THE SOULS OF THE DAWN (The Long Game)

Chapter 2 — Part I: The Bug Man In Blue Jeans

Though you may think you control a thing,
More than likely, it is controlling you.
Giant sun rising above the horizon of a gray planet.
Sunrise

As it is always, a stranger with a controversial idea is seen as intriguing, but a family member with a controversial idea is seen as heretical. So it was at the beginning of the longest war that I know actually occurred.

In a very early age, long before virtually all of the known galactic civilizations even had the light of consciousness, there existed a perfect world and a magnificent race that was born there. They have a proper name, but I prefer to call them The Souls of the Dawn. Few planets have the resources to support more than a few million sentient entities, but this world held billions without want. Having virtually everything they needed, they lived in ageless peace. They had few rivalries and built a great civilization that spanned to the nearby stars.

This perfect society would not last, as the minions of darkness formulated their plans. One branch of the family held to the tradition of life on planetary bodies, which was understandable given that they were the children of a world of plenty. Although, they could easily sail the sea of stars, they preferred to use automatons for the hazardous tasks of resource collection in the vast spaces. Another branch took to life in the low gravity of space itself. They too used automatons, but when given a choice, they preferred to build with their own labor and cleverness. After centuries, they became masters of coaxing small bodies to follow them using the reins of almost imperceptible gravitational attraction. Thus, it was, that these folk became adept asteroid herders.

A slender individual in harsh gravity is often clumsy, but a slender individual in weightlessness is often graceful. Time would eventually separate the planetary born and the space born. Not only did they become physical opposites, but their thinking became at odds as well. The space born were appalled by the waste that they saw from the planetary born, who in turn found the space born to be disrespectful of their traditions.

Each side was completely uncomfortable visiting the communities of their distant relatives. Gravity crushed the space born on planetary surfaces and the planetary born never appreciated the need for planning and procuring life necessities like oxygen and water when traveling in space. As simple things continued to cause misgivings and the sides drifted farther apart, they eventually became out and out rivals. Not surprising, with less and less communication, paranoia built for both. Punitive rules became the norm for transactions between the groups leading to open hostilities. Finally one day, someone committed an act of violence, though no one today recalls what happened or even which side started it.

In time, the planetary born built their ships of the void and entered into a righteous campaign with the space born to bring them back into the fold. When force was not effective, the planetary born did what is always the case, they used more force.

The space born did contemplate using asteroids to destroy the home world, but they had no will to do such a thing. So it came to pass, that they left the home system and the stellar colonies. Having spent generations away from a gravity well, they really were quite prepared to live without a planetary anchor.

As it is today, so it was at the start of this conflict, no one could travel faster than light. The typical velocity of common transport was around a few percent of the speed of light, although experimental designs could post near ninety percent. Even with this primitive technology, travel time for space flight was not an important issue. Increases in longevity and hibernation meant that anyone alive could travel the circumference of the civilization and still have many millennia of life expectancy left. Even those that chose not to travel could live indefinitely if risks were properly managed. These facts explain how some individuals actually lived through the entire duration of this extremely long conflict.

Many millennium¹ would pass. The planetary born expanded into new systems, but they always took their guidance from the home world. The space born moved further out and maintained a loose coalition making it more difficult to be subjugated. Battles were fought, with the planetary born typically using advanced energy weapons and the space born hurling rocks and asteroids. Most of the time conflict was inconclusive, but ultimately, the space born would just move further out. Constantly moving from place to place proved to be burdensome and an inefficient waste of precious resources.

The endless war continued until the patience of the space born was exhausted. They formed a plan to end the war in a unique manner. “Surely,” they said to themselves, “if the home world is faced with certain destruction, the powers that be will see the folly of their arrogant planetary ideology and flee with their lives into space. To ensure that this is truly the outcome, we will give them ample warning.”

We, today, think that the ultimate technology would be to move stars around, but that may be more a factor of patience than advanced knowledge. Knowing the physics of gravity in ways that other civilizations would rarely reproduce, the space born found a rogue blue giant with truly immense mass just a hundred or so light-years from the home world and nudged it into a new trajectory. Named the Angel of Death by the space born, the rogue began its new odyssey. When one considers that stellar objects require velocities comparable to around one-quarter a percent of the speed of light just to stay in their circular journeys about a galaxy and that rogue stars may actually acquire velocities above one percent of the speed of light, two stellar objects can easily move toward each other at ten light-years per millennium. Thus, it would only take about ten millennium to travel to the home world. Much of the trip would be unnoticed as it would only really catch someone’s attention after a gravity assist through a secondary system, but by that time it would be unstoppable. Now consider the precision of hitting a stationary system and understand the ultra precision of hitting that system while it moves through space itself after taking a bank shot!

After a several millennia, the planetary born took notice. It was now obvious that a rogue star was heading their way and though they could not comprehend the mechanics of how this was done, they had no doubt about who had sent it their way. Yet, still after all that time, the planetary born refused to leave the home world. Aggressive cultures tend to take high risks. So, they had performed the calculations and they devised a plan to burrow deep into their planet and ride out the orbital instability and bombardment that would surely result in the near miss that they forecast.

Knowing that the planetary surface would surely be destroyed by large asteroids or comets kicked out of their far flung orbits, the automatons of the home world cleared the solar system, destroying smaller bodies and launching the remainder into deep space away from the impending monster. The same was done for any large debris that had been captured and carried by the rogue star. Although this would protect the planetary surface from kinetic impacts, any slight change in the planetary orbit would cause extreme climate change with temperatures alternating hundreds of degrees during the annual revolution. Interconnecting domes on an immense scale were built to protect the surface biosphere and eventually they completely encased the home planet. As an extra precaution, the automatons, working continuously, constructed deep fortresses under the world well before the arrival of the rogue star. Secure at last, the planetary born felt their civilization would survive the ordeal comfortably.

So it came to pass that the Angel of Death was finally at its closest approach just under a light year away. Obscured for half a year at a time behind the home sun, each yearly transition still brought awe when the first night sky of the Rife Season, as they called it, revealed the new star at such a close distance. It was at this time that the planetary born convened a meeting of all their high ranking members in the stellar colonies. Everyone of importance had made a pilgrimage back to the home world to make their final preparations for the destruction of the space born. Having completed their Great Work, they now had all their resources completely available to deal with their real problem. They planned to release armies of deadly AI automatons to hunt down and destroy everyone not loyal to the home world. The AI would pursue the space born to any location at any distance necessary. Deemed the perfect soldiers, they were self sufficient, they were able to repair and replicate themselves, and they did not have any need to ever return from war. With an all out coordinated war production from everyone in the alliance, the planetary born assumed that within several hundred years the attack would free them of their enemies forever.

That would not be the case. The Angel of Death had run out of patience and before anything further could be done, all the neutrino detectors went off the scale, followed shortly thereafter by the blast front of not a mere supernova but an extreme hyper-nova. In this situation, if you can not out run light, then your fate is sealed.

The space born will tell you even today, that they did not plan for the star to explode. Even if you have doubts, it is probably best to not express them.

Within decades, the nearby solar systems and their planetary settlements suffered greatly from the secondary affects of the blast, but many distant worlds of the planetary born survived untouched. Unfortunately, with their leadership gone and having never made decisions for themselves they all found themselves in a desperate plight. Ultimately, refusing the help of the one group that could help them, the space born, who they now considered evil incarnate, the settlements of the planetary born all eventually collapsed into their own bleak version of oblivion. There were of course survivors, pitifully few, who did finally accept help and started a new way of life in the vast spaces.

Know this, the space born did not celebrate. They had wanted only to break the rigid system of the planetary born by removing the home world, not the destruction of the greater part of their race. It is remembered to this day as the Great Failure and they hold a solemn feast each year to remember the lost part of their family.

The moral of the story: Sometimes, the price of winning is greater than the price of losing.

1. References to the term “year” are standardized to the galactic average of the time that all worlds of the various galactic civilizations require to transit their orbits around their respective stars. This time standard is also the basis for determining the distance of a “light-year.”

This story is part of the series called the The Bug Man In Blue Jeans. If you view my Lists and About data, all the other stories can be seen. Read Part II here.

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JB Johnson

JB Johnson

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I am a science and technology junky and this is my place where I can share my ideas.