2947-08-27 - Tales from the Service: The Incarnation Plantation

The implications of the news we helped Naval Intelligence break on Cosmic Background’s various datasphere domains and outlets are still being worked out, but the fact that the so-called Sagittarians are in fact Terran stock is at this point beyond doubt. The Navy claims that the Fifth Fleet has captured twelve prisoners alive, most of them following strike sorties on the far side of the Gap. They claim to be members of a formal military (not surprising given the sophisticated, standardized warships used) fighting for something called the Incarnation. Apparently, this is either a religious or governmental organization, and I don’t think even Naval Intelligence has figured out which. 

As he is a familiar name on this feed, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Captain Bosch and his relatively light squadron are specifically credited with two of these prisoners. Congratulations to the good captain for his successes in the field, and I hope he and his officers are well. 

Though the Law of the Spacelanes is clear about what is to be done with combatant prisoners, but the Navy has not publicly announced the names or conditions of the persons in custody. This either means that the Law is not being applied to this conflict (I shudder to think of the reasons this might be the case), or that the Navy has a direct line of communication to this Sagittarian faction. If it does have such a connection, I would guess it is through a cooperative Ladeonist cell, which would explain why they are not advertising this fact. 

Hopefully the Navy will reveal to us in the future their theory as to the origins of a Terran breakaway society as far from Sol as Sagittarius. Though they are counterhumans like the Ladeonist sect and seem to have determined to preserve their independence by leading raids and minor offensives into the Coreward Frontier, their nature so similar to our own probably improves our chance of reaching an understanding to end the fighting. The hard-line traditionalists might disagree, but I would rather try to negotiate peace with a mostly-human opponent than with a total unknown. 

This week’s story comes to me from an interrogator who claims to have engaged in lengthy discussions with a somewhat cooperative (though haughty) Sagittarian pilot, captured after the minor raid at Margaux three weeks ago. I cannot verify his claims, but as it is as plausible a window into the lives of citizens (or adherents) of this Sagittarius "Incarnation.” 

The prisoner who this story allegedly comes from is not named; the name given is an alias chosen by my source. She named their home-world only as “Prospero”, and according to my source reacted with confusion when asked for its location. Even so, she apparently provided several anecdotes about what life on Prospero was like in her youth (probably because they seem to be of little military value, and take a long time to tell), and it is one of these which my source has apparently elected to share.

Selima straightened and hefted her agri-tool to her shoulder the moment her implant software switched from labor-focus mode to leisure-mode, signaling the end of her final work day on the plantation. As she and the other dozen-odd members of the day’s work party headed toward the equipment shed at the center of the field, she noticed that the blue-white disk of the stellar primary had not yet touched distant Lux Ridge. The Incarnation would be well pleased, and the thought filled her with joy. Her cadre had finished their three months of work on time – more than that, they had finished with hours to spare.

Carefully stepping around the hexagonal, shiny growths of the plantation’s burgeoning crop, Selima imagined the second sunlight of the Cause's approval falling on her and the other members of the cadre. Together, they had done well, and the fruits of their labor would build a better future. The Incarnation would use what they had nurtured to preserve humanity a little while longer from oblivion.

Uri reached the tool-shed first, its iris door opened automatically. One by one, each of the others handed him their agri-tools, which he flicked into storage mode and stacked in the rack within the sturdy little structure. No words were exchanged – none were needed. All were tired, but not bone-tired as they would be after the usual dawn-to-dark field shift, and all were basking in the same exuberance that rewarded a job well done. The next morning, a skilled harvester party would arrive to carry away their crop for processing, and the next work party would be selected to plant and tend anew. Selima, Uri, and the rest of the party would be taken back to their homes, to resume the lives which their selection for field service had put on hold. 

As the group left the field which they had worked every day for three months, Selima turned around to examine the neat pattern of well-tended, uniform crops they were leaving behind. She would never know what their work would build, but she wasn't curious. They were obviously not a food crop, but only a tech specialist could guess what purpose they served once processed.

The first half of the three-kilometer walk back to the workers’ burrows was completed silently, but the excitement and nervous energy of the group could not be constrained for long, even by the calming efforts of implant leisure-mode. Selima remembered how many nights she had staggered back to her bunk in the dark under Prospero’s gorgeous canopy of stars, and thanked the implant's guidance system for helping her reach the burrows safely every time. The crops of the Incarnation field were demanding and prone to many forms of loss, but her work-party, guided by the Incarnation’s implant software, had guided the transformation of seven hundred glistening jewel-like cuttings into mature crops, losing only two to the many forms of loss which bioengineered flora were prone.

The muttering of conversation ahead carried on a cool breeze as the others grouped up ahead of Selima speculated about the Incarnation’s plans for the next planting seasons, but she did not join in the speculation. It would be a joy to be selected for another plantation cycle – the implant software saw to that – but she knew she would not be. She would be twenty T-years of age in five local days, and the Incarnation had long since marked her to be conditioned as a starship pilot. Her above-average genetic disposition toward fast reflexes and quick thinking would carry her away from peaceful, pastoral life on Prospero before the next planting season began - perhaps even to the front lines of the unfortunate but necessary conflict the news-feeds spoke of - the war instigated by humanity's more primitive majority.

The path underfoot joined others, and other work parties leaving other fields in the plantation began to join Selima's. In the distance, a few flood-lights glowed, revealing plots where a work-party still labored, as their harvest was not ready. Selima pitied those few, who would toil and pamper the specially chosen floral buds until they were fit for the Incarnation’s purpose.

“I am going to miss this.” Uri appeared at Selima’s shoulder, turning his head to watch the spectacular colors of a Prospero sunset. “Not the work. The walk back in the cool evening with you, under the stars.” He seemed to want to say more, but fell silent.

Selima frowned. “Uri, surely you will also miss the work.” How could he not? The implants saw to that.

The young man sighed. He was half a year younger than Selima, but several centimeters taller, both muscular and ruggedly picturesque. He was even from a village only ten kilometers from her own home. Were she not destined for service away from Prospero, Selima might have considered him a likely breeding partner, but as things were she had settled for a few lights-out liasons when the work schedule left them the energy to enjoy each others’ company. “Of course... how could I forget the work? But I will miss these cool evenings most of all.”

Selima shrugged. The plantation compound, like hundreds more like it, was far from the population-centers, but the remoteness did not inspire her appreciation. “It was a joy to serve, but I welcome the return.” The stars, for her, were not a backdrop, but a destination and a promise. The stars were a ticking clock: they had seen the beginnings and ends of the Xenarchs and many other species greater than humanity. Someday, when she was long gone, the Incarnation would at last fail to preserve Terran-kind from its own extinction.

They were silent for several seconds, as an excitedly-chattering group from another work party passed by. When they had passed, Uri spoke again. “When do you ship out for the academy?”

“When the Incarnation wills. If the Grand Plan remains unchanged, I expect to depart within thirty local days.” Twenty was the age beyond which Prospero’s settlers were released from their local burden to take up greater burdens beyond their relatively young world. The day after she came of that age, Selima suspected, her implant’s software would change modes, and guide her where she needed to be. The prospect filled her with vastly more anticipation than fear.

“Then it is likely tomorrow will be good-bye.” Uri nodded at the distant horizon. “The burden given to me will be far lighter.”

Selima put her hand on his arm. “You are strong and capable. Your burden will be like my mother’s, to help build the foundations of the future here on Prospero.”

“If that is what it takes.” Uri turned to face Selima, searching her eyes. What did he want? Surely he knew he could not go with her, and she could not stay. To do so would be to risk the salvation of all Terran-kind. “I won’t forget you, Selima.”

“Nor I you, Uri.” Selima’s smile faltered in confusion for only a moment. How could she forget? The implants would ensure that all facts serviceable to the Incarnation would remain as long as she lived.

Momentary though it was, Uri picked up on Selima’s uncertainty. With a heavy sigh, he put an arm around her, hugged her close for several seconds, then loped ahead, vanishing into the press of a large group of animatedly-talking plantation laborers.