He was watching the completion of the base when he heard alarm Klaxons all around him. His
viewpoint was forcibly shifted away from the moon towards a viewpoint looking from the bow
of the ship. In front of him the starfield had been blanked out and all that he could see
were 15 dots, five red, the rest white. The ten white dots each had a white arrow pointing
at them, each arrow labelled "Approaching Missile", underneath which was written
its estimated speed, estimated distance, and suspected target. The other five red dots
were labelled, in red, as unknown vessels. Underneath each was also given its estimated
speed and distance. Two of the missiles were labelled as targeted on the ship which he
He mentally ordered his ship to launch two missiles; one targetted at each of the enemy
missiles. The computer would guide them to their targets. At their velocity, nearly that
of light, they could not evade. Now, if only the Brian and Rebecca would be alert enough.
He heard an explosion to his left, the sound created by the computer in his consciousness.
Bits of wreckage passed into his view and the words "Escort 1 Destroyed"
appeared in his view, over to the left.
"Shit! Okay you bastards. Here's one for Brian!" he thought, mentally ordering
the computer to fire his ship's laser at the nearest enemy vessel. The computer calculated
the opponent's position after the time it would take the laser to reach it, and fired the
laser at that point. For five seconds the laser continued to radiate before the start of
the beam intersected the enemy ship. The laser continued and the computer swung the ship
slowly around, allowing the massive weapon to track its target.
Almost immediately after he opened fire, the base on the moon below also opened fire. It
launched six missiles, four on the four missiles targeted on itself, and two targeted on
each of two enemy ships.
There were two smaller bangs in front of him, and the message "Missiles Intercepted
and Destroyed" appeared.
Another explosion. Now the transport ship, with its supplies and crew exploded.
Fortunately the gene plasma had already been unloaded. Again the computer faithfully
printed the message "Transport Destroyed" in his view. Then three more dots
appeared, again labelled as approaching missiles. All were targeted on him.
Earth had been destroyed, almost six centuries ago, and only two ships, a scoutcraft and a
transport, escaped. Aboard the transport was enough gene plasma to recreate humankind. The
two ships explored many systems. Most of them contained nothing inhabitable; a few were
water worlds, consisting amost entirely of water with only a few islands scattered across
their surfaces. There were passed as the fleet hoped to find a non-water world, like the
Earth had been. They came upon one, but it already had its own intelligent inhabitants,
still living in a primitive society, with swords and iron. It was also passed. After two
more systems they gave up trying to find a non-water world and settled upon the last one
that they had found. Then They came. The enemy. The last two survivors were forced to flee
in the transport and managed to travel to the previous water world that they had
discovered. There they settled, and there they recreated humankind.
There was little land on humankind's new home. Only a small population could be supported,
too few people to provide a sufficient base for technological development. Too few people
existed to birth enough scientists to systematically experiment, as had been done on
Earth. Then They came. Their first attack was barely beaten off. Humankind built more
ships, and were able to stop the second invasion before it entered the inner system. By
examining the wreckage, they learned of their technological inferiority, but were able to
figure out what had survived of the enemy ships and build more of it. The survivors knew
that to survive they would have to get a sufficiently large population to support
systematic technological progress. They sent out fleets to explore and colonize other
planets. They built settlements on the other uninhabitable planets in their system. And
they sent a small fleet back to the system that the original fleet had discovered. It was
not a water world. It had inhabitants - but desperate men care only for themselves.
"Shit!" he swore again. He launched his last missile at one
of the approaching missiles and ordered the computer to turn the laser onto the other two
missiles, in succession. Then he started the fusion drive at its maximum thrust. The 3G
acceleration would sson cripple his body and the computer warned him of that possibility.
He ignored it. His mind remained conscious, supported by the computer so that his mind
could remain linked with it. There was another bang. One of the incoming missiles had been
intercepted and destroyed. He checked on the five enemy vessels. The base below him had
now opened fire and all of its 32 lasers were firing at another enemy ship. He heard an
explosion as that ship was destroyed.
Two more dots appeared. Two more missiles targeted on the base. He heard a roar as the
base's last two missiles were launched. The base's lasers switched to another target.
Three enemy ships remained. Four others continued to accelerate away from the base. The
third, the one upon which he had been firing, rotated and began accelerating towards the
base, simultaneously cancelling its outward velocity while giving itself velocity inward.
Its course was a huge curve. The base's lasers switched their targets and began firing at
the approaching ship.
Again a bang. The second missile had been incapacitated by his laser. Its engine was
destroyed and with his acceleration he would soon be out of its path. The computer turned
his laser onto the last missile which was almost
After a journey of eight months, ship time, at close to the speed of
light, the three human ships arrived in the system. The very same that their ancestors had
passed through two centuries earlier. On the way in they had detected radio signals from
the habitable planet, and were still trying to translate them. They had detected no other
space vessels as they decelerated. The two escorts stayed near the transport as it
decelerated into orbit about one of the moons of the innermost gas giant. Here they would
build a base and create an army to conquer the inhabited planet.
As the last missile closed, the computer graphically depicted the
impact of it upon the centre of the ship. He had an idea! He ordered the main engine shut
off and then spun the ship around 90 degrees, so that its stern was facing the missile. He
ordered the main engines to restart and watched, their intolerable brightness muted to his
view, as the missile hit the tip of the fusion flame and vitually instantaneously
exploded. He clearly heard its simulated bang as no sound was generated for the engine.
His ship continued its acceleration. He turned his attention back towards the base.
All of the missiles of both sides had been destroyed. The base was still firing on the one
approaching enemy ship. He watched as its engine suddenly shut-off. It too had been
disabled. He tracked its course and determined that it would miss the base and the moon
that it was on, although it would pass very closely, coming to within 5200 metres of the
As the base was built up, the crew from all three ships disembarked
to help with the construction. Only a single officer remained on board each ship to watch
the heavens, relieved from the ground after eight hours of duty. Huge machines run by a
single man crawled across the moon's surface and flattened a foundation for the base.
Other machines roamed elsewhere searching for the materials needed in the construction.
The space around the moon became filled as satellites were placed in orbit to map the moon
and watch the heavens.
The first things to be installed were defences - in case They came. Eight defence bases
were built, all in a large circle about 2 kilometres in diameter, equally spaced around
the outer edge. The site for each base was first levelled by huge machines, each driven by
a single man. Once the foundations were ready for the defences, the machines moved away
and began to smooth the rest of the ground inside the circle marked by the defences. Then
the actual defences were installed. Each foundation was used to build a central missile
silo which was surrounded by four immense lasers, each about 50 metres from the silo, and
all spaced equally around. Beneath each of the lasers was built a control station and a
small generator. Each station was manned by one person. The defences were completed only a
few hours before the attack began.
As he was musing he heard a voice in his head, "Base to Escort
2, come in, Base to Escort 2, come in . . ."
He ordered the computer to transmit an acknolwedgment. After what seemed an eternity to
him, his consciousness experiencing the accelerated time frame of the computer, the
repeating message finally changed. His mind listened as the computer relayed what it
"Commander, we are undamaged. They enemy fleet is breaking off, one of their ships
destroyed, two disabled. The one approaching will miss this moon. The engineers are
reloading the missile silos. Andrew, Marilyn and Michael were killed by debris as they
were in orbit off-loading the last of the supplies. Brian and Rebecca were destroyed on
board the two ships. The men are beginning to panic! What should we do?"
He transmitted: "Remain calm. Unless they have other ships, it will be days before
they can come in for another attack. Finish the defences and dig in. Their ships must have
been far out in space and accelerated towards us once they knew our destination. One of
them is apparently crippled and is no longer under acceleration. They must have their own
base that monitored us as we approached. I'll follow the surviving ships to see if I can
trace them to it. Commander Out."
Once he had finished the message, he ordered the ship to follow the enemy vessels. Then he
began to dicsonnect himself. He was interrupted by the voice of the computer in his head
which stated, "Disabled enemy ship has reactivated its drive. New course will collide
with moon in five seconds.
Fortunately he was still linked up. He ordered the computer to move his viewpoint to the
location of impact. The computer then relayed an incoming message to him: "Commander!
The enemy ship isn't dead! Its turned on its drive. Its out of laser firing arcs. Oh my
God! Its going to hit. We're going to . . ."
An instant before the message terminated the enemy ship collided with the moon. Its
increased mass travelling at almost the speed of light released a huge amount of energy.
First there was a blinding light radiating from the point of impact. Since his sight was
only stimulation by the computer of his brain, although it was very bright, it did not
damage his sight. Then he watched in horror as the moon upon which his base had been built
shattered. Totally destroyed. He was far enough away and travelling fast enough so that
none of the debris hit him. He also had a beautiful view of the death of all the people
and equipment that had been under his command.
His base was destroyed. His people were dead. He could picture nothing else. Again and
again his mind reimaged the destruction. Again and again the computer obeyed his implied
order and replayed the scene for him. HIs mind watched its failure again and again. Then,
despite all of the efforts of the computer, his consciousness fled away from it. No longer
able to face its failures.
He found himself walking along a featureless plain covered in a fine
grayish powder. He realized that he was dressed in his space suit and decided that he must
be on the surface of some moon.
He heard voices behind him. He spun around and stared straight into the face of his
brother Brian. His body was bare and very pale, almost white. His hair blew about his face
and occassionally his form wavered so that you could dimly see the plain behind through
"John, why did you kill me?", Brian asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"But I didn't. I protected you as Mother asked."
"You killed me."
"I didn't, I couldn't do anything to save you."
Then he heard another voice, "You saved yourself." Beside Brian appeared
Rebecca, the watch officer that had been aboard the transport ship, as pale and
transparent as Brian.
"I believed in you. I believed in both of you. I knew that you would both be
In chorus, in a monotone they both said, "You killed us."
He screamed, "No!", and fled from them, his footfalls raising silent clouds of
Three more figures appeared in front of him. The three other crew members who had been
killed in the first attack. They too were pale, like the ghosts he used to hear stories
about. They too began to emotionlessly whisper, "You killed us.", in perfect
synchronization to the two spirits that followed him as they too repeated that horrid
He ran through them, screaming, "I didn't, I tried all that I could!"
"You killed us."
Another figure appeared in front of him, the radio operator who had spoken to him just
before the moon shattered, just as ghostly as the rest. He begged, "We're going to
die. Help us, save us, please!"
"You killed us."
"I did all that I could! I tried all that I could think of! I tried!"
They all spoke together. "You saved yourself. You killed us."
"I couldn't save you! There was nothing I could do!" His silent footfalls
continued as he continued to flee.
"You killed us."
"No!", he let out a long agonized scream, stumbled, and fell to the ground. He
turned himself over.
The spirits appeared above him, their forms rotating in a circle so that he faced one,
then another, and then another. They kept repeating, "You killed us."
"No!", he screamed again. The spirits kept repeating their message. Then he saw
above him the enemy ship that he had fired at but failed to damage. It had turned its
engine back on and was heading straight toward him.
The spirit of the radio officer said in a louder, emotion laden tone, slowly enunciating
each word, "We're . . . going . . . to . . . die!". And the rest of the ghosts
repeated, quietly, "You killed us."
As the dead radio officer finished his phrase, the ship impacted with the moon, right on
top of him. He was blinded by a flash of light and dimly heard, repeated again by all of
the men that had been under his command the phrase, "You let us die!"
With a start he woke up. His body was sprawled on the floor of the bridge. He had been
forcibly disconnected from the computer. In his mind he heard the voices, "You killed
He screamed and jumped up, breathing heavily. He could still hear the voices in his head,
"You killed us."
He stood still and shook his head, but the voices repeated themselves. Finally he
responded to them. "Yes." He again fell into unconsciousness.
Eventually he regained consciousness and stood up. He was sore and
bruised, but still alive. He had killed all of the people under his command, those he had
been supposed to protect. He had killed them. But why was he still alive? Why had their
spirits let him return to the living? Then he realized. They had given him an opportunity.
He had a chance to avenge them against those who had killed them. He asked the computer,
"It is 13.5 hours since you lost consciousness. Surviving enemy vessels are 540 light
seconds ahead. Ship is accelerating at 1G and pursuing them as per your last orders."
The computer fell silent, and he thought. Vengeance. He must avenge those whom he had
failed. But how? Although his ship was undamged, he couldn't return to any of the other
human systems because then They would suvive. He could attack their base, do to them what
they did to him. But those who actually destroyed his base would still live, and attacking
a fully armed base with just one ship was suicide. If they had only one missile, he
couldn't even ram them. He had another thought. Why were They here? Could he hurt them as
they had hurt him? He smiled. Yes he could.
He reconnected himself to the computer. First, he sent a message back home, relating what
had happened and what he planned to do. Vengeance was at hand. He asked the computer for
the location of the habitable planet over which the entire fight had occurred. He would
avenge the dead. He gave the computer its orders. He would remain linked with it until the
end - for it could keep him conscious. Now he lived for one purpose, and one purpose
alone. He had killed them. Soon he would join them, as soon as he avenged their deaths.
"Yes.", he said to himself, they would be punished. Their lives would be made
purposeless, their journey to this system a waste. "Yes, if we can't have it, they
can't have it." He repeated it to himself over and over again.
A mated triad, a group of the inhabitants of the planet, were sitting
beside a slow moving stream watching the stars. Suddenly a white line appeared in the sky
and touched the ground. Immediately an intolerably bright flash blinded them. Then a crack
of thunder, like the crack of doom, reached them, deafening them before the force of the
sound waves crushed their bodies. They were dead before the crust of their world shattered