The Three Hundred

David never suspected that the Ularins targeted him to save the human race.

Blinding White Light

The white orb in the distance is all that was left of home.  Once a thriving population of over three billion people, it was a cold dead rock.  The beacon alerting wayfaring travelers to steer clear of this world was set on automatic. 

Powered by the radiation emitted from the globe, the message would repeat until such a time there was insufficient radiation to fuel it. The message created in all known languages warned of the extreme radiation hazard.

“We set the last of the beacons, what now?”

“We have enough supplies for three months give or take. Did the Ularins leave us anything in the database regarding habitable planets?”

“They wiped all of the information except one-star system.”

“Where is it?”

“300 light-years in that direction,” Bill said, pointing to a small blue dot.

“The binary sun?”

“It is nothing like we are used to.  Two blue stars locked into a death spiral.  Why that star system and not one like ours is anyone’s guess.”

“That is in the handle of the big dipper, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“We are looking at an image three hundred years old, for all we know it has collided and is already a supernova.”

“They selected us and brought us to this ship; they must have had a plan,” Bill said.

“They gave us a puzzle and a fighting chance.  We have two hundred and ninety-eight other souls on board; let’s hope one of them has some ideas.”

Bill turned to leave as David sat there looking at the planet, which was no longer blue.  Passing outside the orbit of the moon, the earth appeared much like Venus.  A white dot against the ebony backdrop of nothingness.

The old base on the moon was now vacant, as the last of the Ularins headed out on their next mission.

***

Years before, David had been an advocate for humanitarian groups to eradicate the diseases where the plague had popped up.  There were hot spots created by mass migrations of people who had no food.  Much like the locust that gave them a reason to migrate, they traveled in packs overwhelming ‘civilized society.’ Destroying infrastructure, taking what they wanted before burning it to the ground, they murdered the people who were there before them..

His part of the military focused on finding those responsible and stopping them by any means possible.  Finding the blackened remains of towns, David threw up the first time he saw what was left behind.

Pregnant women had been tortured, their breasts cut off, and babies cut from them only to be eaten.

Young women were taken and raped, men were killed, and children either became slaves or were eaten.  Finding children and babies on spits over what was an open fire shocked them profoundly.  David and his group were disgusted by these animals.  They sought to wipe them from the face of the earth. Society had been pushed to the brink. Those that were pushed, de-evolved into the savages they came from eons ago.  His anger was causing him to de-evolve too.

Lawlessness broke out in every country, and the government ceased to be effective.  Killing its own people by the tens of thousands only sparked outrage by civilized society.  A civil war between the people and the government pitted father against son.

David left the military when his tour was up.  He did not like where it was headed. The fabric of the military broke down when they were forced to use missiles, tanks, and other weapons of war in the suburbs where they grew up.

Turning their weapons on their respective governments, society stopped.

A virus created to eliminate the old and sickly was set loose on humanity. The elite held the formula for the vaccine and kept it a secret.  The virus would remove millions without one bullet fired.  The single strand of RNA, like most unstable viruses, evolved.  The vaccine designed to protect the elite failed.

This virus was a genetic doomsday device.  Created to be thousands of times more infectious than its closest related cousin, it was unstoppable. 

Turning the body’s defenses against itself, those who caught it died a most horrific death.  Much like fish removed from the water and left on the beach to gasp for breath, this was the fate of billions of people, young and old alike.

The earth was languishing in pestilence. Millions were dying every day.  Large fires to eliminate the bodies that were once a weekly occurrence, turned daily.  Massive fires never ceased to reduce the bodies and try to control the plague. Some countries hauled the remains up to active volcanoes, where the earth could devour its own.

The odor of burning human remains only magnified the stench of rotting flesh.  No pocket full of posies would fix this.

What were once a proud people, were now piles of porcelain teeth, titanium knees, and hips, with the occasional golden nugget that was once the pride of someone’s mouth.

The Ularins had been watching from the moon.  Listening to our broadcasts, they had seen it all before.  An intergalactic police force, they waited patiently to see if the humans would evolve.

With the death of so many, so too was the end of any infrastructure to supply food.  Those that would survive would need to be the ‘master race.’

Pulling pages from Joseph Goebbels’s life, the media became the propaganda machine controlling the people through fear, emotional triggers, and hunger. There were still megalomaniacs in the world who believed that some form of equilibrium would occur, and they could swoop in and offer them a solution.

The virus had other ideas.  Science had reached its zenith and fell short of its ability to sustain itself. Those who worked to cure the effects of the illness succumbed to it.

The media let the phrase slip out, ‘A man who does not benefit the world by his life does so by his death.’

Re-writing ancient text to include this aphorism into dogma, had a minimal effect.  Many who had never cracked the sacred book before, had little idea what was original and what had been added as a control mechanism.  History had been erased by those who felt they knew better.

Those that read the text and committed suicide to aid the rest were too few to be of any use. 

Extolling the virtues of abortions through the media, were also too little too late.

Little did those who tried to limit man’s population know that they would need babies.  While supply and demand for resources should equal out, the virus had other plans.

Gang warfare became a nightly occurrence as city after city was torched by the ‘have nots.’ Politicians hoping to capitalize on their votes, lost control and soon became victims of the mob.

As resources became harder to come by, the average age of those that needed to die went down from 70, to 60, and then to 50.

The virus was tweaked again and released on to the world stage.  Younger megalomaniacs took over the development of the virus, the war efforts, and the propaganda.

Children were slaves and forced to work in the fields.  If they wanted to live, they worked from sun up to sundown.

The media dutifully told the world what was wrong, and whose fault it was. Of course, what they were preaching was whatever the elites told them to say.  Government controlled fact-checkers quickly debunked clandestine videos of the truth.

Slavery by non-disabled people was praised as patriotic, even when it meant bringing most of the food to the ivory towers of the gods.

The Ularins paid attention from their base 250,000 miles above the earth. Scouting missions were a constant as even certain media would release reports of UFOs by independent journalists.  The mainstream media used those reports as distractions. 

***

David had worked hard teaching people how to farm.  People who had grown up in front of computer screens were thrust back into an agrarian culture.  He had grown up in Iowa and knew all about Farming.

With the death of the internet, social media lost its control over the masses.  Radio and TV were next to come under assault from the lack of power.

When Samantha, his old neighbor, heard what David was up to, she contacted him via radio, using solar panels and batteries for power.  Traveling home, the two were once again on the same farm. 

He listened from the porch as he heard her inside with pots and pans on the top of the old potbelly stove.  The aroma of cornbread and roasted chicken filled the air.  Sitting on the porch of his parent’s house, the stars were more vivid than he had ever seen them.  Samantha was inside, trying to keep from burning their dinner.

Once the government fell, those who still had weapons put an end to the roving gangs.  It was not only the criminals that did not turn in their guns; it was also the farmers, the people who did not live in the city, and those who knew history.

What the virus did not kill, they did.  It was kill, or be killed. Those that knew how to survive bit their lips and defended what was theirs. 

With no lawyers, judges, or politicians left, the society which survived the plague, and the riots were polite.  It was not uncommon to ride into town and see people with stretched out necks, swinging in the breezes. The law of the six-gun returned overnight. The gang bangers did not know how to react when people fought back. 

The silent majority was silent no more. 

Coyotes from the river sent out their lonely calls. David made sure his livestock was safely in the barn.  Not unlike the roving gangs, the varmints were hungry too and were much more cunning.  David had set traps, as coyotes are nothing more than dogs that are not tame.  Dog meat is edible.

While David was looking up that stars, he had little clue that someone was looking down at him.

***

The roving gangs that were still alive brought their unique diseases with them.  Setting up radio links, the farmers knew their movements.  Assaulting them on their own grounds, there were more piles of bodies that needed to be discarded.

You either provided for the common good, or you died.  Goebbels would be proud.

The population of the planet went from billions to millions to thousands.  The remoteness of the clans halted the spread of the virus.  If they controlled the gangs, the virus would stay at bay.

The rich and powerful became the hunted. People learned the truth about the media, the lies, and what governments had done to them.  Those who were filthy rich became worm food.  Even on their private islands, they were sought out and destroyed for their treachery.  The list of billionaires who played god became the worlds most wanted.  There was not a safe place for them to hide. They had betrayed everyone, even their servants.

Part of the original design of the virus was to sterilize women.  Anti-abortion groups made it too hard to get the population under control.  The designers of the virus had the virus attack the endocrine system, among other things causing the hormones that generally control the fertility process, to stop working. 

New births plummeted before the virus mutated, eventually taking out those who were vaccinated against it.

Distancing on a massive scale would stop the spread but ensure that if they ever traveled too far from their clan, there was mutually assured destruction. Each group had their unique genetic version of the virus.  Their herd immunity only protected them.  They thought that was their answer until the biting insects infected the animals that occupied the skies, and even the livestock.

Another reason for the extreme distance requirement is the virus was airborne.  In order not to panic the masses, the governments of the world did not share that information, using draconian methods to control the spread instead.  If the virus spread, they blamed the population and not the fact that it was airborne.  They missed the mosquito as a carrier. Nobody suspected it until a researcher discovered it while researching other pathogens that seem to be mutating and traveling.

Since it could only be seen under an electron microscope, the researcher that discovered it disappeared before she had time to announce her findings, so the gods thought.

A release from a hand written note made it an underground radio station that informed the public much to the chagrin of the government.  To control the masses they needed to control the flow of information.

This bit of data turned citizen against citizen, which was another distraction from the truth.  There were reasons that the gods did not wear PPE.  They knew it was worthless.

Sterilized and separated, radio from a primitive time allowed some to communicate.  Creating energy from wind, solar, and biofuel, gave some lights, but few knew how to utilize feces as a form of fuel. Even fewer knew how to farm.  These electrical devices had a finite life span. There were no more factories.  If they could not make it, grow it, or steal it, they did not have it.

The gradual demise of the animal called man was in the works.  Those who stayed in the city did not last long.  That is where the gangs stayed until all of the resources had been depleted.  Rats soon were the only living creatures that inhabited the skyscrapers, where the gods used to live.  They carried their own version of destruction.  The bubonic plague followed the rats into the streets, alleys, and gutters where the dead and dying laid, waiting to become food for the vermin.

The gods were massacred by the very people they sought to control.  When the lights went out, and money was no longer useful, their own guards turned on them.  Some gods were tossed off the roof of the 32nd floor for an audience who craved blood.  Anger filled their hearts. After there was no more gods to destroy, they turned on each other.  The streets ran red, attracting more rats to the feeding frenzy.

History was replete with this very behavior, but of course, the history books had been destroyed. They had been labeled as racist, homophobic, and sexist. The gods knew that an ignorant society was much easier to control than one who was educated.  They had learned this from the days before the civil war when it was illegal to teach a slave to read.  The politicians who promoted that law remembered it, and used it without mercy.

A select few gods had their fingers on the buttons of a nuclear arsenal.  If they were going to go, they were taking the rest with them. 

***

With the ability to adapt, very much like a chameleon, the Ularins found the cure for the virus. Inoculated themselves before embarking on their missions, they cured and disinfected all those subjects that were under consideration before abducting them.  From their ship in orbit, the Ularins watched as once brightly lit areas of the globe went dark, they knew the end was near.  From their base on the moon, the noise of the once-bustling world diminished.  That noise is what drew them to this part of the galaxy.  As the radio emissions slowly faded, TV signals were broadcast at diminished power levels, with far fewer signals detected.

Artificial satellites went silent, piquing the curiosity of the Ularins.  Some of the satellites lost their geosynchronous orbit, raining down on the planet below in a spectacle of fireballs.  With the chaos on the streets, nobody even noticed when the international space station lost altitude, breaching the earth’s atmosphere at over 17,000 miles an hour.  Had people been alive on board, they might have been able to warn the people below that there was incoming.  Sadly the occupants had perished from starvation, as there was nobody to send supplies to them.

The fireball lit up the night sky over Siberia before exploding with the force of an atomic blast.  A few in the northern parts of Alaska felt the shockwave but had no idea what caused it.

Sporadic low power communications interested the Ularins, who soon had targets of places to visit.

The time to harvest was near. Their job was clear, find the best and the brightest of the population, and remove them before the extinction event.   They had already found the first two, they needed three hundred total.

Stars

David sat in the control center as people from different countries were educated on the ship’s systems.  The Ularins had developed a virtual teaching tool, much like some of the video games that were produced.  Unlike the video games which used the body’s senses, this tool went right into the neural pathways of the brain, creating synapses and neural pathways as needed.

The humans were unaware that their animalistic instincts for fight or flight were being modified.  Those lower lizard brain functions were responsible for the carnage of that world throughout its troubled history.

Downloading every bit of the earth’s history, the humans were also taught it in painstaking detail. 

The Ularins allowed them to see, feel, smell, and taste the entire history of their world.  From Hitler to the Rape of NanJing, they experienced all of it.  When Vlad the Impaler was part of the lesson, many were shocked beyond belief.  This was the price these three hundred people must pay for their salvation. This was their lineage, their history.  The evil people that they hailed from were responsible for the horrific deaths of millions, and these three hundred saw it all.  The end of the lesson was the creation of the virus and the evil atrocities that greedy people perform for power.

The failure of the education system was directly to blame for the massacres throughout human history.  While the definition of insanity was doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result, if they didn’t know history, they could not begin to comprehend why ideologies like socialism would never work. 

David was still ruminating over some history. The PTSD caused by the lesson was healed before the lesson terminated.  The memories would never leave.

Samantha could tell he was deep in thought.    Being healed did not stop one from thinking about what they learned. This method of teaching allowed one to experience all of it with all of your senses.  There was not shutting your eyes or plugging your ears.  The three hundred were to complete their education before being allowed to pilot an intergalactic spaceship.

They realized how evil the gods were.  Their right to vote was never so important to them after they learned why.  They and people like them put some of those gods in their ivory towers.

The importance of their vote never occurred to many, as they were all lost in their little worlds.  That was not their fault.

They were damned sure going to know how this happened. The Ularins would make sure they understood why their race was now on the verge of extinction. They would know why their world was at the beginning of a nuclear winter.

Samantha appeared, breaking David’s trance.

“Are you coming to bed?”

“I don’t know, look where we are.”

“Dave, ever since they took us off the farm, you have had little sleep. You need to rest to stay healthy.”

Dave allowed her to take his hand, leading him off the central control room floor.  Bill took over as she led him away, down the main corridor toward their quarters.

Sitting on the bed, he watched as the moon was much closer. “Look, you can see where their base was.”

Sam looked at the crater, and what was left of the edifice, they lived in.  Removing her clothes, she cleared her throat.  Dave turned around to see that sleep was not forefront in her mind.

Hours later, he awoke with her in his arm.  They were past the moon, headed out of the solar system, or so he thought.

“Can’t sleep?”

Dave looked over at her brushing her auburn hair from her face.  “I slept.”

“Three hours is not much sleep.”

“Why did they pick us?”

“Are we going to have that conversation again?”

“Sam, they put us in charge of three hundred lives.  These are all that is left of the race known as humans.  Surely there are better-qualified people on board to lead us.”

“I think your humility has something to do with why we are in charge.  Are you worried about the supplies and how we are going to survive?”

“That is part of it, we are out here in space, passing by the moon with only this small minuscule part of billions of stars mapped out for us.  Why there?  We are leaving our home in the dust as it were.”

David knew he could go where he wanted, but for some reason, the Ularins had only mapped out this particular region of space.  They did not tell them why.  It was like breadcrumbs in space, leading them to a binary star system. 

The crew was going through the education campaign that was more like indoctrination. The computer downloaded their memories and then added to them.  These would be the brightest and best of the human race.

David and Sam had gone through it first before the others were aboard.  The image of the white flashes from the planet below them still played in his mind.  Someone, several others had thought there could be a winner with nukes.  David did not know that the minuteman defense system was set to automatic.  When an incoming target was confirmed, the system responded in kind.

“I think we can go back and learn more if we need more information.” She said.

“How do you know that?”

“Dave, they made me a kind of doctor.  As we proceed, I have to go back and learn more.  That thing creates these pathways between the hemispheres of our brains. The more pathways the more we can learn.”

“I don’t want another history lesson.”

“We come from pretty shitty people.  They wanted us to know that.  We are capable of great things too, we have to choose.  We can dream wonderful things or we can dream evil things.  Now that we understand the evil, I don’t think anyone who goes through that would pick it.”

“I hope not, I would hate to have a psychopath on board.”

“They will not allow a mentally disturbed person to inhabit this ship.”

“What does that mean?”

“If they are defective we will jettison their body in to space. That teacher is also judge and jury.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You do now, hope the Ularins picked wisely.”

The beeping sound from the door buzzer brought him back to the present.  Pulling the sheet up over Sam, he dawned a robe and went to the door.

“Bill wants to see you; he thinks he has an idea.”

“Give me ten minutes; I will meet him in the conference center.”

Sam turned over to see him tossing the robe on a chair.  “No time for an encore performance?”

The chuckle caught her by surprise.  “I don’t remember you ever being this amorous on the farm.”

“We were not safe on the farm.  I had to cook as a cavewoman might cook.  No, I was not in the mood.”

“We are in space, we have a limited amount of supplies, and I am still waiting on the crew to be educated before I can plan anything.”

“Do you want to kill my mood?”

Turning to face the bed, he laughed, “no, I have a lot on my mind.”

“I know, once you are on task I don’t stand a chance.”

Jumping back on the bed landing on top of her, they were now facing each other. “I have loved you since we were kids.  We may not have haylofts or swimming holes, but we have a huge ship that even with the others on board, it is like we are the only ones here.”

Brushing his blond hair back away from his eyes, she kissed him again.  “There is an area on the ship that is made for Farming.  I would bet the Ularins got the seeds for such things.”

“Farming takes water. I need to go see Bill; when I am finished I will come back here.”

“Promise?”

Kissing her, he headed to the bathroom to dress and leave before he was distracted once again.

Bill was looking at some charts he pulled up when Dave walked in.

Handing him coffee Dave was wide eyed.  “Where did you get this?”

“One of our crew is now a chef.  She always liked cooking but after her ‘education’ she learned how to use the equipment in the kitchen.  Programming it for humans, out comes coffee.”

“Does this solve our supply problem?”

“Yes and no.  This device uses the same energy that our engines use.  We have to find dark matter, and we have less than three months to do it.”

“Perfect, we have to locate and figure out how to get a theoretical compound within three months, or we all die.  Do I understand that correctly?”

“It is not theoretical; we have storage tanks full of it.  We need to learn how to handle it and more about it so we can speculate about where it might be.”

“That wasn’t in my education, was it in yours?”

“No, presumably, someone on this ship will be a physicist.”

“I hope they turn up fast, the sooner I know where to head, the quicker we can get that part of the puzzle behind us.”

“Our tanks are full, think about that skipper.”

“Shit, that means we make regular trips to the gas station.”

“Bingo, I am betting this stuff is more abundant than we think.”

***

Ok, ladies and gentlemen.  This is where you come in. 

Years ago, I was working on writing more judiciously.  When twitter was more restrictive than it is now, I wrote several chapters of The Saga of the Starduster in tweets.  Stream of consciousness. 

This story you just read is, act one, of a stream of conscious session with the keyboard.

This blog is un-edited and a rough draft.

 If you want an act two, tell me.

If you have an idea for act two, let’s hear it.

What I would like from you is this, do whatever it is you do to reblog or copy or share or what have you.

Since the COVID virus, sales of my novels have cratered.  Now I realize that people are hurting, and that is one reason I am going to create this story on my blog for my followers.

If you can do anything to drive traffic this way, I would appreciate it greatly.  I can even make that little heart sign with my own two little hands.

As a business owner, I am not eligible for unemployment insurance.  I have been frugal with my money, and book sales have assisted in the past.  Too many more months of this, and I don’t know where we will be.  Maybe the Ularins will come to get us.  J

Much love -TW