In the Nevada desert Harry Barnes was watching the sunset with a new companion.
Barnes had just earned his Doctorate in Philosophy when Ayn Rand asked
him to go to Nevada to represent the Objectivists at the Uptimer’s base.
As the job prospects for philosophers who actually treated reality as
being real were appallingly slim at best he took the job.
And it was here in the cluster of the temporary structures that served as offices and housing that he met someone.
Jane March was the Deputy Engineer for the FTL Drive System installed
aboard the Eagle. She had flown with the Eagle on her two successful
missions to Proxima Centauri and Barnard’s Star. There was no
expectation of a problem on the mission to Sol.
When it was discovered that the FTL drive had deposited the Eagle in
what was clearly the past she personally performed the diagnostic
examination of the system. When no fault could be found in the FTL
Drive she called for the complete disconnection of the system from the
energy and control systems of the ship.
With the FTL Drive effectively converted into an inert mass within the
hull of the Eagle the Deputy Engineer clearly needed a new assignment.
As someone had to take charge of the construction of the surface base in
the Nevada desert Lieutenant Jane March was the clear and natural
On the ground there was a celebration of the success of the last
operation. The Rangers and the few fortunate young women and other
civilians who were allowed into the base were holding a dance. Harry
would be attending the event as Jane’s guest.
Both were formally dressed, Harry in a white suit with a bow tie and
Jane in her Dress Blues, as they stepped into the newly constructed
hangar that served as the venue for the event.
There wasn’t a band playing for the event. But there was an improvised
sound system that played music that would not be recorded yet on this
timeline. The current musical number was appropriate for a slow dance.
Jane recognized the artist as Sade and the lyrics were in the form of a
Is it a crime, Is it a crime?
That I still love you?
And I want you to love me too?
Lieutenant March looked around and found the commander of the Rangers.
“There he is.” She said to Harry. “Let’s go over there.”
To any downtime observer Nathan Benson had the appearance of the captain
of a high school football team in his dress uniform. But once one was
in range of his voice it was clear that this was an old man in a young
body. The cluster of people that surrounded him included a Colonel from
the Marine Corps. As the couple came within earshot they could hear
the marine ask a question.
“Normally an infantry unit embarked on a ship are designated Marines, why did your people go with the term Ranger?”
“Well sir, The Rangers are the regular component of the armed forces in
our system. And our first deployment was to suppress the natives on the
The Colonel’s wife spoke up.
“Yes ma'am,” said Benson, “the planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. The
first ship to arrive was the Mayflower. They set down their colony on
the secondary continent because the main land mass was overrun by some
very large and nasty carnivores.”
“What were they like?” She asked.
“Well the main one was called Fuherersaurus by us, it could eat a
Tyrannosaurus Rex for lunch. Unfortunately the second continent had
stone age natives, Reptantis Sapiens Eden, who saw omnivores like us as something to eat.”
“How could they do that?” The Colonel asked.
“Ideology sir,” Benson replied, “we discovered it during a download.”
“A download?” The Marine asked.
“Yes sir, it’s a procedure where full cybernetic contact is made with
the subject’s neural network, and the contents of the brain are recorded
and processed for information.”
“I don’t understand.” Said the Marine Colonel.
“I don’t blame you.” Lieutenant March cut into the discussion. “The
process of downloading originally developed as part of our recorporation
technology and was adapted as an alternative to vocal interrogation.”
“Anyway,” Benson spoke up, “the last starship from Earth was about to
arrive at Eden and the entire Ranger Battalion, minus the cadre, was
deployed to the planet for this. As it turned out the natives were
about to attack our base on Eden in roughly division strength. And it
was decided to grab a leader for download.”
Lieutenant March already knew the story but remained silent.
Benson continued to speak.
“Anyway on Eden I came to the attention of the Old Man, Number Four at the time, and he reassigned me as his aide.”
The Marine made a clearly sour face on hearing this.
“I don’t blame you sir,” said Benson, “this was my first combat
deployment and I suddenly got assigned to a rear echelon spot. But the
thing is that the Old Man likes to lead from the front, so I got to go
with him on a snatch and grab mission for one of the native leaders.
Once we had his back at the base we had a conversation before the
download process was begun.”
“How could you speak to them?” Another woman asked.
“Well ma’am, we used a translation program on the base’s mainframe computer.”
“I don’t understand.” She said.
Lieutenant March cut in to answer.
“Our computers are very powerful. For example the portable laptop
computer that we are using to rum the music sound system here has many
times the memory and computing power of every locally made system on the
Benson spoke up again.
“So anyway, we have the native leader strapped to the table and the techs aren’t quite ready yet so we asked some questions.”
"Such as?” Said Harry.
“Well, such questions as, why if they have molars do they not eat plants.”
“So why not?” Harry asked.
“It was a religious doctrine. The next thing the Old Man does is to
take a pliers from his toolkit and pull out one of the molars and shows
it to the native, in his face.”
“I take it that the native didn’t take it well?” Said the Marine.
“No sir, he didn’t.”
“So what happened to the natives?” Harry asked.
“We torched the main group from orbit, just like we just did with North Vietnam.”
“But there’s another group.” Said Jane March.
“Oh yes,” Benson replied, “another group broke off from the main body,
built some dugout canoes and crossed the strait between the two
continents and set up their own villages with farmland.”
“They’ve gone back to being omnivores?” Harry asked.
“Yes,” said Benson, “and as they’re evolving we decided to leave them alone.”
It was on Thursday morning in the basement of the French Embassy in Tel
Aviv Lieutenant Joseph Beaujeu of the French Navy--presently covered as
an attache and working as an intelligence officer--read the take from
the latest dead drop from a source he had picked up.
The message was trouble--very deep trouble.
One of his sources within the Government of Israel was present for a
secret briefing. The content of the briefing was about the future of
the State of Israel. That in December of 2012 the French Navy would
launch a nuclear strike on Israel. As a result one faction of
Americans, who were in the midst of an internal civil war, would move to
protect and evacuate the survivors of the nuclear strike on Israel.
This was shocking but what fully floored Lieutenant Beaujeu was that
this faction of Americans also controlled the nuclear weapons and would
carry out the retaliation for the destruction of Israel. France would
be pounded with chemical and nuclear weapons into effectively nothing
and as a result would have no further independent existence as a nation.
The Lieutenant proceeded to write his report for transfer in the diplomatic pouch to Paris.
There was nothing else he could do.