For those who read my short story The Yggdrasil Codex and wanted more, your wish has been granted. I’m 1/2 way through writing the first draft of a novel based 115 years after the events described in The Yggdrasil Codex.
Under my pen name, Eoghan Odinsson, I take great pride in using the rich and epic mythology of our Northern ancestors, and I write books designed to highlight interesting aspects of that mythology, spirituality and culture.
As Hugh B. Long (the legal me), I’m continuing to build on that passion, but with fiction. I intend to write in many genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Science Fiction. But for my first full length novel I’m writing a tale that blends the best of Norse Mythology with Classic Space Opera. It will be dramatic and wide sweeping (spanning the 100,000 light years of the Milky Way!) My plan is to write a series if it’s well received. (Fingers crossed!). The fans of my work as Eoghan Odinsson have been amazing! I hope to provide the same sense of wonder and excitement with my new work.
I expect the book to be on the shelves later this winter, but for now, let me whet your appetite!
Below are the First Drafts of Chapter 1 & 2 (there may be typos – this is really early stuff!)
If you like what you read, please tell others, and hook up with me on Facebook. Let me know what you liked, or didnt like.
Year: 2127 Planet: Niflheim / Star: Alnitak Ab / Sector: Orion
Egemen sat on his throne like a well fed lion; lethargic, yet extremely dangerous. The pale blue skin of his amply muscled limbs resting on the arms of his great throne, his eyes fixated on the two subjects standing before him. Flanking Egemen were various advisors and servants. Immediately to the right of Egemen sat his son and heir, Devrim; a Hrymi of much smaller stature than his sire – smaller than most Hrymar. Egemen despised the fact that his only son was a meek runt among a race that prided themselves on physical prowess and aggression.
The Chieftain’s advisor, a stalky, milk-white skinned Svartalf named Zekil, who was always calculating, spoke up, “My Lord, we have a dispute between two brothers over profit from the sale of some slaves.” Svartalfar were known to be the most ruthless race when it came to business. The whole of Svartalfar society was based around the concept of commerce and profit, and in fact they had no government at all, only a large corporation, The Sons of Ivaldi, that ruled with ruthless economic efficiency; many leaders employed them as advisors.
Two young Hrymar stepped up before the Chieftain and bowed.
Zekil’s eyes explored the forms of the brothers hungrily, a smile forming on his mouth.
“My Lord,” the first brother bowed, the second brother followed suit.
“Why do you bring this dispute before me today? Did you not try to resolve this by combat? Must I remind you that we are Hrymar, not peace loving, pathetic Alfar.
“Yes, my Lord, we did,” said the second brother, “we conducted two trials by combat on our families holding, and both were fought to a draw. We feared a third contest would kill one of us, and leave our sire short handed.”
“Feared being killed? So you’re sire would not be short handed? How considerate.” He glanced over at his son. “See how thoughtful such sons are, Devrim? Would that I had such a son…”
Devrim knew he was being sarcastic, but it stung him nonetheless.
“I will address your problem at once,” Egemen stood up, walked down the three steps, and stood in front of the two brothers, looking them up and down, sizing them up. Without a sound, Egemen drew the dagger hanging at his belt and thrust it up through the chin of the first brother, so far up that the tip protruded through the top of his skull. The second brother stood still as stone, a long wet patch forming on his leg, and the smell of shit wafting off him. A sickening gurgle and rush of blood were the last living acts of the young Hrymar’s body.
Egemen held the man’s lifeless body up, locked eye to eye with him, “How dare you trouble your Chieftain with such trivialities! One of you may have died in combat – with honor! Now both of your lives are forfeit.” Egemen let the young man’s corpse drop to the floor.
“Zekil, this other one is for you. Take him as a body slave,” Egemen looked cruelly into the young man’s eyes, “Let him live long so he can remember what it might have been like to live like a true Hrymar.”
Zekil’s eyes lit up. His appetites were well known at court and this slave’s life would be nigh unbearable, filled with constant shame and pain.
“Thank you, my lord, you are most generous,” Zekil snapped his fingers and two guards grabbed the young Hrymar and dragged him out of the court; he was still stunned and speechless.
Egemen turned nonchalantly, wiping the blood off his dagger on his pant leg, and sat back on his throne.
A second petitioner was ushered forward; he approached the great chieftain and threw himself prostrate on the floor.
“Speak,” Egemen commanded, “What is your name, fool?”
“I am N-N-Nermin,” the man stammered.
“Stop shaking like a frightened herd animal, you pathetic piece of shit! Why have you asked to come before your great Chieftain? I hope you aren’t planning to waste my time like those two,” he paused and glared at Nermin, “Stand up and address me with some measure of courage.”
Nermin stood, “Y-yes my lord. I have news of great import.”
“Then get to it.”
“Of course, of course. We have learned of a race as yet unknown to us. We were mining on an asteroid out on the edge of Cygnus, Alfar territory, and we picked up communication traffic between an unknown ship and an Alfar vessel. The occupants of the ship referred to themselves as Human.”
Devrim leaned forward on his throne, “Human?”
Nermin nodded, “Yes, my lord.
“Did you learn anything more – where they’re from?”
“No, my lord. It was a brief communication. All we heard was that the Captain of the vessel was on his way to a planet around Epsilon Eridani with some important news and he wouldn’t say more until he arrived.”
“Did you scan the ship?”
“Yes, my lord. We were able to do a brief scan as it passed by. We only used passive scanners so that we wouldn’t be detected – we were illegally in Alfar territory after all. The Hyperspace signature was nearly identical to the Alfar ships, but the hull was not organically grown like their ships; it seemed to be made of metallic and fibre composites. That is all we could determine with passive sensors.”
“Interesting….Human…” Egemen trailed off. “We need to find out more about these Humans. A growing empire has need of new slaves and resources.”
“Serkan!” Egemen barked.
“Yes, my lord,” Serkan stood at attention beside his master.
“I want you to take a scout ship and see if you can’t learn more about these Humans. Take my offspring along – I’m sick of looking at his weak, pathetic form.”
Serkan saluted, “At once!”
Devrim didn’t acknowledge the insult overtly, but inside he burned furiously.
“I’ll make you proud, sire,” he said.
“I doubt that.” Egemen waved at Nermin dismissively. Nermin bowed and hurried out of the throne room.
Devrim returned to his quarters in a low mood; he always left Egemen feeling this way. His life was a series of failed attempts to please his Chieftain, his sire. He lived in the shadow of the most ruthless Chieftain in history, the only one ever to bring all of Niflheim under one yoke. Egemen alone united all the Hrymar tribes. Previously they cooperated, albeit loosely, infrequently, and rarely for long. For nearly ten years Egemen was the Over-Chieftain of all the Hrymar. His rule was brutal and absolute, but productive. Never had the Hrymar accomplished so much. Their war machine grew, and grew, and their sector of space, Orion, became more secure; now their interests crept beyond those borders.
By Hrymar law, Devrim should not have been allowed to live; they tolerated no weakness. In ten years of breeding with his harem, Devrim was the first child, as such, Egemen was rue to leave him out on the tundra to die as he should have rightly done. Devrim knew this, and was never sure to be glad or not. Had he been born whole, a true Hrymar, his life would have been one of relative ease and privilege. Being born into the Jarl class was an honour; the life of a Jarl in Hrymar society was one of leadership, duty and reward. Being born a weakling as he was, Devrim’s life was one of shame. In ancient times, the weak among the Hrymar were made part of the Thrall class, essentially slaves, and served the Karl and Jarl classes – the Karls being the craftsmen, ostensibly Hrymar middle class. After the Hrymar civilization grew beyond Niflheim, they soon took other races as thralls to serve them. Subsequently any Hrymar born weak, deformed, or generally found lacking physically, were left exposed on the frozen tundra to die. The Jarls argued this made for a stronger race.
Devrim began packing a small bag in preparation for his trip with Serkan. He picked up his dagger, which was the twin of the one his sire had used to kill the young Hrymi earlier in the day. He looked at it, considered it carefully. Only the ruling family and trusted servants were permitted weapons in the presence of the Chieftain. This law was established early on in Hrymar history and reduced the number of assassinations to a more civilized level.
Although undersized by Hrymar standards, a runt by all accounts, Devrim was a master with his dagger; he had to be. Unarmed he had no advantage, but with a blade in hand…..the playing field became level, if not tilted in Devrim’s favour. Being smaller, he was a more challenging target, and his lack of size and muscle mass were compensated for by his dexterity and reaction speed. He never revealed his skill, to do so would be to give up one of the few advantages he had, and in the treacherous court of Egemen, one needed advantage.
A knock on the door pulled Devrim from his reflection.
“Enter,” said Devrim.
Serkan opened the door, “My lord, our ship is prepared, and we are ready to depart.”
Devrim looked over to Serkan, “I’m ready.” Devrim picked up his bag and stepped towards Serkan, then stopped in the doorway. “Why does my sire despise me, Serkan? I know I don’t measure up to our greatest warriors, but I am fit to rule. There’s more to ruling than brawn…”
“He’s a hard man, my lord. It took a hard man to bind all the Hrymar together, the hardest of men in fact. Had you been sired by any other chief, you would have the respect I know you crave – and justly deserve.”
“I have to do something, Serkan. I must find a way to distinguish myself, lest I find myself without a future should my sire die…or be killed….” Devrim lingered on that last word.
“The ship is ready, my lord, and your sire wants us gone within the hour.”
Devrim walked up to Serkan and stood before him, “You serve my sire well, Serkan,” Devrim locked eyes with him. “Would you serve me as well?”
“If you are named successor, I will serve you till I die, my lord”
“Good…good. Shall we?” Devrim gestured with his hand.
Serkan nodded. “My lord,” and walked on.
Devrim made his way down the corridor from his quarters into the common area, then on to the tunnels outside the palace. Most of the populace of Niflheim lived beneath the planet’s surface. From the Svartalfar, they purchased machines for rapid tunnelling using energy based boring machines.
Although temperatures never got above freezing, with the Svartalfar tunnelling technology and Niflheim’s abundant geo-thermal energy, the Hrymar were able to make very good use the the planet’s resources – geothermal energy became the basis for their economy. The apparently lifeless planet was home to boundless underground lichen and fungi farms, with thousands of species and manifold uses. The fungi and lichen were their food, their building material, and their clothing; some even suspected certain species possessed intelligence, although rudimentary.
He stood on a platform with several sets of holes on each side. A long tubular public transport vehicle raced out of one of the holes and abruptly stopped before Devrim, hissed, its doors opening. He stepped across the threshold and stood just inside the door, holding a bar above his head for balance. Smoothly, but very powerfully, the transport accelerated into the other end of the tunnel, and into darkness. The public transport tubes on Niflheim were capable of speeds in excess of 1000 km/h.
All Devrim could hear was the steady hiss and whoosh of the mag-lev transport racing through the tunnel, his mind mulling over his task. ‘Humans,’ he thought, ‘perhaps this was the opportunity to distinguish himself? If he could capture one….’
Before he had time to fully develop his train of thought, the transport decelerated and stopped.
“Uzay Terminal,” an artificial voice announced.
Devrim stepped through the transport door and was greeted with a blast of frigid wind. Devrim shivered and picked up his pace as he walked up to the small scout ship.
He saw Serkan talking with one of the ground crew prepping their ship, the Dogan, and walked over. Their scout ship was a small vessel, only about forty metres long and weighing in at a hundred tonnes – it was jump-capable however, and could also enter planetary atmospheres. Larger ships, such as many of those in the Hrymar Navy, were confined to space, and docked at orbiting stations. The Dogan traded weapons and armor for range, and was lightly armed with a single plasma-cannon turret.
“My lord,” said Serkan, bowing his head. The crewman, also bowed his head with respect.
Devrim nodded and walked up the ramp and into the ship. He moved through the ship into the cockpit, and sat down in the one of the two chairs. He was looking forward to getting off-planet; trips like this were an opportunity to forget his sire’s displeasure, for a time, and marvel at the scope of the multiverse; seeing Niflheim from space was also breathtaking – a blue jewel on a black sea. Niflheim was a bleak planet, frozen, yet still managed a measure of beauty.
Serkan sat down beside Devrim, the ship’s hatch closed with a clunk, and Serkan began his pre-flight checks. The powerful vibration of the ship’s dark-matter reactor began to ripple through them as it warmed up; shortly the vibrations dampened, stopped, and the console lit up all green.
“Uzay terminal, Scout Ship Dogan ready for departure,” Serkan announced.
“All clear, Dogan,” came the reply over the ship’s comms.
“Let’s go find some Humans, my lord.”
Devrim nodded silently.
Year: 2127 / Planet: Unnamed / Star: Procyon A / Sector: Canis Minor
A silvery-white star, Procyon A, hung low in the sky, caressing the horizon and bathing the landscape in a shadowy light, reminding Haldor of the bleak Arctic nights back on Earth. Growing up in Oslo he learned to appreciate the generous summer days where the sun never set, but, as if in payment for that privilege, the Arctic nights were equally long and not nearly so pleasant.
Standing at the edge of a crater, he watched as Procyon B, a white dwarf, and little brother to Procyon A, made it’s way slowly above the horizon. It was an awesome site. Two white twins, greeting the day.
A malicious wind interrupted his revery and tore at his cloak, it’s icy fingers digging into his body, burning Haldor’s skin wherever it gained purchase, sleet dampening his hair. Gathering his cloak tight about him, he shivered. He walked deliberately towards his shuttle amid deafening thunder claps, wincing with each eruption. The thunder evoked his grandfather’s tales of Thor fighting the frost giants. “When you hear thunder,” his grandfather said, “you know Thor is doing battle with the Jotuns.” Haldor missed those stories. Even his name reflected those stories, and was told that ‘Haldor’ meant ‘Thor’s Rock’
Haldor Olsen, or just Hal to his friends, was a spiritual man, he honored the Aesir and the Vanir as his forefathers had done. Three thousand years past, his ancestors regaled their children with the tales of the old Gods, of Jotuns, Dragons and great wars; those tales became legend, the legends became myth, and the myths were soon forgotten. The coming of Christianity and the advent of technology replaced the old stories with new ones, and men soon forgot the desire for valor and honor; they cared only for the acquisition of new things, and to live ever more hedonistically.
Once men began to ply the dark oceans between the planets, they began to re-discover the truth of the myths. They were not alone, as many wanted to believe. The multiverse was indeed a place of danger, filled with the evils of old legends – although this realization would not be fast enough.
A red light illuminated the area under the ramp of Hal’s shuttle; he pressed a button on the remote at his wrist, and with a whine, a pop and some hissing, the ramp began to lower. Red light seeped out from inside of the shuttle. Hal was relieved that he would soon have a reprieve from the frigid wind and driving sleet; although it was a short distance from the crater to his shuttle, it was an infinitely long walk.
The ramp made audible contact with the ground and he walked up and into the shuttle. Seated in the cockpit, the navigator, a youngish East Indian woman with deep blue eyes, swiveled around to look at Hal and smiled crookedly. “About time you got here!” She chided.
“Loki’s balls, woman! It’s freezing out there!”
“It is, you look a bit like a wet cat, Hal,” Nila laughed.
Hal smiled. “The ship ready to go?”
“Prepped and ready boss.”
“All the data we need collected?”
“Done and done.”
“Good, lets go home.”
Hal sat down in the chair beside Nila and strapped himself into his harness; the shuttle began smoothly accelerating out of the planet’s arctic atmosphere. From orbit the planet was striking, the subtle shades of blue, black and white were almost mesmerizing. Hal only had to remember what it had been like to walk the one hundred meters back from the crater to remind him of the planet’s less attractive aspects. ‘Like a rose with it’s thorns,’ he thought.
As the shuttle approached the survey ship, MSS Leita, in orbit around Procyon Zeta, her docking bay doors opened silently and the shuttle navigated into it’s assigned berth.
Hal stepped out of the shuttle into the stale, but warm atmosphere of the Leita. The docking bay was quiet. Although the Leita was a Midgard Star Ship (hence the MSS designation), a Military ship, she was a survey vessel, not a ship of war, as such, it was a tranquil atmosphere. Only one deckhand worked in the shuttle bay. Most of the crew on duty were at their scientific monitoring stations on the bridge, or analyzing data in the computer lab – a drastic contrast to the times Hal served on any of the Midgard warships which were buzzing with frenetic activity.
He stepped through several bulkheads and took a short set of stairs up to the bridge where Captain Chahaya was sitting comfortably in his chair. Chahaya was a wizened old Indonesian man with a wispy white beard, standing 5’2″, and weighing in at maybe 110 lb. – soaking wet. What he lacked in physical stature he made up for with his commanding presence – there was no doubt who the Captain was on this ship. In private, he was the polar opposite: giggling, smiling, almost a silly little man; few got to see that side of him; Hal was one of the few.
“Hal! How was the view?” Chahaya asked.
“I am certain. Sadly my crew does not permit me to have any adventure, I must be content with the view out the bridge window” he smiled at Hal and motioned to the view.
Two white stars and a blue planet filled the view-screen. ‘Hard not to appreciate that even from orbit,’ Hal thought.
“We’re calculating the jump back to New Midgard now, we should have you home in about ten hours.”
“Sounds good, lets hope my wife has dinner ready for me,” Hal laughed.
“You need good Indonesian girl, Hal! My wife can cook for thousand men, and none leaves hungry.”
With a grin, Hal replied, “I’m sure, but my wife may object, old friend.”
“Well sometimes you trade them in for new model,” Chahaya winked.
“Why aren’t you cooking her dinner? She deserves it for putting up with your nonsense, Hal,” Nila said, as she walked into the bridge. They all laughed.
Chahaya pressed a button on the arm of his chair and spoke, “Crew, prepare for Jump to Hyperspace.”
The lighting on the bridge changed from the standard white to a dull yellow. Everyone took a seat and buckled in. Shortly, the lighting on the bridge changed to red, there was a momentary feeling of disorientation, and the sensation of falling, just briefly, and then all returned to normal….but now they were in the inky black embrace of Hyperspace.
The lighting on the bridge reverted to it’s original white.
Planet: New Midgard / Star: Epsilon Eridani / Sector: Eridanus
The Leita dropped back into normal space with a shudder, and over the comm system came the strangely alluring voice of the ship’s computer, “We have arrived in the Epsilon Eridani system, next stop, New Midgard, ETA, five hours.”
“What are you up to for the next couple of weeks?” Haldor asked, looking over at Nila.
“Oh, I’m going to go home to Delhi to visit my parents. They keep pestering me to visit, if I don’t go soon they’ll show up here!” She giggled
Haldor was happy to be coming home, he missed his son terribly; at five years old little Ailan was always up to something. His antics were the most cherished part of Haldor’s life. He never imagined that he would love anyone as much as his wife, but when his son was born….there were no words to describe it. He told Ailan daily that he loved him more than the sun and the moons and the stars. It always made Ailan giggle, although he didn’t know quite what it meant, just that his dad was smiling and laughing, and that was always enough.
Haldor always tried to bring back an interesting rock or mineral sample for Ailan, who by now had a huge collection. Haldor had visited dozens of planets in his job as a colony surveyor.
New Midgard was the first planet humanity settled after first contact with the Alfar over a hundred years ago; named in honor of the old Norse name for Earth, Midgard.
Haldor keyed a button on his wrist comm, he heard a beeping, and then his wife’s voice, “Hello?”
“Guess who’s coming for dinner?” Hal asked.
“Hi, Hon! How was the trip?” Siobhan replied.
“Good, uneventful really – glad to be home. How are the crops looking?”
“Wait till you see the corn! The tomatoes are doing really well too. The ultra-sonic transmitters are doing a wonderful job keeping the pests away.”
“Great, I’m looking forward to some corn-on-the-cob this summer. I should be home in a few hours – how’s Ailan?”
“Out chasing the animals no doubt. Listen, I’ll let you go – Im in the middle of a thousand things, see you when you get home. Kisses!”
“Ok, bye,” Haldor keyed his wrist comm again.
A tone sounded announcing their landing, Haldor and Nila got up and collected their bags, and made their way to the disembarkation ramp.
“Well, have safe trip back to Delhi.”
“Thanks boss, give Siobhan and Ailan my love.”
“Will do, see you in a couple of weeks, rested and ready for action.”
“With sixteen nieces and nephews I can’t guarantee the rested part,” she laughed and walked off.
Hal’s electric ground-car arrived quietly at his farm, ten kilometres outside of the capital city of Norvik. Most settlers on New Midgard ran small farmsteads in addition to contributing whatever other talents they had. Hal spent most of his time surveying nearby planets for suitability as future colony sites. His wife Siobhan was a botanist, and in addition to managing their farm, conducted research on local flora for the New Midgard government.
The colony on New Midgard was founded in 2120, and was barely seven years old; nine thousand people called it home, with new settlers arriving each month. Life here was good. Not that life on Earth had been so bad recently – Seventy years ago Earth completely redesigned its energy economy and migrated from fossil fuel burning, to an energy economy based on hydrogen fuel cells, high efficiency solar and wind power. The entire infrastructure became renewable and non-polluting, as well as accessible to all. All of this was made possible after the implementation of the Global Digital Democracy – a fully inclusive, instantaneous electronic voting system that transformed world governments. People now had the ability, and legal obligation, to vote directly on issues; the world’s population could now come to true consensus on issues, unhampered by lobbyist influence or lopsided representation.
It was probably inevitable that when the voices of all people on Earth could be heard, that they united. The individual countries voted to form one world-government. To pay honor to the discovery on an Old Norse runestone that made this happen, the Old Norse name for Earth, Midgard, was chosen to reflect this new unity, and the Midgard Inclusive Democracy (MID) was born.
Hal stepped out of his electric car and took a deep breath of the fresh air; recycled air on a starship was never great, no matter how efficient the atmospheric scrubbers. He walked over to a corn field bordering his grassy yard. Gazing at a rippling sea of gold, he revelled in the simple beauty of his own food growing; of course his crop would help feed others as well, but they were his fields. He watched as some of the robotic farm-tenders wandered the fieldsHal, analyzing soil ph, moisture levels, and ensuring there were no pests; these little semiautonomous robots took care of much of the drudgery normally associated with farming.
Attached to the side of the house was a greenhouse where his wife conducted research, and where she grew herbs and plants during the short winter season. He saw her bent over a plant, pruning and generally fussing over it. He crept in quietly, stood behind her, and put his hands over her eyes.
She spun around and threw her arms around him, “Hey, handsome!”
“Hello, beautiful,” he kissed her deeply, “Flowers are coming up nicely.”
“They really are!” she turned around and picked up a pot, “Look at this orchid,”
He looked at the brilliant red flower, “Doesn’t hold a candle to a little Irish lass I know,” he kissed her again, “Where’s Ailan?”
“He’s bug hunting around the house – I have one of the farm-tenders following him.”
“Ok, I have a new mineral sample for him.”
“Oh, he’ll love that!” she smiled, “Not that he needs more rocks, his room is already overflowing with them, but oh well, like father, like son.” she laughed.
Hal’s study was brimming with rock samples from a dozen planets and asteroids – but that was work, he rationalized. He’d been collecting rock samples since he was Ailan’s age, and turned his hobby into a career. Second only to his rock collection, was Hal’s collection of bladed weapons, which lined the walls of his study, and almost every other room in the Olsen household; Siobhan had declared their bedroom a ‘blade-free zone’ though. Few people knew that Hal was capable of wielding any weapon in his collection to deadly effect; most guests saw them only as quaint wall decorations.
He found his son, and the farm-tender, or at least what was left of it. Ailan was sitting behind the house, screwdriver in hand, with pieces of the farm-tenders components in his hands. He saw his father, jumped up and ran to him and gave him a tight squeeze, “Daddy!”
Kneeling, Hal hugged him back. “What happened to the farm-tender, buddy?”
“It was broke, so I fixed it!” he beamed.
“You did? Oh my… Let’s not fix these little fellas anymore, ok? If they’re broken, come ask mommy or daddy to help.”
With a frown, Ailan replied. “Ok,”
“I’ve got something for you…..”
“A present?” Ailan’s eyes went wide.
“Yep,” Hal pulled out a glistening green and black mineral, the size of his thumb, and handed to his son.
“Thanks, Daddy! I’m gonna put it in my room right now!” Ailan ran off clutching his prize tightly.
Being a dad was a good job, Hal thought.
Planet: Midgard (Earth) / Star: Sol / Sector: Prime
Cate Fisel opened one of the double doors leading into the CEO’s office. Ben Gridrmann looked up from his desk as Cate closed the door behind her.
“Good morning, Mr. Gridrmann,” Cate said, smiling.
He managed to produce a half smile from his wrinkled face, “What have you got?”
“The latest research on the Telomere Stabilization Protocols.”
“Well?” he motioned for her to pass him the papers.
Cate handed him the dossier. She always got nervous around him, despite working for him for six months now. As CEO of the GAPA Corporation (which had a near monopoly on anti-matter production), he was the richest man on the planet – who wouldn’t be a little intimidated around him?
Gridrmann was seventy six years old, and although modern medicine was highly advanced, humans only averaged a 95 year life span; for Gridrmann, this simply wasn’t acceptable. He was used to succeeding in everything he did, always being able to solve a problem through the application of intellect, money – or force. Old age was one foe he was failing to conquer.
After the first contact with the Alfar over a hundred years ago, humans learned that their new friends lived on average five hundred years. Over five times the span of a human! They explained that this was a function of life on their planet Ljossalfheim, (or simply Alfheim) and that Alfar born on other planetary colonies had lifespans much shorter, though still about double that of humans.
For the Alfar, the difference between the lifespans of their colonies was not a great mystery to be solved, it just was; they accepted it.
For a few years after first contact humanity discussed the possibility of researching ways to replicate the conditions on Alfheim and reproduce the secret to their long lives. Ultimately mankind made the sensible decision, guided by the wisdom of the Alfar, to give up this pursuit. Earth was already at the breaking point with the current population; it had exceeded it’s carrying capacity – a euphemism for ‘we’ve trashed the place’. Quintupling the age of humans would push humanity over the brink. The Earth’s World Government banned any further research into Alfar aging….but not everyone gave up the dream.
Gridrmann was leafing through the report, “God damn disappointing progress,” he muttered and shook his head, “I pay these useless assholes a fortune, and for what?” he looked up at Cate.
“I’m sure they’re trying, sir.”
“My father had a saying, Ms. Fizel, ‘There is no trying, only doing’. He was a prick, but I still like the quote. What we need is a DNA sample from one of the Alfar.”
“Sir, that’s a tall order. Contact with the Alfar is tightly controlled, as you well know. Typically only key government officials have access to them.”
He looked at her sternly and leaned forward. “Then buy me a key government official, Ms. Fisel.”
Planet: New Midgard / Star: Epsilon Eridani / Sector: Eridanus
After a week of playing farmer and getting some much needed rest, Hal had been called back to work to meet with his boss, Governor Darren Zelinksi.
The drive into Norvik was joyful; trees lined the road and flowers filled the ditches – the aroma was intoxicating. One of the mandates when humans colonized New Midgard was to strike a near perfect balance with nature. Their colony was self-sufficient by design and everything was done with a ‘New Midgard First’ policy. Humans were determined not to repeat the mistakes of the previous century. Although the last hundred years had seen drastic reforms, Earth was in a slow recovery, and it’s citizens we’re still learning to live in harmony with her.
New Midgard was a clean slate, a do-over, and so far so good.
Norvik was the main settlement on New Midgard, and with ten thousand residents, a relative metropolis; it was also the planetary capital and seat of government.
Hal parked his car in front of the Midgard Administrative Center, known affectionately as ‘The MAC’. The MAC was a five story office building, the penthouse of which also served as the governors residence. The building itself was a paragon of environmental integration; all the windows doubled as solar panels, and in between the windows on the outer walls of the buildings were a plethora of mosses and plants. The roof acted as a garden for the restaurants on the first floor, so greens at lunch were always fresh, and all water and waste were 100% recycled and re-used. Technology perfected through years in closed-loop environments on the Moon and Mars had trickled into buildings on Earth and New Midgard.
He grabbed a double espresso at Stellar Joe’s on the main floor of the MAC, then hit the elevator button for the fifth floor. Kristy Hardin, an attractive thirty-something brunette and the Governor’s aide, was waiting in the fifth floor lobby when Hal stepped out.
“Well hi there, Kristy,” Hal said, smiling.
“Hi, Hal, nice to see you again, it’s been awhile.”
“It sure has. You’re looking great!”
“Thank you! That’s so sweet! I’ve been jogging three days a week, getting ready for the first Norvik marathon.”
“Good for you! I could use a few laps myself.”
“Nonsense, Siobhan is a luck woman…” she blushed, “Well enough of my chatter, let’s get you in to see the Governor.”
‘A shame for such a lovely girl to still be single,’ he thought.
Kristy ushered Hal into the Governor’s office, which was adjacent to his living quarters.
Governor Zelinksi was standing, and on a stellar-comm call when they walked in, the face of Earth President Dalia Rukundo displayed on his wall monitor. One hundred and fifteen years ago, man had unlocked instructions to contact an alien race – the Alfar. Part of those instructions included plans for a communications device that worked instantaneously across the stars. The technology, it was later discovered, relied on the creation of microscopic Einstein-Rosen bridges – wormholes. The device was naturally called an ‘Einstein-Rosen Bridge Transceiver’ or EBRT; mostly referred to simply as a ‘stellar-comm’. The power requirements were such that it was not practical aboard ships and so there was rarely more than one per planet.
“…thanks, Madame President,” said Zelinski, “I’ll talk to you next week.” The stellar-comm disconnected and the wall monitor went black. The Governor sat down at his desk.
“Morning, Governor,” said Hal, “how are things back home on Earth?”
“Good morning, Hal. Good, actually. No problems on Earth this week for a change, and no troubles here to report. The calm before the storm?” he put on a questioning look and laughed.
Hal smiled, “Nice to hear.”
“Governor, do you need anything more from me? If not, I’ll let you and Hal get started,” Kristy asked.
“I see Hal’s already got a coffee, although I don’t see one for me…” Zelinksi smiled again. He and Hal had been friends for going on ten years and knew each other very well. “We’re fine, Kristy, thanks.”
Hal took a seat in one of the deep leather chairs in a semi-circle in front of the Governor’s desk. He inhaled deeply and revelled in the natural smell of the leather – everything on a star ship was synthetic, and you missed these little things. He heard the door close behind him.
“What’s up boss? I was supposed to be off another week…something urgent I take it?”
“Yeah…some pretty heavy stuff actually. You probably know that ever since the Yggdrasil Codex was discovered in 2012, scientists have continued to try to find evidence of further secrets embedded in the runic script on the stones. They hadn’t made much progress until a few weeks ago. They decrypted another set of coordinates, a subset of the data that contained the constellations originally discovered. These coordinates aren’t just the stars that form the constellations, but additional points in space, very close to those stars.”
“What are they?”
“No clue yet. The consensus is that we send a team to investigate in parallel with continued decryption efforts. Our plan is to dispatch a couple of our folks to Alfheim, partner up their people, then perform a joint recon of the first point – we’ll visit the location closest to Alfheim first.”
“I assume that means you want me?”
“Absolutely. We want you to lead the team. In addition to your surveying and exogeology background, being the great, great, great grandson of the man who cracked the Yggdrasil Codex doesn’t hurt. In fact, Aeronwen requested you personally.”
Hal’s pulse quickened. The first time humans decrypted a code on the runes stones (which became known as the Yggdrasil Codex), it lead to contact with an alien race and hinted at possible divine intervention in the development of the human race…heady stuff! His mind was scrambling to imagine what new discoveries this could lead to. He took a drink of his espresso, and wished it was brandy.
“Who else is on the team?”
“I figured we’d send Nila with you – I sent a message last night asking her to cut her vacation short and grab a flight back to Norvik. She’s on a transport as we speak. We have a cryptographer from Earth, Elnora Kollman, she’s already on Alfheim so she’ll meet you there. Is there anybody else you think you might need?”
“Sounds ok for now. Let me get there and assess the situation, then we’ll see if we need anybody else.”
“Perfect, and the Alfar will put their experts at your disposal, so you can round out your team with their folks.”
“Are they expecting us to leave tomorrow?”
The Governor nodded.
“Siobhan isn’t going to be happy. That’s three weeks there, plus mission time, then three weeks back. Several months all tolled.”
“I know, but considering how important this will likely be, I think she’ll understand.”
“She might – Ailan won’t. I’ll have to bring back a damned expensive gift to make up for this! Any nice rocks on Alfheim, Boss?”
As Hal opened his car door his wrist comm beeped, indicating a message. He tapped a button and read the display…
When a stellar-comm was in use it was also capable of sending and receiving a burst of data traffic for additional high priority information, such as this…
He got into his car and adjusted the variable tint on his windows to 100% opacity, then read the message.
FROM: President Rukundo
Haldor, there’s more to this mission than there seems on the surface. We suspect one of your team has been compromised, and possibly a contact on Alfheim as well. Please take all necessary precautions and report back ASAP when you have more intel.
‘Well, that is interesting,’ he thought.
The MID was quick to realize that colony surveying was the perfect cover for more ‘sensitive’ activities. Hal’s previous military service with Earth’s Stellar Forces was an asset, and in his current job, Hal explored dozens of stars and scores of planets, scanning, gathering and analyzing data. He was MID Stellar Intelligence Service’ (SIS) eyes and ears amongst the stars. Hal had been recruited prior to moving to New Midgard, and so far his role had been uneventful. He underwent several months of intense training for possible trouble that had yet to appear, perhaps until now.
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