Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Atlantean Decision - Short Story

As promised in the podcast and on the Facebook Page, the first post Broadcast 7 short story is being posted here for free. Thanks to some serious development that's going on right now for Spinward Fringe Broadcasts 8-10, there are extra stories that are important in terms of what's going on with the people mentioned in the Spinward Fringe universe, but not directly pertinent to those upcoming novels.

The first instinct was to put the bullet points into my notes for Broadcasts 8-10 and leave them there, but I saw the opportunity to use the ideas for a short story. Will these characters appear in broadcasts 8-10? I'm absolutely certain most of them won't. One MIGHT come into play, but even that's not at all certain. Will the events in this story result in something important to characters in Broadcasts 8-10? Yes, but if you don't read this, you still won't be missing any important details.

Should you have read Spinward Fringe Broadcasts 0 to 7  and The Expendable Few before reading this? Some of what's in this story probably won't make sense if you don't.

With no further delay, here's the promised short:




The Atlantean Decision

A Spinward Fringe Short
© 2013 Randolph Lalonde


The leaf-shaped, concave shaped Eden Fleet mothership reflected the blue light of a nearby star as it lazily orbited amongst thousands of smaller Eden vessels. First Minister Amo Tammen couldn’t look away from the tall display pillar in the middle of the darkened Observer Chamber. The ships reminded her of the hanging ponds she used to watch as a girl. She would sit there for hours as the living sculpture moved around the building. The attraction consisted of large shifting globes of water held in suspension fields around the Third Peace Museum. The globules would join to form bigger ones, separating before long, mixing the hundreds of glittering fish who made the living sculpture their home.
The remainder of the Eden Fleet may have found their way to one solar system, a machine race united, and a decision had to be made. “What is the consensus of the Observers?” asked First Minister Tammen.
The ship they watched from, The Atlantean, had the tools to disrupt the entire Eden Fleet if they were gathered in one place. The fleet would shut down long enough for the Atlantean’s weapons to push the ships into the star. Amo hoped the Observers had come to the conclusion that there were other construction ships in the galaxy. She hoped the decision could be put off.
Amo’s aide, Nero Livingston, stepped in close beside her. She could feel that he regretted the news he had to present. “They were holding off on declaring their consensus until you requested it.”
“They waited for me to be ready while I was waiting for them to come to their decision,” she said with a half-hearted smile. “If we conducted ourselves with any greater measure of civility, we’d cease to function.”
“It’s a gesture of respect, First Minister,” said Nero.
“Let’s have expediency instead,” she replied. “The Observers have come to a consensus,” she said, provoking her aide’s thoughts to the knowledge she needed. She could hear him thinking as clearly as if he was whispering in her ear. “This is the entire Eden Fleet. They were doubtless when they told you.”
Nero nodded. “They were. Every Observer agrees; this is all that remains. I’m sorry.”
Amo Tammen allowed Nero to feel sorrowful for a moment before addressing him. Her gaze returned to the countless ships orbiting the blue star. “You are sorry for the consequences I face in making this decision,” she guessed. “But this is a position you hoped I would be elevated to for nearly two decades. These are the decisions of a first minister.”
“When you lay it out so plainly, it makes me seem foolish,” Nero said.
“Not if you doubt I’m the right person to make the decision.”
“You are exactly who should be,” Nero replied. “I only cringe at the public backlash. If you decide to let them be, to observe them from afar, then you suffer the ire of the common people. If you decide to destroy them, you will lose the support of the pacifist movement.”
“The pacifist movement has been motionless for fifty years,” Amo replied. “That’s the beauty of a successful pacifist. They rarely become restless.”
Amo could feel Nero’s amusement at the comment, but there was an underlying sense of impatience. He didn’t like suspense. “There are other groups who could align against you if you decide not to destroy the Eden Fleet, there is no winning here.”
“I am isolated from the public so I can view them from afar, and make important decisions without interference,” said First Minister Tammen. “A good thing when you consider this has little to do with them, but their voices will be raised nevertheless. Put simply: I’ll let you consider the politics while I look after the rest.”
“So the will of your people doesn’t factor into this decision for you,” Nero concluded.
“Not in the least.”
“How can you say that?” asked an indignant voice. It’s owner, Joola Whule, could be seen just past the edge of the viewing column. “You represent the Lorander Corporation and its people in this, a matter of great concern.”
“This is a matter of great concern to the Lorander people?” Amo asked, amused. “How? Our colonies have never been attacked by any part of this fleet.”
“What about the military volunteers? Many thousands have died,” Joola replied.
“They volunteered to aid in the cause of people outside of Lorander territories, all of whom were not wise enough to see how they could stay out of harm’s way. Their loss is unfortunate, but it is no matter to me or the general populace.”
“It’s a loss of life, and this fleet is the cause,” Joola replied, jabbing her finger at the display column.
“A little girl named Nora could also be blamed,” Amo replied. “The girl who was connected to machines that kept her alive, but utilized her as an inexpensive computer. Now she stands at the head of an entire people with a new face, a new name. They call her Eve. Should we visit her world and murder her for dreaming this fleet up so long ago? I’d say she’s the real cause of this, and a greater threat now. What level of interference would you suggest?”
“That’s an entirely different situation,” Joola replied. “These ships could turn on any people any time, even the Lorander worlds.”
“That’s not the common opinion from your fellow Observers,” Amo replied. “Most of your council believe they are simply in the process of deciding what to do, there have been no attacks for some time now.” The hostile emotions she felt coming from Joola told her that, while she was winning the argument, she was heightening the Observer’s irritation. “I hear your concerns, and I know you believe our people are entitled to a referendum on this issue. The military and social collective have both put the matter in my hands instead. I’m afraid that’s where it rests, and the time for deliberation has come to an end.”
“No one wants to take responsibility for this decision,” Nero said. “So they burden her.”
“I’ll make sure the collective is aware of how burdensome your decision-making has become,” Joola Whule said, straightening her loose overcoat and sitting down.
Amo Tammen took a moment to block the emotions rolling off the woman and regain her composure before looking back to the imaging pillar. The ships continued moving in a peaceful orbit, glittering like shards of diamond and silver. When she was certain her mind was clear, she began to consider everything she knew about the machines. The large chamber was silent as twenty people sat around the bright viewing pillar. She knew most of them were directly connected to the social collective, a link she cut when she began her journey as an empath. The silence was a blessing to her, but it took discipline to keep the emotions and thoughts of those silent watchers out of her mind.
Amo was thankful that it came easily that afternoon. She lowered herself onto the floor, where she sat cross-legged. The decision was coming. There was only one option she could feel satisfied with. It was time to start thinking aloud for the record. “If only I could hear their thoughts. The transmissions we intercepted between Eve and the Eden Fleet revealed such an odd collection of difficult emotions. I could explore such a mind for years.” She looked to the data readout running along the bottom of the display. There were millions of short-ranged transmissions going on between the serine vessels at the centre of the solar system. “They are having their own congress in a language our best software can’t decipher. Any communications with them haven’t earned a reply, so there’s no asking them about their leaning. From what we’ve learned about their emotions, we can see that they feel differently, but the categories, the basics are the same. A machine that can feel angry, that can feel lost, can also feel longing and hope.”
Amo Tammen recalled the recent passing of her parents. After ninety-three years together, and over three hundred and sixty four years of life between them, they decided it was time to conclude their lives together. While she understood their decision, and was in awe of the peaceful passing they chose, Amo could not help but feel lost the instant they were gone. She was a person who embraced what it was to be human and the quest for peace at the same time. That calling had prepared her for many things, but the rudderless sensation of being an adult orphan was not one of them. The memory of watching her parents’ life signs fade simultaneously as they held each other was over twenty-four years old, but it still felt fresh.
“They must feel so lost,” she said, allowing a tear to roll down her cheek.
“Abandoned by their leader,” Joola said from where she sat. “That’s how they see it, according to a recent transmission. They must be angry.”
Amo shook her head. “No, they were made to defend something. Deciding on a new target to protect should be easy for them. They would not be here, so far away from the Eden system and the settled worlds, if they were furious. This is a sign of confusion, indecision.”
One of the other Observer Council members looked to Joola and shook her head. “Don’t interfere, please. You will be censured. There is no excuse for your conduct here.”
 “I’m not going to decide their fate,” Amo said. “Send them a data capsule with our observations of the Sol System, Eden System, Regent Galactic worlds, the Edwin Cluster, and the Fornax Dwarf Galaxy.”
“Pardon me, First Minister, but I must remind you that the Sol System is in a state of deterioration. Axiology is being overthrown thanks to the impending Edxian invasion and a fresh desire to have a hand in the fate of the local systems,” said Krix Murrow, of the Observer Council. “Also, the Edwin Cluster has been hardest struck by the Order of Eden attacks. They are in great need. Lorander Corporation is still considering the thought of taking the cluster and rebuilding.”
Nero looked to the Council member then back to her with a raised eyebrow.
“Prepare the capsule,” Amo confirmed. “Ensure that there are no actual instructions attached to the information.”
“What is your intention here, First Minister?” pressed Krix.
Amo watched Nero close his eyes and arrange the information package using his uplink. The Council as a whole would feel entitled to an explanation, so she decided to offer one. “If this fleet requires a target to protect from its own inhabitants, the Sol System is a perfect candidate. The new Sol System war is born out of a fundamental disagreement that’s dividing families and territories alike. At best they are facing a new exodus. At worst, war could break out, and that is a possibility according to the Citadel agent we captured on Izila. The Eden System is a death trap, but if this fleet wants to end their existence, which is unlikely, it’s the ideal place. Most importantly, the general populace of the Milky Way are accustomed to avoiding the Sol and Eden Systems, making them ideal destinations for this fleet.”
A clamour of protest rose in the room, and Nero silenced them by rising to his feet. Christopher Garrow, the Council Chairperson, spoke for his fellows. “The Sol System is precious, and we haven’t subjected the Eden System to close observation. We are missing so much information about the development of the Eden Fleet that we could discover from what remains there.”
“The meek that inherited the Earth and restored it are on the verge of destroying it once more. When people turned towards the Sol System a century after the Departure, it was only to discover that we were not welcome back,” Amo replied. “We were told that we had forfeited our right to our homeland. Now they are a fractured people, taking up arms against each other to fight over something as simple as the right to open their gates. If the Eden Fleet decides to invade the Sol System, it will give the people a reason to unite. A new council will form to replace the members assassinated by Citadel.”
“They could be annihilated if they don’t unite to defend themselves,” Christopher replied.
“That’s a possibility I can live with. The Sol System has lived for too long behind a shield of paranoia and greed. In the beginning, their self-imposed isolation made sense, but the people of the Milky Way have changed. Earthling thinking is as alien to the common people of the galaxy as we are to the common Lorander soldier. Do you have other issues with my decision?”
“The Edwin Cluster! Why point them in that direction?” demanded Christopher.
“To provide a ready target for a set of instincts we have yet to fully witness, but I believe the Eden Fleet has. This fleet of beings are incredible builders, as well as preservers, and our analysis tells us that they are capable of rendering medical assistance to people in need. If a need to make reparations is within them, the Edwin Cluster is the best place for them to start.”
“What if they decide to wreak further destruction?”
“I doubt they’d begin in a place they’ve already razed, and you’re intelligent enough to see why,” Amo replied. “Why aren’t you objecting to the idea of sending them information about the Fornax Galaxy?”
“That’s the only option that makes sense,” Joola said. “I’m sure they’ll begin their journey right away if they’re capable of feeling curiosity.”
“Because our expeditions discovered three distinct races of machines there,” Amo replied. “You forget – from the Eden Fleet point of view, everything is a machine. Humans are a race of parasites on worlds that are natural machines, worlds are part of a solar system, also a machine, and so on. There is a possibility that our records of Director Nine or the other mechanic races won’t seem special to them at all. They may seem too easy to understand, boring.” Amo stood and slipped her hands into the sleeves of her modest dress before regarding the distant fleet depicted on the imaging pillar. “These are all what-ifs and why-nots that could be for naught. They have access to so much information already; who is to say that our capsule won’t go ignored and they continue deliberating without considering my interjection? That’s the most likely outcome, a completely dispassionate reaction.”
“So this is your solution, then? Take the most passive act?” Sarah asked.
“This is anything but passive,” Amo replied with a chuckle. “If they take this capsule too seriously, their gaze will be drawn to Lorander again, and they may decide to examine our culture of harmony and exploration to an extent we find more intrusive than we can bear. We will be exposed the moment we launch this capsule.” Amo turned to her aide and nodded.
Before anyone could object or question further, the capsule was launched from one of the probe tubes aboard the Atlantean. Everyone in the Observer Chamber watched silently as the capsule was collected by a single Eden probe bot. The readout at the bottom of the display pillar made it clear that the data in their package was being read.
The probe bot released the capsule and hung motionless in space for a long moment before returning to the massive fleet in orbit behind. An instant after it arrived in orbit around the blue star, a ripple moved through the entire fleet, and the mothership pointed away from their fiery host. The Atlantean shuddered as wormholes were generated almost too near their port side.
“Battle stations!” cried one Observer Council member.
In scant seconds, the entire Eden Fleet was gone, and the wormhole disturbance was gone. “I’m thankful you’re retired from the military, Ugo,” Amo said as she watched the tracking data crawl along the bottom of the pillar display. “We’ve suffered no damage, we were only in their way.”
“Where are they going?” asked Joola.
Nero selected a tiny burst of data from the Eden Fleet and made a familiar, satisfied “ah,” sound that Amo had come to enjoy. “They sent us an image,” he said. A red cross appeared in the middle of the pillar in the centre of a ring of text that said:
A COMMON FUTURE
“I can’t believe it. They’re going to the Edwin Cluster,” Joola said.
“They will build something unexpected there,” the First Minister said. “We should send an observer ship to witness. I nominate Joola Whule to lead the mission.”

SPINWARD FRINGE IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF RANDOLPH LALONDE

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

absouteley amazing. Please never stop writing about this series. I love these little updates and stories because I get to know more about the big picture.

Aubrey said...

Fantastic. I have fallen in love with this series. I cannot wait for more. Thank you Captain.

Molly said...

This was an wonderful drink of water in the Spinward Fringe galaxy. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Calvin said...

Awesome short story. Really hope to see more about the Eden fleet and the observers...such as who they are and where they came from.

2a Geek said...

a perfect short, it tugs at your curiosity, and draws you further down the rabbit hole of the writer's universe.

George p said...

Thanks for keeping the series going. Just finished reading spinward fringe. Reminds me of EE Smith's books..keep it up

Molly said...

I've read this now three times. There is so much to this short story, esp the eden fleets decision. More about Citadel and the observers please! Can't wait for broadcasts 8 - 10.
(11-13, 14-16, ad infinitum). ;)

kelly walker said...

This is a great short story,and I have an idea for you. Why not put together a series of short stories, between the others?

Randolph Lalonde said...

Kelly said...
"This is a great short story,and I have an idea for you. Why not put together a series of short stories, between the others?"

Sadly, I can't afford to spend time on other side novels when I'm planning two and writing two. The best I can hope for at this point is to have four manuscripts finished before July 2014, which is the plan. Those books were in planning stages years before some of the newer ideas were around.

Having said that, there's no reason to think that I couldn't revisit some of the ideas and characters presented here either in the main Spinward Fringe series or something else in the more distant future.

Thanks for your question!

RL

Randolph Lalonde said...

Big correction to a statement I made about this not making it into Spinward Fringe Broadcast 8.

It's been tied in to the longer story arc that threads through Broadcasts eight, nine and ten, so this is now a part of Broadcast 8.

So, it turns out this was a preview of something after all!

ragin bear said...

randy that was amazing! neverseen the like. cant wait for #8!

Aaron Tellum (Raptor) said...

Finally Got round to reading this, and omg it was just as fantastic as the main boos. So looking forward to B8

- Raptor