A Glibertarians Exclusive:  Listening Post, Part 1

Personal log entry:  22 May 2234, Mimas Listening Post

There has been no sign of the T’Cha since they swept through the solar system on March 1st with a swarm of nanotech hunter-killers and three Moon-sized conquest ships.  There has been no word from Earth, from Luna, Mars, or any of the other trans-asteroid belt stations.  Long-range examination by the Mimas Listening Post astronomers doesn’t look good.  Earth and Mars are showing extremely high radioactivity levels.  All of the other stations we have been able to see show no signs of life.  It’s unknown why the T’Cha, after several failed attempts at meaningful communication, simply chose to wipe humanity out.  And it’s even more puzzling how they managed to destroy an entire civilization and yet leave untouched one tiny listening post staffed by only a dozen humans.

It can’t go on for long.  Eventually our resources will run out.  We have plenty of water and oxygen.  Mimas is mostly ice.  The reactor will last for another hundred years, so we have heat, power and the magnetic shield will stay up.  But food, of that we have a limited supply, and there won’t be any more coming.  We’re facing death not by the T’Cha, but by starvation.

Last night, after delivering his complete report on the state of the solar system after the T’Cha’s attack, our chief astronomer went to the main airlock and blew himself out onto the frozen, airless surface of Mimas.  Now there are only eleven of us.

Recorded 2242 hours station time, 22 May 2234, Chief Electronics Mate Bel Deveran, Coalition Navy


Chief Deveran switched off the recording and leaned back in his chair.  Alone for the moment in the Mimas Listening Post’s claustrophobic command suite, he breathed a small sigh, and looked up at the massive, looming presence of Saturn overhead.  The chronometer told him his twelve-hour shift was almost over.  I have no idea why we’re even bothering to keep up the monitoring, of Saturn or anything else.  It’s not like there’s anyone to report anything to.

But the listening post commander, Lieutenant Commander Venko, insisted on keeping to routine.  “We keep at it,” he had said to the assembled staff of the Mimas Listening Post in this morning’s briefing.  “If nothing else, it keeps us all from going crazy and following Lieutenant Foxx out the airlock.”

Something to that, I suppose, Chief Deveran had to admit, if only to himself.

So, the crew of the Mimas Listening Post continued their routines.  The post itself was an oblong dome, two hundred and forty meters long by eighty meters wide, sunk twenty meters into a rocky outcrop sticking out of the mostly water-ice surface of Saturn’s innermost moon.  A pressurized corridor led down into the rock eighty meters deep and two hundred south to the station’s fusion reactor.  Another corridor led a kilometer west to the landing ports, where supply ships docked – or had, before the T’Cha came.

Before the T’Cha, the post was manned by Navy personnel, each on a six-month hardship rotation, tasked to monitor and study Saturn’s massive magnetic field and radiation belts, and to detect any unexpected objects passing through the area bound for the inner solar system.

Now, after the T’Cha, the Mimas Listening Post, as far as its staff was able to determine, was the last outpost of the human species.

When the shift change chime sounded at 2300 hours station time, Chief Deveran had little to report to Astronomer’s Mate Second Class Jule Hortenz, who replaced him: “A class 2 comet, two Grade 3 flares from Saturn’s magnetic field that the post’s shielding handled just fine, and no contact from anyone else in the System.  No sign of the T’Cha.”

“Well, that’s good news,” AstM2C Hortenz grumped.  She was on the wrong side of forty, dumpy, and sour – having failed the Chief’s exam four times would do that to a person.

Not that it matters any more, Deveran reminded himself as he walked out of the command suite.  Not that anything matters much anymore.

Like most of the posts’ staff, Deveran’s family had been on Earth when the T’Cha struck.

It was a walk of forty meters from the command suite to the station’s dining facility but feeling little need to deplete the station’s resources by even enough for a sandwich, Chief Deveran walked on past the facility to his tiny personal cabin.  There, he kicked off his shoes, folded down his cot and lay down.

For a moment, he was keenly aware of the main airlock, twenty meters down the C corridor.  He shook his head.  Sara wouldn’t have wanted that.  She would have wanted me to hang on, to go on living. 

But for what?

That was a question Chief Deveran didn’t want to examine too closely.  Not with the airlock only a few paces away.

With a sigh, Deveran picked up his VR headset.  On an assignment like the Mimas Listening Post, a hobby of VR recording could be a lifesaver.  Now, at least, it was a way to go back to better times.  He put on the headset, tapped the power stud, and said softly, “Deveran, Carolina, Barrier Islands, number fourteen.”

The VR headset chimed, activated, and Chief Deveran went “home.”

Blue sky, clear blue sky above.  Deveran could feel, somehow, the sand beneath him where he lay on the beach.  Summer vacation, on the beach, as he and Sara had done every year since they married five years before.

The surf lapped in, slowly, almost lazily.  The children played at the edge of the water.  It took him a moment to remember the year, then it came back:  Ten years earlier.  2224.  Boo was four, Jin three. 

He turned his head.  Sara Deveran lay in the sand beside him, her bikini figure unaffected by her two pregnancies.  Her black hair spilled out over the towel she had laid down under her.  Her deep brown eyes were closed, but she felt Deveran looking at her and smiled.

“What are the kids doing?” she asked, without opening her eyes.

“Playing in the sand,” Deveran replied.  “I think Boo is going to be an engineer.  He’s trying to build a sand tower.”

“An engineer?  Making a tower out of sand?  He has a lot to learn,” Sara said, smiling.

Deveran looked up.  A gull sailed by overhead, coasting effortlessly on the wind, its black eyes scanning the sand below for anything edible.  The sun was warm, the sand was rough, the wind was cool, and the sound of the waves relaxing.

Deveran reached out and took Sara’s hand.  “I’m glad you changed your mind about me,” he said.  “You took a little convincing.”

“I saw potential,” Sara grinned.  “Well, maybe I was a little nervous about marrying a Navy man.  But it’s worked out pretty well.  You’re on planet more than off, anyway.”

“For now.  I’m overdue for a hardship tour.  Six months off-Earth, some hellhole like Titan or Europa.”

“Well,” Sara replied, reaching for Deveran’s hand, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Deveran nodded.  A few yards away, Boo’s sand tower collapsed.  Both children burst out laughing and started to gather sand for another effort.

The post’s alarm system cut off his VR headset.  Deveran removed the set, opened his door, looked out in the corridor to see people running past.

“What is it?”  Deveran shouted.

The post’s medic, Chief Pharmacist’s Mate Qul Abend, shouted over her shoulder as she ran past.  “Mess Steward Koal,” she called.  “Out the airlock.”

Deveran closed his cabin door.  He looked at the VR headset.  “Shit,” he said, quietly, to himself.  “And then there were ten.”

Then, with a sigh, he put on his shoes, left the cabin, and headed for the airlock.  Nothing I can really do, he told himself, but I guess we may as well stick together – those of us left, anyway.

Sara would be there, in the VR set, waiting for his return.


I laid on a dune I looked at the sky
When the children were babies and played on the beach
You came up behind me, I saw you go by
You were always so close and still within reach

Sara, Sara
Whatever made you want to change your mind
Sara, Sara
So easy to look at, so hard to define