PART THREE – HEAVENLY DREAM
Zombie Six had sub-lighted into the Kepler 186 star system three days prior with Admiral Joaquin Moreno Sota’s Third Fleet. The Admiral had come per a United Nations of Earth directive to reinforce the Colonial Administration’s faltering ‘security actions’ against a growing and increasingly successful independence movement on the fifth planet, Mèng Tiān. Zombie Six was under UNE orders as well, but with a far more focused agenda.
Mèng Tiān translated as Heavenly Dream, but “heavenly” was a stretch at the best of times. And these were far from the best of times. Orbiting an M-class Red Dwarf, it was a cold, barely habitable rock with a 30-hour day and 1.2 Earth-gravity orbiting at the outer limit of the Goldilocks Zone. The colony was essentially a huge system of mining complexes and support infrastructure.
When the planet was discovered twenty years ago, the Chinese government was far from interested in Kepler 186f. Over the previous half century, Beijing’s political power and global influence had been steadily eroded by overpopulation, massive national debt, triple digit inflation, and swelling protests against the communist government. Given the massive, long-term investment required, another space colony was deemed impractical and unnecessary – that is until geo-probes located vast mineral deposits, huge natural gas and oil fields, even traces of exotic elements. Additional geological surveys exceeded their wildest projections. China couldn’t launch their claim buoys fast enough.
The National People’s Congress saw Mèng Tiān as more than an opportunity for profit – the sudden need of a vast labor force became a chance to take out the trash.
Instead of sending their best and brightest as they had with their first colony, Beautiful Country, they decided to quell civil discord and ship off all the malcontents. Dissidents, low-level criminals, the marginally sane, the poor… any cog that wouldn’t mesh with the Worker’s Paradise received a one-way ticket to a new life off-world.
Trouble was, along with sweeping out the prisons and slums, the government deported nearly the entire population of the Tarim Basin in the Xinjiang province. The ethnic Uyghurs there had been the driving force behind the Islamic fundamentalist Turkistan Independence Movement and a thorn in Beijing’s side for decades. The Committee Chairmen figured their jobs would be much easier if all the rabble rousers were rounded up, restrained, refrigerated, and sent to work mines five hundred light-years away.
They were right – for a time.
It wasn’t long before the TIM re-emerged on Mèng Tiān with a vengeance. After all, Beijing hadn’t uprooted the movement so much as transplanted it. Only now, the Timmies didn’t want their own province – they wanted their own planet.
Between the harsh environment, poor working conditions, and the Kepler Colonial Administration’s mind-numbingly inept “Production and Beneficence Programs”, the separatist movement spread across the planet like Kudzu vine. After dreaming of freedom for nearly a century on Earth, the TIMs were fighting like hell to get it on Mèng Tiān.
Production and export quotas down for the fifth straight quarter, Beijing’s ‘Heavenly Dream’ was becoming a nightmare. So the Third Fleet was sent to be muscle, pure and simple. Facility security, urban pacification, major counter-terror operations: shows of strength, resolve, and overwhelming firepower. Theater as much as war. Shock and Awe for the locals, Hearts and Minds for the back-home audience.
Zombie Six was different. Beijing wanted this uprising shut down hard and fast and they had used their position on the UNE Security Council to get us deployed. Our orders were to ‘expedite a favorable resolution to the conflict as rapidly as possible by dismantling the Turkistan Independence Movement’s command structure and degrading their communication and dissemination networks’. That was ops-speak for killing leaders and shutting down the insurgent’s data network and media game.
We had come to cut throats and DNA-verify the deceased.
A Critical Security and Interdiction Services team operates outside the standard chain of command, but the day we arrived the Admiral’s XO shuttled to our assault carrier, the Hephestus, to brief us in person. We were still shaking off the cryo-chill and bringing our internal systems on-line, but it didn’t matter. We may be CRISIS but it was his Fleet and the Admiral wanted to set that straight right out of the gate. To make sure we were reading him loud and clear, he sent Colonel Saanvi Kapoor.
Colonel Kapoor was one of the ‘Buchanan Nine’: one of a handful of officers to survive the attempted mutiny on the Cerberus class nuclear missile frigate UNESS Buchanan. The ship was on a live-fire training exercise near the Moon when all the senior officers were murdered or taken hostage by radicalized crewmembers who were convinced the Almighty wanted them to glass the UNE base at Mare Ibrium. A Junior Grade Lieutenant at the time, Kapoor prevented a complete take-over of the ship by sealing the bridge, then after a seventeen-hour stand-off, crawled through ventilation ducts and took down the ring leaders with a welder’s laser and carving knife from the ship’s galley. End of crisis.
The only living recipient of the Space Fleet Services Gold Star with Twin Comets, she was promoted to the Admiral’s flagship two months later. Small and sharp as a scalpel, when the Colonel spoke, everyone listened. Like the saying went, “There is no Admiral but Sota and Kapoor is his prophet.”
She was waiting for us in our Secure Operations Room.
NEXT: PART FOUR – OFFICIAL REPORTS