Love conquers all
He sat on the surface of the moon among the rocks, pebbles, and dust with his back against a crater wall. He had watched as the dust he kicked up running into the craters shadow finally settled back to the surface. It had settled slowly in the moons gravity like rain falling in slow motion. He was sitting in a shadow cast by the overhang of a crater, staring up at the Earth overhead, which looked huge, with white clouds covering the southern hemisphere and oceans shining deep blue. It was breathtaking and was made all the more beautiful by the stars that surrounded it like a halo. He could see the North American continent clearly with Central City covering most of it, and it reminded him of his home there as a little boy. He decided that if it had to end here, at least he had a spectacular view. The moons surface was so bright that he had to put his helmet visor on its highest setting to keep from being blinded. It was pitch-black in the craters shadow, but the moons surface was brilliant as it sloped away to the far wall of the crater more than four miles away. In its own way, the moon had a beauty in the starkness of its ragged, scarred surface, with every inch screaming its billion-year-old bout with meteor impacts. The one good thing about the titanic struggle was it offered many hiding places.
He would look up and occasionally see the thrusters from one of the naval warships as it maneuvered overhead looking for him. The warships had their own kind of beauty too, and their sleek lines glowing brightly with the power of their screens belied the danger they represented. He wasnt too worried about being seen because he was in the craters shadow and they had no chance of seeing him with the visual sensors. Blazes, he couldnt even see himself. Since the moon had no atmosphere light was not scattered, so the shadows were pitch-black. The only real risk he faced of being discovered was that one of the warships would get close enough and its sensors would pick up the small electronic emissions of his suit, but even that was a remote possibility. He had turned off most of the suits accessories, leaving only his environmental and visual circuits active, so they would have to come very close to detect him.
The warships overhead had been firing energy beams from high-altitude randomly into the surface, hoping to get him to move. Each beam would vaporize rocks for a hundred yards, and one had hit two miles across the crater from where he was hiding. Even at that range his suit had to turn up its cooling just to dissipate the heat. Weapons designed to destroy starships at forty miles just werent effective at such short range. They did, however, make a very impressive hole in the moons surface. He watched the dust from the beam strike slowly settle back to the surface as the warship moved further along the crater and fired again.
He had counted twenty ships crisscrossing overhead. Twenty ships! Can you believe it? They didnt use twenty ships to wipe out the belt pirate fleet of the last dictator five hundred years ago, he thought. He was genuinely surprised that the fleet would go to this much effort to capture or kill him. Well, maybe not too surprised. After all, they had been chasing him for three years, and now they had the chance to eliminate a prime target. The skills he had used to avoid their capture over the years, coupled with the fact that he had managed to steal a ship that had interstellar capability, only added to their resolve to end this particular problem now. Some poor flight officer is going to disappear shortly, he thought, and he felt a twinge of sympathy for the poor fellow, but only for a moment. Part of the dues for having a high-paying position, he said to himself. I wonder where all those people who disappear go? I guess Ill find out if they capture me.
He turned on his small suit light, looked at his air indicator, and saw that he only had six hours remaining. He gazed out at the moons surface, which was ragged where it had been pulverized over the eons by all sizes of meteorites. The crater he was currently hiding in had been made by a huge impact. The ships had been searching overhead for over two hours since two of their missiles had killed his ship, forcing him to jump to the surface. He saw no evidence of them leaving anytime soon. I guess they dont have a sense of humor about ship theft, he chuckled to himself. He had always been able to cheat death or capture, capture being the same thing as death, by being resourceful and always attentive of his surroundings, using the psychic field, and just being plain lucky. Looks like lady luck has deserted me, he thought. He toyed with the idea of stepping out of the shadow and using his suit radio to contact one of the ships overhead; there was a chance they would come down and take him aboard, which would only extend the time until they put him to death. What would probably happen is that they would not waste their time picking him up but just shoot him with one of the ships main beams. If he could be certain that they would use the beam, it might be a good idea to step out. At least that would be a quick death instead of suffocating. But there was also the chance that they would want to interrogate him, particularly about how he managed to steal the ship that got him as far as the moon. How could he have known they placed remote-controlled transponders on civilian ships? Once their signal turned it on, their sensors could see him no matter how he tried to avoid them. Even with his special talents, there was no hiding from the ships tracking that transponder. He just couldnt run the risk of being captured and interrogated. Then they would find out about Leila, and that was one risk he was unwilling to take. He had ejected from the ship just before two missiles exploded it. Fortunately, he was close enough to the moon to reach the surface before his chair ran out of fuel. He could always slowly turn down the heat of his suit and wait until he fell asleep and froze to death. Ah, Leila, except for you and your test I would still be on Earth playing hide and seek.
So he sat on the moon, looking out at its ragged surface with the Earth glowing overhead, and thought about his history classes where he learned all that his planet had endured. He could see Mexico and the depressions where six fusion bombs exploded in the last global war. Mankind had come a long way after that last war, from living in caves to interstellar space travel. He reminisced about life and how he had spent most of it being a pain in the grump to the Directorate. He decided that they werent such bad people; its just that their fear for Earths safety led them to control every aspect of existence. Where you work, what job you do, how much you make in credits, where you live, who you marry, how many children youre allowed, what color clothing you wear, what things are acceptable recreation, and a thousand other details in living ones life. And anyone questioning these decisions somehow disappeared. It was easy to understand after the final world war when over twelve billion people lost their lives in the nuclear holocaust; those fusion bombs in Mexico put the whole planet into nuclear winter. In the eight hundred years since then, the planet had been rebuilt, wildlife had come back, the population had grown to over nine billion, space travel was developed, and the Douglas Star Drive took mankind out to explore the galaxy. It was one of mankinds most peaceful periods. All weapons of destruction were eradicated after the last dictator and his fleet of pirates had been over thrown. This led to three hundred years of peace and prosperity for the planet. But that ended abruptly two hundred years ago when one of those interstellar trips out toward the Andromeda Galaxy brought Earth head to head with the Cainth Empire.
Oh, what a wonderful race the Cainth were! They looked like a cross between a four-armed kangaroo and a gorilla. They stood about five feet tall and their legs were short and highly muscled, which made them walk stiffly. They had a very light covering of light tan hair and narrow, totally black eyes above a protruding snout. Their ears were small on each side of their head instead of the long ears of Earths kangaroos. They were equally adept with both pairs of arms and could perform four tasks simultaneously. They also had the temperament of a tiger and were just as territorial. As soon as the unarmed Earth exploration ship entered their system, they determined its home planets location and then destroyed the defenseless ship. A war fleet was then readied and dispatched to destroy Earth.
Earth had learned its lesson about the consequences of aggression and hostility during six world wars, so the planet was basically unarmed and defenseless, having done away with all weapons of war. Fortunately for Earth, the Cainth were a member of the Alliance of Worlds, which discovered their intentions to destroy a peaceful civilization just in time. There were a number of races in the Alliance that actively disliked the Cainth because of past wrongs, and several of the ambassadors on Cainth notified their home worlds about what was happening. Earth was barely saved by three fleets from other members of the Alliance, but not before settlements on Mars and the moons of Jupiter had been totally obliterated. The Alliance then told Earth that they could have twenty light-years around Earths solar system to settle, but that if humans stepped out of line then Earth would see the business end of those fleets again. Since the Cainth Empire was the closest member of the Allia ...