Annihilation of the Minds
The strong light of Alpha Centauri A shone onto It. In response It opened the affected areas so they could collect the sun's energy with ease. It was altogether a pleasing feeling to feel the sun's heat beat against It's many growths.
All around It the song continued. It could not describe the song, the song was more of a feeling; the intense buzz of so many growths managing and maintaining their daily functions. It found it hard to distinguish between the song and It. It could not contemplate an existence without the song. The song is what It lived for.
In all circumstances, the song must be allowed to go on.
'Symbols are the key to telepathy. The mind wraps it's secrets in symbols; when we discover the symbols that shape our enemy's thoughts, we can penetrate the vault of his mind'
--Lady Deirdre Skye
"Our Secret War"
The pod flew towards Chiron like a bullet that had been shot by a murderous god. The awakened crew members were, that is to say, severely shaken. In all honesty, they could not think of when they had had a more stressful day.
The pod had a rudimentary command module- at the front of it's rough egg-like structure was a room in which pilots were desperately sorting the pod's trajectory, acceleration, speed and direction to the Planet below.
In this room Lt. Commander Deirdre Skye was standing, looking at the various screens that showed what part of Chiron they were travelling to. 'Standing' was perhaps a the wrong word, the pod was thundering along the horizon of Chiron at a huge speed with total disregard to it's inhabitants well being- the pod was shaking so much Deirdre had to lean on a handhold in order to support her frail, under used body. She was of little use up here but felt, as the highest commanding officer present, that she should show some approval of the work that was being done. Several harassed technicians were seated at the command desk. The survival of the 6000 or more people on this pod depended on them and they knew it.
"How long will it take before we reach planet-surface?", Deirdre asked no one in particular.
"We estimate three minutes", one of them called back.
Feeling too queasy to say anything Deirdre nodded her assent, but nobody noticed. Behind her were the groans and murmurs of people waking up from a forty year sleep.
The pod gave a huge shudder. Deirdre remembered feeling turbulence on planes on Earth but that was nothing compared to this. It felt as if the pod was being torn apart. Indeed, for all the colonists knew that was actually happening. They could be blown out of the sky at any moment.
Deirdre swallowed. Right now she wished she had the unshakeable faith of her colleague Lt. Commander Psych Chaplain Miriam, who was almost certainly praying to her god at this very moment.
The brown screens of planet-surface caught Lt. Commander Skye's eye. It looked so beautiful, so promising. It was a pity they had to die here, so close to the promised land.
The pod's arc to Planet would have frightened any religious person, Miriam was in fact praying at that very moment, yet imagine what the descent could have done to an atheist? An atheist who had always been the master of his life yet now knew his very existence depended on the whims of the fates. Commander Sheng-ji Yang was that very atheist.
Unlike his subordinate Lt. Commander Skye, Yang was deep inside the structure of his pod, not the front. He was supervising the awakening of his portion of humanity.
Roughly three days ago, deep in the super structure of the Unity, a fusion reactor had exploded. This emergency instructed the Artificial Intelligence to awaken the commanding officers of the ship early. They come to the decision to awaken yet more people prematurely to fix the broken ship. As a result a dozen or more people from Yang's de facto pod had been wakened. On the Unity the inhabitants of this pod had worshipped the very ground he walked on, taking in all the advice the ageing nihilist had imparted to them. This had not changed since the decision made by the Unity's highest ranking officers to escape on the six available pods.
Now, under the grounds of order and security, the same people were instructing and organising wakening colonists from their own sleep.
He saw that one such officer was having trouble with a wakening crew member. He walked up to her.
"Ow! What are you doing? Get off me", the lethargic man was shouting.
The woman was struggling, trying to pull the man out of his cryo-cell. Yang put his hand on her shoulder and she stopped. The man also stopped and looked up at the Commander.
"Do not be afraid to use lethal force", Yang advised her, "pull out your shredder pistol, silence him, and move onto the next crewmember that desperately needs your help. Do not be afraid to shun the weak, especially when they are struggling against you"
The young woman gave the man an accusing stare, "will you comply with us now?", she asked him.
"Yes", the man said weakly and was lead away.
Commander Yang smiled. Weak minds, once broken, could be used as tools of the strong.
The pod roared on, oblivious to the machinations of it's inhabitants.
Deirdre's pod roared just above the red Chiron soil. The pilots had levelled the pod's trajectory so it would skim the surface of the planet until it came to a stop. There were bumps and groans from the hull as it came into contact with rocks and stones. Deirdre could barely hang on. She looked back into the cryo-bay. More than a few people were lying on the ground, unable to stand.
Finally the pod seemed to lose momentum and it dropped completely onto the ground, although kept on moving.
The groans from the hall grew louder as the pod came into contact with more and more rocks.
"Are the brakes on full", Deirdre called to the jumble of technicians.
One of them turned around, "our brakes are on full, my Lady. But don't worry- the worst part is over"
At this Deirdre perked up, "the worst is over? Will the pod survive"
The technician smiled, "we've as good as landed." He turned back to the control board.
The worst was over. Deirdre might have smiled, if it was not for the buzzing sensation that had pricked at her mind. Why, it was even as if a tiny demon was gnawing at her consciousness. She had felt this sensation before- around fifty hours ago- when she was staring down at her new home from the confines of the ruined Unity that had brought her across the void between the stars.
Deirdre shook her head and the sensation weakened, but did not go away completely. Underfoot, pod seven noticeably slowed.
Gaia's Landing, MY 2101
Twelve hours had passed since pod seven had touched down on Planet. The Gaian faction of humanity had progressed quickly since then- it already had a name, a leader, a council and a base. Even though the 'base' in question was nothing more than a Unity pod, it was the morale that the formality brought rather than the practicality of it that mattered.
In a tiny compartment set aside for her, the leader, Lt Commander Deirdre Skye stared out of a round porthole. The light blue sky was familiar, and she wondered if the sunsets would be as spectacular as Earth's. The muddy soil was a deep maroon colour that progressively became more rocky and elevated until it formed mountains in the east. But the red soil was not what interested Deirdre, it was the pink vegetation that covered it.
She had never seen anything like it. It seemed to have her hypnotised- it's magnetic colours, the complex patterns, the interweaving strands. Here she was, staring at an alien being, and all she felt was confusion.
"How can it be?", Deirdre thought, "they are plant-like, yet they are not green from the chlorophyll needed to photosynthesise, and yet there was too much of it to be a fungus." The fungi of Earth had never reached the mass of this.
An attendant stepped in. She did not bother knowing- the door was just a drape hung over a metal doorway.
"You called, Commander Skye"
Deirdre looked over from the porthole. "Yes Hanson, I would like to send a scout party over to the rock formations nearby. Can you organise that"
"Of course Commander"
Hanson turned away but Deirdre intervened.
"Hanson!", she called.
"Call me… Lady Deirdre."
United Nations Headquarters, MY 2102
Commander Pravin Lal was staring absent mindedly at the crimson xenofungus that inhabited the northern perimeter of his base, United Nations Headquarters. He was in one of the glass greenhouses that had sprung up on the outside of the converted Unity pod.
Two suns shone on the eastern horizon- the blinding white heat of Alpha Centauri A and the smouldering orange of it's cousin, Alpha Centauri B. He wondered how long it would take to get used to two suns- and how long he had.
Moments like these were a rarity. As the leader of a faction of humanity, his job was never done. People always needed guidance, in whatever small thing they did. If he was not planning the placement of the new recycling tanks he was instructing medical students at the pile of human sized metal boxes that constituted as the base's hospital.
Sometimes, Pravin just wanted to smell the flowers.
The watch-like structure on his wrist beeped. It was his own portable datalinks. It connected him to the officials and network s that formed his slice of humanity.
He lifted his hand up and spoke into his wrist. "Pravin here"
A councillor, Jacob Rodriguez, appeared on the tiny screen.
"Hello there, Brother, I have some interesting news for you"
Pravin raised an eyebrow. "Really"
"It appears that Morgan and Zakharov weren't the only ones to survive Planetfall. One of our scout rovers has come into contact with a patrol under the command of Lt. Commander Skye"
Pravin nodded, approving. Deirdre had been a friend and a colleague. He was glad she had survived.
"I'm on my way to the command centre, Rodriguez"
Councillor Rodriquez's face contorted into a frown. "There's another thing though. You remember how the distance between ourselves and Zakharov and Morgan has forced the individual settlements to retain some kind of independence"
Pravin's steps slowed and he hesitated. "Yes"
"Well, the people under Commander Skye's command are calling themselves 'Gaia's Stepdaughters"
This made sense to Pravin. Zakharov had nicknamed his people 'The University', as an extension of his own ideology of unfettered research. It gave his people a sense of independence and boosted morale. Pravin decided it may even be advisable to nickname his own people.
"Whatever happened to the stepsons?", he asked, kidding.
"I'm sure you can ask Deirdre that, we have her on comm frequency seven"
"I am on my way, Councillor."
Deirdre sat in her private office at the command centre on her base. In front of her was a was a touch panel screen directly fixed to her desk. It was very handy, it meant she could converse with any of the faction leaders in the privacy of her own room.
The walls were covered with plant-like wallpaper, their two dimensional intertwining leaves seemed lost in the low light. The front side of her office was made of tinted glass; every so often a curious Gaian official would peep in to see if they could watch diplomacy in action.
A face appeared on the screen.
A familiar face. Pravin's face.
It was surprising how much two years could change someone. His face, which was thin and pale on the Unity, was full and tanned. His eyes were alight and interested. He was a man on fire.
"Pravin! Or Brother Lal as I hear you like to be called, how are you? It is indeed a pleasure to meet you again." The smile on Deirdre's face was genuine- she had come close to a friendship with Pravin on the Unity, and also, she knew he would be a careful and prudent leader.
"Lady Deirdre,I am glad you have survived Planetfall. Chiron would be a sad place without you"
Deirdre's smile widened. "And how have the Peacekeepers been faring"
"Very well, we have finished building a recycling tanks and at the moment we are dispatching rovers out to patrol the surrounding landscape. As you know, I was the second in command of the Unity mission and will be sending officials to your Gaia's Landing base to review your people's living conditions"
Deirdre was surprised. Involuntarily, she sat back in her chair for support. Everything she had worked for in the first eighteen months of planetfall has been bypassed in Pravin's last sentence.
"Hmm?" She said, dazed.
Pravin eyed her, and continued. "With the disappearance of Captain Garland, I am now in charge of the Unity mission. I was merely wanting to sent representatives over to review your situation"
"And you representatives shall be welcomed, Brother. But in gaining your trust I would hope that the Gaians would not in turn lose their independence"
"Lt. Commander." Pravin reminded Deirdre of her official position. "We must work together for humanity as a species, not squabbling over the independence of separate clans or factions"
Pravin was being genuine- but also naïve. Deirdre tried to view things from his perspective. The ship had crashed, he was the leader of several thousand survivors, and possibly the captain of the mission as a whole. While here was she, a talented botanist ill-equipped to lead a portion of humanity.
"Naturally we must all work towards a united front, but our people have landed far apart. A certain degree of independence is required if we are to stay alive. As a token of goodwill I shall share my networks. We have made a scientific breakthrough concerning the handling of the environment that I'm sure you will make proper use of"
Pravin's face visibly relaxed. "A decent state of affairs, my Lady. I shall do likewise. We have a technology that you might be interested in as well, it concerns the human genetic code. And I'll forward Morgan's and Zakharvov's frequencies over to you"
"Thank you Brother. Skye out"