Authors: Stephen Arseneault
Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy
"A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
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Copyright 2015 Stephen Arseneault. All Rights Reserved
A full month had passed since Garrett's departure for Adicus. With the detours he had planned on his flight out, I was expecting word from him any day. When the comm call came through, his report was not what I had envisioned.
Garrett's image illuminated my holo-display. "Everything went perfectly until I tried to get swept out to Adicus. The closest station said their gate was down. I had to make the four-day journey by flying. That was after the station people told me it had been quarantined. When I arrived in the system, there was no response from the Adicus security people. The planet is abandoned. Everybody is gone. I've looked all over. I even checked the logs at the portal. Other than passing through comm signals, it has been blocked off, and the logs say it was last used twelve days ago. They had to have all been conscripted."
I sighed. "Spend a day and see what you can find. If that's the case, we will only have a few months to try to get to her before they all get shipped off to Andromeda."
Garrett nodded and returned to his search for information. I sat down on a chair just outside of my ship. Had we waited too long? If Joni was there, was she being prepared for a one-way trip to Andromeda? I wondered if we would ever find out what had happened.
Gerald was sitting in his usual chair. "You don't look so good over there. Something wrong?"
I walked over and sat in another chair across from him. "A woman we have been looking for has gone missing from where we thought she would be. It's a long story."
Gerald held his hands out to his sides. "We've got four hours to kill before we go out again. I've got the time if you do."
I replied, "You might not believe what I have to say."
Gerald gestured for me to proceed. "Please. You showed up out here, got enslaved, and then became emperor of a planet. Spew it."
I leaned back in my chair and took a deep breath. "I would guess that you have heard the rumors about whole colonies disappearing in some of the remote sectors. I'm not talking about Effica, where it was the Talisans. I'm talking about something much different."
Gerald nodded. "I've heard the rumors."
I continued, "Well, they aren't disappearing. They are being conscripted to go off to fight a war."
Gerald half laughed. "What war? There aren't any wars going on. Haven't been since the AMP was created."
I shook my head. "That's where you are wrong. There is a war being fought in Andromeda. The portal gate to there from Alpha Prime has been shut down for some time. There is no travel to and from Andromeda, except by the military."
Gerald again half laughed. "We don't have a military."
I replied, "Yes, we do. A new shipyard has been constructed in the Theta sector. The Saltons have created their own military, and somehow acquired a portal gate that allows them to send moderately large warships through to Andromeda as well. There has been an invasion from outside the six galaxies. Already nearly a quarter of Andromeda has been overrun.
"The Saltons have been sending everything they can to help with the fight, only we are losing badly at every battle. Harden Salton's advisers convinced him that he would not be able to raise a volunteer army given the condition of the economies of most colonies, which we both know doesn't make sense. So they turned to conscription on a colony scale."
Gerald leaned forward. "Wait. You are telling me they are taking whole colonies off to fight a war?"
I nodded. "They surround colonies and take everyone away. The elderly are supposedly put into care, the children are put into government schools. Those who are slightly less able are forced to work on the war effort behind the lines. Anyone of any age who is deemed able to fight is trained, outfitted, and sent to the front. The war has been raging for several years, and supposedly no one has returned from the fighting."
Gerald crossed his arms. "Well, that's just great. The New Alliance is just snatching people to go off and fight their war for them."
I shook my head. "It's not that simple. If this outside force takes over Andromeda, what's to stop them from coming here to the Triangulum or to any of the six galaxies? Currently, the Saltons are the only ruling family of the New Alliance who are trying to do anything to stop this. The other families, except for the one being taken over in Andromeda, refuse to contribute any resources to the fight.
"I am not a big believer in the Saltons or the way they do business. But, when I talked to Harden Salton, he had some things to say that made sense. If the New Alliance falls apart, we become nothing more than weak individual colonies. Together, we can muster the resources to fight back. I don't like the conscriptions, but at the moment we don't have much of a choice."
Gerald shook his head. "Why aren't they coming to the people? Tell us what's happening. With the economies in such sad shape, he would probably have all the volunteers he needed. If this war is so big, you want to have all your people behind it."
I nodded. "I would agree. That's my reasoning as well. I was told that I didn't have all the facts and that the advisers were taking the best course of action. I just don't know that I agree that sending whole colonies to their death is the best course, certainly not for those colonists."
Gerald placed his hands behind his head. "Wow. That is some heavy stuff you've been carrying around. And your friend was on one of these colonies that just got conscripted. I wondered what you and Mr. Williams were up to. You always seemed to have a second agenda working. I'm guessing this must be a special friend if you were willing to go through all this trouble."
I replied, "It's Harden Salton's niece."
Gerald laughed. "Hahaha! Well, that serves him right, then!"
I shook my head. "No, she is not deserving of such. Unlike her uncle, she has a sense of what's right and wrong."
Gerald leaned forward. "It's evident that you don't really like Harden Salton, but I have heard you extol the virtues of the New Alliance time and again over the last few months. I don't get it."
I replied, "It's simple. Together we are strong. Make us individuals and there are those who will fight, steal, enslave, and do anything they can to give themselves advantage or privilege. If we fall back to having individual colonies, there will inevitably be wars between them, or between groups of them. We could do without the ruling families, but we need the Alliance."
Garrett interrupted as he came over the comm. "It was definitely conscription. I dug into the media files for the week it happened. The Saltons surrounded the planet with some of their new warships. The Adicans were prepared to fight, but Harden Salton outflanked them. Instead of an all-out assault, he sent troops down and captured several small villages. He threatened to butcher all the citizens in them if those in charge didn't join him in the Andromeda war. He was convincing enough that they took his deal to join the military. Once they understood that a war was already underway, they chose to join him instead of fight him."
I replied, "I'm starting to see a pattern here. All of the planets in the Alpha sector that we have seen conscripted were the planets with the most unrest. Adicus had revolted, but even with all the blasters the Orwallians had shipped them, they didn't have the power or defenses to stand up to the Saltons. Also, by plucking out the worst offenders, he strengthens the alliance through rumor and intimidation if nothing else."
Garrett looked around his cockpit. "Well, I have a trade ship loaded with ore samples. If they are building ships in Theta, they need raw materials. I think I'm going to make a trip over there to see if I can work out any deals. That will give me an excuse to nose around. The flight is four days to get back to the station. From there I can use the portals to head out to Theta."
I replied, "Keep me posted. If you run into any trouble, let me know. I don't know that I can do anything from here, but we do have resources at our disposal."
Garrett closed the comm.
I turned back to Gerald. "The Captain was wanting to get back to his desk this week. He wants me to partner up with you for any pirate activity. Do you think you could convince him to stick with you for another week? I need to spend some time at Dallex."
Gerald nodded. "Yeah, the Captain likes me for some reason. I'll tell him I need his help. He wants to get back to his desk so he can bury himself in paperwork without anyone bothering him. With those new systems you managed to get for the office, he doesn't have much paper to bury himself in anyway. I'll take care of the Captain, you go do what you need to do."
I arrived at the capital city on Dallex through a portal. Go was waiting to collect me for a ride out to the shipyards.
We lifted off in a small shuttle. "How are things going out here?"
Go half smiled. "It's actually kind of boring. The Talisans don't need much supervision. I mostly watch."
I let out a deep breath. "I have something I think we need to discuss. Something big."
After setting down the aircar and stepping out onto the landing deck, Go pointed to his office. "OK, let's talk. Oh, and I have a surprise for you in the office. I was going to bring it to you, but you are here. So, you can take it with you when you leave."
We entered the office. Go immediately went for a box sitting in the corner. I sat as he set the box on the table in front of me.
Go smiled. "Open it!"
I ripped open the top of the container wide enough to see inside. It was coffee! Enough to last for a month! I had not had coffee since being sent to Omega.
I looked up with a grin. "Where did you find this?"
Go laughed. "Hold on. I'm taking in that grin. I don't think I've seen that expression on your face before. I knew you liked coffee, as you mentioned it before, but wow!"
Go continued, "I pulled a few strings and found a trader who specialized in importing it. There are several colony governors that have it brought in. It's expensive, but I think we can keep you supplied for the foreseeable future."
I wanted to grab the young Human for a hug. Coffee was something I had craved, but had no access to since the beginning of my exile.
I looked down, humbled. "I don't know what to say. I was not expecting this."
Go pulled out a coffee brewer and powered it up. A packet of beans was poured into the machine and a grinder switched on. Go poured water into an attached container from a pitcher. Thirty seconds later, a cup of hot, fresh brew was sitting in front of me. I took a moment to smell the steam coming off the top of the surprise. My nostrils were filled with the happiness that coffee brought.
Go sat in his chair. "So, what are you here for?"
I held up my hand as I took a small sip. "First, thank you, thank you. This was something I needed. Second, if you took the best fighting ship the Talisan yards produce, and you add the technologies we have on the
, how long would it take to turn out a new ship and then each subsequent ship after that?"
Go sat back to think. "Hmm. They have been taking four weeks to turn out the smaller gunships, and three months for one of their big ships. If we applied the efficiency they have at everything they do here to updating the gunships, I think it would add a couple of weeks to the process. For the big ship, maybe an extra month. Why?"
I replied, "We may be in need of a small fleet. One that has all the advancements the
has on her. I'm thinking maybe a dozen of the big ships and fifty of the gunships to support them."
Go pursed his lips. "I think we can handle that construction-wise. What we are lacking is computers with the power of those on the
. Those are hard to come by. There are probably only a handful of them in Omega right now. Aside from the computers, there is also the question of raw materials, things like ion conduits. Oh, and blasters. We would have to strip the Talisans and the Feldons of the blaster rifles they have. I don't think they are going to want to give them up."
"I'll contact Garrett," I said. "He might be able to trade some ore stockpiles for computers or maybe even blasters. The Orwallians seem eager to export blasters. I'm sure he could work up a deal for a supply."
Go tepidly raised his hand. "What is it that you need these ships for, Mr. Beutcher? You know we are already in violation of the New Alliance laws for having armed ships with what we have. What are you planning?"
I took another sip of the coffee. "What I'm planning is irrelevant at the moment. How long would it take you to construct the ships I need?"
Go shrugged. "Hmm. If I had everything, four months. If you make this a priority, since you
the Emperor, we could probably pull that in to only three."
I replied, "That's for all of them? Four months?"
Go nodded. "Well, yeah. We have twenty construction bays out there. Once you have the hull put together, you can move it out of the bay for the next one to be worked on. The Talisan population is nearly four hundred million strong, and they all work for you. Give the order, and they will start organizing for it today."
I shook my head.
Go spoke. "What's wrong?"
I replied, "This is wrong. No one person should have this much power."
Go laughed. "Well, you better get used to it. Until you are dead, they are going to do whatever you say. You want an armada, they will build you one. And if it's for a good purpose, which I suspect it is, you could look at it as if they are paying for their past atrocities."
I sighed. "Have them begin. I will contact Garrett for the items we need. Oh, and how is the Feldon resettling coming? Have the Talisans been providing them with everything they need?"
Go nodded. "They are doing well. In fact, the Feldons have been asking for less help and more equipment that they can use themselves. I've done my best to supply them with what I could. Even though it was the Talisans who caused them this trouble, they don't want the Talisans to be involved in their recovery. Kind of a principle thing."
I replied, "The Feldons are a proud people. The fact that they want to do this themselves is a good sign."