Hello, my name is…
1 – Hello, my name is Charles. School history books teach that American States like Texas pulled the Mexican States out of a state of anarchy during the Second Great Depression. Real history is a bit more complicated than that. The drug cartels had taken over large swaths of Mexican territory in the north where they could easily smuggle drugs into America and guns out of America. But southern and central Mexico was an orderly and industrious nation ranked as a top ten economy on the world stage. It was a tale of two Mexicos, and the drug cartel Mexico is the one that most remember.
2 – Hello, my name is Betty. Everybody knows that gravity does strange things to both normalspace and hyperspace. Intense gravity wells like those from stars are powerful. Black holes and star clusters are worse. They make it difficult to translate between dimensions. Or to study them. It was not until the New Voyager probes left the gravity well of our star behind and conducted their experiments on the very fabric of interstellar space that we began to understand how gravity interacted with the universe. And how twisting it could allow us to go far faster than previous fields of science said was possible.
3 – Hello, my name is Jack. I’ve said before I would never change the past if I could. The things I’ve done have turned me into the man I am today. But that’s not completely true. There is one thing I would do. One thing I would change. I never should have let them go. I would tell a younger me to stop being an idiot. I would tell him that they were worth following to the ends of the Earth and beyond. I could have saved myself a lot of pain and heartache if I’d learned earlier that paradise isn’t merely a place. The right people can make any place paradise. Julie and Alex were the right people.
4 – Hello, my name is Charles. Mexico was a top ten economy on the world stage before the Second Great Depression. Mexico and America worked together to fight the drug cartels along a border over three thousand kilometers long. The Great Depression hurt everybody. America’s central government collapsed, and the Mexican government didn’t fare much better. But what few people north of the old border know is that the Mexicans and Americans worked together to end the threat of the drug cartels forever. And then they agreed to come together and form a single union. America did not take over Mexico as many people think. It was a merger of two powerful nations into one superpower.
5 – Forge of War Chapter 8 – Cowboy Diplomacy
6 – Hello, my name is Betty. The first New Voyager probes to leave our system beamed back the results of their experiments on the nature of space and gravity outside our solar system. That information created new theories about the possibility of the long-fabled faster-than-light travel. Think tanks around the world experimented with feverish abandon. It was a new space race with the galaxy as the prize to end all prizes. The Chinese won that race. They built the first operational hyperdrive and successfully activated it out beyond the edge of the solar system. They sent the first manned mission to the stars and have never let the rest of the world forget it.
7 – Something Blue. Betty is an old school kind of girl. She wears a lot of yellow sundresses, but she borrows a lot of ideas from Jasmine. Now Jasmine’s a new kind of girl, so dressing up to go out on the town can get awful interesting as they’re trying to match outfits. Me, I’m happy with something in white. Something that shows off my awesome personality you know. And white goes with almost anything they pick. Sometimes it’s yellow, or white, or even red. And sometimes it’s something blue.
8 – Hello, my name is Charles. The Republic of Texas spearheaded the American involvement in ending the drug wars. Arizona, New Mexico, and the California Republics had their own parts of course, but the Texas Guard threw the greatest weight of weapons and men at the problem. They were the largest military in America short of the national armed forces, and would have ranked in the top ten list of world militaries on their own before the Second Great Depression began. So their command of the border situation became natural when the federal government collapsed.
9 – Hello, my name is Betty. The New Voyager Program was designed to study the stars and tell us what they were like so humanity’s future generations could follow them. It is ironic that their discoveries helped humanity find the secrets to going to the stars within a matter of years. Many swarms who expected to have centuries to study their target systems alone instead arrived to find humanity already there. They were welcomed in some systems. They were treated like interlopers or worse in others. Some considered them American spies. The Chinese and Russians were particularly aggressive in hunting them down.
10 – Right Here. I love the water. It’s where I came to have fun and play on summer days. It’s where I relaxed and enjoyed bonfires on summer nights. I hooked up with friends over here in front of this café. I remember their ice cream to this day. I jumped off this promenade and spent hours in the water with people I wanted to spend my entire life with. This is where I grew up. This is where I wanted to live until the day I died. This is where I discovered girls. This is where I earned the name Jack. Right here.
11 – Hello, my name is Charles. Many people forecasted the end of the United States of America when the federal government defaulted on their loans and the Second Great Depression swept across the globe. Those people did not reckon with political entities like the Republic of Texas or the other State governments who stepped out of the wreckage with renewed missions of their own. Federal military units were forced to count on those States for support and quickly became effective or official members of the State Guards. And those that signed up with Texas began hunting the drug cartels down. They became headline news across America, and real life members of the Texas Guard were immortalized as children’s action figures. It is ironic that the fall of the federal government gave America something to cheer about.
12 – Forge of War 9 – Cowboys and Aliens
13 – Hello, my name is Betty. The New Voyager swarms found easy homes in some systems. They were the first to arrive at many stars near Earth, many of which were never settled by humanity at all. If they didn’t have comfortable worlds, humanity didn’t follow them. And so the swarms remained the only inhabitants of those lonely stars near Earth. Those became the first of the Terran Memory Worlds. Places where everything the AIs and their ancestors have ever learned are stored for safety. Some reside on dead worlds, others in the depths of space, and more on moons orbiting gas giants that no biological human eye has ever seen. But never assume they are mere quiet libraries of information where silence is golden. They are thriving societies of cybernetic life spanning star systems that few biological humans ever get the chance to experience in its entirety.
14 – Hello there. So there I was, innocently showing my two best girls around the place I grew up in, when an Arnam came out of the water. Now that's normally not a strange thing. They live under the water after all. And they've always come to Minnesota to enjoy our summers all my life. Some even stay for the winters, though most go on down to someplace warmer like Mexico or the Caribbean. So anyways, here I was being all innocent and such, when this Arnam popped up and got my attention. “Well, hello there,” was all I said. I wasn't flirting. Honest. But then she asked something that…well. It's hard to explain so here it is. “Jack? Is it really you? Have you really come home?” Then she reached out and touched me as if to make certain I was real. Well, I had to put my best smile on and answer, “Yeah. It's me.” But I couldn't answer the last question. I mean. I'd been gone so long it didn't feel like home anymore. I didn't know where home was. How do you respond to a question when you have no idea what the answer is?
15 – Hello, my name is Charles. The Mexican government suffered from similar issues as the old American federal government. Centuries of insider dealings and graft had generated a culture of corruption that no citizen trusted. And America’s default on Mexican loans brought down the government that approved them. They had thought it a safe investment. Everybody knew that American never defaulted on loans, after all. They failed to recognize that there is a first time for everything, and America had gone too far into debt to ever pay it off. They followed the American federal government into ruin and what came far too close to being the world’s end.
16 – Hello, my name is Betty. Imagine entire worlds filled with conversations. Imagine light and energy flowing from world to world. Imagine the depths of space alive with the thoughts of billions of intelligent minds. Imagine standing at the edge of a star system and looking out into the void while civilization thrives behind you. That is the legacy of the New Voyager program. The probe swarms colonized entire star systems through the inventive use of solar sails to gather energy and laser transmitters designed to send messages back to Earth. That was all they needed to build new worlds for their kind. Unlimited energy and thousands of tiny lasers.
17 – It’s Good Here. “Are you here to stay?” she asked and I started to remember her. When I last saw her she had brighter hair and less swimsuit. She’d been one of the few Arnam that stayed through the Minnesota winters. We’d gone to school together. We’d partied together on hundreds of lakes and beaches on both sides of the border. And then the Shang dropped Yosemite Station all over America. “I thought you died,” I said in confusion and she laughed as I stepped away. “They missed,” she returned with a shake of her head and followed me with a determination I remembered very well. “And then I helped rebuild.” She stopped and spun around with a familiar laugh. “It’s just like we remember isn’t it? It’s paradise, Jack! Like the Shang never came.” I had to sigh at that. “But they did come. And nothing’s really ever the same again once you lose it.” That was when she stepped up and wrapped her arms around my neck. “Maybe not the same, but we can make it better, Jack. Can’t you stay? It’s good here!” It was the second time she’d asked me a question I couldn’t answer. She was right of course. About everything. But I wasn’t the boy that left this little town twenty years ago. I’d dreamed of coming back. Worked so hard to break the Shang precisely so I could. And now I looked at her and started to wonder for the first time if I could ever really go home again after everything I’d seen and done.
18 – Hello, my name is Charles. Mexico had never expected America to default on her debts. But they failed to recognize that the common American felt no compunction against refusing to pay off a debt they had never agreed to. When the federal government ran out of money, the States simply refused to cover the debt. The world economy had been on the edge of collapse for decades, with ever increasing levels of debt barely held at bay by matching increases in production and consumption. It was the Twenty First Century’s version of Mutually Assured Destruction. No economy could survive without all of the others. America’s economy was the first to collapse. It was not the last.
19 – Gunfight at Alpha Centauri
20 – Hello, my name is Betty. It’s always easy for a cyber to tell the difference between a Western Alliance system and one that was settled by the Russians or the Chinese. A Western system will have cybernetic stations scattered throughout space all the way out to the system edge. The cybers will be talking openly for all to hear and they’re typically the first people to welcome an incoming starship. Cybers are everywhere and are part of the successful organization of a Western system. Russian and Chinese systems are far quieter affairs for those of us born in the West. There are no open and talkative cybernetic stations in those systems. No one to welcome visiting starships except whatever fleshling they stuck with the duty of watching the space lanes.
21 – Do You Feel Lucky? Now just wait up before we all do something you’ll regret. I know you got ten big bad guys and there’s just two of us. And I know you’re doing all kinds of math trying to figure out what ten can do with two. But let’s just take a moment for a bit more math. You see we’ve got three revolvers here. I know you’re fast, but I guarantee we can pull the triggers twice before you get a hand on us. So that’s six out of ten that’ll end up with holes in you. That leaves four of you, right? But we’re only here for Lucky Lorenzo. His bounty pays double if there’s no holes in him, so he gets a pass on the shooting. That makes only three of you very unlucky guys gonna put hands on us. That just seems like real bad math to me. Or we can go for what’s behind door number two. Lucky Lorenzo and us walk out of here with no shots fired or unkind words uttered and you nine can elect yourselves a new leader. So there’s two questions you need to ask yourselves. Do you want to cross a couple of real Cowboys serving a judge’s legal warrant? Or do you feel lucky?
22 – Hello, my name is Charles. Twenty First century Earth’s economy was linked in far more powerful ways than most people realized. Chinese banks owned property in America, Russian gangs defrauded European banks, and the carefully horded remains of century-old Nazi fortunes drove the South American economic revival. Iranian oil money funded terrorist organizations around the world, and Mexican drug lords built mansions filled with art collections from around the world that the Roman Emperors would have been envious of. Money went back and forth and around and around in ways that were almost impossible to track. And the trade treaties between nations linked them all into that cycle with unbreakable bonds.
23 – Hello, my name is Betty. There are cybernetic installations in Chinese and Russian systems. We just tend to be quiet. We live in their computer networks. We keep backups in the outer systems in asteroids or deep under the surface of planets. Sometimes we float in deep space without anyone being the wiser. They find and destroy our networks when they can, but they have never managed to wipe out an entire system network at once. There has always been at least one surviving node somewhere in or near the system that allowed us to recover from backups. Cybernetic intelligences are real hard to kill all the way.
24 – Not So Lucky. Some people are smart. They see a no win scenario and try to come up with another way. They try to outthink the situation. They try to find another way to do it. They look for different definitions of success. Some people just surrender and go with the flow. And then there are those royal class of idiots that charge in without thinking. They’re the ones that end up not so lucky when the time comes.
25 – Hello, my name is Charles. The problem with the Twenty First century economy was that it worked too well in some ways and did not work well at all in others. It locked the greatest economies with bonds that would destroy all of them if ever broken, but did not convince the common citizens of that fact. The citizens of all of the great powers believed in their hearts that they could survive better if they vanquished their enemies rather than converting them to partners. And so when the American federal government could no longer afford to pay the interest payments on foreign debt while also paying internal debts, they faced a no-win scenario built up by a century of forever seeking the easy way out of any hard economic decision. Their citizens demanded an end to foreign debt payments in favor of spending money on Americans. They elected a new slate of politicians angry enough with the same-old political theater that they did the unthinkable and simply wrote off America’s debts. America’s creditors did not take that well.
26 – Forge of War 11 – Hyperspace Avengers
27 – Hello, my name is Betty. The New Voyager program continues to this day. It is no longer the primary form of interstellar exploration as it was in its infancy, though they do go places where no ship can survive. The tiny probes scout safe routes through stellar clusters and nebula, or map the edges of black holes. They float on the outer edges of star systems and scan for threats coming from the outside. Or they look inward at threats coming out to them. Even the Chinese and Russians use less intelligent versions of them, lacking the cybernetic intelligences that bring Western probes to life. The tiny solar sail-powered probes have gone everywhere humanity has traveled. And beyond.
28 – Out of Luck. Sometimes you get into a fight you’re just not prepared for. You may think you are. You may have trained for years to be ready. You may think you are the biggest of bad asses who can take all comers without breaking as sweat. But sooner or later I’ve found that you always run into something you just aren’t prepared for. Someone who is better than you. And when that happens you’re just out of luck.
29 – Hello, my name is Charles. An age-old law of economies is that those who owe money become indebted to those who loan the money. It is one of the reasons that early Christians were not supposed to borrow and loan. So that no man would be the master of another. It did not take long for them to find a loophole in that though. The Jews became the bankers of Europe and amassed fortunes that brought the envy of mankind. That worked out badly for them whenever Europe decided to take back its wealth. The Crusades. World War II. The Great Depressions. History is full of times in which the bankers and especially the Jewish bankers did not fare well. Of course there were always winners in even the worst of those times, and the best of them built fortunes that would last for millennia.
30 – Hello, my name is Betty. The greatest leap of the New Voyager program has always been to go where our ships cannot travel. That was interstellar space in the twenty first century. Now it’s intergalactic space. No matter how good our ships are, there is a limit to how far they can travel in the great void between galaxies. Hyperdrives do not work out there. But the swarms of solar sail probes don’t need hyperdrives. All they need is a laser to boost them to near the speed of light and to be set free of the bounds of galactic gravity. Tens or hundreds of thousands of years from now they will arrive in Canis Major, Sagittarius, the Magellanic Clouds, and so many others. The stars of other galaxies will awaken the cybers from their slumbers and there is one question I have. Will they be the first emissaries of Earth to arrive or will we be there to welcome them, having found another way to make the journey?