Seventy thousand years ago, homo sapiens oozed out of Africa and out into Western Asia and Europe. Each small band that dribbled out existentially convinced that they were permanently and irreconcilably at war with all other humans, with animal life, and with nature itself.
That orientation has never left the species, culminating in the world we live in now. A world on the edge of extinction because of climate change which after thirty years of ever more urgent dire warnings, we as a species have never been able to fulfill our promises of reform made to one another. Compounded as we enter our third year of viral plague, and further complicated by a savagely callus, all out ”Me win – you die” war in the heart of Europe. Not to mention a half dozen other wars going on in less supposedly civilized parts of the globe.
The document that follows is a novel, set some fifteen hundred years in a future where the powers of our time failed utterly, and humanity nearly went extinct. Only denizens of far southern lands had survived, and these people scrambled to stave off starvation each and every day. The landforms have changed, most of the flora and fauna wiped out. Traditional indigenous wisdom made useless. The mutant gene burden on the surviving population is so high that more infants are exposed to the elements each generation than are nurtured and taken into families, such as these were. Only the arrival, after more than a thousand years of this, space vessels of an alien empire broke the cycle. These creatures were pleased to provide food sufficiency and healing of disease in exchange for labor. Thus, the vast majority of humanity’s remnant became slaves of an alien empire. True to form, all humans resented this bargain, but only a handful organized as a conspiracy to attempt, somehow, to wriggle free.
Why is such a novel being featured in the blog of a small Christian community? Especially as much of the rest of this community’s blog space is devoted to clarifying what many people regard as abstruse theological subjects? Using close examinations of Hebrew, Greek, and Roman Imperial history and language to debunk many widely held beliefs about what Christianity is all about?
The answer is straightforward and simple, yet still seems odd to conventionally Christianized eyes and ears. Jesus’ entire mission was devoted to bringing people on board to one idea, one project, one goal which he called the Kingdom of God or of Heaven. This was always closely linked to the forgiveness of sins.
Please remember, that though there are indeed a list of crimes, like murder, theft, and bearing false witness that were considered sins, the main or generalized concept is one of falling short, and that the principle shortfall to be avoided is always ‘separation’ of human from human, human from the rest of creation, and/or human separation from God. Thus, seeking the Kingdom of Heaven is precisely the cure for that seventy thousand year old attitude featured at the top of this page.
Our story opens on a distance shrouded planet in a star system unimaginably far away, called New Beginnings, where this conspiracy has established a toe hold.
Beeko D’ja fought his weary way to some semblance of consciousness; dizzy, disoriented, and bewildered. Nothing fit together, and this disturbed him mightily. He knew that he could not depend upon his mind in the condition that it seemed to be in, but he did not understand why this instability should be as it was. Straining against the fog, he attempted to order his mind, fight backward through recollections in order to find clues. The last thing that he remembered was a blast that was much too loud, a flash vastly too bright, an instant of shocking pain, and then nothing. Absolutely nothing at all. Feeling stricken, he tried to get his figurative mental legs under him, but the total nothingness sent unpleasant tendrils of worry through his brain, and caused him to pound upon his memory harder. No reward was forthcoming, and this agitated him the more.
His mouth responded to this information, when his thinking was still spinning darkly sideways. “Am I still on that brutal Spirits condemned, battle field hours after that flash? Or am I properly evacuated back to camp?” The rasping sound of his own voice shocked him, and he did the rest of his self-interrogation in proper silence. “In either case I ought to smell the irritating, sulfur-thickened air of that unhappy world with its toad-like Ga-Grummivaran fighting with the lizard-like Fi-Grummivaran (who could beat them every time without our help) and hear the constant drone of palm sized Grummivaran insects. Shouldn’t I? Something is wrong, what in the realm of impossibly horrible N’Molloue-punishment has happened?
“Did I take a head wound? Is my hearing lost to me, my nose not working? Come to think of it, why am I not staring up at whatever is straight above me? Is up there a patch of sky, clouds, or am I in a building with a ceiling? Why don’t I know? Have I been struck blind too?” All the rest of this internal act of inquiry was taking place silently, no soldier of the human-mercenary Battalions ever allowed themselves to disturb the peace of their bunkmates with idle maunderings, and Beeko had special reasons for toeing the line of all unwritten laws, among his battalion mates.
That principle of proper behavior firmly established in mind, he went back to being concerned about the disposition of his physical form. Though he well knew that his own N’Molloue-serving human-mercenary battalion’s skilled medical staff, all of whom would be equally as human as the soldiers, whom they maintained and restored to duty when damaged, could eventually take care of things like those ugly losses that he suspected having suffered. Still, the prospect was so alarming that Beeko, a ten active year veteran himself, started to struggle to sit up from where he was laid out upon his back like a dead mercenary soldier instead of a living one.
He found instantly that he was restrained tightly with stiff elastic straps across chest and belly, and long tubes plugged into both arms. A sure sign that he was badly wounded and in need of big help. Even more alarming because there was no precedent in his experience, he discovered that once he had moved, he had no sense of his right leg. His body awareness ended abruptly on that side of his form, just under his buttock. Yet still he found that he had no memory of what could have happened other than that he was plainly an unhappy casualty of that last assault.
Such unpleasant, unplanned for things did happen, and this was not his first time in infirmary, if this was infirmary, but somehow this situation was inexplicably different, and confusing. He was terribly aware that his instincts wanted to run wild and rebel. But for the life of him he could not imagine why this would be so. Empty minutes passed, then, for the first time since waking, he heard a noise that had not been present earlier. Being able to identify it was not enough, it had to be faced, and that required that the anxious youth fisted his scattered wits into a bundle. No human mercenary of the N’Molloue Empire ever wants to be caught napping.
It was a soft sound, the scuff of an indoor shoe against a smooth floor, but his senses were trained and finely tuned. Right away he forced himself to work harder on getting eyelids to obey his commands to open. Fifteen seconds later, when he had won his battle, he was rewarded with a powerfully pleasurable sight. Something totally unexpected, but uncommonly welcome. It was a female, certainly as young as he, dressed in a loose, flowing blouse and pants in pastel green and an equally light sky blue that swirled together and seemed to constantly wink into one another, then return back to themselves . This was not regulation wear for any nurses he had ever dealt with in the past, but he liked it. If this enchanting creature wanted to risk reprimand to increase her decorative nature, that was just fine with him. Furthermore, this surprisingly exquisite creature standing before him was extraordinarily lovely in other ways, with wavy midnight tresses framing her face down to the jaw line. Her deep, raven’s wing eyes that burned with life in their sockets, and she had a smooth milk chocolate complexion.
Her brow was broad, her chin firm, her nose compact and broad, yet delicate. Just to see her was to lose all memory of all of the girls and young women who have spurned him over the entire span of his years. Beeko was immediately struck to the heart, yet he was loath to react to his own runaway feelings in any visible or audible manner. The never quite perfectly accepted Beeko well knew what he looked like to his people. This was true on the surface of their home world, and in the bowels of their satellite retreat that circled above Earth’s quasi-ruined surface. It was still true among the soldiers of his short range fighting troop, just not so obvious. If any of his mates offended each other too openly, they might not be quite as quick to come to that offended one’s rescue in situations where fractions of a second might count. And that, of course, could be fatal.
He, with the humiliatingly lank, honey washed hair, hazel eyes, and ruddy-gold skin of his distant racial heritage showing through, felt like a flagrant badge of personal dishonor was tolerated more for the sake of self preservation, than for having gotten to know Beeko as an acceptable, real person. Where his culture did not include myths about angels, there were tales of supernatural beauty showing up among their kind, and this girl fit those myths as perfectly as he fit the indelible memory of those who had selfishly, nearly fourteen hundred years ago, broken the world and left his folk, in fact all of the people left on Earth, sick and starving. Nobody actually blamed the boy to his face, but the tightening of lips, failure to meet his eyes, reluctance to be seen as his friend, even among those who depended upon his good will, could not be mistaken for a series of random accidents. Beeko D’Ja was young, but he was proud to know beyond any doubt that neither was he a fool.
His customary hesitation was rewarded by this dusky vision who, generously ignoring Beeko’s so evident peculiarities, asked with tender kindness, “Feeling better yet? You have been coming to consciousness for more than an hour, soldier. If you had taken any longer, we would have been worried. As it is, Doctor will be wanting to study your stats, when she comes in.” Beeko’s throat is constricted and he makes a valiant effort to talk, finding it far more difficult for him than it should be.
Nevertheless he forces out the words, “Doctor? Where is this? How long have I been out? Do you know what actually happened? How long will it take for me to recover enough to go back to my duty?” For Beeko, there could be no question more pressing. Nor more vital for him to understand. His rank and position in the troop was tentative enough as it was. It was entirely possible that he would find himself bumped from the rolls. That would force him back to a base, to impatiently await reassignment with another outfit. One where he would be just as shakily welcome, and would have to go through the hazings and other rituals, just to gain a precarious minimum acceptance no better than what he had lost. It would be so much easier if he could simply slip back into an accustomed place.
This unguarded honest inquiry prompted a frown, and a prim statement that sounded like he was being scolded. As he held himself steady, not sinking his ears down as if he could protect them in the angle of his shoulders and upper arms, the deceptively sweet appearing, pitiless vision continued, “Oh, you are not going back, soldier, not ever. No matter how well you recover. Besides that leg is going to take four or five months to regrow even with the proper stimulation. As it is, you are in luck, both our local bio-chemical and magnetic resonance technology are at least ten percent better than back in a base infirmary. Even so, you will have plenty of opportunity to reorient to your new situation. Don’t worry. You will understand soon enough.”
“Understand?” The youth is doubly, perhaps triply confused. Local technology better than at a base infirmary? Why would that be? How is it even possible for her to say something nonsensical like that? The N’Molloue were the source of all advanced technology and they were scrupulously even-handed about what they were willing to give to their bipedal human servants. This is, naturally, one of the reasons that we lowly humans have been eager to remain faithful N’Molloue servants, after all. Almost without a pause between this thought and his own reaction to it, D’Ja snorted internally. “That, and terror. The generous six legged, four armed N’Molloue coordination masters always reserved their best technologies, including weaponry and starship drives for themselves. Even our best Mercenary Horizon-soldiers would be helpless squaring off against our benefactors. As for us, their Mercenary Bayonet soldiers? The slaughter would be absolute and nearly instant.”
“Anyway, Doctor, the puzzle remains unaddressed. Understand what? Understand about what? Why will I not be allowed to go back to my mates, if I recover well?” There is a short hesitation, yet in just a few seconds the intriguing blue and green clad woman seemed to relax and relent, but what she said was bewildering and nearly impossible to digest. “Your mercenary mates are nowhere nearby. That is the simple truth. Your bayonet- battalion is not in this star system, and you are no longer enrolled among their number. You will just have to get used to this, and make the most of it. I know that you don’t understand right now, but this is the truth that you will have to live with, and there is nothing about this with which you can argue. You might as well try arguing with a star about the spectrum of the light that it gives off. Or a N’Molloue battalion manager when she gives an order. Now, you have talked enough, probably too much. Go back to sleep. Someone will be here to see to your needs when you wake. It might be me, but that is unlikely.” The boy wanted to stare fixedly in dumbfounded consternation at the woman, but did not dare.
He hardly remembers that in normal life, he hardly notices his own reactions. He has his ways, and though they never worked to attract to himself what he wants, these ways save him from the foolish agony of making whatever his situation happens to be at the moment, worse.
Feeling suddenly used up and exhausted, his eyes begin to shutter of themselves, but before he is quite shut down, he has the strength to ask, “You know my name, surely. It has to be on my papers. But will you tell me yours?” Then his eyes seem to glue themselves closed, and an unending span of time seems to pass before he hears the fetching young woman’s lovely voice faintly, saying “Alright, it is no secret, I am called Zantches Il Barkum.”
Another eternity snails past, and then, “I am right at the moment serving the nursing staff here on New Beginnings, but I am a detached ex-member of a human-mercenary engineering battalion, just as you are a detached ex-member of a human bayonet-mercenary warfare battalion.” He has just time enough to puzzle over the designation, “New beginnings?” before he falls into a sort of nothingness, that is absolute, yet contingent upon him rather than upon itself. Yet this time, rather than being wrapped in insensible nothingness, he instantly enters a profound state of dream.