Hi. It's free on my website in entirety but I'll post it here so long as I don't get any objections. www.gaiastan.com Big changes are in store for humanity in the coming Century. Changes that will render your life utterly unrecognizable to your children's children. The old religions, political systems, cultures, and lifestyles are going to be replaced with new systems. These new systems will be branded as "progressive" and "enlightened", but upon further inspection, they will resemble the old fuedal and slave systems of the Dark Ages. Your 'caste' will define you. It will define where you live, where you work, what you eat, how long you live, what god you worship. It's coming... Brain chips Earth worship Population control Global cooling Weekly 'vaccinations' The elimination of the family, and mobility and private housing indentured servitude Virtual immortality (if you're an obedient slave in life) Vast tracts of the country will be "dehumanized" and returned to their wild state. Your work will be manual, the product of it will be exchanged for rations and housing. You will have to justify your existence to your rulers. Your life will be pre-assigned. But they, the ones in charge, they will say that this will all be done for the 'greater good' because you, an individual human being, are a parasite... a useless eater. Your life is of no consequence if it is not dedicated entirely to the well being of the hive. Chapter 1 The spaceship Astarte was, more or less, a spinning titanium can with a nuclear bomb affixed to one end. It was visible from the Earth on clear nights, shining brighter than Venus as it completed its low orbits. The ship was a supreme monument, an icon symbolizing the exceptionalism of her builder— the People's Republic of Gaiastan. Her purpose was to put a man on Mars and bring him home again. The Mars Mission was deemed to be the grand achievement of the Age. All great cultures have their grand achievements. The Egyptians, for instance, were renowned for stacking stones really high. The Romans, Mongols and Nazis were incomparably skilled at mass murder. The Mayans made extraordinary calendars. In this regard, the People's Republic of Gaiastan suffered from an inferiority complex of sorts. Her contributions to mankind were intangible, nebulous. She needed her own symbol of exceptionalism, her own grand achievement. Putting a man on the moon had already been achieved so they decided to put a man on Mars, instead. What the Gaians lacked in imagination, they made up for in ambition. Altogether, the Astarte took seventeen years to complete. Just clearing the bureaucratic and legal obstacles erected in the wake of the full scale, global-thermo-nuclear-police-action took seven years, alone. The last thing anyone wanted was for more nuclear bombs to be made, but only a fission powered ship could get a manned crew there and back in time, before their DNA was ripped to shreds by radiation. The previous six manned Mars missions had all failed, disasterously, and this was a source of national embarrassment. The efficacy of an entire revolution was being called into question. Failure was not an option, this time. So the regulatory hurdles were cleared, the funding spigots were opened, and the engineering limitations were ignored. Finally, at great cost, cost that included seven hundred payload missions, 99 mortalities, and about a quadrillion dianars, the Astarte was completed. Her auxiliary rockets fired. Her orbital velocity accelerated. She was slung outwards into the void where her fission reactor was successfully ignited. # Mr. Theus P. Indigo, Grade 4 Astronaut/Specialist, and 13th degree Overman, was a crewmember aboard that nuclear powered, titanium can bound for Mars. Eighteen months trapped in a can affords one a great deal of time to contemplate things. Indigo performed his contemplations while gazing out his portal watching the endless, upwards rain of stars caused by the ship's rotation. This spinning generated the equivalent of 30% earth gravity... just enough 'gravity' to prevent the crew's calcium from leaching out of their bones. Indigo found himself at that portal for hours and hours at a stretch. He thought about things like immortality, the blue skies of Earth, how he was going to renovate his 100 square foot habitation cube upon return... One time, some forty million miles from earth, for some unknown reason, he contemplated the savage mind. What mystical wonder Stone Aged men must have felt huddled by a campfire, gazing upwards to the heaven’s black dome adorned with her billion shimmering specks of light. "What are those points of light?" Some savage had undoubtedly asked. Indigo deduced that those pre-humans were every bit as intelligent as any undermen of the Third Century GE. They just lacked the benefit of 4000 generations of accumulated knowledge regarding things like agriculture and physics and electromagnetic mind transferrence. Those poor, mortal bastards had it rough, Indigo thought. Surely one of them, somewhere, at some point in pre-history, pondered those thousand points of light in the pristine night and correctly deduced that they were distant suns not unlike our own. Probability ensured the likelihood that one of those pre-humans, somewhere, after stuffing his face with wild berries and fire roasted flank of gazelle, presented his radical, cosmological hypothesis to his fellow cavemen gathered around the campfire. This unorthodox idea was most certainly greeted with hostility. Such an unconventional explanation of the universe was certainly incongruous with the dominant tribal mysticism of their time. “Heretic!” would go their rebuke, in their own caveman dialect of course. “Don’t you know that the stars are the frozen tears of the giant, omniscient, flying turtle goddess that forever weeps in despair over man’s selfish unrighteousness? Huh? Don't you?” The threat of being bound up into a wicker effigy and burned alive would suppress any further suggestion of such radical blasphemy. Cosmology would thus languish for another 100,000 years. But, Indigo thought as he squeezed the last of the contents of his tofu ration tube into his mouth, wouldn’t it be a spectacular thing to go backwards in time and meet one of those paleo-Gallileos, to pull him aside— once a suitable method of translation was devised, of course— and congratulate him on being right in that the stars are not, in fact, glittering turtle tears, or gleaming beacons of long dead souls, or pinholes of heavenly light puncturing the sheath of our mortal dimension? It would be simply fascinating to travel in time and meet one of those pre-human intellectuals, he thought. Indigo imagined patting him on the back and assuring him that he was correct in that the stars were, in fact, distant suns just as he had suggested; some were so unimaginably far away that their light had begun its journey while the earth was still inhabited by dinosaurs. “What’s a dinosaur?” the caveman asked with a perplexed look… if he could actually formulate the word for it. “Oh, never mind," Indigo answered with a sigh. "It's probably best to forget about those crazy ideas before the others tie you up and toss you into a tar pit. Here, let me have some of that gazelle meat.” His deep thought was interrupted by an alarm in the cabin. Bursts of green flashed in the portal as ionized particles interacted with the plasma enveloping the ship. Indigo looked around to discover that he was the only one awake. The long journey required lots of sleep time so as to conserve rations, energy, and sanity. So he just waited for something to happen. The Astarte was well-equipped with adroit and sophisticated quantum computers embedded with virtual copies of the most competent, most educated, highest-ranking human consciousnesses available. They were monitoring the situation and making adjustments as needed. The ship was basically on auto pilot and Theus P. Indigo was, more or less, just along for the ride. The alarms stopped. The green auroras disappeared. Indigo traveled back in time. Of Indigo's wakeful hours, five were spent each week with a Mr. Vesuvius Staley, Grade 5 Astronaut/Technician, and also a 13th degree Overman. Staley was a living breathing human which was supposed to be good for Indigo as it was determined that even the most sociable of embeds (which was what computers uploaded with human consciousness were known as) could not fool the human mind into thinking there was any real interpersonal interaction taking place. The mind subconsciously knows the difference between a computer avatar and a living being. In addition, it's well known to sociologists that isolation from human contact fuels paranoia, distemper, cynicism, and other undesirable and unpredictable traits. These neuroses are most unproductive when they manifest during an eighteen-month space mission. Staley and Indigo became good friends on the journey out from the launch pad. In the initial months, their mood was bright and hopeful. In fact, the entire crew developed a wonderful esprit de corp. Eventually, however, things soured with a series of system failures. Despite the mandatory human interaction, Indigo and Staley eventually ceased speaking to one another unless absolutely necessary. Staley spent their overlapping moments of wakefulness double and triple and quadruple checking the Birkelund Plasma Inducers while Indigo reverted to staring out into infinity contemplating being a time-traveler contemplating cavemen contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Staley knew that the embeds could tend to everything, but the meaningless tasks were a diversion from his demons of growing despair. In the late stages of the mission, Staley's mood darkened to suicidally grim whenever his busy-work was finished. By that point, there really wasn’t anything for Indigo and Staley to talk about, except the end of their glorious mission... a mission that did not go according to plan. A tiny pale blue dot, identified by augmented reality on the portal glass as "Earth" grew fractionally brighter with each passing week. This did manage to lift Indigo’s spirits at the margin. The Astarte's fission engine was soon extinguished. Her fuel rods were jettisoned into infinity. The ship decelerated into Earth orbit. The crew moved into the splashdown capsule. Their re-entry was supposed to be a jubilant time and it certainly was that back on Earth where the people of Gaiastan anxiously awaited the return of their national heroes. The Overmen, the ruling upper caste (who lived primarily on the east coast) stared out across the ocean and up into the deep blue evening sky. Finally, a bright star appeared unto them— the brilliant Astarte— reflecting the sun and illuminated by 50,000 degree plasma. She fell from the heavens into the sea with a cosmic roar. Naval hovercraft rapidly converged upon her and the blackened and pulverized titanium space can was hoisted onto the deck of a floating retrieval ship. Her doors were frantically pried open with crowbars. Indigo was extracted first and did the best he could to help with a physiology that had forgotten how to overcome full gravity. The strain caused him to almost immediately lose consciousness. He was poured onto a gurney and hauled away. Staley made no effort to leave the Astarte's womb at all. They pulled him out clumsily, breech style and face down. It was not immediately known if he had survived re-entry. There were originally seven crewmembers aboard the Astarte. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Dianar: A unit of Gaiastan currency  Undermen: The lowest caste of Homo Sapiens considered "human".  GE: After the beginning of the Gaian Era. All calendars were reset to year 1 following the revolution. Dates prior to year 1 are known as BGE or Before the Gaian Era.  Birkelund Plasma Inducer: A device that generates an electromagnetic field designed to protect spacecraft from cosmic radiation.