A hero had fallen. At least that’s how I regarded Spicio-Major Leonid Martinez. On Terra Rica 26, he had risked his own life saving my father’s from a spice slide. Did I hold Martinez in the highest esteem? You bet I did, but it all came crashing down with four little words.
“It ain’t our fight.”
Here we were, seven years already on Giallo Finch, and the tension between the Padronistis and the working miners honed sharply. The Padronistis, who ruled with the proverbial iron hand, had invaded the planet for its rich deposits of Independence Blue and staked a claim to what had been the natives’ for millennia. They took the land and enslaved the wingless yellow bird-like natives who called themselves the “Xybo.” But revolution was in the air. I smelled it and thought of our own history five hundred years ago when brave men stood up and fought the good war for independence.
“It ain’t our fight, Spicio-Captain Stanton. We’re here to mine the Blue. That’s our job, remember? Don’t go soft on me, hear?”
My father, dead these past years, must have rolled in his grave to hear his old comrade bad-lip freedom. Spicio-General Tyger Stanton had died defending the home front against the Eastern Hordes. Had he known the war tolled the knell of democracy, ushering in its rhymed nemesis, plutocracy, he would’ve died a thousand deaths to prevent it. The old America of, by, and for the people was tossed into the past. Now the rich ruled. A council of seven trillionaires who controlled the galactic space trade the way a mother protects her newborn.
Time travel changed the irredeemable fate of Old America. The American astrophysicist Gustav Brandt had discovered a formula to harness time portals, twist wormholes, create instantaneous shortcuts that shaved down millions of light years to a voyage lasting minutes. The Earth we left was the same Earth to which we returned. Parallel worlds with its myriad strands of time channels was a myth.
Space travel was now irrelevant. Stars and planets not even telescopically visible could be reached by tapping one’s wrist to the proper spatial coordinates and the chrononauts could be landing with or without their ship on planets similar to our own Earth.
Then one of the chrononauts discovered unknown spices on these unknown worlds. Cargoed back to America, these spices attacked and killed deadly cells like cancer, the plagues, the Pyrenees Virus, and the Flux. These pernicious diseases remain gone.
Martinez and I were leaders of a spicer crew of twenty that mined Independence Blue on Giallo Finch. The same SpiceCorp mined Incardine Red on Turo Venida and Ghost White on Como Mars –– all three of which had become the new significance of Old Glory’s colors. Three color spices had replaced the valor of the old red, the purity of the white, and the justice of the blue. It had transformed America into the lucrative land of the greedy and the home of the depraved. I was glad to be light years away.
The fight that was not ours erupted one green-sky predawn when the Padronistis rolled out their tincan tanks into the highlands of the Xybo, firing away at anything that moved. They had already sent Padronisti assassins to SpiceCorp House, slashing the throat of Spicio-Major Martinez, then blasting away the entire spice crew in their beds.
With three Xybo eggs under my protection, I tapped my wrist in search of some faraway freedom-loving planet, far from spice mines, to start all over again.
Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Salvatore%20Buttaci
His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.