Posted August 4, 2010

The Binary Planet

A Science Fiction Adventure by Altimexis

Earth and Moon from Mars
The binary planetary system of Earth and its moon as seen from Mars

Part 8 - Reunion

With no place to go and nothing better to do, I returned to Atlanta in preparation for leaving Earth. I decided there was no longer a reason to stay. Everyone I cared about was gone and I was an alien in a hostile world. I’d given humans all of my knowledge and now the humans had the assistance of the Cerenean heroes as well. There was nothing more I could contribute and so it was time to head home.

I could arrive back on Loran five human years after receipt of the Cerenean virus message. With any luck, the Cereneans would be history by then but if not, I could assist in any way possible to finish the task of ridding Loran of its intruders. It was a better plan than living with my human ‘enemies’.

However, I wouldn’t be able to leave Earth for at least another two years. The first priority was to begin the recovery effort from the devastating Cerenean attack and to prepare for the arrival of the Cerenean occupation force, a half a million strong. They wouldn’t have the firepower the invasion force had, but they would be much more numerous. Unless Earth could find a way to neutralize them before their arrival, everything we did might have been for naught.

There was much to strategize, but this wasn’t my role. Still, outfitting a ship for an alien - me - to return to his home world was not a human priority.

It was while I was in the midst of one of my many brooding spells that Dr. Alvin Lasker, one of the virologists with whom I’d worked at the CDC, came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me. Alvin was a good guy - for a human anyway. He didn’t ignore humans’ shortcomings as so many did, but constantly strove toward the goal of a better world. He believed that nations like Malaysia could be turned from their unjust practices without having to resort to war. Peaceful engagement, as he put it, was essential.

“You look so troubled,” he said as we stood there. “I know it still hurts… a lot of people are hurting…”

“Yes, but most lost their family and friends at the hands of the Cereneans,” I countered. “I lost Steve at the hands of his fellow humans.”

“They may have been human, but they had nothing in common with Steve,” Alvin reassured me.

“I would have to agree with you there,” I said.

“Someday, assuming we survive the next Cerenean onslaught, we as a planet and a species will learn to put aside our differences and accept everyone for who they are. It is inevitable,” he insisted.

“I wish I had your faith, Alvin,” I countered, “but I don’t. I have to go back home. There’s nothing for me here and I have everything to gain in helping my people throw off the yolk of Cerenean oppression. It’s just too bad you can’t transmit the formula for the virus to the occupation fleet the way we did with Loran. If only there were someone on board the occupation vessels who could manufacture the virus on our behalf.”

Getting a curious look in his eyes, Alvin asked me, “Didn’t you say you routinely purge yourselves of microorganisms when you travel in space, and synthesize enzymes to replace the function of symbiotic microbes? Do the Cereneans do the same?”

“Why yes, of course they do,” I answered. “If alien microbes were ever released into the environment of another ecosystem, even if not invasive, the results could be unpredictable. The Cereneans apparently learned this the hard way during their early space explorations, when their own bacteria multiplied unchecked on an alien world, only to reinfect them with a vengeance.”

“So the Cerenean ships have an onboard system for synthesizing these enzymes?” he asked.

“Yes, they have replicators for this function, as well as for synthesizing the vitamins they lack from the limited food in their hydroponics bays.”

“Hmmm…” Alvin said as he thought aloud, “if we could commandeer their replicators, we might be able to get them to manufacture the Cerenean virus, which they would then ingest with their enzymes and vitamins.”

“Theoretically, yes, that should be possible,” I agreed.

“So with the aid of our Cerenean heroes, we should be able to create a Trojan horse to infect the Cerenean replicators with subroutines to manufacture the Cerenean virus.”

“A Trojan horse?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s like a computer virus, but with a much more extensive set of algorithms.”

When I told him I didn’t understand what a computer virus was either, he went on to explain how the military, and some humans just bent on mischief, created malicious computer code that could contaminate a computer just as a biological virus could contaminate a living being. He then went on to explain the story of the original Trojan Horse, which was fascinating. I’d never imagined the possibility of infecting the Cerenean computers with malicious software, but now that I understood the principles, it seemed so obvious. A well-designed Trojan horse would be a perfect way to infect the replicators with instructions to manufacture the Cerenean virus. The trick would be getting the on-board computers to recognize the Trojan horse as an official software upgrade, and for that, we’d need the help of the Cerenean heroes.

“You did it again, Lansley,” Alvin said as he slapped me on the back. “You saved our hides. I wish you really would reconsider your decision to leave. We need you here!” he exclaimed.

Rather than answer him, I shook my head, turned and walked away.

It ended up taking a team of more than fifty computer scientists some six months to design the Trojan horse. In addition to coding for the Cerenean virus, it contained code to take over all ship-to-space communications and redirect their transmissions to Earth. We’d effectively have ringside seats from which to observe their destruction. The Trojan horse was encapsulated in code to make it look like an ordinary Cerenean software upgrade, complete with access codes supplied by the Cerenean heroes. Transmitted on Cerenean frequencies using Cerenean data transfer protocols, the occupation fleet’s computers would recognize it as a routine transmission and not even notify the occupants of the spacecraft that it had been received.

It would be another two years before we’d know if we’d succeeded. Since it would take nearly that long before anyone could prepare a spaceship for me to use to return to Loran, I decided to wait around at least until I was certain the Cerenean occupation force had been neutralized.

Not quite two years later, as Earth’s great cities were slowly arising from the ashes left behind by the Cerenean invasion, the first images started coming in showing the devastation wrought by the Cerenean virus on board the occupation fleet. Although there was much to celebrate, I found myself in a gay bar attempting to alleviate my sorrow instead. Alcohol intoxication was a trait Lorans shared with humans, and although I had never really felt a compulsion to get drunk, I’d become a regular as I sought out the socialization I craved. I never went to bed with another human, however - I just couldn’t - but I was beginning to wonder if it was time to move beyond Steve in any case.

On this night in particular, however, moving on was the farthest thing from my mind. Today was Steve’s birthday. If he’d been alive, he’d have been eighteen and legally an adult. I myself was now over eighteen in Earth years. I’d been on my own since the human age of thirteen but, still, this felt different.

“Is this seat taken?” someone asked me and I merely shook my head to indicate that it was free. I wasn’t really interested in meeting anyone tonight - not even someone willing to get to know someone with such a non-human appearance. I could feel him looking at me and when I finally turned in his direction, I was stunned.

This could not be! I must have had much more to drink than I’d thought, for there, sitting next to me was my Steve.

“It really is me, Lans,” he said.

“That’s impossible,” I replied. “You’re… you’re dead!”

“Then I’d say I look pretty good for a dead guy, huh?”

“But I tracked you all the way to Malaysia,” I explained. “You were moved from prison to prison, and then executed for being gay!”

Smiling, he said, “No one is actually executed for being gay in Malaysia. Homosexuality is a crime, but the law’s not enforced. They use it as a scheme to extort money. It’s a way to collect bribes.”

“But you had no money,” I challenged, “Even for those that did, it was worthless after the Cereneans nuked the cities.”

“They used barter, and when they realized I really didn’t have anything to offer them, they tried to force me into prostitution.”

“Prostitution!” I said in disbelief.

“Obviously, I would have never done that,” he answered, “so they kept moving me from prison to prison, hoping if I thought they’d really kill me, I’d give in. Eventually, they just gave up, recorded that they’d executed me and let me go. Then the real adventure began!”

“Man, if I’d known you were still alive, I’d have turned the whole country upside down searching for you.”

“There’s no way you could have known, Lans,” Steve countered, “and I had no idea you were there. I was desperately trying to survive without a means of support in a country where I didn’t speak the language.

“It turns out I did have something worthwhile after all with which to barter… my knowledge of Cerenean technology. Thanks to what you taught me, I was able to help get the equipment left behind by the Cereneans up and running for the benefit of the people of Malaysia. They made me stay for nearly a year though, before they finally let me go. In gratitude, they put me on a transport to Hawaii.

“At least I was back on American soil, but I still lacked any means of support and had no way to get back to you. The good news was that the Cereneans never made it to Hawaii, so the islands were completely unscathed. There wasn’t a need for my knowledge of Cerenean technology, and the only other thing I had to offer was my knowledge of survival skills, but that proved to be my ticket, as they say. People were willing to shelter, clothe and feed me in return for my teaching them how to forage for food, how to defend themselves, and how to treat basic medical conditions. I did that for about six months, until I managed to talk my way onto a ship destined for the mainland. I had to do my fair share of work on the ship, but I was more than willing. It brought me that much closer to you.

“We landed in Portland, the only West Coast city the Cereneans didn’t nuke. Once there, however, I had no way of knowing where you were. The last time I saw you, you were being led away by the Cereneans. I didn’t even know if you were alive. I again resorted to teaching survival skills in return for food and shelter, and I hitchhiked across the country, searching for anyone who knew of your whereabouts. Everyone knew who you were, but no one seemed to know where, or if they did, they treated it as classified information. I made my way to Atlanta on a hunch. I knew you had contacts in the CDC in Atlanta and reasoned they’d know where to find you if anyone would.”

“Steve, this is so fucking unbelievable. Are you sure you’re not a figment of my drunken imagination?”

Rather than answer me, he leaned forward and our lips met for the first time in more than three years. Our arms wrapped around each other and tongues were soon caressing tongues. No one could kiss like my Steve.

Pulling away, he asked, “Now was that a figment of your imagination?”

“If it was,” I answered, “then I don’t ever want to sober up.”

Laughing, he said, “You’re barely tipsy, if even that, sweetheart. You’re not close to being drunk. What do you say we blow this joint and celebrate my birthday the way I’d like to celebrate it,” he then proposed with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

Taking hold of his hand, I replied, “I’d love nothing more.”

Earth from the Moon
The Earth as seen from its sister planet, the Moon

About this Story: Great care has been taken to portray only that which is theoretically possible. Loran is a fictitious planet with a year that is 161.6 Earth days in length, or 44% as long as an Earth Year. A Martian year is 687 Earth days long, or 88% longer than an Earth year, and 4.25 times longer than a Loran year. A day on Loran is 23 hours, 47 minutes and thirteen seconds long, and on Mars it is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds in length. Gravity on Loran is 67% of that on Earth and on Mars it is 38% that on Earth, which is 57% of that on Loran. Atmospheric pressure on Loran is 36% that of Earth, but the oxygen concentration is nearly three times greater, yielding a nearly identical partial pressure of oxygen. On Mars the atmospheric pressure is just 1% that on Earth, which is 2.8% of that on Loran, and the Martian atmosphere is virtually devoid of oxygen.

Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and underage, and at times engage in homosexual acts. Obviously anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The implication that Malaysia may execute homosexuals at some time in the future is based on recent events in Uganda and is not meant in any way to be a slight against the current citizens of Malaysia. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope in editing this story and Low Flyer in proofreading it, as well as the support of Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting it. This story was written as part of the 2010 Gay Authors Summer Anthology.