Valdius-Remington Interstellar Space Elevator Four Thousand Nautical Miles West of Ecuador Pacific Ocean 18:35 Local Time
Mike Valdius was reviewing the latest reports from the vast corporate empire under his command when the secure video link beeped, indicating an incoming call from General Franklin Monterey at Psionics Command.Mike immediately picked up.
“General, sir.How may I be of assistance?”
“I have a troublesome student who has pissed off the wrong person.It is not something I am able to get him out of due to the political connections involved.He would be an asset to the program if we can get a handle on his insatiable curiosity and cockiness.”
“What do you want me to do with him?”
“Get him off the planet, and don’t let him come back.”
“Are you sure he’ll be safe for that?The last thing we need up there is another loose cannon.”
“The lad in question has an immensely powerful telepathic gift and the curiosity of ten cats.He somehow got in range of the former Vice President and his son, Parker Dibben. He discovered some shenanigans that philandering twat got up to.The Psionic Agent tasked with protecting the former Vice President detected the scan and, instead of following protocol, reported it to the Vice President instead of his chain of command.The Psionic Agent in question has been dealt with, but our trainee is a loose end that needs to be tied off.Officially, that’ll be a training accident.”
“How much of our program is he aware of so far?”
“He’s aware there is more to our space activities than is public.His shields are too good to know just how much he knows for certain without shredding his mind.His intelligence is at the top end of the scale, but he is an idealist with little experience in the real world.Worse still, he was pulled in from a neoclassical hippie commune, skewing his perceptions of reality that much further.”
“So, he has figured out enough to cause us a real headache if he tells anyone about what he knows, and he doesn’t understand the danger of doing so,” Mike said out loud to confirm his thoughts.
“Spot on, as usual, Captain.”
“Well, there is a supply run scheduled tomorrow, and I’m launch-qualified.I can go up for an inspection and give him a thorough grounding in the importance of what we do.If you plan to get him down here to Ecuador by tomorrow morning, I’ll arrange to have him transported straight here to the base.”
“His telepathy is so strong that he can tell if someone is lying, through even the strongest shields.Combined with his strange upbringing and confidence, he’s a handful.”
“So, he’s a bit naïve and bit arrogant with his powers.I don’t think that will go over well with many people on the team at Armstrong Base, least of all my husband.”
“One last thing.You are going to have to be the one to tell him that he cannot return to Earth.He will most certainly not cooperate if he knows that ahead of time.He has been as trained as much as we are able while keeping him out of mischief. Fortunately, he does have a strong interest in space, so once he settles down from the surprise, this will not be a burden for him.I’ll include all the relevant information in his files when we send them.”
“Yes, sir.We’ll figure out something for him and make sure it’s something we can all live with.”
The general nodded and closed the connection.A notification popped up saying that the general sent the guy’s file.Mike immediately pulled up the supply ship’s flight plan and adjusted the crew list.He placed himself in command of the shuttle and added his mystery guest as crew after pulling his name from the file.
Mike sighed and pulled up the Space Command screen that showed the location of all the current Valdius-Remington Interstellar vessels.The United States government had been secretly running a base on the Moon since the early 1980s.A small and elite group of scientists and Psionicists slowly trickled out the technology that created the boom of the 1990s and beyond.The Pentagon turned the lunar facility over to the Psionic Corp in the late 1990s when it became apparent that the technology revolution they jumpstarted was going to make it a lot harder to hide things.The Psionic Corp, which had been running very quietly in the background for years, went completely dark to avoid discovery from the questionable people elected President during the first few decades of the twenty-first century.
The Psionic Corp led efforts through public, private, and government entities to raise the level of technology around the world and above it to the point where interstellar space travel became a true possibility.They worked in the background to ensure that when the Terran Confederation was founded, it was guided by the same profound understanding of human nature that the Founding Fathers of the United States Constitution had.The minority must be protected from the tyranny of the majority.Democracy ends as soon as the population understands that it can vote itself goodies from the public till.Though, unlike the Constitution, equality was built in for everyone from the start, with a strong emphasis on meritocracy.Everyone was guaranteed equality of opportunity, not the equality of outcome.
The Psionic Corp itself, morphed from the special forces unit of the U.S. Army into the military command of the Terran Confederation, expanding membership eligibility to all qualified humans, not just Psionics.The very root of the agreement forming the Terran Confederation was simple:Humans in space, spaceships, stations, moons, and other habitable bodies were the jurisdiction of the Terran Confederation military command.Humans on planets were the jurisdiction of that planet’s government.Plans were set in place to see the formation of a Terran Confederation Council made up representatives of all the planets.Politicians would get free reign of all the planets in exchange for the military getting free reign of everything else.The arrangement was working well so far, with a colony on Mars and a Confederation base on the Moon.
Earth orbit had the station and anchor asteroid that counterbalanced the massive space elevator that allowed material to be lifted into orbit at a tiny fraction of the cost of using a rocket.The space elevator ran around the clock bringing supplies to those working on the Alpha-Centauri Colony Ship, the T.C.S. Centaurus.
There was an array of satellites along with a small cargo space station responsible for transferring material off from the space elevator and sending it along to the construction yard in lunar orbit.The most important aspect was the mass accelerator near the station that allowed ships to boost to lunar orbit.The transition time was just six hours.There was a duplicate accelerator in lunar orbit that allowed ships to slow down so they could enter the base.It was absolutely the forefront of human technology and the tech guys at Armstrong Base were constantly making upgrades.
Valdius-Remington Interstellar Headquarters Espacio de Paz, Coastal Ecuador 08:00, 1 day later
Lieutenant Junior Grade Zebron Wilson was escorted out of the military transport and directed toward the main lobby doors of the largest company on Earth.
“Welcome to Valdius-Remington Interstellar Headquarters,” a soothing female voice greeted him as he walked into the main lobby.
“The elevators are straight ahead and to the left, Lt. Wilson.There is an elevator waiting for you,” a life-sized holographic interface said in the same voice, blinking into existence in front of him and pointing to the elevators.
Zebron shrugged, rolled his eyes, and went straight to the elevator banks without any further indication he heard.As he approached, one set of doors opened on their own, and he walked in.
“Thank you, Lt. Wilson.I have taken the liberty of changing your itinerary.Mr. Valdius’ actual location was not reported to Psionic Command.He is currently located at the command center and has asked that you join him there.This elevator will bring you to a private loading area for the V.T.S.Please transfer to the waiting transport,” she said as the doors opened.
Zebron stepped out onto the platform before moving to the obviously waiting transport.It was unmanned.He walked inside and took a seat in the front.The seat adjusted automatically before a lap bar lowered to hold him in his seat.
“Welcome to the Valdius Transport System.Physical scan is now complete.You are cleared for full power transport.The forces experienced in this transport mode are like a space launch.Do you wish to proceed?”
“Go ahead,” Zebron said while rolling his eyes again.
His feelings changed when the vehicle moved one hell of a lot faster than he ever expected.He watched the tunnel ahead, lit periodically with strips, but they were going so fast he could not discern anything useful.
“E.T.A. to Central Command is fifty-five minutes.You have priority clearance, and all other traffic rerouted to allow our passage.Normal transport time is approximately three hours.”
“Where exactly are we going, and how fast are we moving?”
“This transport is currently moving at 4,105 miles per hour.You are currently in V.T.S Priority Traffic Tube 1 approaching Valdius-Remington Interstellar Space Elevator.”
“I get to see the space elevator?I wasn’t expecting that.”
“General Monterey included your interests in the space program along with your file.”
“That is very unlike General Monterey.I thought access to the space elevator was severely restricted?”
“The Space Elevator facility is coded Ultraviolet, and special clearance is required to approach within 300 miles.It is the central nerve center of the entire Valdius-Remington Interstellar Corporation.”
“I thought that the V.R.I. Tower was the central nerve center?”
“V.R.I. Tower serves as the international corporate nerve center and our public face.No critical operations actually occur there.”
Silence descended on the transport and nothing was spoken until the computer alerted the passenger nearly an hour later, “We are now arriving.Prepare for deceleration.When this vehicle comes to a complete stop, please follow the indicator lights on the floor and wall monitors to your next destination.”
Zebron stood up as soon as his seat restraint lifted.He stepped outside of his transport shuttle onto a remarkably similar platform to the one he left earlier in Ecuador.There were indicator lights directing him to an elevator bank, which he followed.
The elevator went down farther before opening into a command center.There was a huge array of screens immediately visible.The screens showed the location of all the manned spacecraft in the solar system.A man with a complete head of silver hair made his way to greet him.Zebron recognized him immediately at the man he was there to meet.
“Welcome to Central Command, Lt. Wilson.”
“Thank you, sir,” the young man replied stiffly.
“You can relax, Zebron, we’re going to be together for a couple of days.”
“Sir,” he replied, still standing at attention.
“What were you told, exactly, about your visit here?”
“I was told that I had to follow your orders as if you outranked me and that if I opened my mind, you would show me the truth of what has been hidden from me, sir.”
“In other words, shut up, go talk to this rich guy, and he’ll tell you some bullshit story?”
Zebron startled but quickly masked it.
“I should probably tell you that I hold the rank of Captain in the Psionic Corp.I am one of the stronger talents in the entire corp.However, I was also something far, far more important: the sole inheriting grandson of one of the largest private companies in the world.A distinction also held by my husband, though his father still runs Remington even at his advanced age.My husband has a far better head for the technology side than business.As best we can tell, his strongest talent is not much use to us yet.He can detect the subtle gravity fluctuations that indicate the possibility of opening an Einstein-Rosenberg Bridge.As our technology is not ready for that yet, he’s focused on getting it ready.”
Zebron’s mask slipped, and he was slack-jawed for a few moments before he reasserted his neutral look.
“Now, I’m going to presume you are asking yourself what a powerful industrialist like myself is doing loose with the power and talents of Psionics and not being locked up behind our walls to protect the mundane people.”
“Yes… I didn’t realize we could go free.”
“Appearances aside, I’m not exactly burden-free.Something is coming, and it frankly scares the hell out of me.We are doing everything in our power to make sure humanity survives.We have set aside the pettiness of politics and everything else to push humanity far enough in the hope it will be enough to make the difference when the time arrives.There are many days when I despair that we’ll ever be able to.”
Zebron looked very alarmed.“Everything you’ve said has been the absolute truth.”
“Of course, it is.I know your talent, so you are not even going to get the polite lies.I was asked to bring you into the bigger plan.Your talents have allowed you to catch glimpses from people with weaker shields.This is an opportunity for you to see the full picture and get an opportunity so few are offered: The unpolished truth of humanity’s existence.You will have to let go of those lingering fancies of your parents and embrace the truth, though.Most people are motivated by self-interest and not altruism.I am no exception.I am doing stuff for myself, but I’m trying to help others along the way.You haven’t heard bad press about my business, have you?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“You have been sent specifically to me because you are a skeptical young man with far too much curiosity.You scanned the wrong person and got noticed.It is highly likely that had General Monterey not gotten you out of the area, you would be dead by some accident. You know when I am telling the truth and when I’m not.So, you are here to learn the whole truth, and you’ll have to live with the consequences of that going forward.”
“I already know it.”
“I am sure that you do.Arrogance is not an attractive trait.Whatever it is you think you know, the truth has a quite different perspective when it is staring you in the face than when you are safely tucked away in a secure training facility.So, you are coming with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the one place where you can see the truth and can’t get to on your own, of course.”
“That didn’t tell me anything.”
“It would have told you everything if you spent more time using that excellent brain of yours and less time brooding about how evil you think I am,” Mike Valdius snapped back.
“You are a monopolist.You are unelected, yet you control half the world.”
“I do nothing of the sort.I am a businessman, certainly.But I did not patent my technology.Anyone who takes the time and money, like I did, can discover the technology and make their own.It is even easier for them since they now know you can do it.And on top of that, I report to Terran Confederation Command.”
“You make too much money!”
“Who the hell are you to decide how much someone should make?This company pays over one trillion dollars a year in taxes.I pay billions myself.My employees are the best compensated in every industry I am in.I even provide a fully funded retirement plan, including health benefits.How am I evil?I am not grinding anyone under my boots.This is not a zero-sum game, you know.Just because I’m rich doesn’t mean someone else can’t be as well!”
“Clearly, we are going to disagree.”
“Apparently so.This way.”
Mike Valdius walked the two of them back to the elevator.“We will take this up to the passenger load center, and then we’ll ride off to Anchorage Station.”
“We’re going into space?” Zebron asked in surprise.
“Yes.The only way for you to genuinely appreciate the truth of what is really going on is for you to see it with your own eyes.”
“We’re going to see the colony ship?” The young man’s face lit up.
“A great deal more than that.This ride into space is going to be not that different from your ride in our transport system.”
“So, fast with while pulling a lot of G’s?”
“Pretty much.The tether brings us up to Anchorage Station.We will have to transfer to a shuttle at that point to go anywhere else.”
“That board in your control room showed a lot more space activity than you’ve shown in the world media.”
“Spotted that, did you?Good.Yes, we are a great deal busier than those still on Earth realize.You’ll see why when we get to our ultimate destination.”
Zebron looked at the older man for a long moment before nodding.
The elevator stopped, and the doors opened to a loading area.
“We are under the main cargo loading area.The personnel transport all come through this level since people typically transfer into orbit in small numbers, and it takes most of the day for the cargo lift to reach Anchorage Station.”
Mike walked into the tether transport pod and sat in the center.Zebron sat next to him while looking around.It was not that big.It was wide enough for ten people to sit side by side and enough room to walk to the seat but no more.The whole pod was made with some sort of see-through material.
“It’s transparent aluminum.It is a newer version of the traditional Aluminum Oxynitride.We, of course, kept it nice and thick since it must withstand small asteroid hits long enough for us to get to the atmosphere.This trip up is going to be in two phases.We will launch from here then reduce speed until we meet with the cargo pod.We have to pass through that before we can accelerate to the maximum.”
“We can’t pass at speed through the cargo pod?”
“We can in an emergency, but it adds a lot of unnecessary stress.We, therefore, do not do it.”
The seats adjusted to the shapes of the two men, and then the active restraint system activated to hold them in place.The doors closed, and the airlock closed with a strong clank.
“System is set to automatic.Two occupants.Maximum speed allowed after cargo pod interface.Maximum acceleration engaged,” the A.I. calmly intoned as the passenger pod blasted upwards.
It took only ten seconds before they burst into the sunlight as the climb continued to accelerate.There were two full minutes of accelerating climb until they started deceleration.They slowed down to a climb rate of thirty miles per hour to pass through the rising cargo pod.Once they were clear, heavy acceleration hit again, driving them back into their seats.
The sky was rapidly darkening as they started to leave the atmosphere behind.Zebron’s eyes widened, and he felt the awe of seeing Earth from the outside for the first time.The feeling of zero gravity was disconcerting when he noticed it.
As they approached the space station, the artificial gravity kicked in.“We are using enough artificial gravity to make our transfer to the shuttle nice and easy.It’ll also help with the queasiness you’d get otherwise experiencing real zero gravity for the first time.”
“Artificial gravity?How the hell does that work?”
“We’re using an artificial gravity generator, of course.”
“And how does that work?” the young man asked in frustration.
“We don’t know.We have been able to copy it, though.”
“Copy it?From where?”
“You’ll see.The shuttle is this way.We will be under autopilot the whole way.We must hit everything exactly right.We are going to go through an accelerator pointed at the Moon, and there is a corresponding accelerator there that will slow us back down.We obviously must line that up exactly, or we will get flung out into space.We have to move along quickly here, or we’ll miss this launch window.”
“We need to be aligned with the Moon to launch.Orbital mechanics mumbo jumbo. If we miss it, we have to wait for another pass.”
They both walked into the shuttle and strapped in.
“This part is computer controlled, so we’re just passengers along for the ride.Initiate launch sequence.”
Despite the inertia dampeners working, both men were buried in their seats as they accelerated away from Earth toward the Moon.
“A little trivia for you.Apollo 11 reached nearly 25,000 miles per hour on their return flight from the Moon.We’re traveling at just over 100,000 miles per hour, which means we’ll be at the Moon’s acceleration station in a bit over two hours.”
Zebron’s emotions leaked into his voice when he asked, “What haven’t you told me?I know you were hiding something that you were not happy with.”
“So, you are not quite as impulsive as I was told.That is good.I know you, of all people, do not need to be told there are powerful, morally reprehensible people out there.Your run-in with former Vice President Dibben and his son, Parker, created a big fucking mess.That son of a bitch is a no-holds-barred, old-school, brass knuckles politician.Somehow he managed to go from nothing to filthy rich in office.His son Parker is even worse.All the coarseness and none of the political shine.That unauthorized scan you made was caught by the Psionic Corp agent in place for such things.But it turns out that son of a bitch was someone compromised.He reported the scan to the V.P. and the V.P. mumbled something.”
“Where are you going with this?”
“Officially, you died yesterday evening while on a flight to jungle training in Brazil.Unofficially, had we not intervened, you would have died wherever the hell you were when they caught up with you.There are forces in the government far more concerned with their own power than anything so quaint as law and the Constitution. As I am the gateway to the one place you can go to escape their reach, you were sent to me.You are being transferred to Armstrong Base on the Moon, and you will not be going home again.”
A beat started coming out the speakers followed by the dulcet sounds of Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon.Let me play among the stars…”
“Computer, stop!I have no idea how humanity is going to survive if we end up relying on smart-ass Artificial Intelligences with horribly inappropriate timing.”
“Apologies.I’ll make a note in my debug log.”
“What the hell is that?” Zebron exclaimed as the spacecraft rotated so the surface of the Moon was in clear sight.
“That would be the biggest secret on Earth since the Astronauts about Apollo 8 confirmed it with their own eyes.To paraphrase an old television show: We are not alone.We have never been alone.”
Zebron’s eyes were glued to the building remnants on the lunar surface, so he missed their rapid approach to the Lunar accelerator.
“Brace yourself. This slow down thing is something you feel.”
Both men braced as the shuttle was caught and slowed to orbital speed.The autopilot had them aligned to head around to the dark side of the Moon.It was not long at all until they were approaching the massive T.C.S. Centaurus, which was under construction in lunar orbit.
“Look at that, Zebron, the colony ship for the first crewed human flight out of our solar system.At least in the modern era.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll see.We need to land at Armstrong base.”
“You’re landing us on the Moon?I thought Armstrong base was an orbital facility.”
Mike keyed the headset. “Armstrong Base, this is Thunderbolt.Do you have us?”
“Affirmative, Thunderbolt.Bringing you down now.”
“Zebron, Armstrong Base is the main facility on the Moon.The orbital facility is also called Armstrong to help hide the fact that we have a base this big on the Moon.As I hope you have started to surmise from the ruins, we modern humans did not build it.It was ready-made for us, and it took someone with a strong telekinetic gift along with farseeing to get the place open to us.When it was, our eyes were well and truly opened.We are not the first humans to evolve, and there are aliens out there.”
“There are aliens?”
“Earth, as best we can tell at this point, is something of a zoo.Apparently, the biodiversity of Earth is extreme compared to the worlds we are aware of.There are several different aliens or alien factions active on Earth.They have gone more into hiding as our technology improves at capturing evidence of them.Apparently, we’ve made an impression on them with our tendency towards violence and general ability to ignore the dire consequences of doing remarkably stupid things.”
“What do they want with us?”
“Humans are adaptable, easy to fix, and really easy to alter genetically.The two of us having Psionic powers being an obvious example.The Aliens that spend the most time messing about with us are known as the Alien Grays in ufology.They have three factions that we know of:One that is malevolent, one that is interested in us like smart zoo animals, and one that is benevolent.The middle group holds sway over Earth now. They are into abductions, but in the same way humans will tranquilize and tag a bear.The harmful stuff with probes, disappearances, deaths, and mutilations are the malevolent group.Psionics in humanity and some parts of the base we are approaching are from the other group.It is all a complicated dance with most of humanity not in the loop.”
“How much danger are we in?”
“It depends on what you mean.I do not think that death would be likely.Unfortunately, I think many people would rather have died than be controlled against their will and forced to do the aliens’ bidding.They are strongly telepathic and could make most people a prisoner within their own bodies.They are not nice enough to block your consciousness of this, though.”
“What is coming?”
“All indications are that within the next few decades, the aliens will conclude their internal strife and resume their expansionist policies.When that occurs, they need strong, adaptable workers to set up colonies and do the menial labor.They like humans for this.”
“How the hell do we know this?”
“Various governments on Earth have been capturing and reverse-engineering the alien technologies for one hundred years. We have been able to access and translate some of their computer systems and historical data.As best we can tell, humans are a hybrid of Earth natives and extraterrestrial beings.We escaped our confines, and they left us to grow on our own.”
“You are putting a lot of caveats into your explanations,” Zebron observed.
“We don’t know anything for sure.We have chunks of information and a theoretical explanation of events that fit the facts we know as well as the unexplained items in known history.”
The conversation fell quiet as both shuttle occupants watch the doors open on a giant cavern in the crater ahead of them.
Valdius-Remington Armstrong Lunar Base Far Side of the Moon 13:05 Local Time
Jagger Remington was standing on the other side of the airlock, waiting for his husband’s arrival.He greeted him with a hug and kiss when he walked through with a young man in a Psionic Corp dress uniform.
“Is this my new recruit?”
“Zebron Wilson, this is my husband, Jagger Remington.He oversees Armstrong Station.Jagger, this is Zebron.”
“Welcome to Armstrong Base.We’ll get you settled in one of the longer-term quarters.”
“Zebron, you will be staying here until the former Vice President can be dealt with.”
They walked along the corridor following Jagger for a few minutes before Mike answered.“I did not work the security side of the Psionic Corp, nor do I work for the security side of the Terran Confederation.He is an old man that much the time seems to have lost the plot.It is unfortunate you caught him in a lucid moment.Chances are strong that he will not be with us much longer.In the meantime, you will be helping out here.”
“The General passed along your training and profile, Zebron. I think you will be a great fit here, and you will get to jump ahead of a lot of people with real space experience.It is a win-win for us.You will even get a shot at being a pilot.Though nothing so mundane as a fighter jet.We have all sorts of experimental craft around here, as well as tons of human/alien hybrid technology.This base is the least boring place to be stationed in the solar system.”
Jagger pushed open the door to the quarters, and the large screen on the wall was showing a vivid live feed of the Earth.“Just think of this, Zebron, nearly everyone in humanity stares up and thinks about what it would be like on the Moon.You get to stare back at the wondrous blue planet that gave birth to us all.”