The Warrior and the King
<Of course I’m monitoring his life-signs! I’m more
worried about his energy usage – >
Engineer Owan-M33 (Ionian Territories),
‘The Jupiter’ flight-logs
Ghan used the platform to lift himself up to one of the bags. Crawling through a void in the middle, he found himself in a long compartment where he couldn’t see the other end. Some of the lights had been damaged, and those still working were melting ice coated walls and floors, filling the chamber with mist. A raised test-track ran into the darkened part of the ship. <It’s twenty meters to the end…> Owan said <Deploy your wheels again>. With the legs of his chair slotted into grooves on the track, Ghan pushed forward.
They knew nothing of earth’s recent history. It was the explosion in global population that led him to study medicine; state-sponsored programs bred long lived and productive citizens, while so-called ‘mortality-vaccines’ even promised immortality. The UN led calls for a global moratorium, but no one would agree a strategy. And as growth became unsustainable, attention shifted from Earth to attempts to colonise Mars. Aggressive terraforming tried to create a new Eden, and for a time proved a successful incentive to leave earth. The chance for a new-life on a new-world caused a global exodus.
Racing along the track, something came into view. Pulling back on the power until he stopped, Ghan inched forward. The track had buckled but was still intact, dropping steeply before rising again. A rocket-sled, used to accelerate the probes, hung overhead. Designed around one large and multiple smaller engines, one had fallen onto the track. Slowly, Ghan descended and almost immediately started to slide. Leaning backwards in a panic, the suit responded but still slid towards the bottom, colliding with the other side. Ghan took a deep breath. That was the easy part he thought. Climbing the other side was going to be difficult. Chairs had been designed for flat surfaces, their power-pack fitted towards the back. On a slope there was a danger of tipping backwards. He’d barely started moving up the other side when the front legs lifted. A cold rush of adrenaline hit him, and he stopped. As the front legs dropped, he adjusted his posture, pushing his body as far forward as he could. Slowly he continued to ascend, eventually reaching the top.
For reasons that remain unknown, the terraforming process went awry, and Mars mutated into a world plagued by violent storms. Hidden under a planet-wide tempest it became the sick man of the solar-system; the surface pockmarked with blisters of concrete and steel, heavy cupolas replacing elegant worldhouses. With so little sunlight penetrating the clouds, it could be months between breaks in the storm front. Artificial illumination simulated a day-night cycle, but immigration all but stopped. The global population level rose, and nothing could convince people to move off-world. The colony became such a massive financial burden for the Cartel that when the cataclysm hit it became totally unsustainable, and colonists who couldn’t be evacuated were abandoned.
The break in the track had been an unexpected, power-hungry delay; his energy had dropped to less than 75%. Ghan pressed forward onto a table raised in the middle of a long metal cylinder. All around him were racks designed to hold the probes. <It’s a centrifuge> said Owan <They span probes here before launch>. Ghan didn’t answer him – he felt sick; a feeling of unease grew the closer he got to the engine room.
Without the Mars colony there was nowhere for humanity to escape to. As national borders collapsed, a surge in xenophobia led the UNPD to enforce a treaty called the Reproductive Control Measure. What it lacked in authority it made up for in its ambiguity; The Cartel seized the opportunity to direct policy with its model of an Elite ‘3H’: Healthy Happy Humans. Eventually, with Elites occupying all major government and corporate positions, what the UN failed to do with politics The Cartel achieved with genetics.
<It looks active to me> said Ghan. Once through the centrifuge, he’d moved onto another raised platform. Two circular elements on tracks wrapped around the compartment, each studded with scanning devices. Most were still frozen, but the ice was melting rapidly; Ghan could see a faint blue-green glow coming from some of the panels. The device scanned completed probes, after they passed through the chamber in front of him. While Ghan knew that the scanner was harmless, the chamber could be dangerous.
          Ghan crouched by a heavy circular door, built from a ceramic composite. According to the plans, it was an environmental test-chamber. If the journey from Earth to Jupiter wasn’t dangerous enough, probes were exposed to extreme conditions; in shadow, temperatures could drop to absolute zero, whilst in sun they rose above boiling point. The chamber re-created those conditions on Earth.
          <Are you reading any extreme temperatures?> said Owan. The composite was working perfectly – the only heat came from the scanning machine. If the chamber were running, wouldn’t a safety mechanism stop him from opening the door? He thought.
          <Can you see any controls?>. Ghan had already spotted a small control pad set into the door.
          <Yes. There is a panel> He paused for a moment <I’m going to try it>. He didn’t wait for Owan to reply; he was losing power just sitting here, and couldn’t afford to waste any more time.
With access to data from over the whole world, the Elites learnt how ineffective the RCM had been, and became obsessed with the idea of founding another colony. Never short of ambition, and without any suitable planets, the Elites came to an extreme conclusion: they would build one! With Dreadnoughts in every major city no one was spared from the RCM, and as director of a Cartel subsidiary – the Pioneer Corp – He’d used the ‘extras’ to create an endless supply of workers for the largest engineering project in history. The workers would make a new home for humanity and build the Jovian Supramundane Structure, encasing Jupiter in a cyclopean sarcophagus.

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