This is a story I've started. I'm not sure how it is going to end up. This is a different view of a twenty third century Earth that has been conquered by an alien race. This story is through the eyes of Jev Bakkus. ********************************* “It’s great, basic training is all that. Robert even said that it was fun,” Arik Bynum told Jev Bakkus. Sixteen year old Jev thought that being ordered around and put through those physical demands would not be fun. It was Jev’s idea of hell. He thought that his friend had gotten enticed by his brother’s notions of service. Jev’s father had always spoken well of service and of his wish that he had joined during the Arcturus Campaign, but he hadn’t. It was talk, patriotic talk. Besides, Jev doubted that he could make it; that he could make the physical and mental challenges. “I bet he wasn’t saying that when he came out of the nightmare box,” Jev retorted. “That’s all hokum about it eating your brain Jev! You’re a real ass to believe that. Of course it is scary. They are training for the unknown, stuff that a man can’t imagine.” Jev looked up the small trail. The two had imagined a lot along these tree lined paths. They had played here since their early teens. They would not do so anymore, Jev felt. They had played Arcturians and Imperials as well as riding their hoverbikes down the trail, always further. But Arik was committed. Jev really didn’t understand it. There was opportunity here in Westernport. Arik was good in making things. Jev wished that he would stay. He didn’t understand Arik’s drive but he knew that it was there. “You’ll miss it Arik! You’ll be back,” Jev told him. Arik smiled and shook his head. “I’m going to make a career out of it. You do three decs and you get a pension and Imperial Citizenship.” “Citizenship doesn’t seem so important,” Jev said. “I mean most people don’t even use it. It doesn’t mean anything here on Earth. I mean my dad makes a good living and has everything he wants.” “A citizen Jev!” his friend exclaimed. “Don’t tell me that it doesn’t mean anything when you know that it does.” “What if…there is another war? You won’t live to see anything then.” Jev got back onto his hoverbike. Arik did likewise. Jev was a little ashamed at the condition of his battered old machine. Arik had worked part time as a molecular fabricator until he had been able to save up for his newer, faster hoverbike. Jev had tried for a job at the fabricator. But he lacked Arik’s savvy when it came to putting things together. If he only had a chance! It would be tough enough as is to get into college. They kicked their bikes into motion. “We beat the Arcies. Who is going to take on the MedaV’dan?” Arik answered. “There hasn’t been a war in almost a dec. All that stuff about some powerful race out there who is stronger than men—it’s all garbage! I stayed at my brother’s star base. You should see our ships Jev! You would if you joined with me.” “I’ll stay here. I’ll make it. I’ll be somebody someday, you’ll see.” Jev felt that there was truth behind his words even though he had meant them as nothing more than empty defiance. Arik laughed. Jev wanted to say more, but his friend was accelerating away. In a sense he was speeding away from everything. Jev knew that. ********************************************** Mister Enderrsen stared out at each of them. Jev blushed and drew his eyes away from the angelic, shapely form of Mauryn Teller. He felt Enderrsen’s eyes settle upon him. The elderly history teacher must surely have been around to teach Jev’s grandparents, so old he was. Jev breathed a mental sigh when the old man’s eyes went past him. “Tell me Mister Cremin: was there freedom on Earth before the MedaV’dan?” Enderrsen stuck out a thin hand and pointed at Tyler Cremin. There was a long uncomfortable silence. Jev dared to glance at Cremin. The two had been in a locker room fight once. Jev had lost. He was enjoying watching the self righteous Cremin squirm. “Well yeah…yeah sir…no,” Cremin stumbled. “Is it yes or is it no?” Enderrsen asked in his deep creaky voice. Arik used to imitate Enderrsen’s voice exactly. It had been a source of amusement for them on several occasions. Jev giggled along with several others of his classmates. Cremin had picked on several of them. He watched Cremin point at his studymate. The little computer and textbook was the source of much of their daily hell, Jev’s included. The silence grew. “Mister Cremin it is just a small computer. It isn’t going to answer for you. Did you read the assignment or didn’t you?” More silence. Kelana Fontane raised her hand. Enderrsen nodded at her. Kelana was not as pretty as was Mauryn, but she was smart. Everyone knew that she would be going somewhere. He glanced again at Mauryn. Too bad that she had never spoken a word to Jev, he thought sadly. He had secret daydreams where he and Mauryn became a loving couple. But even the plain looking Kelana wouldn’t give Jev a second glance. Why would the beautiful Mauryn do so? “We ruled ourselves but people were like slaves then,” Fontane answered. “The different rulers told everyone that they were free but they really weren’t. The rulers controlled everything.” “We could have changed that,” Enderrsen retorted. This was why so many people didn’t like this class. His history lesson had explained exactly what Kelana had just said. Jev knew: he had read the assignment. But rather than accept the answer, old Enderrsen was going to turn it into one of his discussions. Jev slouched down in his seat. This was where Enderrsen would seek out victims for his questions. He looked at each of them. “We had choices in spite of the propaganda. This very land used to be home to one of Earth’s greatest democracies. But then they came and changed all of that.” Enderrsen’s instructional board lit up. The students, sitting in tiers assembled in a rough semicircle with Enderrsen and his desk at the center were treated to an image of man’s first meeting with the MedaV’dan. Jev shivered at the now familiar image of Advocate N’Roul’al: the dark yellow skin that looked almost golden, the long mane of copper colored hair and the eyes. The eyes that were a solid, luminescent glowing green, like some undersea creature, these were the eyes of those that had conquered man those many centuries ago. The advocate looked ageless and powerful. “N’Roul’al’s presence was all that it took for primitive man to surrender,” Enderrsen said. Yeah, Jev thought, that and the fact the MedaV’dan could blast a whole planet to dust. Jev looked at the image of the men of that time. Their dark jackets and weird neckwear marked them as important people. He remembered that one of them had been the president of North America. He looked again at N’Roul’al. No one even knew if that was the advocate’s right name. The MedaV’dan were said to be able to mentally speak with one another. They had told men that their names were their souls, whatever that meant. Enderrsen turned to another victim. Jev started dreaming about Mauryn again. She was wearing a pretty garment that showed her smooth bare legs. If she would only notice him! He would love her and care for her as no on else would. He fantasized of her seeing him and of her secret love for him. His revelries were broken by a hard nudge from an elbow. “Mister Bakkus, good to see you back with us,” Enderrsen said. There was a wave of laughter. Jev felt his face get hot. “Are we free under MedaV’dan rule Mister Bakkus?” “Yes sir, the citizens vote on things. Everyone can pretty much do as they want.” “Citizens appointed by the MedaV’dan. Before the empire everyone had a vote. Wouldn’t you like to vote Mister Bakkus?” “I, a…I don’t know….sure sir. Well I can’t…” Jev sputtered. He didn’t want to confess his fear of military service. “A good thing for us that you probably won’t ever do that, Mister Bakkus,” Enderrsen said. “Maybe there is something to limited franchise.” Jev didn’t know what that was but he smarted from the insulting tone nonetheless. ***************************************** Helane Bakkus put Jev’s plate down before him. Jev was happy to be at his parent’s small home. He was not happy that the summer was coming to an end. Jev ate at the family table while his parents sat in the family area. His father was fixated on the latest speedball game. It was Cincinnati and New Singapore. Jev just wasn’t into it. He had tried sports but had just never succeeded. He wondered if that made him a failure before Gedrik Bakkus. His father cheered. “Those New Sing guys are fast!” his father roared. “I don’t think they should be in the league. Their gravity there is heavier. Reminds me of when I worked the Centauri build.” Jev wanted to groan but he did not. Actually he liked his father’s story about building space colonies. At times he wished that his parents had stayed out there instead of returning to Earth. Jev had met a few colonials at his parent’s summer camp. They were not boring and stodgy like so many at his school seemed to be. But his parents had returned to be with their families. “Even the hand tools weighed a few stones!” Helane said, finishing Jev’s father’s story. “Well it seemed that way,” Ged said. “And speaking of stones Poppy would like you to mow his lawn this weekend,” Helane told Jev. “Mom!” he started sourly, “it’s almost the end of summer! Poppy has an autobot. Why’s he need me?” he asked. “The AI is broken,” his mother answered. “It’s all manual. You can at least do that.” Jev started to argue but then thought better. Arik had been gone almost a year. Normally the two would have been off exploring. They had taken the Atlantic Tunnel to Europe last summer and biked through the old nations. Jev had felt like a real explorer. Except that he knew that this land had been crossed a million times. There was nothing new to find, no mysteries to uncover. His friend Arik would be seeing those firsthand, out among the stars. Perhaps some time with his grandparents would ease some of Jev’s turmoil. “Yes, cut some grass or do something.” Ged spoke in between chews. “You are old enough to get a serious job. Laying around in your room and reading isn’t a job!” “Ged, what about an apprenticeship with your company?” his mother unexpectedly asked. “Jev is a smart boy. You said that he could work at Underseas. You said that Wil Farouk’s kids got jobs there. Why can’t you help Jev?” His father sighed. “It isn’t that simple Helane. We have full crews. It’s hard to get an opening.” He watched his father, usually the winner in family arguments relent a little. “I’ll see what my gang manager says. Will that work?” Helane nodded. It pleased his mother. It did not please Jev. He believed that the word was, placate. Jev had heard it all before. He could not get an aircar because his father did not help him get a license. Likewise there was no credit posting for the university from his parents. There would be no job. He was an only child and Jev had suspected that Ged had been particularly hard on him because of that. Jev ate quickly. He now wanted to go to Poppy’s. His grandfather understood him. ********************************************* The hoverbike created a small windstorm behind it as Bakkus raced along the path taken by ancient steel transports. Some of the metal tracks had been preserved as part of a memorial. Jev fondly recalled racing across such a bridge, a museum piece with Arik. He spied another biker racing toward him. Could it be? Arik Bynum was as close to a brother as the only child Jev had. He had missed his old friend and their adventures. A smile was on his face as his old friend grinded to a halt stirring up a storm of dirty black earth and gravel pellets. Bynum looked the same as the last day that Bakkus had seen him. That had been almost a year ago. “Did they kick you out?” he asked Bynum. “I heard they do that to males that are total perverts!” Bynum laughed. “Admit it Jev: you wish that I liked other boys so that you could be my boy.” “I’ve got your boy,” Jev retorted. He laughed. “When did you get back?” “My ship docked last night,” Arik answered. “Mom had a big thing for me, even dad stopped by.” Bynum smiled at him. “What’s say we get a bottle and catch up on everything that I’ve missed?” Jev was instantly downcast. “I have to mow my granddad’s lawn.” “Hey it is on the straight,” Arik replied. “I have to see my sister-in-law, anyways.” “I thought that she was with Robert at a star base?” Jev asked in reply. He also remembered that Lindel Bynum had a very nice looking body. Arik shook his head. His brown hair was cut in the severe military fashion. It was the first time that he had noted any change in his old friend. Bynum had always kept his hair short but not that neatly cut as it was now. He could see that his old friend was confused and hesitant about answering. Jev supposed that Arik’s older brother and his wife must be having problems. Shy Jev was almost eighteen and had not yet experienced that sort of a thing. “I don’t know,” Arik answered at last. “She’s staying with my sister and Pater. Want to meet down at Galen’s…say twentyish?” “Yeah, I should be done by then,” he answered. “As slow as you are Jev; you probably won’t even have the thing started!” His friend laughed, righted his bike, told Jev that he’d see him later and then rocketed off. A smile was on Jev’s lips as he watched his daredevil friend race in and out of shaggy bushes and shrubs. He was going about as fast as Jev could manage on a straight downhill run. But Jev always held his bike straight. He could never have darted among obstacles like Arik was doing. Jev set his bike in motion. Poppy would be expecting him. *************************************** “It’s really something Jev,” Arik explained. The two, much to Jev’s surprise, had spoken mostly of the goings-on at and around Westernport. It wasn’t until they arrived here, at the banks of the Potomac River that Arik spoke of his military adventures. “We got our space training aboard an old Caesar class battle wagon. Remember the Devastator?” Bynum continued. “It’s really tight and cramped. Two of my squadmates died in an airlock accident. Well, one lived but she was brain damaged. There was nothing for her except to put her down. There’s no room for second chances Jev. It’s not finishing school.” It sounded dreadful to Jev. Yet there was something in his best friend’s demeanor when he spoke of flying past Saturn’s rings, emerging out of the multi-dimensional vortex and seeing Sol as a distant star. For every unpleasant experience that Arik spoke of he related ten more that were amazing and exciting. Arik was changed but the change was inside. “So you’re off to college?” Arik asked. One strange thing was that Bynum didn’t seem interested in recruiting him any longer. He had applied to Northeastern but his application had been rejected. Jev hadn’t topped their standards for the schools’ molecular engineering curriculum. He had taken upper math classes but not enough to help him. That was okay as he didn’t have the crowns needed to afford the housing. He had barely squeaked under the requirements for his local college prep school. He nodded. “I am.” Jev should have been glad that Arik wasn’t pressuring him to join. He was not. It was almost as if his old friend was telling him that he wasn’t good enough. Maybe Bynum thought that he couldn’t make the physical challenges. It shouldn’t matter but it did. Jev had begun wondering what was past this world. At the rate that he was going he wouldn’t even be able to afford a starliner journey in this lifetime. He kept pressing his old friend for stories of his journeys. “Look I just touched the tip of it all!” his friend answered. He was clearly frustrated. “It’s what you make of it. It’s strange and it can scare the crap out of you. We did land survival on Rigel. They have these little furry things, look like flying squirrels. They can piss out an acid that melts through steel. Then again it’s…incredible. There is always something new! I met a colonist on Rigel: the chum had a castle Jev! He had built a castle for his family to live in! No one could do that here on Earth!” His friend upended the bottle of liquor that they had brought with them. He passed the gin to Jev. “I’m going colonial Jev,” Arik declared while Jev drank. Jev nearly choked. “That’s a load Arik! You might go career but no way would you do that! Your mother would never stand for that.” Bynum shrugged. “I don’t know if I’ll go career Jev. I mean I like it and it’s the life for me…but either way, career or not, I’m going colonial after I’m done in the service.” Jev laughed. “You want one of those colonial girls. I heard stories about how they are.” Arik laughed in turn. “Well, some of the girls—and men are pretty loose. But then again so are the hostess corps men and women. But really they aren’t much different than people here.” Jev’s mother had been a hostess. Most of those married imperial troops. Helene had instead met Gedrik Bakkus while his father was building the Centauri star base. Jev briefly wondered what his life would have been like had she married an imperial. His friend looked up into the dark night sky. “Well, they are different!” he said, changing his stance. “Huh, what do you mean?” Jev asked. “I mean they still follow the MedaV’dan Covenant,” his friend explained. “But Jev—they are free out there. People can make their own lives on the colonies.” Arik sighed. “I saw one.” “Saw one what?” he asked. Arik paused for a long time before answering: “A MedaV’dan,” he answered. Jev gasped. He shook his head. Few humans had really ever seen their masters. An advocate came every five years near Horizon Day to select a new Supreme Commander. Jev hadn’t even watched the last installation. He had been fifteen then and his fantasy novels had held more excitement. Of the MedaV’dan men knew little. The aliens had two arms ending in human looking hands that boasted the standard five fingers. Early man had determined, through primitive surveillance equipment, that the green eyed aliens breathed, emitted body odors and had heart beats. But that was all that was known. They were said to exist both here and elsewhere. Jev wasn’t sure what that meant. He asked his friend to tell his story. “It was a sprite,” he explained. Men had assigned the aliens their ranks to help them differentiate with whom they were dealing. What positions the MedaV’dan really held were known only to themselves. Jev knew that sprites were supposed to be the lowest of the MedaV’dan. That and obviously the fact that advocates were higher was the extent of his knowledge concerning the aliens. “He came and talked about how the empire of men was growing. He said that one day we would be like them. It was like he was there and not there. It’s true when they talk that you see the whole thing in your mind.” “C’mon now!” he protested. Jev thought that his friend was now joshing him. He had heard those stories but had put it down to tall tales that had gotten bigger over time. Arik smiled at him. “If you ever saw one you would know.” The implication seemed to be that Jev would never venture far from home so that he would never see an alien. “Give me that bottle Jevo,” Arik demanded. He wore a smile on his lips. Jev passed it to his friend. “Is old Creaky Enderrsen still teaching?” he asked. Arik did an excellent impression of the stodgy intellectual. The two boys laughed.