Do you understand what I’m telling you?
[thoughts from ~burning woman~ short story interpreted by Sha’Tara]
I need to tell you this so you will remember, pass it on, teach others. There isn’t much time, I know, and maybe you think we’d be better off concentrating on seeking a new refuge. But history pre-empts survival, and you need history if your survival is to mean anything.
It wasn’t always like this. We terra formed Mars around two hundred years ago and we made some parts of it beautiful even by earth standards. We had underground water reservoirs large enough to serve villages of tens of thousands of people and their animals. We had breathable air, those of us that had acclimatized that is. Newcomers wore basic skintights (air suits) with light helmets of plasteel faceplates which they only needed when going out for longer than fifteen minutes or so. Some adapted quickly. But anyway, I want you to understand what had been going on, not here, but on earth, our mother world.
Some four hundred years ago, give or take, the home planet was in a complete breakdown. Not only man’s civilizations falling apart, but the cities were practically dead too. Millions, billions of people had already died, and there were wars literally everywhere. There was one rule: if you saw a stranger, shoot first, ask questions later. Entire ethnic and religious groups were wiped out in endless rounds of genocide. Most animals larger than a rabbit, whether on land or in the sea, were extinct from over-hunting. Fields were crawling with the results of GMO seeds gone wild, having mutated when control via fertilizers and the spraying of herbicides and pesticides ended. Man’s technology had all but collapsed. For most, it spelled the end. It became obvious that man would die along with the planet.
But if there be one thing that pulls man back from the edge of destruction into united action, it’s threat from some external source. And that is what happened. Earth was attacked by alien beings. There weren’t many, and they were too cocky to take serious precautions. They came in from the skies, landed, set up shop, killed thousands of people to make a point and sent robots among the people declaring that they now owned the planet and the Earthians as they called us, were to be herded into camps to be sorted as to their usefulness and branded accordingly.
I’ll skip a huge amount of detail, how some cooperated out of fear; how some hid; how some defied the new alien authority and declared war on them, as well as on those who cooperated. Camps were raided, demolished. Robots were waylaid and destroyed. Alien headquarters were attacked if with little success and much loss of human life. Within about five years most of the human race not in secure camps had gone underground.
That’s when it was discovered that many research scientists and military personnel had long ago gone underground also, and continued to develop new technology; build up caches of weapons, developing new and esoteric ones, including chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. They had also perfected several models of faster-than-light ships, machines that could withstand the pressure and speed of breaking through atmosphere and attain faster than light trajectories with humans aboard. The idea had been to leave earth and take off for the stars.
But with the enemy up there, somewhere, with unknown weaponry capacity, the colony ships couldn’t be risked. The enemy would have to be destroyed first, you see?
Cooperative agreements were arrived at between the underground military commands and militia forces. Young people were recruited to train as pilots and ship crew and a different type of ship was designed, killing machines shielded and armed to be suddenly launched into the skies of earth to make sorties outside the atmosphere and test the waters, so to speak. Alien stations were located and destroyed from the air. In one of the sorties involving a small fleet of thirty ships, the main alien starship was discovered. It was scanned, photographed and its orbit calculated apparently without the aliens being aware they had been seen by Earthians. It’s possible the aliens thought of us as animals incapable of any real technology. Remember they had come upon us at a very low point in civilization. We were down to hunting with spears and bow and arrows by then.
While skirmishes continued on the surface to keep the aliens off balance, a plan was made to attack and destroy the starship. It was decided to launch one massive attack force to take on the starship, using any and every type of weapon then available to earth, sending in wave after wave of attackers, from four available dreadnoughts which had been built under the waters of the Pacific, to dozens of tiny two-man scouts armed mainly with singularity grenades which would be fired at the ship through holes punched in its protective shields. The alien ship didn’t change its orbit – an unbelievable stroke of luck for the Earthian forces since its location could be calculated to the millimetre if necessary – remember we no longer had any satellites by then, our remaining ones had been destroyed by the invaders – so it was necessary to develop massive computer simulations for attacks on the alien. The planning and preparations took almost two years, but again we had luck: the aliens had programmed their android robots with our languages and these could communicate with us, but the aliens themselves had never bothered trying to engage us or learn any of our languages. They didn’t think of us as an intelligent species or that there was anything to learn from us. So, we didn’t have to worry about being spied upon or our plans being made known to the invaders.
Finally the day came for the attack. It was vicious, deadly, costly in terms of ships and crew lost but we won. The alien ship was partly destroyed. Scientists had studied and analyzed remnants of killed aliens and developed a lethal virus in the hope of killing those aboard the ship. That worked beyond our wildest dreams. Once the shields had been breached and the singularity grenades began their destruction, virus shells were launched into the openings, exploded, and within twenty four hours the alien ship was a dead shattered hull but still holding orbit. We gained some great technology off that monstrosity before it was vaporized.
And now we had space flight. We had a united earth. We had the chutzpah of a triumphant race over an alien invader. We looked at the solar system and we said, now it’s ours to conquer. And we did that. We went off into space, some out to the stars never to be heard of. Some to Mars, here, to your home. And it was amazing. The things we did to make Mars a home for humans! Thousands of Earthians came to settle on Mars, or to mine the asteroid belt for minerals. For a time, Earth and Mars both blossomed. For a time.
Then it all began again. First the great Families claimed special status, taking for themselves the lands they had been clearing and re-greening. Then groups began to break away, large empires based primarily on the old definitions by continent, set up capitals and closed their borders to others. Religions arose again and sectarianism and racism, all the old evils, including the oppression of women, denying them any presence in political or religious affairs. Women who stood against this new wave of oppression were executed – no one knows how many died, but certainly in the hundreds of thousands.
Mars wasn’t spared. It was the same here. Or worse. Slavery became the norm. Women were treated as slaves, having no rights under the law, their only recourse being the protection of their “man” whatever that meant. A woman not tied to a man was a ward of the state from the age of thirteen, to be given to any man or business enterprise that wanted her and could pay for her release from the bureaucracy of state or church. New arrivals escaping repression on earth were automatically enslaved to existing combines; families broken up to prevent rebellion. Well, you know that part of history: it is why you are here, in the underground, fighting the forces of repression rather than waiting to be sold as a sex slave in Wolmona’s female slave prison. I just wanted you to know this isn’t anything new. It’s man’s history. It’s the pattern.
I want you to realize, even though you are only fifteen years old, that you need to do more than destroy the forces of oppression. We’ve done that time and time again, even including powerful alien forces. We can always do that; we were designed and programmed to do that, to struggle and to fight, ad nauseam. Oh, never fear, you will win this revolution. No help is coming from Earth for the elites now, they’re on their own. Already their mercenary armies are breaking rank; hundreds are defecting to the underground.
But these revolutions, Nyla, they’re like building dikes against the waves of the sea. Stop maintaining those dikes even for a short time and the sea washes them away, washes over them and in a short time they’re gone as if they’d never been there. You, my daughter, need to find a way to stop the waves of the sea from reaching the dikes. Do you understand me?
Yes, mother, I do understand what you are saying. We must win the war first, that’s the easy part. Then we must change our mindset. If we do not, our fight today is once again meaningless. I know that.