Prologue

Marjoram
Prologue Draft (07-10-11)

He was still conscious when the pressure started dropping. That was a surprise. Could if be he had gotten the dosage wrong? Or that the same drugs that worked for all larger mammals were ineffective with humans? There was so much that could go wrong, but as in everything, it would be as Allah willed.

It was the nightmares, his inability to escape them, that set him on this path: the pleas for mercy followed by agonized screaming and then the smell of burning flesh as one by one the lights of his creations flared then blinked off, one by one.

Yousef Al-Shibli built ships, the best in the Caliphate and a match for any built anywhere. The Yards at Marjoram were second only to those in the Earth system when it came to numbers, but first if one considered only military vessels. As many nations had an Industrial Heartland Marjoram and a half dozen of the surrounding worlds, Punt (long a trading partner but captured, call it annexed, only a year before), New Mecca, Jabal, Sam’am, Quweq and Mosul played that role in the Islamic Empire. Forty-one lightyears from Earth, Marjoram had been the eleventh extra solar planet explored and the sixth colonized; the first using the FTL drive. Abundant mineral resources on the planet and a sprinkling of heavy metal asteroids along with the relatively short travel times to the surrounding world made caused manufacturing to pass agriculture as the driver of planetary economy some seventy years after its founding.

For most of seven hundred years Yousef’s family had been involved in agriculture, first as growers and ranchers, but later in the high tech export market for genetic modifications of existing stock to better survive on newer worlds not yet terraformed anywhere close to terrestrial conditions. As a young man Yousef broke with the past and joined the Caliphate Military Service, longing to see more than the planet of his birth. Marjoram was semi-closed to on, and off-planet human traffic, since before the last war; its technological base too important to risk exposure or export to the Federation or Independents. He had seen the Navy as a way out.

Testing then application gave him an engineering certificate by the time he was twenty Earth years old, and a made his entry into the Navy automatic; they were always short on qualified engineers. A shipboard accident three years later took one of his legs and the rest of his career. He returned to Marjoram but spurning his families business went to work at the shipyards. The sight of stars unobstructed by atmosphere was by now something he could not give up.

A little luck, the fact he still held a reserve commission, and his own ability fueled his ascent. He was in charge of the first G-4 builds and later the entire manufacturing end of the yard. Later yet the nightmares started.

At first they were a minor thing. Eventually the thought of his creations causing destruction and being destroyed themselves became too much to bare and the nightmares worsened until a full nights sleep was a distant memory. But if he were to seek medical help at his age, his career, and in his own mind at least, his life, would be over. Logically that left him only one choice of action. He must do whatever he could to see the war did not happen. An examination showed that to be impossible. What was left was to minimize the damage to his creations, the ships that in his mind stood in place of the children he had never wanted nor needed.

In spite of being a rather solitary person, Yousef had not lost touch with the rest of his family, in fact quite the reverse. He had invested, putting the large excess from his increasing salary back into the family business. Even taking time to make improvements in the shipping containers used for live biological transport. And so here he was, waiting for unconsciousness and a reawakening on Cardoman, where what he could tell of Caliphate Ships and their capabilities might shorten the war and permit some of them to survive. It also might give him the chance to see the Cardoman facilities and perhaps spread some of his own ideas further.

As he waited for the inert gas to replace the oxygen in the life support pod, the pressure to complete its drop, and the drugs to bring darkness, he prayed to Allah that the nightmares would not return.

Next