Chapter Two: The Lion, the Bear, and the Dragon
By David bar Elias
January 15, 2002
"Come again, your Ghin?"
"I want you to tell me which member of the human 'Triumvirate' would be the greatest threat to our interests in the long-turn," said the Ghin, as though talking down to a servant who had left a spec in his soup.
The Tir knew that the Ghin had probably known that answer for a long time, but an order was an order; he was still simply grateful that the human project was being allowed to go forward at all.
"Well, your Ghin," began the Tir carefully. "I would say that they're all equally dangerous in the long-run. Although the Russians are the most advanced scientifically, it was the British who made the first Terran breakthrough in the field of interstellar travel. However, the Chinese, before their humbling in this 'Third World War' had the most space-based weapons, and might have made the first breakthrough in hyperspacial travel themselves."
The Ghin's pupils dilated slightly. "Go on."
"In addition to that," said the Tir. "The Triumvirate's members all have a similar economic policy of mercantile-based colonialism. Allowed to spread too far beyond their Sol System, and sooner or later they will clash with our profitable interests. The Noord Europsie Union is largely non-threatening, but its social customs are strange and unsound, to say the least."
The Ghin flashed his teeth. "Then we all know what we must do," he said. He turned to face the wall-sized screen in his office. "They are preparing their way to Barwhon and Diess."
"The main expeditionary forces are, yes."
"Alert our agents to the course that we travel, Tir."
"Yes your Ghin." And with that, the Tir went off to accomplish his new task.
The conference room was comfortable enough, thought Lord Alexis Shalenko. The Russian nobleman (of the New Nobility) waited patiently for the meeting to begin. He made a point of always trying to be early for important functions, no matter how trivial. And as it was, the situation was far from trivial.
Aids-British, Russian, and Chinese, scurried to and fro. Suddenly, they began to exit the chamber, which was itself buried below the Assembly of Nations. Lord Shalenko inclined as his counterparts in the Triumvirate entered the room. They were like him-the brightest members of the inner circles of the Imperial Defence Council and the brand new Chinese Council of Preparedness.
Sir Winston Gordon Voight and Ma Tsu strode into the luminous chamber and sat at the oaken desk. The few remaining aids left the room.
"Welcome Winnie," said Shalenko in fluent English. He repeated a more formal greeting to the Chinese envoy; he had briefly taught Russian history at Sandhurst, and knew Voight as one of the brightest students.
"Good day, Alex," said Winston Voight wearily. "I only wish we were under better circumstances."
All three envoys had discarded the idea of using a Galactic-made translating system; being trilingual was a mark of good birth, after all.
"Then let's get right down to the agenda," said Ma Tsu. "What are we going to do to stop these monsters?" The Chinese envoy still had a haunted look in his eyes from the first video images he had seen from Barwhon of those creatures....before they had gutted the camera crew interviewing a British and Russian Marshall apiece, the marshals themselves, and then advanced into the alien megalopolis. Ma Tsu had imagined Beijing, Shanghai, or Yerba Buena in place of that scene.
"From the information we've managed to gather from the Himmit," said Shalenko. "The Posleen land, march to the urban centres, and then devour the inhabitants. It would seem that fortifying the cities, especially the coastal ones, is the best way to stop them, secondary only to turning every remote river valley and mountain pass into a death trap."
The idea behind the former part of this strategy wasn't entirely altruistic; after centuries of building up the mercantile economies needed to dominate the world, the members of the Triumvirate couldn't afford to give up cities such as Tsingdao or Abadan or Liverpool without some form of resistance.
"But they also seem to land on random spots throughout the planets they attack," said Voight, speaking up. "For all we know, their first invasion wave will plop down right atop our capitols." He sighed.
"More to the point," continued Voight. "We need to save as many lives as we can. We're not a particularly numerous species, gentlemen. The Indoway have 14 trillion beings to bounce back from...we have, between our three empires, only two billion or so."
Both of his counterparts nodded in agreement; the more loyal subjects, the easier the job of ruling...that maxim had been true since the days of Gilgamesh. Even if it meant that humanity's gene pool would be carried on by mostly people of Han, Russian, and Anglo-Saxon descent. Shalenko, himself of partially Ukrainian extraction, could show empathy to the protesters who denounced the very notion of that idea.
"The idea of these 'SubUrbs,'" said Lord Shalenko. "Is especially appealing. My government has already begun construction of a long series of refugee centres in the Urals. The Posleen also seem to be adverse to the more extreme environmental conditions. Several of our SubUrbs are being constructed in Siberia as well."
"Yes," said Ma Tsu. "I believe, Sir Winston, that our respective governments are already underway on a long defensive line for the Himalayas, which meshes nicely with your planned defensive lines around the Hindu Kush...we should be able to fit in many refugees from India, as well as from our countryside. Besides, getting our subjects out of the way will deny the Posleen their main food source."
"Aren't they cannibals though?" inquired Voight.
"Yes, that appears to be the case," said Lord Shalenko. "Speaking of which, how secure is this information?"
"Pardon?" asked Ma Tsu.
"You can't honestly expect to trust these god-damned Darhel," said the Russian, raising the tempo of his voice. "The elves are up to no good...it's a good thing that our computer networks have evolved as they have over the years. It will make any suspicious activity easier to pick up."
"Agreed," said the Chinese envoy, adjusting his turquoise tunic. "They've delayed funding for the Fleet to such an unusual degree that I'm beginning to wonder whether they fear us more than the Posleen."
"A plausible theory," said Winston Voight. "The Darhel are genetically engineered from committing violence-they must see something in us that reminded them of just what they could have accomplished otherwise. And now," said the Englishman, pulling out of his leather case a new set of notes. "To change the subject, we've already agreed to the maximum capabilities of the Fleet."
"Indeed," said Lord Shalenko. "The Galactics might've only had merchant ships to give us, but it's more than enough for any of our nations to work with. Now, if we could only trust the Darhels' assurances that the Posleen ignored inter-solar installations."
"We've gotten confirmation from the Himmit," said Ma Tsu. "The Posleen show a strange lack of interest in the resources of the systems they conquer. Even the Mongols had more sense than that. The Asteroid Belt will be the forge of our civilization in this fight to live. Which reminds me: Luna will make a very good refuge during the storm."
"Yes," said Winston Voight. "It does sadden me that other than the NEU, no other nation on this world has any real capability to challenge the Posleen." Several smaller nations had requested the "protection" of the major powers, upon the general announcement of the imminent attack. Several German principalities, long reactionary feudal relics, had requested admission into the NEU, the only nation in the world to legalize homosexuality. Likewise, the French states had requested that same protection from Britain, and the Kingdom of Portugal had even taken the step of invoking the Treaty of Windsor. Both the Russian and the Chinese envoy nodded solemnly as well....more than half of the human race was being sentenced to death...and this was under the best case scenarios drawn up thus far!
For the next several hours, the three men discussed the separate defensive plans, future operations of mutual cooperation, and the imminent deployment of the Earth's finest troops to Barwhon V and Diess IV.