GENELLAN: First Victory
by Scott G. Gier
Publication date: 1997
Copyright © 1997 by Scott G. Gier
Permission to download this sample for personal use only is hereby granted by Scott G. Gier. It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted text without permission in writing from the author.
THE BATTLES BEGIN
Over the long months of his maiden interstellar voyage Tar Fell fretted upon the debilitating effects of entering hyperlight. Captain Ito asserted the kones would grow accustomed to the unsettling transition. Little assured, Tar Fell steeled himself for his second hyperlight event.
The exit into Sol System proved even more disconcerting than the jump into hyperlight. Stomach-churning vibrations wracked the armada-master; vertigo disconnected mind from body. After an eternity, the internal oscillations dampened out. Tar Fell opened his eyes and struggled to regain a reference to physical dimension. A concerned Captain Ito scrutinized him from the human technical bridge. Tar Fell managed a weak smile. The human returned to his instruments.
"All systems are performing," Flotilla-General Magoon gasped, breaking the ship-wide silence. "All grid links are stable."
"Very well," Tar Fell acknowledged, his nausea ebbing only begrudgingly. They had done it. They had jumped from hyperspace. Kones had traveled the stars. Other stations reported; the swelling operational babble resonated with near delirious excitement. Tar Fell shook off the persistent, cloying after-effects. His joy bladders discharged wantonly. His suit-environment filters ran at high power. They had done it.
All about him bridge crew stared at the vid-images and navigation screens. Tar Fell was compelled to move to the observation blister, to see with his own eyes the wonders of an alien star system. There he found Ambassador Kateos, her eye tufts like spring steel.
"It is beautiful," she said.
"As are all destinations after a long and dangerous voyage," Tar Fell replied, yet his excitement was near uncontained. A bejeweled crescent dazzled his eyes. Earth, the human home planet, afforded bright contrast to the infinite blackness of deep space. It was no wonder the humans were so obsessed with Genellan. Hanging before him was that planet's sublime twin.
"Constellations we have never seen," Kateos uttered. "How feel you?" Captain Ito asked in improving konish. The helmeted human floated alongside the kones.
Tar Fell tore his gaze from the blue-streaked pearl. "It-ah is ... beyond words," Kateos replied for both of them.
"How soon before we descend?" Tar Fell asked.
"Admiral Chou has-ah established contact with the Legion Assembly," Ito replied. "An orbital lander is being prepared for your--"
"We have decided to use our own ships, Captain," Kateos replied, swelling her mountainous diaphragm. "Armada-Master Tar Fell, you will prepare a lander to transport me to Earth."
"As the ambassador desires," Tar Fell replied. He pulled himself to the deck and executed a formal bow. "Captain Ito," Kateos continued. "I wish to make an announcement to the people of your planet. To all people of Earth. Would you make arrangements for that to happen, Captain?"
"I-ah will inform the authorities," Captain Ito said. The human started to turn away but checked his motion.
"Ambassador Kateos," Ito said. "May I have-ah the privilege of accompanying your landing party?"
"Regretfully not, Captain," Kateos replied.
Ito's eyes widened, belying his otherwise impassive features. "I will-ah attend to your request," Ito said, bowing. The human pushed off and floated from the observation blister.
"You surprise me," Tar Fell said, watching the human depart. "Captain Ito has been of great assistance. He is worthy of our trust."
"Captain Ito has my unending trust," Kateos replied. "But I am ambassador to the planet Earth, not just to a single human government."
"Ah!" Tar Fell rumbled. "I detect Citizen Sharl's handiwork."
"Actually," Kateos replied, "Citizen Hudsawn." The day of the konish landing was declared a global holiday by all governments of the human home planet. On that day the turbid agony of terrestrial civilization was suspended, hunger so briefly forgotten, despair shunted aside; even greed was superseded, for this was an event affecting all humans. The most wretched man, the most destitute woman had inalienable rights of ownership to their own world, if only as slaves to the land. On this day the community of man was host to a race of beings from another world. Denizens from planet Kon, kones of the Genellan legends, Titans from space, were to walk upon planet Earth. Word of the impending event flew round the world, faster than rumor, spreading to the dimmest reaches of human existence. Riots and mass demonstrations became hushed assemblies of the curious, crowding about vid screens and shortwave sets. Crime stopped. Wars ceased in place; armies deserted the field, abandoning their weapons. Where people were not fleeing storm or fire, they huddled in their hovels, listening, watching ... hoping.
Billions observed the actual landing on holo-vids and ancient televisions, three black cylinders from space on thundering columns of fire, majestic against the smog-shrouded Canadian Rockies. Touchdown was in a remote corner of the Alberta Military Test Grounds, under a mantle of Legion security. The event had been long anticipated; the konish extraterritorial enclave, a special environmental facility, awaited its extraterrestrial tenants.
Upon landing, the kones summarily evicted all humans from their embassy, rejecting all audio and video communications. Konish work crews set about remedying construction deficiencies necessary to support their stay, and konish security teams patrolled the two-hundred square kilometers buffering their embassy. All humans were restricted from the environs, but two divisions of Tellurian Legion paratroopers guarded its perimeters, keeping at bay curious mobs and adventurous neurotics.
All delegations were refused access to the konish legation, not even President Socrates Duffy and the Legion Council. Thus it was that Captain Ito, on the day of Ambassador Kateos's address to Earth's population, occupied an uncomfortable chair in the richly paneled Legion Council chambers. President Duffy and the council, nursing their relegation, were enthroned on the rosewood and mahogany bench symbolic of their office, impatiently waiting for the ambassador's speech to commence. President Duffy exhibited little energy. He seemed distant from the proceedings. There were rumors of degenerative illness, maladies beyond medical science's ability to repair. The burly politician was not yet eighty years of age.
Ito was surrounded by senior fleet staff, including Admiral Chou and Vice Admiral Klein, Commander of Fleet Science and Intelligence. On the vid screens was displayed the sigil of the konish Planetary Defense Force. A countdown clock displayed the minutes remaining until the ambassadorial address commenced. The time remaining numbered mere minutes, but the countdown was on hold while a balky communication satellite hookup over the Indian subcontinent was remedied.
Business was conducted while the august body waited. The main holo-vid displayed the galactic region where the Ulaggi were most likely to be encountered--the Red Zone. That area of highest contact probability loomed nearer to Earth, inexorably reaching out as the universal gravitronic radials re-aligned. Dr. Jean-Marie Thoreau, the chief architect of Legion hyperlight technologies, and Admiral Klein briefed the President. Brightly colored data points marked the relative positions of Earth and Kon. Also garishly delineated were the Ulaggi contacts at Shaula, Oldfather, Scorpio Minor, Hornblower, and Pitcairn.
Admiral Klein, tall and elegant, summarized the recent technical advances in hyperlight technology. Ito remembered the senior fleet intelligence officer as having raven hair elegantly streaked with a snowy ribbon. No longer, Vice Admiral Klein's long hair had gone uniformly to white in the last year. Dark shadows haunted her dark eyes. Here was a human being who understood her plight. "Marvelous work. I must meet Scientist Dowornobb," Dr. Thoreau muttered. The thin old man distractedly rubbed his snow-white crew-cut. "Superb thinking."
"Will you be jumping to Genellan, Doctor?" Admiral Chou asked. Dr. Thoreau, the human expert on hyperlight travel, had never once left his native planet. Several members of the council cleared their throats with poorly concealed amusement.
"Tempting," Dr. Thoreau replied, nonplused. "I should like to see Commander Buccari again, but no, we have too many changes to make in the Avenger battleships. Gravitronic arrays must be designed and outfitted. I dare say I can improve on Dowornobb's design. His work inspires me."
"We must work fast, Doctor," Vice Admiral Klein said. "Admiral Runacres' mission into the Red Zone is likely to raise the ante."
"Ah, Admiral Klein, you also disapprove of Admiral Runacres' cavalier foray?" a deep, smoothly modulated voice inquired. Secretary of State Stark rose from his prominent position in the Cabinet well. Up to that point the Tellurian Legion Secretary of State had been uncharacteristically quiet. Long of face and heavy-featured, the secretary's presence dominated the room. His glistening, jet black hair and improbably smooth skin belied his years, as did his erect posture.
"On the contrary, Mr. Secretary," Vice Admiral Klein replied.
"I am confused," Stark said. Obscenely large jewels studding his ear lobes sparkled like beacons in the chamber's diffuse light. "You implied, on balance, Runacres' penetration will cause problems."
"Admiral Runacres' purpose is clear," Klein replied too sharply. "It is the secretary's thinking that is confused."
"You are insulting!" a council member thundered, a heavy-set general in the gold and red service dress of the Alberta Brigade. The tension in the room blossomed. For reasons Ito failed to understand, Stark was rabidly supported by the Legion Army general staff and by the privileged electorate.
"Admiral Runacres is undertaking a calculated risk," Klein continued.
"A calculated risk?" Stark replied.
"There will never be a better opportunity to rescue hostages--"
"What proof of hostages?" Stark demanded. "Runacres seeks to rescue something that may not exist, at the cost of putting twelve billion living human beings at risk."
"Those billions are already at risk, Mr. Secretary," Admiral Chou preempted. "Sir, our crews face certain death as a matter of routine. We buttress their loyalty by demonstrating our willingness to retrieve them from the most hopeless situations. Knowing with confidence that we will fight for them, our spacers will fight to the death for us." "Nobly spoken, Admiral," Stark replied. "But sir, assuming these hostages are still alive, your own intelligence indicates they are descendants of the AC fleet destroyed at Shaula. These are not crews from a Tellurian Legion Fleet, Admiral."
"They are human beings, Mr. Secretary," Chou replied. "We should all claim membership to that fleet, sir ... even you."
"Outrageous!" shouted the Alberta Brigade general. Other uniformed council members added their approbation.
"Enough," President Duffy said, his deep voice retaining sufficient power to halt all discussion. "It is time."
The countdown to the address had resumed. The vid images of the PDF emblem dissolved to reveal a lectern backdropped by midnight-blue drapery. Kateos's Gargantuan form moved gracefully before the konish embassy vid-cams. With difficulty Ito straightened in his chair. The full gravity of Earth rested on his shoulders, but he realized his burden was vastly increased by morbid depression. The government of the Tellurian Legion, nay of all Earth, was hopelessly ineffective. All mankind was threatened, and human leadership remained immersed in their petty squabbles.
That Stark's political star continued to rise was astounding. This was the human responsible for Legion diplomacy. The disconnect was overwhelming. King Ollant would have no part of the man, and even the most opportunistic of the southern konish governments refused his gratuitous overtures. Stark was powerful because he was rich, and because he promised his powerful constituency whatever they wanted. That he rarely delivered was moot. He had innumerable and convincing excuses; it was not his fault that the planet was falling apart. He had convinced his following that if it were not for him, the world would disintegrate all the more faster. Even faced with the end of humanity, Stark's only concern was to improve his own lot, to gain more power, power for its own sake. Stark was a predatory insect seeking dominion over an anthill before the advance of a thousand year flood.
"Citizens of Earth," the konish ambassador announced, yanking Ito from his ennui. Kateos's voice was deep, clear, and strong. "I bring you greetings from the planet Kon."
Kateos's demeanor was self-assured, quietly powerful. Its effect on Ito was narcotic. Her speech, by human political standards, was appallingly brief. She politely disavowed any obligation or allegiance to the Legion. Next she invited delegations from all nations to visit the konish embassy, apologizing gracefully for making them come to her.
As Kateos spoke, an awareness overcame Ito. The konish female possessed those qualities of leadership so desperately lacking in his own government. Earth's government was in the hands of dangerously ineffectual and self-absorbed bureaucrats. There was no one in charge, no one responsible. Kateos, if only for the moment, had taken command of his entire planet, a feat no human could duplicate.
Ito's brain flashed with hot revelation. He was no longer conscious of Kateos's comforting words. There was a person, one human being who could take command of Earth.
Sharl Buccari could be the leader of humanity. Buccari's standing among the people of the Earth had already attained international cult status, and without her ever attending to their clamor. Even the government of Kon, northern and southern, deferred to her intangible powers, her charisma. Ito realized with the force of gravity and light--Buccari was humanity's best hope, against the Ulaggi peril and against humanity's own short-sighted selfishness.
Ito's veins coursed with a peculiar energy, an evangelical fervor. He would be her first apostle. His mind roiled with implication.
"She speaks Legion better than I do," President Duffy remarked. Kateos's address had ended. The vid-image changed to a functionary familiar to Ito. The kone was detailing the order and timing of state visits. Kateos would be extremely busy over the ensuing months.
"Louder, too," Stark said, drawing a laugh from the council.
"She seemed without guile," remarked a council member.
"Do not be fooled," Stark replied. "Ambassador Kateos is an extremely competent negotiator. She will lull you to sleep and then steal the pillow from under your head."
Stark's scurrilous words penetrated Ito's grand thoughts. The officer jumped to his feet. He was compelled to rush the cabinet well and throttle Stark. He grabbed the lacquered railing before him and restrained himself, trying to remove the rage from his face. Everyone in the room glanced up at his sudden movement, Stark among them. At that moment an assistant handed Stark a communication. The secretary glanced down, giving it cursory notice, but then its contents captured his full attention.
"Captain Ito," Stark announced, looking up, "the konish ambassador desires your presence. She requests that you attend to her emissary in the capacity of official representative of the Tellurian Legion. May I welcome you to the State Department, sir."