I was there the day they killed Jupiter.

“Unauthorized change of vector from Driver J7,” announced Ops.

“Comm, give them a wake-up call,” I accessed the file on Driver J7. Cerulean Sun Corporation mass drivers fire huge chunks of rock and ore from the mining belts to the construction yards around Mars. Drivers are accidents waiting to happen, despite a rigid OP from Cerulean Prime.

“No reply, Ma’am,” Comm declared.

“Put me on,” I ordered. The earpiece crackled. “Callisto Base to Driver J7, this is Nila C58, you are drifting out of orbit. Please respond.”

“Ho Nila, not resigned yet?”

“Hinto? Why’s a miner answering comm?”

“There’s been a change of command. Captain Cyanea succumbed to a severe bout of class guilt, and relinquished command to the Miners’ Collective.”

“Cee Prime’ll cleanse you for this.”

“Take a pill, Nila,” Hinto chuckled. “You know what it’s like out here, we’ve had enough. It’s just a little shift in the control of the means of production.”

“Don’t give me your Neo-Marxist spiel. Seizing a Class 1 Driver’s no ‘little shift’. Urdin’ll go orbital over this.”

“Well, Nila,” Hinto smiled. “Best you break it to him gently. J7 out.”

The earpiece went dead. “Ops?”

“J7 now five percent out of orbital lane, Ma’am,” Ops reported. “Last packet fired to schedule, on unauthorised trajectory, destination unknown.”

The idiots were still loosing rocks into the void. This was worse than I thought. “Compute trajectory, transmit override codes to J7 mainframe and get me Jupiter Base.” Time to spread the news. Urdin C79 was only ever going to blame me for his mistakes.

“Urdin,” he said smoothly. “Go ahead Callisto.”

“Sir, there’s a situation on J7.”

“My compliments to Captain Cyanea, I’m sure she can handle it.” Typically, Urdin was already refusing to make a decision.

“No Sir,” I explained in deliberately simple words. “The Captain’s no longer in command. The Miners’ Collective seized the J7 mass driver, now drifting out of its approved orbit, firing tons of rock on unauthorised trajectories.”

“My dear Nila C58,” Urdin smiled.

I dug my nails into the arm of my chair, but kept my face blank.

“Transmit the override codes and await further instruction,” he waved his hand dismissively.

I checked my console. “Sir, the codes were ineffective, local lockout. I have submitted several reports highlighting outdated software and . . .”

Urdin’s smile flickered briefly. “So what do these proles demand?”

“No demands to date, Sir. May I refer you to my report of third quarter ‘56 about poor morale in the mining belt . . .”

“Last year’s news, C58,” Urdin snapped. The fool was rattled now, when it was too late. “It’s your responsibility to keep the ore flowing to Mars. Cerulean Sun has contracts to fulfil.”

“With respect, Jupiter Base has executive responsibility.”

“Don’t lecture me on my responsibilities,” Urdin thundered, finally realizing whose career was on the line. “If you don’t want reassignment to Pluto Survey Division, you’ll rein in your Miner comrades and . . .”

“Ma’am,” Ops interrupted. I switched Urdin to mute. “Last packet collided with the moon Thebe.”

“J7’s still firing?”

“Yes Ma’am,” continued Ops. “Rate of fire now outside SOP, and latest projections threaten the Core moons.”

“They’re firing blind? Even Hinto’s not that stupid. Comm, get me J7”

“Ho, Nila,” Hinto’s face was grim. “Little busy, here.”

“Yeah, busy shooting rocks at moons.”

“Mmmm,” the lights flickered on J7’s bridge. A muffled explosion sounded in the distance. “Seems Cyanea’s had second thoughts about losing her command.”

“So you blindly fire rocks until Cerulean elect you President of the Board?”

“It’s just a few rocks, what could go wrong?”

“A thousand tons of asteroid fired randomly creates many problems.”

“Make Urdin call off his dogs, then we talk about shutting down the driver.”

“He’ll never authorize that, ” I said.

“Maybe we’ll send Jupiter Base a special package to help change his mind.”

“That’s five thousand lives!”

“Corporate lives,” Hinto’s teeth flashed in the dim lighting. “They ain’t got no souls.”

“Corporate or not, you can’t shoot an asteroid at Jupiter Base.”

“Hey, astrophysics ain’t my field. I just hit big dumb rocks. And now I got a bigger tool.”

“Ma’am,” Ops broke in. “J7’s last three packets are on trajectory for Io.”

“Three? Dammit, Hinto, now you’re shooting at Io. Those are your people working the deep mines.”

“Uh, we’re not exactly in control up . . .”

“Comm, I’ve lost J7.”

“Ma’am, Channel 5.”

I punched up the feed. An orange fireball engulfed J7 command module. The fight was over. “Oh Hinto!”

“Channel 12’s even worse, Ma’am.”

Another screen showed J7’s last three asteroids strike Io. Project Ultramarine had strip-mined the iron core of little Io. Bonus magnesium, cobalt and cyanogens had boosted profits. It was Urdin’s baby, the project which raised him to Director of Jupiter Operations. My job. I warned the Board of the dangers, but Urdin had the profit projections to tempt them.

Cerulean were desperate for iron for their Ark ships, and ignored the risk. Urdin’s revenge was to transfer me here, so I could watch the flow of ‘his’ iron from Io. Now I watched his career crash and burn, just as J7’s asteroids ripped apart weakened Io, aided by the constant pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

“Transmit feed to LEO 4, make sure the Board see this.”

Even on Callisto we felt the shock wave of Io’s sudden collapse. J7’s asteroids ripped apart her hollow crust. Jagged shards of Io succumbed to Jupiter’s intense gravitational pull. Vast glowing chunks plunged into the striped atmosphere, kicking up raging plumes of gas. Then the colour began to change.

I looked out the thickened plazglass of the Command Centre window. Jupiter’s familiar stripes filled the sky. A cyan stain spread, consuming the clouds. The blue planet had turned brown almost a century past; now greed was turning the brown planet blue.

 

Phil Nicholls

I am a full-time father to two young boys, and butler to three strumpety cats. As secretary of the local PTA, I am involved with a lot of school events. Despite having a law degree, I never settled in a career. So far, I have been a bookmaker, a bookseller and the manager of a small games shop.

I blog at Tales of a GM, where I write about tabletop games and being a Geek Dad. I also self-publish small RPG pdfs through DriveThruRPG. I currently write stories for children and SF short fiction. In a drawer upstairs I have a novel, two plays and a thick folder of poetry.

There is never enough time.

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