“The gentleman from Kobb's Rise is recognized.” Said the Presiding Officer of the meeting, sitting behind a table with a gavel in his hand. This bearded, gruff man had been chosen unanimously by those present for the position, such was the respect all had for him. The Presiding officer of the assembly was to be called President by the speakers.
“Thank you, Mister President.” The speaker began. The suit he wore fit him well, although he wore the clothes of a farmer or soldier most of his days. “I petition this assembly, this day and year of our lord the twelfth of June, Twenty-One hundred and twenty-nine, to pass a declaration of independence, severing ties to Earth and allowing the people of Lumin to govern ourselves.”
The murmur in the room became loud as all of the members began talking amongst themselves and a few shouted recriminations at the speaker.
“You are asking for war!”
“This is madness!”
Yet, the majority took the proposal seriously. They had all seen the adversity caused by being ruled from the distant Earth. They had all been mistreated by the representatives of that government which remained unseen by them. Even those expressing dismay and opposition knew it was for good reason, even if it scared them.
War with Earth was inevitable.
“If this means war, Mister President, then let it be of the time and place of our choosing, when we are strong and the enemy is unawares.” Another speaker had rose to say.
The gavel hit the table again. The Presiding member waited until there was complete silence before saying “I believe a formal motion must be written and read before we can hold a vote.”
These twenty-seven men had gathered from every part of Lumin, chosen by local assemblies kept secret from the authorities loyal to Earth. They had traveled with cover stories to fool the Earthly gendarme, which tried to restrict unnecessary travel. The laws against political activity was strictly enforced from the “star above”, as the Earth's orbital base was referred to.
One of the members named Thomas Howell had watched his father be beaten and his uncle hanged for starting an underground newspaper, Libertas. The soldiers had burned down the whole house after smashing the hand press which they had built themselves.
“Mister President. It is my belief that all men, if they are to be free, and all men ought to be free, that they must from time to time commit themselves to the downfall of those who enslave them or seek to enslave them. We are not a free people. We cannot speak freely, we cannot travel freely, we cannot do business freely. The tyrants from Earth, once our brothers, have become slave masters. They believe that all men must be ruled from Earth, where once they believed in government by consent. I believe the time has come for the course of history to flow in the direction of greater freedom and that this flow start from Lumin!”
The assembly began to draw up a document that spelled out the abuses of the Earth-installed bureaucracy and the reasons that Lumin should be a free and independent world. Pulling down heavy drapes to keep the candle-light from being visible outside, should agents of the tyranny be snooping about, the men continued to work into the night.
“We have petitioned to redress our grievances many times, only to be stamped down firmly by the viceroys of the star above. The time has come for us to recognize that we must stand ever more firmly against those who treat us as if we were their subjects.” Mister Miles Vernon of Lake Capaldi said. To this one of the doubters exhaled loudly, “What about war? Are you ready for that? Miles, you have four daughters and a Pub to attend to, war will affect them most dearly.”
“As does slavery.” He replied, “As does tyranny. As would my conscience should I not take this chance to fight. If there is war, I will welcome it should we fight it as if we want to win. No other war is worth fighting.”
It was the turn of the overweight doubter to speak. He used his cane to stand, then held an arm against the table, so that he had to bend over it a bit. He had a sour countenance and this position made him look even more grumpy than normal. Mister Malcolm Rutledge was a poultry farmer from Northern Canton, he had a wife and several children but also took care of an ailing sister.
“I completely understand the arguments put forward by everyone here. I completely agree with the assessment of Earthly rule. I am in complete agreement with the vast majority of everything that has been said here this night.” He told them, obviously straining to stay in his awkward position. “I also believe that it behooves all of us to understand the true position we hold.”
“What might that be?” someone asked anonymously.
“They have purposely kept us technologically backward. They have done this for generations in order to keep us under their control. We might build muskets but their armored suits are invulnerable to the lead ball projectiles.” Malcolm told them with a grimace, “We might even field cannon, but their shields will repel it as a window pane repels a fruit fly. Their armored vehicles are not going to flee at the site of a man on a horse. Their flying vehicles cannot be touched by us as we are. Furthermore, they are headquartered in the star above, where we cannot reach them any more than the living can reach heaven.” He told them through labored breath as his face turned brighter red. “War? War against that? It is a preposterous idea. We cannot win that kind of war. Another way must be found...”
He sat again, exhausted. The others were quiet for a long moment before the next speaker stood and proceeded as if Mister Malcolm Rutledge hadn't just pointed out the fantasy they were playing.
Finally the motion carried. A declaration of independence would be issued against the Earthly rulers, after a unanimous vote. The doubters knew they were few and yielded, for a unite front would help the effort, even if one considered it futile at best.
“I feel as if I have been cursed to live long enough to see what I have feared most come true. I have been powerless to stop it and must now throw my lot in with my fellow Luminmen.” Malcolm Rutledge wrote in his journal. “I am afraid that I am not young and healthy enough to take a direct part in the coming battles, but I am not so powerless as to just observe.”
The assembly was adjourned. Then members would leave singly or in pairs and make way to where they had roomed. Most were staying at the homes of supporters instead of an inn, because they did not wish to have the authorities know their whereabouts.
“Matthew.” Malcolm said, moving toward the other man with the use of his cane. The other man was just as old but he stood erect and with a strong bearing. His gray beard and hair slightly scraggy and his suit a bit worn. This was the gruff presiding officer of the completed assembly.
“Malcolm.” he called back and they shook hands, for they were old friends.
“I need to speak with you after the rest of us have departed.” The overweight man said, falling into a nearby couch. “It is supremely important that we win any war, as unlikely as that seems.”
Matthew Bellow tightened the smile on his face, sitting in the soft chair opposite the couch. “Malcolm, my friend, it is the utmost importance that the rulers know we are not simple supplicants. They must be made to understand that we demand to be treated as men and not beasts.”
“I might agree if the circumstance wasn't so dire, Matthew. You want to punch the bully in the nose to make it clear to him that you are equals.”
The presiding member sat up straight. “I don't care if he thinks we are equals, as long as he respects me.”
Malcolm nodded. “Yes, but this is not a schoolyard bully you are dealing with. Would you punch a serial murderer in the nose? Would you dare him to make you his next victim? I think not.”
It had grown quiet, the others had departed.
Matthew Bellow rubbed his bearded chin. “Malcolm, is there something I should know?”
Malcolm nodded and took some deep breaths. “I am afraid there is. But let me ask you something before I tell you.”
A shaky finger was pointed at the closed door. “Do you remember landing day? We were both children back then, of course.”
“I'll never forget it.”
Malcolm nodded and cleared his throat loudly. “When we landed on Lumin, we came down in many shuttles, pods and ships over several years time.”
“That is true.” Matthew answered, walking to pour a mug of wine for his old friend. “We used to watch this together from the hilltop where we lived back then. What are you getting at?”
“What if I told you that some of those ships and pods still exist? Some of them were buried in the ground long ago.” The portly man said.
The possession or use of illegal technology was a death sentence. This had been true since the Earth forces arrived and taken over the colony. The original colonists had fled the tyranny but it had caught them again in only a few years.
“The moment it is activated they will have soldiers or even a missile on the way.” Matthew Bellows old his friend. “What will have been gained?”
His friend held up a small, red hand with flat palm out. “Let me explain.”
The presiding officer nodded and crossed his arms, then leaned back in the chair.
“I have listened to their communications over the years.” The man said, Matthew sat up with alarm but did not interrupt. “They are ruthless, Matthew. Giving them a bloody nose will not make them respect you, they will kill you and many more for less than their nose.”
“If this is true, we may have killed us all.”
The fat man nodded but also waved it off. “I believe there is something I can do to help. I can send a message to the Kritesh, ask them to join us and help us fight. They have managed to keep their independence for decades, I think they might help.”
The only real contact that Lumin had with Kritesh was in trade. The Kritesh occasionlly sold pottery, silks and satins, spices and jewelry on Lumin and purchased wheat, corn and beans that did not grow well on their own world. Earth controlled, taxed and monitored all trading. Most imported things had to be purchased from Earth or one of its colonies.
The Earthly authorities decided that allowing a small trade with Kritesh was showing humanity and kindness and expected to be praised highly by locals. It was infrequent enough that it made no real economic impact, but it might have given the Kritesh a good impression of Lumin.
“You'd risk your life. I was wrong. You would end your life to send a message?” Matthew asked, “How do you know they would receive it? Act on it? Maybe they would not want to get into a war for us?”
“Matthew, listen. I once broke a Kritesh vase, by accident. Inside the thickest part of the pottery was a chamber and I found a parchment tucked into it. I found a letter, signed by a Lee Myung-Jun. The letter expressed hope that Lumin could be free, it gave me coordinates and frequencies if I wanted to send them a message.”
Matthew Bellows waved his hand. “That could have been written a decade ago.”
“At least that long ago.” Malcolm agreed.
“Still, you will give up your life to send that message?”
Malcolm nodded. “There is a way to send a compressed data file in such a small signal that the star above might not find it.”
Matthew shook his head. “They will find it instantly. We both know that, do not delude yourself. You are going to martyr yourself, you might as well know it in advance.”
That morning while it was still dark Malcolm Rutledge and his personal secretary Leon set out in a carriage. It was a bit foggy and the streetlights extinguished all of the stars in the sky except the one that held the world in thrall.
He tightened his coat in the slight morning chill, cursed his age, and listened to sound of the horse hooves on the cobblestone street. Malcolm had known about the buried capsule since he was a child. As an adult he had spent many hours inside listening to radio chatter from across space.
The star above had never seemed to take notice. He had no doubt that the Earthly authorities would take immediate action when he sent the message. If they sent troops in their aerial vehicles he might even get far enough away before they arrived. If they send one of their missiles or light beams, he would probably be killed before getting out of the capsule.
It had to be done. Lumina would never be free without outside help. The technological imbalance was far too pronounced. The Kritesh hadn't promised they would go to war for Lumina, but Malcolm Rutledge thought they might. Their broadcasts highlighted the struggles for liberty through human history, they seemed to worship liberty as some worshiped God. It was a thin shred, but even a shred of hope for Lumina was better than nothing.
There were many hours of travel, it would be dark before they arrived in North Canton. At each rest stop Malcolm Rutledge wrote letters to his wife and children. These would be delivered by Leon, hi personal secretary, in the morning. Malcolm was certain he would be dead by then.
Tara wants to find out what it means to be "The Fourth" and to bring Earth back from the dead. Greyson wants to go home and clear his name. Their paths are destined to cross.
apprx 44,000 words