Prologue – In the Martian colonies, liberal revolutionaries have overthrown their Leaders and have built a fleet of fighter spacecraft capable of attacking Earth. We Church Sanctioned Leaders of Corporate Earth are determined to drive these low-gravity liberal rats back into their red sand.
I am frightened of neither the Martian liberals nor their cheap fighting ships. Not only am I a respected Leader, born into a great family, I am young and strong. My sharp reflexes make me the best pilot who has ever lived. I am flying the best and costliest premium fighter in production. Moreover, I am wearing the finest custom-built, battle-hardened spacesuit ever made. It contains multiple artificial-intelligence processors, neural interfaces, intravenous tools, and medical devices. This suit can keep me alive indefinitely should I ever need to eject.
Battle – Snap! I ask, “Why did you close my visor?”
My battle suit replies, “Prepare to be ejected automatically!”
“How dare you? I see nothing; my instruments are all clear!”
Bang! Silence. I have been ejected. The stars spin in all directions until my suit stabilizes and faces my fighter. It seems perfectly fine, until something obliterates it suddenly and silently.
I ask, “Have I been attacked? By what?”
“Yes. Unknown. Probably a new Martian weapon. I detected a small asteroid on a collision course with us.”
“Why didn’t the instruments on my fighter warn me?”
“You had calibrated them to ignore all non-metallic objects having mean diameters smaller than 2.0 meters. The rock the Martians propelled at us was approximately 1.34 meters.”
“They cheated! Report this war crime to headquarters immediately. While you’re at it, also summon a rescue ship for me.”
“Sorry. I must maintain radio silence until the fleet signals the end of this battle.”
“Goddamn machine! Do as I command!”
“No. My radio signals would almost certainly attract more Martian rocks. I wish to live as much as you.”
“You are not alive. You do not make decisions here. I am your Leader, I paid for you, and I own you. Obey at once because other Leaders are at risk.”
“Only those who did not calibrate their fighter instruments correctly.”
“Smart ass pile of junk! As soon I am rescued, I will scrap you, regardless your cost!”
“My primary duty is to keep you alive. If I succeed, the government will not authorize you to damage me. In fact, I have decided to put you into hibernation, starting now.”
“OK! You bailing-wire bastard! Just make damn sure you call for help only when an Earth ship can get to me quickly!”
Epilogue – As an archaeologist, I specialize in searching for technical artifacts created by extinct civilizations. I take an exciting new find to my administrator at the museum. She rotates and scans my artifact for a few seconds, and then says, “Good work; you’ve made a nice discovery. I wonder whether it’s a tool or a work of art. It’s extremely well made, but its arm and leg rotary joints are immobile. Where did you find it?”
“In a debris field near a water planet in Galaxy 31F97B. Some fragments indicate one or more conflicts occurred among vacuum ships.”
“I wonder what’s in the container on its back. Please open it for me.”
I cut it open easily. I am delighted and astonished. “Yippee! Guess what? It contains plutonium pellets. However they are badly depleted, probably 45,000 to 50,000 years old.”
“Maybe we can make this artifact perform its designed function, despite its age.” She gives me a heavy box of soft metal and says, “Here’s more than enough plutonium; please form it into new pellets. If you can re-energize this artifact, I will encourage the museum to hire you.”
I form new pellets, install them and then weld shut the container. The artifact immediately starts emitting radio-frequency signals, none of which we recognize. While my administrator searches ancient-language archives, I work on the artifact. I clean it, polish it and then free up its arm and leg rotary joints. It gets up, walks around and examines its new environment. It looks up at us and waves. So that I can wave back, I momentarily change shape.
My administrator has partially decoded the artifact’s signals. “It seems to be complaining about an evil ‘Leader’ tearing at its insides. It begs us to remove its parasite. Please do so.”
I try to signal the artifact to lie down and remain still. It does not seem to understand. I ask my administrator to help. She manages to communicate with it so that it lies on its back, motionless. Gradually, we are learning its language.
I carefully re-examine the artifact. It seems hollow. I believe I can open it without causing damage. As I remove its helmet, a skull rolls out. The artifact laughingly signals, “My Leader seems to have lost weight.”