Galactic God Series - Book 2

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Resurrected Demons

Adam Landon slid asparagus around on his plate. He didn't know why his father, Morton, kept trying to force him to eat the smelly things. After nineteen years, he should have given up, however, his father never gave up on anything where Adam was involved. Morton had been omnipresent in every aspect of his life for as long as he could remember.

"Pushing them around won't keep you healthy," Adam's father said before stuffing one of the disgusting stalks into his mouth.

Adam pretended an asparagus stalk was a spear and stabbed what was left of his potatoes with it. He tried to work up enough courage to eat one but failed. He didn't try very hard. If he distracted his father, he could avoid his green fate. Mentioning his grandfather would do it, but he couldn't do that to his father. Another topic popped into his head. "Dad, I've been wondering. You said Mom died giving birth to me, but you've never told me how. Whenever I ask, you say you will tell me later. It's later, and I really want to know."

Morton paused chewing on the stalk in his mouth and looked down at his plate.

His father loved him so much and was always there for him. Even though Morton was often too much always there for him for Adam's taste, he still loved his father. Adam was like his father in many ways. They both had blonde hair and were about the same height. His old man carried around a few more kilograms than Adam which made Adam appear to be in better shape, but that was misleading. His father was probably more fit than he was. He ate better than Adam and walked around campus all day. Adam didn't walk much and frequently sat for long periods doing homework or practicing his music.

His father looked up with his eyes full of tears. Adam felt sorry for the diversion he had selected, but he was committed now and ached to know about his mother. Adam tried to be a good son, but he knew he sometimes acted without thinking things through.

His father swallowed and looked at Adam as tears leaked from his eyes. "A rare reaction to the pain medication used in childbirth caused Hanna's heart to race. That combined with the exertion of trying to … well … the strain was too much for her heart. They performed an emergency C-section to get you out after her heart …" His father looked down at his plate again.

Adam saw a tear fall onto his father's last asparagus stalk. Morton wiped his eyes.

"You need to know that I have never blamed you in any way for her death. The fault completely lies with the way her body reacted to the medication and had nothing to do with you."

It hurt Adam to see his father this upset. "You must have loved her very much to marry her instead of cohabbing. That is so rare. Marriages have not been common for over a hundred years. Living together is so much easier to get into and out of, and I thought only religious couples got married. You clearly are not religious."

A smile dawned on Morton's face. He sniffed and wiped his eyes with his napkin. "Yes, Hanna was an amazing woman. We loved each other deeply. I married her because I wanted her to know I was completely committed to her. For me, cohabbing doesn't show any commitment."

Adam smiled at his father. Morton loved people deeper than anyone else. A warmth spread through Adam as he thought of how much his father cared for him. He couldn't imagine how much his father must have cared for his mother.

As a child, Adam loved hearing stories about the outlandish things his father had done for his mom. Like the time had given her a full sized hologram of himself singing "Ain't noboby, nowhere, no-time, loved no one like I love you" by the Barkers. He said she would laugh so hard she cried when she watched it. Those stories helped Adam understand how devoted his father could be to someone. His father transferred much of that love to him after his mother had died. Not in a perverse way but with an increased intensity of their parent-child relationship. He may have transferred a bit too much of it, but at least Adam understood its source. Adam was all his father had left of Hanna in the universe.

Adam picked up his plate and stood to go to the kitchen. "I am glad you and Mom found each other. I bet you were great together. I love you, Dad."

Morton watched Adam walk into the kitchen. He could not believe a horrible day at work had been followed by this. He had not talked about Hanna for a couple of years. Talking about her brought an odd mix of pain and joy. It had been way past time to tell him the history of his mother's final moments.

Adam reappeared from the kitchen heading toward his room. "I am going to practice my French Horn, and I have to finish that project for my math professor. Looks like it will be a late night for me. Good night, Dad."

"Good night, son. I love you more than you know."

"I know," Adam said and winked.

Morton was still recovering from the bad news at work. The research project that would have had him taking frequent trips to Brazil and working with the top archeologists in the world had been given to a socio-historian from Cambridge. The guy did not have nearly as much experience as Morton. What the guy did have were a couple of golden projects under his belt. Morton would work on any project that came along because he loved the work. It didn't matter if the project was glamorous or not. This upstart cherry-picked projects that made him more visible. He was not in it for the joy of the profession but for money and notoriety. Morton had never liked the guy. If Morton had taken just one of those cheesy but highly visible projects, he would be running the Brazilian project.

Morton stared at his plate. Out of habit, he stood and carried it into the kitchen. He dumped the scraps into the disposal unit, pressed the disintegrate button, ran his plate and fork through the cleanser, and placed them back in the cabinet where they were stored.

He stared at the cabinet for half a minute before realizing it. He sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the glass cabinet across the room. Hanna's favorite mug was on a shelf there. She had loved sharing coffee with him from that mug each morning before he headed off to teach history classes at Harvard, and she went to teach her fourth-grade class at Landon Elementary.

She had been an amazing woman. He would have done anything for her. He would have done anything to save her. He had felt so powerless and confused as all he could do was watch her die. The five minutes between the start of her problems and when she had died had seemed like an eternity at the time.

Morton's chin fell onto his hands on the kitchen table. His head landed so that he was looking at the glass cabinet. He saw the bottle of fine whiskey he kept for celebrating with friends.

He had dreamt of growing old with her. He would never have abandoned her as his miserable excuse for a father had done to him. His father, Derec, had loved precious career and nothing else. How could a father choose the void of space over his three-year old son? What good had it done? Sure, they had named things after the great Major Derec Landon, because he had commanded the first mission designed to find intelligent life in the universe. Did they find life? No, but they honored him anyway.

That man had abandoned his wife and his son for what? For nothing. The mission had been a waste. They had probably all been killed in some space anomaly. His father's body was likely drifting in space toward a planet or a sun where it would burn away to nothing which is just what his life had amounted to.

At least Derec was now just a fading memory in people's minds since no one had heard anything from that mission. The school in his name was now forty years old and starting to show it. It had been a heinous twist of fate that his wife had happened to teach there.

He looked at the whiskey again.

Derec's mission had probably fallen apart just like that school was starting to do. Everyone had hoped for them to come back years ago. Technically, they were still in the window of the original mission plan, but that window was slamming shut. No one expected to hear from that crew again.

He would be fine if he never saw Derec again. He preferred it that way. He was not sure how he would react if he did see him, but it would not be good for either of them. He wanted to leave him in the past.

He went to the cabinet and pulled out the whiskey bottle and one of the triple-shot glasses next to it. He sat back down at the kitchen table. He started to open the bottle but hesitated. He stared at the bottle for a few moments. Then he opened it, poured, and drank.

Morton remembered drinking like this after Hanna had died. He had been crushed to the point that he had no clue how to continue with life. Two weeks after she had died, he had awoken at dawn to the sound of Adam screaming his head off. It had almost destroyed him to realize he was not only hurting himself but also Adam by getting drunk every night. After that, he cut back to a drink now and then to celebrate major events at work. He had not even gone out with friends for casual drinks. That was because he had no friends. He didn't have time for anyone else in his life except Adam. No, he had only thrown back a few drinks since his time in the gutter, until tonight.

He tossed back another triple-shot.

Morton looked at his wristpad. It showed 7:13 PM Tuesday, January 30th, 2244. He tapped the display button, and a menu glowed in the air above it. He flipped through the menu and tapped to bring up thumbnails of holo-images. He flipped through them until he found his favorite one. He tapped on it to show a beautiful image of Hanna wearing a blue sundress at the beach at sunset. He watched her laugh with the wind tossing her hair around for a full minute before turning off the display.

He drank another glassful.

The pain of losing Hanna, his disappointment with his career, and his anger at Derec had combined into something he could not handle tonight. Reliving Hanna's death by telling Adam how she had died had put him over the edge. Adam not being old enough to hear the news was not the real reason he had held back telling him for so long. He had tried hard to leave that horrible night in the past ever since he had awoken to Adam's screaming. That day, he had gotten rid of the bottle and his wallowing in grief.

He threw down another triple-shot.

He did not have the strength to face her death. He was weak like Derec.

Another triple-shot.

He looked at his reflection in the glass of the cabinet doors. He stared at himself for a minute. He was nothing but an almost two-meter-tall, slightly overweight weakling.

Another triple-shot.

What was he doing? He could not become a drunkard again. He had to stop this, but this sadness and anger were more than he could handle.

He poured again.


The Return

Ned sipped his coffee as he checked the holo-grid. It contained planets and a few clusters of small asteroids, as he had expected. Nothing interesting would happen today because nothing interesting ever happened on this deep space scanning station.

This assignment reminded him of the few weeks he had spent in jail several years ago. This time a mild infraction had condemned him to this station, but at least the guy had deserved his broken nose. Because of that small misunderstanding, he had to sit here alone all year orbiting Venus. He would never make it above the rank of airman at this rate.

The only exciting thing that happened around here was when the Orlando arrived monthly to retrieve automated mining rigs from the planet's surface and drop off new ones. Captain Torrance was in charge of that ship and was a nice enough guy. Ned called him captain out of respect even though he wasn't military. The Galactic Alliance (GA) could afford to monitor deep space from here but didn't have the funds to run this mining operation. Things had gotten bad for the GA in the last decade. The last visit from the Orlando had been two weeks ago, so he knew he could expect a whole lot of nothing today. The GA was so unfair.

The proximity alarm started blaring.

Ned dropped his steel mug. It bounced off the floor showering his leg with hot coffee. He spit out a profanity and jumped out of his seat. What set off that alarm? Did another idiot deep-space miner detunnel too close to the station? They knew that was illegal. He sighed. Ned had to report this stupid pilot now. Yet, as boring as the forms were, at least filling them out would give him something to do. That and clean his pants.

Ned found the object on the holo-grid and zoomed in on it. He saw a ship, but according to its identification code, it was not the Orlando. He shook his head and blinked several times to make sure he had seen the code correctly. Sure enough, the identification code was unmistakably that of the Columbus: the ship from the SeFI mission that had launched 44 years ago. He knew someone might detect the ship one day, but he had doubted anyone would. Especially not him way out here.

"This is Airman Ned Carson of the Venus scanning station calling the Columbus. Welcome home. Any aliens out there?"

"Thank you, sir. I regret to inform you that no one is on board. I am flying this ship via automated systems."

"What happened to the crew?"

"That information is classified, sir. Will you inform the Galactic Alliance that the Columbus has returned and that there is a message from Major Derec Landon for them?"

"Yes." Ned wondered what this could mean. All he knew at his point was that his day would not be boring.

Major General Lawrence Reynolds sat alone in silence. He had been surprised yesterday when he had heard that the Columbus had been spotted, but now he was numb to his bones. He had decided to watch the last video log (vlog) entry from the Columbus. After watching it, he knew the earlier vlogs held a frightful story about Major Derec Landon and his crew.

That man would get the recognition he deserved. Landon had died a hero. His last breath had been to complete his mission to the best of his ability knowing the enemy was advancing and that he was going to die. The problem was that he might only be able to declare him a hero to those with high enough security clearance to have access to these vlogs. He was confident he would also discover that the entire crew were heroes. How much of this would the public ever know? The world needed to know something of what had happened, but could they let news of such a horrible encounter go public? Public opinion of the GA was low as it was.

The families and special others of the crew would have to be notified of their deaths, but what else could they be told? The original hope was that sharing news of intelligent life being found on another planet would boost public support for the GA, but could they share that information with what happened to the crew? News that the Columbus had returned could not be hidden, but what about the information it contained?

There was so much to do. This was going to be a busy month.

"The first thing we need to decide is what we are going to do with this hard-won information from the Columbus," Major General Reynolds said. He and two other officers sat at a long, polished, oval oak table in the best conference room in the Pentagon.

"Considering the hostility they faced, it is amazing how much they were able to send back, sir," Colonel Kathrine Brown said. As the one who would be overseeing the day-to-day operation of this project, it was good that she realized what a treasure the Columbus held.

"Sir, it truly is. Too bad we cannot portray it that way to the public," Captain Johnathan Scott said. "They would be impressed." Captain Scott was the public and political relations advisor on this project.

"Who wouldn't be?" Reynolds gave his head a quick nod. "We need to make the most of that information to honor their sacrifices."

"Certainly, sir." Brown nodded her head vigorously in support.

"Sirs, there has to be a way we can spin this to increase the value of the GA in their eyes and prevent further base closures," Scott said. "We might even be able to secure more funds for future missions as well. Surely we can use this and keep the uglier details from reaching the public."

"The timing of this opportunity could not have been better," Reynolds said. "The five-year budget planning meeting is four months away in May. We can have what we need in place by then."

"I hope so, sir," Brown said. "At the last five-year meeting, they closed ten of our bases leaving us with a pitiful 55 bases. It seems they don't see any value in having a defensive force without an enemy to defend against. The only threat they can see are pirates stealing from private mining ships. That is a problem, but they say if corporations are going to mine, they need to bear the burden of protecting those mines, not the GA. Those accountants are turning the Galactic Alliance into nothing more than security guards."

Scott rubbed his chin and said, "The Anumians are a threat, but only if we return there, sirs. They will not be capable of Faster Than Light flight for at least two hundred years. We cannot use them to mount an increased threat argument."

Reynolds nodded in agreement. "Correct, we will need a more compelling reason for them to increase our budget. I have a couple of ideas about that, but we first need to address the whole concept of how or if we present this to the public."

Scott held up his hands. "There is no way the public will not hear about this. We need to control what information is released and when. If we don't tell them anything, something will leak out, and they might hear the outcry all the way to Anuma." He threw his hands apart in a mock explosion.

"Yes, but what information do we release?" Brown asked. "If we tell them we found alien life, how do we tell them?"

"Brown, it will be your job to come up with a plan for what information can be released to the public," Reynolds said.

"Yes, sir," Brown said.

"Sirs, we need a reasonable explanation why the crew did not return," Captain Scott said. "Having found intelligent life will be a major boost to our position with public opinion. That could pull back some of the funding those D.C. bureaucrats stole from us. However, if we tell people we found intelligent life, they will want to see the people who found that life. I don't know if telling them 'You know those aliens we were so proud of finding? Well, they killed our entire crew.' will keep public opinion in our favor.'"

"OK, but what story will they believe?" Reynolds asked.

Scott snapped his fingers. "We could say they died in cryo, sirs. It has happened a few times before, and this crew was under a long time."

"That could work, sir," Brown said to Reynolds. "Except the families would want their bodies for burial."

"Sirs, have there been any malfunctions with cryo-stations that destroyed or mutilated the bodies?"

Brown pointed an excited finger into the air. "An electrical fire flared up in the cryo-system aboard the long-transport Halmax. It burned half of those being transported beyond recognition." She smiled. "There was almost nothing left of them."

Brown's enthusiasm made Reynolds uncomfortable. "The system aboard the Columbus was just a few revisions newer than the system on the Halmax. It is a plausible story."

"What about bodies for the families?" Brown asked.

"Sirs, could we find unclaimed bodies in any of our morgues or even in the public morgues that would be close enough?" Scott asked. "I am sure we could see to it that no autopsies were performed. That gets us the ship back home, no alien attack, bodies for the families to bury, and public opinion on our side, because we can say the fault in the Columbus' cryo-system has been identified and fixed in newer models. All ups and no downs."

"Yes, it will work as long as our story holds," Reynolds said. "I will contact the morgues. Scott, draft the first-ever press release announcing that intelligent life has been found on another planet. Tell how the men and women of the Columbus' crew were heroes and gave their lives furthering science and gaining knowledge for all humankind."

Reynolds nodded and rubbed his hands together. "Good. That will take care of the public, now we need a plan for the budget committee."

"Sir," Brown said, "we need to find out what made the Anumians attack our crew. We need to understand them as a people. If we understand where we went wrong, maybe we can prevent it from happening with the next aliens we meet."

"I was thinking along the same lines. What we find might be more relevant than you think," Reynolds said.

"We do have a good bit of information about the Anumians, ma'am," Scott said. "We should be able to examine it to see what happened and why."

Brown pursed her lips. "We will put our best people on it, sir. I think Sargent Thompson is a history buff, we can have him look at the history text and periodicals. Our scientists in –"

"I feel we need to attack this situation with something better than our best people, Colonel," Reynolds said.

"What could be better than our best people, sir?" Confusion was clear on Brown's face.

"You are right, sir." Scott sat up straighter. "I see where you're going. That would improve our results. We will have to be careful to make sure we maintain confidentiality with whoever we bring in."

Brown shot forward in her chair glaring at Reynolds. "Wait, are you suggesting we put civilians on this project?" Her eyes realized they should not be so bold with a superior officer and looked away. "Sir."

"No, I am not suggesting it," Reynolds said. "I am ordering it. We need the absolute best in the fields of biology, botany, and socio-history. We will need to bring in people for botany and socio-history."

Brown leaned forward. This time, her arms forgot whom they were addressing and slammed down onto the table. "With respect, our people are good, sir."

"They are good, but we want the absolute best," Reynolds said.

Scott nodded rocking back and forth in his chair. "I agree, sir. We need the absolute best on this project because this is the most important discovery in mankind's history. If we are seen as having held back, it will not look good. But if I may ask, why botany and socio-history?"

"We already have very good biologists in the GA," Reynolds said. "We don't have experts in plants or history, at least history not involving war. We need a botanist to examine all the plant samples. There are promising possibilities according to a few of the vlogs I saw."

"That makes sense, sir," Scott said, "but what about the historian?"

"Socio-historian. There is a big difference. Socio-historians look at history, but they do so in relation to a group of people to get an understanding of what made them what they are today or at any period in time. We need to understand these Anumians."

"But is it worth the risk to bring in civilians on this, sir?" Brown asked.

"This is not a discussion," Reynolds said almost as a whisper and through tight lips. "Brown, you are ordered to accept the civilians we will select to work with you on this project."

Brown fell back into her chair. "Yes, sir."

Reynolds could tell it would not go easy for whomever he assigned to her. He hoped she was not too hard on them. He would have to keep an eye on that situation.

"Good," Reynolds said. "Now that we conquered that issue, we need to discuss the budgeting matter. I have two ideas on how to improve our financial position. First, if we decide to release these documents, I have an idea that will make that quite profitable. I am going to put someone to work on that possibility just in case."

Scott laughed. "You sound more like a businessman than a general, sir."

Reynolds smiled. "I have learned to be flexible. If I make a terrible businessman, I have another idea that will appeal to the budgeting committee and put the GA into a strong position again."

Scott leaned forward with both hands on the arms of his chair. "What's that, sir?"

"The vlogs say they found large quantities of tallumite on Anuma."

Brown's frown disappeared, and she whistled.