Jake realised it was the priest he had seen
the day before.
The man turned around and grimaced. After a while, Jake would learn this was the
closest he could get to a smile, but it was startling at first. 'Ah. You're
awake. Sit down, your tea's getting cold.'
Jake's legs moved without him noticing. He was still too tired to think much.
The priest sat down in front of him, and passed him a cup of tea. Jake drank it
greedily, pouring some down his chin. It hurt immensely; the tea was hot. He
spat some out, coughing. The priest rolled his eyes.
'Hot's all we have. Makes up for the fact we've got no water and no milk. I'm
Marvin Kay. You've got a hell of a lot of work to do, Dr. Lawson.'
Jake still hadn't said a word. Even though his tongue felt it was on fire and
his throat was screaming obscenities at him, he still felt he had to make the
'Well, what the hell do you think you're here for?'
Over the next half hour, Kay spelt out the history of the settlement. He wasn't
the sort of man who thought a conversation had to involve more than one person,
or indeed anyone but himself. As it turned out, 'Hillsong' was not, as Jake had
thought, just a benevolent mining corporation; it was an umbrella group for a
series of evangelical Christian groups. It seemed to be the way of the future;
every group that had ever had a gripe about the government, from greenies to
libertarians to fire and brimstone types, were gaining corporate sponsorship and
upping stakes to the moon. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite the earthly paradise
'They started it about three weeks ago. First it was just raids; food, water.
Water's damned precious around here. Sure, we can make up our own from the
hydrogen and oxygen that gets stuck round in the rocks, but we still don't have
nearly enough. Eventually, they started attacking the settlement directly. A
week ago they took their first lives; two days ago they took twenty. And it's
going to get worse.'
'Who are they?'
'How the hell should we know? Could be just renegades from the other stations.
Could be Chinese militias; that's the one on the moon, you understand, not that
goddamn sorry thing that still calls itself China back on Earth. We just call it
New China round here. Hell, a few people say they're the last of your daddy's
followers, still roaming around a decade after the peace.'
'That's impossible. The treaty-'
'What the hell does a treaty mean out here? You think they put this stuff on the
brochure? We are dying, Dr Lawson, every day, every hour. If not from the
bandits, then from the dehydration, the starvation, the disease, and that
constant sleet of radiation that goes riding through your bones, no matter what
the makers of these paper-thin shacks say. Huh. Safe. Tell that to the
'What three-eyed pig?'
'Out on our sorry little farm. Little runt had three eyes and two tails. Saddest
thing you ever saw in your life. Anyway, Dr Lawson, we need a doctor. But more
than that, we need a soldier. We've tried complaining to Renny; he doesn't care.
The papers don't print it, the government ignores us, and those lazy suckers
down in Apollo couldn't be bothered remembering we exist. We intend to keep our
land, because it's all we've got. You with us or against us?'
'I don't think you understand, Mr Kay. I'm a doctor, not John Wayne. I-'
'You've got two arms, more than one leg, and your eyes seem to be halfway OK.
That means you can shoot, and that's what we need. We are going to win this
war, Dr Lawson. We don't need you, but we sure as hell can use you. And I tell
you what: you say no, it's an awful long walk back to Copernicus. You in?'
After that, there wasn't much he could say.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the best that could be said was that the world was
climbing out of the recession caused by the fall of China. The worst was that
this was because every rollercoaster makes you go up before you go down.
The oil crash had settled down; the vast amounts of helium-3 coming from the
moon were enough to keep energy supplies in the first world reasonably stable.
The third world, of course, had no such luxury. The crash of the oil industry
had taken many nations with it; a lawless expanse, ruled by warlords and
oligarchs, stretched from Morocco to the South China Sea. Billions of people
fell into a poverty that would be unimaginable to the prospering west. In India,
the newly ambitious space program began settlements on the moon, even as
hundreds of millions starved beneath.
In the Americas, there was a concerted effort to make everything seem 'normal',
which grew more and more strained by the minute. Mexico had fallen into anarchy,
as class divisions finally burst open, taking the nation with it. The US was
'pacifying' the northern states; in effect, it had taken over administration. In
the US itself, the public took to their gated estates and drove cars which grew
ever more ambitious; the rise of nuclear fusion had made electric cars that put
even the old SUVs in the shade, and resembled buses more than commuter vehicles.
There was an endless drive to buy, buy, buy; as Africa and Asia and the Middle
East collapsed into anarchy, so America drove deeper and deeper into consumer
culture. There were elections, but no one much noticed; in the 2038 midterm
elections, there was only 27% turnout. People had simply stopped caring.
The world's real basket case, though, was China. The civil war of 2029-2032 had
turned a superpower, the world's most populous nation, its largest economy, and
the expected hope for the future, into a basket case. Tibet, East Turkestan
(which had united with the Central Asian 'stans into the refreshingly autocratic
Turkestani Federation), Taiwan and Hong Kong were gone; what was left was barely
worth the name of China. Rural areas had been devastated by global warming,
which flooded cities, turned cropland to desert and, in the First World,
required more air conditioners, and by the vast amounts of chemical weapons used
the war. The cities were ruins, destroyed by the first nuclear weapons used in
war in 85 years. Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin; all had been reduced to glass. All
across China, the remains of what had once been an economy fit to rule the world
lay shattered, and glowed at night.
A strong government might, maybe, have been able to rebuild. The ostensibly
Democratic Republic of China, however, couldn't have governed Vatican City.
After a single election, riddled with irregularities and corruption, the
military had voided the result and simply formed a new junta. From their
headquarters in Guangzhou (the last big city left standing), the government
spent lavishly on themselves, while millions died from sweeping
military-designed diseases. It was estimated that 40 million people had died as
a direct result of the civil war, with the numbers increasing all the time;
meanwhile, the ruling generals bought up French chateaus. The nation simply fell
apart through apathy. No one could be brought to care about the notion of a
The first to carve up China were, fittingly, those she had previously conquered.
In 2039 Tibet and the Turkestani Confederation sent in 'peacekeepers' to
provinces on their border; after a while, they simply never left. United Korea
and Japan swiftly followed, rebuilding the shattered administration of provinces
they had strategic interests in, or simply liked the look of. The people,
exhausted and starving, welcomed the peacekeepers. The scramble continued;
Taiwan gained a share befitting a nation which had once ruled all of China,
whereas Russia and Mongolia occupied lands to the north. Russia, in a cruel
twist of the knife, 'bought' China's Deng Xiaoping City for a pittance in 2043;
the nation which had once ruled half the moon was left with nothing. Newly
capitalist Vietnam took a chance to take vengeance on a fallen enemy, since it's
always safest to kick people when they're down.
It was previously said 'there'll always be a China.' But in the end, the Chinese
government had failed their people. The Democratic Republic of China had not
only been incompetent, ruthless, and greedy; they had sold out their people. The
notion of Han solidarity meant nothing when billions starved. Foreign
peacekeepers, even unwanted occupying peacekeepers, were preferable to a
The government were unable to deal with the peacekeepers; they were bribed and
coddled, and so kept quiet. Slowly, the peacekeepers were replaced by
bureaucrats; administrators were replaced by governors. Actually claiming the
land would have been unthinkable; what were they, barbarians? But the fact
remained that by 2050, after two decades of slow erosion, the Chinese government
controlled almost none of China.
Lambert really wasn't the best place to fight a
war from. It was effectively just a small group of huts, conveniently next to an
open-cut mine. If they had found a way to make robotic mining more
cost-effective than human mining, then the settlement wouldn't exist at all.
Still, Jake tried. His day was divided between seeing to patients (of which
there were a depressingly large amount; the mine wasn't particularly built for
safety) and building Kay's wall around the town, which would be fine if the
bandits didn't tap on it too hard or if no one bumped it. For weapons, they had
a few vacuum rifles, all of which looked inherently unsafe and explosive. It was
And, of course, there were church revival meetings, practically every day. The
entire town was oriented around religion; as far as Jake could make out, some of
the more...rigid...Christians had decided to leave Earth, primarily because no
one could stand them. As such, the entire town was completely dominated by
Melvin Kay, who despite his combover, watery eyes, and bad complexion could
still dominate an audience.
At one meeting, Kay described in graphic detail what would happen to the bandits
if they tried to take on Lambert (which he had renamed Christianopolis, even
though this wasn't recognised by the ALT authorities) again. Their rovers would
smash against the wall, leaving nothing but black marks. The valiant defenders
would fire down from the top, smashing their enemies to pieces. Heavenly fire
wasn't mentioned, but it was certainly implied.
Jake knew he should say something. It was all rehearsed in his mind; he would
get up, declare 'No, that's wrong!', and take over preparations, saving the
village. But he couldn't. He had spent too long being meek, being silent, that
when it really mattered he was forced to keep quiet.
And so he just sat there, and knew that everyone in the village would die.
The attack came about a week after he had arrived. A child who was sitting up on
the barricades had seen a cloud of dust approaching. On a world with no wind and
no storms, that could mean only one thing. There were fifteen cars, more than
Jake had been corralled into defending the town. He felt distinctly
uncomfortable about this; he had sworn to uphold human life, and so the notion
of taking it was contrary to everything he believed. Still, the alternative was
drinking more of Kay's tea while being yelled at, and he might manage to save a
few lives within the town. At least, he thought as he adjusted his distinctly
rickety rifle, that's what he hoped.
The bandits' cars were...strange. Bits of them were obviously from Ford Lunar
Rovers, but other bits seemed like a scrapbook of different cars. There were
even bits that seemed to be salvaged from rockets. Far from being comforted at
their ramshackle appearance, they simply made Jake more nervous; with a normal
car, at least you know what to expect. But these looked...alien.
There were open tops on the cars. Men in spacesuits popped up, and began firing
on the wall. Large clumps of regolith were blasted off. Jake felt the wall shake
beneath him, and felt distinctly queasy. One of the bandits was hit by riflefire;
he fell backwards into the car. There was a storm of congratulations over the
radio band. Jake blocked it out, and tried to fire on the bandits, with little
The bandits reached the gate to the town. Kay had been so proud of that gate; it
had been forged in the town's little foundry, and, unlike the rest of the town's
defences, looked reasonably safe. Unfortunately, this meant the bandits decided
to go through the wall instead. One got onto the roof of his car to mount up a
rocket launcher; he was hit repeatedly and sank down, but the launcher remained
steady. Shots came from the other rovers; the man next to Jake got hit in the
shoulder and fell down. Oxygen began to escape, mixed with vaporised blood. Jake
got out a medical kit and tried to stitch up the spacesuit; there was no way to
remove the bullet out in the open without causing immensely more harm than good.
And so he missed the rocket.
It was hard to impress on someone who's never been there how strange the silence
of space was; this was one of those times. A great section of the wall went up
in a massive fireball; the fire dispersed into space rapidly, leaving only a
gaping, blackened hole in its wake. Jake's earpiece was assaulted by screams and
shouts. Another rocket hit a section of wall on the other side of town, and the
bandits rushed in.
There were no instructions, no commands. The people on the wall had no idea of
what to do. 'Where the hell's Kay?' yelled Jake. From the confused responses, it
seemed that Kay had been at the epicentre of one of the explosions. He was now
far more holey than holy. All around Jake, people were hit by riflefire from
below. He tried desperately to deal with it, but he wasn't fast enough. People
died in his arms, again and again and again.
It seemed obvious to Jake that the battle was lost. The bandits could take
anything they wanted, and what could they do to stop them? They were obviously
using military equipment, no match for the townsfolk's outdated rifles.
So Jake, finally, took command. Like his father, he had the knack; a way
of making people listen to him, even when he was arguing patently outrageous
things. He ordered an evacuation of the town; there was an outcry, but one
quickly silenced. Even the most ardently God-on-our-side folks had to admit He'd
taken a holiday today.
The men on the wall climbed down, and the townsfolk got into their rovers. They
fled out of the holes in the wall; the bandits didn't even try to stop them.
Much of the moon was still unmapped in any significant detail; the road to the
south was blocked off by the bandits, so they were left to wander into uncharted
territory. They were truly heading into the unknown.
The villagers returned to Lambert, only they didn't.
That may take some clarification. They returned to Lambert, only to find that
the entire town had been reduced to rubble.
Everything had been taken. The water purifier, the oxygen factory, the mining
equipment, even the church pews. The bandits were currently fleeing at around 10
miles per hour, heavily loaded down by loot.
The entire town met in the church, which was effectively just an empty hall now.
The death of Kay had left the community shellshocked; he had been the driving
force for the community, and had run the town with an iron fist. Without him,
there was no order. Effectively, arguments lasted for a few confused
seconds, then got completely sidetracked. There was a dangerously high amount of
Jake was completely exhausted. He hadn't slept in quite some time, and had been
completely drained by the siege. All he could do now was to argue loudly,
bitterly and angrily for withdrawing back to Copernicus.
The townsfolk, though, couldn't see how right his arguments were. They
had lost dozens of their people, all their stuff, and their walls had
giant holes in them, for gods sakes! How could they stay attached to an empty
town beyond all reason? Why would they try to survive in such a hostile
That mode of thought showed that Jake, despite being very clever, could
occasionally be really, really dumb.
In the end, they came to a compromise. A party of armed men and women would go
out to confront the bandits and get their things back, or die trying. (Jake
privately added that the second was much more likely). The rest of the town
would go back to Copernicus, and stay there until the men returned with the
stolen goods or, as was much more likely, ever.
It was a silly plan, paternalistic, jingoistic, and ludicrously lacking in
common sense. At least Jake was able to compromise that some women would be
allowed to go on the expedition. But he had to go along. He was a doctor, after
all. Besides, even though he didn't want to think it and spurned even the thought
of it, it would be just a tiny bit exciting.
The party (dubbed 'The Christian Soldiers' by a particularly excitable
parishioner, and the name stuck) followed the tracks over the horizon. On a
world with no wind and no erosion, it was easy to follow tracks. The real
problem was that, at the end of them, there still remained the problem of people
trying to kill you.
After a few hours' driving, they reached the border of the Chinese Lunar
Republic, who were notoriously xenophobic about their border security (even as
they brought in thousands of low-paid immigrants; it's funny how principles go
when economics are concerned). A few people recommended going back; Jake,
curiously, did not. He was slowly but surely being sucked in to the notion of
the whole enterprise. A vote was taken; advancing forward was the clear winner.
They went on.
After crossing the border, they reached a small town. They didn't even know the
name of it, since the CLR didn't release maps of their territory. The tracks had
clearly gone through it. It had tried to build a wall as well; it had been even
less successful than Lambert.
Inside, the entire town had been looted, even worse than Lambert. The streets
were littered with corpses, wearing smashed and torn spacesuits. Buildings were
broken and bowed. Each one was littered with holes.
This wasn't like the casual looting of Lambert. This was an atrocity; the
murder of civilians, pure and simple. The brutal destruction of an entire town.
Jake fell to his knees, numb. The notion that people could do this...
Ahead of him lay a family, with two clearly child-sized spacesuits. By the looks
of it, they had been near an explosion. The suits had been blackened; the family
would have been roasted alive.
Jake got up. There was nothing they could do here.
'OK', he said. 'Let's go.'
Then a mortar hit the house next to them, and things got a good deal more
During the first frantic few seconds, it was
hard to tell what had happened, exactly. There was no sound from the
explosion, making a good deal more complicated for those who hadn't seen it to
know what was going on. After much confusion, they finally realised that taking
cover might be a good idea.
Earle Pinney tried to call for order. He'd become the de facto leader of the
Lambert band since Kay's death, mostly because he had a loud voice and looked
authoritative. The building they were hiding behind shuddered repeatedly. Small
craters appeared in the ground around them; Jake realised, somewhat dreamily,
that they were being shot at. They couldn't put up much of a defence, and they
were completely surrounded. He suddenly wished he was a long, long way away, and
preferably well armed.
'How the hell did they get here so fast?' shouted Earle, not so much for answers
but as more of a general rage against the universe.
Voices began filling the intercom. For a few seconds, Jake thought he'd gone
mad; he couldn't understand a word. Then he realised they were Chinese.
He looked out, cautiously, from his hiding place. Soldiers were beginning to
storm the town. They weren't just bandits; they were wearing high-class military
armoured space suits. On the horizon, he saw a large, heavily armed transport
vehicle, with the CLR flag blazoned on the side.
Well, that was good. They weren't robbers. They were just soldiers who thought
the Christian Soldiers were bandits who destroyed their entire village. That
made things much more comforting.
Jake began to yell into his earpiece. 'Please! We are not robbers! We're
civilians! We mean no harm! We didn't do this!'
Earle looked at him irritably. 'Dr Lawson, what the hell are you-'
Jake continued to yell, ignoring him. 'The same people who destroyed this
village destroyed ours! We want to help! Please! Please!'
The soldiers kept approaching. Bullets whizzed all around him. A blast smashed a
hole right through the building they were cowering behind. Jake was sure, in a
way he'd never been before, that he was about to die.
For a second, he saw his father...
The soldiers came around the building. They pointed guns at the cowering
Christian Soldiers, who had quickly realised fighting was pointless. One of the
soldiers came forward.
In broken English, he addressed the band. 'You come with us. You prisoners of
the Lunar Republic. You try to escape, you eat vacuum. You hear?'
Needless to say, they heard.
They were bundled into the transport craft, which was clearly built for
efficiency over comfort. There were several craft, all clustered around; this
was clearly a major operation. They were forcibly pulled out of their suits, and
handcuffed. They were approached by a high-ranking officer, who was clearly
smiling just a bit too much.
Xie Rongzhen had had an interesting career, to say the least. He had fought in
the desperate attempt to capture the Chinese lunar bases, and failing that had
tried to deny them to the Lunar Republicans. He had served in the single orbital
battle of the war, and the first ever fought, between two Chinese transport
ships, each armed with a series of desperately jury-rigged cannons. He had
managed to escape ('ratted' is the technical term) from the Luzhou in a
landing craft, just before it had created a crater that, through a
telescope, could be seen to glow from Earth. Upon capture, he had promptly
switched sides, and was now enjoying a priveleged position as Governor of the
Of course, Jake didn't know any of this. All he knew was that he had been
captured by the forces of a nation that no one, except those who lived there,
knew anything about. The CLR combined an ambitious immigration policy with a
paranoid xenophobia; those who lived there seldom left.
Now, Rongzhen smiled at him. 'Dr Lawson, I presume?' he said.
Jake struggled up. 'How do you know my name?' he asked.
'Your father was the most famous man in lunar history', said Rongzhen. 'How
could we not know your name?'
Earle Pinney got up. 'Now wait just a minute!' he demanded. 'I am an American
citizen, and I-'
Rongzhen sighed, and promptly waved his hand. Soldiers grabbed Pinney, and
forced him onto the ground.
'In future, you will not move without my permission', said Rongzhen, still
smiling. 'And just because you are an American citizen gives you no rights. You
were found in the ruins of a village on our territory. To release you would
profoundly illadvised. Stupid, even.'
Jake remained standing. 'Our village was destroyed as well, you know. We have a
Rongzhen smiled. 'If that were not the case, rest assured you would no longer be
alive. It was only on my word that you still have blood in your body, Dr Lawson.
For now, though, I think the Governing Council will be profoundly interested in
what you have to say. Congratulations, Dr Lawson. You get to see something no
other American has seen.'
Jake's interest was piqued. 'Really? No American?'
Rongzhen giggled. 'Well, no living ones, anyway.'
Chang'e, the city formerly known as Mao Zedong, was visible from miles away. It
was very difficult to get smoke clouds on the moon, since they dispersed too
rapidly; the fact that Chang'e was producing enough pollution to create a
sustained cloud was truly impressive.
For miles around, the earth was pitted and ravaged. The town was surrounded by a
vast pit-mining operation that made even the Fra Mauro mines look like a child's
hole in the sand. Nearly ten thousand people worked in Chang'e, as miners,
labourers, manufacturers, blacksmiths, pilots. The entire town was clearly
They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, and the same thing applies for
launches. Which is, to a certain extent, true. But the Chinese Lunar Republic
had built an entire economy on the notion that some launches are cheaper than
others. Because of the low lunar gravity, it was easier to send material from
the Chang'e mines to Avalon or to the Earth orbit stations. The real centre of
industry, though, was and always would be helium-3. The American mines were made
so that America got cut-price deals; they were American mines, after all. The
CLR undercut American prices and sold to everyone, giving them by far the
highest GDP per capita of any nation.
That clearly would have come to a shock to the people who actually lived there,
though. The city was surrounded by acre after acre of slums; on the outskirts,
people lived in crude inflatables that were on par with the original Apollo
landers for technology and size. Deeper in, the focus turned to vast
skyscrapers; in one-sixth gravity, there were apartment buildings that were
approaching 50 stories, with construction still continuing. It was the largest
city on the moon, yet it was clearly, and shockingly, poor. It was a long way
from the glass towers and domes of Eagle City.
In the centre of town there was a faux neoclassical building that hurt the eye
through contrast with the rest of town. The Christian Soldiers were made to put
their suits back on, which the handcuffs made difficult. Rongzhen smiled. He'd
clearly been building up to the punchline for some time.
'The buck stops over there', he said, pointing at the building.
The Christian Soldiers weren't technically
prisoners, but only because the Lunar Republicans wanted to avoid a diplomatic
incident. They needn't have bothered. The vast northern areas of the American
Lunar Territories were lawless, impoverished, and generally ignored; the
populace in the lunar cities saw their inhabitants as extremist hicks, and the
government generally saw fit to encourage this. The bandit attacks were by no
means infrequent, but a combination of public apathy ('that's just what happens
up north' was a frequent response) and inspired government spin were enough to
avoid major incidents. To the people of Earth, such events hardly mattered; the
slowing American economy and the growing threat of India were enough to inspire
a vast wave of migration
Rongzhen led the 'prisoners' into the lobby of the CLR Parliament House, but
then stopped them, with a pained look on his face.
'Now, before we begin', he said, 'do any of you speak Chinese?'
There were no responses. Since the Chinese state had broken down a decade
before, it was generally seen as a rather low priority.
'Ah', said Rongzhen. 'Well, that's the first difficulty. The second is that
perhaps you have the wrong impression of this place. You are all Americans. You
have...different notions to us. Not better or worse, just different. Perhaps an
explanation is in order.
'You elect your presidents and your governors. Our president is chosen for life,
or will be once the president incumbent decides to die. The Council are...well,
somewhat like your Senate. Well, they resemble it in a bad light, anyway.
'Your Senate is divided into parties. In our republic, we have one, the People's
National Movement. Other parties are allowed, but their leaders generally do not
prosper. There are elections, but...well, how shall I say this?...the results do
not surprise anyone. You will find it most decidedly not in your advantage to
aggravate the Council, or to speak out of turn. Or to make marks on the floor,
or to scuff your boots. You will be required to stand still, speak only when
asked to, and to be...proper, I believe your term is. Or the British term,
anyway. Is that understood?'
Pinney, showing an astonishing lack of tact but a technical correctness,
snorted. 'Sounds like you traded one dictatorship for another. You guys lost
hundreds fighting for freedom, and then you set up the same damn regime?' he
Rongzhen looked at him, amused. 'We were not fighting for freedom, Mr
Pinney. We were fighting for security. The People's Republic built a prison camp
here. They tortured the inmates, they starved them, they opened entire blocks to
the vacuum. All in all, most inefficient business practices. The people
overthrew their control, but after that they had no desire to govern themselves.
They were given a choice between anarchy and safety, between the chaos of mob
rule and the enlightened control of an elite. We have a different culture to
you, Mr Pinney. Would you prefer we shot our politicians when we didn't agree
Pinney advanced forward angrily, but Jake stopped him. He stared at Rongzhen
curiously. 'You don't actually believe any of that, do you?'
Rongzhen grinned widely. Jake stepped backwards, as people generally did around
Rongzhen. 'I have no beliefs', said Rongzhen, beckoning them onwards. 'I believe
what I am told to believe, and I have done superbly out of it. This way,
The Council itself, after all that hype, was decidedly disappointing. It was a
single metal-walled chamber, with a series of expensive seats (made of wood, a
sure sign of extravagance) and a few metal benches. The councillors were all
generally rather heavy-set, and surprisingly few were actually Chinese. It was a
striking contrast from the poverty of the streets of Chang'e; Jake felt
distinctly disgusted at the sight of it.
A council member, whose bigger chair probably identified him as the leader (but
then again, who knew? Maybe he was just short), addressed the Christian Soldiers
in broken English, asking them for information on the bandits. Pinney strode
'Well, y'honour'-Pinney liked to affect a Southern accent when he was trying to
be a gentleman, based mostly upon McDonalds Fried Chicken commercials (Kentucky
had long since been excised from the name, since it 'just wasn't appealing to
northern audiences), 'it all started like this. 'Bout round a week ago...'
Jake let himself drift off. Pinney's story spoke of incredible feats; dozens of
bandits destroyed in a single battle, a complicated system of defenses (instead
of what was effectively a lot of heaped up dirt), and a final, desperate
struggle. Rongzhen was watching, amused. He winked at Jake, and thumbed the
door. Jake bowed, and left the council chambers. They didn't appear to notice.
Rongzhen followed him.
In the lobby, Jake spun around. 'This is a waste of time. Why do you care what
happens to one village? Why the hell are you keeping us?' he shouted at Rongzhen.
He'd been building up rage for quite some time.
Rongzhen simply smiled. 'We're not so much keeping your redneck friends, as
keeping you, Jake. We've been interested in you for quite some time.'
Jake stared at him in shock. 'How'd you know I was in the village?'
'Oh, we've been keeping a few agents around you for some time. Making sure you
don't get hurt, that sort of thing. How else do you think we turned up so
'Didn't help much when the village got destroyed, did it?' he shot back. The
fact that they'd been spying on him was bad enough, but the fact they'd let
people die and done nothing...
Rongzhen refused to be baited. 'That would never have happened, for the simple
reason that our agents and the 'bandits' were in constant communication.
You were in no danger.'
Jake stared at him, gobsmacked. 'You. Your goddamn republic were funding the
militias?' He advanced on Rongzhen, since he didn't know advancing on a former
spy was a singularly silly thing to do. 'How dare you-'
Rongzhen rolled his eyes. 'Don't act so naive. We fund militias. Your government
funds militias. The Europeans fund militias. Even the Indians, who have five
people and three pickaxes, at least gave a twenty-dollar note to a convenient
mercenary. You are in the middle of the great game, Dr Lawson; there are limited
amounts of resources but infinite ambition. If we do not constantly gain
new sources of water, of helium, of ore, then there will be no survival. In such
an environment, your village was unfortunately expendable. We do apologise, but
the death of such a man of Kay was necessary for the prosperity of our republic.
In fact, to be totally honest, I rather considered it a bonus.'
Jake stared at Rongzhen with livid hatred. 'What the hell does that have to do
Rongzhen smiled widely. 'You're the Manchurian candidate, Dr Lawson. Popular,
influential, even if you've got the social skills of a dead gnat and you can't
speak to save your life.'
Jake snorted. 'What are you going to do, make me shoot Renny? You can go get-'
Rongzhen smiled. It was a dangerous, shark-like smile. It was the sort of smile
that suggested the person behind it wasn't in full possession of all his
faculties. Rongzhen had seen terrible things during the war; the old cocky
sociopathy was gone, replaced by a cool, terrible calm. 'No, Dr Lawson. We're
going to use you to rip the American Lunar Territories to shreds. And I
guarantee you that by the time we're done, we will take the United States with
Jake was escorted out of the hall under military guard. The rest of the
Christian Soldiers were interrogated; after all, the Council needed to know more
about American defences. The whole thing was a massive PR coup for Rongzhen,
whose loyalty had always been, with good reason, somewhat open to question.
Jake was driven across town in a military vehicle. Along the way, he couldn't
help but notice signs of the unique culture of Chang'e. One street seemed to be
entirely composed of mosques, churches and temples, albeit grey ones that seemed
more suited to accounting than the saving of souls. There were pagodas and open
markets, which even though they were rather pointless in a vacuum seemed
Rongzhen saw Jake staring. He said, smiling, 'I take it you don't have mosques
in the ALT?'
'Well...one.' That was true; following the Indonesian Civil War Sodor had become
a haven for refugees from Aceh following widespread ethnic cleansing. However,
the Sodor mosque was rather more...well, to be honest, it was a postbox.
Rongzhen smirked. 'We are dedicated to survival, whatever the cost. This nation
was born fighting, it continues fighting, and every citizen knows that unless we
constantly struggle for our independence, we will all die fighting. We have
built a population out of the refuse of the Earth; the brutalised Indonesians,
the shattered Chinese, the destitute Arabs. All those who have lost out, all the
refugees, all those fleeing for a better life will find their home here.'
Jake stared at him, curious. 'But why bother? You don't have a national
identity. You don't have any reason to be free. You had a five year
history before you declared independence, and you spent most of that as miners!
Why so soon?'
Rongzhen smiled. 'Your father said something very wise, Dr. Lawson. He said,
'The lunar dream is not just about economics, or the high ground, or even just
housing. It is a new way of life. A place which all of us, regardless of our
culture, our creed, our sex, our wealth, can call home.' That, Dr. Lawson, is
why we are free. We are building a new life for ourselves.'
Jake couldn't help it. He punched Rongzhen in the face. Admittedly, it was
rather less impressive than it sounded; Jake was hardly a prize fighter, and
Rongzhen had spent a lifetime being assaulted in one form or another. Still, it
was such a shock to Rongzhen that Jake actually managed to land a hit on his
cheek. Then, of course, he was jumped upon by soldiers and slammed into the
ground, since Jake seldom thought that far ahead.
Rongzhen didn't seem to mind, though. He was bent over laughing, and eventually
had to lean against a wall. He choked out, through his hysteria, 'I thought
you'd appreciate that.'
Jake stared up at him (or at his shoes, anyway) with livid hatred. 'My father
didn't say that. A goddamn biographer made him say it. He just wanted a better
hope for his family. That's it. Why the hell does everyone need to make him into
more than the good man that he was?'
Rongzhen smiled. 'I think, Dr Lawson, that who your father was bears very little
role in his legacy. What matters is what people thought he was. Did you
know we have a statue of him, only with Chinese features? It looks rather odd,
admittedly, but it is symbolic. Your father is a blank screen, upon whom we
impose our hopes and dreams.' Rongzhen chucked. 'You'll find that quite ironic
in a few minutes.'
They pulled over at a blank, grey building; the flag outside (based on the old
Republic of China, with a crescent moon instead of a sun) identified it as a
military facility. Jake was pulled inside, in handcuffs.
Inside, it was freezing cold. They passed small, sterile white rooms. They
reached an elevator, inside which were buttons with Chinese characters; Rongzhen
hit one near the bottom.
As they descended, Jake was conscious of a low sound. It was constantly present;
a dim wailing in his ears. Suddenly, he shuddered.
Rongzhen looked at him. 'Do you know what that sound is?'
Jake barely heard. It was too horrible.
Rongzhen grinned. 'It is the sound of screaming, Dr Lawson. Not the screaming of
pain, or the screaming of loss; the screaming of the hopeless, of those who know
they have no future and no past. You will never hear a more horrible sound.'
The elevator stopped, and they disembarked into an identical corridor. Jake was
marched down it, with guns poking into his back. They finally reached a white,
blank door, that seemed the same as every other door. Jake was pushed through.
Inside, there was a sterile operating chamber. There were holographic displays
above the bed, and graphs played across the walls. A pale, worried Indian doctor
nearly jumped when he saw Rongzhen come in. Jake was forced down on the bed, and
handcuffed to it.
Jake thought the time was right for some stereotypical action-hero defiance.
'I'll never talk', he said. Being rather small and weedy, he didn't really match
the stereotype very well, but some things are necessary.
Rongzhen giggled. 'Oh, talking's none of the problem. In time, we'll make you
talk, and dance, and siiiiing!' Rongzhen affected what he thought was an
opera baritone for the last word; the effect was less than convincing.
Jake looked at the doctor. 'What are you going to do to me?' he said.
The doctor jumped up nervously. 'W-well, Doctor Lawson, I p-presume you're
familiar with the Guangzhou experiments?'
'Of course I am. They attempted to place a small glass sphere into the frontal
lobes of the brain, so as to replace certain parts of the brain that had been
damaged. It was hoped that certain nerves could grow into the sphere and adapt
to it, right?'
Rongzhen grinned. 'Full marks, Dr Lawson! A textbook definition. It was hoped by
communist doctors-who were at this stage rather desperate for a 'magic bullet'
to end the war, since they were clearly losing public support-that brain damaged
patients could have what was in effect an 'artificial' part of their brain, so
they could go on fighting.' He smirked. 'Well, that was it at first.'
Jake had studied the experiments in detail at Princeton; at the time, it was
only just being leaked to the Western world what exactly the doctors had done.
It had been unforgettable. 'After a time, they tried to use the spheres to
stimulate endorphins, so that pain reflexes could be repressed. Experiments were
made so that the amygdala could be supplanted to increase emotional control. It
was...barbaric.' He had seen pictures; of captured enemy soldiers subjected to
surgeries that would have been better performed by monkeys, of cruel and brutal
surgeries. 'Most of the research was destroyed in one of the first atomic
bombings. A fitting end.'
Rongzhen leaned in close. 'Ah, but that's where you're wrong, Dr Lawson', he
breathed. 'A few of the relevant personnel defected to us after the PRC was sent
to the dustbin of history. We do not have all that they have, but the vast
wealth of our mines have allowed for a quantum leap in genetic technology. We
have perfected it, Dr Lawson!'
Jake stared at him in horror. He tried to speak, but only choking sounds came
out. The Indian doctor, obviously nervous, gabbled on.
'W-we've perfected a method, we think, of transmitting messages directly to the
subject's brain. The first techniques were...were crude, would never have passed
for real. B-but now, we think we've created a way of replacing m-much of the
frontal lobe...and creating an adequate, remote-controllable replacement. I-it's
not a permanent measure, b-but for what's intended...we think it'll suffice.'
'You're going to use mind control.' Jake's mouth was dry.
All the humour was gone from Rongzhen. There was just cold, rational logic.
'Once Brooks is elected, we will use you to split and then control the
Progressive Party. Helium supplies to Earth will stop. The United States economy
is very, very fragile; the entire planet is based upon an addiction to the rocks
from lunar mines. The result will be...catastrophic.'
'Why?' asked Jake. 'WHY?'
Rongzhen stared at him. 'I have already answered that. We were born fighting.
Our nation was conceived as a city of slaves, in constant servitude. We have
been built up of the refuse of Earth. In Aceh, we were massacred. In China, we
were poisoned and incinerated. All across the Muslim world, we were belittled
and forced into vassalage.' A sardonic smile crossed his face. ''It is not by
parliamentary votes or by speeches that the great questions of the day are
decided, but by blood and iron.' Bismarck was wiser than he knew, Dr Lawson.
Lawson was anaesthetized. Even after he lost consciousness, he was screaming.
And that was the end of Jake Lawson. Something persisted afterwards, but despite
his appearance that was not him.
Shane Knight was suspended in space.
He floated, surrounded by infinite blackness. Above him was his ship, the CAS
Endeavour; from what he could tell, the Commonwealth Scientific Exploration
and Industrial Research Organisation (CSEIRO) were determined to name every ship
they would ever build Endeavour. Admittedly, it was probably the only
name that wouldn't arouse deep and abiding controversy. His fellow colonists
were tiny dots, like stars, descending from the ship.
Beneath them lay Cruithne, a Near Earth Asteroid. For a while, it was
fashionable to call Cruithne 'Earth's second moon'; by now, such notions were
dismissed as being rather silly. What it was, however, was 1.3×1014 kg of
carbon and water; for the water-starved moon and the orbital stations, it was
worth far more than its weight in gold. Australia, which before now had been
happy to studiously ignore the sky, was determined to get a piece of it. Despite
much rhetoric, no one had yet managed to mount anything more than a brief manned
survey mission to any asteroid; Australia would be the first to take control of
the new frontier.
There was still criticism of the Endeavour mission back home; the Liberal
Party had only been able to get it through Parliament with Green support, on the
basis that it would remove heavy industry from the Earth. But Australia was
beginning to realise that there was no future for any nation on Earth. The
entire continent had been effectively desertified; water was dangerously scarce,
and already conditions existed outside the five big cities that would have
shocked people in third world countries. To the north, the nuclear bombing of
Darwin by the Islamic Confederation of Srivjaja (a fundamentalist Islamic state
that had grown out of the collapse of Indonesia into squabbling failed states)
had embroiled Australia in a nasty, brutal war that had already cost tens of
thousands of Australian lives. Knight had seen the glowing scar across the Top
End from orbit, and had known there was no future down there. It was the same
old equation; if Australia did not populate space, then surely they would
Knight hit the surface of Cruithne. Around them, the first prefab shelters had
already gone up. He was standing on what was effectively frozen mud; admittedly
humble-sounding, but invaluable in an economy that was becoming parched of
water. One day, he realised, the resources of Cruithne might even feed and water
all of Australia. Curtin, the settlement they intended to found here, would be a
Knight slammed the new Australian flag into the ground; the blue and white of
the Eureka cross shone in the darkness.
'Today', he pronounced, 'Australia have taken our first leap into the cosmos.'
He grinned. 'Crikey, mate.' Some things just had to be said.
On Mars, Daniel Cage scrabbled in the regolith, feeling increasingly silly as he
He was one of the six astronauts of Ares 3, the third Mars mission. He
was working atop a hill on Syrtis Major; below him were the small, rudimentary
huts of Areopolis, what could potentially be the first Mars settlement. The
whole thing was admittedly a stretch; NASA had no interest in Mars colonization.
It was too far away, and there was no profit in the red dust. They would be
leaving in a few weeks, leaving Areopolis to future colonists. After having
spent three weeks there, Daniel was profoundly glad to leave it to them.
Daniel was surrounded by complex scientific equipment. He was conducting one of
dozens of astrobiological research missions; no one had yet managed to prove
existence of life on Mars. He had trekked for kilometres around the region,
which scientists had theorized in the early years of the century overlay a
methane-producing area. He had found nothing but rust, and vast quantities of
Now, in the bottom of a hole three metres deep, dug by the most ungrateful
mission commander, he was about ready to give up. The drills they were using
were capable of reaching down dozens of metres; he would analyse the samples,
find them devoid of life, store them carefully, start again. Over and over
He had gotten into a routine habit of this, so when the beeping in his helmet
began he almost ignored it, and was about to store the sample when he noticed it
hadn't stopped. He looked again at the results.
They were incontrovertable. There were biological chemicals in the dust. Not
life, but evidence of that once, maybe now, maybe long ago, it had breathed. It
wasn't exactly a little green man waving and giving the Vulcan salute, but it
was life. Somewhere, sometime, something had lived and breathed here.
The historical record says that Cage said 'This is the stuff of life!' upon
finding the results. That was made up afterwards. In fact, as you would do, he
swore loudly and heartily.
Meanwhile, in the Vatican City, Pope John XIV lay dying, surrounded by his
cardinals. Outside, food riots gripped Rome, as the ongoing recession ripped the
European Confederation apart. As 2040 wore on, the drought that seemed to grip
the entire world had turned much of the world's farmland into wastelands;
throughout Europe, starving farmers descended on the cities, leading to massive
upheaval. And when Europe sneezed, the entire world got pneumonia.
The pope had been poisoned; they all knew it. The Catholic Church was hardly
'one holy apostolic and catholic church' anymore; it had been divided by so many
factional feuds that in the end, even murder had become acceptable. The papacy
had fallen victim to the vicious internecine warfare that threatened to tear the
Church apart. It was an unspeakable sin.
One of the Cardinals lent closer to the Pope. 'Your Holiness', he whispered in
Latin, 'do not leave us. Do not deprive us of your wisdom.'
The Pope, a wry South American, stared up at him with sightless eyes. 'My
friend', he whispered, 'there is nothing I can do. You must only trust in God.
In the times to come, he will be the only constant.' The Pope groaned; the end
was obviously near. 'My friends, we live in a time of uncertainty. The world
creaks and groans. The battles of a thousand years replay themselves, as a new
flood engulfs us all. We cannot escape. We only hope, and trust in God.' He
closed his eyes, and whispered once more.
'The storm is coming.'
In Copernicus, the refugees from Lambert
encroached over the horizon. They were promptly assaulted by salesmen selling to
tourists, who only gave up once they realised that the bulletholes and large
burns probably meant they had no money. The settlers took lodging in a Christian
Hostel, as previously arranged; the fact that it was Catholic involved an awful
lot of crossing themselves, but there was no other choices. Then they waited.
A few days later, the Christian Soldiers drove into town in a vehicle so
non-descript, so very normal, that it instantly aroused attention. (Rongzhen
had never quite got the concept that things that are very, very ordinary stand
out a lot more. Nothing's that ordinary). Jake jumped out, smiling as he
did so. He smiled a lot more these days.
They went to the hostel, and tearfully reunited with their families. The whole
story was embellished by Pinney: a brutal fight to the death with CLR soldiers,
an impassioned plea to the Council, a triumphant return. The fact they'd been
captured without firing a shot and were released only after a whispered
conversation between Rongzhen and the Council curiously didn't get mentioned.
'What will you do now?' asked Jake.
Pinney shrugged. 'Ask for more money from Hillsong, buy new stuff, get a new
priest, and go back, I guess.'
'But the entire northern hemisphere is swarming with bandits!' cried Jake.
Pinney smiled wanly. 'Yeah, I guess it is. But we're building a new society out
here. A Christian society. You may not know what it's like to believe in
something, but I can tell you that we believe God is on our side. We will work
to ensure our children get a better world than this.'
The original Jake would have come up with a snappy comeback. But in his
brain, the sphere blocked certain synapses and rerouted others. Jake's face
instantly changed to a smile.
'Well, I can't stop you then', he said. 'Goodbye, Earle. It's been a pleasure.'
'Good luck, Dr Lawson. Stay safe.'
Jake walked south, under his own power. The sphere only fired when he was about
to do something the CLR didn't want; the rest of the time, he was allowed
limited freedom, as long as he obeyed the messages they sent straight into his
He wasn't really aware of the sphere; those memories had been removed
from his brain. But he was aware of gaps and jumps in his thoughts, every so
often. However, whenever he started actually thinking about them, his brain
jumped away. Again. The overall effect wouldn't be enough to fool someone who
knew Jake well, but the only people who had known Jake well had died 12 years
He got on the train to Fra Mauro, and headed south.
At first, the mother of the lunar colonies had been necessity. Peak oil had
ripped the Middle East to shreds; fusion power gained a quantum leap in
development. Deuterium-tritium could be made more efficient, true, but the rise
of (reasonably) cheap rocketry with the reinvention of nuclear thermals rockets
had made helium-3 both a valuable and much-needed item.
Now, though, that need was decreasing. Ironically because of the abundant fusion
power of the 2030s (which, despite the unfortunate problem of the second largest
war in history in China, were already being seen as a golden age for both Earth
and Luna), deuterium-tritium reactors had become a much better prospect, and
easier to manufacture. New revolutions in solar power, including planned solar
power satellites at L-5, were causing decreases in helium-3 prices. And, of
course, there was the water problem: there simply wasn't enough water on the
moon to fund a really large population. Already, vast amounts of water
had been shipped from the Earth over the course of the last two decades; this
was endlessly recyclable, true, but eventually people would decide to simply cut
out the middleman.
As such, Fra Mauro took on the air of a town that was gradually declining,
despite Governor Renny's enthusiastic pro-business, Hayekian fiscal policies. It
was still the largest city on the moon, but Jake (or at least Jake's
controllers) noticed that as he entered town on the train that several factories
and businesses had closed down. Of course, the population was still increasing
(projected to hit 10000 by 2050), but the massive boom that had seen it gain
thousands in the 2030s was over. The mines above town now exported more precious
minerals than helium-3, which lead to a decrease in profits.
The Governor's House was, of course, in the centre of town, just outside the
Senate. They had 25 senators now, roughly divided between the Republican,
Progressive and Democratic parties, with a few insane independents who none of
the parties wanted.
Jake entered the lobby of the Governor's House, and met the receptionist. He put
on his biggest smile. In Chang'e, his controllers rapidly went through books on
charisma; this would take some fine programming.
'Excuse me, miss', he said, still smiling (by this stage, it was looking
disturbingly like rigor mortis), 'but could I book an appointment to see
The receptionist looked quizzically at him. 'You're Jake Lawson, aren't you? I
saw a picture of you in the paper.'
'Why yes I am', he said, in his best 'charming voice'. It seemed to do the
trick. The receptionist jumped up.
'Oh my god! I am so proud to meet you! I'm a Progressive, you know.' She
lowered her voice. 'Just don't tell Renny, or he'll sack me. I have heard so much
about your family!'
'Well, that's wonderful', said Jake. It was taking all of the sphere's efforts
to stop him from punching her in the face. 'Could I please see Governor Renny?'
'Oh yes, of course, but first-'
He spent the next few minutes signing autographs for her, her family, and a few
dozen select friends, and finally sauntered in to the office.
Renny was a balding man in his late 50s. More than anything, he resembled Calvin
Coolidge, in appearance, ideology, and general demeanour. He was a good man,
who clung to Christian virtues like a shield. Unfortunately, this made him a
rather tone-deaf politician. For the last six years, he had governed the moon
due to infantile bickering between his opponents, and his own gentle charm.
Although he hadn't quite matched Lang's cumulative 9-year record, it was widely
reputed he aimed to beat it.
Upon Lawson's entry, Renny originally looked startled, but then relaxed. He got
up, and shook Jake's hand.
'Dr Lawson!' he cried. 'What in the world are you doing here?'
'I have come', Jake said acidly, 'to correct historical wrongs.'
Renny sat down uncomfortably. 'Well, Dr Lawson, you must understand that we do
humbly regret the death of your father-'
'Not that. I am here to ask what you are doing about persistant violence
on the northern frontier.'
Renny relaxed back. He thought this would be serious. 'Well, Dr Lawson,
you understand that we can't patrol everywhere. There's thousands of square
kilometres of moon for them to hide in!'
'Then patrol it. Scan it. Send out men with fine-tooth combs. People have died,
Governor Renny, and you have done nothing.'
'And how do you plan to pay for this, Dr Lawson? As far as I'm aware, you're not
an economist, or indeed have any training in politics whatsoever. You're just
the son of a miner who gained fame through historical accident. The budget of
the American Lunar Territories contains no allowances for wild-goose chases, and
that's what any attempt to patrol the northern frontier would be.'
'So what? We just leave people to die?'
'Of course not. Any large community will receive a police station. Of course, in
some settlements it may not be economical, but they chose to live there,
Dr Lawson. I believe in the freedom of the individual against the interference
of the state. They have the freedom to do what they wish, but they also have the
freedom to take the consequences.'
Jake got up. The sphere set his face to 'stunned'. 'So that's it? You plan to
leave the frontier as some sort of sci fi Old West?'
'That's silly hyperbole. We have police in all the larger settlements. If anyone
complains, then the police will be sent out north. If I may ask, why didn't your
friends phone the police, Dr Lawson?'
Jake was stuck. The sphere combed his memory, and didn't find anything. His face
was slack, frozen. He finally decided to take a stab at it. 'They didn't think
they'd do anything.'
'That's right, Dr Lawson. They chose not to call the police. Whether to protect
their own privacy or because they believed it would be pointless is irrelevant.
They could have chosen to live in a larger settlement. They did not. It is not
the place of the police to leap in the way of bullets fired by people determined
to shoot themselves in the foot. I am not a tyrant, Dr Lawson, and I have no
wish to be. I simply wish for people to live their own lives without my
interference. It is not my place to cast judgments on those lives, but merely to
allow them to live them.'
Jake stormed towards the door. He turned around for a final comment. 'You're not
Houston at all, you know. You're worse.'
And that was entirely the work of Jake.
Even though, of course, no one would admit it,
it was probably better in the long run that Lawson had died.
Imagine, for a second, a counter-factual where he had been successful, and
Houston had backed down on July 3. (After that, of course, there was no way he
would have been able to escape execution or assassination. Houston had been
pushed too far). New terms would have been achieved; unions would have been
legalised, terms would have been improved. And then the movement would
have...stopped. There would have been no legislature for years and years to
come; Lawson would have returned to the mines, and probably ended up crushed
under a thousand tons of lunar ore, simply through the hazardous nature of his
Even if Lawson had survived, the movement would have had to contend with an
actual person as their figurehead, who would say things that people found
even slightly troubling. As it was, Lawson had said only the most basic
political statements: democracy good, oppression bad, wouldn't it be nice if
everyone was nice? As such, the Lawsonian movement (which extended beyond the
Progressive Party into the Lawsonian Commonwealth, the major trade unions, a
lobby group on Earth, sections of the tourist industry...) could be a wide
church, as any sustained political movement demanded, all centred around a
figure who was effectively a blank slate, onto which people could project their
own ideals and prejudices.
So the Chinese Lunar Republic had Lawson as an anti-imperialist crusader,
fighting against Terran powers for lunar independence. The Progressive Party had
him as a standard left-wing politician; he advocated gay rights, he was a civil
libertarian, he supported universal healthcare and free tertiary education. To
the Lawsonian Commonwealth, he was something akin to a saint; a crusader for the
rights of all those oppressed, not just the workers but all mankind, a noble,
flawless figure working towards a utopic future. Already in the Dome, the
central meeting place and voting assembly of the Commonwealth, there was a
shrine to Lawson that was taking on many of the characteristics of a church.
All this meant that the major figures in the Lawsonian movement-senators, union
leaders, the manufacturer of Che Guevara-style Lawson shirts-were enormously
uncomfortable to see Jake back on the Moon, and even more importantly to be
making political statements. He had managed to get an interview on Luna 1 with
no difficulties, where he wowed the audience with his digitally-enhanced
charisma. (In the Chinese Lunar Republic, Rongzhen had worked for days to
get the chip firing just right for that). He had begun making public statements
about conditions on the frontier, and was publicly attacking all three parties
for not acting sooner.
There had been frontier lobbyists before; they had generally been hushed up by a
pact of all three parties. The Republicans needed cheap labour on the frontier,
since they were opposed to spending money on services and thus raising taxes;
the Progressives needed a steady flow of cheap mineral ores to fund their
ambitious projects (which they couldn't quite implement yet, but were already
planning); and the Democrats tried to just keep their heads down and not commit
to anything. Already, senior Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned
about this course of action; they had seen what had happened to the UK Liberals,
or the US Whigs, or even what was happening to the Australian Labor Party, and
were desperate to avoid it happening here.
Jake, though, was different. For starters, his youth, far from discrediting him
(after all, some political observers were mumbling, Stevens T. Mason had been
only 22 when made Territorial Governor of Michigan...), gave him natural appeal
to the moon's large young population, which his natural (as far as anyone knew)
charisma amplified. And, of course, there was the name. Over 90% of the moon's
population hadn't been there when Lawson launched his revolt; some of them
hadn't even been born! And yet, the notion of the rugged, working-class frontier
hero, fighting 'the man' (generally interpreted as anyone whinge-worthy) for
classic American values struck a chord far deeper than the reality of what had
simply been a disastrously managed strike. Jake was speaking of things that,
deep down, they felt were truly American, but seemed to have gotten lost
in the last few years; it even resonated with the ALT's large non-American
population. He made a terrific splash.
For the leaders of the Progressive Party, this was disastrous. Brooks, long
delayed by factional in-fighting, had finally built up an impressive enough base
to take the gubernatorial nomination away from the solid but uninspiring Matthew
Talbot and the ailing Gerald Matheson. He needed a charismatic young firebrand
like he needed root canal surgery.
Jake was planning a tour of the frontier settlements in a few weeks, to be
filmed and televised. Quietly, Progressive leaders called a crisis meeting.
Something needed to be done. Preferably with words, but this was serious, after
all. Mistakes could be made.
Brooks managed to confront Jake in a Chinese restaurant in Fra Mauro. Once it
had become obvious that there was no way the PRC would retake their rebelling
colonists, many of the refugees had come to live in Fra Mauro, attracted by its
intensely multicultural society and its cheap housing. In the melting pot with
big lumps that the American Lunar Territories was increasingly coming to be,
they had become a valued part of the moon's culinary scene, especially seeing as
Chinese food was one of the moon's few alternatives to fast food.
Jake was dining alone, with some difficulty. The chip generally left these sort
of functions to Jake, but high solar activity was interfering with the device,
leading to occasional sudden bursts of synapses. As long as no one noticed that
he couldn't hold chopsticks for more than a few seconds, though, things were OK.
Brooks sat down in front of Jake. By this stage, a decade of comfortable life
away from the mines had led to Brooks filling out from his previously rake-thin
frame, but his charisma was still sufficient to wow anyone not paying too much
attention. His hair was beginning to grey; he was only 53, but 15 years of
exposure to lunar radiation had left him looking older. Sure, lower gravity was
good for the cardiovascular system, but it came at the cost of a much higher
rate of cancers and diseases. You lived longer, but you had less fun while doing
Brooks smiled widely at Jake. Jake looked up; the continuing solar problems
meant that he took a second or two to respond, but then broke into an even wider
'Mr Brooks, I've been trying to get an appointment with you for weeks. How
have you been?'
'Good, thank you', said Brooks. 'I'm awfully sorry I haven't been able to see
you; busy schedule, you know.'
'Oh, yes, of course. I haven't even been able to get a job, you know; it's just
speak here, speak there. Ever since I got to Fra Mauro a few weeks ago, it's
just been insane.'
Brooks felt his hopes pique up. 'So you want to get a job?'
Back at the CLR control centre, Jake's controller for this shift, a rather
mild-mannered former accountant from Kerala, rolled his eyes. How dumb did he
think Jake was?
Back in Fra Mauro, though, Jake showed no sign of discord. If anything, he
smiled wider. 'Well, I'm not sure of that. The people on the frontier need my
help, Mr Brooks; they need someone to make their voices heard. If not getting a
job for a bit longer means that one less child dies out there, then I don't see
how I have a choice.'
Brooks sat there, stunned. He had known Andrew Lawson, and fought in the 2028
uprising; even then, he had been stunned by Lawson's charisma and sheer goodness.
Jake seemed to have inherited his father's charisma, but Brooks saw
something fundamentally...wrong about him. Even beyond the fact that his face
didn't quite seem to move normally (which was the fault of the fritzing chip),
there was a deeper rage, a hatred in him that Brooks found somewhat unnerving.
This was a man whose life had been ripped apart; under those circumstances, a
man could either go mad or dress up as a bat. Jake seemed to be veering
erratically between the two.
A waiter arrived for Brooks; he ordered a glass of water. He turned back to
Jake. It was time to get to business. 'You see, Jake, some of us Progressives
are a bit...well, concerned about some of your recent comments. You've become
prominent very, very quickly, and we think that you've got a lot of good points,
but sometimes your comments can be a bit...'
'Counterproductive?' Jake grimaced. 'This isn't about political motives, Mr
Brooks, this is about saving lives.'
Brooks' temper finally broke. No one could try to out-sanctimonious him. 'Look,
Lawson, you've made a splash. We admit it. But what you're doing is just going
to end up hurting more people than you would ever want. We're in an election
year. The economy is beginning to go downhill again. People are speaking out
against Renny. We could win this one, kid, but the last thing we need is
someone like you shooting your mouth off. The only way to help the people on the
frontier is by getting a Progressive governor, and the only way to do that is
a united front. You will fight with us, kid, or we will tear each other apart.'
Jake smiled. 'So what you're saying is that, despite all the evidence to the
contrary, the only way people will stop dying on the frontier is if you become
'That's right, kid.'
'So why should I shut up? You've given me a lot of empty platitudes, but they
don't save lives.'
'Because we can offer you stuff, Lawson. That's the way politics works; we
trade. You stop attacking us, and we offer you a senatorial spot. You could even
run for governor, at least in 20 years or so. In between, you get a public forum
from where you can fix the frontier problem firsthand. Is that enough for you?'
'So I sell out to you. I wear a suit, I talk about interest rates, and I get a
nice, comfy sinecure. And the price of that is that people keep dying for no
'Hey, once we're in office, we'll deal with the issue. From within the party,
you'll be able to-'
'Oh, don't patronise me, Brooks. You have no intention of dealing with the
problem. I've read your campaign platform. Hospitals, schools, train stations.
Very ambitious, but there's no way you can pay for them and fix the frontier.
The inner cities get more money, the people on the frontier get less. Winners
and losers. That's the way you think, isn't it?'
Brooks got up. This was pointless. 'Kid, listen to me. We want to help. You
think my heart doesn't bleed when I think of kids on the frontier? Kids with no
schools, no hospitals, no shoes, for gods sakes, because of the damned
stuffed up way our economy works. But attacking us is not the way to go. Now,
I'll ask you one last time. Is there any way you can call off your attack?'
Jake smiled broadly.
'I'd like to be lieutenant governor.'
Then a solar flare reached the moon, his chip went wild, and he collapsed into
Xie Rongzhen, Governor of the Northwestern Provinces and leader of Cybernetic
Intelligence (an agency with, essentially, one real project), hated having to
address the Council. It was like being very softly whipped to death.
The President of the CLR was Qiangba Rinpoche, a Tibetan who had served as the
leading general in the War of Independence. During the war, he'd taken a lot of
radiation; eight years later, it was obvious he was a very, very sick man, and
barely conscious most of the time. Already, the jockeying had begun to replace
Despite theoretically holding all the seats in the Council, the People's
Revolutionary Movement was just that: a movement, not a party, and no one could
agree which direction it was meant to move. There were innumerable factions,
based on ethnicity, religion, or simply hair colour. The major blocs were the
Islamic bloc, led by Ismail Tengriqut, and the Chinese bloc, led by Ai Chusheng.
Relations between the two were openly hostile; both leaders saw themselves as
the rightful future president, a notion not discouraged by the fact Rinpoche had
barely said anything in months.
The entire project to turn Lawson into an agent had been Chusheng's initiative;
he'd been working on it for years, to the extent that Jake's capture had merely
been a happy coincidence. They would have got him sooner or later. Tengriqut, on
the other hand, was bitterly opposed to the whole thing; the latest setback was
seen as an opportunity to gloat.
Rongzhen continued his speech. 'At 20:23, Eastern Time (the ALT used the time in
Florida, for convenience), high solar flare activity caused communications with
the control sphere to break up. Interference from the flare caused contradictory
messages to be sent to the subject's control sphere, causing an effect similar
to a stroke. He collapsed, and nearly drowned before being pulled free by
observers. He was rushed to hospital, but the end of solar flare activity meant
that we were able to revive him. He managed to book himself out before doctors
were able to analyse his brain, and was given a clean bill of health.'
Tengriqut interjected. 'Is he healthy, though?'
'As healthy as anyone with a chip in their brain can be', responded Rongzhen
acidly. 'He may have some impairment of movement, and the chip may not respond
as quickly as usual for a few days. All in all, though, he seems to have
Tengriqut leaned forward. 'You have managed a near miss, Mr Rongzhen. You were
lucky once. You may not be so lucky again.'
Rongzhen smiled widely. 'I'm always lucky.'
Brooks found the idea of giving even a place on
centre stage to anyone but himself rather distasteful, even slightly
sacreligious. But that wasn't what worried him; not even Jake's rather sudden
medical episode, which he blamed on tiredness, was that distressing. What
worried him was the look he saw in Jake's eyes. Ten years ago, Brooks had
been a crusader against injustice, a firebrand who loved a stoush. Now, after a
decade in the cutthroat, poisonous politics of the Moon, he'd grown harder, more
cynical. In Jake, he saw the look of a man who would blow up the world for a
dream, and it scared him. In his youth, he'd been like that; now, he
realised the dangers such a mindset could bring.
But he realised the benefits of having Jake on the ticket. The crowds loved him,
he had a famous name, a reasonably telegenic appearance, youth, and if he were
sent to the outer settlements for most of the campaign he could be saved from
saying anything too stupid. So, reluctantly, Brooks began to vouch for him. Jake
didn't enter the race for governor, but then again, he didn't need to; he merely
needed to say that he thought being lieutenant-governor might be nice,
and the Red Sea parted before him.
At the Progressive State Convention in March, Brooks was elected the candidate
in a landslide; he demolished Talbot, the other frontrunner, through a strategy
of muckraking and polemicising that he had perfected. Matheson, who was
increasingly becoming the Progressive Party's resident curmugeon, declined to
run. Jake was elected the candidate for lieutenant-governor in a stunning
landslide, with Talbot promptly wiped off the stage.
After the vote, Jake got up to the stage, smiling widely. He hugged people
around him, and grabbed the mike.
'Ladies and gentlemen, we are back!' he cried. The crowd went wild.
'We've spent six years in the wilderness. Hell, we've never left the
wilderness, if you consider that Lang, much as I respect and admire him, was
elected on the Alliance ticket. But things have changed. The streets are full of
the debris of Renny's destructive slash-and-burn policies. The people are tired,
ladies and gentlemen, they're tired of the lying, they're tired of the
cynicism, and most of all they're tired of that goddamn accountant of a governor
who lives in a tower while the rest of us sink to the slums!'
'There's a new moon rising, ladies and gentlemen. A moon where people on the
frontier don't have to sleep with guns under the pillow, in case the bandits
come calling while they're gone. A world where every man, woman or child,, be he
black or white or green and blue, can be regarded as a being worthy of love and
respect, and entitled to fundamental human rights. A world where the slums are burnt
down, as the sickening testaments to inequality they are! We have the
technology, ladies and gentlemen, to build the best goddamn world in history. No
child need live in poverty, no man need suffer illness or deprivation. But we're
afraid. People stick to prejudice, to injustice, to fear. We will not be
afraid! We will fight against these evils, and we will triumph! We will fight
for liberty, for equality, for fraternity, and no matter what, we will win!'
'Come out of the darkness, ladies and gentlemen, and let freedom reign!'
As speeches go, it was positively apocalyptic, but it made a splash. Hell, it
made a tsunami. Brooks' rather more modest speech was wiped off the front pages
and the nightly news. It even gained some press back on Earth.
One person, though, was not impressed. Edward Lang, since declining to run six
years earlier, was in the audience, unnoticed. He'd spent 19 years on the moon,
a longer time in space than any other person in history; as a natural
side-effect, he was suffering from bone decay, muscle wastage, and liver cancer.
The doctors said he only had two more years to live, at best. Walker's dreams of
lunar longevity were, like almost everything he had promised, just dreams.
As Jake basked in the applause of the audience, he noticed Lang. Their eyes met
for a moment. Then Jake smiled, just slightly too wide.
Lang realised instantly. He sank into his chair, shocked. It dawned on him that
Jake's 'new moon' would be, in all likelihood, built on a pile of skulls. That
was just the way Rongzhen thought.
Excerpt from the New York Times, online
edition, 26 July 2038
Twenty-second Amendment Repealed
In a landmark vote yesterday, the Pacifica (editor's note: American Samoa,
Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam, in a single US state) House of
Representatives voted to rescind the Twenty-second Amendment to the United
States Constitution, becoming the 39th state to do so, and reaching the crucial
three-fourths majority required to amend the United States Constitution. The
Twenty-second Amendment makes provisions specifying that a President may only
serve two terms.
The repeal of the amendment was proposed by President Finney after his second
landslide election in 2036. The measure has proven highly controversial, with an
estimated 10 000 people marching in protest in New York yesterday.
The campaign organiser, noted comedian Mary Connolly, blasted both the repeal of
the attack. 'We've spent decades steadily chipping away at checks and balances.
Wiretaps, Gitmo, the Subversive Activities Tribunal...where will this stop? When
will Finney finally say 'no'?'
Connolly also blasted the recent statehood of Pacifica, calling it 'blatant
gerrymandering' in Finney's favour. The protest was broken up by police.
Extract from the Sydney Morning Herald, online edition, 16 January, 2039
PM Morgan Proposes Indonesian Intervention
In an address before Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister David Morgan announced
his intention to commit troops to the ongoing Indonesian Civil War, in order to
defeat Islamic militias and to 'make the region safe for democracy'.
In a landmark speech, Morgan proposed pacification of Sumatra and Sulawesi,
islands known to be bases for the Islamic Confederation of Srivjaja, an
unrecognised Islamist state and terrorist organisation. He also pledged to end
ongoing massacres in Aceh, West Papua and West Timor, which have attracted
Leader of the Opposition Jack Bentley attacked Morgan's proposal as 'blatant
imperialism'. In a press conference yesterday, he said: 'This is an Indonesian
affair, and not a time for blatant Australian paternalism. The Prime Minister
obviously doesn't understand that 'the white man's burden' is a notion better
left in the nineteenth century.'
The war began in 2037 after a coup against Indonesia's elected Islamist
government by the military, and so far is estimated to have cost nearly two
Extract from The Dominion Post, online edition, 7 October 2039
Food Riots Grip Auckland
The continuing drought and food shortage led yesterday to rioting across
Auckland, as bread prices skyrocketed. Violence first broke out in Manukau City
at 10:36 AM, and spread rapidly. At press time, police were still working to
contain rioters in Papatoetoe.
Prime Minister Bruce Isley of the New Zealand First Party denounced the violence
in a press conference, and repeated his proposal for closer ties with Australia.
'The current drought is threatening our sustainability as a nation', he said.
Opposition Leader Pamela Marker was unavailable for comment.
And so it spread; a wave of discontent and fury across the world. The old
economic certainties collapsed; neoliberalism reduced cities to slums and farms
to deserts, but there was no alternative. And so people took to the streets, and
let slip the dogs of war.
Across Earth and on the moon, people beat their ploughshares into swords. As the
economy crashed after the brief high following the end of the Chinese Civil War,
governments followed them down. The lessons of 1848 were replayed, over and over
again. Revolution swept the world.
Jake Lawson traveled the moon. He spoke in the slums of Fra Mauro, in the empty
mines of Apollo, and to the betrayed idealists of the frontier. As he went, he
preached. It was a message born of hardship, forged in the fires of 2028; he
spoke of injustice, of deep, historical wrongs, but most of all of revenge. On
the frontier, there was no order, there was no money, there was no hope. All
they had left was rage. Jake understood this. Ever since his childhood had
ended, that was all he was.
So, in a chilling parody of Houston's tactics in 2029, he appealed to fear. The
elites in their ivory towers, the encroaching giant of India, the grey
accountants who played monopoly with people's lives. It was a message of us and
them; a message built of class conflict, of a never-ending struggle for
justice and equality.
Jake began to organize marches in the cities. At first, they were relatively
low-key. But with the resources of the Progressive Party, who still controlled
the moon's unions, behind him, the marches began to grow. Thousands flocked to
his banner. He told them what they wanted to hear; that they had been wronged,
that their natural rights had been taken away by a cruel, impersonal system that
saw people as resources. He promised nationalisation, he promised hospitals, he
promised schools. But what he promised most was that he would make them pay. The
dreams of a sobbing schoolboy, translated into a political platform.
In such an environment, even though he was the gubernatorial candidate, Brooks
was largely regarded as an optional extra.
Xie Rongzhen knelt next to the bed of Qiangba
Rinpoche, the near-comatose President of the Chinese Lunar Republic. He was
being treated to the finest medical technology in the world, and yet he still
stubbornly failed to make an improvement. It was...ungrateful, that was it.
There was only one doctor on duty, since you can only heal a dead horse so far.
Still, Rongzhen felt compelled to give some respect. This man could, after all,
have him killed, or even more worrying have certain people not killed.
'Sir?' he whispered in Mandarin. 'Can you hear me?'
Rinpoche's eyes fluttered for a second. Rongzhen interpreted this as a positive
'Sir, I have total faith in your eventual recovery.' Rinpoche stared
reproachfully at him; admittedly, he couldn't look away or move at all, but
Rongzhen still felt it. They both knew there was no point pretending. 'But, in
the event of disaster, sir, I think that you should perhaps nominate a
successor. Just in case, you understand.'
Rinpoche stared up at him, and gurgled something. Rongzhen couldn't make it out.
Then he gasped horribly, and died.
The wail of the heart monitor seemed to go on for a long time. The doctor pulled
a sheet over Rinpoche's face.
'I'll inform the Council', he said.
Rongzhen mulled his options. For now, Tengriqut had the numbers in the Council
to become President; once that happened, he would be able to shut down the
cybernetics program, including Jake. So many years of research, of development,
would be gone for nothing...
Rongzhen looked up at the doctor.
'Must you?' he asked. 'I mean, are you sure he's dead?'
'Well, yes. His heart isn't beating, he's not breathing, and there's no neural
Rongzhen got up. He sighed. 'Yes, I know that. But he may not be so dead
that we need to worry the Council about it.'
Rongzhen rolled his eyes. 'The Council do not need to be informed of his
passing. Because he's not dead. You understand.'
Honestly. What did they make doctors out of these days? Well, Rongzhen
reflected, if this poor sap didn't catch on quick he'd get a chance to find out
After Rongzhen finally managed to get the point across, he went home. Even
though he was technically Governor of the Northwest Territories (one of his many
posts; as one of the CLR's few trained military officers, he generally found
himself with far too many jobs), he lived in a small flat in Zheng He, the CLR's
second city. It was deliberately painted with bright, flashy colours inside,
because Rongzhen hated stereotypes.
He walked inside. He walked towards his bedroom, then spun around. Something was
wrong. He knew it. He drew his gun, and turned slowly towards the bedroom door.
'I say, you're out of practice!'
It was a testament to Rongzhen's superb nerve control that Lang's life didn't
end then and there. He cursed himself, though; he was out of practice.
The fact that a 59-year-old terminal cancer patient had managed to sneak into
his apartment without him noticing was testimony to that. Smiling as always, he
put the gun away.
'I say, this is a surprise! However did you get here?'
'I know your real name, 'Bob'. You're in the Zheng He phone directory, and you
don't keep your door locked. Funny, that.'
'Anyone who really wanted to break in would be able to get past anything I could
do to stop them. Besides, I've been waiting for you.'
Lang advanced on him. Even with his obvious weakness, he was a more formidable
figure than he ever had been as governor. It seemed that the eternal worrier had
finally found something to believe in.
'I want you', he spat at Rongzhen, 'to release that poor kid from whatever
you've done to him.'
Rongzhen smiled benevolently. He was not a man in the habit of fearing
pensioners. 'Whyever should I do that, Eddy? Jake and I are the bestest friends
in the whole wide world!' He grinned, but it was obviously a facade. The
happy-go-lucky Rongzhen was long, long gone.
'You gave yourself away at the Convention. There's no way in hell that two
people would have that smile. And the sudden entry into politics, right after he
got captured by you guys? It's amazing no one else has blown the whistle,
'Our cover story is holding nicely, thank you very much. The public want to
believe that Jake Lawson fought us bravely, that he secured an honourable peace.
People are willing to let themselves be fooled, if the alternative is believing
things they do not want to believe.'
'Oh, how very Zen. You've done something to that poor boy's mind. Warped him.
He's travelling all over the goddamn ALT, stirring up hatred, stirring up
violence. You think you've done such a good job, don't you? But in that boy's
face, there's nothing. Nothing but hatred, and vitriol, and rage. You
can't make him smile, you can't make him laugh, and you can't make him human.'
Rongzhen smiled dangerously. 'Oh?' he asked. 'You think we're the ones
doing that to him? I'm afraid, Mr Lang, that in your distaste for me you may
have underestimated me. I'm very good at my job. The chip in Jake
Lawson's head merely mediates some of his more unattractive qualities; well, the
unelectable ones, anyway. Everything you see, everything you hear, is him. When
he speaks of revenge, he means revenge. We saw in Jake a man who, despite
his introversion and his intellectual persona, could conquer the world. And we
took advantage of that.'
'You're lying', said Lang venomously.
Rongzhen giggled. 'Maybe, maybe not. Do you want to take that chance? But no, we
will not release Jake Lawson until he has served his purpose. And that is a
long, long time from now.'
'I'll expose him. I'll-'
Rongzhen snorted. 'Obviously, you came here believing that your opinion was in
any way valid. We could do so much more to you than you could do to us. For
starters, there's the Houston assassination; the revelation of it could destroy
the entire Lawsonian movement. But most importantly, I know about your militias,
Mr Lang.' His face darkened. 'How much did you spend? It can't have been cheap
buying all those weapons, all those vehicles, all those men. An entire army on
the frontier, buying you land for blood. If I were to reveal them, it would
start a war, Mr Lang. A terrible, bloody war, that would take that miserable
planet up in the sky further down into the dust. Do you want that, Mr Lang?'
Lang looked at Rongzhen with contempt. 'I did what I had to in order to protect
American democracy', he said softly. 'After what people like you did to the
country that I love, I needed to keep it safe. What you did to Houston made me
realise that sometimes, liberty must be defended by blood. I will not apologise
for what I did.'
Rongzhen stared at him. For a second, the facade dropped. 'I lost friends on the
frontier', he said softly. 'I saw things that would chill your blood.' He
regained his composure quickly, and retained his usual smug smile, but he was
clearly shaken. 'You should note also, Mr Lang, that if I believed you were
honestly going to tell anyone about what I did to Jake Lawson that I would shoot
you. Right here, and right now.' He smirked broadly. 'But I won't. You will die
soon, Mr Lang, but not at my hands. It will be an agonising death, through
cancer and degradation. Maybe I'll turn up, just for a while. I know that you
love your country, Mr Lang. Imagine rocks falling from the sky onto your cities.
There is such a thing as a free launch, Mr Lang, and we have it. Is a
single demagogue too high a price to pay for New York, or Chicago, or Los
Lang opened his mouth once or twice, but nothing came out. He turned towards the
Rongzhen couldn't miss a single passing shot. 'Blood to defend liberty. Force as
the ultimate option. And now, in the end, you're revealed as all bluster, Mr
Lang. You get more and more like Houston every day.'
Lang stormed out, and slammed the door. Rongzhen never knew when to quit.
South Pole Station had been established as the third lunar station. In the early
days of lunar colonisation, it was thought that it would, eventually, supplant
Apollo as the primary lunar base; after all, it was thought to stand on oceans
of water, frozen in deep lunar craters. With more water than anywhere else
on the Moon, it would have become the lunar breadbasket; an Iowa in space.
Unfortunately, that was wrong. The moon's axis is unstable, and tips wildly (on
geological scales, of course) from side to side; there is no crater deep enough
to escape the sun forever. There was water in the craters, of course, but only
in scarce amounts; it was enough to fuel the early development of the colony,
but after the first Lawsonian uprising it became obsolete. It became more simple
and cheaper to simply import water in vast amounts, or to manufacture it from
the lunar regolith. Lunar water was still used, but the extraction process was
almost entirely automated. As always, the more profitable option had won out.
The Chinese Lunar Republic had monopolised many of the larger water supplies, in
their quest for self-reliance; now, the lunar water supplies under American
control were steadily being tapped out.
Still, there was a small outpost there, a series of robotic water mines, and a
small solar power station, tapping cheap energy for the rest of the moon. The
population was small, and mostly impoverished; more than anyone else, they took
to Jake Lawson's message. He spoke of betrayed dreams, and of the bitterness of
fate; the small but long-term population of the South Pole identified with that.
In May 2040, as the election campaign raged on the Moon and in the United
States, Dr. Steve Marvin, who had been studying the South Pole for years,
returned to America. His findings were classified top-secret, and he was quickly
taken to present his information to NASA.
In a hushed conference room, Marvin addressed a panel of distinguished
astronauts, scientists, and bureaucrats. It was to be one of the most important
presentations in lunar history.
'Early studies of lunar geology', he began, 'quickly disproved the 'cold trap'
theory of lunar water reserves, due to the tilt of the Moon's orbital preventing
any crater from being shielded from sunlight over an extended period. However',
he clicked his fingers, changing the holographic display over the desk, 'we
believe that recent seismographic observations and deep drilling have confirmed
the Baxter hypothesis of deep water reserves.'
'What's the Baxter theory?' interjected a bureaucrat.
'It was proposed by Stephen Baxter, a science fiction author, in the late 20th
century', he replied Marvin, annoyed at being interrupted. 'The original solar
nebula is believed to have been 3% water; Baxter proposed that much of that
water accreted into the deeper regions of the Earth and other planets, vast
amounts of it. According to his theory, what was true of the Earth might be true
of the Moon, as well. In fact, a later revision of his theory stated that the
Moon's water would in fact be created of the Earth, in that the Moon was split
off from the Earth following the primordial impact. He suggested that, 400
kilometres down, near the core of the Moon, one-tenth of the Moon's mass may be
'How much is that?' asked an astronaut, with a greedy look in his eyes.
'About 5% of the Earth's surface water, including the poles. On a world the size
of Africa, that would be unimaginably precious. Such resources could-'
'Terraform the moon', breathed the NASA administrator. 'You're talking about terraforming
Marvin blinked. 'Not for several hundred years, at least. These resources will
be hundreds of kilometres down; this is merely-'
No one noticed. The entire meeting broke up into huddled conversations. The
first small pebble of the avalanche had fallen.
-Scott Talbot, formerly a Progressive, becomes the Democratic nominee for
governor, after splitting over the issue of Jake Lawson's candidacy.
-Opinion polling shows that, were an election held today, Renny would win by a
thin margin, with 37% to Brooks' 33% and Talbot's 30%. At this point, the race
seems too close to call.
-The Republican campaign policy, Proud Traditions, Secure Future, is
released. It argues for a decrease in migration quotas, a ban on abortion
'except where the life of the mother is threatened, or in cases of rape or
incest' (this policy, previously blocked by the libertarian Renny, reflects the
rise of the evangelical movement on the frontier), a series of tax cuts, and a
proposal for the ALT to achieve statehood by 2050. As, under current quotas,
they will only have a population of just over 60 000 by then, this is regarded
with some alarm back on Earth.
-New York is gridlocked by the fourth march this year against President Brendan
Finney, his unpopular Mexican Intervention, and his campaign for a third term.
Democratic candidate Albert Sanchez pledges 'to make sure that when lightning
strikes a third time, it hits Finney'.
-The Democrats release their campaign document, A New World. It advocates
greater spending on services, a decrease in the rate of privatisation, and
closer relations with the Chinese Lunar Republic, who the Renny administration
have treated somewhat coldly.
-The long awaited Progressive policy document, Justice For All, is
released. Its proposals are radical. It advocates the nationalisation of the
health system and the provision of universal healthcare for all, a massive
increase in the funding and building of schools, especially on the frontier and
in the inner cities, a complete revamp of the railway system to 'reflect current
technologies', higher taxes for business and redistributive welfare policies,
and the creation of public works projects such as the long-anticipated Apollo
Dome, creating an open space in the inner city. Most controversially, it aims to
hold a referendum on the independence of the lunar colonies as the Apollo
Republic 'within a decade'. The proposals dominate public debate on the moon,
and give Brooks widespread publicity.
-Jake, seeking to retake the spotlight, addresses a mass public meeting in Fra
Mauro. He calls for 'an end to the oligarchy that sees people as cogs, not
beings worthy of respect', 'the creation of a more equal, more just society' and
'a final achievement of the dreams for which the ground of your fair city has
been stained red with the blood of innocent people'. He receives a standing
-Talbot goes on a tour of the frontier. As a doctor, like Jake, he is shocked by
the conditions he sees. He gains some support, but fails to dent Jake's rock
solid support on the frontier.
-Jake addresses the Lawsonian Assembly in the Commonwealth of Lawsonia, inside
the Dome, a glass hemisphere where public meetings are held and direct
democratic votes take place. He receives a standing ovation, and the Assembly
vote to support the Progressive Party, just as they have in every other election
held since 2032.
-In Copernicus, Jake meets with Archbishop Eduardo Ortiz. After a three-hour
meeting, both leave. In his sermon, Ortiz denounces Jake, declaring his support
for Talbot. It is the first time he has not supported the Progressive Party.
-Jake embarks on a tour of the frontier. In Lambert, he receives an enthusiastic
reception. Earle Pinney and a few other members of the congregation decide to
accompany Jake on the campaign trail, 'to protect him'.
-Jake tours the Mare Imbrium, a region noted for what are colloquially known as
'dirt farmers'; families, or small groups of families, who operate small, single
mines for helium-3 and minerals. They are the moon's fastest-growing occupation,
made up mostly of refugees from the Mexican, Chinese and Indonesian civil wars,
and yet they generally live in poverty. The hundreds of dirt farmers form Jake's
strongest support group.
-Violence breaks out in Des Moines between a peaceful group of protestors
against Finney and police. Dozens are wounded. This further arouses resentment
-Brooks tours the major cities (the Meat Belt, as it is dubbed). In Sodor, he
visits the Indonesian population (about 20% of the total in Sodor), and declares
his support for higher migration quotas. In a moon that is still 82% either
white, black or Hispanic (Hispanics make up about 27% of the population), this
attracts some criticism from xenophobic groups.
-Talbot addresses the congregation of Eagle City's Catholic Church. Talbot, a
staunch Catholic, promises 'a return to the principles of love thy neighbour',
and 'a kinder, more altruistic society, based on the principle that might is never
right'. His largely faith-based left-wing rhetoric wins him solid support.
-While staying in Jefferson, a small provincial town of 50 people, Jake is
attacked by a militia. His followers and the town manage to fight them off, but
Earle Pinney is killed. The attack is decried by all political figures.
-Jake returns to Lambert, and returns Earle's body to his family.
-Jake arrives in Apollo. In a meeting in front of Townhall, he delivers his
famous Apollo Speech.
-New polling shows that the Progressives lead the vote, on 39% of the vote.
Renny, who has not played much of a role in the campaign so far, is
embarrassingly in third place, on 30%. The Democrats are just ahead, on 31%.
Jake proves somewhat divisive; the population are divided between his steadfast
supporters and those who attack him as an inexperienced, populist demagogue.
Extracts from the Apollo Speech, April 24, 2040
Men and women of Apollo, my name is Jake Lawson, and I'm going to tell you about
a friend of mine.
His name was Earle Pinney. He didn't have much money, and he didn't have a
formal education. He came to this world seeking a better life for himself and
his family, who he loved. All he ever wanted was security and peace for all the
world, because of all the bible, he took to heart this verse: 'Love thy
Earle Pinney died two days ago, protecting me. I only wish I was worthy of the
sacrifice of such a good, decent man. He died for what he believed: he wanted to
know his children would get a decent education, that because they were poor
didn't mean they were doomed. He believed that working together, we could build
a better world.
In the last century, we have accomplished so much. We have ended world war. The
racial divisions which once split our society have almost vanished. Our cars are
bigger, our houses are bigger, our incomes are bigger. But these have come at
the expense of millions, who have been ground between the wheels of injustice
We put fifteen thousand people on the moon. Surely we can make sure that every
kid in our nation and in our territory has shoes. The fact that there is
injustice, the fact that poverty still persists in the middle years of this
century is a terrible wrong.
We have let greed and rampant materialism blind us to the sufferings of others.
We see poor kids in Copernicus kicked out of school because they can't pay for
something that should be a human right, and yet we turn away. We see leprosy-leprosy-in
the slums of Fra Mauro, eleven years after it was identified and seven years
after it was supposedly wiped out, and yet we turn away. But worst of all, we
see the frontier. The misery, the horror, the unspeakable devastation of the
frontier. A land where the only laws come from guns, where every day is a
struggle for survival and where a thousand starving dirt farmers cry out for
justice. And yet, once again, we turn away.
Well, we will not turn away! We will confront poverty, we will fight
poverty and we will destroy poverty in our lifetimes! The Progressive
Party know this will be a long fight, and a costly one. But for the sake of
Earle Pinney- a good, decent man destroyed by a situation that should never have
been allowed to exist-we must win this fight.
It's a long raid to polling day. Seven months is a long time, you say? Well, I
intend to spend every day, every hour, every minute of that time
fighting. For the underdog, for the battler, for the disenfranchised. But most
of all, I'm fighting for every single one of you, be you man or woman or black
or white. It doesn't matter. What matters is justice and equality. And trust me
when I say: we will not betray your trust. A new day must dawn.
Extract from A Call To Arms by President Ismail
Tengriqut, published 2043
It has been oft-commented that without the driving force of Lawsonism, the
Chinese Lunar Republic would not exist [...] of its intensely multicultural and
multiracial population, perhaps the only similarity is a commitment to the ideas
of Andrew Lawson, as expressed in the Seven Essential Liberties. It is the dream
that has brought people to our republic from across the Earth. Our loyalty to
the Republic is in fact our loyalty to an idea: namely, that all people deserve
equality, democracy, and freedom, as expressed by Lawson.
Curiously, it is the 'fuzziness' of Lawson's ideology that constructs much of
its appeal. Lawsonism means different things to different people; to some, it is
an incitement to socialist revolution; to others, it is a quiet reminder of
Christian principles. My policies have often been labeled, pejoratively, as
'Islamic Lawsonism'; I find this an apt description. Each individual brings new
meaning and new interpretations to Lawson's teachings based on their own
heritage and culture, and our contributions to what is seen as 'Lawson's
teachings' enrich it still further. Indeed, my own policy of state-sponsored zakat
to those suffering from poverty has become part of widely accepted Lawsonian
Lawsonism's primary attraction is that it is a new ideology, not burdened by any
previous historical commitments. It combines the best of liberalism, socialism,
and conservatism, to create an ideology that does not focus on equality (as in
socialism), liberty (as in liberalism), or tradition (as in conservatism), but
in the protection of fundamental human rights. I believe that this new
ideological stance will come to determine the course of the 21st century, just
as socialism shaped the 20th.
May was the month of foreign affairs in the ongoing election campaign, and the
one which finally burst the dam.
In April, each party had solidified their constituency. For Renny, it was
primarily white, Christian middle-class voters from Apollo, Flamsteed and Eagle
City. These voters had been the major beneficiaries of the boom of the 2030s.
They were shopkeepers, office workers, and miners who had 'come up' from the
lower ranks of society. By and large, they could be described as 'relaxed and
comfortable'; they had grown to expect a certain standard of living, and trusted
Renny to achieve it. They were concerned about immigration and 'lax standards'.
The Republican lieutenant-governor was the exemplar of this constituency; David
Herron was a policeman from Flamsteed, who was a devout Christian, had three
children, and had a mortgage to pay.
Talbot's constituency was divided. On one hand, he appealed to Catholic Hispanic
voters in Copernicus, Fra Mauro, and on the frontier; he pledged fiscal
conservatism and greater spending on services, while constantly harping on about
'a kinder, fairer society'. He stayed carefully blank on moral issues, though,
to avoid irritating his other constituency: liberal voters in Eagle City,
generally from New England, who despised Renny's neoliberal economic policies
yet hated Brooks' blatant populism. Talbot, who was seen to incline more towards
his liberal base, had chosen the mayor of Copernicus, Vincente Maria, to say the
conservative things he himself couldn't.
Brooks, on the other hand, was unafraid to say anything, even things that were
blatantly contradictory to things he'd said before. It was truly the
Brooks-Lawson ticket; Jake was Brooks' partner, not his subordinate. It was a
necessary, if loveless, marriage; Brooks had a stranglehold on votes in Fra
Mauro, and Jake was one of the few politicians-hell, the only politician-who
could gain votes from the crucial thousand or so people on the frontier. It was
a necessary alliance, which only made them hate it all the more.
The constituencies of the major candidates (there were also a few obligatory
weirdoes, who were promptly ignored) dictated their adventures in foreign
policy, which was becoming increasingly important as the ALT expanded. Renny,
who had the least defined constituency, visited New Edo and Arzachel (named for
a nearby crater), the Japanese and Indian lunar bases; as trade with India was
becoming increasingly important, this was widely seen as a sop to the business
community. However, they were also the smallest communities (so far), and thus
didn't attract much attention.
Talbot decided to appeal to both his European and his Catholic
constituents by visiting the European/Russian Lunar Administrative Area, as it
was known this week (in the absence of a catchy name, the terminology changed
rapidly). The ERLAA, on the surface at least, was mostly robotic; there was only
so many times one could be filmed with the disturbingly life-like miners before
voters lost interest. Still, it kept up a vital supply of helium-3 to Earth, and
in a world with an increasing economic crisis that was all that mattered. The
Russian-administered area was closed to the outside world; rumours that the
internecine fighting that was consuming Russia had spread there were not
substantiated, and wouldn't be any time soon if Russia had their way.
The real focus of ERLAA was, of course, Avalon. Despite being somewhat
overshadowed of late by the increasingly complex stations in Earth orbit, it was
still a marvel; 11 years of engineering and investment had made it an
awe-inspiring sight. Through a combination of economic and diplomatic warfare,
the Europeans had made the establishment of a rival station 'unwise'; if anyone
tried, they simply created new trade policies to lock them out. The ruling Parti
Liberale used similar tactics to block political opponents; of late, however,
increasing support for the Social Democrats had forced them into a coalition
with three independents, who self-identified as Lawsonians. A similar pattern
was being repeated in Europe; in Luxembourg, the Solidarity Party, which claimed
to follow Lawsonian teachings, had taken several minor ministries in the 2039
election. It was a sign of things to come.
While on Avalon, Talbot admired the artificial gravity generation of the
centrifuge, the habitat tube (soon, they said, it would be able to grow crops
enough to feed 10 000 people), the small but elaborate chapel.
While there, though, he was ambushed by a journalist of the small but determined
Le Luna, the ERLAA's one newspaper. While at a press conference, he was
asked whether he supported gay marriage. He stumbled for a few minutes then,
obviously grasping, said yes.
Within hours, the news was all over the moon. His popularity plunged. Voters
across Copernicus deserted the Democrats; it was felt they 'just didn't reflect
In a single daft line, Talbot destroyed the Lunar Democratic Party.
The real event of May, however, involved
the Progressive ticket. Throughout campaigning in April, Brooks and Jake had
steadily grown to annoy each other more and more. This was inevitable; Jake's
controllers thought that Brooks' demagoguery and blatant populism would get in
the way of Jake's demagoguery and blatant populism. Brooks, on the other hand,
saw Jake as a policy lightweight who had image and nothing more, who would get
torn apart by attack ads.
Jake chose the foreign policy arena to finally burn his bridges. He was invited
on a tour of the Chinese Lunar Republic 'to inspect the progress of Lawsonian
ideology'. The entire tour was stage-managed for just one speech.
While in Chang'e, Jake was mobbed by adoring crowds. He was escorted up onto a
podium. People reached out, trying to touch his suit. Jake studied their faces.
It was almost sad, the way these people seemed so desperate for something to
believe in. Many of these people had seen horrors beyond imagining; they had
endured any one of a dozen civil or interstate wars. In the radioactive fires of
Beijing, or in the burning villages of Aceh, or in the wasteland of Chihuahua,
all the old beliefs had been burnt away in the fires of war and injustice.
Lawsonism promised something new; it promised a new order, and it promised vengeance.
'Thank you all for coming', Jake said. The inbuilt translator in his suit
translated it into Hindi and Mandarin and Indonesian; the crowd went wild.
'Twelve years ago, this town was a testimony to oppression. The Communists
worked the population to death, with no respect for the rights and freedoms to
which you were entitled!' Even though seven-eighths of the population hadn't
even been here then, they still cheered. It was the founding myth of the nation,
'But you've built up from that. You've turned a desert of tyranny into an oasis
of equality and opportunity!' Jake's controllers repressed any sentiment he
might have felt about the fact that the city was, still, stricken by poverty.
The crowd ignored this blatant hypocrisy.
'Where I come from, the American Lunar Territories, we have not yet cast off the
shackles of injustice and colonialism. But one day, we will take our place on
the world stage, as a nation worthy of respect like any other! One day, my
brothers and sisters of the Lawsonian movement, our two nations shall join in
friendship, and work towards a greater Luna!'
It was a short, ad hoc speech, lacking much detail or verbosity. But it worked
perfectly. The next day, every newspaper on the moon featured a story, or
multiple stories, about Jake promoting lunar separatism.
In his office, Brooks slammed the paper down on the desk.
'What the hell is this?' he roared.
Matheson smiled sardonically. 'Reminds me of someone else who couldn't keep his
Brooks stormed around the room like an angry bull. 'That was different. I was
supporting the rights of workers. Jake's just nuts.'
'Yes, but he thinks he's doing exactly what you were doing. Who knows,
maybe independence will make more money for workers?'
'That's stupid, and you know it. You think the Americans would let us leave?
Ever? Sure, a few people in the outback-'
'23% of the population, according to the poll here.'
'Yeah, whatever. They might support him, but it's electoral poison to the
rest. Besides, the whole idea is stupid. If we tried to break away, it'd cost
far more in blood and treasure than we could ever benefit. The kid's insane,
Matheson sank back. In recent years, he'd become Brooks' confidante, since
he rejoined the Progressives; this was mostly because he was the only one who
could stand him. 'He wasn't like this before he went north. He's changed, Ed.
Maybe we could persuade him to-'
'No. No persuasion. As long as he's on my ticket, we are dead meat. You think a
businessman in Eagle is going to support lunar independence? You think a
shopkeeper in Apollo with bills to pay is going to support nationalising
industry, for gods sakes?'
'Well, who else can you get?'
Brooks looked at Matheson imploringly. 'You?'
Matheson snorted. 'Don't be silly. I'm too old and too sick. I'm retiring next
year, and I'm damned if I'm going to let the lieutenant-governorship get in my
way. Find someone else, Ed.'
Brooks sat back. 'You ever heard of Duverger's Law?'
'Maybe. What is it?'
'It was in the Fra Mauro Investigator a few months back. Apparently, our voting
system means that, in the long term, we can only have a two-party system. One
party is going to get squeezed out sooner or later.'
'I don't think anyone doubts who that is.' Beneath Jake's comments, there
was yet another story about the low fortunes of the Democrats. They were being
torn in two between the Republicans and the Progressives.
'Talbot's a reasonable guy; he only left our ticket because Jake was on it. What
if we orchestrated a merger? You know, an Alliance ticket?'
'I thought you hated the Alliance last time.'
'I did. It was a sellout, it was chaotic, and it didn't last. But, and here's
the important point, it didn't have Jake Lawson on it. And that is worth
any amount of selling out. That kid is going to ruin us, Gerry.'
Over the following weeks, a series of backroom exchanges quietly solidified the
deal. Talbot, who was desperately grasping for a lifeboat after his own party
looked about to toss him overboard, couldn't have been more eager. Amongst
Democrats, there was a widespread feeling that any alternative would lead to a
bloody slaughter come Election Day; even though Brooks was widely seen as an
unstable fanatic, he was better than the alternative, which might even lead to
They chose, deliberately, not to tell Jake. It would only upset him. While he
was on a tour of the South Polar villages, it was 'leaked' to the press. The
Liberal Alliance, with a party platform pledging 'Lawsonian ideals in the
liberal tradition', was born. The party was dominated by Progressives; it was
less a merger than a feeding frenzy.
As it turned out, Jake was quite upset.
-Liberal Alliance founded. Brooks will stand for governor, with Talbot as
Lieutenant-Governor. No one doubts that this is just the Progressive Party
-Renny blasts the Liberal Alliance as a 'worthless, shaky contraption, built
entirely on political advantage'
-Jake refuses to comment.
-In a press conference on June 8, Jake announces his intention to stand for
office as an Independent Socialist, declaring that the partisan system 'is
tearing this country apart. We need a country built on trust, not ideology'. He
has no trouble gaining enough signatures to get on the ballot. He does not yet
choose a lieutenant-governor.
-In San Francisco, a police station is bombed by unknown assailants. Seven
policemen are wounded. The bombing is widely seen as an attack against President
-Brooks addresses the congregation of Copernicus, and declares his support for
'a return to moral values'. Talbot is restricted to campaigning in Apollo and
Eagle City, where he is unlikely to shoot himself in the foot.
-The Report into Lunar Water Reserves is released by NASA, who are still
technically the administrators of the American Lunar Territories. Dr. Steve
Marvin's conclusion that 'in the long term, water reserves may be sizeable
enough to promote terraforming efforts' arouses a storm of controversy.
-The Lawsonian Assembly, governing body of the Lawsonian Commonwealth, issues a
statement 'condemning attempts to destroy the pristine, beautiful lunar
landscape in the name of capitalist exploitation.'
-In an address to the Lawsonian Assembly, Jake voices his opposition for
terraforming. Although residents of the Commonwealth of Lawsonia cannot vote in
lunar elections, their support is still seen as vital for any candidate
capitalising on the Lawsonian legacy.
-Acting quickly, Brooks announces his support for terraforming. This earns him
the support of many ordinary citizens, but leads many disenfranchised
Progressives to support Jake.
-Cut off by Brooks' announcement the previous day, Renny decides to take a
neutral stance, stating that 'projects on this scale are unimaginable at this
point, and are not the business of government to decide.'
-An apartment block in San Francisco is raided, and dozens of noted anti-Finney
advocates are taken into custody in connection with the June 8 bombings.
-Polling shows that the terraforming issue has become one of the major issues of
the election, even though estimates show it would be a project taking decades or
centuries. The Liberal Alliance lead the vote with 38%, with Renny on 36%. Jake
is on 24%, with 2% spread between minor candidates. Jake's unpopular anti-terraforming
stance has lost him many votes.
-The Grey Movement, lead by Sharon Constance, is founded as an anti-terraforming
lobby group. They are backed by many Green groups on Earth.
-The Grey Manifesto is released on the Moon. It is a 20-page pamphlet, which
details the massive negative ecological consequences of terraforming;
specifically, all of the Moon's major cities would be flooded. The near side of
the Moon would be dominated by the Procellarum Ocean, covering much of the near
side northern hemisphere; the far side, by contrast, would be a desert. The
Manifesto also taps into old-fashioned xenophobia with its statement that the
Chinese Lunar Republic would be largely unaffected, and would gain much of the
seaside land. Thousands of copies are mailed out across the ALT.
-Jake declares his support for the Grey Manifesto. He invites Constance to
become his lieutenant-governor candidate. He leaves for the frontier for a
two-week campaign to promote the Grey Manifesto.
-Brooks publicly attacks the Grey Manifesto as 'voodoo science', and announces
an extensive plan for drilling at the South Pole.
-A march in support of the San Francisco bombers, who have not yet been charged
with any crime or given any due process, turns violent, as protestors turn
violent. Thousands of dollars of property damage follow. The police are accused
of unnecessary brutality in subduing the riots, which leave three people dead.
-Jake returns from a tour of the frontier. He has gained a perpetual 'bodyguard'
of a few dozen dirt farmers, who support him at rallies. While speaking at a
rally in Fra Mauro, he is attacked by a gang of drunken Brooks supporters.
Violence breaks out between his bodyguard and the Brooks supporters. The police
are called in, and several of Jake's supporters are arrested. Jake denies
involvement, and attacks the arrests.
-Brooks' house in Fra Mauro is destroyed by a pipe bomb, while he is away in
Apollo. The attack is universally condemned.
The Lawsonian Commonwealth was...different. Not
just to the American Lunar Territories, but to anything else within the United
States or, indeed, within most of human history.
Born as a compromise to end an unpopular and unwinnable war, the Commonwealth
covered the mountainous, rugged terrain of the Montes Riphaeus, and sprawling
onto the flat plains below. Its central community, Concordia, only held a fifth
of the Commonwealth's thousand people; the rest of the population were scattered
into small, self-governing communities, or 'communes' as the Commonwealth's
detractors (who were both persistant and numerous) called them.
These communes contained Earth's outcasts. The misunderstood, the radicals, the
freethinkers, the anarchists. In Lawsonia, radical libertarians and socialists,
animal rights advocates and reactionary conservatives, free-thinkers and
dogmatists, white supremacists and multiculturalists, co-existed reasonably
happily together, secure in the knowledge that, if things turned out badly, they
could simply split off and form a new community.
The most famous of these, and certainly the most notable, was Nerdvana. Wherever
a bespectacled child stared up at the stars while being beaten to a pulp, or
wherever a geeky teen was forced into corners at parties, they dreamt of
Nerdvana. The Trekkies, the Whovians, the science fiction readers, the fantasy
buffs, the horror nerds; all found a place in Nerdvana. A place where one could
stay inside all day, if one wished. Where you could dress up as an elf, and no
one would care. A place where the radio waves echoed with annoying laughs and
spirited debates, mostly over television minutae. A place where, whether you
were white or black or male or female (mostly male, though), everyone knew you
were pure Vulcan underneath. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations,
It had been founded by a consortium of wealthy software designers in 2036, each
of them suffering from enough psychological problems to fill textbooks. They
despaired of the philistine, anti-intellectual, intolerant culture of Earth, and
were filled with bitterness by memories of their cruel treatment as children.
Colonists were advertised through an internet viral marketing campaign; within
hours, their website had crashed through demand. A charter was drawn up,
declaring their new society 'a haven of intellectualism and thought, with pens
as our swords, books as our shields, with clear thoughts and pure minds'. There
seemed a vast groundswell of community support for such a project; a world where
one's appearance mattered less than one's mind, where all people, regardless of
their place in the Kirk vs. Picard dispute, could be treated equally, and where
all could be free to indulge their own intellectual pursuits, free from the
pressures of dogma. Well, there was support amongst men, at least.
Finding female recruits was far more difficult. But still, the idea of a society
devoted to mining thoughts and manufacturing dreams was widely applauded.
By 2040, Nerdvana (the other options were deemed, somewhat surprisingly, too
silly) had a population of nearly 100, and had avoided major disputes. They
formed a small but influential voting block in the Lawsonian Assembly, and had a
thriving economy built on programming, writing, and graphic design. All
decisions were solved through public meetings in the town square; food was
supplied by small farms, water was endlessly recycled. It was, in a small and
selective way, almost a utopia. The town's only real prohibition was on PE
teachers. Just because.
The Commonwealth, however, was being torn apart. Although there were any variety
of nasty, vicious conflicts at any time, the predominant divide was between the
Pioneers (the original settlers) and the Pilgrims (the later arrivals). The
Pioneers were, by and large, rugged, tough miners, who had waged a bloody war
against authority for, essentially, mundane issues like centralised bargaining.
They were generally gun ownership advocates, hawkish on issues of security, and
fanatically loyal to Jake; after all, his father had liberated them. They were
generally anti-terraforming; the moon was their home, after all, and had been
for twelve years. Where others saw a wasteland, they saw beauty. They aimed to
make Lawsonia into an industrial powerhouse, based on mining resources from the
The Pilgrims, on the other hand, were often what the Pioneers had been fighting
against. They were, by and large, wealthy, liberal elitists, who saw Lawsonia as
something of a holiday camp; a place where they could indulge some of their more
adventurous ideas for society. Most of them knew nothing about mining, were
devout pacifists, and favoured an almost entirely service-based economy for
Lawsonia. To them, the Moon served as potential; a place which they could turn
into a garden, given only the resources.
Of course, this is a gross oversimplification. Many Pioneers were radical
advocates of restructuring society, and favoured terraforming. In addition, a
significant number of Pioneers were radical anti-terraforming advocates, and
indeed would serve as one of Jake's main support groups in the
upcoming...events. However, by 2040 many of the Pioneers had grown dissatisfied
with the state they had fought and died for. Many began to flock to the cities,
in support of Jake; they were battle-hardened, determined, and prepared to die
for their beliefs. Veterans began to flock around Jake wherever he went. By the
end of June, Jake's supporters had grown into an army...
Brooks was woken on the night (well, technically it was day outside, since days
on the Moon lasted 14 Earth days, but people still needed sleep) of the 15th by
a phone call. He turned on the video screen; it was Matheson. He was
'Ed. Go to your window.'
Brooks rushed over to the window of his apartment block. Ten years ago, he had
despised Fra Mauro's wealthy elite; now, thanks to his union connections, he was
one of them. A decade of power had softened him, made him weak.
Outside, in the street, there was a steady procession. Men wearing grey
spacesuits walked past. There were dozens, hundreds of them. Many were armed.
The silence merely made them more frightening.
Brooks turned around.
'Who are they?'
'Jake's supporters', said Matheson. 'The city's been filling up with them for
days. They're from Sodor, Apollo, here...but mostly from the Commonwealth, so we
can't charge them.'
'They're an army...'
'Unless he's lost a few hundred IQ points, that's probably how Jake sees them,
too. Ed, I never thought I'd say this, but he needs to be stopped. These people
are fanatics. Have you read Jake's program? It's radical, dangerously radical,
to an extent that I don't think has ever been paralleled in American history.
They will die for him, Ed.'
Brooks turned back to the silent procession. A dark look crossed his face.
'He wants to frighten me?' Brooks snarled. 'Then I'll goddamn scare him to
In Eagle City, Lang saw the march on the news the next day. His hands trembled.
His doctors warned him he hadn't much time left.
He hadn't told anyone what he knew. Who would believe him, anyway? Lang, the sad
old ex-Governor, suffering from terminal cancer, peddling ludicrous stories that
Jake, a man with thousands of followers, was in fact an enemy agent. Even if
they did believe him, Jake would weasel out of it. Politicians always did. And
then Lang would become a laughing stock, and Jake would snarl and smile and
sneer his way to victory...
And, he knew, doing nothing would be the most dangerous option of all.
He had hired the mercenaries under direct orders from President Brendan Finney.
Only Finney, Lang, Finney's Defence Secretary, now retired, and the elite team
of marines who delivered them weapons knew about them. Oh, and 'Bob', and
probably most of the CLR security services. But then again, the CLR probably
thought the same about their agents. Even Renny hadn't been told about them; the
mercenaries were supplied and operated outside his jurisdiction.
Lang knew he wouldn't be able to wield much influence. But Brooks needed
support, just in case the whole situation finally collapsed into anarchy, and
this was all Lang could do.
It was funny. When he had come to the Moon, he'd been a glorified cubicle
worker; a puppet man, a nervous little caricature who'd fall down if you cut his
strings. And now, he ran international espionage. The moon had changed him, just
like it changed everyone. The death of Houston had reminded him of how much he
loved this little society they'd built, clinging to a dead rock flying through
space, and to what lengths he'd go to prevent it from harm. Maybe the entire
lunar venture was, in the end, just about the revenge of the nerds.
After a brief medical check-in, Lang went north.
Adam Fields had believed.
For nearly two centuries, his family had been farmers in Iowa. They were honest,
decent, God-fearing folk, with all that implies. But then global warming had
begun to extract a flat tax on America's farmland; Iowa, previously America's
bread basket, had been reduced to savannah. Adam had been forced off his farm,
with four kids to feed and
But still, he hadn't given up hope. As the frontier expanded on the moon, the
federal government were selling off vast tracts of land for mining. People or
corporations would buy blocks of land, run their own pit shaft mines, and strike
it filthy rich with the abundant helium-3 of the Mare Imbrium. Sure, things
might be a bit tough at first, but the moon was practically made of the
stuff, right? Most of all, it appealed to the Trekkie deep inside him and,
Fields suspected, every decent American. He would be on the final frontier,
making a new life for himself; wasn't that what being American was all about?
As it turned out, no.
Fields had bought a hundred-acre (although no one used acres anymore) block of
land in the shadow of Mons Vinogradov. He had been given a standard inflatable
house, some mining equipment, and a basic hydroponics bay. Then he was left
There was a sense of the gold rush about it all; hundreds, thousands of
prospectors, scouring the moon for hidden riches, working jealously alone to
avoid treachery or theft. But in every gold rush, there were losers, and Fields
had no doubt he was one.
He arrived on the moon in 2037. For the first year, things went pretty well; he
hit a small patch of helium-3 in the outskirts of his property, and was even
able to get a modest profit. Then the supplies dried up, and he was left with
six mouths to feed and no way to feed them. A bandit attack, one of many,
damaged the hydroponic garden, costing him nearly all his savings to get it
fixed. The family plunged into debt.
He and his wife, Linda, went out, every day, to hack at that damn mountain. They
had tried explosives and complicated electromagnetic scans and finally just
digging in it, day after day, searching for that one motherlode that would get
them rich again. They were gambling with their lives; they were lucky once, and
so they went back again and again and again. And all the while, the banks, who
they had mortgaged the place to the hilt to, were circling around. They could
smell the blood in the water.
It wasn't fair. They had been sold a lie; the lie that in this year 2040, in a
country that could put tens of thousands of people on the moon, that no
man need live in poverty. It was false, utterly false, and you just had to look
at Fields' dirty, hungry, thirsty kids to believe it. They had been boarding at
a school in Copernicus, but Fields couldn't afford the costs anymore. So now
they just sat at home, and watched their future get frittered away. And the same
thing went on all over the frontier, over a thousand separate stories of misery
and loss and heartbreak.
But then a saviour had appeared.
Fields had gone to Hope, a small, dusty hamlet, to hear Jake Lawson speak. No
other politician would have bothered, but Jake knew (or his controllers knew,
anyway) that you have to water your grass roots. He had spoken for nearly an
hour, and by the end Fields was an honest-to-god convert. Jake had spoken of
justice. Of a need for a new equality, beyond the rigours of a system 'that
takes people and turns them into husks, in an endless lust for empty treasures
of the world, not of the mind'. He was radical, sure, but Fields needed a
radical. Conservatism wouldn't feed his kids.
He began to listen to the political news on the radio, something which would
have been anathema before. The more he listened, the more he was convinced of
the rightness of Jake's cause. Over the last three years, Fields had
stopped believing in God, in America, even in the future; things were simply too
bleak. But he could believe in Jake.
He hadn't had a holiday in eighteen months. He decided two weeks in Fra Mauro,
just a few marches to support Jake (he already thought of him as 'Jake'),
wouldn't go amiss. And if anyone tried to muck up, well, he had a gun for use
against bandits. Fields was a good man, but he had taken too much over the last
three years. It was time to fight back.
As it turned out, Rongzhen couldn't hide the President's death forever.
Eventually, someone had to notice that his nose had fallen off.
The ceremony was held in space, onboard a Traveller-class space cruiser operated
by the Lunar Republican Navy. The body was wrapped in his flag, and released
through the airlock into space. The ceremony was attended by Renny, Herman
Schleswig of ERLAA, and the administrators of the Japanese and Indian lunar
bases. While watching, Rongzhen couldn't help but shed a tear. After all, he had
a 50-50 chance of his project being cancelled, which is enough to induce sadness
The Governing Council later met to elect a new President. Rongzhen returned to
his nominal duties as Governor of the North Western Territory; after all, there
was nothing else he could do. Not surprisingly, much of the debate in the closed
meeting was about the election campaign in the ALT; some of the Council's more
idealistic members thought using a brainwashed radical to take over the American
Lunar Territories was a tad unorthodox. They were quickly shouted down. In the
end, the vote came down to Ai Chusheng, an elderly Chinese moderate, and Ismail
Tengriqut, an Islamic firebrand of noted charisma but a dubious grasp of
In the end, they opted for Chusheng, after a two-week debate. Events in both the
ALT and the Republic itself were spiralling out of control, and a safe hand was
thought needed. Rongzhen's project was saved, or at the very least not killed.
One of the most notable features of lunar settlement was ghettoisation, or
rather cities rapidly developing into ethnic enclaves. This was simply a feature
of the terrain; with a series of small, isolated cities, people tended to
cluster around people or groups they felt they understood. The ALT had tried to
discourage this for a while, until the formidable twin threats of the Catholic
and Baptist churches in Copernicus and Fra Mauro (who, with judicious stacking
of local councils, effectively ran the place) had forced an end to the practice.
During their ignomious four-year rule over their territories, the Chinese had
encouraged the practice; since they used the Moon as a forced-labour camp for
dissidents, they decided it was easier if the dissidents spoke the same
Now, however, the legacy of the practice began to take its toll. In order to
have its independence recognised after the collapse of China, the CLR had been
forced to surrender its Deng Xiaoping City. The refugees of the city, who were
mostly Uygher Muslims, had fled en masse to Zheng He City, which had been
further reinforced by waves of migrants from Indonesia and the Middle East.
Although the People's Revolutionary Movement, the governing party, was
ostensibly social democratic, they had failed to deal with widespread poverty
amongst new migrants. Where the government failed, radical Islam had taken root.
In short, in Zheng He there was now a radicalised, disenchanted minority who,
having already fought a war to declare their independence, were now prepared to
kick anyone who got in their way. The growing secessionist movement in Zheng He,
which they called ????? or
Qamar, had previously been regarded as a pleasant in-joke, rather like Western
Australia or Texas. It rapidly became a lot more serious once terrorists
destroyed a council building in Zheng He, killing seventeen people. The United
States, which not exactly applauding the terrorism, were certainly wise
enough to realise the benefits of a civil war occupying their main helium-3
exporting rival. The Chinese Lunar Republic began to face the prospect of
splintering into city-states...
-Brooks' supporters from the Progressive Party march in his support in Fra
Mauro, in a direct riposte to the march by Jake's supporters three days before.
Security is provided by hired armed security guards.
-Jake's supporters begin discussing the formation of a political party, for the
stated purpose of standing candidates to the Senate. Its unspoken purpose is to
act as a militia to protect Jake.
-Apollo Day, the 81st anniversary of the First Landing. Renny, Brooks and Jake
attend ceremonies in Eagle City. After the ceremony, an organised debate is held
between the three candidates. Jake, thanks to the chip, easily dominates the
early stages of the debate, attacking Renny's tax policies and forcing him into
a defensive. In later stages of the debate, however, Brooks' more polished
rhetoric allows him to gain the upper hand over Jake's rough populism. Jake
announces a series of new policies, including, controversially, land
redistribution policies in the north. He is seen to have won the debate by a
-In polling for the Eagle Tribune, the Liberals enjoy 37% support, with
Jake on 34%, showing a massive swing towards him following the debate. Renny,
humiliatingly, is in third place, with 29% support, due to his rather colourless
-Reports are leaked from the federal government on Earth that the San Francisco
bombers of June 16 have been tortured by authorities. Widespread protests follow
the leak, which are denied by the government.
-The Socialist Alternative is formed as an electoral alliance of pro-Jake
candidates. Their hurriedly-drawn party charter states that 'they reject Marxist
policies, but support ideologies stressing equality and community'. The 'Lawsonian
way to socialism', stressing equality of outcome through support of human
rights, is created.
-A meeting of Liberal Alliance branch members in Sodor is broken up by a gang of
Socialist Alternative members. Brooks decries this as 'the politics of
oppression and fear'.
-Jake organises an electoral rally of Socialist Alternative supporters for July
-Militia members, encouraged by Lang, begin to enter Fra Mauro.
-Protests break out in Los Angeles after a prominent peace activist is arrested
on the 23rd. Police use hoses and mustard gas to subdue the marches, triggering
-Socialist Alternative members march through the streets of Fra Mauro, finally
halting in front of the Senate building. They come into conflict with police
around the building, and fighting breaks out. Two Socialists are killed, and
dozens are arrested.
-Jake attacks the 'blatant repression and corruption' of the arrests. He swears
that more protests will be held until his supporters are freed.
-Bloody Wednesday. A group of Greysuits (Socialist Alternative supporters) are
attacked returning to their hostel in the early hours of the morning. One is
seriously injured. The attackers are found by a group of Greyshirts. Although
most escape, one is shot and killed. This triggers a series of riots throughout
the city against the Greysuits, who are seen as dangerous extremists, by both
Republicans and Liberals. Seven people are killed, and Jake only narrowly
-In th destroyed remains of the home of a Socialist Alternative supporter, Jake
pledges 'to fight to the last for the cause of social justice'.
-After two weeks' drafting, the Public Order Act is rushed into the Senate. It
imposes curfews, phone-tapping, and increased police powers. By a nearly
unanimous vote, it is passed into law.
-A rally by Liberal Alliance supporters, protected by Lang's (disguised) militia
and security guards, is attacked by Greysuits. Violence breaks out on the
streets, as rioters use clubs, guns and fists. Three people are killed, and
dozens are wounded. Police are called onto the streets, and martial law is
declared to end the growing unrest.
-Martial law ends. A new opinion poll is released; Jake's support has fallen to
23%, due to the violent tactics of his supporters. Renny is in the lead, on 40%,
with Brooks on 37%.
-A group of Liberal Alliance supporters, acting independently, storm Jake's
hotel in Copernicus, where he is campaigning. He manages to make a narrow escape
through the actions of his bodyguard, but he is forced to flee the city. The
attackers are arrested.
-Scott Talbot is assassinated while campaigning in Copernicus by a Greysuit. The
assassin, a dirt farmer from near Lambert with a recent history of
stress-induced mental illness, attempts suicide, but is thwarted. In order to
gain a plea bargain and support for his family, he implicates Jake in the
-Police arrive at Jake's hotel in Apollo, where he is staying for the night,
with a warrant for his arrest. They are attacked by Greysuits, who have been
tipped off, and three are killed. Jake flees south, to the Lawsonian
Commonwealth, claiming to have been framed. He is declared an outlaw...
As it turned out, tragically, neither side had
shot Scott Talbot. The murderer was Jeanette Rawson, a mother of four who, after
her farm had been taken away, had begun to suffer severe mental deterioration.
She had taken up work as a reactor worker in Copernicus; this had further
fuelled her physical and mental decay. In such an environment, she had come to
regard Jake as something akin to a Messiah; her small flat was covered in
pictures of him, she kept a list of his sayings on the fridge, and she had begun
to believe, especially after Bloody Wednesday, that the state were 'trying to
destroy us all'. Jake had, in fact, never met her; but in her confused mind, it
made little difference.
Of course, the fact that the assassination was merely the work of a crazed lone
wolf made little difference. The dam would have burst sooner or later anyhow.
Jake's followers, mostly veterans and dirt farmers, were becoming more extreme
in their tactics and their ideology; similarly, the public were becoming more
and more resentful towards them. Every day in the Senate, Republican senators
screamed for blood, while every day in the streets, Greysuits (the colloquial
term for the Socialist Alternative) urged violent revolution. The divides in
society had grown too wide, the two sides too radical. Had it not been for
Rawson, maybe Jake might have been implicated in the bombing of the Republican
headquarters, or attacks on Greysuits might have escalated into open warfare. In
the end, neither side would back down. Conflict was inevitable.
Jake fled south, into the Commonwealth of Lawsonia, his stronghold. He was
followed by waves of Greysuits, fleeing the inevitable backlash; already,
Liberals were carrying out revenge attacks for the death of Talbot. In the
Lawsonian Assembly, Jake made the speech that decided his career.
Extract from Jake Lawson's speech of August 11, 2040
'Men and women of Lawsonia!
The day of reckoning is at hand. Across the cities and mines of the moon, a
great storm is brewing. There is still no way to tell which way it shall blow.
Men are beating their ploughshares into swords, and taking up arms against a
cruel, repressive government. The capitalist system finally comes down around
Lawsonians, what kind of a system makes the poor poorer and the rich richer?
What kind of a system is built upon the slavery and subjugation of dirt farmers
across the frontier, to feed the ever-growing coffers of Earth corporations?
What kind of a system sees this world that we love not as a planet populated
with people, but as a mine in the sky? It is a broken, callous, cynical system,
and I shall fight for its overthrow to my last breath.
I have been framed and unjustly accused. I have been charged with most henious
crimes, which I will swear to my death I had no role in. Why should innocents
die for the good of the many? Talbot was a good man. In other circumstances, we
may have been friends. I deeply regret his death.
My brothers in mankind, they will come for me. They will chain me and bind me,
and force me to swear homage to their system of greed and avarice. All for the
simple crime of loving my neighbor, and wanting to fulfil one simple credo:
namely, that all men are created equal.
The American Lunar Territories, and the nation that spawned them, the United
States, are states corrupted beyond repair. I therefore propose that we become
an independent state, the Apollo Republic, in memory of the place where our
revolutionary struggle was first forged.
They will try to stop us. But nothing can stop the final revolution, the one
that shall sweep away their decadence and cynicism, and remake the Moon anew!
Long live Luna!
The vote was, in the end, close. In the end, the terraforming issue decided
matters. It created a solid bloc of supporters who would vote with Jake through
thick and thin, even if they disagreed with him on some points. Rongzhen's
chickens had finally come home to roost.
The Assembly voted, by a narrow margin, for independence from the United States.
The declaration was broadcast across the Moon from Avalon Station, who were
prepared to broadcast anything.
Within hours, the frontier regions declared for the Apollo Republic. Riots broke
out in Sodor and Fra Mauro in support, although curiously not in Avalon. Renny
faced the very real prospect of the dismemberment of the Moon.
Ordinarily, perhaps, he would not have gone to the lengths of an attack on the
Montes Riphaeus. After all, guerrilla fighters had held off trained military
forces there for two years. But if the revolt had been allowed to fester, Jake
would have had an army of followers, which could potentially have conquered the
entire moon. For the sake of America, Renny could do no less than attack
immediately. There was simply no time left.
The Moon had been almost entirely demilitarized since the end of the first
Lawsonian insurgency. Renny created a force of police, remaining soldiers from
the South Pole, the Moon's tiny National Guard, and a small squad of vigilantes.
Lang decided not to send his militia. He knew that the whole thing would be a
bloodbath. In his heart of hearts, Renny knew this too; yet he had to try. A
detachment of policemen were used to stop the continuing violence in Fra Mauro
and Sodor. The rest were sent to fight the Greysuits, who by now numbered almost
The force of about 300, more than half the Moon's defence force, set out south
for the mountains. Within hours, they had been slowed by the terrain; they
entered Nerdvana to refuel. The town was at the bottom of a crater, and
deserted. The squadron's commander, a bluff police officer who had only come to
the moon earlier in the year, saw no reason for alarm. The entire Lawsonian area
was just Vermont in space, all Volvos and cottage cheese; what could they do?
As soon as they left their armoured vehicles, shots began to ring out. Snipers
from around the crater's edges trapped the soldiers, and charged. It quickly
became a bloodbath. The soldiers, equipped with the best of Earth military
technology, tried their best; for a while, it even seemed they could hold out.
But there were no reinforcements, and no contingency plans. The commander was
killed by a crude Molotov cocktail that hit his vehicle. The scattered,
leaderless troops surrendered. The ALT was left almost defenceless.
News of the defeat hit the American Lunar Territories within hours. There was
widespread panic; a rush on tickets back to Earth began. The notion that a squad
of poorly-trained radicals could destroy a military force seemed utterly
impossible. People began to barricade themselves inside their houses, and
stocked up on food. It would be a long month.
It was widely recorded in history afterwards
that Apollo 'fell without a fight'. That isn't strictly true. The police,
admittedly, had been largely depleted by the disastrous expedition to defeat the
Greysuits in the Montes Riphaeus, but local citizens hadn't. A few vigilantes
set up shop in apartment buildings and fired on the advancing vehicles. They
were swiftly gunned down. The advance continued, remorselessly.
The mayor of Apollo was a small, nervous man, appointed to an office with
neither power nor prestige. It was widely accepted by everyone that Apollo was
beyond saving, including Benedict himself, who fled to Fra Mauro on the last
train out of town. It was left to the Deputy Mayor, Bruce Forden, to surrender
to the advancing vehicles. The city fell within minutes.
Jake walked down Apollo's main street, accompanied by a strong guard of
Greysuits. He came to the statue of his father and Houston, holding hands. He
knelt at his father's feet, and breathed deeply. He stood up again, and pointed
'Tear him down.'
The plaque where Houston fell had been quietly removed by a civic servant before
the advance, obviously fearing for its safety. There could be no such protection
for the statue. Houston came crashing down. Several veterans, who formed most of
Jake's bodyguard, smashed the statue with their rifles and fists.
A small crowd had gathered around the Greysuits, but many turned away in
disgust. Even if they liked Houston or not, such wanton vandalism was less the
act of a servant of the people than a vengeful gangster. The chip repressed many
of Jake's less attractive tendencies towards revenge, but this act of violence
was still distressing.
Atop the ruined podium, Jake laid out his program for reform. Apollo, as
'birthplace of the revolution', would become capital of the new Apollo Republic.
The mines, the hospitals, the schools and pretty much anything that was nailed
down long enough to get stamped would be nationalised. As revolutions went, it
was motivated only by the highest intentions; Jake honestly wanted to help 'his
people', those crushed between the wheels of neoliberalism; if that had been
all, though, he never would have gone to these levels. The whole thing was a
schoolboy fantasy, sickening and depraved; kicking sand in his enemies' faces.
The revenge of the nerd.
Fra Mauro was in crisis. Riots continued in the streets by disaffected Greysuit
sympathisers, with almost no police to stop them and none to care. Most of the
violence, though, was the standard chaos before the storm. Looters and burglars
attacked shops and houses, carrying what they could to safety before what they
saw as an inevitable defeat. Faced with an uncertain future, man's first
instinct is to break windows.
Still, the government, under the unfailingly resourceful Renny, tried to fight
against the inevitable. Blockade points were built in streets in order to slow
enemy advances. Citizens were encouraged to join volunteer units 'for the
duration of the crisis'. Trenches were dug, as final bulwarks against defeat.
Finally, in a measure showing true desperation for a politician, Brooks was
called in to help Cabinet. Renny had never been a particularly partisan man, but
even to him this seemed uncomfortable. Even after ten years of softening, Brooks
In the Cabinet room, Brooks drew diagrams that made no sense and referred to
concepts that made no sense. The basic idea was clear, though.
'We need conscription', he said. 'Civil liberties mean nothing when there's a
goddamn revolution advancing over the horizon. I've got the major unions on
side, but the rocket workers may get a bit Bolshie; they've got their fair share
of Greysuits, just like every organisation, but we'll need to be careful. Every
man, woman and child needs a gun. At worst there's 250 Greysuits, at best 1000.
They'll be drafting Apollo citizens, so we'll need every man we can get.'
'You know', remarked Renny acidly, 'you're not actually in Cabinet, Mr Brooks.'
'So? I can do your job better than you ever could, and I would have, too, if it
hadn't been for that damn kid', Brooks shot back. 'Jake's smart. Damn smart. But
he's surrounded on three sides by Flamsteed, Copernicus, and us. Even if those
mad dirt farmers he keeps stirring up storm Copernicus, he's still stuck.'
The Lieutenant Governor rolled his eyes. 'We know that, Mr Brooks. Anyone with a
map does. But we need your union. We need you to crack down on any Greysuit in
your ranks and get every union member on the streets, ready to die for his
country. Can you do that?'
'Of course I can goddamn do that', Brooks snarled. 'The question is, can you
guys make sure any of them come back?'
The macho rhetoric was thankfully interrupted by a flurry of communications
chatter. The vidscreens all around the room lit up. Blurry video footage showed
retreating soldiers, burning buildings, and an advancing Grey tide.
Sodor had fallen to the revolution. Not from within, but from without. And it
wouldn't stop here, Renny realised. This footage would be all over the news, on
Earth, on the moon. People would see the revolution and they would fear. Worse,
they could be inspired.
In the end, the real battle would not be fought on the streets of Fra Mauro, but
in the hearts and minds of the people. It would be an election campaign no one
would ever forget.
The first enemy troops to land on Australian soil since 1788 did so on July 21,
2041. It was, in the scale of things, a pretty minor raid: one of the fractious
states that had previously been Indonesia sent a battalion into the Top End,
hidden from the world, and attacked the Darwin ports at night. The massacre was
bloody and intensely costly. As morning rose, the entire strike force was dead,
along with hundreds of Australians. The total death toll was minor, compared
with the thousands of Australians who had died in 40 years of terrorist attacks,
yet in its symbolic value it eclipsed them all.
For decades, Australia had grown more fearful and conservative, as the old
certainties slipped away. The Darwin raid was the straw that broke the camel's
back. Thousands of Australian soldiers were already involved in Indonesia,
fighting in a loose, ever-shifting coalition against Islamic extremism. The
government, under Labor Prime Minister Jack Bentley, imposed draconian security
legislation, and yet it still wasn't enough. The policy of multiculturalism was
abandoned, and yet it still wasn't enough. Finally, under the Defence of
Australia Act, the executive government was given wide-ranging powers without
recourse to Parliament, including amendment of the constitution, 'for the
duration of the crisis'. And yet the public still screamed for more. Xenophobia
and hatred ran rife; riots against immigrant enclaves ripped the social fabric
of Australia. The Australian public, scared and frightened, attacked scapegoats.
And so the great politicians of Australia, long devoted to opinion polls and
populism, competed to see who could reach the bottom of the barrel first. It
wasn’t so much that they believed in what they preached, but simply
that the political system had grown so debased that staying in office, by any
means necessary, was deemed more important than traditions, than ethics, than
the lives of others. By this point, there was no difference between the two
parties that held a stranglehold on government anyway; the honeymoon of the
2020s, when the Left received its last renaissance in Australia, came to a
definitive end. The people had seen change, and it had terrified them.
When Jack Bentley revolutionised the Labor Party, destroying factional opponents
and remolding it into a new, populist image in the name of popularity and the
whims of the shock jocks, remolding it into a whole new party, no one gave a
damn. When the new party was called Blood and Honour, and when it preached
'white solutions to white problems', no one gave a damn. People had simply
stopped caring about politics. They surrendered themselves to fear and
prejudice, and gave up all their freedoms for the safety blanket of racism.
When Parliament was dissolved for the last time, and no elections were called,
no one gave a damn. Most of the other parties absorbed themselves into Blood and
Honour, 'for the sake of national unity'. A coalition government was technically
formed, ‘uniting the two-party system into one Australian front’, with some
technical continuity from previous political history; it was important to
maintain even a fig leaf of legitimacy. The Liberal and Labor Parties finally
embraced each other, discarding democracy for the sake of eternal office. The
other parties were simply crushed. It all happened slowly; it was 2045 before
people realised that elections simply weren't going to happen anymore, at least
in the form that they had existed in before. By then, of course, no one noticed.
The war to the north preoccupied everything.
One place, though, did give a damn. Cruithne Colony. The rich, isolated asteroid
became a haven for radicals, fleeing the Bentley regime. It declared itself
independent, based upon wealth per capita that would make Switzerland green with
envy. When Bentley sent a ship to stop the revolutionaries, they simply shot it
down with a rock from the surface. The State of Cruithne encouraged closer links
with ASEAN, now effectively a debating society for Chinese Lunar Republic
clients. And so Australia grew more introverted and fearful, Cruithne became
more aggressive and more radical, and the world continued its long march towards
a darker future.
The rest of August was calm. Eerily calm. Similar to that in the eye of a
hurricane; the first turmoil had passed, but it was only a matter of time before
things finally went crashing down once again. Both sides held a collective
intake of breath.
On Earth, the Chinese Lunar Republic recognised the Apollo Republic, denouncing
'American imperialism' on the floor of the UN. The traditional anti-American
bloc, led by the military dictators of Cuba and the socialist states of South
America, attacked the American stance virulently. Anti-UN sentiment in the US
ran high; the perceived intervention of foreigners in American affairs was taken
as the ultimate insult. The final straw came with a brawl on the floor of the
General Assembly, as the Tibetan delegate, supporting America, was physically
attacked by the representative of the Nejd. In response, the Emergency Session
of the UN called to deal with the crisis was shut down by New York police,
citing a threat to public security. The final emasculation of the UN was
complete. This would be its last meeting.
On the moon, Jake's virulent rhetoric of 'us and them' finally bore fruit. On
the frontier, fanatically loyal to the Greysuits, companies were broken up by
armed militiamen, and their land partitioned out. Elections were held; Jake, the
only candidate, was elected President; his former lieutenant-governor candidate,
Sharon Constance, became his vice-president. For the new Apollo People's
Council, the Socialist Party stood unopposed. All the same, several
'independent' candidates won in Apollo, but they were by and large simply those
who opposed Jake on purely trivial grounds. To many on the left, Jake's actions
were a blow against imperialism and capitalism gone mad; to many on the right,
it was simple brutality, gangster politics carried out by an authoritarian
As it turned out, both sides were more or less right.
Negotiations went on between the two parties, mostly at the urging of the
Liberal Alliance supermajority in the Senate. Even so, it was clear that it was
a futile exercise. The Civil War had decidedly, ultimately, that states could
not secede from the United States; territories were a decidedly more grey area.
To the public at large, though, Jake was merely a petty dictator, a communist
who needed to be taken down, fast. The meetings, held in the old Apollo Townhall,
amounted to nothing. A bill was rushed into the United States Congress, aimed at
making the American Lunar Territories into a state to resolve the issue (the
idea of making the laws retrospective to prevent territories seceding was deemed
unwise, as the Philippines might take offence), was stalled by filibustering,
chiefly centered around the point that a state of 20 000 people would be so
gerrymandered as to be beyond jokes.
The final catalyst for the short, brutal and tragic war that followed came on
September 3, 2040. After that day, there was no tomorrow, but only night.
Captain Bruce Morrow of the USS Vigilance (formerly the lunar liner Tycho,
rapidly bought out, manned and fuelled by the USN to deal with the crisis)
was, in many ways, a perfect military man. He had served in the pacification
wars in the Middle East, blockaded ports controlled by the socialist Mexican
government in their ongoing civil war, and was now in charge of Operation
Eternal Light, which was the international diplomatic equivalent of swearing in
the playground. He was, in other words, here to bring down Jake's regime, by any
means necessary; unknown to most, there were nuclear weapons concealed onboard
the ship. Allowing a populist demagogue to control the vast helium-3 reserves of
the Apollo Republic was simply unacceptable.
He and the pilots were strapped into chairs on the ship's crudely outfitted
bridge, which beared less resemblance to Star Trek than it did to a
highly equipped broom closet. They were firing their engines to enter lunar
orbit; Morrow barely felt the pressure on his chest.
Lights began beeping around the bridge. Screens lit up, and klaxons began
blaring. 'Report!' snapped Morrow.
One of the helmsmen, a nervous-looking crewman, checked the radar. 'A single
projectile, sir. A few metres long. Looks like a torpedo, sir.'
Morrow had been expecting this. The Greysuits controlled Apollo's spaceport, the
largest on the moon; to give up an opportunity like this, when the Vigilance was
practically paralysed, would be unthinkable to a military mind like the
Captain's. 'Target cannons. Try to knock it away.'
The crewman blinked. 'It's...gone, sir.'
'You got it so fast?'
'No, I mean it's...gone.'
Morrow growled. 'These things don't simply disappear, crewman!'
'I know, sir, I'm sorry, I-'
There was a noise like a gunshot, and a high whistling. Morrow choked. It felt
like something had hit him very, very hard. He looked down, and saw blood
trickle out of his chest. More gunshots were heard. Walls began to buckle under
Just before the window shattered, Morrow realised that all the military thinking
in the world and all the best sensors were no match for a single cargo container
and a few million very, very small pebbles.
The onslaught didn't last long; the field was thin, but there was enough debris
that it didn't matter. Sooner or later, one of the projectiles was bound to hit
a fuel tank. Which it promptly did.
The destruction of the Vigilance was the stated raison d'etre for
the subsequent attack south from Copernicus, and the resulting war. But, on the
plus side, the large amount of radioactive debris from the destroyed ship did
render lunar equatorial orbits, which Avalon had previously held such a tight
stranglehold over, unsafe. The station's trade monopoly was broken, as it was
forced to retreat to an uneconomic higher orbit. There's always a silver lining,
even if it does tend to glow.
Lang sat in his rover, and shivered. He was looking greyer and greyer these
days; every part of him ached. He wasn't sure why he kept going on.
The American militias in CLR territory hadn't been able to help him, much. Some
of them had gone down to fight the Greysuits; most, though, were happy
scavenging off the isolated frontier settlements. Still, they'd been able to get
him into contact with the Qamar Movement.
The Greysuit forces were being supplemented by farmers, swarming down from the
northern settlements. Hundreds of them. Enough to win the war. The USA still
held Copernicus, the main link to the north. So, using a compliant government,
they came through the CLR instead, through what was already being called the
The Qamar Movement were fanatics. Dangerous psychotics, bent on the
establishment of a totalitarian Lunar Caliphate; it was widely rumoured that
they were the lunar branch of Al Qaeda, still kicking after nearly four decades
of warfare. But they hated the CLR even more than Lang did, and that was enough.
Lawson was aligned with the CLR, and so, in their own impeccable logic, Lawson
must be destroyed.
Lang felt sick whenever he spoke to them. The enemy of my enemy was my friend,
yes, but Lang's new friends were far more evil than the people he was fighting
against. Jake's followers weren't murderers, or terrorists; they were simply
poor farmers, fighting for some distorted version of the American Dream. It
wasn't even Jake's fault; the poor kid was so addled that he was just a puppet.
The whole thing was just another scheme by Rongzhen, the man whose filthy works
had claimed so many lives...
Lang managed to form an alliance, tenuous though it was, between the Qamar
Movement and the militia bands loyal to him. He made a pretty poor warlord; the
constant strain was wreaking havoc on his body. But Rongzhen had to be stopped.
If not here, then nowhere. The ghosts of Houston, of the crew of the Vigilance,
and of all those who would die in the inevitable war cried out for
vengeance. Even what was left of Jake.
After the destruction of the Vigilance, it was decided that a show of
force was needed. Using Fra Mauro's lamentably small spaceport, rockets were
loaded up with shrapnel and fired off. It was thought, by bureaucrats with more
money than commonsense, that this would deter Jake from his chosen course of
action. Apparently, the notion that firing vicious explosive weapons into
civilian areas merely provoked entire cities into uprisings never occured to
Jake was able to escape with ease; despite his proclamations, he spent most of
his time in his stronghold of the Montes Riphaeus, which were almost
impenetrable to rocket fire. The main casualties were civilians, in crowded
apartment blocks ripped apart by explosions and shrapnel. The oldest building on
the Moon, Townhall, was hit by a stray rocket. The photographs of Jake, kneeling
in the wreckage, made for great propaganda. One of the Greysuits, whose previous
career as a dirt farmer had obviously been a waste compared to his newfound
knack for guerrilla warfare, had come up with the idea of using a ton of
regolith at high velocities to destroy the Vigilance; now, the same idea
was used on populated areas. Walking through the ruins of crowded slums, where
the bodies of asphyxiated children were wheeled away by overworked paramedics,
Jake obviously agreed.
'Show them no mercy', he snarled.
The following bombardment was brutally effective. Using rockets fired from CLR
territory, Eagle City made a tempting target; the glass buildings were shattered
by falling pebbles, reducing entire districts to pretty shards. The more
populated areas of Fra Mauro were avoided by the missiles; after all, the slums
were fertile recruiting grounds for the Greysuits. But the military defences,
the ritzy areas, and the centre of government were bombarded. The Senate
building was ripped to shreds by a direct hit; entire areas were turned into
wastelands of twisted metal and smoking craters.
All the while, guerrilla war waged on, on both fronts. In Apollo, two
assassination attempts were made on Jake; while both were thwarted, the
compliant People's Assembly used this as an excuse to boost security, cracking
down on dissidents. The twin cities of Apollo and Fra Mauro were shattered by
shootings, car bombs, sabotage, gun battles, and the growing horror of suicide
bombings. The first of these was carried out by a shopkeeper in Apollo, whose
land had been taken away by Greysuits; the entire moon recoiled in horror. And
yet the cycle of violence continued.
Finally, on 23 September, Jake declared victory in the first stage of the war.
Fra Mauro's trenches, walls and defences were in ruins; the city was unable to
continue the bombardment. Flamsteed and Copernicus were exhausted; they would be
unable to threaten the Lawsonian flanks. Renny, trapped in Fra Mauro from all
sides, scrambled desperately to call up new soldiers who he knew would never
come. In Sodor, Apollo and the Montes Riphaeus, the Greysuits armed in
readiness. At 1500, with the sky outside as black as pitch in the long lunar
night, the order came.
The Greysuits marched on Fra Mauro.
Even as the lunar situation disintegrated into
violence, Finney's previously downcast poll numbers kept going up and up. On the
moon, at least, nuances to the situation could be seen; people genuinely
recognised the poverty of the frontier and the inner city. On Earth, where
talkback radio and tabloid media held sway, there was no such subtlety. Radio
hosts and editorialists screamed for the blood of the lunar revolutionaries, and
Finney, who had the charisma of JFK, the appeal of Ronald Reagan and the sheer
cold-blooded realpolitik of Nixon, took his opportunity ably. It was all the
hapless Democratic candidate, Albert Sanchez, could do to hold on.
In Congress, Finney's bill to introduce statehood for the American Lunar
Territories was, at first appearances, ludicrous; they had a tiny population,
were three days' travel away, had the potential for major health problems
amongst their residents, and were technically in the middle of a civil war. But
as an act of sheer populism, it was a political masterwork; it was the
introduction of 'taxation with representation', ably scaring off any
inconvenient comparisons to the American Revolution. It may have made a mockery
of 'one vote one value', but it was damn good politics.
On 23 September, the news came in that the Greysuits had begun their march on
Fra Mauro. The Democrats, realising that resistance would be not only futile but
a sure way towards an electoral rout, gave in to the bill in an emergency
session of Congress. All that remained was to name the state. Luna seemed too
bland; Apollo was clearly out of the question. As a token gesture, Selene was
chosen as the name of the new state. The bill was signed by Finney on the
morning of the 24th, and America had 53 states.
Of course, at the time these gestures went almost unnoticed on the Moon, which
had far bigger problems.
The attack on Fra Mauro was a four-pronged attack, with Greysuit companies
attacking from Apollo in the wast, the Montes Riphaeus in the south, Sodor in
the east, and through the vast territories of the CLR in the north.
Fortifications were strung up in Fra Mauro's destroyed streets, occupied mostly
by Brooks' drafted labourers.
The initial offensive came not from outside, but from within. A company of
Greysuits, waiting undercover for orders from Jake, attacked the city's
spaceport, while detonating hidden explosives across the city. In the chaos that
resulted, the Greysuits managed to seize several blocks; however, they never
even came close to winning. After a brief firefight, they surrendered
peacefully. The destruction caused, though, left the city wide open to
The first attack came from modified landers, left behind at Apollo after the
fall to the Greysuits; they strafed the city, hitting several key military
points. Hasty repairs to the city's anti-air defences allowed them to down two
landers; however, two more managed to land in the centre of the city, holding
their position against heavy enemy fire. Then, at the worst possible time, the
enemy forces reached the outskirts of the city.
Gerald Matheson stumbled through the locked-down streets, lost. He hated Fra
Mauro; it was a soulless monument to capitalism gone mad. Apollo had been his
home, but he'd been locked out; he was stranded in Fra Mauro by Jake's mad
He simply couldn't match the soft-spoken kid he met months ago with the fiery
demagogue ready to tear the Territories apart. He had spent his political career
trying to compromise between the bureaucracy and the people. That compromise had
broken down, leaving him a man without a purpose. He wasn't even meant to be out
on the streets, but he was a senator; who was going to stop him?
He reached the western fortifications. They were better than they had been;
Jake's crucial delays, while he consolidated his forces, had allowed the
defenders to build up reasonably strong walls, made of fused regolith, steel,
He had a handgun with him; he knew that he probably wouldn't survive if the
Greysuits came over the walls, which they almost certainly would. But damnit, it
wasn't meant to be like this. The moon was where they could build a better
future, not descend into the sort of anarchy America hadn't seen for nearly 200
years. Had the promise of so much wealth corrupted them so much? Was his nation,
the country he loved, so obsessed with wealth that they were willing to defy
democracy and common decency to scramble for shards?
He didn't pick sides in the war. Both were equally bad, both consumed by the
same vices. If he had to, he'd fight for Renny, simply because when he saw Jake
on TV he felt his skin crawl. He was betraying these people, filling them with
false hopes, and crushing them. It was foul.
He saw clouds of dust rise up from the wall, as concrete shattered under the
bombardment. He saw men on the barricades fall, all the way down to the ground,
where their suits broke and their helmets shattered. Over his earpiece, he heard
the screaming. Matheson took cover in an alley; fragments were flying
everywhere, and he thought that a uniquely pointless way to die.
The explosions were growing more frequent now, and more violent. Buildings to
either side buckled. A landing craft flew over the battlefield, and dropped a
single, glowing parcel. That was all it took.
The wall, and most of the buildings to either side, flew apart. In silence, it
was almost eerie; to see windows and bricks and limbs escaping into the vacuum,
as buildings trembled under the force of the impact. Matheson was blown to the
ground. He felt shrapnel hit his armoured suit, and bricks dent off him. He saw,
abstractly, a crack grow in his helmet.
Curiously, he felt at peace.
Over his earpiece, he heard the cries of the victorious Greysuits as they poured
through the broken wall. He realised, through cotton wool, that he couldn't
stand for this. He brought himself up, painfully, and pulled himself out of the
alley, groping for his gun.
In front of him stretched a wave of personnel vehicles, escorted by throngs of
Greysuits. Anger filled him. This wasn't the America he knew.
He screamed a cry of inarticulate rage.
'Get the hell out of my city!'
He drew his gun, and fired wildly. It was, he realised, both stupid and cliched.
But, as it turns out, things become cliches for a reason.
He felt a series of heavy impacts across his chest. As he blacked out, he fell
The bunker shook. Bits of regolith drifted down
from the roof. Renny absently ran a hand through his thinning hair.
He was surrounded by the remnants of his cabinet. Two of them had been killed in
the bombardment of Eagle City; two, including the lieutenant governor, were out
commanding regiments of the Citizen Army, the ALT's final defence. At least he
was spared Brooks, who was leading the defence of the west of the city. Back in
2028, Brooks had been notorious for leading the defence of Fra Mauro against
Houston's forces. Renny had noted sardonically to Brooks how times had changed,
and received merely a glare in return.
The fortifications to the south had long since fallen; the east were only
minutes away. In desperate street-to-street fighting, badly trained militiamen
were holding off experienced veterans of the First Lawsonian Insurgency. The
bunker was, really, just a badly built shelter buried under what was left of the
Senate building. It was less a defence than a hidey-hole.
What was left of the lights flickered out. Renny stared at the roof,
'Looks like they've cut the power', he ventured.
The Attorney-General looked up quizzically.
'This building has its own generator. You can't cut the power without destroying
the structure.' he said, offhand.
The remaining members of the cabinet stared at each other, in shock. Then the
roof fell in.
In the east, Brooks was enjoying some moderate successes. The offensive was
being held off, for now; to the east, the Greysuit advance had been halted, at
In a small, ramshackle headquarters, Brooks shouted orders joyously. This was
what he'd been meant to do; spending the last 12 years in an office had softened
him, made him weaker. There was nothing Brooks loved more than a stoush, and
what was this but the leadership battle to end all leadership battles?
He stared around the destroyed remains of the city. His city. He had built this
entire settlement up from scratch; he had even been one of the original four
colonists here, in 2023, and it showed in the damage to his bones. He had seen
it grow from a scientific outpost built around a destroyed relic into a
multicultural metropolis, the economic, social and political hub of the moon;
hell, of outer space. It would take rebuilding, sure, but he knew he was up to
the challenge. Even he had written off the election (because who would vote out
Renny, after all this?), he still had hope for the future.
Then the news came through that a strafing run had destroyed Civic Plaza, and
the whole world came crashing down.
They were holding the Greysuits off on all fronts, except the south. They simply
didn't have enough troops. That was what it came down to, in the end. People as
cattle, a simple game of arithmetic...and now the Greysuits were coming into the
heart of the city, unstoppable. He could already see Jake in the ruins of the
Senate, building statues to his mad dreams over the ruins of what had once been
Brooks' home. Brooks could win a battle on one front, but he knew he would have
no chance on two.
Brooks gritted his teeth, and prepared to fight to the death. Or, at the very
least, someone else's death.
From the Fra Mauro Mountains, it felt like you could see the whole moon.
The crater stretched out, nearly a hundred kilometres across; the city sat near
the middle, dwarfed by comparison. The specks of landing craft darted through
the sky, dropping their lethal cargo on the city; the streetspace was lit up by
explosions and decorated by craters. The sky was lit up by the drifting remains
of the Vigilance.
Lang stared down at the city for the last time. His army, makeshift though it
was, numbered perhaps two hundred; it might be enough to turn the tide. But in
creating it, he had broken practically every law there was, including some that
would have to made for just this occasion. There would be no turning back. The
Moon's first governor would have to forsake the Territories forever to save
He knew it was worth the price.
He climbed back up into his rover, and gave the order to advance south.
Even after Lang's army arrived, it was a bloody battle. The advance of the
Greysuits from the south was blocked; the Greysuits swarming in from the north
were utterly routed. Brooks led an all-out offensive against the eastern forces,
staving them off long enough for the beleagured eastern companies to force out
the Sodor Greysuits.
It took over a day. But finally, Jake gave the order to retreat. It had cost
over a thousand lives, and left the entire city in ruins. Refugee camps were
formed, soon creating a vast environment of squalor and deprivation unimaginable
in America. But the battle was won.
In the future, many would argue endlessly over the battle. Jake was attacked for
not attacking sooner, not attacking later, not focusing enough on the north, not
focusing enough on the south. But the fact remained that Jake could never have
won, for the simple reason that the people weren't on his side.
Jake was promising a golden future. Prosperity for all, justice for the
deprived, a new system for a new age. The vast mass of the populace had
recognised this, and recoiled in fear. Yes, they cried, but what about our
mortgages? What about interest rates, what about land values, what about our
holographic TVs, like they have in California? Jake had seen big, but he had
never mastered seeing small. Even with the chip, which allowed him to translate
his dreams into reality, he never understood that, in the end, it was the people
he had to convince. And they had said no.
In the Governing Council of the Chinese Lunar Republic on September 26, unknown
to Americans, the war was quietly ended.
Tengriqut had been building up his numbers ever since his election just a few
months before. The war, backed by President Chusheng, had obviously been a
failure. Their helium-3 markets back on Earth were suffering under American
snubs, and there was no prospect of victory for Jake. With utter pragmatism, the
councillors took out their knives. Chusheng entered the Council to find himself
In an emotional session lasting several days, the constitution was
comprehensively rewritten. While president, Chusheng had acted without oversight
in directing the Jake operation; similarly, Rinpoche's long illness had left the
state practically paralysed. Something needed to be done.
A parliamentary system was installed. The 'President' would no longer wield
formal power, but instead merely act as a figurehead. A Prime Minister would
wield executive power, with the confidence of the Governing Council. The near-monarchal
rule of previous presidents would be broken.
Then, because politics is never easy, the Council dumped Chusheng and elected
Tengriqut both President and Prime Minister, effectively keeping things exactly
The reformed Council's first ruling concerned Jake. It was decided to continue
the war to the best of their ability, to slow down American exports (the whole
purpose of the mad venture in the first place). Then, when things were
irreversible, Jake would be encouraged to put a grenade in his mouth and pull
the trigger. It was a neat washing-of-hands.
The new day dawned.
In 11 years of self-government, no one had thought to make regulations as to the
chain of succession. The new state of Selene (although no one called it that)
had only the most basic constitution (introduced under Lang as an election
gambit), lacked a military hierarchy, and had almost no capacity for dealing
with a major disaster. As the death toll came in, the government reacted by
simply not existing.
There had been over a thousand casualties in Fra Mauro in the battle alone,
mostly loyalist forces and civilians. The prior bombardment had killed hundreds,
on both sides. Eagle City had been almost shattered, proving once and for all
that building cities out of glass, while satisfactory in peacetime, is an
extraordinarily silly thing to do in war. Fra Mauro was in anarchy; essential
services had been destroyed, and the cabinet (who also served as a de facto local
government) had been either killed or put out of contact.
Thinking quickly, Brooks seized the initiative. The surviving senators were
called together in the square outside the destroyed Senate building.
Photographers were called, film crews were assembled. The Senate voted that the
Senate President would become de facto governor in the event of the death of the
Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Thanks to his supermajority of the Liberal
Alliance, Brooks had no trouble passing the Act. After 11 years of trying,
Edward Brooks was finally Governor. The Senate then voted to ratify the
Congressional Act bringing the State of Selenia into existence, even though
everyone there knew the whole thing was manifestly silly; in a country of 350
million, a state of 20 000 would look rather uncomfortable.
In Apollo, things were relatively better, or, at least, all their problems were
entirely manmade. The economy was suffering a massive downtown, in the face of
an economic blockade from all but the world's pariah states. Nearly all trade
was with the Chinese Lunar Republic, which produced nearly exactly the same
goods as the Apollo Republic. As such, there was almost no capability to launch
a second attack on Fra Mauro. Jake, who had the People's Assembly completely
cowed, forced his retreating soldiers to attack and conquer Flamsteed, to the
west. It was hoped that by securing a large amount of territory the Apollo
Republic could force the United States into a stalemate by sheer presence.
As can be seen by the sheer foolhardiness of the above strategy, the chip was
beginning to break down. Jake was beginning to reassert himself. And Jake,
despite his high marks, despite his optimism, and despite the fact that he had
an army willing to die at his command, simply lacked the ability to conduct a
The people of Flamsteed were perhaps the most American of the melting pot
lunar population. They were overwhelmingly WASP, overwhelmingly married with
children, and nearly all strict churchgoers. To them, the atheistic,
multicultural, socialist Apollo Republic could not have been more heretical had
Jake embraced Satanism. The Flamsteeders fought tooth and nail for the security
of their town. Amazingly, they actually managed to hold off the first offensive.
Furious, Jake ordered the town destroyed.
The sun finally rose after two weeks of darkness on the 28th of September. It
was the last morning Flamsteed would ever see. As the town awoke, the lights
began to appear in the sky. There was no time to panic, no time to fear. The
town barely had time to react before the missiles rained in. The town was almost
completely devastated. The international outcry was almost unanimous; even
Jake's People's Assembly turned against him. The Greysuits began to desert. They
had fought for freedom, not for a war criminal.
In Sodor, the population revolted against Greysuit occupation. Lang, acting
without orders (he had not even met Brooks yet; there was an unspoken agreement
to act separately, to avoid embarrassment), seized the town in a lightning raid.
The endgame was near.
On Earth, the NASA administration had realised their Titanic moment was near.
They had failed to prevent the revolt, and in doing so had caused massive damage
to American economic interests-and, incidently, thousands of lives. Aside from
the simple populism of the gesture, one of the main reasons for Selene's rapid
statehood had been to simply get it out of NASA's hands. Even without the Moon,
though, NASA risked losing their planned asteroid and Mars colonies. It was a
Still, NASA did have responsibility for space, even if they hadn't done the
mundane job of flying people to Earth orbit or the Moon for over 15 years.
Building the Vigilance without lunar resources had almost exhausted the
Navy, since launching the fuel required was a Herculean feat against Earth's
greater gravity. NASA saw this as a chance to restore their much-tarnished
glory. First, though, they would need a starship.
Skywalker, Inc, were the dominant force in Earth orbit. Their station, Skywalker,
had a population of over 1000, easily eclipsing every other station. Onboard
affairs were run with ruthless autonomy; its legal status (independent, since it
was governed by no nation? American, since Skywalker's headquarters were in
America? Bahamian, since for tax purposes they were actually located in the
Bahamas? The mind boggled) was questionable, it paid no taxes, and its onboard
Commander had vast powers over his subjects. And, crucially, they also owned the
only fuelled-up lunar transport in Earth orbit.
Of course, NASA were forced to pay through the nose, but they were used to this.
A heavy armoured plate was sent into orbit to protect the ship from any
recurrence of the Vigilance's fate, and the hull was thickened. Nuclear
warheads, missiles, and cannons were all added to the ship's armament. It was
clear that this was going to be Jake's Waterloo. All that remained was a name,
and some administrator with a sense for irony felt a demonstration of what
happened to prospective rebels who tried to leave their 'more perfect union' was
The Appomattox sailed for the moon.
In the ruins of Apollo, Jake woke, blearily, to face the new day.
By now, the chip was rapidly breaking down. It had been, after all, on for
months. Jake was growing more irritable, less confident in his abilities. All he
had left was his rage. His subordinates ('lackeys' was probably a more
appropriate term) were abandoning him in droves. Rats leaving a sinking ship.
He'd 'acquired' for himself a large house on the outskirts of town, whose
previous owner had been a particularly odious businessman. A stray rocket had
damaged the structure; even though it had been patched up and made liveable, the
inside was corroding away. Jake stalked through battered corridors and under
blinking lights. There didn't seem much point to going outside.
He didn't know about the chip. All he knew was that his thoughts, without
constant celestial input, seemed hazy. Confused. Plans scattered through his
mind, without thought or coordination; attack Copernicus, retreat to the Montes
Riphaeus, sue for peace, and on it went in a constant cycle of desperation. He
saw no one; almost the entire cabinet had left by now. No one wanted to be in
the city once the Appomattox arrived. Jake's entire movement, once
capable of shaking the foundations of the entire world, had been revealed as a
house of cards.
Jake had spent 12 years planning for this. It had all worked out so well in his
mind. He would ride into Fra Mauro, cheered on by the masses; he would throw the
old capitalist system into the dust, and peace would reign on the moon. Everyone
would be happy. Why couldn't they realise that this way would be better for
them? Jake had only ever wanted what was best.
His thoughts kept returning to Fra Mauro. It had always been the city most loyal
to his father; during the strike, he had visited the city, and been cheered by
the striking workers. He couldn't understand why they would fight so hard
That one thought said everything one needed to know about Jake. He was an
idealist, a great thinker, a poet amongst politicians. But he was about as far
removed from actual people as it is possible to get.
On the 1st of October, the Appomattox arrived.
Rockets and storage containers full of nails were shot into orbit. The scale of
resistance was, surprisingly, even greater than that put up against the Vigilance;
Jake still retained a solid core of hard-core supporters, who were prepared
to fight to the death against him. Unfortunately, the tactics used to such
effect on the Vigilance couldn't work twice. The rockets were swatted out
of the way with cannonfire, the nails impacted harmlessly on the ship's solid
iron front plate.
The Apollo spaceport was built in Lambert crater, a few kilometres away from
Apollo. It was the largest spaceport on the moon, and a centre of Greysuit
activity. As the Appomattox drifted overhead, a single projectile fell,
drifting, unstoppable. One was all it took.
The floor of the crater convulsed. The regolith was fused by searing heat into
glass. A tower of ash floated into the sky, a solid cloud that took weeks to
disperse. The shockwave levelled the crater walls and shook every building in
Apollo to its foundations. The entire region for miles around was coated in
smoke and ash. In Apollo, the stars disappeared, and darkness took over the sky.
There was no real reason to use a nuke, as such, but it sent a powerful message.
The Lawsonian movement had been tolerated, even embraced, for the last 12 years.
No longer. The movement would be wiped, ruthlessly if necessary, from the face
of the earth.
The Appomattox moved into lunar stationary orbit over Apollo. The city,
choking and burning, was powerless to resist. The ship possessed the most
powerful telescopes and the most destructive weaponry known to man; now, the
full wrath of the United States was finally unleashed.
Greysuit positions were pinpointed from orbit and ruthlessly destroyed.
Buildings were levelled by bricks dropped from orbit, and barracks were smashed
to pieces. The old Townhall, and the statues outside it, were destroyed in an
orbital barrage. All of Mineone, a Greysuit stronghold, fell to pieces.
The Greysuit outposts in the provinces were treated no less ruthlessly. Towns
that supported Jake were fired upon. Supply outposts were destroyed. Greysuit
rocket stations in the CLR were reduced to glowing craters. The CLR government
briefly thought of protesting, then decided better of it.
The bombardment took, in total, 15 hours. It took that long to form a quorum of
the People's Assembly. An unconditional surrender was issued by the Apollo
Jake was nowhere to be found.
In the Dome of the Lawsonian Commonwealth, the Assembly were in chaos.
Technically, they were a 'self-governing province' of the Apollo Republic, but
whether the Republic existed anymore or not was an open question. Loud voices
advocated continuing the fight, surrendering, non-violent resistance, and any
number of other options. The Nerdvanan delegates shook their heads sadly, and
withdrew. They had no desire for war.
Into this volatile cocktail of tempers and ideology, Jake, dusty, bloodied, and
accompanied by a few loyal Greysuits, strode in. Within minutes, the Assembly
had descended into an open brawl. Bullets were fired.
Once a modicum of calm had been restored, tempers were still high. Jake, not
surprisingly, denounced the People's Assembly, and declared the Lawsonian
Assembly the legitimate ruling body of the Apollo Republic. Many, mostly
Pioneers, were prepared to follow him. Others, looking anxiously at the beacon
of the Appomattox, disagreed.
In the end, a vote was taken. It was close, violent, and personal. Fights broke
out in the voting enclosures. Blood ran on the tiles.
The decisive vote was taken by members of New Sydney, a faux-Australian
community led by Cole Egan, a former Lawsonian insurgent. Ten years ago, he
would have fought to the death for Jake's cause; today, though, he was old
enough and wise enough to know this was a fight they couldn't win. The
Lawsonians had had enough of violence. He managed to use his influence to sway
In the aftermath, Jake slipped out. His face was wet with tears.
Several villages still declared for Jake, defying the Assembly. They were hit
from orbit. In the end, the final blow was struck by the Lawsonians themselves;
a militia was rounded up, and opposing towns were captured. Within a few hours,
it was over. Jake was still missing, but in the general triumphalism that
followed no one noticed.
The war had lasted from August 9 to October 1, and cost over 2000 lives.
The question that remained to be answered was whether it had changed anything.
In America, the opposition were steamrolled.
Flattened. Wiped from the face of the Earth.
The lunar insurgency had taken only two months, true, but in those two months
Earth's vital helium-3 supply had been disrupted. Only a few actual shipments
had been blocked, but the price rise as a result of the instabilities had left
the entire market in ruins. In such a circumstance, Finney's hawkish stance on
the issue had won him undreamed-of support. Republican advertising for the rest
of the campaign simply focused on the ruins of Fra Mauro. Ideology, issues, and
even practicalities were wiped out. The left tried to protest that hey, we were just
as tough as the other guys, and given the chance we'd be even harder on the
Lawsonians! But the voting population decided differently; after all, if they
wanted to vote for hawks, they might as well vote for real ones.
On the moon, the campaign had been practically forgotten. The shell-shocked,
traumatised people, still wiping the dust from their hair and the tears from
their eyes, had no time for politics. The Republican Party were shellshocked.
There was no time to market new candidates. Brooks was, literally, the last man
As such, the demands of the campaign were practically over. Both sides had lost.
Only the reconstruction remained.
In Eagle City, workers finally managed to extract the tattered remains of one
leg of Apollo 11's landing craft; a vast chunk of glass, falling from a
shattered building, had fallen onto the craft, burying it. The workers were
filmed, weeping. The entire town had been practically destroyed by the
bombardment, as buildings shattered and foundations collapsed. A sea of glass
fragments stretched for miles. The population lived in a shanty town on the edge
of the sea. By executive order, Brooks declared that the cost of rebuilding the
town would be completely unrealistic, and ordered the town evacuated. People
fought against their 'rescuers', but it was no use. The town was abandoned
forever, left as a monument to the war.
Sodor and Flamsteed were practically craters; the violence of the fighting there
had reduced the towns to rubble. Fra Mauro was still burning, with no
electricity, no water, and no public order. One building in three had been
completely destroyed. Copernicus was the most stable town, for a given value of
'stable'; it was pockmarked by craters and shaken by blasts, but at least it had
never been invaded. It was made the temporary capital of the state; over time,
this would become permanent.
The worst damage, though, was done to the Lawsonian holdouts. Brooks was head of
the state's makeshift militia as it entered Apollo. The town was almost
completely levelled. Bodies lay in the ruins, unmourned and unburied. Nearly the
entire town was open to the vacuum, which had done even more damage than the
In the town square, which had grown exponentially now that there were no
buildings left all around it, Sharon Constance, former Vice-President of the
Apollo Republic, stood waiting. She held the tattered flag of the Apollo
Republic, a grey moon on a black background, in her hand.
As Brooks dismounted from his vehicle, she handed over the flag, and submitted
quietly to waiting police. There would be no violence here.
Many of the troops left for the Montes Riphaeus. There were still a few more
skirmishes to be fought there, between the last die-hard loyalists and security
forces. They were seldom mentioned in official accounts. The war had ended the
day Jake disappeared.
Brooks toured the shattered town. The glass sidewalks, of which Lang had been so
proud, had been completely destroyed, and had taken most of the buildings with
them. He knew he was responsible for this. He had tried to tap into Jake's
demagoguery, his fiery idealism, and in doing so he had let him loose. Politics
had become so debased that he had taken a madman onto his ticket just to win
more votes. As he stared, shellshocked, at the ruins of what had once been man's
hope for the future, he realised that he had no idea what to do. How could you
rebuild after so much destruction? Mankind's first space war had sent a
definitive message: that it must be the last. He tried to imagine such
devastation in New York, or Washington. He couldn't.
In the shadows, Lang watched Brooks totter through the town. Then he slipped
away, quietly. That wasn't a conversation he wanted to have.
Lang jumped into his camouflaged vehicle, hidden behind what remained of a brick
wall. The end was near now, he knew. He would die an exile, missing, presumed
dead. His house in Eagle City had been destroyed; Jake, or at least his
controllers, had made sure of it. He would be just another corpse amongst so
But he still had so much to do. He needed to close the book on this whole sordid
saga; not just the war, but the whole goddamn thing, starting from the day he'd
He rallied a few of his associates for one, final mission. They set off.
On the train into Zheng He, Xie Rongzhen considered his options.
He'd been called into a meeting by the Governing Council (or just the Council,
these days; people expected that Councils were meant to govern). It had been
savage, brutal, and entirely foreseen. Rongzhen had been stripped of his
governorship, his position in Special Military Services, and the Jake mission.
The last bit wasn't such a shock; after all, Jake hadn't been responding ever
since the bombardment of the Montes Riphaeus. Despite some handwaving over 'an
electromagnetic pulse', Rongzhen knew that he was dead.
So here he was, just as he'd begun in this country. A refugee, without rank or
purpose. Adrift. Well, he'd recovered before. He was already laying plans to
move to Selene; they'd need competent managers for the reconstruction, and
Rongzhen was the pinnacle of competent.
Yes, even in the darkest hours, things were looking up. He was just lucky that
way. He got off the train, and walked the short distance to his apartment.
Distracted, he didn't notice that the door was unlocked.
He walked into his apartment, still lost in his own world, and sat down. The
lights came on.
As the small crowd congregated, and as Rongzhen realised that his lock wasn't as
unpickable as previously thought, he began desperately planning.
Lang leaned in next to him, and grinned. Slightly too wide.
As the shooting started, Rongzhen realised that for the first-and, pivotally,
last-time, he had absolutely no plans.
And then, finally, the elections were held. After all this, it could only ever
Finney won a landslide majority, gaining over 60% of the vote as the Democrats
scrambled for cover. The hapless Albert Sanchez looked completely devastated on
the night, not least because recriminations had already begun. Sanchez, a
liberal, had enraged conservatives within the party through his nomination. The
Democrats, facing the prospect of permanent opposition, began to splinter and
fragment as they squabbled over the scraps left to them. Brendan Finney, already
acknowledged as the most powerful conservative politician of his generation
through his cunning, his tactical mastery, and his political brutality, grinned
widely as any opposition to him tore itself apart. In the last 20 years, the
Democrats had held power for 4; the Democrats did not yet realise that this
would soon be seen as an idealised era.
On the moon, the vote was more complex. Minor parties, which had previously been
left gasping for the oxygen of publicity by the sheer dominance of Renny, Brooks
and Lawson, reaped the bonanza as people were forced to choose between an
unknown Republican and a widely loathed Liberal. In the end, however, the
anti-Brooks vote, which was itself fragile and built mostly on the equation of
Brooks=Lawsonism=Jake=Your house falls down, splintered sufficiently to allow
Brooks a narrow victory. Of course, the state's electoral votes had all gone to
Finney, just like the electoral votes of every state outside New England. In the
Senate, one Republican and one Liberal (who called himself a Democrat, just to
avoid confusion) were elected; in the House, a Democrat so conservative as to
give Republicans gitters was elected.
And so, as always, the winning candidate was left alone in his hotel room,
alone. This was what power cost on the moon, it seemed. Brooks' house had been
destroyed during the war, and he hadn't seen his wife in years. (She'd mostly
been acquired during a difficult union merger; both of them gained far more
benefits from the marriage than actually being together).
So this was the way it ended? With a fragmented Democratic Party on Earth, a
shattered Republican Party on the moon, and a general loss of hope? He wasn't
vain enough to think he'd won because voters liked him; he'd made too
many enemies for that. But this was the most depressing result of all; a
political landscape, like the moon it stood on, in shards.
It would have been so easy to give up, like Lang. To compromise; to lose
hope in the future; and, in the end, to die an exile, alone and unmourned. What
good was it to fight, it seemed, when fighting only bred more fighting? And then
you ended up like this; abandoned, alone, in a broken city on a broken moon. It
certainly put Bleeding Kansas in perspective; a state, that only existed through
an obscene gerrymander by a President more concerned with symbolism and populism
than the constitution, that had lost nearly two thousand people to a war of
countryman against countryman, brother against brother, father against son, all
fighting for the same cause. From a room in a refugee camp, on that night in
2040, it would have been easy to lose hope.
But, then again, Brooks had never been one for shirking a fight. Far from it. Of
course, one could say that had he not tried to batter Jake out of the
race for the sake of his own ego, the whole thing would never have erupted in
the first place, but that was hardly the point. What mattered was that Brooks
was the only person who could possibly begin reconstruction, and he was
determined to do it.
He strode out of his room. Plans were buzzing through his head. Reconstruction,
obviously, but better. Demolish what was left of the slums and built mansions
for the people. Sure, it'd cost money, but better conditions meant more
productivity. Maybe. And besides, people living in mansions are less likely to
wage civil wars, which was also a pressing concern. Then, of course, there was
health and education, especially on the frontier. The whole system of
single-person claims would have to be revoked. Before that, of course, he'd have
to change the name of the party back to the Progressive Party. Maybe just The
Progressives. That might sound too much like a band, though...
Brooks walked out of his hotel, and into a brighter future. The stains on the
Lunar Dream could at last be wiped clean.
February 15, 2041
Adam Fields was working on his claim when the visitor came over the horizon.
The kids could go to school these days, thanks to Brooks' new schemes, but he
still had to work hard. Harder, maybe, since the economy wasn't exactly going
well. But it seemed there was hope these days. After the end of the war, it
seemed that things would only get worse, but perhaps there would be a light at
the end of the tunnel this time.
He, just like everyone else, had no idea what had happened to Jake. The whole
Montes Riphaeus region was still under military occupation, with troops from
Earth scouring the whole region, but everyone knew Jake must be gone by now. A
few American troops were still dying to the last of Jake's forces; every battle
got claimed as one of Jake's. They said he'd run off to help the Qamarists in
the CLR, or to bring down the Russians in their territory, or even gone to Earth
to take the battle to the Americans. No one wanted to believe that he could be
dead. How could he? Someone so big, so bold, couldn't fall to mortal
aches and pains. It was...wrong.
He was coming up for lunch when he saw the dust cloud on the horizon.
Approaching, at high speed, was the most damaged vehicle Fields had ever seen,
and he'd been an apprentice in a wrecker's shop. Covered in bullet holes,
streaming oil, chipped until there was practically nothing left to chip. It
hadn't broken simply because there was nothing left to break. It rolled to a
halt, and a figure stumbled out in a beat-up spacesuit.
It looked up at Fields, who stumbled back. It was Jake.
Fields hurried Jake into his kitchen, hurriedly explaining the situation to his
wife, who heartily disapproved. He gulped down some water. His face was covered
in ingrained regolith, and his arms shook; he looked as if he hadn't slept in
days. His eyes were almost blank. He spoke in a near-whisper. It seemed he'd
learnt about Fields from one of Fields' friends in town, who'd recommended him
as a sympathiser. While he undoubtedly was, Fields felt uncomfortable about
keeping a man who was, after all, the Most Wanted Man Alive in his kitchen. It
generally wasn't done.
'So,' he said, trying to get the conversation onto when Jake would leave. 'What
are you planning to do?'
Jake leaned forward. 'I've been crossing the territories for months, going from
house to house. I can't stay anywhere for long. I won't put you in any danger,
'Yes, but what are you planning to do?' said Fields. 'You can't simply
Jake slumped. 'No', he whispered. 'No, I can't.'
Fields had never realised how young, how small Jake was. But it was true; he was
only 25, and barely five foot six. He was only ever as strong as the people who
supported him; his rage, his violence, could only ever be channelled through
others. Now, alone, abandoned, he was just a scared young man, in something far,
far too big for him. Fields felt intensely sorry for him.
Jake looked up. 'I've tried seeking asylum. No one else will take me. I can't
fly, obviously, since I'd get shot to pieces just boarding. It seems I'm stuck
here. Forever. Just as I always was.'
Fields squeezed his arm. 'You can stay here for the night.'
Jake grinned. 'I'll tell you a secret, though. One of my supporters worked at
the Copernicus flightyards. He hid some of my DNA on a rocket, stole it, and
shot it off into space. So even if I die, I'm still sorta out there, floating
away. Sure, a clone wouldn't be me, but it's close enough, right? Neat,
huh? Just waiting...'
Jake continued rambling on.
They set up Jake in the kid's room; he didn't seem to mind the starship posters
on the wall, quite the contrary. That night, Fields tried to get some sleep. His
wife chose pointedly not to talk to him. The kids were away, at boarding school.
The sun still blazed outside, but they shut the curtains.
At about one in the morning, he woke up with a gun in the back of his neck.
There was shouting in his ears. Armed men were ransacking the place. He was
dragged out of bed, and into the kitchen.
Gunfire broke out, shattering the wall of the kid's bedroom. Fields leapt for
the floor. There was a prolonged bout of machine gunfire, and finally an
explosion. The wall collapsed, and dust fell from the ceiling. A steady hiss
showed that there'd been a pop in the walls somewhere; absentmindedly, Fields
realised he should probably do something about that.
He, and the rest of the soldiers, slowly got up. He forced his way into the
guestroom, and was forced to draw back. The soldiers had been very thorough in
their work. The top half of Jake's body had been almost completely destroyed.
From the...spacious...nature of the remains, Fields guessed he'd hidden a
grenade on himself, setting it off to avoid capture. He had certainly succeeded.
The commanding officer shook his head. 'The guy he stayed with a few nights ago
was a traitor. We've been following him since. Problem is, the guy told him
that we were following him, but he didn't even try to hide himself. Why?'
One of the other police shook his head sadly. 'Guess he just wanted to go out in
a blaze of glory.'
Fields, still shellshocked, leant against the wall. 'That's all he ever wanted,
I guess. To be a martyr. Just like his dad.'
One of the soldiers fished in Jake's trouser pocket, and retrieved a tattered
note. 'Any idea what this is, sir?'
Fields looked at it, numbly. There were coordinates, written in an untidy
scrawl. Practically unreadable.
He scrunched it up. 'Nope.'
As they put him in handcuffs, and dragged him away for 'questioning' (even if
Fields argued that he hadn't known who Jake was, an unlikely defence he'd still
be in a hell of a lot of trouble), Fields thought he saw just a glint of glass
in the ruins. A tiny shard.
But then, as he turned his head, it was gone.
‘Check the altitude! Prepare the probes! And
bring me another cabin boy, this one’s busted!’
Flight Engineer Alexander Minin rolled his eyes
at his commander’s constant joking. Nevertheless, he did what he was asked. In
the cramped flight centre under the captain’s cabin, he checked the flight
altitude, then performed a routine computer check on the science probes. In the
cargo bay behind him, shielded from the rest of the ship, an arsenal of complex
robotic ships beeped in response. All was in order.
He yelled up the stairs, ’52.24 kilometres above ground level! All probes
Above, Commander Dmitri Stanitsa checked the
figures into the computer. The Bellinghausen was almost ludicrously
low-tech; the brain drain following the Russian Anarchy meant that the Free City
of Moscow, the vessel’s sponsor, had been forced to rely on decades-old
computers and antiquated engines. In 2040, these things would have been regarded
as outdated; in 2053, they were a travesty. Most of the project’s funds had
been spent on the creation of the Orion drive, leaving little left for
technological innovation. Still, the figures seemed to show that things were
working relatively well.
In the science lab next door to the captain’s
cabin, Science Officer Oleg Khudor checked his instruments. ‘Temperature
outside is 30 degrees and dropping, sir.’
Stanitsa yelled down the stairs. ‘Alright,
Minin, let’s land this thing!’
Minin tapped furiously at the antiquated
consoles. When one of the screens froze up, he slammed it, furiously. It seemed
On the Bellinghausen’s exposed deck,
the three masts slowly unfolded. Out of the tops, balloons began to inflate,
with vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere heated by the ship’s
small fusion reactor. They bore as much resemblance to a child’s balloon as
the Bellinghausen to a sailing ship; that is to say, while they looked
similar, they existed on vastly different scales. Hot air was pumped up into
the masts. The ship’s descent began to slow. Finally, it began to level out.
The Bellinghausen sailed through the Venusian air, smooth and steady.
Minin, strapped into his chair, avoided the
worst of the turbulence. He tried to ride out the violent winds; on a planet
where, at the top of the clouds, storms could reach 95 metres per second, it was
generally deemed best to be cautious. The ship rose, gently, until it reached
53.1 kilometres above ground level, the agreed cut-off point. Minin then
released some of the hot CO2 from the balloons. The ascent stopped. The ship
seemed eerily calm.
Up the stairs, Stanitsa released himself from
his restraints. He walked over to Khudor.
‘What’s it like outside?’ he asked. ‘Balmy?’
‘Well…it depends, sir,’ replied the
soft-spoken Khudor, who disliked Stanitsa, a political appointment chosen mainly
for his relationship with the Moscow Free State’s president, and his total
ignorance of science. ‘The temperature is 32 degrees Celsius, with an
atmospheric pressure roughly three-quarters of Earth’s. However, the sulfuric
‘Yes, yes, I know all that. But can we go
outside with the gear?’
‘…yes, I think so. We are rushing the
‘We’ve got months on this planet, Khudor;
we can do whatever we like. Come up here, Minin! Mother Moscow needs you!’
They each applied large amounts of
acid-resistant cream to each other. They’d all shaved their heads months
before, in preparation. The cream was meant to last for hours, but then again no
one was really sure what to expect. Venus had long been the forgotten step-child
of the solar system; neither the Americans, the Europeans or even the Russians
(back in the day when that was more than just a geographical concept) had sent
probes here for decades.
In fact, it was only by chance that the Free
City of Moscow had sent anyone here at all. Russia’s rent on the Baikonur
Cosmodrome had lasted until 2050, even though Russia itself had disintegrated
years before. The other Russian states had snapped up Russia’s orbital
stations and her lunar territory; it was the Moscow Free State, however, that
managed to seize the golden prize of Baikonur itself. After they had managed to
lease the area for another 50 years, the question remained of what to do with
the place. Moscow’s megalomaniac president, Nikolai Stanitsa, had decided to
claim Venus, an uninhabitable burning wasteland, in order to promote his glory
to the world. As a result, Moscow, which covered an area about the size of
Ireland around the city, had inherited an entire planet, with a land area larger
than Earth. It was gloriously ludicrous.
The cosmonauts then put on their gloves and
thick glasses. The relatively Earth-like pressures and temperatures meant that a
full suit was unnecessary; you could go work in shirt-sleeves, if you wanted to,
so long as your entire body was slathered in acid-resistant cream. But it was
the eyes that needed the most protection. The air out there was enough to roast
them in their sockets. They clipped on their oxygen masks, and connected the
tanks to their back. They looked faintly ridiculous, dressed in casual clothing
yet covered in survival equipment.
Stanitsa walked over to the airlock, at the far
side of Khudor’s lab. Flexing his fingers, he pushed his way into the pressure
chamber. The two other cosmonauts followed him, apprehensively. Shutting the
cabin door behind him, he opened the airlock door and stepped outside into Hell.
The sky was smeared yellow and orange, with
swirling, constant winds. The cosmonauts were clipped onto railings on either
side of the deck. Lightning flashed across the sky, constantly forming arcs and
bridges. Above them the vast balloons dominated the sky.
The cameras on deck were filming the whole
ceremony, for the enlightenment of a not-especially-interested world. Stanitsa,
in a rehearsed ceremony, took out an acid-resistant Moscow flag, and clipped it
into a prepared holster on deck.
The deck was covered in scientific equipment,
to complement the array of instruments on the probes. Above the atmosphere
orbited the Novy Mir, the crew’s mothership, and Moscow’s first
permanent outpost on Venus. In just a few months, the crew would return there,
riding the Bellinghausen’s aft engine into space. Until then, they
would explore the murky depths of the clouds.
Russia had been stripped of her territory, her status, and finally her very
existence. But she had always been the leading figure in the construction of
space stations, and the Novy Mir was no exception. Building on the
traditions of the Salyuts, the Mir, the ISS and the Avalon, it was a mighty
station, one that could eventually support hundreds in this distant outpost.
With this mission, Moscow would finally gain her good name in the world. Venus
was a harsh planet, but they would tame her, as they had tamed the vast
wilderness of the Russian East. Stanitsa, watching the furious clouds, saw
cities held aloft in the atmosphere, shipyards in orbit, and brave pioneers
battling the hellish landscape of the surface. One day, they might even reshape
the world itself…
The first age of sail had ended over a century
before. But now, on this metallic parody of a sailing ship, with balloons for
sails and probes for spices, it seemed that history could truly repeat itself.
The Third Age of Colonization had come to Venus, and it would leave none