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Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly. - Plutarch; attributed to Marcus Crassus.
December 24th 2040
Liberty Island New York City
They exited to cheers and fanfare, something Boone was never comfortable with and Captain Marquette handled with the grace of a born politician. There were people from all over the world cheering, raising banners with flags, many from nations that didn’t even exist anymore. Boone did his best polite wave and quickly made his way down from the landing platform and hurried towards the other cops, Federal agents and Protectors, Marquette rushing down behind him, having stopped to give a quick shout to the crowd. “How are your kids anyway?” “Not so much kids anymore!” Marquette smiled she was a grandmother now, but that was a common thing now. In the wake of the war most people were having children, there was a feeling of emptiness in a world where two billion people were wiped off the map. It helped that a lot of the corporations left in the world were paying people bonuses for raising families. It helped that the Companions also encouraged this and the world seemed to march in lockstep with their council.
Ahead of them, a dozen members of SWAT stood at attention, both as honor guards and as an extra layer of protection. Boone wanted another thirty-armed officer’s present, but he was overruled. Thunder roared above them and Boone looked up, his eyes filled with alarm for a brief second until he saw that familiar wave of colors as a deluge of energy released and one of the grub shaped shuttles flew out seemingly nothingness, the crowd gasped. It took a buzz of the Island, circling once before landing to loud cheers from the crowd. The “front” warped, and a young woman exited the vehicle first, she was roughly thirty-six, though she looked closer to twenty. She had long golden-brown hair and copper colored skin, eyes that were an unnatural indigo and cold as ice. A cute face that wasn’t quite Asian, wasn’t quite Latin and wasn’t quite anything completed the look. Boone’s eyebrows arched slightly, he recognized that woman, he knew that woman! “Sandoval?!” his eyes flickered with shock. He met her during the fall of Shanghai, a child soldier in “Colonel” Liam Kincaid’s militia. The controversial “orphan” regiment became something of a topic among certain musical genres and some silly E-drama was made about their lives. His kids watched the show and always asked if it was accurate, he didn’t know, he’d only fought beside them once. Child soldiers and PMC’s always disgusted him, and Kincaid’s orphans were both. One thing was for sure, the show didn’t feature Elena Sandoval as per the woman’s request among other reasons. Exiting behind Sandoval was the tall, gaunt man with hard green eyes and thick white hair. Johnathan Doors, the man who “broke Silicon Valley” (which was a whole level of incorrect, Doors didn't just break it, he collapsed the entire economy of California out of a personal vendetta while he did it.). He’d started as a kid, working under the table for his uncle in a RadioShack in the early eighties and by nineteen eighty-eight he built a company that serviced powerlines and cables. From there, it was satellite communications, then logistics for mining. While Gates cornered the market on software and Apple fought Dell and Packer and IBM for domination of hardware in the nineteen nineties, Doors international was investing in mining, biosciences, medical equipment production and by the dawn of the twenty first century? Nuclear power.
Then he moved into the “smartphone” market, then software, then into social media and everywhere he went, he came out on top. He made hundreds of billions while companies crashed and burned, when the world itself burned his experimental med tech saved over a billion lives. He was a success story, the worlds first trillionaire. A philanthropist, pioneer, prophet, the father of two deceased war heroes and three living ones. Doors didn’t care about class, race, politics, nothing. All he cared about was “opening doors, the world over”, both literally and metaphorically. There were Doors international facilities in every surviving nation on earth and beyond. To Boone, who knew him because his wife was one of his lawyers, Doors was the smartest (and meanest) Wolf in the forest. The crowd cheered, he waved but the cheering died into a reverent silence as the next passenger exited the shuttle. Tall, androgynous and bald, possessing pasty, almost beige skin that seemed somewhat scale-like and silver-blue eyes, he, she? It? Was adorned in a purple skin suit, that shimmered and glowed, flowing with what Boone always thought were some sort of space LED’s but apparently, they were a food source? The being walked slowly, its pace almost flowing. Its hands moved, almost in a ritualistic like dancing gesture, its head quirked in a way that was at once human and at once disturbingly uncanny. Natural and unnatural all at once, the coloring of its suit he would later learn denoted the fact that it was once a legendary War Master who abandoned carnage to pursue diplomacy and “to continue politics by gentler means, discovering the path to peace if I am blessed”. Da’an, the American companion and the first extraterrestrial lifeform the world had never seen. He was a harbinger of peace, a deliverer, a savior, a god like entity from the stars who spoke the first alien words ever heard. Then again, the Aztec’s thought thusly of Hernan Cortez. As it edged closer to the podium the crowd was tense, hanging on its every gesture. When it finally reached the podium, its hands twitched for the last time and it spoke, a rolling, hissing, whispery, emotional language. “Ah’ya’arahama Vyyyaasshhh’vyyyleeeeee”
Whether intended or not, it sounded like a prayer.
“I speak to you on this monumental day as I did ten of your years ago, in my native tongue. For there is no proper sequence of words in your languages to convey the intensity of the pride and humility that we Taelons feel as we observe the progress our two species have made together”. The crowd remained silent, hanging on every word, many nodding in unison. Boone edged closer to the podium, his instincts telling him to pay attention, telling him that nothing this monotonous was ever safe. Something was going to explode, he didn’t know what, nor did he know why.
But William Boone’s instincts were never, ever wrong.
An Island away a man pulled a small box about the size of an old gaming console out of the bag, a press of a button caused the cube to disassemble, coming apart into dozens of smaller tiles and then reorganizing itself into a long barreled rifle with a sophisticated scope, a visual of the target projected into the lawyer turned vagrant’s eyes. -I see you, sky demon, speaking in your demon tongue-, he leaned forward, butt placed firmly against his shoulder, finger on the trigger. “As easy as shooting an airsoft” the man said, it was, the gun was supposed to be a handheld artillery cannon. He’d always been a big supporter of the second amendment, the Sky Demons were as well. That was one more thing he loved that they robbed from him, his enthusiasm for firearms and firearm advocacy. He had to sell his collection before the war just to pay attorney’s fees for all the good that did him, he promised he’d buy them back but that never happened. One more personal defeat inflicted by those repellent bastards. “Sky Demons” he muttered in a hate filled voice.
An island away, a being from the stars continued its speech. “When we first came to your world, a decade ago, we saw the scars from your horrendous conflict from space, we felt across the psychic void of mind-space the myriad deaths. We perceived the exhaustion in the air, the degradation not just of humanity’s cradle but of your noble spirits as well. In time, we learned of the calamitous social strife that contributed to your global conflict, we felt the yearning of your souls and came bringing with us understanding and hope.” The crowd erupted in cheers of gratitude calls of thanksgiving and prayers of well wishes. The Companion continued “In the intervening years between then and now, our two species have restored your atmosphere. Your forests which burned so in wars, are flourishing and green again and though much of Asia and Europe still lie in ruin our efforts have returned life the coast of what was once the ancient nation of China. We have been touched by the perseverance of your species, we have been inspired by your acceptance of our people into your lives and gratified by your friendship” As the alien spoke, Boone couldn’t help but notice the oscillation of the light patterns on its chest, it seemed as though they were congealing towards a certain point? Was that his pulse? No, Boone thought, those lights were supposed to be a feeding system but the more he observed the more he realized they were so much more. They reacted to the sun itself, feeding on the UV rays as Da’an stepped out of the shuttle, were they reacted to another light source now? Something in the old soldier’s instincts kicked in and he bolted forward, he barely had time to notice that Johnathan Doors had already grabbed the Companion and pulled it from the mic stand. There was a flash, a crack of thunder and William Boone’s world went black.
Apó ta cheíli tou ta révmata ton léxeon étrechan pio glyká apó to méli - The Iliad.
“That doesn’t look so bad” Boone conceded as the “bugs” bulbous head like front seemed to warp open, revealing six rather spacious chairs and spots for a dozen other people to stand. The seating arrangement and the seatbelts themselves did indeed like something out of a classic luxury car. “huh, whaddya know, Profacci got something right for once” “Oh I designed the layout with people like him in mind, in the early days of the Agency we were ferrying people all over the world for our “Second Genesis project”. I argued that comfort was essential, especially when a pilot was stuck in a cockpit sometimes twenty hours straight” She gestured one of her pale hands out towards the expansive back “For cargo, but also because we can put this baby on cruise control and stretch our legs”
“So, it can pilot itself?”
“Not really” Marquette answered “These things are a bit like elephants, they need a leader and they need a “herd” they get, sick when pilots aren’t steering them, or when they aren’t used very often or they're alone for too long. It's why we don't allow people to buy them solo.” The look in Boone’s eyes made her laugh “There are drawbacks to biomechanical type tech, I’ll admit. The ships sing to you too! Sometimes, it responds to its primary pilots “smoother” as well. I mean it’ll always obey but it’s sort of...I dunno”
“Like a service dog?” Boone asked with a raised eyebrow and she nodded. “sort of, they’re about as smart as dogs too.” Suddenly, Boone didn’t want to sit down. Captain Marquette laughed again and punched his shoulder “If you don’t behave, you’re going to offend my ship and then he’ll misbehave”
She shrugged “He reminds me of a mastiff I had as a kid, big boy, very dense but loyal and didn’t need much in the direction. He knew what you wanted him to do, Badger is the same way”
Badger, right. Of course she named him Badger.
As Boone took a seat, found the chair began to “shift” to accommodate for his seating needs and the man raised an eyebrow at that. “Really?” Marquette laughed again and Boone let out an annoyed sigh, fine, he’ll man up and put up with “Badger”. As the “front” warped back into place, covering them in a frontal mirror which shimmered into being as the shuttle’s carapace shifted its make up to allow for a viewing port as a series of holographic controls appeared and Marquette reached up and flicked a few different switches. “Universal layout, designed it myself.”
Boone nodded slowly, if flyboys could understand this stuff that was cool, to him it just looked like a bunch of glowing lights. “So, what’s a General’s equivalent doing ferrying around a street cop?” Boone asked, trying to take his mind off the fact that the vessel was now off the ground fully and taking to the air, New York City resting below them now. New buildings rising from the ground denoting where the BDLC or Antifa turned whole sections of the financial district into smoldering ruins in their insane little gang war. It was easy to see why everyone loved the Companions, when they came mankind was on the verge of destroying itself. In ten short years, much of the environmental damage was reversed, cities that were ruins began to live again.
Even the eco-system began to thrive in ways it hadn’t in a long time. Marquette, allowed the shuttle to hover in the air, suspended above the city for a bit before she turned the shuttle towards the harbor. “I wanted to pick you up myself when I’d heard the big guy asked for you. Besides, I like flying.” She was chipper as always, that sunniness had seen her through a fight behind enemy lines, a two-week march through the ruins of the Chinese countryside until they’d found her and then another nine days through the darker parts. Boone dusted off his father’s old bible, in memory if not literally and he did so to help keep his men from losing it as they passed through small towns where people had taken to eating each other. Boone secretly thought it was her disposition that carried them through the ordeal, her pranks and lighthearted teasing of him. “Benefits of their antiaging drugs?” he finally asked, breaking the silence with a deliberately awkward question that had her roaring with laughter. “Damn preacher, you know just what to say to a lady huh?”
“S’what my wife tells me, she’s got me on the pills too” he grumbled that last bit out as if to say -damnit I’m not old- “Better to start taking them young and yes, members of the protection agency were the guinea pigs, I was actually a good deal older physically. Rad sickness didn’t help there. Too bad they didn’t come a few years earlier; I would have liked to have had another baby”
He remembered her grumbling about that, Lily was one of seven siblings, but she’d only been a mother of two. Lily was probably chronologically approaching sixty, but she looked about his age. “gray streaks an aesthetic now?”
The woman shook her head grinning “Naw, I’ve had them since I was twenty or so, family thing”
“Funny, I don’t remember them when we walked through China”
She barked out a laugh “That’s because I was covered in mud and dirt you tool”
“Fair enough” Boone laughed. Finally letting himself relax, flying in “Badger” wasn’t so bad. Or so he told himself as they began their approach of the Statue of Liberty. Boone was still honored Marquette asked to be the one to retrieve him, someone of her rank should have been ferrying one of the Companions, not him. Companions, Boone allowed the word to roll about in his head. It was so benign; of everything they could have referred to themselves as. That was one of the reasons why he didn’t embrace the skepticism of some of his CI’s and friends in city hall. But it was also why he shared his wife’s reluctance to embrace them fully, as a family the Boones didn’t idolize them, not the way so many did. In his experience, the experience of so many who lived through the violent social upheaval of the early twenty first century knew well enough that those who smiled and talked of common good could be just as evil as the loud mouthed bigot, or more so.
Things that smiled with a smile that never quite reached the eyes always bothered William Boone more than a smirk or a contemptuous sneer.
Godless heathens, they only said that because of the sky demons. He walked through the main registration hall, hands in his pockets, noticing the hundreds who’d packed into a building that had once served as a processing center for poor, destitute and lost. Those seeking a new life, those seeking a new world, those he’d been told his entire childhood and adolescence came here in hope only to have that hope dashed against a wall as foremen chained them to the press of exploitation. A couple passed him, he recognized the wife, in her youth she was a trans rights activist who’d been born Dianna but insisted on being called Darren. She’d taken, the hormones, grown the beard, cut her breasts off and was pivotal in pushing the “Parental compliance act” of 2022. The fallout from that legislative decision was almost as bad as the war itself. Reflexively, his left hand moved from his pocket and he reached up to scratch his shoulder, it itched again. Where the prosthetic met the flesh, it always itched. -One less thing to worry about after today- the man thought. “Merry Christmas” the woman, who once had been a woman pretending to be a man said. Funny, he remembers her wanting to criminalize that very phrase, arguing the first amendment didn’t apply when a public health concern overrode individual liberties. The sky demons must have fixed her, they’d fixed tens of thousands who’d been either pressured into transitioning during the “March forward” or groomed into it, or who’d had their bodies ravaged by the hormone drugs and surgeries and desperately wanted to feel “right” inside again.. She didn’t remember him, they never did. Or maybe she didn’t recognize him? They never do anymore, granted he looked very different now. Gaunt, feral, a near ash colored beard on a once clean-shaven face. Circles around his eyes black enough for him to be confused for a bandit from an old timey cartoon. Sometimes, he could see a glimmer of recognition in their eyes and then a hasty movement of said eyes to look away, to pretend like they didn’t recognize him. She’d changed too, in that she looked healthy, rejuvenated, she got her missing bits back.
Ten or twenty years ago, he might have seen that as a good thing, as a form of deliverance. Hell, he had seen it that way! But then he noticed the signs, he began to study his scripture again. And he realized, they weren’t angels at all, and this false deliverance was merely the forfeiture of will, not its resurrection. Twenty years ago, he defended a little girl in court who murdered her lesbian parents because they were convinced, she was really “an egg about to hatch into the son they always knew she was”. One of them was a woman, who also, thought she was a man, she was also an anarcho-Satanist or a Neo-Pagan Communist or some such nonsense. The girl in a panic, slashed her “father’s” throat and set fire to the house. In the chaos her baby brother was burned alive along with her other mother. A once prestigious attorney, Nathaniel Sykes took the case (despite how frighteningly cold the girls’ eyes were). Because he firmly, ardently believed in free will, he fought for it during that trial. Ate a bullet for it after he got his client acquitted, he marched in the free speech riots and was disbarred for punching a police officer at a rally. When the US finally joined the war, he enlisted because he wanted to continue that fight badly and, because by that point his livelihood dried up. He still remembered the look on the recruiter’s face when he showed up, gramps; his DI’s called him. He wasn’t that old, only forty-five. He was almost sixty now, he might have been a grandfather, he wasn’t sure. The Sky demons took his children from him too, he’d given his life to the fight and lost an arm in the service but when the war ended, only the new heroes were honored.
Only those, decreed from on high by the Sky Demons, those who bowed and smiled and pretended their supposed personal revelations were genuine and came from the human condition, the soul. Or those too ignorant to realize they were being manipulated, those puppets, the ignorant ones whom he could forgive for knowing not what they were doing. They still had to be martyred though, they still had to be sacrificed so. The veil needed to be lifted from mankind, they needed to see, and he would make them see. Cherry Christmas would be his funeral dirge,
Moving towards a maintenance closet the man picked up what would have looked like a harmless suitcase, he’d taken it up. Someone smiled pleasantly at him, dressed in gray, the Companion “adepts” those wastrels, former atheists or former fanatics of one religion or another who’d found a “spiritual awakening” in these idols. This would be done, it had to be done, his chest hurt again, that was okay too. There was poetry in that, a man with a broken heart, breaking the hearts of so many.
Once upstairs, the upper levels were indeed vacant, as the man promised they would be! Good, Sykes had been terribly anxious all the way up. There was even a nice, comfy chair prepared for him that would allow him to sit while he waited. Not that he’d be waiting very long, the ceremony was only a half hour away from beginning!
So, I started this story, being partially inspired by the reboot trend and also having been a fan of Earth final conflict. I always felt the driving force behind EFC wasn't so much the sci fi element, but the intrigue, the implied lore and the seemingly enigmatic and Machiavellian nature of the Taelons. As a result, this story will be an ode...to the wondrous characters of the first and second season.
Standard disclaimer applies, I own none of this, Roddenberry estate and the now defunct Tribune entertainment...yadda, yadda, yadda.
Chapter One: Francisco de Bobadilla
Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes –
December 24th, 2040
New York City.
Parade duty, Detective William “Billy” Boone thought to himself. Combat Veteran (then again so were three quarters of the cops on payroll), “Hero of the SI war” (Indo-Asian Theatre of the third world war). Trained in counter terrorism, criminal profiling, and a survivor of the “Siege of Beijing and the best damn detective in the NYPD but here he was, on parade duty. At least, that’s what he thought it was when the Protection Agency called Chief Pierce and asked (Re: demanded), Detective Boone take over security duty for the anniversary parade slash “grand speech”. It had to be parade duty, who the hell would try and assassinate one of them? In the ten years since they’d ended the Third World War with their arrival, they’d all but been deified.
Ten years, had it really been that long? Boone felt old (which was odd, given companion tech had been able produce a whole generation of centenarians who were hitting the gym like they were twenty somethings), but then again maybe that was the true downside to surviving a calamitous war? Society changed so much that forty-seven (which was supposedly the new twenty) felt like eighty-seven? The baby boom certainly did make him feel old, he’d gone from a man who dabbled in anti-natalist nonsense in his adolescence to having four sons with a woman ten years his junior. But then again, a war that causes the death of two billion people has a nasty habit of snapping one out of youthful arrogance. Above him, an immense holographic projection with the odd, baby green and purple infinity symbol of Doors International manifested a tall, gaunt man in his seventies who began to speak about the wonders of the Doors data sheet. A plastic monstrosity that was paper thin and slowly replacing tablets (Funny, he remembered before the war how tablets were supposed to be replaced with holotabs). Boone used one at work, it was basically a supercomputer you could roll up and swat at your dogs’ nose with. It was also adaptive when it came to viruses and trojans and it made the cyber division of law enforcement seethe as the damn things had the unfortunate side effect of making electronic surveillance a nightmare.
Old, old enough to remember the financial collapse of 07, old enough to remember his daddy’s church shuttering because the Coal plants were shut down and some dismissive loudmouthed politician who claimed to speak for “his community” told them all to learn to code. He didn’t say that, but he may as well have. Old enough to remember the, “secular cultist” nonsense and madness masquerading as social progress (And to have taken part in it), old enough to remember the consequences of such sanctimony and old enough to have been there and seen it.
It all changed when they came.
Which brought him back to the present, walking from one police plaza, hot dog happily in hand. Towards an elevated area raised a few dozen feet from the parking lot attached to a stairwell which looked like it had been “grown” out of the asphalt (It probably was). The new helipad for the rapid response units and, for the three purple and blue vehicles which rested seemingly floating an inch or so off the smooth plastic-steel alloy of the pad’s floor, those things were amazing. Affectionately called “grubs” since they sort of looked like a cross between a common house fly and larva, they were the shuttles used by the brass to get around city, to city, continent to continent for conferences or inter-continental law enforcement “operations”. Which was City Hall speak for “Our best Detective’s slum it in rat motels in another country while we get shitfaced in gentlemen’s clubs and look at us mystified when we tell them they’re jackals” the more things changed. Damn bug ships, Boone once said he’d rather row across the ocean like that little activist spaz claimed she’d done rather then get up in something that raped the laws of physics as a means of conveyance. Naturally, the third one was for him and Detective William Boone did his best not to eat his hot dog for a second time at the thought... Ahead of him, two uniformed Cops in their fifties were laughing and talking, Williams and Profacci “big and bigger” as they were called in the office. Who loomed like human zeppelins in front of him and were probably on their fifth lunch? Boone shook his head, five years ago Profacci was on the verge of liver failure due to his enormous weight. He’d been arthritic and suffered serious damage to his knees, had been riding a desk too. The technology they “gave” mankind, not only reversed his liver damage but ensured he now possessed the arteries, heart and cartilage of a man in the prime of his youth. So naturally Profacci lost just enough weight to qualify for street duty again and Williams soon followed.
“Ey! Billy boy!” Williams called, laughter in his voice. “You’re really gonna ride in that thing?” “Fastest way to get to Liberty Island.” Boone muttered, doing his best to sound like he wasn’t being asked to commit suicide by jumping in a living, bug monster that zoomed across the stars. “Ah, they ain’t so bad” Profacci said with a shit eating grin “I rode in one once, it was really smooth, like driving an antique Caddy, one of those DeVille models” “Bullshit Profacci” Boone muttered. “As if you could fit in either” all three men laughed and Profacci slapped Boone on the shoulder “Boys I think he’s turning white! That’s quite a feat given ya look like Wesley Snipes”
He did, Boone realized, which was amusing because his father was a sharecroppers son by a Cherokee-Irish mother even though his paternal grandfather came from freedmen stock and Boone’s own mom (and most of his sisters for that matter) looked like she belonged in a sword and sandal drama about the Roman conquest of Britain even though they were Haitian. He also realized; he was probably turning as white as his mom because he felt like he wanted to throw himself off the Chrysler building rather than jump aboard one of those damn things. “I heard they move seventy percent the speed of light” Boone griped “Its bad enough driving around with my wife in her Porsche” Boone, hated, hated speed. “Speaking of that, Rose got clocked doing 101 in that thing upstate, a new record”
Offff ccouuurrsseee…Boone thought.
“You big wuss! The damn things can’t go that fast, it’s impossible we’d get turned into soup” Williams lectured, as if he’d been piloting those flying maggots since he’d learned to walk. “Besides, wouldn’t the atmosphere catch on fire or something?”
“Yes, it totally can reach those speeds and no, it wouldn’t do either of those things because of the negation fields around my handsome boy!” The sing-song voice took the three men off guard and both turned towards a tall woman with pale skin and the blackest pair of eyes Big and Bigger had ever seen. She wore an old-world war one style bomber jacket over the black and silver uniforms of the Protection agency officers and a badge signifying her current Rank (and below it, her former Air Force Rank). Her dark black hair was in a ponytail and it trailed down to her rear, it had some streaks of charcoal gray, the only thing that really defined her age. “Major?” Boone asked, surprised to see the woman not only alive but looking about the same as the last time he’d seen her some twelve years ago. Lily Marquette, the first female fighter pilot to make “ace in a day” and a double ace at that, during her first combat mission in the war. “Captain now” she grinned “oh? They demoted you” she laughed “more like a promotion really. Captains in their military are like Generals in ours. Well, the closest thing they have to a Captain any way” she explained giving the Detective a hug “Been awhile Preacher”
“Preacher?!” Profacci asked with an amused smile. “It’s what I called him during the war. See Bill here, he rescued me from behind enemy lines when a transport I was in got shot down” her eyes sparkled with mischief when Boone muttered the oft repeated “shoulda let her fly the thing”. “Boone here’s a preacher’s son and apparently he flirted with not liking god for awhile and then found ‘em again during the war” “He didn’t?” “Preached to me the whole time his unit marched me back? Yeah, he did but it was sweet. It kept us inspired, especially when it came too messing with him” Both of the cops howled with laughter as Captain Marquette led Boone away towards the stairs. “Don’t worry, we won’t go above two hundred miles an hour I promise” she whispered causing the man’s eyes to go wide.