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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 38: Brown 253
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 223
Derek was more informed about what the aliens might do, as he had been the First Officer on its sister ship in another dimension. Despite the vast size of the Wanderer, which had been fifty miles long and twenty-five miles in diameter, he thought they would prefer the use of renewable resources. In this case that meant energy beam attacks instead of missile launches.
Another factor was that the aliens aboard The Seeker had robots which could be programmed as warbots. He expected that the aliens would prefer to send in warbots than actual infantry as he had seen no trace of a gain-honor-thru-war culture like that of his friend, Bob. Add in their air superiority, and he could envision a landing of robots overseen by a cover of flying saucers. In the midst of this, and well protected, would be a small command group of aliens.
Drop sixty-four groups like that on those sites of interest, and take them over. Any that don’t yield quickly get a softening up with orbital weapons, and then another group gets sent in. After that, demand surrender from the planet.
It could work, Derek thought, running his fingers through his hair. Joe walked in, and Derek spun ready to fight. Joe just stood still, raised his hands, and smiled until Derek relaxed.
“Bit touchy.” Joe said, walking up, and joining Derek fully inside the spaceship.
“I know. Let me see your head.” Derek bent his head, and Joe’s quick fingers ran over his scalp, and then the head was released.
They just stood there a half minute, neither sure what to say, when Derek spoke again. “What’s up?”
“Oh, an ambassador from one of the nearby nation states got all aggravated when we revealed to the world his secret testing site.”
“We straightened him out, but Derek, the local politics are going to be a problem, I think.”
The two thought some more, but no ideas came to either.
“I could take over, let you sleep.” Joe offered, but Derek shook his head in negation.
“It's quiet and peaceful at night. Gives me time to seriously think.” And then he spilled his theory of how the aliens might attack. Joe nodded.
“Could be--but do they have the ships for that? I realize that the mother ship is huge, but when it was launched the plan was to survey planets until one was found suitable for settlement, and then land the mother ship on it. They would need ships the size of this one for surveys, and they could retrofit these for fighters, but they couldn’t really do troop transports in any number with them. So either they would have needed larger ships at the outset, or they’d have had to have built them while in transit, and I don’t really see either of those scenarios playing out.”
Adjusting his position, he continued, “I have a darker theory, spawned by history. Way back on Earth, before my time or yours, the Arabs and the Jews and the Europeans came to Africa. They bargained for slaves. The local chieftains were quite eager to sell their prisoners of war as slaves.”
“I didn’t hear that part in my history class.” Derek said.
Joe smiled sadly.
“As you can imagine, it had a bit more personal interest to me. So I dug a little deeper than the schoolbook histories go. Very few people covered themselves in glory in that abominable trade. One of the few was William Wilberforce, who for Christian reasons got an end put to it in England. I suppose as an atheist, it's not blasphemy for me to say ‘thank God for Wilberforce’.”
Derek was listening attentively to this history, as he had been taught the cultural norm. It was not like Joe to bring up such things, for Joe was usually just Joe. Sure, he was black, and former Army, but those were small parts of his identity. So why was Joe bringing this up now?
“You’re afraid that the locals would sell their less fortunate kin to the aliens as slaves?”
“Or Chicken Nuggets.” Both laughed grimly at that bit of gallows humor.
Derek snapped his fingers.
“That might be what they think I’m doing now. The Wanderer came by, loaded up on nuggets or slaves, and left. I’m to follow them, and so I’m negotiating with the locals for more nuggets before I leave.”
It made a sort of sense--but then so did a dozen other theories. It could be just catastrophizing.
“We don’t have enough information.” Joe said. “Derek, you’re a hacker aren’t you? Could you--somehow--?”
“Maybe. They stopped transmitting, but that doesn’t mean everything is shut down. They have to have open receivers because they have ships in the air who might have to report something. I’m sure I could find a way to slip in a side door. But that’s the sort of thing that might get peaceful people mad, Joe. We might start a war that we wanted to avoid.”
Joe breathed in and out.
“Do it. We really need to see what they are thinking. But--”
“Be very, very cautious.”
Looking troubled, Joe nodded, mentioned he’d be back later to relieve Vashti in the morning shift, and left Derek to his attempt to find a small, unwatched mousehole to slip into.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #482: Versers Engage. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: