|All characters and the premise of Space, Above and Beyond are the property of Glenn Morgan and James Wong, and Hard Eight Pictures, Inc. and are use herein without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights remain with the owners, creators and gods of SAAB. The characters of Alan Gilmoore, Thresher and Ashley-Duke are the creation of the author.|
This story was originally to be named "Our's Not to Reason" which is, of course, a quote from "Charge of the Light Brigade" by Tennyson.
Ours is not to wonder why
Ours is but to do and die.
But I realized, about halfway through that "Ananke" was definitely a better name for this particular piece. "Ananke" is the Japanese Goddess of fate. So for those who were expecting the stories to follow the originally published outline.....sorry 'bout that. These things sometimes happen. "Our's Not to Reason" will now become the title of book 7, a story during McQueen's post AI War/POW period. The title is definitely more appropriate to that time.
The proceeding has been a work of fiction. All characters and content, except where previously noted are the property of Rion Wilhelm and Alter-Ego Productions and may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the express written permission of Rion Wilhelm except as provided by U.S. Copyright law. For further information contact Rion Wilhelm or E. Houston or write to E.Houston, 7272 Camino Colegio, Apartment 22, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. Oklili~hila(ShadowDancer Lt. Free Choctaw Air Force home
The Jericho Chronicles:
Blue eyes opened in the darkness. Blinked. Silence. There had been sound once.What? When? A vague scrap of memory. Memory of .....what? It didn't matter. Not now. So peaceful. Just float in the cold comforting darkness. Easy......so easy. Too easy. Where had that come from? That thought? Again a glimpse of memory. Familiar and yet.....unconnected. Not important. Too much trouble to think. It hurt to think.Hurt to move, to breathe. Much better to drift, to give up the fight, to sink into the cold darkness far beyond the pain, the exhaustion, the hunger. Was this death, this cold, dark, yet somehow warmly comfortable place? Everything said 'yes, this is death, accept it and be done with the struggle'. He rejected that option. Death equals 'they win'. Where had that thought come from? Who were they? Who was he? The answer was lost in the soft plush darkness that reached with velvet claws to drag him down into the silence.
Light. Bright, white hot and hurting. And sound. A terrifing avalanche of noise with a harsh cruel voice overriding all the rest. He didn't remember the words but he did remember the feel of the rough, callused hands on his bared body, touching, feeling, pushing. prodding him into position. An open palm slapped his tear streaked face. The sound echoed like a gunshot. The blurred figures around him shouted incoherently. A flash of pain shot through his frame making him cry out in agony and terror as the electrical prod propelled its charge through flesh and bone and sinew. A thin, high pitched scream echoed in his mind and an oddly detached portion of his consciousness recognized the voice as his own. Then the friendly darkness took him in her arms.
Another time and again there was light.. And a liquid, cool and wet on his tongue. Another figure stood over him but there was no fear this time. This one didn't radiate hostility and arrogance like the others. Like the......... Natural Borns. The term felt unwieldy in his mind but he knew it was correct. They were Natural...right. He was..........different. The man smiled gently as he moved among the rows of cots, but there was a deep sadness crouching behind those eyes, a sadness that he recognized and responded to with cautious trust. The memory began to recede and he tried desperately to catch it before it could slip away. But no matter how hard he tried to grasp the hazy fragment, it slipped through his fingers and hid in the darkness that waited, ever vigilant, at the foot of his bed.
The crimson glare of morning seared his eyes and he automatically lifted his hand to shield them. The pickax slipped from his hand and rang hollowly as it struck the rock at his feet. The pain between his shoulders was immediate and excruciating. It was familiar, this electrical current that coursed through his body and held him pinned against the sky like an insect on a mounting board. The guard's raspy laughter taunted him as his muscles spasmed uncontrollably until he thought his back would surely break. Finally the overseer lost interest in the game and mercifully removed the 'pacifier' as they termed the electric prod, from his back. He lost the battle to stay upright and sank to his knees in the red dust. "Stupid fucking Tank. Corolis Mining paid good money for that equipment. You damage it and the cost will come out of your worthless hide. Do you understand me? Do you, Tank?"He remembered gasping some appeasing reply as he tried to pull air into his oxygen-starved lungs.......gasping......
No air......can't breathe....can't....Each effort was met with searing agony. There was the sound of faint sobs, a harsh groan Then a dry cracking sound and the jolt of a distant impact ....then nothing.
T.C. McQueen opened his eyes in the darkness. No sound. No movement. No light. He hurt. This was both good and bad. He swore softly under his breath. Good because it meant he was still alive. Only the living hurt. The overseers of Corolis Mining Colony 12 hadn't won yet. Soon, perhaps, but not just yet. Bad because, well, it meant he was still alive and had the long dying still ahead of him. Bad because now he remembered everything with a cold crystal clarity. He remembered the morning dawning hotly just as it had every morning since he had come to Omicron Draconis, every day of his life. He turned the memories of the past few days over carefully in his mind.
T.C. sighed. His back ached and stung from the sweat that trickled into the half healed wounds the lash had left behind. His eyes burned from the dust and simple exhaustion. He had just come off one shift and his lungs ached with the effort of breathing the hot dust laden air. The thought of decending into those hellish tunnels was almost more than he could bear. Only the thought that the end was in sight kept him going. Three months. It seemed like an eternity. T.C. got unsteadily to his feet and reached for his pickax. The sharp white hot sting of the lash across his throat, when it came, caught him completely by surprise and he cried out before he could catch himself
"Damned Nippleneck!", the overseer sneered as he returned the whip to his belt loop. "I knew what you were thinking. I'll tell you one thing Tank, if you ever raise a hand to me it will be the last hand you'll ever raise to anyone. Do you understand me, boy?"
T.C. tried to choke out a reply but none would come.
The overseer grasped a handful of hair and used it to shove T.C. back against the heated rock. T.C.'s back spasmed in agony and his eyes filled with tears.
"I said, do you understand me, Tank? I'm waiting for an answer. Now answer me!"
T.C. tried to raise a hand to his aching throat but Sheppard slapped it away.
"I told you never to raise that hand to me, didn't I?"
"I won't". T.C. finally managed to gasp.
Sheppard gave T.C.'s hair another yank. "What did you say?"
"I"Are you disagreeing with me tank? Because if you are, I can make you wish you'd never been born."
"I already do, sir." T.C whispered between gasping breaths.
"You've got a smart mouth on you Tank. You need to learn to confine it to something better suited to your nature. Let's get this straight right now. Just because you're on short time, don't be thinking too highly of yourself. You're a tool, that's all, and tools get broken every day. And when one does, we just go out and buy ourselves another one. You'll never be anything but a Tank. That doctor didn't do you no favors getting you to think you was special. You ain't. Never get the idea that you're as good as a human. Tools don't think. They just are. You ever forget your place again.....a lot of things could happen. You might get broken." He released T.C's hair and wiped his hand on his jumpsuit. "Now you pick up your tools and get back in line for the next shift. I'm going to watch you very closely. I'm going to make sure you behave real proper when you go back to Earth. We don't want them saying we don't train our Tanks right."
T.C. picked up his pickax and tools and limped toward the line of InVitros waiting to be lowered into the mine. He didn't know what hurt worse, his back, his throat, or his pride. Only one or two InVitros in the line roused themselves to look at him as he moved into place. Most of them stood head down, eyes submissively on the ground at their feet. On each face was the grayness of despair, in each pair of eyes, the blank gaze of hoplessness. T.C. gritted his teeth and forced his back straight and his head up. He was going to make it out of here. There was no way he would let them win. Whatever awaited him on Earth, it couldn't be any worse than this. He could feel Sheppard's eyes boiling into his back. Three more months....three more months.
T.C. didn't remember falling onto the mattress in his corner of the hut some 10 hours later. He didn't remember anything until being roughly shaken the following morning. He was on his feet before he was even awake. One of the first things you learned in the mines was to sleep with one eye open and T.C. was disgusted that he had forgotten that rule. That he was exhausted was no excuse, the mistake could have cost him his life, or at the very least another beating.
"Shift starts in 20 minutes, McQueen. You've already missed morning rations."
T.C. blinked groggily at the Overseer in front of him. At least it was Carsons, not Sheppard. While Carsons made no effort to disguise his dislike of InVitros, at least he didn't seem to enjoy tormenting them the way Sheppard obviously did. T.C. kneaded his eyes with his knuckles then turned to reach for his pickax and tool belt. They weren't where he usually left them. He looked around the room. Nothing!
McQueen! What's the hold up? Let's go!"
T.C. was wide awake now. He looked around frantically.
"McQueen! C'mon! You got a problem?"
T.C. was forced to admit that it looked like he probably did.
"I can't find my tools, sir."
"Can't find your tools, McQueen. What do you mean, can't find your tools?"
"I mean they're gone, Sir. Someone must have took them, sir."
"Did someone take them, McQueen or did you just wander off and leave them someplace. If we weren't around to think for you, you Tanks would be helpless."
"What is it, Carsons?"
T.C. cringed as he heard Sheppard's voice.
"Tank lost his gear."
"Well, well. Imagine that. Our 'educated' Tank, here, lost his tools. Get the others going Carsons. I'll handle this." He stood glowering at T.C. as the other InVitros filed out.
T.C. remained silent. Sheppard wouldn't listen to explanations and nothing T.C. could say would make a difference.
"How about that? Guess my mother was right. You know what she used to say? 'Pride goeth before a fall.', that's what she used to say. All that pride of yours because some bleedin' heart doctor put some high-toned ideas in your worthless head. And now here's that big fall. Those tools weren't yours to lose, Tank. Those tools belonged to Corolis Mining and they weren't cheap. How you goin' to pay back Corolis Mining for their property that you lost, boy?"
T. C. forced himself to remain silent. He knew Sheppard wasn't really looking for an answer. He was looking for an excuse, something he could point to as evidence of disobedience.
"Well, I'm going to tell you how. You're going to work it off, Tank. Those tools were expensive. I'd say about, oh, say another three months ought to just about do it." Sheppard prodded T.C. with the "pacifier" and T.C. flinched, expecting the sharp sting of the electrical current. Sheppard laughed, "Now you get over there, boy and get you some more tools and get your lazy ass to work."
As T.C. started around him, the Overseer caught him by the hair. "Get the picture, Tank?", he snarled, "you ain't ever leavin' here." He gave T.C. a push toward the door. "Hell, we can't let you go to Earth, boy! Dumb Tank as forgetful as you, no telling what kind of trouble you might get into. Hell! We're performing a public service here, you might say."
T.C. was trembling by the time he obtained new tools and made his way to the staging area. Not from fear of Sheppard, but from anger. He knew Sheppard had set him up. And Sheppard knew he knew and had wanted him to know. This was the way it was going to be. Weeks and months added to his period of indenture for contrived or imagined "debts" he incurred. He would never leave this hell. As he stepped into the left hand line, he felt a wave of despair wash over him. This was what the rest of his hopefully short life would be like. There would be no Earth, no libraries, no symphony, no opera.
At the bottom of the first drop, T.C. and the others had to move to the far right of the narrow tunnel to make room for the line waiting to ride the lift to the surface. He felt a shoulder brush his and looked into Timmy's brown eyes. "Timmy, are you ok?"
"Yeah, T.C." The slight frame shook with a bout of coughing. "I mean I'm better. I must be, the doctor said I was. You didn't get in trouble 'cause of me, did you T.C.? I don't want you to get in trouble o"No, Timmy, I didn't get in trouble because of you."
Timmy stared at him intently and T.C. knew he was seeing the same stamp of defeat that marked all the others. "Go on up, Timmy, I'll see you up top."
"Yeah, yeah. See you up top."
T.C. had only taken two steps when he heard Timmy's voice call back, "T.C....I'm really glad you're my friend....."
T.C. turned but the line had already started its upward journey. *Strange*, T.C. thought, *it almost sounded as though he were trying to tell me goodby*"
As they pressed deeper into the mine, the lamps, inadequate lighting at best, were spaced even further and further apart and T.C. and the others were forced to turn on their helmet lights. The ceiling was low, forcing them to walk bent over. The walls of the tunnel were of the same red clay as the surface, interspersed here and there with dull green outcroppings. One of the InVitros in the group paused to dig at the green substance.
"Hey Charlie, what the hell are you doing?"
"I'm getting one of these rocks. I heard tell they're real pretty when they're all polished up and all."
"Yeah? Where you goin' to get it polished?"
"I'm goin' to take it to Earth with me."
T.C. tried desperately to remember if anyone had actually been granted return passage to Earth. He realized he couldn't come up with a single name. He heard himself saying "None of us will ever leave this rock. We were never meant to. Those of us that don't die will just have more and more time added to our indenture period until we do die. They will never let us go."
There was dead silence for several moments. Finally, Carsons' voice called out, "Okay, you Tanks aren't here to gossip, you're here to work, so let's get to it. McQueen, Provo, Higgins, Malone, you come with me to the new level. There is a lot of chert needs to be cleaned out."
T.C. followed the others until they came to the end of a ladder protruding from a hole in the ground. Carsons motioned to the ladder. "Down there.."
T.C. glared at Carsons as the others, one by one, climbed down into the well of darkness. Then it was his turn.
"Scoop out all of that loose stuff and dump it into the baskets. We'll send someone back in a little while to haul up the baskets."
They had been working almost an hour and two of the baskets were filled when Higgins stopped, straightening."
"Hey, c'mon....." Charlie Malone started to say.
Higgins stopped him "Listen....."
Silence fell as everyone put down their tools.
For a long while, there was quiet, broken only by the sounds of their raspy breathing. Then they heard it, a creaking sound followed by a soft dry crack.
"Oh, God," breathed Malone as he broke for the ladder.
T.C. stood, rooted to the spot, knowing it was already too late. There was nothing to hide under, no place to go. With a loud crack, the timbers gave way and dirt and rock began to shower down upon them. Someone, T.C. didn't know who, screamed in the darkness. Then there was a sharp blow to the back of his head and everything went mercifully black.
Next : Part Two
Previous : The Jericho Chronicles: Doc
Edna Houston © 1996