Star Force: Ghostblade (SF67)

BOOK: Star Force: Ghostblade (SF67)
5.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

1

 
 

May 18, 2783

Solar System

Arwen

 

Sophia sat on a short cliff edge, her feet dangling over
and nearly touching the rocky ground below as she looked out at the tiny dot
that was the sun on the horizon through her faceplate. She glanced down and ran
her fingers through the sandy soil that covered the small planet on which a
number of Clans had made their home centuries ago.
Arwen
was part of the
Elvish
cluster in high orbit around Sol, though that grouping was more nostalgic now
than geographic given that their differing orbital tracts had slowly pulled
them out of relative position to one another.

With the navigational advancements over the years it
hadn’t mattered. Everywhere in the Solar System was easily accessible, no
longer the huge distances that separated civilization from the frontier…though
in truth the remoteness stayed the same and it was the growth of the empire
that had made everything feel so small and nearby. That was why she was here
now, outside the colonies that dotted the landscape and sitting in an
envirosuit on the natural surface, feeling the low gravity along with the sense
of just how empty everything was.

Inside the cities everyone was close, friendly, and
working together for the benefit of Clan Snowstorm, but out here it was still empty
space, with the nearest planet being beyond her reach. It was like the
technology had given everyone a false sense of security, for
Arwen
was an inhospitable landscape despite the addition of
a carbon dioxide atmosphere that Star Force had introduced to bring the
freezing temperatures up to only slightly chilly. They were so far away from
the star that little light reached this far out, and the planet was so small
that it didn’t have sufficient internal heat production to do much of anything
with.

Sophia was sitting on top of a giant frozen rock
orbiting a hot star so far out that it looked benign to her sitting just above
the horizon, soon to dip below it and usher in the nighttime sky. The ground
around her was a mix of boulders and sand, most of which was colored grey with
hints of red, and looked for all the world like one of the last places anyone
would like to live, but to her it had always been home.

Funny though, because she’d rarely been outdoors to
see the planet itself. She’d lived her entire life inside the colonies, having
gone outside only during her maturia training some 140 years ago. She’d never
even visited the other four Clans’ colonies on the planet, staying within
Snowstorm’s holdings and never feeling the need to venture elsewhere, for there
was always plenty to do right here.

But that was all about to change.

Sophia was about to leave
Arwen
,
along with the rest of her Clan. While technically it was her choice of whether
or not to go the fact that all the Snowstorms were leaving the Solar System
left her with no real options. A few would remain on their Clan’s piece of
Antarctica, but ever other territory slot and orbital station they possessed
here was being traded away to other Clans in exchange for resources,
agreements, or whatever other deals Oni had worked out. Sophia might be a
civilian tech, but she wasn’t sure about the wisdom of the trailblazer this
time. Everything they had built up here in Sol was going to be wiped out in a
single trade, including her home.

She’d been born on
Arwen
,
gone through her maturia training here, and had lived amongst the other 3.2
million Snowstorms on the planet her entire life. And while it was true she’d
only seen the interior of a colony city that entire time, this lump of rock she
was now directly sitting on still struck her as home, no matter how lifeless
and empty it looked right at the moment.

She knew she wasn’t the only one in this position, for
everyone else in the Clan was having to make the same move all the way out to
the Bsidd Region. Apparently Oni had decided to uproot the entire Clan for the
chance of colonizing an entire system of their own, as only a few others had
done to date. Snowstorm never had a planet to itself, let alone an entire star
system, and up until now they’d consolidated all of their holdings inside Sol
while others expanded outward, often trading the Snowstorms bits of territory
or ships in order to facilitate that expansion. Sophia’s Clan was ranked #12 in
terms of land territory owned within Sol after so many centuries of trades and
shrewd maneuvers, but now they were going to give it all up?

But then again, therein lay the problem. That #12
ranking was the highest her Clan possessed in any field or subcategory. In
truth the Snowstorms were at the bottom of the barrel, ranking 90th or worse in
73% of all tracked categories. Oni had stated as much when she’d explained the
move to the entire Clan, intending for this to be a rebirth that could
eventually catch Snowstorm up with the others, despite the fact that they’d
have to start building from scratch.

But Sophia rejected that. Her Clan wasn’t bad at
anything, the other Clans just happened to be as good as they were…and then
some. Snowstorm had grown its population by 3% over just the past 5 years, with
industry up 2% and resource collection up a whopping 8% over the same
timeframe. They were a thriving little empire of their own within Star Force,
but the way Oni said it made her think that she was disappointed with the Clan
and that something had to change.

Abandoning everything they’d built up over the
centuries to date seemed immensely stupid, especially since Sophia understood
how long it took to build infrastructure like the cities sitting on the horizon
and the much closer one towering behind her. It wasn’t something you could just
buy, no matter how many credits you had. Clan Snowstorm might be rich as hell
right now with all the trades Oni had made, but they were soon to be homeless
and no amount of credits was going to change that.

Sophia knew she could transfer to another Clan without
much trouble, but she was a Snowstorm at heart and couldn’t bear to switch
allegiances, even if it meant her staying in Sol, or even on
Arwen
…and going Mainline was even worse. Their military
might be able to hold their own with the Clans now and then, but their civilian
populations were considerably looser, often to the point of dysfunctional.
Everyone within her Clan, no matter what position they held, wanted to see
Snowstorm rise in the ranks and become a larger power within the Star Force
empire
, and even the lazier ones would chip in now and then
to help make that happen.

There was no such sentiment within Mainline. It was
everyone for themselves, with a core group that held everything together while
the rest of the population was made up of freeloaders. That excess baggage was
a big reason why the Clans were better than Mainline in almost every way, save
for in terms of population. Mainline numbers made the entirety of the Clans a
minuscule minority and constituted the bulk of the Human population. As it was,
there were almost as many Humans in Axius as there were in the Clans…which was
something else that Oni had pointed out.

The trailblazer said she wanted to issue a request to
the Snowstorm population, which included Sophia and every other female member
of the Clan, to make every reasonable effort to start getting knocked up and
pumping out more younglings. A lot of girls like Sophia had never given birth
nor cared to, focusing instead on their self-sufficiency and increasing their
skills, which in her case centered on computer software. She knew she could
take a temporary hit, get pregnant, miss a lot of training and become a walking
blimp for a few months, then give birth and move on without losing her
self-sufficiency. She was strong enough now to take a lot of hits before
pushing her under the regenerative baseline, and if it was for the benefit of
the Clan she’d even consider doing it.

Oni has said that she had never issued that request
because despite all of the territory the Snowstorms had acquired within Sol
they were always boxed in, having to work with limited resources and space-saving
measures. Sophia found that a little odd, especially sitting outside on the
empty surface between colonies seeing how much unused room there was, but it
was true that she couldn’t look in any direction without seeing cityscape at
some point, even if it was just the tallest towers rising up over the horizon.

The idea of having an entire planet to themselves was
appealing, let alone one bigger than Earth. The system Oni had procured for
them had not one, but seven worlds that size or larger, with a total of 64
planetoids that were
colonizable
, plus a pair of gas
giants, one of which was so huge it was near to becoming its own star. That meant
this new home for Clan Snowstorm had more territory than every planetoid within
Sol combined, and that stat literally blew Sophia’s mind.

But there was nothing there…at all. It was empty now
that a Bsidd fleet with Snowstorm assistance had wiped it clean of the lizards,
like they were doing across so many other star systems in their ever growing
region. By now the majority of all Star Force troops were Bsidd, with their
numbers continuing to skyrocket as all of Star Force, Clan Snowstorm included,
funneled resources towards them in order for their civilization to be able to
grow rapidly enough in infrastructure to accommodate such a population
explosion.

And it was paying dividends, no doubt. The Bsidd had
taken more worlds in recent years than the Calavari had, and were kicking the
crap out of the lizards in a region where they had been claiming systems with
only a handful of ships. Those easy grabs were being gobbled up by the Bsidd
and the few other units that worked along with them as they simultaneously
pounded the lizard strongholds beyond Alpha Region, adding territory to Star
Force’s holdings while all the time expanding the border of the Bsidd Region
with it blossoming upward and downward on the galactic plane simultaneously.

It was into that new region that Clan Snowstorm would
be moving, and very near the border, far away from potential help should they
be attacked or fail to set up the necessary infrastructure to house their
population, but Oni has stated that was a challenge befitting the Clan and
reminiscent of its early history when she had first founded it. Sophia had to
take her word for that, for she had been born long after, and while she agreed
this would definitely qualify as hitting the ‘reset’ button, the tech still
felt it was a tremendous waste of everything they’d built to date.

Technically none of their colonies would be wasted,
for other Clans would be taking them over and populating them with their own
people…and the thought of someone else sleeping in her quarters and her bed just
irked Sophia to no end, but what was she going to do? It was either move out
with her Clan or abandon it, and she liked the latter a lot less than the
former.

The move wasn’t going to take place immediately, but
over the course of 7 years. The first startup elements were already on their
way, with the population of
Arwen
starting to filter
out somewhere in year two and finish up by year four. It would take nearly 2
months of travel time just to get to where they were going, and then they’d
have to live in their ships for as long as it took to get suitable colonies on
the surface of the third largest planet built. It had an environment much like
Earth’s, only a bit on the warmer side, plus the view of the big gas giant that
it orbited around, which technically made it a moon.

Sophia wouldn’t need an envirosuit to walk about
there, and the planet was 12% covered with water, giving the Clan’s aquatics
division a badly needed playground, for all of their training was accomplish in
simulators and indoor pools…which was probably part of the reason they had hit
that dreaded #100 ranking several times over the past century in that division,
despite their individual scores gradually creeping upward. Again, the rankings
were all about competition, not performance, for all the Clans were
continuously improving.

The other planets/moons in the system wouldn’t be used
for decades, if not centuries to come, but they’d be there for Clan Snowstorm
to colonize down the road, with them not having to worry about expansion room for
the next millennium. How many girls would respond to the call for a population
surge when the time came was a question mark, but Sophia knew that many would.
As it was some people only gave birth to continue the Clan without having any
sentimental attachment, given that the infants immediately went into a maturia
after birth…while a few others chose to make themselves baby factories, getting
laid as often as they could and attracting the strongest and hottest guys for
the purpose of ‘reproduction,’ or at least that was their excuse.

Either way, it seemed to work for most of them, but
Sophia knew she’d never make a career out of it. If there was a need she might
contribute one or two, but then it’d be back to normal training. The up side
would be her software skills didn’t require a big deviation in lifestyle, for
sitting in a chair working a console and sitting in a chair watching vids while
you increased in volume weren’t all dissimilar. She could probably keep working
on projects during the pregnancy, unlike others that had physical jobs. In
fact, she’d probably have to in order to keep from going crazy from boredom.

The more she thought about it the less she liked the
idea, but knowing that it’d only be temporary Sophia knew she could step into
the stinger if necessary and take one for the team. It just didn’t feel right
though, for the idea of her doing that in the past had always centered
around
adding to her home’s population…and now they were
totally abandoning
Arwen
and the Solar System itself.

BOOK: Star Force: Ghostblade (SF67)
5.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Baba Dunja's Last Love by Alina Bronsky, Tim Mohr
The Stardance Trilogy by Spider & Jeanne Robinson
That Boy From Trash Town by Billie Green
Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson
Bloodlust by Alex Duval