Earth Afire (The First Formic War)

Earth Afire (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston Read Free Book Online

Book: Earth Afire (The First Formic War) by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston
help us, Victor. He has connections throughout the world. He’s the most powerful man alive. If he knows the truth, the whole world will know.”
    Victor sat back. Ukko Jukes, father of Lem Jukes, the man who had crippled Victor’s family’s ship and killed his uncle. What had Father said at the time? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? If Victor couldn’t work with Lem, how could he possibly work with the father?
    Yet what choice did Victor have? He was a fugitive, with nowhere to run and no other leads. It was only a matter of time before the LTD found him and Imala and sent them both packing.
    “If we do this, I want to talk to Ukko Jukes myself,” said Victor. “I want to tell him to his face that his son is a murdering bastard.”
    “Don’t bother,” said Imala. “Knowing Ukko, he might take that as a compliment.”

    Lem Jukes stood before the crew of his asteroid-mining ship with his hands clasped reverently in front of him. He watched as the last people to arrive floated through the entrance and made their way to the back of the room where the rest of the crew was gathered. Each of them wore a blue jumpsuit with the Juke Limited corporate logo embroidered over the left breast. The magnetic greaves on their shins and vambraces on their forearms anchored them to the floor once they were in position. Other than the quiet rustle of fabric as everyone took their places, the helm was completely silent.
    Lem hadn’t made the memorial service mandatory, but he knew everyone on board would come, including those who didn’t normally work in the helm: the cooks and miners and launderers and engineers. When you lived for nearly two years with people in a cramped environment, you got to know each of them rather well, even if your individual assignments didn’t have you working alongside each other. Sooner or later, your paths would cross, and as a result, any loss of life on board was a loss felt by everyone. No one would miss the chance to pay their respects.
    “I called this memorial service to honor those we have lost,” said Lem. His voice was loud enough to reach the back of the room, yet calm and solemn enough for the occasion. “I speak not only of the members of our own crew who are gone, but also of the many others in space who have so selflessly fought and died trying to stop the Formics from reaching Earth.”
    Formics. The word still felt bitter and foreign in his mouth, like a large chalky tablet that he couldn’t force himself to swallow. Dr. Benyawe, the leader of the science team, had suggested the name because of the creatures’ antlike appearance, and as far as Lem was concerned it was as good a name as any. But he still hated it. The word gave the creatures legitimacy, an identity. It was a reminder that they were real, that this whole thing was not merely a dream.
    “Nearly two years ago,” Lem continued, “we left loved ones on Luna and set out for the Kuiper Belt. Our mission was simple: test the gravity laser. Point it at a few rocks and blow them to dust, prove to headquarters that the glaser can and will revolutionize the mineral-extraction process. Thanks to your diligence and unwavering commitment, we completed that task. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without mistakes and setbacks. But each of you persisted and did your duty. Each of you proved yourself. It has been my highest honor as your captain to serve beside you and watch you perform your tasks with such persistent exactness.”
    Lem knew he was laying it on thick, but he also knew that no one would doubt his sincerity. Mother had always said that were he not the heir to the largest asteroid-mining fortune in the solar system, he could have had a career on the stage. Lem had found that amusing; Mother was always thinking so small. The stage was for the pretentious and unattractive, all those who didn’t have a face for the vids.
    “But eight months ago our mission changed.” Lem tapped his

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