Authors: Michael Rizzo
Tags: #mars, #military, #science fiction, #gods, #war, #nanotechnology, #swords, #pirates, #heroes, #survivors, #immortality, #knights, #military science fiction, #un, #immortals, #dystopian, #croatoan, #colonization, #warriors, #terraforming, #ninjas, #marooned, #shinobi
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Part One: Pride and Prejudice and Paradox
Part Two: The God War
Pride and Prejudice and Paradox
Chapter 1: What I Am and How I Never Came To Be
It’s cold, but I don’t actually feel it.
In whatever shell I’m sealed in, in the dark, I only
know it’s cold because something keeps telling me about power
consumption, how much energy I’m bleeding to maintain myself at
this comfortably insensate temperature balance.
(Objectively, I know there’s no such thing as “cold”.
Cold is just the sensation of heat energy being drawn away. And
since I can’t feel, it’s just numbers. Heat loss to whatever is
around me. Air? Metal? Rock? I have no idea.)
The drain appears to be insignificant, at least for
now. I ignore it.
I have no other choice. I can’t move.
I am dead, after all. Or in some stage of dying I
can’t explain. I didn’t really expect to be conscious, aware. I
expected oblivion. Accepted oblivion. Final, total, perfectly
natural peace. As easy as falling asleep and never dreaming or
But I am
. And that’s curious. (Maybe
this is just a hallucination, a vivid dream generated as my brain
shuts down for good, robbed of necessary oxygen because I know I
was irrevocably bleeding to death.)
aware—and I don’t know how long I
wasn’t, since my last shock-addled memory—but I think I am now. I
think. Therefore. I. Have no idea.
(I don’t even know how long I’ve been aware. I have
no frame of reference except the hallucinatory gauge somewhere in
the back of my mind clicking off heat loss.)
Another thing I realize I don’t feel anymore is pain.
This isn’t a relief.
I remember the broadsword going through me, the thing
that used to be Captain Thompson Gun Bly running it through my body
like I was liquid. The pain itself didn’t start for a few seconds,
but the shock was almost instantly taking my wind and my legs and
then everything else while I vomited my blood all over the deck of
Chang’s big ship. (Way too much blood—I think I knew I was dead as
soon as I saw it, and somehow that was okay.)
I remember laying on that cool metal deck, curled up
in my own still-warm blood like some appropriately ironic
reverse-birth, unable to move. Sakina screaming. Star picking me up
and carrying me away from there, away from the battle, away from
where I needed to be, then putting something far more excruciating
in my guts, in the hole through me under my ribcage, to try to keep
me alive a few moments longer because she needed to tell me
something, then wasting time telling me my liver was destroyed
because I was dying anyway of blood loss and infection. Everything
was pain and shock. And cold. So cold. Dying seemed like the best
idea, but Sakina was crying and Star had other plans. A plan. An
offer. Too bad she took too long to get around to explaining it to
me. I think I was rude and selfish and died in the middle of her
The pain and the cold and everything—even me—went
away. And it was perfect, natural—the most natural thing in the
But then somewhere in there my lives started flashing
before my eyes.
of them. Over and over for what seemed
like a long time. Re-watching the same two movies in an endless
fever dream. Same cast and characters in each one, but different
The first one I know. History Channel stuff. My ugly
career. UNACT. War on Terror. Killing bad people to make the world
a better place. Then dropping for a while into bureaucratic command
roles, playing politics but trying to keep my hand in the action,
no matter how nervous that made some people.
Then Mars started to go wrong.
Too many folks were scared of the corporate research
going on there in “safe” isolation, no matter how many trillions
the public—even the scared ones—kept spending buying the toys and
meds it produced. Popular fear fostered a movement of “Ecos”, and
the more radicalized ones started attacking the on-planet labs,
seizing facilities, because they were sure the greed-driven
research would produce things that would get loose and end us all.
And then someone—Eco or cutthroat competition—had managed to place
flying drones—Discs—that started shooting the place up, destroying
insanely expensive facilities and interfering with insanely
profitable production. So Mars needed a military presence. To
“protect” the insanely well-paid corporate colony workers. (Really
to protect the trillion dollar facilities and profit streams. They
weren’t fooling anybody.)
It was a great excuse to get the hell off the planet
of my birth, for an old man to go play soldier again. (A
no less—how cool is that?) And maybe die a “good
death”. (Did I die a good death?)
But—to pretty much everybody’s surprise—I managed to
help make peace with the Ecos instead of killing them.
Unfortunately, a condition of that peace was putting a “failsafe”
system in orbit, a nuclear weapons platform more than capable of
“sterilizing” the occupied surface of Mars if any of the scary
nano- or bio-tech work got loose from the labs and fabs.
Of course, as soon as we got the thing online, the
drones hacked the system, staged a convincing multi-site
containment breach, got the platform to arm. Then they hit us hard
in orbit, cutting us off and pinning us down while they set it off,
raining nuclear fire on our heads.
Tens of thousands of people died in minutes. It was
only by the miracle of human stubbornness that some of the nukes
get taken out or at least deflected from the ground. But we still
got pounded. And Earth got convinced we were all dead, and that the
planet was a permanently contaminated death trap.
Me, I got to sleep for the next fifty years with
almost twelve hundred of my fellow survivors in one of the few
places with a mass emergency shelter, waking up clueless and cut
off, our corner of Mars partially terraformed, and not as alone as
There were survivors. Most kept hiding, sure Earth
nuked them on purpose and would try again if they saw anything
moving down here. Over the generations they adapted, thrived,
created new cultures, and competed violently with each other over
limited resources. A few we managed to make friends with. Others…
not so much. And then there were the terraformers themselves—the
ETE—shut up in their monastic Stations with a cache of salvaged
research, and nothing better to do (while their automated machines
cooked Mars) than play with it, making themselves somewhat more
We did finally contact Earth, of course, only to find
it gone stranger on us. And still afraid—to the point of turning
itself into an anti-science semi-theocratic neo-dark-age utopia. We
were declared quarantined until Earth could convince itself we
weren’t harboring some extinction-level contamination, and
conditions were put on our relief. Conditions that got my people
hurt and killed.
Then, just when I thought the situation couldn’t get
darker, the Shadowman came, Syan Chang. Telling a children’s story
about time travel from a doomed future. He admitted ownership of
the drones and everything they’d done to us, seducing some of the
survivor factions with the promise of power and protection through
his advanced technology, and pledging to stop Earth’s return to
Mars at all costs.
Friends of mine were killed in the battles that
followed, including my best friend. And then me: Trying to buy time
and get a look over Chang’s newest flying battleship, I got myself
stabbed by what used to be a man who had plenty of reason to stab
me. And then my body was carried off to a cave. By an ancient god.
Who turned out to be another old friend.
And then I bled to death. The End.
(Shitty place to end. The battle wasn’t even done. I
don’t know what happened.)
The other movie is really bad scifi, and the ending
is much, much darker (though just as annoyingly unresolved).
In this one, the R&D on Mars progresses mostly
unmolested. The scariest (and most potentially lucrative)
breakthroughs are in biological hybrid nanotech, fusing living
bodies with semi-organic molecule-sized machines; machines that can
work together to mimic functioning organs and tissues, rebuild
cells, even alter DNA sequences. Lives were extended, diseases were
conquered, bodies modified—mostly for vanity or convenience or
entertainment, but some of the mods were particularly appealing to
soldiers. Or other kinds of professional killers.
Feeling old and really not liking it, I let some of
my shadier cohorts talk me into an experimental implantation
program, well ahead of full commercial production. After a month or
so completely out of it, I woke up a young man again, and better:
Stronger. Faster. With onboard interfaces and the ability to heal
fast and survive even the most catastrophic of traumas. Everything
a soldier or a killer would want.
The price was being kept as a lab rat for awhile,
shown off to people who wanted to live forever young and could
afford it, so I never really got to do much of anything with the
gifts I’d been given. But within a few decades, everybody could
afford it (and subsidy laws were passed to make sure of it). And I
was free to do what I wanted in a world that didn’t make sense
Some people refused the mods, chose to live and age
and die “like God intended”. But most ate up the newest mods as
soon as they hit the market. And now we had a whole world of
functionally immortal superhumans, which meant a world without
mortal consequences. It was a nightmare of excess and boredom,
gratification at all costs, wanton destruction, and finally
I remember trying to rebel against it, but it was a
hopeless cause. There were only a few of us, wanting to give the
human race (or what the human race had become) a purpose beyond
idle thrill-seeking or selfish comfort.
The next part is fuzzy. I think I fell into some kind
of depression, shut down, gave up on the world we’d made. My last
mortal friend died of old age, no longer my friend, because I was
no longer his.
And then I heard about something that scared me—but
scared was the most profound thing I’d felt in as long as I could
remember. There was a project to take humanity to the next level,
to create the ultimate hybrid of life and technology, to evolve us
beyond the pathetic drives of our bodies. It was terrifying but
intriguing. And there was a “prototype”.
There was also a radical fringe of scientists trying
to take what we’d become away from us by force, strip us of our
mods even though billions would die without them (a cost they
justified because we would be human again, as God intended). When
they failed, one of them got hold of a new technology designed to
monitor past events directly, and he did what should have been
impossible: He used the sub-atomic links to create nanotech seeds
to build things in the past, things that could change the chain of
events, stop (or at least stall) the modding of the human race
before it began.