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Science Fiction Drama

The Colony 9 Incident

The motors of the thrusters fired as we lifted off of the Exo-8175, a planet near the constellation Lyra.  I sat back in the black, cushioned seat as the g- forces pushed my body towards the back of the passenger cabin.  I remember the pilots saying the required "you might feel some discomfort during take off" speech.  Still, this was the least of my concerns now as I my mind recalled the massive explosion I had recently witnessed and all of the innocent lives that were lost.

I shut my eyes during the take off sequence and I could see the images of all of the faces of the colonists.

I saw the leader of the colony, a middle aged man with a brown mustache and beard and his daughter, who had just turned 20 Earth years old. There was a little boy there about 3 or 4 with red hair, being held in the arms of his mother.  They had looked to me, with eyes of someone pleading for clemency for a condemned man for assistance and I couldn't give them anything as much as I wanted to.  I failed them.

" You let them die!", a voice in my head said as  the gas started putting me to sleep for the long journey back, but due some reason I fought back and struggled to remain conscious

" No! I did what I had to do!  It was the only real choice!" , I screamed at the voice

" Huh! Small comfort to Colony 9", it said to me in reply. 

I shook myself awake again as the gas tried to coax me into sleep, but I wasn't done yet.  My trial had begun and I had to give an account of myself.  and with that thought in mind, I took out my pad, inserted small card and began a log entry.

        Judicial Log: Colony 9

A month prior to my arrival, I had been called by the Council of Judhes to act as a mediator between two entities that had competing interests in the planet Exo-8175.  The two claims had been sent to Earth and had made a long journey to the powers that were and had eventually made it's way to the Council of Judges.  The council in turn, decided that they needed more information from the colony itself and had to send a representative to make the determination there on the planet itself. 

For my assignment, I had to have the full dossier on Colony 9 pulled from the records as well as the planetary surveys that had been done on it 50 years ago. It took me a full day to go over all the records and claims in the government records office.  I found out that 50 years ago, a survey team determined that this planet was basically the size of Earth's moon and had an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere and there was ample plant and animal life there.

About 5 years ago, a group of naturalists that called themselves, Colony, 9 had taken everything they had with them, including animals and plant life, packed them all on an old, broken down freighter from the junkyards around Ceres and left Earth and headed for Exo-8175 with the intent of making a colony there away from what they called, the chaotic administrations of the Ruling Council and the revival of the "Manifest Destiny" doctrine which basically stated "if we can see it, then it's ours"

The other group that liked Exo-8175 was the Space Military Industrial Complex known as the Cadre and they had filed a claim on this planet as well for mining operations as well as a supply base for military fleet.  The planet was rich in mineral resources and it's location would give Earth Central a foot hold in that system for more expansion.

The political climate back on Earth didn't help matters.  The Ruling council was divided on how to handle the two claims and had not made any official designation for the planet's use once it had been surveyed.   One faction sided with the "Manifest Destiny" doctrine and was eager to have the colonists removed as quickly and expeditiously as possible so that the military build up could begin.  The other faction was more aligned with the Colony 9 pacifists and had wanted to make sure that the colonists had a fair chance at making a viable colony independent of Earth Central, which didn't sit well with a lot of the other side who considered such an act as treasonous.

Since the Ruling Council couldn't agree, the matter was sent to the Judiciary to decide and the Council of Judges, not wanting to make a decision sent me to the colony to basically be the fall guy if anything went wrong. I realized this part when I had finished reading the history and the dossier. The Council had given me the full authority to declare the status of Exo-8175.

After a month long journey in sleep stasis,  met with the leader of COLONY 9, a man named Mark Lewis, and his daughter, Caroline at their home which was fashioned out the native rocks and mud.  and the kitchen was using an old style earth-oven that was something hadn't been seen in centuries since most of the food on Earth Central was preprocessed.

The whole domicile was oddly ornate and almost mirrored a luxury hotel room in a sort of rustic way.   I felt that somehow, I had traveled to museum representation of early construction.  I had to admire the work.

Mark explained the colonist's position on Exo-8175 at his dinner table, while eating a salad prepared from the local food on the planet.

" You see," he said " the doctrine of Manifest Destiny works for us as well.  We agree with Earth Central that we humans do need to expand; we just disagree on how to do it.  Here, we just work within the environment rather than just marching in destroying it in favor of our old environment of plastics and steel".

" Yes, " I said, taking a bite of the salad.  "I have to admit, I admire what you have done here. However, you must realize that it's going to take me than your interpretation of Manifest Destiny to convince the Council of Judges.  What else can you tell us? "

" Well, the food here is plentiful, if you know how to prepare it and it could help Earth with food shortages there.  Our experiences here could be very useful to Earth.  This salad for instance contains a lettuce that has as much iron and vitamin content as a our own spinach, which is almost extinct, I might add, yet the flavor is entirely different.  The nuts in the toppings contain as much protein as our protein shakes.  Why there is enough supply here that we could end the food shortage on Earth and other colonies as well. All we need as the chance to prove that."

"Earth has lost much when the land mass was used for more buildings, parking lots and as a result, there is a food shortage.  You know that everything is rationed on Earth."

" You got Dad started and now he won't stop" she said as came in with drinks.  Her long, tropical print skirt, flowed and swayed with the motion of her movements.  She sat down to join us.

"Ah yes! My own personal, peanut gallery here in the colony!"

With a sarcastic bow, Caroline continued the conversation.  " This drink is made from a type of mint that grows here and only here and only in certain seasons."

It was hard for me to describe the taste of this drink except to say that I definitely tasted the mint and something else that was like mango and orange. 

"An excellent drink! " I said to her, savoring the tropical concoction with interest. It gave me the impression of being something that you would drink at the beach, lounging on the chairs and watching a sunset over the ocean. I wondered if this could revive a tourism industry 

" Caroline has a natural affinity for botany.  She was at the top of her class back on Earth.'

" Yes, I can see that " I said while sipping the drink

" Well," I began as I stood up. " You have given me a lot to think about tonight. Tomorrow, the military representative will be here and her will present his case to me as well. After that, I will have to make a determination on the case.  I appreciate the hospitality you have given me."

After that, I went back to the ship and rested in the cabin falling asleep to the faint sounds of alien birds flying in  the silver light of a double moon. 

The morning came and I heard the unmistakable  roar of a military ship landing nearby and leaving scorched land in its wake.   Obviously, the Cadre had arrived and I got up from my bunk and got ready to meet with this representative who seemed to have brought a whole platoon with him.  They marched in unison towards my ship with the representative ahead of them.  His face was devoid of any sort of emotion except that of disdain which seemed to radiate amongst the entire company.

There was a brisk knock on my cabin door as the pilot informed me of their arrival.  I had already changed and met the representative in the forward section of the ship which housed a plastic and steel conference table. 

The representative was  a certain Captain Jennings, who greeted me rather stiffly and produced a packet of documents and pushed the lot in my hands without saying a word. I grasped the packet and looked at it while he stood at the entrance, stone-faced.

The packet contained the text of the Military's claim on the Exo-8175 and restated the same claim, word for word what I read in the dossier and had the same beginning..

"We the people of the Earth Central, do declare that stars in the heavens are ours by right of Manifest Destiny and we shall take them by any means necessary.. etc etc..." and concluding with something about the importance of Earth's military might being supreme in all of the universe and hailing the great Emperor(who had been dead for 50 years and had no heir).  This was obviously some sort of power grab by the Cadre.

I sighed as a I placed the packet down on the table. The papers spilled out of the file almost as if an old fashioned card dealer had laid them out for display.

"Do you have anything to add?"  I asked Captain Jennings.

He shook his head and left as stiffly as he had come, leaving me with the decision.

I knew that this case had become a political football back on Earth and it was up to me and any decision I made would cause issues back on Earth and I would get the full blame. Talk about falling on your own sword.

I examined the claims based on the claims alone looking as well as considering all the points of law that we had available that would be relevant to the case. 

Then I considered the benefits and costs on both sides and both politically and the consequences for granting a claim to either party.

If I granted the claim to the Colony 9 contingent, it would mean more civil unrest on Earth.  The Cadre would say that Council of Judges had usurped the power of the Throne and the Ruling Council and stir up more trouble until all out war ensued.

If I granted the claim to the Cadre, then Colony 9 would be finished and the colonists would have no chance and they would have to go home as quickly as possible and there would also be more unrest on Earth. 

Either choice would mean civil unrest and possible war.

I hung my head trying to find a solution to this one.  "Mediate the dispute"  I was told by the Council of Judges.  Well,  I thought to myself, perhaps if I stick to the letter of the directive, I wouldn't have to actually make the decision but would just help the two parties to come to some sort of agreement, although, I held no illusions that this idea would be easy.

I tried to meet with both the Cadre and the Colony leaders the next day at the colony's meeting hall an effort to get them talking.  I presented the issue at hand which was that I could not make a decision based on the Manifest Destiny claim alone since the Ruling Council had not approved a use for the this planet so the claims would be invalid on those grounds, so I gave them an alternative choice.

They could share the planets resources in a sort of compromise  or they could both leave the planet empty handed and return to Earth.   Each party would develop Exo-8175 in their own way and contribute to the prosperity of Earth. Colony 9 was open to compromise but the Cadre representative, Capt. Jennings remained stone-face as ever and was visibly offended that he would be told to "go back to Earth empty-handed"

After I presented my proposal, Captain Jennings began to talk cordially to Mark Lewis about sharing the resources.  The conversation went on for about a few hours as they talked. I decided to wait outside while they ironed out some kind of agreement.  I sat down at the bar in the foyer of the meeting hall and had the bartender make the lovely drink I had that first night.  I saw the boy watching me.  I smiled at him, as his mother came and picked him up.   I watched her go as he turned his head over her should and waved good bye to me as she walked out of the hall into the yellowish green sunlight.

A few minutes, later, Mark and Captain Jennings came back from their talk.  Jennings left the building without speaking which left me with Mark.

"Well?" I asked Mark.

"He's unhappy about the arrangements", began Mark, "but he sort of gave me the impression that he would work within the confines of the law, whatever that may mean."  He pulled up a bar stool and got a drink for himself as well.

"Very well, I can report to Earth that your two parties will be working together?"

He handed me a draft copy of an agreement he had recorded.  "I explained that given the choice, we could both leave or we could both win"  and shrugged his shoulders.  "He seemed to agree to that piece of it and decided he would come back tomorrow so that we can decide what parts of this planet they want, you know, the boundaries, and so on."

I held the silver tube containing the drive in my hand and glanced up at the blue sky that was partially obscured by the canopy of something like palm fronds and inhaled the smell of citrus letting it fill me.

"Well,"  I said. "It sounds like mission accomplished and we have at least held off a civil war on Earth it seems.  Congratulations!" 

"it's as they say... a step in the right direction, ay?"  he said as he took my extended hand.

"Yes"  I said with a pause. "It is."

The next morning, I was loading everything in the ship and getting ready for my departure.   I took a look around the area before I left and I saw that all was quiet.  The Colony 9 residents were still sleeping apparently, so I decided not to disturb them.

I got into my cabin after instructing the pilot that we had completed our loading and we should get underway as soon as possible to present this draft agreement to the Council.  The ships anti-grav repulsors pushed us off of the ground slowly at first and then accelerated as we got closer to the trees.  I took one last look at the colony just in time to see the entire compound explode in flames.  I could barely make out some human figures as the fire licked its way through the flesh in a greedy frenzy.  I had never witnessed such cruelty.

"You did this!" the voice said again.

"No!  The Cadre did this! I could do nothing!"

"Not true.  You could have saved them by deciding  in their favor." 

While having this conversation with my tormentor or my conscience, I was also fighting the sleeping gas.  I took the log I had just written and also retrieved the draft contract.  I added my log to the encoded silver cylinder and waited. 

After the ship left orbit, the gas came in my cabin more strongly but I had to stay awake just long enough...

I took the encoded cyclinder to the back of the cabin and used the garbage disposal unit to get the cyclinder out of the ship hoping that someone would find it.  After that, I let the gas take me and I collapsed in the cabin just before the missiles hit us.  The cadre doesn't leave loose ends.

I

December 04, 2020 04:21

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