(Note, the following is the unedited version and might be changed)
They told us “No”. They said that we were primitive and that we were not worthy. That they could not allow us into the galactic community. That we were too aggressive, too emotional, and too untrustworthy. That they could not risk us mingling with the enlightened races. And so in the moment that was supposed to be the culmination of all of our history, the greatest of our victories, as our first manned FTL ship was about to leave our star system we were handed our greatest defeat. They came, and without a word spoken they broke us. A generation born and bent on traveling to the stars, a generation of dreamers, watched as a warship far more elegant than anything we had ever imagined blew the Humanity’s Gift apart into a cloud of gas and debris. As our first manned FTL capable ship—the Humanity’s Gift—was supposed to be our gateway to the galaxy. Its mission—to seek out other sentient life, to say to them: “Look! Here we are, and we are ready to join you!”.
In the end it did not matter that we had cured most diseases, that we had mostly ended war and poverty. Earth had been united for the first time in history, and it was all for nothing. They had watched us for a long time and they had judged us long before we tried to leave our star system. They had been content to leave us alone and simply watch. We knew now that they had hoped that we would destroy ourselves, and that they were annoyed when we didn’t. And so with no trial and no room for appeal, the Qash’vo’tar ordered our isolation, and they enforced it. And no matter how we pleaded they were not moved. A single warship far greater than anything we had attempted to build took down all of the satellites we had that watched the stars, they reduced to rubble all of the industrial facilities capable of building spaceships or their parts. They ordered us to never again try to reach beyond the border of our own sky. We were to be forever bound to our homeworld, and any attempt to circumvent their decree was met with a harsh response.
If they had taken the time to learn about us, to truly understand what it was that made us human, they would’ve known that telling us “No” had been their greatest mistake. That robbing us of our freedom was one thing that we would never forget and never forgive. We learned quickly that they cared little for what we did as long as we did not try to leave our atmosphere. Any sign that we were trying to develop technology for space travel was met with a deadly response. And so we turned our sights elsewhere. At first we tried to atone for some imagined crime, hoping that if they saw what we could achieve, that they would change their minds. It was a foolish hope, but we advanced nevertheless. We pushed medicine to the point where we could extend life, fix terrible injuries. We explored our world down to the deepest depths of our oceans, we burrowed bellow Earth’s crust, and tapped into our own core, getting access to near limitless energy. We might not had been able to reach above, but by all that we held dear, we did everything else. Our understanding of physics and our universe reached a point far beyond what we had ever imagined possible. The laws we once held as absolute seemed as primitive to us as the belief that sun circled the Earth. And then it came, what we now call simply the Discovery. Denied the stars above us, we yearned for a way out of our home—our prison. Foolishly we clawed, and by accident we made our own way out.
Deep beneath the ground we experimented, looking for a way out. And in one moment that forever changed our fate, we broke through to somewhere else. We made a breach in space and time, a breach to another universe. A universe so much like ours, yet different. A universe where there was magic. It changed us, it gave us hope. We made contact with other beings, with a galaxy worth of them. A universe where travel among stars was made by massive gates between worlds and not by crossing the vacuum of space. We were a novelty, a race that could not use magic, yet had a powerful magic of its own. Our technology was unlike anything this new universe had seen. It was not that they were primitive, but magic was their technology. They did things that we could never attempt simply with a wave of hand or an elegant script. Their cities were as large as our own, with magic equivalents for all of the things we considered civilized. They taught us much, and we taught them much in return. And so, we were finally rewarded, finally we would sate the desire to explore. And all without our jailers realizing. We were finally free.
We were so wrapped up in the possibilities that we did not notice at first, the consequences of our actions. Magic seeped through the breach, it changed us and our world. And two generations after we opened the breach the first child with magic was born. It came to us as a shock. It was not something that we considered possible. Then we realized, that by opening the breach we had changed the very nature of our universe. Magic, it seemed, was now possible. It was not as powerful as it was in the universe beyond the breach, but it was here nevertheless.
Few of us explored this new universe, but there we were always the strangers, visitors who just didn’t belong. And the stars above Earth shone at us, and their light reminded us of what was denied to us. We had a home, we had a galaxy that should’ve been ours to explore. There were other races here who should’ve been our friends, who should’ve guided us and helped us. They spurned us, and we resented them for it.
And so almost sixty seven years after our isolation began a decision was made. They feared us, they cast us down from the stars because they thought us unfit for their community. And we would show them that they were right to fear us. They might be far ahead of us with their technology, but we had a new weapon now, a thing that they knew nothing about—Magic. Now, it was the time for us to claim the dream our race dreamed since before we knew what stars truly were.
Anthony Smith sighed as he felt the shuttle land. He did not look forward to his task today, in truth even now he was tempted to just order the pilot to turn around and leave. He did not in the end do so. He reached to his side and grabbed hold of a short tube from behind his seat and then stepped outside the small shuttle. As he felt the cold air on his face he chastised himself for his thoughts. He was not really considering disobeying his orders, even though he knew what the outcome would be. He glanced back at the pilot and his bodyguards through the canopy and signaled for then to shutdown the shuttle and wait.
He would continue alone from here, as he always did. Finally he turned to the large complex building in front of him and the long cable that stretched up the clear blue sky. The Kilimanjaro tether was one of humanity’s greatest achievements, but now it was the most visible seat of Humanity’s jailers—the Qash’vo’tar. Reluctantly he took a step forward, and was met with the armed guards. who like always scanned over him with their alien devices making sure that he had no weapons on him. One of them took the tube from him and opened it peering inside. After a moment he closed it and returned it, then gestured for Anthony to follow. They were taller and more lithe than humans, but were humanoid, as all races humanity had seen here, and as most were in the… other place. They wore sealed suits even though Anthony knew that they were capable of breathing Earth’s atmosphere. It was a precaution, the humanity’s jailers remembered well the ease with which the human forces had utilized their airborne biological weapons against them, in the beginning. But that had been before they knew the price of such actions. And while humanity had not attempted an attack against the aliens for almost forty years, the aliens did not make the same mistake twice.
As always the guards remained silent as they escorted him to the walls surrounding the space-elevator complex. The wall was the work of the aliens, and was another reminder that this was no longer human land, and that they were prisoners on their own world.
The turret encampments on the oval towers watched the sky even though they had little to worry about. Earth had learned well the lessons of what happened when they tried to disobey their overlords. There was no air traffic anywhere near Kilimanjaro. The shuttle that flew Anthony here had been cleared for approach long before it came in sight of the mountain, and the turrets had followed it all the way. Anthony almost chuckled at that, the shuttle could barely fly up to the top of the mountain. It like every piece of technology used on Earth followed the strict guidelines from their overlords. No technology that they considered a threat was allowed near them. Mostly that meant no spaceflight capabilities, and no propulsion systems capable of certain speeds. In many ways the guidelines were lax, their overlords cared little for any kind of technology that they didn’t think had an application in space. They were focused solely on preventing Earth from expanding into space.
In their minds Humanity had no place among the civilized races. A belief that they had taken every opportunity to ram into the United Earth Council every time they questioned why they were being kept grounded.
And now Anthony would question again, as he had done every year for the past ten years of his tenure as the Earth’s liaison. Earth’s overlords had always enforced the belief that someday, once we had become worthy in the aliens eyes we would be allowed out into space. Their world wide broadcasts always commented how much progress we had made, how close we were to being accepted as friends. In their mind every action they took was for the good of humanity and the galaxy as a whole. They were foolish to think we would believe that, we would not believe in their lies. We had too much practice with lies of our own to fall for it.
Nevertheless the people of Earth had little choice, to fight was to suffer the consequences. The way that the aliens kept Earth contained always seemed strange to Anthony, and to many of Earth’s best analysts. With their power it would have been easier to simply wipe them all out, even their one ship was enough to do that. But the prevailing opinion was that their motives were simply alien and beyond what we could understand without more information.
The guards escorted him inside the large building that stood adjacent to the elevator complex itself. It had once served as a command center for the United Earth Space Force, the entity that had been formed only a year before the tether was finished, for the purpose of exploring and colonizing our solar system and beyond. And only ten years after it was created the aliens arrived, the dream that the UESF was supposed to help humanity achieve was harshly squashed.
Once inside the building, Anthony walked pass the alien decor and art of the aliens. He didn’t even bother to look at it. The novelty had disappeared after the first few times he had visited. And in all honesty it was not as different as Earth’s, perhaps a little tame with art being simple depictions of stars or planets from high orbits. Instead, Anthony focused on his task. Almost unconsciously his hand tightened around the the plastic tube in his hand. He was escorted into a large office with a glass wall that showed the view of the tether and the elevator with the blue sky behind it. Behind the desk that was the center piece of the room stood an alien. For all intents and purposes the alien. Dahrar Ajiha of the Qash’vo’tar, and the being in charge of keeping the Earth from reaching space. If what the United Earth Intelligence organizations had managed to piece together was true, the Dahrar was a rank similar to Commander.
Ajiha turned as they entered, wearing a red dominated robe-like garment and smiled at Anthony. The fact that the alien was happy to see Anthony only made his job harder. The two of them had gotten to know each other very well over the years that Anthony had served as the UEC liaison. They had had interesting and engaging conversations over the years, at times when they spoke of things other than the Qash’vo’tar’s continued policy towards the Earth. And while Ajiha was careful to never speak of anything more in depth about the Qash’vo’tar or the way of life in their society, it was inevitable for alien to reveal things. And while Anthony thought of Ajiha as a something a kin to a friend, information was what his job was all about. And Anthony suspected that Ajiha knew that too.
The Qash’vo’tar looked much like humans, at the first glance at least. Their skin was blue of shifting tones, ranging from pale to deep blue. The skin on their faces was mostly deep blue, with slight lightening around the eyes and on the sides of their face in varying patterns which were unique for each individual and were the easiest way of telling them apart. Their eyes were slightly larger, and their noses flatter and wider. They, like humanity had two sexes, and Ajiha was a male.
He took a few steps towards Anthony, and then noticed the tube in his hands. His smiled disappeared immediately and was replaced with a tired and annoyed look in his slightly larger than human brown eyes.
“Is it that time already?” Ajiha asked in English, his accent and pronunciation only slightly off, courtesy of his slightly different vocal cords.
“It is,” Anthony answered with a small shrug.
Ajiha dropped his head and moved behind the desk, taking a seat. He gestured to Anthony and he stepped forward to stand in front of the desk. And like he had done every year for the past ten, he opened the tube and pulled out the rolled up piece of paper and placed it on the table in front of Ajiha.
“Dahrar Ajiha, on the behalf of the United Earth Council I formally ask for the Qash’vo’tar to revoke its ruling and leave the United Earth territory, as well as relinquish its hold over United Earth assets both ground-side and in space. We are as always willing to work with you to come up with an agreement acceptable by both the United Earth and the Qash’vo’tar.”
Ajiha closed his eyes and scratched at the bony ridges on his forehead. For a beat the silence stretched. Then he opened his eyes and stared at Anthony.
“The answer is the same, as always. The ruling of the Qash’vo’tar is final. The Earth is not ready to join the grander stage.” Ajiha told him as he took the piece of paper in his hands and looked at it. The only thing on the paper were signatures, as always. It was signed by every Councilor of the UEC, and adorned simply with the UE symbol at the top, an image of the Earth on a black shield. The paper was symbolic in a way, a tradition started by the first Earth liaison to the aliens. A tradition that every other liaison had continued. Every year the same request would be brought in front of the alien in charge. So far there had been six, with Ajiha being the latest one who had been here for almost fifteen years.
Anthony sighed, he knew what the answer would be, it never changed. There were times decades ago when Earth’s liaisons would threaten and rage at the alien that was the face of their oppression of Earth. But that practice had been abandoned long ago, before Anthony’s time. There was no point, no matter what we did the aliens never changed their answer. But today, his task was different, today’s answer held much greater consequences than any other.
Steeling himself Anthony took a step forward getting closer to the table.
“Ajiha, we have known each other for a long time now,” Anthony began. “In some ways I even considered you a friend.”
“And I you,” Ajiha added his alien eyes softening.
“Then please, help us understand. We are willing to do anything that you ask of us, but we don’t know what it is that you want, how can we become worthy in your eyes when we don’t know the criteria.”
“You are making great strides forward, I am confident that soon the people of Earth will be brought into the fold.” Ajiha said mechanically.
“Don’t feed me that bullshit line, you’ve been telling us that since the moment you arrived!” Anthony told him, surprising Ajiha with his tone, then he made an effort to calm himself. “Please, this cannot continue for much longer, the state among the populace is only going to get worse and once we hit the tipping point we will not be able to contain it. At least take a few of our people back to you worlds, let us see what it is that we are lacking. Your resupply group should arrive in a few weeks, send them with it, we already have a list of candidates. And we can keep it a secret from the populace if you want. But we need to know which direction we need to move.”
For a moment there, Anthony thought that he had gotten through to the alien, he could see real emotion in his eyes. A desire to help. But then Ajiha’s face hardened, and he knew that he had failed.
“What you ask is impossible, the fact that you ask just shows how much you are not ready.” Ajiha said.
Anthony bowed his head. “Very well. May I leave Dahrar?”
“Of course liaison.”
Anthony looked out of his limousine as they pulled up to the United Earth Council Hall in Geneva, and saw a throng of people just beyond the fence. The guards were standing almost motionlessly watching the protesters. There wasn’t any problems, the protests were almost always peaceful, but he steeled himself nevertheless as one of his bodyguards opened the doors for him and the sound of the crowd washed over him.
The protesters were chanting, thousands of voices heard as one.
“The blood remembers! The blood remembers! The blood remembers!” They chanted, banners with writings rose up and down with their voices.
Anthony didn’t need to see to know what was written, he had read it all before. There would be banners and placards with the names of those killed by the aliens. A few would bear pictures of the Humanity’s Gift, others would call the people to action. But most would bear the phrase— the blood remembers.
It was eerie how such large numbers could gather and keep the protest peaceful, especially considering what they were asking for. He wondered if perhaps it was because of what they were calling for. The blood remembers movement had proponents all over the world, and their numbers grew daily. People might not be willing to say so publicly, but a vast majority agreed with the protesters, they watched their vidscreens and thought to themselves that it was enough.
The movement had started almost three years ago, and it had started with a whisper. With an anonymous blog post on one of the more obscure discussion forums on the web, and it had been a look at their history. A look back on the past we had tried so much to leave behind us, a time before the Earth united under a single banner, before we had ended our wars, before we had turned our eyes to the stars. The human history was not peaceful. It was filled with bloodshed, oppression, corruption, power-mongering, and it was something that had been a part of us for as long as we existed in this evolutionary form. The author of the blog did not care for the enlightened masses, did not care that the vast majority of the Earth had moved past nations, past matters of race, past the petty desires of the past. The author’s words attacked the new form of humanity—as he called it—the ones that had looked towards peace and the exploration of the stars. Not because their belief was wrong, but because they had taken it to the extreme.
The author believed that we were fooling ourselves, that our desire to be something that we were not was what had gotten us trapped on our own world. That the world that existed before our unification would have never allowed the aliens to do what they had done. That we would’ve fought despite the harsh responses of the aliens, that we would’ve never stopped until we either fought them off or died trying. Then the author dissected the current society, the Kingdom of Meek and Frail he called it. The compliant leaders that accepted the reality where we would never be allowed off Earth, who were to afraid to fight back, who had given us into bondage—an apparently easy bondage—because they had started to believe that humanity was the ideal that it was striving to become. And that in doing so they had denied the human race one thing it had always looked up to, since the moment the first caveman came to be, to the old kings and queens, and the pioneers that had taken the first steps to grasp the one thing that was ingrained in every human mind from the moment they took their first look at the stars.
We had always wondered what secrets and wonders the shining lights in our night’s sky held. And just as we were about to find out, we were slapped down, and we stayed down afraid to fight for our freedom. The words of the author were simple, but they did stir the soul, even Anthony could admit that. And the author’s closing thoughts cemented what was now a world-wide movement. The belief that we should fight against our oppressors, that our blood will remember even after such a long period of peace had taken root in the hearts of the people of Earth. And slowly they were waking up from the stupor, from the depressed state that we had been in for half a century.
And the United Earth Council would not be able to stop it once it blossomed.
Anthony turned his back to the voices, and walked into the building. You’ll get what you want soon enough—he thought at the protesters—I only hope that the price we pay is something that we can survive.
Kane Reinhart’s hands flew over the controls in front of him as he adjusted the sensors of his mech-frame, even as he used his mind to fly. His mech-frame—codenamed the Leviathan—accelerated and he took care to keep his trajectory straight. The faint and brief blip on his sensor board made him suspect that his opponents were hiding in the planet’s ring. A good strategy, especially since he had noticed the blip only because he had been expecting something like this. But then he knew his opponents very well. Then two signatures showed up on his board, coming up on his six from the belt. Two fighters at almost max acceleration. Soon they would be right on top of him and he would be in range of their weapons. That would be bad, he knew the pilots and they would not miss such a chance. The mech-frame’s specs were overall worse than those of their fighters in most areas, and he did not want to be caught between the two of them.
He watched them closely, waiting. And then just as the fighters entered the range of their missiles they fired. Four missiles, two from each fighter left their launchers and started closing the distance between them. Kane maneuvered, making it harder for them to lock on with their other weapons. He waited for the right moment keeping his thrust at max, then as the missiles got close enough he pressed the trigger firing the counter-measures from the Leviathan’s back. The missiles suddenly changed directions as the large fist sized orbs that were the counter-measures pointed their lasers directly at the missiles guidance and tracking sensors and made them swerve to the side.
Then he used his mind to move, using the spell that allowed him the control of the mech-frame’s movements. He cut his main thrust, and used his maneuvering thrusters to turn around just as he pushed a slider to the left of him down, in order to decrease the distance of the spell he prepared to trigger. Then as soon as he was pointed towards the fighters coming up on him, he triggered the teleportation spell. His mech-frame was suddenly several hundred meters behind the fighters. There was no sensation as he disappeared and appeared almost instantly, but he knew that the pilots of the fighters would’ve seen the faint blue flash as he used the spell to “blink” across space, as they called it.
Leviathan was still hurling through space, his previous momentum still carrying over and now taking him towards the fighters backs. They were faster than him, but they weren’t fast enough to get out of the range so quickly. He swiftly turned his mech-frame back around, now facing the fighters. He targeted one of them with the rail-gun turret mounted on one of his mech-frame’s forearms, and he fired even as he launched missiles from the shoulder mounted launchers. Eight missiles flew out towards the fighters. His laser struck one of the fighters and it disappeared from his sensors, and he saw it move aside on the monitors in front of him that projected the outside. The missiles sped towards the other fighter, and just a few moments later the fighter disappeared in a flash of blue light, leaving the missiles flying aimlessly on their previous course.
Kane tsked to himself and sent the shutdown code from the board in front of him to the missiles shutting them down. His sensors searched for the fighter on its previous course, it could only blink in the direction it was pointed to, just like the mech-frames. Finding it was simple, adjusting the slider Kane blinked forward as well.
He came out just on top of the fighter, but it’s pilot had known that Kane was coming, she had maneuvered her fighter around and was facing towards him waiting as it’s former momentum carried it backwards. He had nearly no notice before the fighter was about to paint the mech-frame with its weapons. But he was piloting a mech-frame, and that came with its own advantages over the fighter. The mental spellscript that gave him the control of the mech-frame’s maneuvering allowed him to react nearly instantaneously. His thrusters fired and he slid to the side just as the fighter started firing, and he brought his own weapons to bear and fired. It was over in seconds.
Kane grimaced in annoyance as he read the damage list that the computer was showing him. He had destroyed the fighter, but his mech-frame had been so damaged that he would certainly be unable to get back to base. Or rather he would’ve been unable, had this not been a mock battle.
His comm came to life and the voice of Lieutenant Commander Wang Shu Jiang came through.
“Damn, I almost had you there,” she said with amusement in her voice.
“You might as well have. If this was a real battle I doubt that I would’ve survived you for long.”
“You certainly would be dead if you had been piloting a Havoc,” she said with just a tad bit envy. “I would give anything to have the mech-frame’s control spellscript for my fighter.”
“They might still figure it out,” Kane told her, even though he doubted it. The laws of magic were strange but they couldn’t be changed. And the spellscript laid down in the mech-frame required a person with magic to operate it. And none of the Havoc fighter pilots had magic. “Comm the shuttle crew, tell them that they are free to recover the blank missiles. And we should get back to the base.” He checked his sensors and noted that the beacons were still active, they couldn’t leave Earth tech in Ethorria, even though it was doubtful that the Ethorrians could find it and recover it in the orbit of the planet. But then again they did have a much greater mastery of magic than humans did. And they were very interested in getting their hands on any Earth technology.
“Right away, Commander.” Lieutenant Commander Jiang said.
He turned the Leviathan towards the planet and set a course.