Lieutenant Colonel Randall Jung watched alone from the observation spire of his command cruiser, the Fate Arisen, as the drop ships poured from the formation of carriers by the thousands. The starfield beyond was completely blotted out. To think, such an imposing show of force, and still it would not be enough. A million soldiers were jumping to their capture, or death. He didn’t know which was worse, but he knew—and he alone—those were the only possible outcomes. He’d arranged it himself.
Loyalty. Patriotism. Duty. These were lies constructed long ago to convince the blind they could see. But Jung knew that sight was a distraction, an antidote to the wrong corruption. What was truly important, what he wanted, was choice.
Being on the right side of history was a concept that didn’t exist in the present. He’d made a choice, and whether he’d be judged a traitor or a hero was yet to be determined, but at least he’d been an active participant. One drop ship after another flashed away, jumping to its fate. Following orders. He turned his back and poured himself a generous amount of scotch. He dropped in a chilled whiskey stone and rolled it around, thinking back to an old story from the early days of spaceflight, when the stars lay open and free before us.
A fringe scientist worked alone, out on an ice block far from the sun. He was interested in light. He was trying to create a closed loop of spacetime in order to trap a single photon. This photon would travel in timelike circles in its little container forever; to an outside observer, it would appear as infinite photons, and that made it a light source of infinite brightness and limitless supply. He succeeded, and he chose to keep his discovery to himself until his death, after which it was found and exploited to its full potential. The question was, did he see only his superior lightbulb, or did he know the path it made accessible? FTL travel and communication, the overturning of energy conservation, the opening of the heavens.
Was he a fool, or a genius? Without his discovery, the present world would be entirely impossible. The Fate Arisen. The war. The deceit which would bring about an end to an empire a thousand years strong.
Treason. Betrayl. Dishonor. These were lies constructed long ago. They meant nothing in the present. All we had was choice, and Jung had exercised his right to choose. He finished his scotch in one long, smokey gulp, and then poured another.