This is a tale of three men. Each suffered tremendous adversity; each overcame it, in their own way, and found their own success. Each would, by their life’s end, shape the future of multitudes.
Jeremy Desmond was born to privilege. He was raised by the finest of nurses according to the best practices known at the time of his childhood, and he lived in sumptuous surroundings, ever nearby gold or diamond or natural wood. His parents lived the high life, traveling and managing their financial empire by day, partying by night.
But just before Jeremy’s ninth birthday, everything he had known collapsed. An audit, pursued with unusual vigor, found that the Desmond had been engaged in a number of extremely shady dealings. In the course of the ensuing investigations, it was discovered that nearly all of their wealth came from such: a vast mafia nick-named the “League of Desmond”, specializing in the traffic and manufacture of all matter of dangerous and prohibited goods. Jeremy’s parents were jailed; Jeremy himself went to an orphanage. There were rumours that the entire affair had been conducted, or at least assisted, by a rival mafia eager to overthrow their rivals.
If so, that might explain the attack on Jeremy that occurred seven months after his ninth birthday, even as he arrived at the orphanage. Gunmen destroyed the van Jeremy was traveling in; the driver was killed, and several passers-by were critically wounded. Jeremy quick-wittedly splashed his driver’s blood over his own body, tricking his assailants, who fled in fear of police response. Jeremy himself swiftly followed, not hoping to encounter the gunmen again, but realizing that the orphanage would be the most dangerous place he could be.
Jeremy found a new life for himself on the streets; learning the time-honored arts of the pick-pocket, the lockpick, the hack. In well-planned out challenge, he killed a juvenile gang leader and took her place as the gang’s leader; gaining as followers many children older than himself. By the time he turned ten, he had over fifty gang-members over his direct orders, and had several square city blocks paying him protection money.
A plan to assassinate another gang leader, though, backfired soon after. One of the leaders of the international crime syndicate, the Yakuza, had visited the area investigating the possibility of taking over criminal activity in the city. Jeremy’s troops ambushed their target while he was meeting with the Yakuza, and killed everyone in the room before they realized their mistake. Jeremy fled to the outer territories, in fear for his life. Behind him, his organization collapsed into the same chaos in which he had found it.
Once again, Jeremy was without allies or resources, at the age of ten-and-a-half; stranded on a barren plain with no way off except a closely-watched port. In a search for security, he found himself virtually imprisoned. Thankfully, he found help: a young revolutionary, named Kendrick Ojalfsson. Kendrick had been himself exiled from his native world after leading a (nearly successful) coup against the ruling council, along with a dozen of his most loyal supporters. Kendrick gave Jeremy training in surviving the local conditions and the support of a dozen fanatical, if untrained, warriors. In return, Jeremy provided weapons training, advice from his own (short) career of running an underground organization, and a promise of supplies once he had gotten on his feet again. Jeremy was eleven years old, having lived nine years in wealth and two years in poverty. He had one goal, the same as he had possessed for the last twenty-three months: to reclaim his birthright.
Commerce was closely watched on the prison-territory; Jeremy took months of hard labor and failed effort to find the black market that he knew existed. He attempted to enter it subtly, trading a few cigarettes and food rations, and was promptly the target of sabotage. He barely escaped death by exposure, Kendrick having noticed the subtle damage to Jeremy’s seal.
This cautionary lesson in mind, Jeremy abandoned his attempts at subtlety and interrogated a series of minions, Kendrick’s troops behind him, until he found the leaders of the local organized crime ring. He then started a firefight which left two of Kendrick’s troops and a half-dozen others dead, Jeremy scarred all along his right side from a grazing hit, and roughly a fifth of the habitat opened to the brutal, lethal environment. This proved another lesson for Jeremy.
A day after the spectacular damage to the complex, the local authorities came after Jeremy and Kendrick’s blood. Jeremy planned a precise operation to turn their threat into a boon: a simultaneous ambush on the forces searching for Jeremy, who was currently holed up in the wreckage left by the battle, and takeover of the administrative complex for the entire habitat. The attacks were carried out by Kendrick’s troops, the survivors of his original twelve as well as a number of local recruits. Success gave them control over the entire territory, their exile-turned-possession.
Jeremy headed back to his homeland, with a set of suitcases filled with cash looted from the administration and a duffel bag full of weapons. He left Kendrick with control of the moon and a promise to open a weapons-trading route as soon as possible. On the day he set foot again on the soil of his homeland, Jeremy Desmond was twelve, personally responsible for the death of over a dozen men and women, scarred all along the right of his body and in possession of a small fortune.
To avoid the yakuza vengeance that Jeremy had originally fled in fear of, he went under a code-name: Bearweasel. Learning from his battles in exile, he moved cautiously but without fear of violence. Within a year, he had control over every illegal activity within a square mile of the port at which he’d landed and had opened a weapons route to Kendrick. Within two, he had control over illegal activity across the entire city and most of the police force to boot. By the time it was legal for him to drive, he had created a mafia with power nearly anywhere in his nation that was feared even further.
The yakuza still remained to be dealt with; for all of his power, “Black Bear” (as he had attained infamy as) still feared the people who had a blood price on his head. Not only did they want his death for killing one of their own, but – he suspected – they were the ones who had toppled his parents’ organization in the first place and tried to kill him in front of the orphanage, seven years ago. Jeremy Desmond could not claim success until he had finally avenged his parents, who (he had learned on arriving home, five years ago) had died mysteriously in prison.
The yakuza, for all of Jeremy’s hard won power, were still a threat. Their organization was levels deep, the prowess of their assassins legendary. They were the last real threat left to Jeremy. But in the end, they came to him. A high-ranking yakuza came to Jeremy (not knowing his true identity), inviting his organization to a partnership. With little effort, Jeremy managed to arrange a meeting with the greatest of the yakuza, their leader; who, after all, believed that “Black Bear” had no reason to betray him.
With his death, Jeremy’s revenge was complete. At the age of eighteen, he was rich, experienced, and powerful: the most powerful man on the planet.
William A. Zhang was a very clever man. In his childhood, he was thought slow, and progressed poorly through kindergarten and elementary school; but at the age of 13, he bloomed intellectually. He flashed through high school, college, university. He graduated with a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the age of 25, and was recognized by all who knew him as a rising star in his field.
William’s focus was on nanotechnology, a young but increasingly popular field. Growing curious, he investigated the plausibility of creating autonomously self-replicating nanites – nanites that could replicate themselves with available materials, and would do so within internally-defined bounds. Existing nanites fell into several categories: non-replicating nanites, which were created by other nanites at manufacturing centres and were only useful for disposable devices. Externally-regulated nanites, which would reproduce only while receiving an external signal – useful for tightly controlled laboratory or hospital environments, but too vulnerable to disruption to be used elsewhere. Unregulated nanites, which were a weapon of mass destruction – unless swiftly eradicated, they would turn any mass, pebble or planet, into a gray goo of nanites. Autonomously self-replicating nanites – ASRNs – were considered not only difficult to design, but a potential world-threatening hazard, as any error might allow unregulated reproduction. William, however, discovered that a relatively simple protocol could be developed to create safe ASRNs. The applications for ASRNs, as he knew, were phenomenal – having the potential to virtually redefine humanity.
When he tried to get his paper published, he was invited to a very strange interview with the editor of one of the more prominent scientific journals he had applied to – the editor alternately threatening and pleading with William not to investigate the matter further. After the interview, William found himself virtually erased. The scientific publications and institutions did not return his calls, and – quite by accident – William discovered that no record of his existence was present anywhere in the public sphere. He had vanished.
Worried, he nonetheless continued his research – his personal motto was “Science must march on!” Personally contacting friends and colleagues, he scrounged up funding for a small laboratory and equipment, and worked with a handful of assistants on the creation of ASRNs. After months of work and trials, he successfully created ASRNs and injected them into lab rats. The entire laboratory staff took a day off for celebrations. William wandered home half-drunk and giddy with success.
He woke up in a white, featureless room, stark naked. Over an interminable interval, voices spoke to him, demanding his name, birthdate, loyalty, names of friends and co-conspirators. Water occasionally trickled down from a hole in the ceiling – no food was provided. William requested legal recourse, claimed his rights. This was ignored.
After some unknown interval, the torture ended. William was, under heavy guard, set on designing unregulated nanites with various specifications: nanites that would spread only in certain materials, that would activate after a certain interval or a signal. Though it was not outright stated, it was clear that the nanites were intended for use against the rebels of the outer provinces. Alongside him worked other scientists – clearly coerced as well – but their contact was closely supervised. Guards and cameras were everywhere.
For several weeks, William cooperated. He designed the nanites that were asked of him, inserting as well a ‘back door’ that would shut the nanites off if they detected a certain, complex signal. He worked on an escape plan, but progress was slow until a mistake – or sabotage – unrelated to William’s efforts activated the nanotech weapons. Amidst widespread panic, with pockets of nanites popping up throughout the facility and being vaporized by heavy weaponry, William seized the opportunity to escape. Emerging, he found himself a short distance from the nation’s capitol.
William knew that he might be pursued – fearing surveillance devices, he abandoned his clothes and rinsed himself thoroughly at the nearest water source. Seeking protection, he found a contact with the criminal underground (having first acquired new clothes). The underground had gained increasing power and notoriety over the last seven years, especially after their brutal and widely-publicized decapitation of the yakuza a year before. The government seemed unable to touch them, either due to incompetence or corruption. William was loathe to associate with them, but he feared his captors more. His offer of providing some of what he’d learned in his captivity for protection was accepted, and he was smuggled out of the country to a secure location.
He continued his work on the ASRNs, reproducing his earlier work in a quarter the time. Working with a slowly growing group of colleagues (either rescued from captivity or recruited from academia), the ASRNs capability progressed apace. One team worked on improving the longevity and stability of the nanites; others worked on creating programs to let the nanites improve the user’s strength and vision. One marked success was a ‘bullet-proofing’ nanite – upon the entry of any high-speed object into the user’s skin, the nanites would swiftly use the projectile’s kinetic energy and mass to reproduce themselves, effectively stopping any bullet or other projectile. The only adverse affect would be minor surface damage, though this would still be crippling if the eyes were hit.
With this discovery, William was ready to go public. After animal testing, he introduced the bulletproofing nanites into his own body – a decision he encouraged his colleagues to follow. More importantly, he finally went public with his discoveries: he broadcast a formal paper, instructions on recreating the nanites, and video demonstrations, all put out on every channel and medium available. His mafia allies deserted him in disgust, saying that he had voided their agreement.
His gambit succeeded. Forced to acknowledge his existence, the government praised him to the skies as an example of their nation’s character and brilliance. They offered him federal funding and support – so long, he was confidentially warned, as he did not mention his captivity. William Zhang accepted happily. He had gotten everything that he wanted. In the end, science must march on. What does it matter what government it does so under?
Kendrick Kessler was born in one of the endless slums of the outer colonies. His father was a construction worker, who had married upwards. His wife was homeworld-born, emigrated outwards for reasons she never discussed. Her birth gave her a social advantage that she never failed to exploit. The two of them were never particularly warm to Kendrick, at least by his toddler years. They gave him every gram of attention required, but rarely more.
As such, it was only natural for Kendrick to begin wandering. His parents cautioned him when they caught him, but nonetheless he continued exploring the dangerous environs he lived in. As he grew older, he began to understand what he saw: a people continually oppressed, kept in poverty through the exploitation of corporations and governments alike. He lived in the midst of oppression, and hated it. .
Naturally, Kendrick attempted to contact radical groups – in his early teens – to work for change. He was shocked by their reaction; they rejected him immediately, with the explanation that his father was a known spy. Returning home, Kendrick confronted his father: furious at the reaction, Kendrick ran away, fleeing to another continent. There he joined an anarchist group; though they likely would not have recognized his father in any case, he entered under an assumed name: Ojalfsson.
Kendrick ‘Ojalfsson’ spent his teens as an anarchist; running messages and smuggling weapons, manufacturing firebombs and spraying revolutionary slogans. By his eighteenth birthday, the rebels were nearly ready to act. Two weeks after Kendrick turned eighteen, they planned to launch all-out insurrection: and were betrayed, ambushed at every turn. Communications collapsed, most of the rebel cells collapsed at once. Kendrick, assigned to the rebel leader’s cell, took control after his death and gathered over two dozen committed rebels with him in a fortified warehouse. By the time government troops took control of the building, Kendrick’s rebels had killed over sixty regulars and three power-armoured elites, at the cost of half their force.
For his crimes, Kendrick was sentenced to offworld exile, on a penal moon. Sent alongside his loyal dozen, he was condemned to hard labour for the rest of his life. (He quipped to his followers, on the transit outward, that this was not too far different from what they might have expected if they had not rebelled.) There he worked with his comrades for a year, moving cargo and extracting ores. He recruited other inhabitants of the prison surreptitiously, but could do little more until a boy named Jeremy Desmond arrived.
Jeremy had been exiled as well; he fled his world, the homeworld, fearing for his life. Once he arrived on the penal moon, though, he offered Kendrick’s rebels a hope they’d lacked. Kendrick helped him establish himself in the black market, destroying a large chunk of the lunar habitat (with guns Jeremy had provided) in a firefight. Jeremy gave them a plan to take control of the prison moon and a promise to ship more arms once he had reestablished himself on the homeworld; a promise that he fulfilled a year later.
Kendrick now had his own free moon: his troops now numbered in the hundreds, many with criminal backgrounds, armed with light weapons and a gigantic mass driver fixed to the moon’s surface. Ostensibly, the moon was to be ruled by a democratically-elected council; in practice, for the duration of the crisis, Kendrick had direct and ultimate power. Moving swiftly, Kendrick threatened a nearby orbital station with the mass driver; taking it without violence. Another, on the other side of the colony-world the penal moon orbited, was effectively beyond the mass driver’s reach. Determined to liberate it, Kendrick launched a direct assault with spacecraft he had taken from his conquest of the moon and the nearby station. A cleverly-timed decompression on the part of the station’s security force killed half of the rebels; a third of the remainder died in the fighting. Despite the horrific losses, the attack was deemed a success. The rebel ranks continued to swell, infuriated by the corruption, oppression and injustice that permeated all of the colonies under homeworld rule.
Even as the assault on the far station commenced, homeworld forces finally took action against Kendrick’s rebellion: a trio of transports, carrying over two hundred marines and a dozen power-armour elites, swooped in to attack the moon habitat. The fighting was close and bloody; the rebels were able to hold their own against the marines, but the elites carved a swathe through the rebel forces wherever they went. Only with the weapons supplied by the homeworld underground were rebels able to stop the elites, and those were all too scarce. Large sections of the habitat were lost and exposed to vacuum; rebels and marines alike fell by the score. Kendrick himself was in the thick of the fighting, ever encouraging his followers onward. No less than five elites attacked him in the course of the battle; Kendrick personally dispatched two of them. In the process, he lost both legs to a monofilament blade, though he continued to fight until his followers forcibly dragged him back to a field medic.
The homeworld assault was turned back, but the moon habitat was in ruins, and immense numbers of rebels lay dead. After the simultaneous ‘victory’ on the far station, it would be months until Kendrick acted again. In the meanwhile, revolutionaries were seeded throughout the system: the two colony worlds, their surrounding satellites (natural and artificial), and even the homeworld itself were infiltrated by rebel propagandists. For every spy discovered by the homeworld government, five more acted unnoticed; on homeworld perhaps aided by the grace of the criminal underground, whose corrupted officials showed a curious lack of enthusiasm investigating spies. By the time the rebels were ready to strike again, every colony in the system was ripe for full-blown insurrection.
Most of the satellites fell to Kendrick – one by one, with far fewer losses than the victory on the far station, the rebels having learned from their mistakes. Homeworld sat by, seemingly content to watch its empire fall. Feeling ready at last, Kendrick launched his most daring attack: on his own birth-world, the colony orbited by the penal moon. Rebels on the ground seized the spaceport, and endless waves of rebel troops and arms floated down from orbit. The capitol fell within five days. Mob justice ran rampant through the streets; suspected government spies were executed en masse, without benefit of trial. Kendrick heard, later, that his own parents were killed in the riots. He felt no grief.
The penal moon, despite the rebels’ victory on the outer colony, remained Kendrick’s headquarters. That is why the homeworld targeted it for their conventional attack, and then their unconventional attack: a delivery of unregulated nanites to random points across the moon’s surface. Once the threat was realized, a mass evacuation began. All the rebel leaders escaped, but large quantities of materiel were left on the moon as it was transformed into a sphere of homogenous nanogoo. It was an unfortunate coincidence that at this time, when the supplies provided by the homeworld underground were most needed, their delivery was temporarily suspended due to a tightening of homeworld security. Kendrick, furious and suspecting betrayal, swore off Jeremy’s organization, severing all ties with it and purging his own ranks of former members. It was an act that did nearly as much damage to the burgeoning rebellion as the nanotech attack had.
Kendrick knew that he could not risk another nanotech attack; the weapon could render any of his installations sitting targets. He ordered his spies on homeworld to find and destroy the nanotech production facility. With remarkable haste, and despite the loss of criminal cooperation, they managed to do so: releasing nanotech from the production line into the facility, at the cost of their own lives when security arrived. In the chaos, as the homeworld military’s own weapon turned against them, most of the facility was destroyed, and many of the scientists involved in development escaped. The rebels deemed it a success.
By the time Kendrick turned twenty-nine, all of the system but homeworld lay under his control. Both planets and all of their associated stations, moons, and general debris had fallen willingly into rebel control; though generally not without resistance from homeworld loyalists. Still the homeworld claimed eventual victory and recreation of their old empire. Kendrick took the only step that would assure peace. He invaded homeworld itself: launching an assault from orbit onto the surface of the homeworld. Hundreds of thousands of troops, alongside two thousand armoured elites, fell onto the remote wilderness Kendrick chose for his target. Millions of homeworld regulars opposed him. It was the bloodiest battle of the war by a large margin; historians would analyze the tactics and strategy of the Eleven Day Battle for decades to come. By the end, despite horrific losses on both sides, it was clear that the rebels held their beachhead, and could have pushed all the way to the homeworld capitol if they wished.
Homeworld at last sued for peace; accepting the loss of their outworld possessions, and even paying limited reparations to the newly-formed Free Coalition. Kendrick, still temporary leader of the outer government (as he had been for the last ten years), promised in his first official address to hold free elections within a year. Peace had come at last; Kendrick Ojalffson’s lifelong dream had been fulfilled. And at the age of thirty, he ruled an empire.
“At times it will seem that nothing changes at all… and then again the sudden dramatic events which make history leap into the future. Guns, murder, revolution. And I even will have moments when I wonder if the quiet was not better than all that death and hatred. But I will look about my village at the illiteracy and disease and ignorance and I will not wonder long.”
Four years after the Colony War, Kendrik Ojalfsson still ruled over the Free Coalition. Elections had been postponed twice successively; Kendrick’s government promised that they would be held by the end of the following year, but analysts remained skeptical. Kendrick himself ruled absolutely: intent on leading his nation his way, destroying the threat posed by the Homeworld-first agitators and other traitors. Government-sponsored polls found his popularity ever soaring, propelled by his status as a revolutionary hero and wise leadership in office: or, at least, that was what was opined on the government-owned media.
Jeremy Desmond himself still ruled his vast criminal organization, his new League of Desmond. He lived in high style, known publicly as one of the richest men on the homeworld (though the reasons for his wealth were not quite openly admitted), donating fortunes to charities with one hand and extorting politicians with the other. High on power, he set out to expand his mafia into the colonies: knowing that the minor local gangs could hardly oppose him, and relying on his old friendship with Kendrick to deter official retaliation. Events did not favor him. Kendrick, upon discovering League members actively recruiting in Free Coalition space, cracked down brutally, ordering new security measures internally and externally. With secret police on overdrive, he issued an ultimatum to the homeworld government: give Jeremy Desmond up, or be subject to systematic orbital bombardment.
The homeworld government was unlikely to comply with the demand. Jeremy’s tendrils of corruption and bribery had entirely subsumed the government’s ostensible purpose and loyalty, giving him inordinate influence with the highest politicians in every sector of the government. (It should be noted that he put this influence to some good end; the secret police, previously omnipresent throughout homeworld society, were nearly abolished. They competed with Jeremy’s own operatives, after all.) They refused Kendrick’s ultimatum, in unusually strong language, in a declaration that began the Second Colony War.
The war was bloody, brutal, and inconclusive. After the First Colony War, both the homeworld and the Free Coalition had invested in the creation of a space navy, a thing which had never been necessary before. The Second Colony war was their first chance to test their newly-invented strategies in tactics, which proved to be as flawed and ineffective as one might effect. Both sides fought to intercept incoming attacks upon their civilian centres: the Free Coalition fought to protect their stations and planets from nanotech clusters, and the Homeworld Defense Force fought to prevent their cities from being turned into radioactive rubble. When they succeeded, they generally lost hundreds of men and precious ships to a foe who had, merely having to protect their genocidal payload, suffered lesser losses. When they failed, tens of millions died. The battles were legion and famed: the Defense of Bombay, the Loss over Aurora III, the Great Fireworks Display, the Twelve Days; that last being the largest and fiercest combat of the war, with over fifty vessels on each side skirmishing in an attempt to gain a decisive edge.
But even in the bloodiest and most polarized climate, there were those who defied both corrupt states.
Over the last four years, William A. Zhang had continued his research into nanotechnology with government funding and a growing number of colleagues. His daring insertion of nanites into his own body paved a way, as more and more advanced nanites were created and inserted. Most of Zhang’s colleagues – now followers – had also infected themselves with nanites, giving them immunity to bullets, superhuman strength and vision, and limited reconstruction ability – able to regrow lost hands or feet over a period of several weeks. Rumors were that William had even stranger and more potent nanites operating inside his body.
Zhang’s stated intent was to transcend humanity – to enhance himself, through nanotechnological implants or other means, beyond every human limit. His followers agreed. And when the government became increasingly shy of Zhang’s goals and methods and cut off funding, Zhang began to simply seize necessary materials, by force if necessary.
As the Second Homeworld War raged on, entering its seventh month, a relatively minor asteroid slipped through the Homeworld Defence Force perimeter and impacted near the homeworld capitol. Over eight million people died in the ensuing shockwave and radioactive burst. News reported noted that among them was Jeremy Desmond, in the capitol on unspecified ‘business.’ The asteroid struck while he was eating dinner with several major politicians; the restaurant collapsed atop them. Rescuers found only bodies too mutilated to be identified.
His main nemesis was gone, but Kendrick continued the war against the crumbling HDF. The League of Desmond had persisted, even with its leader dead, and Kendrick now stated that the goal of the war was (and always had been) to unify all of the start-system under a single government. In a speech broadcast across the system, he repeated these aims, and further clarified his hopes for this pan-system government: freedom, prosperity, and peace would all follow from such centralized control. It would be a new dawn for humanity, free of the bickering and warfare that had always plagued it. The justice that had been denied his insurrectionist comrades would finally be granted to everyone.
To further this aim, Kendrick sent an open appeal to Zhang’s posthumanists. He demanded that they assist in the control of the homeworld, either by seizing a spaceport for the Free Coalition troops to land at, or by seizing the capitol itself and offering a surrender to the Free Coalition. If they did not, or if they violated strict regulations on nanotechnology research or use, they would be destroyed by any means necessary. “No democratic society can exist,” Kendrick justified, “when certain elements of the populace have the technological ability to dominate and coerce the vast majority of that society. No light can shine if giants stand in the way.”
These terms were unacceptable to the Posthumanists. Twenty-three of them commandeered a commercial flight to a military control base, overpowered the two-hundred guards in a matter of minutes, and launched a specially prepared missile at Kendrick’s birthworld. Free Coalition vessels were completely unable to stop it; ships that approached were consumed by a nanite cloud and turned into a shell for the missile. The missile itself was able to dodge every attack, using nanites alternately to shield itself from attacks and as projectiles to assimilate attackers. It arrived at its target on schedule and promptly proceeded to turn the planet into undifferentiated goo. Five hundred million people died, reduced a pool of nanites. The casualties exceeded the entirety of all other deaths in the war by a factor of two, and shocked the Free Coalition.
Zhang and his followers never felt the need to publicly justify the attack. After all, “Science must march on.”
As Kendrick watched the genocide from orbit, a small craft stealthily docked with his orbital station. The onboard communications array was disabled before security noticed an intrusion; then the infiltrators moved to attack Kendrick himself. It was a battle between the most skilled and best armed combatants of the war, with both the infiltrators and Kendrick’s bodyguard power-armoured and armed with heavy weapons. The battle was close-fought, with elites falling left and right and gigantic sections of hull blasted out of existence. For a moment, it appeared as though the attack would be successfully resisted: then the last infiltrator jumped the last of Kendrick’s bodyguards and killed them from behind. Only two men were left standing: Kendrick Ojalfsson himself, and the last infiltrator, Jeremy Desmond.
The two power-armoured figures hunted one another through the ruined station, a lethal game of cat and mouse. Kendrick’s voice spoke on radio channels at frequent intervals: threatening that Free Coalition ships would soon arrive, denouncing the attack, Jeremy’s “betrayal”, the war itself. Finally, the two faced each other, Kendrick breathing heavily. He shouted, “Justice!”, and charged, gun blazing. Jeremy sidestepped and gunned Kendrick Ojalfsson down.
The Second Colony War was over at last. Without its charismatic leader, the Free Coalition collapsed into an anarchic heap of local governments, stations and asteroid feuding over jurisdiction and territory. The homeworld was in scarcely better shape: most of the government was gone, and the League of Desmond had abruptly split in a bloody coup, Jeremy’s chosen successor and an ambitious subordinate battling in the streets. William Zhang, who could have helped to rebuild, refused. His posthumanists traveled with him to the remains of Kendrick’s birthworld, which they manipulated from orbit into becoming a ship of vast size. On it they traveled out of the system, to visit the stars.
Only Jeremy Desmond was left of the three great men: the youngest of them, only twenty-three years old. He had lost everything that he owned twice before, and now he had again: even his life. Without a strong hand to guide it, the system would devolve into chaos, little governments achieving little things, tyrannies and democracies arising in unfortunate disproportion. The wreckage of the Colony Wars would remain for generations. Perhaps, compared to the excesses of the great governments of the recent past, that would be an improvement. But Jeremy Desmond saw no reason that it should be.
“And perhaps… perhaps I will be a great man… or perhaps I shall live to be a very old man, respected and esteemed in my new nation… And perhaps I shall hold office and this is what I’m trying to tell you: Perhaps the things I believe now for my country will be wrong and outmoded, and I will not understand and do terrible things to have things my way or merely to keep my power. Don’t you see that there will be young men and women to step out of the shadows some evening and slit my then useless throat? And that such a thing as my own death will be an advance? They who might kill me even… replenish all I was.” (A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry)
The main thing that makes this story grate on me, re-reading it now, is that I felt the need to somehow cram it into the "League of Desmond" theme. It was a blag for my group of high-school friends; but I wanted to write fiction. So, I named all of the main characters after my friends (more or less) and did whatever I wanted otherwise.
Also, I felt the need to quote from books I was reading in English at the time, didn't quite understand the idea of "writing dialogue" (why would you write about talking when you could be describing gory battle scenes?), and felt the need to split the series into eight parts, on the principle that 500 words was too long for a blog-post. But - it still reads decently, and I'm amused at the little genre-switching trick I used - disguising the offworld exile in the first section (Jeremy Desmond/Devin's part) as some Siberia-alike. Haha, it's actually sci-fi, you guys! Tricked you!
It is worse than my current stuff - thankfully, I'd be pretty unhappy if I'd not improved in three years - but not unreadable. (In contrast to most of the stuff I wrote around that period. Makes me want to poke my eyes out with a stick.)
Anyway, 5600 words of unedited past-me. There you are! Now you know. Heh.
(I'd edit or rewrite, but that would take creative effort, and if I'm going to expend creative effort, I'd prefer to spend it on writing a new story, rather than rewriting old things. So you may consider this a 'bonus.')