We Have All Been Here Before
“Tycho Hall,” Yalda gave a cheery shout as Tycho, Wolf and Luna entered the office splattered with miner bits. “When did you take up with these reprobates?”
Tycho raised his claw in greeting.
“Alice, Martin,” Yalda nodded. “So sorry, Luna and Wolfram, you guys are big time bounty hunters now. How's the little one?”
Luna struck him in the mouth.
“I’m not interested in your daughter,” he said wiping his blood from his lip with his thumb, “Or the two of you for that matter. You really haven’t been much of a factor up to this point.”
“What? How dare you? We bagged you on Antares Gamma,” Wolf objected.
“Wolf, c’mon,” Yalda shook his head. “You caught me because I wanted to be caught. I had some people at Intelligence I needed to talk to and getting arrested seemed like the way to do it without blowing their cover. Particularly Abaddon and Raziel,” he leaned toward Wolf. “I saw the security feed. You looked like you were enjoying yourself, Wolf. My empire could use people like you.”
“Empire? Whatever nonsense you have planned we’re not going make it easy for you,” Luna said.
“Oh, why do you two care, anyway?” Yalda whined. “Nothing will change for you. We’ll still need bounty hunters in the new order. There will be plenty of lucrative work for experienced Seraphim hunters, such as yourselves. You've had plenty of practice on one of the best.”
“I suppose that's you?” Luna groaned.
“Sure, why not?” Yalda replied.
“Because you're an idiot, small time thug,” Wolf answered.
“You think I am, Wolf,” Yalda began. “And that's worked great for me, so far. But let's drop the games. Adapt, Joneses. Adapt to the new order or perish. Because it will happen. In fact, barring any more unforeseen complications, it will have already happened. About three centuries ago. Get on the winning team, Joneses.”
“I should have killed you when I had the chance,” Wolf glared.
“But you didn't and, for that, I will be eternally grateful. In fact, I'm promising you three front row seats to my big day. Your daughter is also invited, of course.”
“Pass,” Luna said.
“Oh c'mon. Director Raphael will be there. Probably a few times.”
“Is he on the payroll too?” asked Wolf.
Yalda squinted at him and hummed, “Eh, no. Me and Ray Ray…there's a lot of…,” he waggled his hand as he searched for the word, “...history.”
There came a calamitous thrashing of limbs and bodies on the door of the office, providing chaotic percussion to a cacophonous chorus of gurgles and groans.
“Alright,” Yalda said, “Are we going to help each other get off this zombie infested rock?”
Luna and Wolf looked at each other askance.
“Fine,” Luna resigned. “What do we need to do?”
“You keep the skin bags at bay while I get my freight on the ship and I'll fuel you up. You blew out your sub-light back at Vijeda’s raid on the science ship. If you guys puttered all the way out here on your short rangers, you've gotta be running on fumes by now. Once we're all off the planet, I'm blowing the whole thing to particulates.”
“What about all those people out there?” Luna protested.
“Is there anybody left alive out there?” Yalda asked. “Peace is sterilizing the planet.”
“Okay, who or what is ‘Peace’?”
“Peace was a global AI security protocol before I dragged the planet out to deep space. It went dormant when the indigenous population froze to death.”
“And you're curious why we don't like you?”
“Gotta break a few eggs. My project needed resources and this rock was chock full and outside GA jurisdiction. I had Peace reprogrammed by someone I was told was the best AI coder in the galaxy. I guess he fucked me because Peace has been corrupted and now he wants to purge the surface because he doesn't recognize the life forms. Probably sees them as invasive. How he’s animating the stiffs, is beyond me and I don’t really care,” the office door began to buckle from the pounding. “Let's get this show on the road. Keep that door from falling in as long as you can. My guys will get the ship loaded.”
Yalda began flipping levers on a control console. Luna, Wolf and Tycho began shoving furniture against the door, despite the anxious protestations of the little alien in the jumpsuit.
“Vijeda,” Yalda shouted over the grinding of the machinery and the desks scraping across the office floor, “Send some guys down to load the uranium into the scow. And have about six fuel cells delivered to the Joneses vessel. Because I said so, that's why. I don't know. Joneses, where's your glider docked?”
“The first lot,” Wolf replied.
“First lot,” Yalda said to Vijeda, then back to the Joneses, “What's it called?”
“The Starcrossed,” Luna answered.
“Of course it is,” Yalda cackled, then said to Vijeda, “The Starcrossed. I think it's that one that Forzen was selling for way too much. Good. I'll be up.”
The door was pushing aside the makeshift barricade by inches at a time. Through the crack, questing hands were grabbing and slashing. A dead eyed head began squeezing its way through. Luna kicked the door shut and the intruding head was flattened and the body went limp. The horde began pushing the lifeless miner from behind, wedging the body through the door, pushing the barricade further in. Luna drew pistols and began firing into the breech. The more the bodies began to pile up, the more of a bulldozer the mass became. Wolf began pruning back the gangled quills of swinging limbs protruding past the door frame, as Tycho made a futile effort to restore the deteriorating barricade.
“How’s everything over there?” Yalda hummed.
“Appreciate assistance,” croaked Tycho.
“Hang on,” Yalda gave the console a few mocking slaps. “This thing is really slow.”
“That thing runs itself,” Wolf shouted.
Yalda chucked and strolled over to door. He pulled a small disk out his jacket pocket, threw it into the hall over the heads over the miners and spun his back to the door.
“Stand back,” he said.
A bright blue flash lit up the hall, accompanied by a small zap. The bodies crowding the door slumped and fell still. Wolf poked at them.
“Stop fingerbanging the corpses and close the goddam door,” Yalda barked. “Before they adapt to it.”
“What was that?” Luna asked.
“How did you know?”
“Hunch. Tell your daughter that Peace is controlling the corpses using…”
“Mom?” Holly voice emitted from Luna’s collar, “Nanobots.”
Yalda wagged his finger and grinned. Luna frowned and lowered her head.
“Peace hid a triggering sequence in the posters that set off the nanobots,” said Holly. “They reproduce using material harvested from their hosts. They leave just enough to keep the host ambulatory and control it through the brain. I’m thinking a large enough EMP burst…”
“Hate to cut you off, dear,” Yalda said. “As incredible an idea as that is, I already played that card. Peace has adapted to it by now.”
“...great. Great move.”
“If I hadn’t your parents would be electric zombies right now.”
“Are you fishing for gratitude?”
“It would be…”
“Alright,” Luna shouted. “We’ll worry about hating each other later.”
“I don’t hate you,” Yalda said. “I don’t know where you got that idea.”
“Who cares. What are we doing about…”
“Wait, wait,” Yalda held up a finger to Luna, and turned his head. “Great. On my way,” he turned back to Luna. “My freight is loaded and ready, so what I’m doing is getting off this shithole. I imagine you’ll be doing the same. Because as soon as I get up there I’m blowing this shithole up.”
“I’m not leaving all those people to the miners.”
“What do you care? They’re a bunch of pirates.”
Yalda rolled his eyes, “Three hours.”
“Three hours to get the survivors, if there are any, evacuated. Then ‘boom’.”
“Three hours? How are we…”
Yalda held up his hand, “Stop, stop, stop,” he slipped a small, black card out of his pocket and handed it to Luna. “This will give you access to Peace’s neural network. Your adorable, precocious daughter ought to be to figure something out.”
“You’re just leaving us to clean up your mess?” Wolf said.
“You’ll be fine. You’ve been through worse,” Yalda began walking away. “Don’t forget. You’re invited to my party. We’ll be in touch.”
Three of whatever weeks are in space later…
Second asteroid on the left in Saturn’s D ring
Wolfram sat in his underwear eating a bowl of cereal and watching an alien game show, chuckling to himself every now and then. Tycho and Luna sat at the mess table playing cards. Holly was soldering a circuit board secured in a hands free magnifier. A pleasant chime sounded from an array of screens and keyboards. Everyone diverted their attention to Holly.
“What?” Holly said, noticing she was the center of attention.
“What’s that pinging?” Luna asked.
“My bagel is done toasting.”
Everyone sighed and went back to their previous distractions.
“Ugh,” Luna grunted, throwing her cards on the table. “Are you cheating, Tycho?”
“Superior strategy,” Tycho replied.
“I can’t stay cooped up here,” Luna pushed herself from the table.
“You guys are kinda wanted by the GA for murder and aiding and abetting a known fugitive,” Holly said. “Conspiracy, looting, larceny, wanton destruction…”
“Alright, Holly,” Luna groaned.
“Boss,” Wolf grinned, nodding his head.
“It’s not funny, Wolf. Yalda played us and now he’s disappeared. Who knows what he’s up to.”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Holly said. “All those parts he stole. And this might be a long shot. But, theoretically, he could build a device that could allow him to travel in time.”
“Okay, theoretically,” said Wolf. “Where would he go if he did build a time machine?”
“Was thinking about that too,” Holly replied. “His corruption runs deep on several GA worlds. He took control of them by visiting them when their dominant sentient life was still in a primitive stage and posing as a deity, eliciting slavish devotion. He tried the same thing on Earth, right? But the Seraphim of Parthus waged war on Earth and drove him underground. If he were to take control of Earth, he’d definitely have enough worlds under his command to topple the GA. Well, I was looking into the history of Earth and there are a few periods of time that seem to have his fingerprints on them. Problem is, he was stymied on each of these occasions and Earth slipped beyond his control making a coup of the GA fairly impossible. However, if he could go back to those periods, armed with what he knows now, he could conceivably succeed.”
“I don’t think he’s as clever as he wants us to believe,” said Wolf.
“Even if that’s so he knows a lot of people,” Luna added. “He had Raziel and Abaddon recruited to his cause. And he has several worlds under his command. He could breed the right people if he wanted to. But still, time travel? This all seems pretty far fetched.”
“It’s just how the pieces seem to fit together to me,” said Holly.
“Okay, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume you’re right. What are the particular points in time you’re talking about?”
“The first one is 1423 ECE. Yaldabaoth was propping up a religious figurehead in Avignon, France. Pope Benedict the thirteenth. History says he was quashed that year and the papacy returned to Rome. Classified GA files tell that Intelligence Director Raphael, who was an agent assigned to Earth’s sector, at the time, was shot down and marooned, by Parthi technology during a routine security scan. He eventually tracked the tech to Avignon and removed Benedict himself. Then, in 1940 ECE, in New Orleans a cult was worshipping what they thought was an shoggoth, keeping it at bay with a relic they referred to as ‘The Jade Peregrin.’ Turns out it was a comet eater and the relic was quantum stasis field generator, known colloquially as a “Schrodinger's Cat Box”. It keeps subjects in a state of superposition between life and death. This process would force a comet eater to produce temporal resonance crystals like the ones Yaldabaoth stole from the science vessel several months ago. The last was the fall of Simon Vyx in 2016 AD. He was coerced, by Yalda, to run for President of the United States. We know what happened with that,” she pointed at a poster of a blond woman with a sly grin peering at the viewer through a prism. Text above it read ‘Ellers Global’. “If he had succeeded, Yalda would have probably armed Vyx for global war. With Earth conquered in 2016, it would have never been one the three founding worlds of the GA. This would significantly weaken the GA in the present, if not eliminating it altogether.”
“2016,” Luna said. “He said his ‘big day’ will have already happened three centuries ago. All he would need is to install a puppet in command of the world’s largest military. And now he’s armed with future knowledge and a Draconian Fleet.”
“When the 2016 Parthi Fleet arrives to apprehend Yaldabaoth, the present day Draconians would be lying in ambush. The GA might never be founded. I think you know that means, you two wouldn’t have have met. And I wouldn’t exist.”
“I guess we’re accepting his invitation.”