A Letter From an Editor
by Bill McCormick
Parazin Industries had gone insane. They had, literally, declared war on A/C. Gone were any legal maneuverings, they had attacked some of the branch offices with a militia and caused heavy casualties. A/C had been forced to respond and now there were violent skirmishes all over the world. Various governments demanded that they call a halt to the aggression, but Brad knew his board well enough now to know they’d never stop first.
Barely five years since A/C had settled WHX-131-L, the home office was a war zone. Explosion-resistant glass had been installed everywhere, extra security had been placed around the grounds and new walls were erected that promised to stop a medium-sized tank. Also the cargo docks now housed a small air force, which maintained some very deadly planes.
Oddly enough, Brad noticed almost none of this. He was aware, peripherally, that some things had changed, but he was still getting richer every day; sex with Janice was still the kind of stuff usually reserved for pornos and his office was a well-run machine. Anything outside of that didn’t warrant his attention as far as he was concerned.
Now that Milton’s mother was being taken care of, Brad had been able to get Milton promoted and make him a part of his personal team. That had proved fortuitous.
When the stunts asked for a monk to marry them, it was Milton who realized that they probably knew nothing about sex. He quickly altered a sex-ed presentation into a “special level” of the game. He even had the monk give a copy to each couple when they were married, like a talisman. Now he would never needed to worry about replenishing the work force.
Milton knew there had been a few births on WHX-131-L and now the monk — actually a Unitarian minister — was making regular trips. He handled each ceremony with as much dignity as he could muster while wearing a robe over a space suit. It made great fodder for the newsies, and the averages on the street sucked it up too.
Another bonus was that the “monk” never mentioned anything he saw or heard while on Wonderia. If word got out that trinamium was actually plentiful, the price would collapse. Brad couldn’t let that happen.
Brad had held a private meeting with the minister to make sure he understood they were really paying for his silence. And if he broke that vow Brad would make sure that every newsie on the planet would have a copy of the monk’s personal video collection of young boys. No elaborate consequences would ensue; a single bullet would suffice.
The marriage issue was coming up on the other two planets as well, and Chalmers had found two more ministers who would make ideal candidates. Brad was going to interview both of them himself later today. Now that they had a program in place it all should go smoothly.
Brad glanced at the latest casualty reports as he entered his office and then tossed them on his desk. There he found the files on WHX-131-L and quickly reviewed them to make sure that his plan was moving along without any glitches.
The stunts, much to his surprise, had become almost entirely self-sufficient. If they had cattle to raise for meat, they probably wouldn’t need any supplies from Earth at all. While that was good news, he didn’t want the miners becoming too self sufficient. He needed to make sure they were forever beholden to the tender mercies of A/C.
He thought about that particular conundrum for a minute and then realized he had nothing to worry about. They were stunts, not people. They had ugly dogs — dear God, those things were brutal on the eye — and they wore capes and quoted a goddamn video game as philosophy.
The worst was those dogs had killed all but one of his wraiths. But all he needed to do was make sure Milton kept adding stuff about the greater glory of A/C and they’d be fine.
With any luck the morons would make A/C the cornerstone of their religion. Wouldn’t that be funny as hell? “Yeah, though I walk in the shadow of the valley of Parazin, I shall fear no evil, for Amalgamated Conglomerated is my shepherd ....” Not bad. He’d run it past Milton later today.
With the stunts out of the way he turned to more immediate issues. Janice was due in three months and he still hadn’t approved the final plans for the nursery. The pregnancy had caught them both by surprise, since they both had birth control implants. Brad’s father had said “God wanted another Jacobs on this Earth and, by God, a little thing like science wasn’t going to stop Him!” That was as good an excuse as any, and Brad went with that when asked.
He decided on the neutral theme with the education enhancements. It was Janice’s favorite and he saw no reason to pick anything else. He approved the order, added his credit info and forwarded it to Janice for her signature. Yes, his future was looking brighter and more secure each day.
* * *
It had been thirteen years since Quentin had left Earth. He could barely remember what it looked like any more. He heard laughter and turned just in time to see the twins, Rogor and Randa, come squealing into the tent.
There was something different about his children — all the children, actually — but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Yes they were all smarter than Quentin but it was something more than that.
They laughed more. Maybe that was it. They found many things funny Quentin couldn’t understand. But they were loving children, and they worked hard at their studies and helped out around the village, just like all the other children. Their younger sister, Raina, was studying a book pad she’d gotten from the last cargo ship and never even glanced at the sound of the commotion.
Melissa, even more beautiful now than when Quentin had met her, walked in after her shift in the mine and began preparing dinner. The children quickly got up to help without being asked, they were good like that, and soon the tent was full of wonderful smells.
Since they had children, they split shifts in the mine. Tomorrow would be Quentin’s turn. However he hadn’t been idle all day. He’d finished building the support walls inside the tent and had added two dividers in the second tent they’d been given when they were married. The idea was that they could build the two together for when family arrived, which it did barely ten months later.
Now the children could have privacy, and so could he and Melissa. He smiled at her as she cooked and she smiled back at him. She’d noticed the new walls and smiled even wider. Tonight they could be alone.
The dinner was wonderful. Melissa’s world-famous meat loaf and some of the local vegetables they’d grown in the community garden. Some were from Earth, but most weren’t. There was a pink root that had been discovered that tasted kind of peppery. They called it a Pink Pepper Root. It was yummy.
The children always giggled when he said words like “yummy” and he liked hearing them giggle.
After dinner the children cleaned the table and helped wash the dishes then asked to be excused so they could go foresting. Neither Quentin nor Melissa knew exactly what that was, but all the children did it and they seemed to have fun. The reluctant parents agreed.
They sat in the quiet of the tent, enjoying the lingering smells of the meal as the children’s laughter echoed in the distance.
* * *
Rogor, Randa and Raina arrived at the fort first, as they usually did, and ran inside. Arrayed around the walls were the various items they’d been able to scavenge off of the supply ships. They only took spares that wouldn’t be noticed when they went missing.
Their prize sat on a table on the far end of the room. A working hyperwave radio. It was how ships could get news from home, report any incidents and so on. Next to it was their second biggest prize, a copy of a ship’s library. Rogor had copied it while the crew was taking pictures of the miners for their scrapbooks.
Now all the children knew how badly their parents had been abused. And by listening to the radio they were able to keep up with the events on Earth.
Their parents were paid one-third of what an apprentice miner would get on Earth and their medical benefits seemed to consist of scans for some sort of experiment A/C was running. But they also knew about the microbe, the wonderful, glorious, microbe.
Besides altering their parents’ genes so they would be in perfect health for the rest of their lives, it had given their children some wonderful gifts. They were all telepathic and had some telekinetic powers, which seemed to be increasing as they got older.
They now had minds far smarter than any that humans had ever encountered. They had all known, by the time they were two years old, that they were a hybrid of some sort: the best that Earth could send and the best that Wonderia could grow.
They kept their secret from their parents. They didn’t want to scare them or, worse, cause them to notify the bastards at A/C of what they’d become. Soon all the children over the age of five were in the fort. They numbered 97.
The fort was actually a cave in the base of the mountain. It could hold ten times their number with ease. It was well hidden from any passing scans. They had insulated it further when they figured out what types of scans the cargo ships were capable of performing.
The cave was eerily quiet as the children argued amongst themselves about what to do about A/C. They knew the corporate wars on Earth had escalated to the point that even the smallest villages were heavily armored.
They also knew that scientists on Earth had made a major miscalculation about the hyperwave radio. They didn’t know that the technology could be used to transmit ships as well as communications. The children had figured that out a couple of years back.
They had run some tests with their makeshift equipment and had been able to scout the other two planets that A/C was exploiting. They were pleased to see signs that the children there were similar to them. They sent a second scout to drop a message that only children like them could read. Their third scouting mission returned positive answers from both planets.
They knew something else as well: their safety depended on Earth being removed from the picture, at least for a century or so. Just enough time for them to secure their place in the galaxy.
The plan that was coalescing was a thing of simple beauty. Once it was finalized they’d notify the other two planets so they could be prepared. They had all that they needed in the fort. Now it was just a matter of building what they needed and timing its release.
* * *
Brad, Jr. was turning 10 today. Brad had set up the back yard with a complete carnival, including rides. Why not? He’d been promoted to VP of all of A/C last year. A little indulgence was called for. He and Janice surveyed the results and sat down to wait for Brad, Jr. to come home from school. This was going to be a big surprise for him. They’d sworn all the parents to secrecy and it appeared that they’d been successful.
Brad was smiling at his lovely wife when a package arrived from the landing docks. It was rare, but not unheard of, for something to be important enough to interrupt him at home so he excused himself and went into his private office to see what it was.
He opened the cargo box and was confused by what he saw. It was an old style vid player with his name printed on it. He found the On switch and sat it on his desk.
A young man, dressed like a stunt, appeared on the screen. There was something different about him, but Brad couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
“Hello, Brad,” the young man began. “May I call you Brad? It seems we’ve known each other for years even though we’ve never met. I am Rogor Oglethorpe and this,” he motioned to a young lady who entered the screen’s view, “is my twin sister, Randa Oglethorpe. We were the first children ever born on Wonderia. That bit of news is meaningless to this conversation, but I thought you should know.
“You may have noticed, Brad, that the human race has gone completely off the rails. All its promise, all its dreams, are hopelessly ensnared in a senseless war. And at its core, that war is about us. You see, we’ve followed the newsies briefs about Wonderia and the legal battle with Parazin. We know how you exploited our parents into being unwitting slave labor. We know everything.
“We know it all started because of a dispute over a probe, which we found, and us. Well, technically, our parents. And your war is now threatening to expand into space. I’m sorry, Brad, but we can’t allow that to happen.”
Brad hit the pause button so he could laugh. Was he really being threatened by a stunt? Oh he was going to have to show this to everyone at the party. It would make their lives. He hit Play after he’d poured himself a drink.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. When you hit Play, you activated a hyperwave signal which, in turn, activated several small ships which are each carrying EM-pulse generators. They are positioning themselves around your planet as I speak. In five minutes they will knock out electrical power on the planet. That means no radio, no video, no nothing. I’m not sure what your plans for the day were, but if they didn’t include learning to chop wood and building a fire, you might wish to alter them.
“The EM Pulse generators will stay in orbit for 100 Earth years. Hopefully, by then, you’ll have learned to play nice and can begin rebuilding your civilization. As they say on the old vids, have a nice day.”
The screen went black and, as Brad was running to the comm unit to notify A/C’s security officers, so did the rest of the planet.
Copyright © 2013 by Bill McCormick