The first human war, p.1
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       The First Human War, p.1
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           Frank Calcagno
The First Human War

  What others are saying about The First Human War

  “Professional quality sci-fi, slick with a techy overlay that generates interesting imagery. The core of human interaction keeps it grounded but off-world in its feel. Up there with stuff I read in my youth from Asimov and others.”

  — Michael Gray, author of 2150 Total Integration,

  “(Calcagno’s) imaginative technology is superb, whilst the astronomical information gives colour and credibility to this Sci Fi fantasy. Loved it.”

  — Katy Roberts, author of Phobic Dawn,

  The Antares Rangers and the First Human War

  Book 1 of the Tales of the Antares Rangers

  Copyright 2010 Frank Calcagno Jr.

  The D’war’en Heir - Tales of the Antares Rangers, Book 2

  The Orb of Jabbah - Tales of the Antares Rangers, Book 3

  The Wasatti Empire - Tales of the Antares Rangers, Book 4

  The Centauri Project - Prequel to the Tales of the Antares Rangers

  Murder at Midnight on a Sailboat



  CHAPTER 1 - VCB – 0730, JANUARY 29, 2365



  CHAPTER 4 - VCB – 1300, JANUARY 29, 2365

















  There was no other way. It was either him or his opponent—one would die before this day was done. Very likely, it would be him.

  His name was Peter Campbell. Blood soaked his uniform. Every breath he took stung like a hundred daggers, and his pain was so intense he considered giving up; but after all he had been through ….

  No, he would not yield. Not if he had anything to say about it.

  There was not a moment’s rest since de-orbiting from space and it looked like none would come. Struggling to catch his breath, he glanced down to an enormous depth. His platform swayed in the wind, supported by a single brace recently shattered by a lucky shot. It would give at any moment. He looked up and saw soulless eyes staring back, silently willing him to come forward. That’s just what you want me to do, isn’t it?

  And Peter had no choice.

  It had all started a thousand years ago for Peter and his friends. It was so long ago; they were just five kids trying to grow up. He could barely remember those carefree days. That was when their adventures first began ….


  Vega Construction Base – 0730, January 29, 2365

  A massive asteroid field nearly a billion miles wide surrounded Vega. Each rock was little different from the others except for one, where a small research and construction base was wedged within its fractured interior. Each room was separated by long, winding tunnels like the hollowed-out spokes of a child’s jack, and deep within the five-mile rock was the living spaces, laboratories, and factories for the workers and their families. The base defined the concept of austerity; it had no sprawling green vistas. There were no beautiful sunrises or sunsets. For that matter, it had no outdoors. The population lived in artificial gravity with artificial lighting, enclosed within two and a half miles of iron like specimens trapped inside the glass walls of a child’s toy ant colony.

  “Yo, Chief …! Wait up.”

  Peter Campbell slowed his already sluggish pace. Although he was only 14 (+34 K-T-adjusted), he already possessed the build of a strong, young man. He had the fine, straight, raven-black hair he inherited from his Northern Cheyenne mother as well as the faint characteristic epicanthic fold above his eyes. His own peculiar mixed lineage was evident, however, by the dark blue eyes he inherited from his father.

  Peter had a hard time finding his friend in the distant shadows of the corridor, but he did not mind. He was in no hurry to get where he was going and was actually relieved for the delay his friend caused. He watched Ali trot up to him, nearly out of breath by the time he closed the gap. Peter smiled in spite of his foul mood, “Hey, Paleface.”

  “Y’ talkin’ to me?” Ali asked. “That’s a laugh.” Ali’s skin was the color of deep ebony, and although Peter was also dark, there really was no contest between the two.

  Ali Hamadi was short, even for his age. He was almost as wide as he was tall, but was destined to be massive once his next growth spurt began. Ali was 13 years old (+30 K-T-adjusted), but not the youngest of the five base brats. In fact, he was born forty–three years ago on Empire, but having only spent his first two years there he could not recall a single detail about his distant homeworld. His father, the renowned starship designer Mohammed Hussein Hamadi, was a very important scientist for humanity and the Ten Colonies manipulated the magic of K-T-space to maximize his unmatched abilities. Ali and his parents would live on a planet for a year or two, where his dad’s fertile ideas could take root, and then board a starship to “sleep away” the ten to fifteen years it took for technology to catch up with his discoveries. Then, the small family would land somewhere else to begin the cycle again, extending his working career for over a hundred years. So—all told—Ali had been to Empire, Jackson’s Landing, and Mars for tantalizing glimpses of how life should have been before finally arriving at Vega.

  “Henrietta said you left five minutes ago. Didn’t think I’d ever catch up. Wanted to say ‘hi’ before we went under.”

  “Yeah, yeah; I was in no hurry.”

  Ali stepped around Peter, barely squeezing his noticeable girth through the narrow space. “You never are in a rush, going in there. Ready for this afternoon?”

  Peter’s mood suddenly improved. “You bet.”

  Ali unlatched the hatch and slipped into the room. Peter just stood there as he watched his friend walk in to that horrible little room.

  A melodious voice with a hint of a Portuguese accent interrupted his thoughts, “You experiencing an engine malf’ again?”

  Henrietta Moreira was a +10 K-T-adjusted 14-year-old from Praia de Santos, Brazil Province of Old Earth. She had long, silky hair the color of rich cocoa beans. She spent half an hour each evening meticulously brushing her hair, and as a result it had the look of flowing liquid. Her skin was flawless, and her deep, expressive eyes would melt the heart of anyone brave enough to look into them. She was mature beyond her years, but humble all the same—quiet, yet not afraid to stand up for what was right.

  Peter blushed as Henrietta gracefully strolled by, but she was long gone before he could think of a proper reply. Footsteps on the metal floor interrupted his thoughts again, but before he could turn around one set scuffed the floor as a diminutive body crashed awkwardly into him.

  “Out of my way, Null-Grav.” Stiles shouldered around the two unsteady boys and smirked as he passed through the hatch. “Nice shot, if I say so myself.”

  Stiles Essen, from the elite world of New Capital, was 14 (+10 K-T-adjusted) and t
he oldest of the base children by a mere five months. He had a light complexion, spiky strawberry-blond hair, and had edgy, piercing eyes. He was tall for his age. He chose his words carefully, not because he had little to say but rather because he rarely encountered people worthy of his attention. When Stiles did speak, it was with a commanding voice that resonated from his developing diaphragm, each word sparingly parsed out like gold from a miser’s purse. Stiles would have made a great fashion model. In fact, any ad agency would have given anything to have him as a client, if not for his inborn destiny to lead humanity as an important politician at some future posting.

  Peter untangled himself from Jimmy. “You okay?”

  “I guess,” he replied, smoothing out his caretaker suit.

  Looking back on his young life, Jimmy Dallas would have been perfectly content spending a normal—uninterrupted—life on the home planet of the Hive. He had no desire to cheat death in mindless sleep on those speeding starships of the space ways. Wishing for something though would not make it happen, as he learned by the ten years spent in K-T-space on his only trip through interstellar space. The VCB may not have been the best place to live, but if it were up to Jimmy the trip would be his last. After all, as long as he had access to computers he would be perfectly happy.

  Jimmy was the youngest of the five base children, yet had spent the longest time there. He was 10 years old (+10 K-T-adjusted) but most of the time he acted like he was three years younger. He was smart; there was absolutely no doubt about that, but he was slight of build—skinny as a rusty rail, actually—and his maturity level never seemed to match his obvious intelligence. He always seemed to have a cold or some other exotic ailment he recently read about, but that no one else ever heard of. He was the proud owner of flaming-red hair with bright green eyes to match, and it was difficult to tell if his face was dark with mysterious light spots, or light, covered in dark freckles.

  Jimmy straightened the connectors hanging from his chest and stepped over the lip of the hatch. As he passed through he whispered, “One of these days, Stiles, I’m gonna—”

  Peter did not catch the retribution Jimmy was meticulously planning, and was just as glad.

  Well, last one in again, Peter thought.

  * * *

  In form and shape, the room resembled the inside of an egg. And like an egg, the room was dedicated to nurturing young life.

  Stiles was already under by the time Peter entered. Figures, Peter reflected, the “perfect student” can’t wait to wire up into that thing.

  Five crèches were gathered near the room’s center, with Stiles already comfortably within his, as if frozen in-place during a lazy game of duck-duck-goose. A headset rested over his eyes and probes were attached to his skull and fingers, inputting data directly to his brain and recording his physical and mental responses. Every second or so Stiles would twitch. After another few seconds, he would twinge to some unseen stimulus.

  It was just like any other deep-teach schoolroom used on human worlds, but this particular one was reserved for the five children living at the base. Once strapped in, their eyes scanned a hundred simultaneous video simulations all configured to their unique lesson plans. Fingers manipulated virtual styluses to complete one speed-assignment after another. Brains absorbed lessons without consciously comprehending the connections being made. If they were learning about history, they thought they were actually participating. If they were studying computers, they traveled through the circuits themselves.

  They were completely unaware of their surroundings or the needs of their young and growing bodies. As a result, they wore special clothes resembling casual environmental suits, handling the occasional needs their bodies required; massaging unused muscles, supplying nutrients, or eliminating wastes. It was a technology borrowed from the needs of humans traveling through K-T-space.

  The sight made Peter shiver. Of course, looking at Stiles always made Peter shiver.

  Stiles had followed his parents to the Vega Construction Base three years ago. For space travelers, Stiles was a relative novice. He made just the one voyage through K-T-space, and as a result had only lost ten years of his lifespan to hyperspace stasis since he was born twenty–four years ago. Even so, it was a difficult move for Stiles. He did not want to leave his friends and studies behind, and he argued with his mother for as long as they had planned the trip. It was an argument he lost. It was a difficult lesson for Stiles; in fact, it was likely the first time in his carefully groomed life he had not gotten his way. Rumor had it from the other kids on base that Stiles argued with his mom even while suspended in K-T-space. Word was if you listened very carefully, his rants were still bouncing around the curved surfaces of bent space. Stiles told everyone that was not possible, but knowing of Stiles’ force of will, the other kids were not so sure.

  His mother reassured him that his experiences here at humanity’s most important scientific base would be invaluable, and that any of his young rivals would give anything to be in his place, had they even known where he was. Of course, it did not hurt that his dad was the administrative governor of the Vega Base, and that—assuming his dad found the time—Stiles would learn a great deal following him around in his duties. So far though, in three long and lonely years, his father had not found the time.

  Stiles subconsciously settled back and concentrated on his next deep-teach module, explaining how Napoleon retook Europe after his first exile in Elba. He smiled under his headset, fantasizing how he, too, would one day return to New Capital. In a mere three minutes of classroom instruction, he had just lived the life of a new-found hero.

  * * *

  “Jimmy, what are you doing?” Peter hissed.

  “Shhh; he’ll hear you.”

  Peter nervously sidestepped next to the younger boy. “Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about. Quit that!”

  Jimmy was furiously working at Stiles’ control box, barely concealed from the Overseer three crèches away.

  “What did you just do?”

  “Aw, he’s studying that boring stuff again. He needs a change.” Jimmy closed Stiles’ tape insert slot and set the module for the next lesson. He glanced up to keep track of where the Overseer was. “I just inserted the history of the Big Band music era into his queue, but I skipped the introductory part. Fifteen minutes of music samples should be starting right about … now.”

  “Hey, don’t,” Peter pleaded.

  Ali walked up to the boys, full of curiosity. “What’cha doin’ …? Need help?”

  The boy’s watched Stiles squirm.

  “Nah; this is too much fun. Oops, I mighta got the volume settings all wrong.”

  “Jimmy, you shouldn’t mess with the crèches,” Peter warned. “Ali maybe could pull that off, but not you.”

  “Ah, he’ll be alright. Maybe wake up with a powerful headache, though.”

  “Mr. Dallas, are you ready?” the Overseer asked.

  “Oh, yes sir. Thank you, sir.” Jimmy stepped into his crèche and dialed up a lesson plan on the history of language.

  * * *

  Everyone got along well with Jimmy, except for Stiles who picked on him unmercifully. Jimmy was born on the Hive world at Tau Ceti, at the human embassy. That was where his mom and dad had worked. Unfortunately, his father died of a strange illness when he was only three. Try as he might, Jimmy just could not recall anything about him.

  A small panic ensued shortly after the death of his father, while the humans worried about some alien bug on the Hive homeworld out to kill them all. Careful genetic mapping, however, showed that the death was a result of a DNA predisposition against some combination of minerals found only at Tau Ceti. Everyone else should be safe, or so the theory went.

  Once the cause of the death was discovered, he and his mom were asked to leave the Tau Ceti system. Jimmy’s genetic makeup did not appear to be susceptible to the disease, but the authorities felt it was not worth the risk. So Jimmy and his mom were whisked away directly to the Vega Base, w
here her extensive knowledge of exobiology could be fully utilized.

  Coming from the colony world of Tau Ceti, along with his exposure to the embassy and staff, Jimmy was a natural in linguistics, even though most outsiders said he could not possibly be old enough to remember having lived there. His mother was not so sure, and she stubbornly insisted her son had absorbed some of the Hive’s telepathic abilities. She constantly found ways to let Jimmy know he was special, even though she could never prove it. It was not like he could read minds—heaven knew he tried—but he was extraordinarily good at languages. At ten, he already could read seventeen languages fluently.

  Jimmy secretly fantasized he might someday become humanity’s long-lost superhero after reading an ancient Earth story about Superman and his escape from planet Krypton. The fate of his father’s weakness, though, was quite possibly his own personal kryptonite that he reluctantly carried within his cells.

  Jimmy immediately latched on to Peter Campbell when Peter arrived at the base three years ago. In Peter, Jimmy found his first friend. Peter actually paid attention to him. He treated him with respect that no one, other than his mom, had done. And everyone knew moms did that out of necessity. Peter became an instant mentor—almost a father figure—and Jimmy became loyal to Peter to a fault. And because Jimmy was always in conflict with Stiles, Peter continually came to the younger boy’s defense, just like Jimmy imagined his father would have done had he never left.

  Jimmy sat back in his crèche and called up another tape, looking forward to working through the subtle regional dialects that were developing on planet Himalaya.

  * * *

  “You guys getting in trouble again?”

  Peter blushed. “Oh, hi, Arietta. What’d you mean?”

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