This is a short story I wrote while planning my new Off Earth science fiction series. It is some deep back story that tries to get into how a human will take a risk so crazy that an artificial intelligence drone refuses to do it. So meet Kai Nazca, I hope you enjoy.
by K. D. McAdams copyright 2018
The launch vehicle rolled and he caught a glimpse of the Nazca plain below. Simple, remarkable drawings sat motionless as they had for thousands of years. Who made them and why could not be answered regardless of how much technological progress humans made.
No matter how far into space humans went there would be no explaining much of their history.
Lowering the blast visor on his helmet, he finally permitted the tears to flow. Dreams of living and working in the stars belonged to his father. His heaven was on the ground, feet in cool damp grass waiting to hear his young daughters squeals of delight.
There was no one left that he wanted to hear squeal and no delight.
People always talked about the pace of change. Some felt it was always coming faster while others insisted it was a constant. He would rather not have had the proof of it’s increasing pace.
Transitioning from peace to war should have taken more time. All of the reporters and pundits promised that cooler heads would prevail, things were going to work out.
And then they didn’t.
The hot heads were in charge. Their constituents all salivating for war. Tired, simple people believing in the glory of standing up for an institution that abused, lied, and coerced it’s citizens at every turn.
The rest of the world looked on in horror as the United States tore itself apart. Armed militias stood up to National Guard troops and neighbors drew arms against neighbors. Any slight, real or perceived devolved into a gun battle in those first few days.
Video reporters loved it. Everyone clicked on their links and watched the violence with nervous excitement. Would it happen in their town? On their street?
Never. Most people believed that their own town was exempt from hostility and infighting. It was always the next town over or the people from the nearby city causing trouble.
Until it wasn’t.
Guns were everywhere. You could get shot for anything.
Cut someone off on the street, a barrage of bullets.
Music too loud? Gunned down.
Laugh at the wrong time? Executed in cold blood.
They didn’t have time to pack up and leave. Besides where would they have gone? San Diego had been their home for almost fifteen years. There was no family somewhere else that could take them in. Plus the war broke out so fast.
So they stayed. The bathtub was filled with water and canned goods were inventoried and rationed. Doors were locked and windows covered. Their house truly became their castle.
When the food got scarce he and his wife ventured out. Scavenging for cans and boxes of non-perishables in an abandoned market nearly got them both killed. A hail of hot lead exploded most of the packages they were able to gather. They went home nearly empty handed and shared the meager rations with the girls.
After that his wife wanted to leave. It didn’t matter where they went, she said. Just get my girls out of here before we get killed, or worse.
No, it’ll pass. They have to be almost done, order will be restored. We’ll be get by and start rebuilding, was his promise.
An ignorant man committing to things beyond his control. The bitter argument dragged into the night until they couldn’t fight anymore.
The next morning, before sunrise he snuck out. All he wanted to do was get a box of donuts or some packaged pastries to say he was sorry. She was right, they could leave.
He wasn’t gone long, maybe an hour or a little more. Not long enough for anything to happen.
It hurt to think about the injuries and the pain they must have felt. But their eyes were the things that almost killed him. Vacant, lost eyes looking at nothing but staring intently into the distance. Death robbing them of even the ability to close their lids
His blind rage was impossible to describe. It couldn’t be remembered. A manic animosity was all that was existed in him and it was deep in his soul.
The trail of blood and death was now his legacy. For days on end he prowled the city killing anyone and everyone he encountered. Young or old, man or woman it didn’t matter, they died.
How could a person who had lost what he lost, and took what he took go on? Where in the world was he supposed to go to escape this internal hell?
By the time he came out of his murderous furry he was deep in the heart of Mexico. He couldn’t remember taking any vehicles for more than a few miles at a time. It was a hell of a walk, leaving him gaunt. But there were fewer people who appeared as threats and here they were not hiding. War was happening somewhere else.
What had been third world countries five years ago were now bastions of hope. Countries that embraced the space economy were too busy to fight amongst themselves. There were launches to plan and support.
And that was what led him to Peru. They needed people to get on rocket ships and go into space. It was dangerous, a better chance of dying than making it into orbit, but it was better than being on the Earth that he had just experienced.
Once he completed the required two weeks of training he had two days off before launch.
He was lucky enough to hook up with a mining crew destined for an asteroid that was out just beyond Mars. Other companies were sending out drones with artificial intelligence to do their mining. But drones were expensive and had a tendency to fail.
Failed drones required humans to fix them. So the company decided that they might as well just send humans, there were plenty of volunteers. A civil war in the most prosperous nation on the planet left enough desperate refugees that people were fighting over the chance to die in space.
There were twenty-eight crew members on board with him. The ones that had killed to get here were easy to pick out. Those that hadn’t had no idea who they were sharing space with and the type of person that last used the oxygen they now breathed.
Several of them were talking and trying to make friends. Typical banter, what’s your name, where are you from. Nerves permeating every word.
How many were telling the truth and how many were living lies? It didn’t matter, up here in space it would be a fresh start. If they made it.
“Hey, how about you buddy. Who are you?” A friendly young woman asked.
The launch vehicle completed its rotation and his view was now out to the black of space.
He didn’t respond immediately.
Who was he?
“Kai. Kai Nazca.” He finally answered.
Did you like it? Put your name in the box below and I’ll send you more like it every other week.