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Ancient Secrets in Darkness

Harvester’s Voyage

By Alan VanMeter

Copyright 2017 by Alan VanMeter

All rights reserved

Eternal thanks to Tania Fitzgerald. Without your encouragement and help this story would never have come to light.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: 6

Chapter 2: 27

Chapter 3: 47

Chapter 4: 65

Chapter 5: 86

Chapter 6: 107

Chapter 7: 139

Chapter 8: 167

Chapter 9: 185

Chapter 10: 207

Chapter 11: 222

Chapter 12: 245

Chapter 13: 268

Chapter 14: 289

Chapter 15: 311

Epilogue: 358

To leave the past in darkness is to ensure future uncertainty

Chapter 1:

(Translated from accounts of N.I. defector Ajex Non. Certain terminology has

been exchanged with familiar terms of our language, while others such as

that of time periods has been kept as close to literal translation as possible

due to the importance of understanding that the inhabitants of the Harvester

were ignorant of concepts such as day and night, being in eternal darkness.)

We live in perpetual darkness, and cold on our ship. The only light or heat is found in the confines of the cities that are few and far between. Life is never to be taken for granted, as we all have to work hard just to have water, food, and the sparse heat and light which gives us our lives. Sometimes I think that it sure isn’t much of an existence, but then it is what we all have with no other options, save the eternal sleep of death.

The corridors of the main level are quickly filling with people, which is slowing down my progress. It is the end of the second shift, and soon the chow hall will be filled with many hungry mouths which I have to get to my duty station to help serve. I’m late again, and am sure to be given demerits at the very least, possibly even put on report. Since my brother, Zaxil, had joined the militia and moved away from our home, it is up to me to perform his previous household chores now. I am proud of him, as all of our lives are in the hands of the militia to defend us from attacks which can come at any time from the numerous rogues of the top deck, sometimes another city might wage war with us, or even hordes of bugs have been known to attack cities. There are plenty of dangers here on the first deck.

As I hurry along, even breaking into a jog, my breath vapor rises like a thermal plume venting. Upon entering the cafeteria my supervisor is waiting for me with a scowl on his face.

“Damnit Ajex! This is the second time you’re late in three S-Chrons! (Standard Chronological unit. Approximately a day on Harvester.)”

“I apologize, super Hemaw, my household chores took longer than I had planned on.” I hang my head.

“That’s three more demerits, Ajex. You are very close to being put on report! I suggest you don’t let it happen again.”

“I’ll do my best to be on time, super.” I try to assure him.

“Good, now get on the line.”

I nod and hustle to my station.

First thing after I get my apron on, I fetch my first hot entrée tray, and uncover it. The steaming hot aroma of bug meat invades my nostrils. There are three nicely large ligaments from some Delta class bugs, and I immediately get busy slicing the meat into finger thick segments as the hungry workers start down the serving line towards me. The wonderful smell of freshly cooked algae comes from my right as the server next to me uncovers her tray.

“Algae casserole, huh?” I remark with surprise. This is a rarity, and one of the most popular dishes of any we ever serve.

Bellecka smiles and says, “It’s a banner day, Ajex.”

“Did I forget about a holiday?” I ask her.

“Nope, I heard that we just got a pretty good sized shipment in trade, so everyone gets the benefit.”

I take another deep whiff of the sweetish, yet savory algae casserole. “I sure hope there’s some left over for us.”

Bellecka nods, then she shrugs, letting me know that might be a mere hopeful wish.

Just then the first worker is at my station.

“Fucking bug meat, great.” He shakes his head.

“Beats the hell out of bug soup.” I remind.

Then his attention is immediately captured by the algae casserole just to his left. He waves off the segment of meat that I offer to put on his tray, and he slides over to greedily accept Bellecka’s ready spoonful of the wonderful blue-green delight. Much of the rest of the service goes the same way, and thus there is a fair amount of the bug meat left over after the chow service is over. This means that there is plenty for all of us servers and kitchen help to have to eat, as well as enough for many of us to take the leftovers home to our families. This is great for my mother, as she is on scrap-rations. Unfortunately there isn’t any of the delectable algae casserole left for any of us.

As I leave the mess-hall/ kitchen complex, back into the tunnels that run all over beneath the first deck under our city of Dault, my breath becomes visible vapor in the cold once again. The kitchen is one of the few places in all of Dault that isn’t downright cold all of the time. I hurry home so mother can have some halfway warm food. She is grateful as usual, but my sorrow for her troubles just about overwhelms me, as I am the result of her trespass. Zaxil, her first son, was conceived with the blessing of the Dault council, with his father who had been in the militia. This is why Zaxil has a last name, Muant, yet I have none, and my surname designation is simply ‘Non.’ After Zaxil’s father had been killed in action against a notorious group of rogues on the top deck, Mom was no longer authorized to breed. Back in those times she was a salt and mineral harvester, not a miner per say, but she was on the collection crews. During one routine harvesting run to the salt mines, there was a bug attack by a full-fledged horde. Her whole crew was wiped out, but mother was miraculously rescued by a rogue who seemed to come out of nowhere, as she puts it. He took her to his clan, where she was not warmly welcomed, and after some time the rogue who’d saved her life returned her to Dault. Everything returned to normal for her, until she realized she was pregnant by the rogue, my father. She chose to be punished for having me by being put on scrap rations, as opposed to having the council recommended abortion. Often times being on scrap rations means a person would inevitably starve to death, but with some help from some friends, and then both Zaxil and myself, she has survived, though sometimes barely it seems.

As mom eats I get on the pedal generator in the corner of the single room of our home cavern. I want to get on the grid and check my history club’s latest posts, and thus I need to generate some more power for our cells. Every sleep cycle we use a good amount of power just to keep the temperature at a livable range, and any extra we wish to use must be generated, as well as the base charge level required for the heating. Our small abode has three bunks, as Zaxil’s hasn’t been removed yet, a tiny kitchen area, and the pedal generator.

“You have enough extra charge to play on the grid for an hour or more now, sweetheart.” Mom says looking at the control screen.

“I can go for a while longer. That way I don’t have to charge as much in the morning.” I huff between breaths.

Just then the door buzzer announces a visitor. Mom gets up to see who it is.

“It’s me mom, Zax.” My brother announces on the intercom.

She opens the door and welcomes him with a big hug and many kisses. I stop pedaling and go to greet him with a big smile.

He gives me a hug and a firm pat on the back. “Hey, Ajex! Good to see you again too, brother.”

Mom asks, “My goodness what a nice surprise son. I thought we wouldn’t be seeing you for another dozen S-Chrons. What happened for you to get leave?”

We haven’t seen him for almost two dozen S-Chrons on this duty rotation of his.

“We have a major deployment coming up, so the battalion drew three days furlough.”

This gives mom a frown. “A Major deployment? I hope it’s nothing dangerous.”

“We live for danger mom, but don’t worry, it’s nothing we can’t handle.” Zaxil grins.

She just shakes her head. “Come have a seat and have some dinner with me, son. Ajex brought home some Delta B meat.”

She never calls it bug meat for some reason.

“Thanks Mom, but I had chow before we were cut loose.” He refuses.

“Then you boys relax and talk while I finish my dinner.”

Zax sets his Mil pack on his bunk and then he wearily plops down beside it. “So Ajex, how’s school going for you?”

“I’m doing alright.”

Mom interrupts, “He is in the top of his class.”

Zaxil raises his brows. “Oh, officer material here then, huh, Ajex?”

I shrug. “I don’t know about that.”

“Top of the class always gets a chance at Commission school.” He reminds me, though I am fully aware of this. “Officer is the way to go, brother. They get the best chow.” He grins.

“All of the militia gets the best chow.” Mom interjects.

“That’s true, but we do earn it.”

“Are you still a corporal?” I ask.

“Yup, but my platoon leader is bucking a promotion for me, so maybe I’ll make sergeant soon.”

“Have you seen any more action since your last leave?” I have to ask, even though he might not be able to talk about such things. Sometimes he can.

“We had one small firefight on the top deck not long ago, but we didn’t take any casualties.” He nods.

“A firefight; that means it was against rogues.” I am instantly excited by the thought.

“Yeah, a little more interesting than a damn bug hunt.” Zax winks at me, from his now reclined position.

“Who were they? How many of them did you fight? Did you get any of them?” I barrage him with questions.

“Now you let your brother relax, Ajex. I’m sure he doesn’t want to relive such terrible things.” Mom interrupts.

“It’s okay Mom.” He holds up a palm towards her. “I don’t mind. We were providing some protection for Herman’s Salvagers, but in a concealed position. They had been having some troubles from the Cerix Raiders recently, and had asked for our help. Well sure enough the Raiders made a run at the return convoy from Gerntuan. We cut their attack run real short as we counter attacked from their flank. Well, they lit out right quick like, but not before we dusted one of their wheel runners. They lost two troopers.”

“Gerntaun is a nuked city, isn’t it?” I think I remember this from geography lessons in school.

“That’s right. It wasn’t totally destroyed like Kullema was, so that’s why the Salvagers have been focusing on it for quite some time now. If we didn’t have a current trade agreement with the Herman group, the Raiders would still be chewing them up, and taking much of their booty, but they got wise and made a deal with us.” He informs me.

“Did you get any of them yourself?”

He chuckles and shakes his head. “No, I’m in fast infantry. It was our armor that got them. We were just in support positions.”

I nod, seeing the action in my mind, well at least my own version of it anyhow. “It was grav-tanks, right?” I ask.

He shrugs. “I can’t confirm, or deny what we have, Ajex. You know the drill.”

I did know better than to ask operational details, but my curiosity just got the better of me.

Zax turns the conversation to what is going on with me, a signal that he is done talking about his exploits. “You’ll finish with school in less than half an L-Chron (Long Chronological unit, * a year on Harvester,) and for sure you’ll be selected for the militia, seeing as your size. What specialties have you been studying to help your designation of rate?”

“I’m in the history club, and my tech skills are better than almost anyone else.”

“Tech skills will elevate your chances at better duty, but…” Zax shakes his head as if in disgust, “history; that won’t help you at all. Unless you plan on trying for assignment with the Science Department, and avoid militia duty.”

“No! I’m not trying to avoid duty. I just like history. There is so much that we don’t know, like who were the people who built the ancient cities on the top deck, and if they were the same who built the giant factories like here and at the other cities on the first deck.”

Zax laughs, “See, that’s the sort of thinking which may very well get you assigned to the Science Department. Me, I just figure that whoever they were, they’re dead and gone now. It doesn’t matter in light of the rogues, and bug hordes.”

“But it could matter, Zax, in a big way. What if we could figure out how to use the huge parts of the Dault factory complex that we can’t even access now? We could make a major difference for all of our people.” I defend.

“Our best minds have been trying to even get inside the majority of this factory for as long as anyone can remember. You think you might be smarter than the sum of all of them?” He challenges.

“No, but all it takes is one discovery.”

Mom interjects as she puts the rest of the bug meat into the cold locker. “I thought you were going to play on the grid, Ajex.”

“It’s not playing, mom. It’s a history club.”

“Well, why don’t you check what your club is up to, and let your brother and I talk for a bit?”

I begrudgingly nod, and log onto the grid.

My history club has a new project they have presented to the group, these are my favorite type of posts. Some come from the club leaders, and sometimes from the club members. This is a question to the club from the founder.

‘We know our ship, The Harvester, is a spinning sphere as our four basic directions are spin-ward, retrograde, spin-right, and spin-left. It is most commonly assumed that this is knowledge which was left to our ancestors by the ancient ones, as from what Central Control has told us. There are some modern technological techniques we have used to verify this phenomenon. However, the question for the club is; are there any other possibilities as to how our ancestors first learned of this?’

Oh hell, this is a tough one!

I think about it for a while, but come up with nothing, then when mother gets up from her conversation with Zax to do some pre-bedtime chores, I ask them both. “Hey Mom, or Zax, how did we first learn that The Harvester is a sphere?”

Zax answers first, “That was told to our first people by the ancients.”

“I heard something different.” Mom counters.

“Oh yeah? What?” I question.

“I heard that the early people, after the time of the ancients, were able to see the movement in the ether above the top deck.”

“What? Who told you that?” Zax demands.

“Ajex’s father, after he saved my life, when I lived with the rogues for a short time.”

“Shit, the rogues have some strange tales to tell.” Zax chuckles.

“I think I would buy Central Control’s version of the ancient’s passing this along.” I state with confidence.

Then Zax frowns. “Maybe the Rogues know more than Cee Cee after all.”

“What? No way!” I counter him.

“Cee Cee doesn’t know everything, and on the off chance that they do, they sure don’t like sharing with us.” He scoffs.

I know from many previous discussions that Zax is not very trusting of Central Control. I also have my doubts about them, as they certainly don’t share much of anything with us on the upper decks. Still we are all sworn to loyalty to them via our own Council’s allegiance. Most all of the factory cities on the first deck are so aligned, but up on the top deck, most of the rogue groups are not loyal to Cee Cee by any means.

Mother makes a suggestion to me, “If you want to hear about this from someone who has more personal historical knowledge than anyone else, you should go to the market, to old man Whem’s shop. He has a sharp memory, and has a long lineage he seems to remember.”

“Do you think he would tell me?”

“Perhaps, but you’ll have to offer him some sort of a worthwhile trade, otherwise he probably won’t be interested at all.” She raises a brow.

“Damn, I sure don’t have much to trade.”

“Well, I did bring you a gift, brother.” Zax goes to dig into his pack. After a few moments he retrieves a carbon mesh wrapped item, and hands it to me. “Maybe he’d go for this. Don’t worry, I can get another one for you.”

I carefully unwrap it, and am stunned to see a beautiful clear crystal formed in a sharp tipped, perfect pentagonal shape.

“Oh! It’s beautiful. What is it?”

“Just some clear quartz I picked up on a routine patrol down here on the first deck. There are a few concentrations of these near some of our mineral mines.”

“You wouldn’t mind me trading it for some information?” I make sure.

“Naw. Like I said, I can get another easy enough.” He smiles.

“Thank you Zax!” I am near giddy.

“My pleasure, Ajex.”

“That is so kind and loving of you, Zaxil.” Mom tells him.

“Have something for you too, Mom.” He digs into his pack again, and then hands her a sealed canister.

“Oh my! Is this Algae rations?” She asks with glee.

“Yup. Nothing but the best for my Mom.” He smiles wide.

I am so glad for her, as she rarely gets such delectable food. Soon we all go to bed, myself so glad that Zax is home, and I know Mom feels the same way.

In the morning Zax gets right on the pedal generator to replenish the charge that the heater had consumed during the night to keep us from freezing to death. It is always so cold here on the first deck, but I am told the top deck is even colder. This makes me wonder if the lower decks get any warmer. Maybe this is something I will have to ask of my teachers, even though I don’t know if any of them have ever been below decks. No one in my family, or small group of friends ever has, so they wouldn’t know. I have some free time before class thanks to Zax taking some of my chores, so I swing by the wide tunnels of the market, to try to find this old man Whem’s shop. Most of the shops aren’t open this early in the S-Chron (Standard Chronological unit, * a day on Harvester,) but I find the store front with a sign that reads, ‘Whem’s hard to find Items and Rarities,’ and fortunately it is just opening for business as an old man is unlocking the metal grate closing, which protects the store.

“Excuse me sir, are you old man Whem?” I realize my rudeness too late.

He stops raising the metal grate by a hand crank, and looks me over from head to toe with a scowl on his face.

“Sorry sir, I mean to ask are you Mister Whem?”

“I may be old, but I ain’t dead yet. Yes, I’m Mister Whem. What can I do for you, sonny?”

“I was hoping to make a trade with you sir.”

“I do prefer trades, rather than purchases, that is if you have something worthwhile to trade with me. Give me a moment and we’ll go into my shop.” He finishes cranking the protective grating open, and then he motions me to follow him inside.

After he turns the lights on, he waves me towards a seat in front of a large, imposing metal desk. As I take a seat, setting my school pack on the floor next to me, he sits in the nicely cushioned chair behind the desk.

“First tell me what it is that I have that interests you, and then we’ll get to what you might have to offer me in trade.” He is gruff, and right to the point.

“I would like some information, Mister Whem.”

“What sort of information?”

“My history club on the grid asked us to try to find out anything that might give new light on the tradition that the ancient ones from Central Control taught us that the Harvester is a sphere, and that it spins.”

Mister Whem chuckles lightly, “That is certainly something I do have some information concerning, and not at all what I would consider dangerous knowledge. I’m willing to trade for what I know, but now tell me what you would offer in return?”

I grab my pack from beside me, and carefully retrieve the crystal wrapped in carbon mesh from it. I gently set it on his desk, and let him unwrap the beautiful delicate mineral. As he does so, he grins and sets the crystal on his desk. Then he points towards a back wall of his shop, and a display of a number of similar crystals, many larger than mine illuminated by an overhead spot light.

“I do have a number of these already.”

I can only swallow hard, seeing that I don’t offer him anything really.

“Now if you were wanting to trade for something concrete, and tangible, I would have to refuse your offer. However, since all you desire is information of a non-dangerous sort… we have a deal young man. I will tell you all I know of this subject.” He holds out his hand for me to shake in agreement.

I eagerly shake with him.

He takes the crystal and puts it in a lower drawer of his desk, then he leans back in his chair and begins telling me what knowledge he has.

“I am fortunate to come from a family with good genes, and a history of longevity. I had spent a fair amount of time with my great grandfather on my father’s side. He also had spent time with his own great grandfather, so many stories of the old times come down to me from this oral tradition. Now, as far as what my great grandfather said about the knowledge of the Harvester being a spinning sphere; he told me that after the great migration from the left-spin to these right-spin latitudes, that is when the first people also went rogue from Cee Cee’s influence, and went to live on the top deck. These first of what we call the rogues where the ones to see through the ether that enshrouds the Harvester, and they saw the lights of beyond and that they seemed to rotate around us. It didn’t take them much to realize that it was indeed our ship that was spinning, and so this knowledge was spread. Now after some time, Cee Cee put out the lie, the propaganda, that the ancient ones spread this knowledge through themselves. This was just to solidify their authority.”

“So they didn’t know?” I am astounded, as Cee Cee supposedly knows everything.

“If they did know, they did not share this knowledge, not until it was already known by those of us on the upper decks anyhow.” He raises his brows.

“But why would they lie?”

“To keep the appearance of their supreme authority, son.”

This takes the breath out of me. I’ve always trusted what the Dault Council has said about Cee Cee, and why we give our loyalty to them. The things Zax has said about his mistrust of Central Control come back to my mind, like haunting, yet much more valid echoes. Then something mister Whem said strikes me.

“What was this great migration you spoke about?”

“Our ancestors once lived far to the left-spin, down near the equatorial plane. My great grandfather spoke of great circles on the top deck there, yet most all the people lived there on the first deck, just as we do now. However the bug hordes were a much, much greater threat at those latitudes, and these hordes killed too many of the people, even wiping out whole factory cities. The bugs were much larger down there you see. Many were even of the Meta class. So the people migrated right-spin, up to here, near the axis of Harvester’s rotation.”

“Meta class bugs?”

“Yes, the size of whole buildings.”

That makes my jaw drop open. “Are those size bugs still down there?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “We can only hope not.”

A thought comes to mind, so I ask him, “Does the Harvester spin in the great sea, mister Whem?”

“No. The great sea is on the third deck. It is inside the Harvester.”

“Then what do we spin in?”

“I am not sure, but my ancestors had called it the great abyss between the lights.”

“What the hell?” I am really confused now. “Is this great abyss like a sea?”

“Not like the great sea, yet perhaps not so different either.”


He cocks his head at me, “Why, what?”

“Why are we spinning here in this abyss, where ever we are?”

He sighs, and then says, “I will answer this last question because I like your curiosity, son, but it is broaching the safe boundary, and indeed is now in dangerous territory. We are on a ship. This certainly hints very strongly that we are heading towards a destination. Now our trade is completed.”

He ushers me out of his store, and I hurry to school.

As our class settles into their seats before our teacher arrives, I take a seat next to the prettiest girl in the whole school, Jerina Mytas. For the last few L-Chrons I have found her to be amazingly attention grabbing. I know as being a ‘Non’ that there is absolutely no chance for me to gain the Council’s blessing, much less her family’s, for a union with her, but that certainly doesn’t stop my imagination. Her face is so enticing, and beautiful, but her body is what sends my mind way over the top, even only seeing it through her thick insulated clothes. The teacher’s entrance reluctantly pulls my gaze, and attention from Jerina.

“Good new S-Chron, class. This cycle we will finish our study of the infrastructure of Dault city. Just to make sure that you have been paying proper attention, let me ask some questions of you about our previous study of this subject. Who can tell me, what are the main imports of our fine city?” Our teacher, Missus Julnac, greets us and asks.

Tuant Casta raises his hand first. I have long considered him my equal academically, “Water, food fungus, and algae, as well as fuel sources.” He quickly answers.

“Correct. Next who can tell me our main food source?”

Another boy raises his hand right away, “Bugs!” He spats with a grimace, and most of the class also furls their lips in partially mock disgust.

No one says they relish eating the bugs, but then no one refuses their nutrition when hungry either. Of course everyone’s favorite is the fungus and algae, though these are a somewhat rare treat, at least for the lower tier, that is for all of us.

“That’s right. Most of our population would starve if not for our friends the bugs. Speaking of population, who can tell me what is the approximate current population of Dault?”

I raise my hand, but so do several others, and she calls on a girl named Hythiax, who is a close friend of Jerina.

“One hundred and twenty two thousand citizens.”

“Give or take a thousand, so that is close enough.” Missus Julnac nods, then she goes on with the questions. “What are the main sources of energy that we utilize?”

I shoot my hand up again, and this time I am called on, “Energy pellets from the factory, methane and solid sewage waste from the citizens, and bug carcasses.” I announce with certainty.

“That is right. Now why can’t we solely rely on the energy pellets put out by the factory?”

I just answer as she is still looking right at me, “Because we never know when the factory will deliver anything to us.”

“Correct again Ajex. Can anyone tell me why the factory is sporadic with its output, and who controls the factory?”

Jerina is first with her hand. “We don’t know why the factory behaves as it does. Central Control is the only one who would know why this is so, as they control the factory.”

“That is right Jerina. Unfortunately any of our direct requests to Central Control for increased factory output are met with mere silence on the subject.”

This makes me wonder about Cee Cee’s supposed control over the factory. From what Mister Whem said earlier, they have lied to us before, so maybe they are lying about having control over the factory too, but if they don’t control it, then who does?

“What is the main directive from Central Control to our people?” Missus Julnac asks the follow up.

Another boy answers, “To protect the factory at all costs.”

“Correct. This is our sole purpose as far as Central Control is concerned. This is one reason for us maintaining such a strong militia, but I will reiterate that there is much more to our own lives than just this. We can each forge a viable and fulfilling life pursuing one of many disciplines. The study of the sciences is just one example, including discovering our mysterious past, and that of the missing ancient ones. Then again maybe you might pursue the rare arts that give us a sense of beauty, and thus appreciation of this life. Of course most of you will find your next L-Chrons being filled with duty and perfecting your skills as a warrior serving in the militia. Only the brightest and smartest of you will stand a chance at rising to the second tier of service. There are many benefits to being so selected for this honor. Who can tell me what some of these benefits might be?”

Jerina has her hand up first. “You get to live in the upper buildings, and you have your choice of potential mates.”

“Right. Is there anything else?”

“You get the best of the food available.” Hythiax adds.

“Yes, that is true too.” Missus Julnac nods. “Today we have a special field trip for you all. One designed to give you incentive to study extra hard for the final exams coming up. A few of you may score high enough to be selected for the second tier, and as such the Council wishes you to know some of the benefits first hand, to inspire you all to do your very best.”

This has us all wide eyed. The upper buildings are always strictly off limits from any lower tier personnel.

I raise my hand, as a question pops into my mind.

“Yes Ajex.”

“Missus Julnac, why do the upper tiers get such benefits?”

“With increased responsibility comes increased rewards.”

We take the forbidden tunnels leading to the upper tier compound of buildings. Some of these buildings were built by generations of our people in times past, and some were actual accessible parts of the massive factory that were occupied, and partially reutilized. Some of the factory buildings were found to be functional for limited manufacturing, which we predominantly use for building the grav-tanks, armored pressure suits, and various other vehicles and armaments of the militia. Also some of the civilian needs are manufactured as possible in these facilities. Though we are not allowed on any of the upper floors of the offices or quarters of the buildings, we are shown something which none of us were even remotely aware of; the gardens where specialized foods strictly for the upper tier citizens to enjoy are grown under bright lights. We are each given a thumb sized round red fruit to taste as a special treat near the end of the tour. It is very juicy, and the flavor is unlike anything I could ever have imagined. An amazingly tart, yet slightly sweet flavor which is so much better than anything I have tasted in my life. I wish I had another to eat. Through the windows facing the depths of the mysterious factory, the light from this building barely illuminates any of it. Still I look up with awe as many of the totally massive structures rise into the utter darkness to a height you would have to stand many thousands of men on each other’s shoulders to reach, and still I cannot see the tops of them. Our people have spent generations attempting to gain entry into these structures, but to no avail. As we end our tour and our school session, I am quite enticed to try my best rise above all my fellow students, and return to the life of luxury we just got a glimpse of, as well as a slight taste.

Several S-Chrons later, after my duty in the kitchen/ chow hall, I get on the grid and make a post about what I had found out about our people learning about the spherical nature and spin of the Harvester, but I do not mention Mister Whem, as he had instructed me to not to use his name. I had done some more research on this myself since my meeting with him, and had found something very interesting to substantiate the idea of Harvester having a destination, and I included this in the post of course. Though this is of great interest to me, there is something else that has my complete attention. After our most enlightening tour of how the upper tier live, I know for certain that I want to become one of them, and to enjoy such wonderful benefits as they do. This prompts me to increase my study time, most especially with the effort in true learning, and fully understanding everything that we may be tested about. I don’t want to be lower tier any more. There is a far better life, and I’ll do whatever it takes to realize this.

Chapter 2:

In the forty five S-Chrons since Zaxil returned to duty, and to some secret deployment, I have been studying every free moment I have, as I am damn serious about getting a good enough score on the class finals to be considered for the upper tiers. I want a good life, no… a great one; not a mundane life of service to the upper class. I did receive some notice with the history club for my post reporting what Mister Whem had told me, as well as my own research along the same lines. I had discovered an old motto that Central Control used to promote back in the day. It went like this; ‘Though our journey is long, the rewards of such are infinite.’ I readily tied this in with what Mister Whem had said about our having a destination. The post got a lot of responses, and traffic. This was a big boost to my ego, but since there are only about a hundred and a quarter S-Chrons left until our final exams, I focus everything on this potentially life changing event.

One S Chron after returning from my kitchen/ chow hall duties Mom tells me that I have a priority message from someone on the grid. This instantly intrigues me as only upper tier, or Cee Cee personnel can send priority messages. Who the hell did I piss off, or maybe I attracted the wrong person’s attention somehow. When I log on I see it is from a woman named Diannex, so I click on the message.

‘Hi Ajex, my name is Diannex, and I am one of the administrators of a large, and important historical research group, named HR-211. Your discovery of oral tradition concerning the origin of the knowledge of our ship’s spherical shape, and of the spin of it, which gives us our sense of direction has garnered our attention. Your post showed a mature and thoughtful intellect which we think would fit in with our group perfectly. Therefore we wish to offer you membership in our quite prestigious group. Please let me know your decision in a timely manner. Thanks- Diannex.’

This blows me away. Anyone who is even slightly interested in our mysterious history has definitely heard of this group, HR-211. They are the most prestigious of all historical research groups by and far.

“Hey Mom!” I burst with excitement.

“What baby?”

“I’ve been invited to join a historical research group, but not just any group; HR-211!” I realize that probably doesn’t mean a thing to her. “It is the most famous group of its kind!”

“Wow! I’ve even heard of them.” She comes over to the terminal to see.

I show her the message.

“Oh my goodness. That is quite an honor, baby. You are going to accept the invitation aren’t you?”

“Of course! I’d be crazy not to.”

“Well, don’t leave this Diannex waiting then, let her know!”

I laugh and nod. “I’m on it Mom.”

Within a short while after I respond, I get a message back from Diannex giving me my link to the group, so I take some of my precious study time to check the group out. Wow! These people are super serious, and the range of discussion points and posts blows my mind. Instantly my curiosity is going a hundred different directions, all quite worthy points for research. This sure isn’t a bunch of school age kids like my history club, no, these are some veritable professionals. I see some posts by Diannex, and in the group forum I can see her picture, where in the private messages I didn’t. Holy smokes! She is beyond beautiful, by a long shot. To say I am instantly smitten would be a severe understatement. I don’t spend too long on the group page though, as my studies call to me, along with a much brighter future.

Early the next S-Chron I get up and hurry to the communal sonic showers so I can then go and meet Mister Whem again, just to thank him for his help, and to let him know what has happened because of it. I wish I had something to gift to him, but I really have next to no personal possessions. There is my pocket knife, but it was a birth-S-Chron present from my Mom. No, there is no way I can part with it. Maybe I could give him one of the trinkets that Zax had gifted me over the years, but most of them are of such little value to anyone but me, that it would probably seem to be an insult. I guess I’ll just have to give him my sincere thanks.

I catch Mister Whem as he is just finishing rolling up his security grate on his shop.

“Good S-Chron Mister Whem.” I greet him with a big smile.

“Oh, why good to see you again, young lad. What might bring you by to see this old man again?”

“Well, I just wanted to thank you for the valuable information you gave me before. It turned out that it really paid off for me.”

“Is that right?”

Just as I start to tell him about my good fortune, he motions me to follow him inside. Once he has all the lights turned on, he points to his desk, and I take a seat as he does too.

“Let me guess as to what happened for you, Ajex.”

“Hey, how do you know my name?”

“Same way I know that HR-211 invited you to join them.”

This just stuns me. Mister Whem knows a hell of a lot that perhaps he shouldn’t.

“Relax, Ajex. I am one of the admins of the group, though I do stay in the background for the most part. I gave my blessing to your invitation.”


He chuckles and nods.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that Mister Whem, and your help before too.”

“My pleasure, son. It does my heart good to see the young generation take such an interest in our shadowy history.”

“I don’t see how someone couldn’t be interested in our past. So much of it is a complete mystery.”

“I agree, Ajex, and I even take it a step farther myself. You see I truly believe that our future is integrally tied to our past, directly.”

This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and I guess Mister Whem can see my confusion, as he further explains.

“What I mean is that our future is reliant on just why we are here on this ship in the first place. What exactly is our purpose? There is no one suggesting that we somehow have always been here, nor that we evolved from the sparse life on the ship either. So is our purpose merely as guardians of the ancient structures during our voyage? Or will we have a purpose when we reach our destination?”

“Wow… those are some deep questions Mister Whem, and important ones too.” I raise my brows.

“Quite worthy of study to attempt to find answers to them, wouldn’t you agree?”

I nod. “Definitely!”

“I know you do, son. I was quite impressed with your discovery of the old Central Control motto which you linked perfectly to the notion that we do indeed have a destination. That showed more than just an interest on your part, as that was buried pretty deeply in the written legends. It was what really caught the attention of my comrades in the group.” He gets up and as he moves by me he pats my back. “Now, I have something which I wish to give you. Something which may help you in your search for our truth.” He retrieves a small metal canister from a hidden drawer in a display table nearby.

“Oh, Mister Whem. You’ve already done so much for me, I really don’t deserve a gift.” I protest.

“Nonsense! This is more than just a trinket, Ajex. It is something that I have kept to hopefully help unlock some of the secrets of our past, and though it hasn’t come to fruition as hoped for myself, maybe it will for you. At the very least it will inspire you, as it has me.” He comes back over and takes his seat again, to carefully unscrew the lid to the canister. Then he empties the contents into his hand. “This was traded to one of our miners a long time ago by a rogue, and then the miner traded it to me when I was much younger.” He holds up a pendant on a chain, and then hands it to me.

I reluctantly take it, and give the round pendant a close examination. On each side of the pendant is a circular representation of what I instantly sense is our ship, the Harvester. There are tiny rough areas, and most prominently there are four and a half large circles along the center of the sphere’s representation, and on each side as well.

“Are these the great circles that your ancestors spoke of?”

He nods. “I have no idea what they are, or even perhaps represent, but I think they have something to do with our destiny. Now if you examine this under a magnifying glass, or even a scope, you will be amazed at the tiny detail formed into the medallion. It seems like a highly detailed map of the top deck. The manufacturing technique is far beyond anything we are capable of, meaning this is an ancient artifact, Ajex.”

“A real ancient artifact?” My mouth drops open. “Oh my. This has to be worth a fortune Mister Whem. I can’t accept this.” I sure do want to, but it is far too valuable.

“I insist. Please keep it close to you, son, and please try to find some significance in it.”

With that I put the medallion on around my neck, and tuck it under my heavy shirt.

Too soon it is time for me to run to school, or be late, after I thank Mister Whem profusely for his amazing gift of course. The lesson for our class is again on the detailed infrastructure of our city, focusing on the need for the atmosphere compressors which allow us all to breathe without pressure suits in the tunnels and buildings of Dault. Then we cover the protected tunnels to the ice caves down on the second deck. The defense grid which protects Dault and the ancient mammoth factory beyond, is also a defense for the tunnels down to the ice mines below. This is our primary source of water, though we do take extraordinary measures to recycle every drop of water possible, even from the sewage waste. After a fairly in depth discussion we are told that we have another field-trip today. This one will be totally opposite of our last trip to visit the upper tier buildings, as we will now take a tour of the lowest levels of our city, and of the sewage treatment plants. The citizens who work here are considered of the lowest class, and have the fewest considerations, or privileges. No one ever wants to become a sewage worker, for these reasons, not to mention it is the shittiest job in town.

We have to wear what is nearly a pressure suit during the tour, the only difference being the suits merely have filter respirators and are not pressurized. The sewage plant is nasty, there is shit everywhere, and the workers all seem to be lacking any enthusiasm. I can’t say that I blame them at all. Every drop of liquid is strained from the solid waste collected from the communal restrooms, and then it is distilled back into pure water. The solid waste is fermented to produce methane gas which is used to generate power as is the then dried solid waste. I see the intelligence in the design of the plants, but am more than convinced that I do not want to be assigned down here. These poor citizens are the dregs of our society, and I think they deserve more consideration for the crappy job they have to do. All in all it is an eye opening experience, and one that solidifies the burning desire to rise above this life style.

My studies take up every tiny segment of my day that is free from duties. I don’t even spend any time on my prestigious new on-grid group. My loyalty is to my fellow citizens, and the Council of Dault, yet mostly to my own future. I used to have total loyalty to Central Control as our own Council dictates, yet with the new information I have discovered about their probable lying concerning our knowledge of the nature of our ship, now I have some serious doubts. Next time I see Zax I will tell him of my thoughts, and I am sure we will have much to discuss. Our final exams are scheduled within several S-Chrons, and I certainly do not let up on my studies.

Finally it is time for our exams, and for five S-Chrons straight our class does nothing but test, on a wide variety of subjects, organized into related sections. When it is all said and done I am extremely confident in my performance, but we will not find out our results for a number of S-Chrons, during which I am nervous as hell. When we do learn of our results, I am quite proud with my phenomenal scores. I’m told that I have the third highest overall score ever recorded, and in several sections I have the very highest in history. This makes me sure that I will be chosen for upper tier service.

Then before we find out our service assignments Mom and I are informed that Zaxil has returned from his deployment, but that there was some serious combat his battalion had faced, and he is in the infirmary due to injuries. We go to see him right away, and are extremely relieved to learn that he only has a number of broken ribs and a slight concussion. He is fortunate as many fatalities, and much more serious injuries were suffered by his unit. One of us stays by his side for the whole first S-Chron since we were told of his condition, but the next S-Chron he is released for home recuperation, and we gladly take him back with us.

Once he is settled in his bunk he and I talk while Mom makes some fungal soup for him, from her carefully guarded stash of dried fungus cubes. She usually saves the few I can get for her just for special occasions, like birth-S-Chron celebrations. What she has in her stash will probably be the last that I can get, as my duty in the kitchen/ mess hall will be over as soon as I receive my post school duty assignment.

“So how bad did your unit get hit?” I ask Zax.

“Sorry brother. I haven’t been debriefed yet, so I can’t talk about it. I don’t know what may be classified.”

His usual self-confident demeanor is missing, so I know that it must have been pretty bad. I also know not to press him, so I change the subject. “I just got the results from my final exams, Zax.”

“Oh yeah? How did you do?”

“Third highest score ever!” I beam.

“Holy shit! You’re kidding me?”

I shake my head with pride.

“Damn! You’ll for sure be assigned to a high position with a score like that.”

“I hope so!”

“I bet one of the Council members even grabs you up as an aide.”

Mom joins in from the tiny kitchen along the far wall, “Maybe he’ll be selected as a militia officer. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“I may well be saluting you, brother.” Zaxil chuckles, though it hurts him obviously.

For a brief moment I see his cocky demeanor flash back into his eyes, but this quickly fades as I see the darkness of what he’d experienced wash over his features.

“You’d only have to do that in public, Zax. Here at home I’ll always be your little brother.” I assure him, though with a jest.

He smiles, and nods.

Just then Mom brings him a cup of the steaming hot and musty smelling fungus soup. Zax quickly downs the liquid, and then groans as he shifts on his bunk.

“Are you alright, son?” Mom worries seeing his pain.

“I need another of my pain killers.” He says through gritted teeth.

She gets him one right away, along with a cup of water to wash it down. In several minutes his eye lids are getting heavier, and Mom motions for me to leave him alone to sleep. We both soon quietly go to bed too.

I lurch awake from someone screaming in terror. It’s Zax, and both mother and I are right by his side, waking him from some horrible nightmare.

“NOOO!!! They’re too fucking big!” he screams as we shake him to consciousness.

“You’re home with us, my baby. Everything is alright. You’re safe here with us, Zaxil.” She comforts him, stroking his head, and grasping his hand.

He looks around with terror all over his face, and then his features seem to relax some. “Fuck! Oh my god… shit! I’m home.” He breathes heavily, and begins to shake.

“It’s okay baby. It’s okay.”

Zax shivers hard, and tells us, “They were too fucking big, too fast! Fuck they were fast.”

“What was?” I ask.

“Bugs! Fucking Meta class motherfuckers! Maybe even larger, fucking big as a four story building! They were so fucking fast! Our grav-tanks laser cannons only made small slices in them… they were too quick! Jakex! Smornt! My whole squad! Fuck they were all squashed like fucking bugs!” He heaves with shivers. “They smashed our grav-tanks like they were goddamn toys! I got knocked by one of their pincers. Went flying against the tunnel wall… fuck!”

“How did you survive?” I blurt with wide eyes.

“Shhh!” Mom chastises me.

“The mission was coordinated with the militia of Gidnex. Their recon had discovered a huge bug horde moving right-spinward up the tunnels towards both of our cities, and we went to assist with the extermination. The fucking bugs came fast, before we linked up with the Gidnex militia. Before I passed out I saw the Gidnex heavy mobile artillery attack the horde from their rear. Those plasma cannons sliced the Metas to fucking pieces. We didn’t take any heavy arty with us… big fucking mistake! Rest of the fucking bugs retreated back into the tunnels, fast. Goddamn they were fucking fast! Lasers cannons can’t hardly do shit to them big ones, and our laser rifles were totally useless. We were just meat for the fuckers!”

“Hush now, baby. Just relax. Let it go.” Mom soothes him.

He folds into her arms, still shivering.

I am struck with shock, and horror. A fucking bug the size of a four story building, and a fast one. Not to even think of a number of such monstrosities. Poor Zax; that must have been pure hell. Mom motions for me to go back to bed, while she comforts her eldest son.

When I wake this next S-Chron I hurry to the communal men’s sonic showers, and then I go to our school cavern to wait with every one of my classmates for our new assignments. I am so glad to be done with the kitchen/ mess hall duties. The conversation between us all is excited and a bit loud, but how can you blame us? This is the first day of our future careers, and our entire futures hinge upon this moment. I am surprised when Jerina comes to sit next to me, interrupting my conversation with some friends.

“I saw that you just about aced the finals, Ajex.” She gives me a sexy grin.

I can only nod.

“That means you should be assigned a very important position, maybe even an upper tier status.”

“That would be great.” I swallow hard as she has my eyes fixed into her seductive stare.

“You know that the upper tiers get their choice of mates, don’t you Ajex?”

Again I nod.

“I have a lot to offer such a lucky man.” Jerina bites her lower lip with the promise of untold pleasures. Then she adds, “I just thought you might keep that in mind, Ajex.” With that she gets up and sashays back to her seat, really shaking it for my benefit.

If I am assigned to the upper tiers, I certainly will chose Jerina to accompany me, and to bear my children. Damn, I want to get a hold of her fine ass!

Missus Julnac comes in a bit later than usual, along with two of the Council member’s aides.

“Good new S-Chron class. This is the last time you will report here for learning. This is administrative assistant Gyen, and citizen planning aide Lurt. They will be giving each of you your new assignments, which will begin first thing tomorrow. Now you will be required to attend your current duty assignments one last time, after we are done here.”

This brings a chorus of groans from us all.

Missus Julnac motions to the female aide she said was named, Gyen, who then steps forward.

“When I call your name, step forward, and Mister Lurt will give you your new assignment. Delix Adapim.” She calls the first student up.

When Delix get to her, Mister Lurt announces, “Delix Adapim, you have been assigned to the militia for five L-Chrons duty.” He hands the boy a data chip as his authorized orders. “Report to militia basic training by 0400 tomorrow. Corridor forty two, the entrance is clearly marked. Do not be tardy!”

“Yes sir.” Delix sounds disappointed, as he takes the chip, and returns to his seat.

Miss Gyen calls the next name on her list, “Hythiax Bynx.”

She comes forward with obvious trepidation.

Mister Lurt says, “Hythiax Bynx, you have been assigned to advanced academic studies.” He hands her a chip. “You are to report to the collegiate campus by 0800, your class schedule is listed completely on your data chip.”

She goes bouncing back to her seat with obvious glee.

The next couple of students are all assigned to militia duty, which is the most common duty assigned from our school. Then Tuant Casta is called.

Mister Lurt announces a bit more loudly than with the others, “Tuant Casta, you have been assigned to tier three administrative duties. You are to report to the Council admin structure first level at 0900 tomorrow.”

I am suddenly very happy. I did far better on the exams than Tuant did, meaning I should be a sure bet for the upper tier as well.

Miss Gyen soon calls, “Jerina Mytas.”

I watch Jerina’s fine ass wiggle as she approaches them, it makes my cock stir, yet again.

“Jerina Mytas, you have been assigned to militia duty for five L-Chrons. Report to militia basic training by 0400 tomorrow, do not be tardy!”

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