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Apocalypse Now

Chapter Four: Prep School

By David bar Elias


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London, England, British Empire
August 24, 2003

The members of the Royal Defence Council, the special commission dictated by the Ministry of Defence to prepare for the Posleen attack, fidgeted in their seats as Sir Winston Voight began his presentation; the tall, earnest Voight was easily one of the brightest figures in the entire government...everyone would hang on his every word.

Winston Gordon Voight stood before a wall-sized screen. He stood calmly. None of the other members of the IDC had any idea that they would be receiving a very special guest for their final scheduled strategy session.

As it was, it was only when Queen-Empress Elizabeth III, and her husband, Jun-Tao (the second son of the first Emperor of the Sing Dynasty) entered the room that the presentation really got started. Her Majesty's entourage was sizable for the small room buried deep under the Ministry of Defence, and included the current Prime Minister, a Whig named Samuel Burgess, the Minister of Defence, Sir Nigel Stanwell, and members of the Queen's elite bodyguard- the Queen's Own Xia (wearing silent and deadly looks upon their faces....they would kill without the slightest hesitation if their Sovereign was threatened....the stories of how they'd foiled assassination plots against the Hanovers made even Voight shiver when reading the sterile reports), modelled after the philosophy of the Chinese 'Knights' who inspired them. Everyone else in the room straightened up when the ruler of the largest empire in world history sedately sat down, and bid the others to be seated. She had an aristocratic face that hid the homeliness of her more famous ancestors, such as Victoria, very well.

Voight let out a sigh of relief and signalled to the operators for the presentation to begin. The screen lit up with a map of the world, showing the red of the British Empire, the dark blue of Russia, and the light green of China. Light blue signified the NEU.

"Your Highness, gentlemen of the Royal Defence Council. After careful deliberation, and discussion with my counterparts from around the world-" [that is, mostly Russia and China]-"I have finalized the final lines of defence against the approaching Posleen."

Dark red lines suddenly appeared on the map, showing the main centres of British resistance. "First of all, the main fortifications. They will be cantered in the Rockies and the Appalachians in North America, with secondary lines in Mexican Tejas with their honourable cooperation of the Mexican government. This will be supplemented with the Central American fortified area to protect the Nicaraguan Canal. The fortified cities will include Baltimore, Philadelphia, Manhattan, and Charleston. The Rocky Mountain Lines will be a joint effort with Chinese Haijou and Russian Aleyeska." Slowly, Winston Voight began to trace his finger across the planet.

"Well, as for the rest of the Empire, we've had to make some hard decisions. Most of the African, Australian, Indian, and Middle Eastern union governments will have to be abandoned; our forces are stretched to the limit as it is, after the terrible losses on Diess and Barwhon." Several members of the RDC cast their heads down in disappointment. They didn't like the idea of abandoning any part of the Empire, and this had led to several extremely heated arguments before the men and women of the Defence Council swallowed their nationalism and bit down hard.

"However, all is not lost. In Africa, our main areas of defence will centre around the Rif Atlas, which we're coordinating from Gibraltar with the Spanish." Two purple lines appeared around Morocco and Spain, along with the red. "As well as in Egypt, where we will centre resistance around the Suez Canal, extending into Palestine, and anchored around Free Jerusalem."

Voight paused to catch his breath. Elizabeth III was staring at him intently. He thought that he could detect a glistening of tears in her eyes; he had just informed her, after all, of the total extent of territory that would be left for the Posleen.

"However," continued Voight. "The main centre of the African resistance will be cantered in Ethiopia." A large dark red circle appeared around central Ethiopia, which had been conquered by Britain during the great rush for colonies during the Second World War. "We're drawing down our forces from the Sudan to defend the SubUrbs in the central part of the mountainous zones. This will be supplemented with the fortified port city of Aden. The rest of the Middle East will see our resistance cantered in the upper portions of Mesopotamia and Syria. The Kurds will make excellent fighters, and we're coordinating this line with the Russian defences in their Persian territory." Sky blue lines appeared over the map.

"Australia will largely be abandoned, with Tasmania being fortified against any kind of attack, and a large centre of defence around Ayers Rock. The Posleen do not like the interior of the continents they land on. From what the Himmit have managed to tell us, they need water...even contaminated or putrid water, in order to continue through the deserts. We can hope that they stick to the coasts in their foraging for food."

Voight paused for dramatic effect. He still had the rapt attention of all in the room. Despite holding himself high as a very brave man, he could feel his sovereign's eyes boring into his chest. Turning back to the map, Voight pointed to the Himalaya-Kush Line.

"Now, the biggest defences outside of the British Isles and North America will be reserved for the H-K...the Himalaya-Kush Defensive Line. With this line, we can hope, under the best circumstances, to keep the Posleen out of former Afghanistan, as well as the Himalayas themselves. This will be supplemented with the fortified island of Ceylon, and of course, the massive Chinese defence lines stretching across Tibet and Nepal." Both former nations had been conquered by the Shang-Kun Emperor, and had a long history of a Chinese military presence. The Ghurkha in particular (who, as it was, served in both the British and Chinese armed forces), would be more than a match for any Posleen invasion force in that kind of terrain. Dark green lines stretched across the Chinese portions of the line.

"As for the British Isles," said Voight, bringing his finger back to Europe. "We plan to turn Calais, Brittany, and Hanover into fortress cities and zones, to keep the Posleen from sweeping across the Channel. Ireland and Scotland are being reformed into redoubts, anchored around both the Hadrian Line in Scotland and the Black Prince Line in Wales. London, Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester will be our fortress cities."

Voight turned to face his audience. "Now, that, in an oak-seed, is our defence strategy. Once the Posleen sweep our satellites and space stations from the sky, the Global Command Centres, spread across the map-" at this, black dots popped up across the globe- "will be our only effective way of communication. Now, your Highness," ventured Voight to Elizabeth III. "Are there any questions required?"

"Yes," said Queen Elizabeth, in a calm but stately manner. "How many of my loyal subjects can be saved from this nightmare?"

"Your Majesty," said Voight pointing to the map. "Most of the areas that will be in the path of the Posleen that we can't defend are already cleared of civilians. Many of the first SubUrbs have been completed, and refugees are moving into them as we speak. Here in Britain, for instance, most of the population is already being directed to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The Himalaya-Kush Line will shelter millions of our own citizens from India as well as from China. And, we've managed to set aside millions of your Majesty's subjects for our Lunar and Martian outposts, not counting the skilled citizenry that's stationed in the Forge." Voight was afraid that Elizabeth would press on for more specifications...and Voight, being the loyal Imperial, could hardly stomach the idea of trying to tell his Sovereign just how many wouldn't make it...particularly in Africa, Australia, and India. He couldn't even be sure if the Posleen would ignore Luna like the Darhel and Himmit had assured the Terrans of....his own misgivings about the Darhel had been explained clearly to RDC, which had duly noted his concerns, and spoken of them no more, convinced that it was mostly paranoia.

"Of course," said Voight gingerly. "We still haven't decided the strongest safehold for Your Majesty's safety and continued surviv-"

"I'm staying in London, of course," said Elizabeth III with such a suddenness that even the alert Voight felt himself caught off guard. "I will not abandon my capital her hour of need."

Shades of World War II, thought Voight, remembering how the House of Hanover had lost one King (William IV) in the last Russian bombing raids on London during the Second World War (in 1912, if he remembered the date correctly).

"Your Majesty," said Voight. "The Romanovs are sitting deep under the Urals, and the Sing Dynasty has relocated to Lhasa. You're far too precious to us to be Posleen fodder. Prince Henry was lucky only to lose an arm in that last bombing raid. The Posleen, if they break through into London, won't give a hoot about your status. Half a billion people are looking to the House of Hanover, Sovereign." Voight tapped the map again. "You're staying behind the Hadrian least."

Queen-Empress Elizabeth didn't try to protest. She had probably already gotten this lecture beforehand. Inwardly, Winston Voight began to kick himself for being too blunt on the issue.

The meeting went on for another hour as individual members of the government asked questions about the deployment of the troops to aid the aforementioned union governments, the efforts to reverse-engineer Galactic technology, and the handling of refugees from the French and German states that were seeking the protection of London for the Posleen War. But Elizabeth didn't say anything again.....not once.

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