Hello, my name is…
1 - Charles - Virginia The Adams Family is one of the oldest great families of America, having left Britain in the 1600s. They were leading figures in the revolution against British rule, provided two presidents and numerous other public servants to the first republic, and two more presidents to the second republic. They supported and participated in the first expansion of humanity to Luna, Venus, Mars, and beyond, and helped found our first colonies on New Earth and New Washington. Virginia Adams was born into that tradition of public service, and became one of the leading proponents for cooperation with the Peloran after Contact. That is how she found herself taking the Peloran Treatments on public broadcast to prove she trusted them. Little did she know what that would mean until she began noticing the side effects that would become known as the Ageless.
2 – Betty – A Primer on the Races of Humanity Another disadvantage the Arnam have is that they do not see as well as we do in surface daylight. Their eyes are optimized towards seeing in pitch dark, and while their multiple eyelids keep bright lights from blinding them, they lose numerous finer details in the bargain. They see the world through a haze of filters that shift the natural light spectrum, and of course they can see infrared light. They have natural heat vision, which doesn’t work so well on a hot, bright day, in the middle of a desert. But is of much more use on a cool, rainy day, in…oh…Northern Minnesota. Many Arnam happen to live there due to the pleasant, wet, and cool climate. Washington State, Maine, the British Isles, and Scandinavia house other major Arnam populations for similar reasons.
3 - Jack - Abbi Abigail’s status as one of the few fully functioning AIs before Contact was instrumental in gaining access to Peloran cooperation and technologies. The Peloran cybernetic families recognized that the Adams Family treated her as a family member rather than an employee or a possession. That was real important. Virginia Adams and her Abbi ended up joining the Marine Corps Reserve together, and spent the next century enticing other recruits. Their off-duty escapades and parties were particularly legendary, and I’m not joking. They made the news. Interstellar news. I might have attended some in my time. I never met a good party I didn’t like, you know. I met them again on New Earth after The War began. The Cowboys needed new pilots, and they were ready to step up. I’ve never regretted having them on the team. They’re good people.
4 - Charles - Virginia Virginia Adams was one of the first Ageless to come out of the original Peloran Treatments. She was a teenager at the time, and still wore the body of a teenager a century later when the Shang came for us. She was older in mind, of course, but many people did not see that on first meeting. Let me assure you that “Ginny” was impressive at using that to her advantage by going places where teenagers could pass without notice while adults would be stopped on sight. She was serving in the Marine Corps Reserve on New Earth when my Cowboys arrived the first time. We had taken heavy casualties against the Shang and their Chinese allies, and we needed new blood to expand our numbers. She volunteered and I have never regretted my decision to accept her.
5 – Medron The events of this weekend remind me why, when I first wrote Jack of Harts, I had things get worse before things got better.
There are generations of people out there who have been taught that others are less human than they are. That others have less rights to speak for thinking the wrong thoughts. That others can be driven out of business for being the wrong religion. That others can be evicted from our schools for being the wrong skin color. That others can be killed for not being like they are.
I grew up watching Star Trek, where mankind had grown beyond those petty disagreements. It was a hopeful message for mankind, a world where we did most things right and built a world we would want to live in.
The events of this weekend remind me that there are those on this planet who do not wish to share it with people who are different than they are. We must defend ourselves from them. We must stop them. We must stand against them. We must drive them from our communities, because they will drive us from ours if we let them. We must, in the end, be willing to fight them.
If we do this well, if we do most things right, we will create that magical world that Jesus, Roddenberry, and Mister Rogers would approve of. I believe that is our future. But as this weekend proves, we have a long way to go before we get there.
6 – Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity One of the things we learned very soon after Contact was that the long-dead Albion were industrious little gengineers. It was the reason they were dead, after all. The Ennead had taken exception to their perversions against Mother Nature, or whatever they called her, and devoted their existence to destroying the Albion. And the last order the Albion gave their assorted creations was to kill the Ennead. The death of both races left the Albion’s creations without an enemy and without a master. Most of them found whatever homes they could locate and retired to live out the rest of their lives. Two millennia later, we have made Contact with many of them. And if there is one thing we have learned about the Albion from their creations, it is that they were supremely imaginative in their own way.
7 – Jack - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan I met my first Thunderbird on Sunnydale back when we were assembling the fleets for the big push into the Hyades Cluster. I didn’t know word one about them at the time. I’d been born long after that Contact, and there’d never been much news about them after the initial reports. Almost like someone quieted the news or something. But what do I know? I’m just a starfighter pilot. Point is, if I’d ever known they existed, I’d forgotten about them by then. So them coming out of hyperspace with their big old ship that matched nothing in Betty’s database while me and her were on a quiet little patrol on the edge of the system was…let’s just say a surprise. Then the face of an overgrown bird appeared on my displays and started squawking away. Did I fail to mention that the Thunderbirds can’t speak any human language? Yeah.
8 – Charles - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan I traveled to Betelgeuse shortly after we made Contact with the Branan. The Thunderbirds as most people refer to them. The most important thing to remember about them is that they were never as primitive as some thought them. They utterly lacked hyperspace travel, and that caused many to underestimate them. But the truth is that local hyperspace conditions were far more…rigorous…than those surrounding Earth. We would not have had hyperspace travel either if we grew up on Betelgeuse. Despite that, they colonized six nearby multiple-star systems and had established electronic presences in almost every system within one hundred lightyears of their home. That was a truly monumental task for a slower-than-light society. My family sent me to negotiate trade and manufacturing deals with them. I did that, and so much more.
9 – Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity Most people don’t know how many alien species we’ve made Contact with over the years. Partly that is because they are either human like us, or genengineered Albion creations, or both. Partly it is because people in charge of our education departments didn’t want to teach our children just how dangerous the universe can be. Whether they be intelligent cats, bears, birds, or numerous other examples, the Albion designed them all to fight, and they can be dangerous. But the vast majority of them are far away from Earth, and so the decision was made long ago that we didn’t need to teach our children about them. I think that is the wrong decision, but nobody asked me.
10 – Jack - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan So here’s the thing. Thunderbirds don’t speak English. They don’t speak any human language. They’re beaks can’t emulate our sounds at all. And it’s the rare human that can speak their words. Parrots can talk both ways, which is real useful if you can stomach being around parrots for long. Me, I get annoyed with them quick. But the Thunderbirds thought about that before they came calling. Their computers could speak our languages just fine, so there was this nice, smooth, English voice speaking in time with the ship captain’s voice. English. British. Whatever you want to call it. Not American. Complete with English accent. That was one of the more surreal moments in my life right there. Otherwise boring patrol on the edge of a star system? Check. Big blue alien bird squawking at me? Check. Cultured English accent translating the words? Checkmate. I did not see that coming when I woke up that morning.
11 – Charles - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan I learned much on my trip to Betelgeuse. I made contacts and allies that would be useful in later years, and negotiated trade agreements that helped both our peoples. The Peloran were generous in their own way, but they needed nothing from us. They had no incentive to share one bit more than they wanted to. But the Branan needed the hyperdrive. They were far more advanced than us in most other ways, and they gave us a wealth of technological examples and theories that would have made Einstein cry from joy. Or weep in horror. The technologies I brought back changed our world. It is common knowledge that the Peloran gave us the stars. It is less common knowledge that the Thunderbirds gave us the capability to defend our stars. And when The War came upon us all, they fought with us.
12 - Healthcare
13 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Albion were serious little gengineers in their day, and we can see their results all over human space. Some of their experiments worked as planned. Some did not. The Branan of Betelgeuse fell into the second group. They are technically uplifted birds, though they were modified to have a bipedal humanlike structure, stance, and size. And their minds were largely upgraded to a human-standard structure, though enough of the old birdbrain remains to make them feel more alien than other humans. They move quickly and spastically, and do not like to remain still. They are also quick to avoid physical confrontations with other humans due to the light and fragile bones they inherited from their ancestors. The most common word associated with them is “squirrelly,” even though they have no genetic relation. But that is what people think when they see a Branan looking around for any threat while spastically moving from one spot to the next.
14 - Jack - Morgan Reese Morgan died over a thousand years ago on the Thunderbird’s home planet. She left her flesh and blood body behind to become one with the networks and gain immortality. She spent the first millennia of her second life traveling throughout Thunderbird space at lightspeed, and taking part in the exploration of new star systems via their far-flung network of probe swarms. Then we made Contact. Then the Shang attacked. Morgan volunteered to fight as the mind of a starfighter in defense of her people. And when word arrived in Thunderbird space that we were building a fleet at Sunnydale to take The War to the Chinese and their Shang allies, she joined the Thunderbird contribution to the effort. That was where I first met her.
15 - Charles - Owain Reese Thunderbirds cannot speak our languages, and we cannot speak theirs. We can understand each other given practice, or use translator programs if we lack it, but those options do not fill one serious hole in our communications. Names. The inability for us to say their names or for them to say ours requires a dual naming system so we can know who we are referring to when we speak. Owain Reese chose his name after careful study of our culture, when word reached them that we were assembling the fleets at Sunnydale. Owain was a veteran starfighter pilot when The War began, and was part of the actions that repulsed the Shang advance into Thunderbird space. Owain volunteered to join the force coming to Sunnydale, and then volunteered once more to join my Cowboys after they arrived. He is a prime example of what they can bring to the table when we need them.
16 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The “squirrelly” nature of the Branan is not what made them a failure of Albion gengineering. The Albion could have worked with that. What they couldn’t work with was a far more fundamental flaw. They had been too ambitious when they created the Branan. The vast majority of Earth-like life, including birds and humans, has four limbs. Two arms or wings and two legs. The Branan were created with six limbs, two legs, two arms, and two wings. The Albion had hoped they would be able to fly and carry standard human weapons, making them a superior aerial combat force. The Branan could only master four limbs though, and the remaining two would inevitably become dead weight. The Albion tried to correct the problem for years, but finally abandoned the Branan, and Betelgeuse entirely, as a failed experiment to begin focusing on more promising paths of research.
17 - Jack - Morgan Reese Morgan wasn’t the first Thunderbird I met. That honor goes to the ship captain who hailed me after they arrived at Sunnydale. But she was certainly one of the first Thunderbirds I ever met. She’s not an artificial intelligence. Nobody wrote her code. She was a living, breathing individual in her first life, and so calling her artificial is considered a deadly insult to her people. She’s a Thunderbird in her second life, one with the computer networks, and effectively immortal as long as the networks survive. That gives her a very interesting perspective on life compared to those of us who’ve only ever lived in a biological body. She doesn’t have to worry about dying of old age, and death itself has no meaning to her like it would to us. If she is destroyed, she simply resets to her last “save point” and wakes up again. As long as the networks survive. That’s the trick, you know. The networks have to survive for her people to survive. She is one of the guardians who keep the networks safe.
18 - Charles - Owain Reese Owain Reese was middle-aged for a Thunderbird when we first met. Their average lifespan is no more than fifty or sixty years, you know. And even the strongest of them are naturally fragile next to us, but guardians like Owain are generally given military upgrades that make their bones stronger and improve their healing ability somewhat. What impressed me about Owain and the other Thunderbirds that joined us at Sunnydale is just how good they were at flying starfighters. They could match any Peloran or Ageless pilot I have known, and I have made certain to keep a record of Owain’s evaluation duel with Jack. It is enjoyable to watch him cut Jack down to size in a matter of seconds. That victory earned him instant respect from my Cowboys, and furthermore reminded my people not to underestimate the nature of the reinforcements the Thunderbirds had sent. Owain died not long after War’s End, of course. Old age. He is well into his second life now as part of the networks, but his life is different from that of other Thunderbirds.
19 - Medron - Civil Society Political assassination has no place in a civil society.
There. I’ve said it. Again. I’ve been called a hypocrite and worse for that saying in the past, but I’ll say it again because I think it’s important. Deadly important.
Political assassination has no place in a civil society. Threats of assault or murder have no place in a civil society. Physical assaults and murder have no place in a civil society. They must be shunned.
In just the last few months and years I’ve seen marches calling for the killing of cops, and I’ve seen cops assassinated on the streets. I’ve seen people acting out shooting our president in the head, or stabbing him to death, or holding his head up for the cameras like an ISIS photo shoot. I’ve seen tens of millions of my fellow Americans dehumanized by the words of politicians and their acolytes because they believed something different or supported someone else. I’ve seen campaigns to drive them out of business, get them fired, and deny them any ability to work in the future.
These are not things I’ve seen on the political fringes, said by conspiracy theorists or crazy wackjobs. I’ve seen these on the mainstream networks, cable and broadcast. I’ve seen them on major computer networks. The Huffington Post, CNN, or Fox News. The major broadcast networks like NBC or ABC. I’ve seen major network hosts spouting sentiments that glorify death and destruction of political opponents in ways that are unparalleled in my lifetime. Or at least they seem that way.
Going back further in time, we see the mock hangings and tar and featherings of presidents, and of course the attempted assassination of Reagan. And more recently Giffords who has returned to the limelight. They survived their assassination attempts, but many others died or were permanently injured. But those were road bumps compared to what is going on now or in the past. Remember the assassinations of Kennedy, Kennedy, and King. Remember the violence on the colleges and the dead bodies at Kent State. Remember the bombs at government buildings and the calls for revolution and blood in the streets.
I grew up in an era when we’d thought we’d left those things behind us, along with the various discriminations we were raised to believe in our bones were not merely wrong but unthinkable. It was a brave new world where differing opinions made you unique, not evil. It was an era when TV was taken over by radio stars and when America was a shining city on a hill, an example of freedom and liberty to the world.
Today, we live in a world where the enemy is demonized once again. Named deplorable, illegitimate, bigoted, racist, and other charges. And today we live in a world where our politicians practicing for a game of charity baseball are the targets of an assassination attempt by a campaign volunteer who worked for the other party. I’m thankful for the two heroes who advanced into fire against a semi-automatic rifle with nothing but handguns. Their courage was beyond measure in that moment, and were it not for them this would have been the largest political assassination in our nation’s history.
The political rhetoric has been ratcheted up until guests and hosts on mainstream networks make it virtuous to want the other people dead. Not the fringes where this used to reside. Not the rebels wanting to topple the current way of life. But the mainstream networks. Members of the government. Mainstream sources.
This is wrong. We dodged the bullet forty years ago and stepped back from the violence that infected parts of our society. Can we do it now? Or will we lose the civil society we once held? Will we return to the violence and death we almost embraced forty years ago?
I don’t know. But if we do, it will only be because we make a simple statement as a society. We did it three decades ago, when I was a child. Can we live up to the promise of that shining city we once were?
For myself, I am simple and direct, because I don’t want to live in a society where all vestiges of civility are lost. That would be a very bad place to live in. So I have a very simple thought on the matter.
Political assassination has no place in a civil society. Threats of assault or murder have no place in a civil society. Physical assaults and murder have no place in a civil society. They must be shunned.
End of Line.
20 – Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Branan start their history books with the day the Albion left. Not because they hate the Albion, but because the Albion were part of their pre-history. The days of the ancient past when their creators shared the world with them. But the day the Albion left was the day the Branan took their history into their own hands. They had a bit of a head start over many of the Albion’s other creations, though. The Albion left more behind than they did on most other worlds they abandoned. It was a fully equipped starport, complete with small craft and the maintenance facilities to keep them working. The Thunderbirds who had trained on those systems refused to evacuate the facility so the Albion could demolish it per standard procedure. That is the first page and the first day of their history.
21 – Charles - Malcolm McDonnell I grew up with Malcolm McDonnell, much to the disappointment of my father. He thought Malcolm was a bad influence, amongst other people. My father effectively banished them all from the family when I was still a young man in hopes that I would become a respectable family member once more. I spent great effort in making him think that is exactly what happened. But when the time came, I approached Malcolm and secured his aid in pursuing our old plans. He had spent decades working with the kind of “questionable” individuals that could be used to activate the old project without my family learning about it. It would be the greatest con we had ever pulled, and he loved the idea of making it work. He named it the Wolfenheim Project.
22 – Jack – Dawn Dawn was born to join the Wolfenheim Project. Dorothy asked her family to send volunteers, and Dawn and her sisters answered the call. There were a bunch of them, doing everything from acting as personal assistants, to carrying crates, to running small starships. Dawn is the one who adopted Malcolm, like a cat points at a human and says, “he’s mine.” She followed him everywhere after that, whether he wanted her help or not. He wanted to keep using the personal assistant he’d had for over a century, you see, but Dawn wasn’t having any of that. She was better than any AI ever made, and she went about proving that fact over and over and over again. It was highly amusing to watch, let me tell you. She won that little contest, hands down.
23 – Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Branan started with a few small spaceships, some people trained to fly them, and very little else. They had to learn to maintain their new ships on their own, with only a few hardcopy manuals to direct them. The computers had been wiped, and so they had no history to learn and no knowledge of the galaxy at large. All they knew was that the Albion had created them to be soldiers and then left them when they didn’t live up to their promise. But the Albion did give them one other leg up on many of their other creations. One of the Albion scientists had left behind a hard copy of the Albion planetary constitution, marked up with commentary about the nature of government systems and societies. The Branan used that as a blueprint for creating a stable society while they tried to reverse engineer the Albion technologies left behind.
24 – Charles - Malcolm McDonnell Malcolm McDonnell was always the man you went to when you needed something that standard channels could not acquire. I hesitate to say that anything he did was of a questionably legal nature, but others may be less circumspect than I. The fact is that he could always acquire things that others could not. It is ironic that if Malcolm had used his gifts in support of Family objectives, he would have been a valuable family operative. But because he sought to fill his own wallet first, my father banished him from the family and named him untrustworthy. For myself, I always trusted him. He fulfilled that trust when he took the Wolfenheim Project from dream to operational plan in a few short years.
25 – Jack – Dawn Some people might use the word “determined” to describe Dawn. Others might use the word “stubborn.” I would never downplay her with such paltry words. Dawn is a redheaded, green-eyed, freckled force of nature that I would never be stupid enough to try to stand in the way of. I figured that out the first time I met her, which puts me a few steps ahead of Malcolm. There’s only one major battle I can think of that she lost. She was supposed to be Normandy’s mind, but she hadn’t been designed as a ship cyber. And it was taking them too long to code the AI needed to take up the slack. That was when I showed up with a ship cyber that needed a new home. Yeah. That was my fault. She lost her ship because of me, and she’s never let me forget it. She calls me “shipthief.” I just call her “freckles.”
26 - Forge of War Dead Tree Format
27 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Albion experimentation on Betelgeuse was farther along than most of their other abandoned attempts. The Albion had actually created thousands of Branan in an attempt to find some way past the basic limitations, and they’d been settled in nearby towns or farms built for them. Years went by, possibly decades if the oldest stories are to be believed, with the Branan living beneath the research station that created them and the small spaceport that linked the scientists to the stars. The Albion rarely walked amongst the Branan, and followed strict rules about what they could reveal to the Branan, but they helped the Branan when they could. They taught basic medical care, animal husbandry, and farming techniques that took us thousands of years to implement on Earth. They gave the Branan all the basics of civilization while they lived in their station, and that civilization survived when they left.
28 - Charles - Olivia Wyatt Captain Olivia Wyatt was responsible for jumpstarting the Fleet 2300 Cruiser project. She made it work when others failed, and built the first new American heavy cruiser in decades. She was renamed Los Angeles in memory of the city destroyed by the fall of Yosemite Station, and Olivia took her out to War. She fought the Chinese and their Shang allies for years. And then the machinations and avarice of my family took everything away from her. The stories about her are wrong. She fought with honor and distinction, and entire worlds owe their survival to her and her people. She did not deserve what my family did to her. That is one reason I sought to recruit her. Another reason is that she truly was what my project needed. A professional problem solver.
29 - Jack - Ariel Ariel was the mind of USS Los Angeles when I first met her out at Epsilon Reticuli. She went by the name Gabrielle back then, and she was a beautiful ship. A good ship. A tough ship. Me and my Cowboys were picking who we wanted to escort into battle and I was lucky enough to choose her. We killed a lot of Shang and Chinese together, my fighters covering her against missile fire and her point defense returning the favor. I figure she saved my life more than once. And my people did it right back. It was an honor to fight with her. Then Hurst Family politics ended that partnership forever. It was wrong, and I wish I’d been able to stop it, but they had too many connections. She lost Los Angeles, they drummed her out of the Navy, and it was all my fault.
30 - Betty - A Primer on the Races of Humanity - Branan The Albion left Betelgeuse after erasing all of their computers and initiating self-destruct measures in almost all of their physical facilities in the system. The only facility they failed to destroy was the one facility they could least afford to allow to fall into the hands of their creations. But the Branan had refused to evacuate the tiny spaceport or the science station attached to it and the Albion scientists who had lived so long on Betelgeuse had a weakness. They liked the Branan and could not kill them in cold blood. So they reported the destruction complete per regulations, flew away, and disappeared from Branan history. The Albion never knew what really happened. But the Branan remember. They used everything left behind to jump start their own technological and societal progress thousands of years in a matter of decades. They built an industrial economy capable of building ground vehicles, then aircraft, and finally spacecraft before the first century had passed. And then they began to expand beyond their homeworld.