I. Saturn Orbital Base
Stellar Mining & Manufacturing Co.
(StelCo for short)
October 8th, 2049 (Earth time)
The comp screen on his desk chimed, indicating his secretary wished to speak to him. Miss Osmer’s perky face appeared in a window on it. He said, “Yes, Gloria?” and went back to examining the figures on the pad in front of him.
“Mr. Hamilton, we’ve just received an audio message on the old S100 RF channel. It’s addressed to you but the body of it is scrambled. We haven’t used that chann–”
Hamilton jerked his head up and said, “What? What did you say? A message on S100?”
“Yes, Mr. Hamilton.” Gloria paused for a moment and then said, “It’s probably just a prank or maybe even an old echo reflected off an Oort object. Can we even decode those things anymore?”
“Gloria, rout it to my comp. Tell no one about this, understand?”
“Why yes, Mr. Hamilton. Are you alright? You look — startled.”
Startled indeed, Hamilton thought. “Yes, I’m fine, just take care of that, will you? And find Rocco. Tell him I need him at once.”
“Yes, Mr. Hamilton,” she said and her window winked-out, replaced by a communication screen showing the message waiting to be played.
If only Miss Osmer really knew what Hamilton looked like, startled or not. Nobody except a very few people ever saw or met him face to real face. Both his comp and wristpad cameras fed his speech and image, expressions, movements, all, into a persona-program that output someone who looked completely different. He’d designed his life that way because at heart, he didn’t really like people much and valued his privacy when he travelled, went out to restaurants or the 3D theaters. Even the busy body UNWG regulators never met him in person. He was actually tall and lean, had most of his (albeit gray) hair, a youthful 66-years-old, but thanks to the persona-p the rest of the world only saw him as a short, overweight, nearly bald tycoon. Interesting that the software was so good that it translated facial expressions his secretary could pick-up on.
Robert James Hamilton was one of the wealthiest, most successful businessmen on Earth, or anywhere else in the solar system. He’d turned a bankrupt asteroid mining company into an industrial giant, the sole provider of Helium 3, a critical component of the D-He3 fusion drives that now power almost all personal, commercial, and UNWG spacecraft. He was usually driven and resolute, respected by his employees and feared by his competitors, ruthless with all who stood in his way. He was shaking now like a leaf!
Another chime sounded, this one from the back entrance to his executive office. He quickly checked the vid from the door and then commanded the comp, “Open back door.”
The entrance slid away just long enough to admit the lumbering giant, Rocco, one of his two trusted personal aides and bodyguards. He, along with the other, Barrett, were among the privledged of his inner circle. The lumbering was actually an act for anyone in the corridors of Saturn Base outside. While nearly 7 feet tall with mocha colored skin, he was in perfect shape and carried his muscular frame well. He was much more than just a bodyguard although he had served admirably in that role and other similar ones many times He was anything but slow, physically or mentally. Indeed, his degree was in astro-navigational systems and he was a fine pilot. In public he enjoyed appearing hunched and sluggish. It put people — sometimes enemies — off their guard if a situation should arise. It’s possible that one just had.
“Yo, Boss, what’s up?”
“Rocco, a message just came in on the old S100 channel. Only one person is authorized to use that channel and I haven’t heard from him in a decade!”
Rocco came up to stand behind where Hamilton was seated and stared with him at the Com message window on the comp screen. “Well,” he asked, “what’s it say?”
Suddenly it was as if Hamilton was the subordinate and Rocco was the boss. He stuttered, “I… I haven’t listened to it yet — it just came in. It must be from–”
“Play the damn thing!” There were only a couple people in the world who could get away with talking to Hamilton like that.
“Okay, er,” and to the comp, “Decode and play message.”
There was a pause and then from the screen speakers:
“This message is for Robert Hamilton, president of StelCo. Chief? I hope you’re still Chief! It’s me, Captain Stan Oliver. I’m back! It’s been about 6 years for me but it must be about, what, 12 for you, right? Long time no see and hear, huh? Mission is successful. I located the worm hole and went through it with the scout ship. No sign of Brandon Carter’s ship. The worm put me out about 47 light-years. I traveled 47 liears in a day! Incredible! The nearest star was Alchibah, about 1 1/2 liear away. My scope showed planets, one in perfect position. I went to investigate.
The planet is a bit smaller than Earth, a bit colder, lighter gravity and –get this– breathable atmosphere. I don’t know that personally since the lander was malfunctioning but I sent down two probes and did constant scans and readings for several months. There’s life down there. Nothing intelligent but there’s plenty of plant life, insect — what looked like insect life, and even fish in the ocean. No sigh of Carter there, either. Guess his earlier ship was destroyed in the worm or otherwise failed or got lost.
Hey, Chief? This planet could be “Earth 2″ with the quick transport of the worm. Three years each way. Wait till the world hears about this! Tourism, unique life forms to import, plenty of cheap land. I can’t believe I’ve discovered a new world for all of mankind. I hope I don’t make a fool of myself in TV interviews. Say, is my mom still alive? I’ve got to tell her.
I’ve got lots to show and tell. I’ll bet a lot has happened while I was gone, too. I’m just passing Neptune’s orbit right now…
Coordinates followed and Stan Oliver signed off, stating he awaited Hamilton’s reply.
Rocco slid into a large brown faux-leather recliner in front of his bosses’ desk then turned sideways so his back was against one padded arm and his long legs elbowed over the other. He said, “So is this something before my time? Who are these Oliver and Carter dudes?”
Hamilton seemed to be looking off into space. He mumbled, “My dream could finally come true.”
Rocco looked amused and said, “Testing, one-two-three, testing. Boss, you there?”
Suddenly Hamilton snapped out of it. His steely determination was back. He knew what had to be done. “You’re damn right I’m here. We’ve got work to do.”
Turning to the comp, he said, “comp, return message S100. Tight beam, extropolate path from coordinates given.”
The comp replied, “Ready.”
“Stan, this is Robert. Robert Hamilton. It’s so good to hear from you. You’ve done fantastic! I’m anxious to look over the data you have before we release the news to the world. We’ll hold a press conference at the Hilton Orbital Resort. Wait till you see this place. Two thousand rooms in orbit around the Earth. Low gravity golf and swimming. Perfect weather all the time. And yes, your mother Helen is doing fine. I’ll let her know the good news that you’re finally back. Maybe she can join us at the conference.
“Now listen, that old rust-bucket of yours would take two months to reach our Saturn base. Brake, stop, stay where you are. I’m sending Dr. Rocco Williams out to meet you–”
Rocco raised his eyebrows.
“–He’ll take you and your data back here to the base. With the new drives in use now he can reach you in three days. You’ll be here in a week! Bet you could do with some real food, too! We have an entire agricultural farm at Saturn Base. How does a nice fresh sirloin steak sound? Yes, meat consumption is outlawed on Earth now — cruelty to animals or bad for your health or something — but we have it here at StelCo’s Saturn Base. World government be damned! Fresh fruit, too.
“You’ll love the new comp systems. I’ll have to show them to you when you arrive. I’ll need one of them dedicated just to figuring out 12-years of back pay for you, in today’s dollars, of course.
“Keep radio silence until then as the UNWG — that’s the United Nations World Government, another new pleasantry created since you left — monitors everything and tries to regulate everything.
“I can’t wait to see you again. Rocco will be there in a jiffy. You’ll be a hero on Earth, Stan, and here at StelCo, too. I’m proud of you.
It would be a couple hours before Oliver actually received the message. Hamilton turned back to Rocco. Something in his staunch stare made Rocco turn around and sit back up straight in the recliner. He said, “Carter was one of my first pilots, scouts if you will. Somewhere past Pluto but before the Oort Cloud he discovered what he thought was a worm hole as astro-physicists quaintly called them in their theories. I believe he did. He went through it several times, back and forth. Then he disappeared.”
He continued, “I sent Oliver out to confirm the existence of the worm hole and where it led to. Also to see if he could find Carter.”
Hamilton paused and seemed to reassess Rocco, as if he suddenly needed to re-evaluate his loyalty. Then he went on, “You know me better than almost anyone else in the world, Rocco. You know my dream has been to leave our so-called “civilization” behind and with it all the repressive world government regulations. When the United States finally decided, in 2034 to cave-in to the “one world” scenario, and in 2039 actually gave up it’s sovereignty to the UNWG, abandoning it’s constitution and bill of rights — I was sick. Sick at heart.”
He stopped, stroked his chin thoughtfully, thinking of the correct phrasing to use. Finally he said, “Rocco, it was bad enough that the Amendments of our Bill of Rights were trashed. The First was long gone. Freedom of speech? When the US joined with the European Union in the twenties, that ended that. You couldn’t say what was on your mind for fear you’d insult some third world inhabitant or some special interest group.”
Rocco listened intently, or tried to give that impression to his boss since in reality, he’d heard this lecture time and again.
Hamilton continued, “In the ‘thirties we lost the Second Amendment as the US again acquiescented to banning and confiscating almost all firearms. Handguns were outlawed. Most rifles were, too. Then our right to privacy disappeared as our government — of, by and for the people, ha-ha — was erased. What we eat, speak, how we fuck, it’s all controlled now”
“I’ve dedicated my business to mining Helium 3 here from the atmosphere of Saturn and pushing Deuterium-Helium 3 as fuel and as ship drives. Not because I give a fuck that UNWG bureaucrats could now zip around the solar system in their private ships reaching speeds of one-half light while they wined and dined their corrupt third world dictators or their under-age paramours.
“No, I did it because one day I hoped to have enough money to take a bunch of like-minded folks with me and leave this Orwellian nightmare behind. To start a new world where men and women lived by their wits, their honesty, their respect for each other’s space and rights. Where they work for what they have and wanted. Where personal responsibility was a way of life, not something lawyers said you weren’t capable of. There will be no giant government teat for anyone to suckle from. Rocco, I need freedom. We no longer have it here. Now, Oliver has shown that there is a chance to regain it. Are you with me or against me?”
There was quiet between the two men for a few moments.
Rocco Williams broke the silence with, “Boss, you know I’m with you. I joined your company to get away from Earth and the rampant overpopulation of perpetual victims encouraged by a bloated, corrupt world government. What do you need me to do?”
Hamilton said, “Take my personal runner ship. It’s fast, fully stocked, and not-registered in the UNWG database in case one of their snooper craft is about. Meet Oliver. Give him a nice steak and other delicacies as well as the best bourbon; there’s plenty of it aboard. Download all of his data, photos, everything including his flight recorder information and trajectories. Make sure you have all of it.”
“Will do, Mr. Hamilton,” Rocco said with conviction, “Give him a hero’s welcome. You don’t want any press conference arranged, do you?”
“Well now, Rocco,” Hamilton said slowly, and then, “I really don’t want the world to know about this rainbow and the golden world laying at the end of it. That’s for us only.”
Rocco said, “Agreed. So I’ll just bring him back to base here?”
Hamilton assayed Rocco one last time and said, “That might not be prudent, either. I’m not cold-hearted but there are huge issues at stake. No, let’s think about this…”
II. StelCo’s Saturn Orbital Base
Four Weeks Later
“You’re sure about the size of this worm hole, Dr. Hibbes?” Hamilton asked again as he looked at the rumpled professor on his comp screen.
“Oh yes,” Mitchell Hibbes replied, “according to Captain Oliver’s data — shame about the tragic reactor failure on his ship just as he was returning home — the worm is about five miles wide all the way, end to end. Large enough for almost any ship to safely pass through.”
“Why hasn’t anyone spotted this thing before?” Hamilton probed.
Hibbes wondered how the fat old man on his comp screen could possibly be head of one of the world’s largest companies. But he said, “Well, no light emits from it at all, Mr. Hamilton. It’s absence of any radiation that makes it invisible. You have to be directly, perpendicularly in front of it and then all you see is absence of stars rather than any discreet entity. And remember, we’re talking about trillions of square miles of space if you consider the universe as a sphere surrounding our solar system. Without Oliver’s coordinates, you could never find the thing”
“Mitchell, I want you to head a new project so secret that your subordinates won’t realize what they’re even working on. Use our Titan dry dock as the base for construction. I want you to build me a ship as has never been built before. We’ll call it The Mayflower…”
A private chat room on the Solarnet
February 11th, 2052
Malcomb/ Amazing RJ, this thing is for real?
Linda45/ RJ, who are you? Really?
RJ/ That isn’t important yet. And yes, Malcomb, this is for real. There were thousands of you in chat room “New Hope” and I’ve narrowed it down in this one — by invitation only — to those who said and thought the right things. All of you have also supplied me with information about yourselves and I’ve run background checks on all of you.
Kristopher/ Sounds like big brother to me. What gave you the right to investigate me, us?
Jack of Blades/ This is creepy. You been looking into me? Is there a bug in my room?
Linda45/ LOL I hope not, you wouldn’t approve of what I was doing with my boyfriend last night.
RJ/ No, no bugs or vids in your homes and yes, Malcomb, all of you, this is for real. You’ve seen the pictures of the ship I sent you. It should be ready in a year.
Marty/ But what is this about no pets, no belongings, no friends? I’m not sure I’m interested any more. And where is this new world planet?
BigSteve/ Yeah, what’s the name of it? I want my dog Daisy with me.
RJ/ I’m sorry, I can’t tell you yet where the planet is located, only that it’s livable. And you can’t bring pets along. Again, I’m sorry but you all will be in cryo-suspension for years. We can’t do that with your dogs and cats. Take a DNA sample of them, we’ll store it onboard and recreate them when we land. That’s all I can offer you. And sorry, no friends. Everyone must believe as you do, that daily life here on Earth has become impossible with the UN World Government breathing down our necks and controlling our every move and thought.
AndyStuart/ How do we know that you aren’t actually a part of UNWG? Maybe this is all a plot to round up dissidents.
RJ/ I guess you will have to trust me for now. Many of you have met each other in home get togethers in your respective cities. You are the future of democracy, of honest human endeavor. It won’t be easy but I hope the ship will have enough supplies that none of us suffer too much. Remember, you must be prepared to sever all ties to your life here, any family or friends. There is no turning back. With the future that is in store for us, a fresh start on a new world, I don’t think you’ll ever want to…
IV. StelCo’s Titan Dry Dock
November 9th, 2052
Captain Glen Travis welcomed the interruption in his office when his comp screen chimed with an incoming message. At only 25-years-old, the constant paperwork of reports, charts, inspections tended to bore him. Slim and lithe, his black hair cut in a “pilot crew”, he looked up at the screen and saw it was the head honcho himself. Strange, he thought, that a balding and rotund oldster would have the energy to be so constantly involved in every facet of Project Mayflower. He tapped a key and said, “Morning, Mr. Hamilton.”
“Travis,” Hamilton said, “Is the Mayflower ready?”
“Definitely, Mr. Hamilton. We took her out last week for a third test run and opened up the Dee-Hee Engine on full throttle, so to speak. We can hit point-five liears acceleration, no problem. All that remains is to stock her. Speaking of which, I got a shipment of 225 General Electric model 3A robots in the other day. Wow! That had to cost you a pretty penny.”
“Indeed, Travis, about 13 trillion pennies. Each of the colonists will receive one to help with the heavy lifting. The GE3’s may look like the Tin Man in that old movie but they are well programmed to understand commands and work tirelessly. They’re powered by a small nuclear battery that can last 5-years. There should also have been some crates of spare batteries and parts. Did they arrive?”
“All here, Mr. Hamilton.”
Hamilton looked relieved. He said, “Fine, fine. Now Travis, you’ve made arrangements for all the supplies I requested?”
“Yes sir,” Travis said, “It’ll take a few months for most of them to arrive. Non-perishables first of course. Food stuffs by March, when we launch.”
“Great. Good work.”
Now, Travis thought, came the big request, “Say, Mr. Hamilton, I’d like to take a week off just to spend on Earth for one last time. You know, I’ll never see it again…”
There was a pause, more than the usual two second delay in communications between Saturn Base and the Titan Dry Docks. Finally Hamilton spoke, “Well, I can see why you might want to see Earth for one last time. Be careful, Travis, the UN is sniffing all around us since the untimely accident to Captain Oliver’s ship. Watch your back; they know something is going on and they will stop at nothing to find out what it is.”
“No problem, Sir, ” Travis reassured him, “I’ll just blend into the background. I just want a slice of pizza from Louigi’s from the old neighborhood. That, and maybe one or two last tumbles with the girls.”
“It’s those last tumbles I’ll be worrying about, Glen. Say and reveal nothing. They may ask for information about what you do or who you work for. Be careful.”
“Not to worry, Mr. Hamilton. Seattle girls don’t ask for nothin’ beyond the goin’ rate.”
But Hamilton worried just the same.
V. Seattle, WA
Two Weeks Later
Crouched behind wooden crates at the end of the alley, Travis suppressed the need to gasp for air; his body craving more oxygen then he could, for the moment, provide. Two pairs of running footsteps sounded past the entrance to the alley, pausing briefly and then continuing. Travis could not make out the whispers between the two men who had relentlessly pursued him halfway across town. Men who had finally caught up to him this damp chilly fall evening. Men desiring to — kill him?
As the footfalls grew silent with distance, Travis finally allowed himself deep breaths and tried to gather his thoughts. After a week without incident, he had thought himself safe here in Seattle, his old home. Sure, Hamilton had warned him but he couldn’t believe the UNGW forces were interested in, or even knew about him — that he would be piloting an exodus from Earth to a new world, Alchibah. Then, ten minutes ago they had burst into Louigi’s Pizzaria, and he had run through the kitchen and out the back door.
The immediate danger past, Travis’ senses began registering less pressing data: he was cold, having left his jacket in the restaurant. He dare not return for it now. No doubt they were watching all his old haunts as well, so the question now, he thought, is where to go from here? His wristpad was smashed, possibly when he careened into the alley wall after his hasty exit from the restaurant. He couldn’t get in touch with Hamilton or anyone else.
Rising slowly, he silently made his way toward the street. A friend, Bertie, lived a couple blocks away. He and Travis had suffered through high school together. Travis trusted him enough to risk asking for a night’s safekeeping. If I can just get there, he thought.
Pressed against the alley wall, he stopped just short of the entrance onto the sidewalk and listened. Aside from gusts of wind, a far-off radio, and the occasional electro-car, all was quiet. All seemed as it should be. Travis decided it was now or never and sprinted toward the closed amusement park across the street. He almost made it when the crackle from a zap-gun blast shot past him, striking a pod-tree a few feet away. The ball of energy singed the furry bark and broke into electric snakes racing down into the ground. An acrid, smoky odor filled the street. With a leaping dive, Travis landed in the bushes rimming the park as a second plasma-blast careened off a parked car and showered down a street-sign. While all old-style guns were now banned, cops and UN forces carried off-shoots of the old Taser-Stun Guns. Based on a ridiculously old theory behind forming plasma ball lightning in a microwave oven, Zap Guns were powerfully efficient at paralyzing and nearly killing anyone or thing they targeted.
“Quick!” he overheard as he raced into the manicured gardens. He judged the agents about 50 yards behind as he reached the kiddie amusement rides. The empty rides seemed strangely surrealistic to him in the darkness. Two blasts simultaneously struck the carousel to his left. Sparks and pyrotechnics racing up and down the poles, the horses’ open mouths seeming to grimace in the flickers. Travis jumped behind a closed concession stand and then ran toward several trailers parked by the bumper-boat pond. He ducked underneath one trailer, hiding behind the large rear tires.
Two more crackles, and two balls of energy landed on the surface of the pond, skimming intactly across the water, skipping lightly on the small choppy waves and finally jumping onto a chain-link fence on the other side. An electric spider-web glowed briefly. The air smelled of ozone. One of the men loped past the trailer and stopped at the water’s edge. A few seconds later he was joined by the other. Travis realized that he had eluded them — for the moment.
“I don’t know,” he heard one whisper. They were about 20 feet away.
“I’m sure I saw him somewhere over here,” the other replied.
Travis watched the agents peering into the darkness about them. There were few lights in the deserted park, much to his advantage. Tiny waves breaking on the shore provided some sound-cover in the otherwise still park. Though he could not see their faces, he knew these men all too well. UNGW police were all alike; tall, built, emotionless, sure that they served a higher good by herding all the world’s people into corrals of endless regulations and restrictions.
One man motioned to the other and the two split off in opposite directions, both moving away from Travis. Travis left his cover, tailing the one heading toward the hiking path leading into dense woods to the north. The man moved carefully, not realizing the reversal of roles. About all Travis could tell of him was that he was tall and powerful, as most of these types were. Travis was certainly no match for him, but for the moment there was safety in being the follower. Travis tailed him in spurts, ducking behind trees and trash containers. Where the woods properly began, the man paused. As Travis waited, he became aware of distant sirens. They grew nearer.
The agent uttered an expletive, apparently hearing the approaching police-cars as well. The late night fireworks had drawn attention. Travis dug in behind a wooden bench, well protected by leafy shrubs. The agent started back quickly, passing within feet of where Travis was hiding.
“Come on!” a far off voice barked, causing the agent to break into a full run.
Travis quickly headed the other way, up the path into the black forest. The sirens reached the entrance to the park. There was some squealing of tires and the sound of slamming doors. The UN forces liked to work alone and loathed meddling by local police. Travis ran perhaps 30 yards up the path but the blackness prevented further progress. He left the trail and hid within a cluster of thick berry-bushes.
For an hour the police searched the park, flashlight beams bobbing through the gardens and amusement rides. Only once did one of them start up the path into the woods, stopping far short of where Travis lay shivering in the damp, chilly dark. Presently he heard the police cars start and move off, leaving him alone.
All remained quiet. His legs were cramping and he rose up and walked in place to stretch. Something rubbed against his leg. He gave a startled yelp as tiny claws dug into his calf. With a sigh and a chuckle he realized it was only a stray cat looking for some attention, and probably food. That served to remind Travis that his own dinner had been interupted and he was ravenously hungry.
He pushed out of the bushes and stole down the path back into the park. He turned up the eastern path heading behind the boat-pond. Travis prayed that Bertie would be at home. Bertie would ask no questions of him.
Travis was almost to the street when the blast hit him square in the back. The force knocked him to the ground as the plasma-charge burned through his shirt, searing his back, entering his neural-system. Travis went into seizures. His eyes beheld streaking Novas and then went dark as conciousness slipped away…
VI. Seattle, WA
A Few Hours Later…
Travis awoke slowly, feeling sicker than he’d ever been. Every muscle in his body ached as if he had the flu. He couldn’t seem to focus his eyes in the nearly dark room. He tried to move his arms and found he was bound to… What, some sort of table laying at an angle. His feet were on the ground but his legs were bound as well. He could feel that he had pissed his pants and just then a wave of nausea washed over him. He turned his head to the side and vomited out whatever bile and meager bits of food he had managed to eat before the chase. It ran down the table, wetting his arm and leg.
Suddenly a click and an overhead light went on. His eyes began to work. Before him stood the tall dark form of a UN thug watching him. Travis looked down and saw that he was tied with ropes to a long drafting table turned almost perpendicular to the floor. The office appeared to have not been used in many years.
The agent spoke. “So, Mr. Travis, not exactly a Kodak moment for you, eh? Oh, forgive the untidy surroundings. My partner and I dragged you into the first abandoned building we could find. Are you comfy?”
Travis tried to speak but could only issue a short croaking noise from his parched dry throat. Finally he managed, “Who are you?”
“Ah, so glad you asked and how rude of me not to introduce myself before, while you were wetting yourself and puking. I am UNWG agent Smith. I’ll be entertaining you for the foreseeable future until you give me the information I desire. My partner Jones is in the hall to chase off any homeless transients that might wander by.”
“What…,” Travis struggled, every word seeming to be an impossible mountain to scale, “…what… do you want?”
Agent Smith seemed to grin, not something that was probably natural to him, and said, “Another good question, Mr. Travis. We know that old man Hamilton is planning on some trip. We know he’s built a huge space ship. We’ve tried to inspect his Titan dry dock but his ships turn ours away. That is, of course, a violation of the UNWG trade regulations but filing protests and scheduling hearings takes forever. We want to know what is going on NOW. We want to know everything that anyone does on this planet. You’re his golden boy pilot, Mr. Travis, what’s the deal? What’s going on?”
Travis whispered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A shattering, crashing noise and the table shook, bringing renewed pain and sickness to Travis. Agent Smith had what appeared to be a chair leg in his hand and he had just whacked the sheet-metal surface of the table Travis was strapped to with it.
Smith said, “Mr. Travis, you don’t appear to be paying attention. I know, we know, there is chatter on the Solarnet about some worm hole, and an Earth-like planet at the other side of it. Where are they, Mr. Travis? Hmmm? Mr. Travis, the next time I bring this makeshift club down, it will be on your leg.”
Travis collected himself. He said nothing. He would not betray Hamilton and Stelco and reveal anything. Come what might. It did.
Agent Smith swung his arm back and over into a wide arc and smashed the club down on Travis’ right leg. Travis could hear the crack of bone breaking and quickly a new searing pain joined in the misery of this awful evening.
“Well, Mr. Travis?”
There were tears streaming from Travis’ eyes but he managed to say, “And here I thought the UN represented goodness and justice and rights for all.”
Agent Smith leered at him and said, “How quaint, Mr. Travis. I’m so glad our public relations department is earning their keep. Now I’m earning mine. You have one leg broken and I’m about to break the–”
From outside the door to the office there were shouts and sounds of a brief struggle and then a Zap Gun blast was heard. The door crashed open and a large hulk of a guy took an instant survey of the situation and pointed his Zap Gun at Agent Smith. The two men seemed to glower at each other and then the hulk fired at Smith. Smith went down in a heap of burning regulation suit and tie.
The hulk said, “Travis?”
“Maybe. Are you here to help?”
“That’s what I do best. Looks like your leg is busted. I’m going to untie these ropes. Put your arm over my shoulder and I’ll drag you out of here.”
Bewildered, Travis could only mumble, “Thanks. Who are you?”
The hulk responded, “Barrett. George Barrett. I work for StelCo. Hamilton asked me to follow you around here in Seattle. Make sure no harm came to you. ‘Fraid I’m a little late in that department. Sorry about that. The cops chased me out of the park and it took me awhile to catch up to these UN goons and you. Come on, we gotta get out of here.”
“Where are you taking me?” Travis asked.
“Seattle Space Port. Rocco is waiting there with a Cruiser. He’ll get you to Saturn Base in just a day and a half.”
“My leg,” Travis complained.
“Sorry buddy. No time,” Barrett said, not harshly, “They’ll patch you up at StelCo. I’m sure Rocco has some drugs that will keep you in la-la land until you get there. Hamilton wants the Mayflower to launch within days. The UN is all over us. Some of the colonists have already been rounded up.
Barrett got him into his electrocar and drove like a maniac through the streets of Seattle, entered the Space Port and drove right up onto old runway 6 where the StelCo cruiser was sitting, ready to blast. Rocco ran over, took Travis out of the car and heaved him over his shoulder as if he were no more than a 5 pound sack of sugar and carried him to the cruiser. He turned to Barrett and said, “Get out of here, man. Everyone is looking for us.”
Inside the cruiser Rocco strapped Travis onto a reclining couch while Travis uttered muted cries of pain. Rocco reached into an overhead compartment, found a bag, took out an aerosol injector and gave Travis the nicest shot he’d had all day. Within seconds he was pain-free and then sound asleep.
Rocco quickly strapped himself into the pilot’s seat, flipped a switch and said, “Tower control, StelCo 159 requesting permission to launch, over.” He now noticed several cars racing towards him on the old jet plane runway, lights flashing. Well, he didn’t need more than a few feet of runway to get this cruiser off the ground.
After a brief moment the radio responded, “Uh, StelCo 15 niner, permission temporarily denied. UNWG is driving out to meet your ship. Over.”
Rocco grimaced and said, “Roger control tower. I’ll wait right here. Oh, and bite me.” He punched some buttons and the ship gave a roar and lurched into the air, gaining distance and altitude in seconds. One advantage of working for an industrial magnate was that the company owned transportation was newer and faster than anything government agents might have.
VII. Renton, WA
About the Same Time…
Hamilton had finished several calls including a vital one of instructions to Rocco as the latter was heading out of the Earth’s atmosphere with Captain Travis . He had packed what he needed and wanted to take with him from his home overlooking the bay. It wasn’t much. His trophy wife could have the rest . He hadn’t even seen her in a couple years, she being busy with her trophy boy toys on the coast of France. C’est la vie.
He read over the email he had composed to the colonists, all 215 of them. Some of them were already in UN custody. He didn’t really care at this point if the world government intercepted his email because they already knew, had somehow found out, of his plans. All of the colonist addressees were BCC so there’d be no way for the UN to find out who the others were from intercepting one. He hated that he didn’t have time to finish stocking the ship, and that everything had to suddenly be rushed but it couldn’t be helped at this point. He had a very good idea of who had turned on him and gone to the UN authorities.
He was frankly surprised that the UN wasn’t at his own doorstep but then he’d kept it quiet that he was coming. Also, he was too big a fish for them to casually try to net on a fishing expedition. After all, what laws had he really violated?
He looked out the open sliding door at what used to be his personal heliport and now served as his private space port. Two new BMW solar cruisers sat there, ready for take-off. He’d only need one. He spoke to his wristpad, “Contact Barrett.”
Shortly, Barrett replied over the tiny speaker, “Yes, Mr. Hamilton. I didn’t know you were in town.”
“I’m at the house in Renton. Come here as quickly as you can. Here’s what I want you to do…”
After signing off he made one final call and then went over to the comp screen and said, “Send email.”
When that was done, he entered some actual keystrokes on the desk pad and low-level re-formatted the drives. There was nothing to be gained from taking apart his comp.
Meanwhile, a couple hundred emails found their way to computers all over the country.
VIII. Also About the Same Time
On a Computer Near You…
I am sorry to have to suddenly change our schedule but it seems the UN has gotten whif of our plans. Already they have rounded up several of you.
There is no time to lose. Drop everything. Forget everything. You must immediately pack and get yourself to the Hilton Orbital Resort. I’ve made reservations for you so your personal craft will be allowed docking space. Your cover is that you are going on a one week planetary tour aboard the Lancer Cruise Ship. In reality, that ship is owned by StelCo. It leaves for Titan Dry Dock tomorrow afternoon. That’s only 12 hours from now.
While the Mayflower itself is able to hold almost unlimited cargo, the Lancer isn’t. You are limited to one large suitcase and one small carry-on bag. I’m sorry about that but there simply isn’t time to make other arrangements. As it is, the Mayflower is not nearly complete in the stores and provisions I had hoped to bring along. Make sure you have several changes of clothing, sturdy boots, and a warm jacket.
We will all meet at the Mayflower in a couple days. Until then, good luck, best wishes and hopes.
–From The History of Colony: Alchibah
3rd Edition, 2088
Author: The Historian