Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Short Story: Playing Games With Planets

Playing Games With Planets

“Okay, you can have Cortesia if I can have Concordia. I'm rather fond of Concordia having taken my daughter there on her birthday once. The purple grass plains of the Midshires is indelibly inked to my memories” The rotund elderly man in a brown suit, pausing to puff a cigar.

The other man regarded these comments while studying a holographic map floating in the ether between them. Many of the stars on the galactic map were either red or blue.

“I guess Concordia can be yours but Cortesia is surrounded by your systems, cut off from mine, I'd like something contiguous. Maybe Hereford-Raskins would be better for this than Cortesia, although not nearly as nice a place to live.”

“I am amenable to that, good sir!”

They were sitting in old recliners surrounded by bookshelves. Or rather that was the visual image they desired for this meeting since it was all virtual. The thinner gray-haired man poured a glass of brandy for the other and handed it to him.

“I think, we have a deal Mr. Shanks,” he said, looking through some files on a hologram to the right side of his chair “Everything appears to be in order.”

“I agree, Mr. Andrews. I don't mind trading this and that. It's not like I can live on all of these planets just because I own them” Mr Shanks said sipping the brandy and puffing on the cigar. “I guess 'own' isn't the right word since I didn't buy them. I just took them, but they're still just as much mine.”

The thinner Andrews checked the pocket watch from his vest “These negotiations didn't take up nearly as much as I thought they might.”

“I'm not a hard man to deal with.” the older gentleman said “I'm quite genial in fact.”

A broad smile crossed the face of Mr. Andrews “I would tend to doubt the residents of the planets you own would agree to that.”

The older man laughed and cleared some phlegm from his throat “They might but they would be wrong since I hardly interfere directly in their affairs. It would be quite impossible to micro-manage the lives of everyone on a thousand and, what was it now, two worlds. No, Mr. Andrews, I put down guidelines and they have to live by them or, eventually, they face the consequences.”

“That is the only way it can be done with our positions” Mr. Andrews replied “Even with the staff I have, it is hard to keep track of everything. Have you any plans for dinner. Mr. Shanks, my kitchen is preparing quite the spread of steak and pheasant?”

Mr. Shanks was stading near the door putting on an overcoat. “That sounds splendid, please inform my chief of staff of the time for supper and I'll be there”

The two shook hands.

“May peace always prevail, Mr. Shanks”

“Ah yes, the alternative is quite unthinkable these days. Nothing to fight over between us or anyone else really, Mr. Andrews” Shanks said “All the planets and resources of the galaxy at our fingertips, more than any man could possibly need in fifty billion lifetimes”

“Quite true” Andrews answered as Shanks opened the door “Good day then” and vanished after stepping through the portal. Once the portal evaporated, the small library and the lounge chairs vanished as well. Andrews was standing in a transparent room, outside there were many members of his staff running about, doing their jobs for the empire.

A man in a blue uniform entered the room and handed Andrews a holographic data filament, it hovered in the air until Andrews gave it his identification code. “Alpha One Omega Tomorrow”, then it spread out and occupied a meter of space in front of him.

“Our fleets are all in position” the uniformed said “By this time next week, all will be prepared for the invasion. They won't know what hit them until it's over.”

Mr. Andrews smiled. “Finally, the entire galaxy will be united, under my control of course.”

“The old bulldog isn't going to go down easily, sir” the uniformed said “He's not a softie, he didn't get to his position being unprepared.”

Andrews tried to keep the smile but frowned instead. “I'm not a fool, Jenkins. We have studied and searched and can find no evidence that he has amassed any military power at all in his territories. It's almost as if we were being invited to try and take them!”

The officer nodded “And you are taking the bait?”

“We are taking the galaxy” Andrews answered “That is what we are doing. Do not misunderstand anything about this, I have one motive. Owning the Galaxy.”

“Just don't assume his territory is undefended, that is all I am saying. You'll end up throwing lives away unnecessarily.” the officer said before turning to leave but stopping at the door “I think he has something up his sleeve, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what it is first.”

Dinner that evening was a pleasant affair. The food was delicious, the best seven-courses that half the galaxy's bounty could provide. Mr. Shanks ate heartily and drank much wine. As far as the experts who were there and watching from afar he seemed to display no problems at all. No anxiety of knowing an invasion might be imminent or anything else.

“He has to know” one of the advisers said while they were meeting to discuss things “There is no chance he doesn't know by now.”

“Lord Shanks appears to know nothing about what Lord Andrews is going to do.” said another “He isn't massing any fleets to defend his worlds, there are no evacuations or sudden build-ups of defense systems. Almost as if they did not care.”

Lord Andrews paced back and form through a holographic map of the galaxy that took up the entire transparent room. The marks where his many invasion fleets were prepped and the target worlds were all over the place. He was concerned. Shanks had to have fleets, where were they? Why no moves to defend his worlds? Nothing at all was going on over there, or nothing they could see.

It was frustrating not to know. Infuriating that Shanks wanted to keep pretending that nothing would ever threaten peace again. “Nothing to fight over. Power is worth taking! Shanks should know this, or he doesn't deserve to be a lord!”

Another one of his loyal staff entered the room. “Nothing about this makes sense. I have contacted one of the spies on Lord Shanks Capitol Ship and my source knows nothing either. The spy might have been compromised, of course, but..” he threw his hands out.

The smart move would be to cancel the invasion, the open goal at the other end was an obvious trick to trap them. Somehow Lord Andrews did not think he could do that. He hated to think that he was being played but he was pretty dedicated to the invasion. Unite all of humanity, all of the galaxy under a firm hand, that was always his prime goal.

Weakness and navel-gazing caused empires to fall and Lord Andrews did not want to be another Clement Attlee who allowed an empire to crumble while pursuing dysfunctional baubles. Strength through strength is what a made an empire last, once you let the barbarians into the gates it was all over.

Lord Andrews would not change course. It was decided. If history would be the judge of this decision, let it. The invasion would go on as planned.

At the appointed hour the capitol ship of Lord Andrews floated in a gaseous cloud looking down upon the solar system where Cortesia lay. His fleet was highlighted on the exterior view-screen as it began moving at high speed. Lord Andrews tightened his hands into fists, his nerves were a bit frayed but he wanted to get this over with.

250 invasion fleets would hit the first systems at the same time, conquer them and send half their forces to conquer another 250 systems before the day was over. Andrews had chosen to watch the invasion of Cortesia because his mother had been born there.

The fleet was highlighted in red as it streaked into the solar system and then... vanished from the display.. ? His staff all gasped.

“What happened? Why is the fleet no longer highlighted on the view-screen?” he demanded to know.

“Your lordship,” one of his commanders said “The fleet has been destroyed”

“Destroyed? How? I see no enemy fleet marked on the view-screen!” he pointed, angrily, “Just tell me what happened!”

“Some sort of barrier was thrown up. It wasn't there before and we don't know where it came from, all of the invasion ships disintegrated on contact.” the highly decorated officer told him.

“What about the other fleets? How goes the other invasions?” Andrews asked, gasping for air, as he sat back down. “Are they all...?”

“All of the invasion fleets met the same fate, your lordship” came the answer. Lord Andrews felt like he would faint, everything was becoming blurry. He grabbed his seat and held it tightly until his vision returned to normal. As he looked forward and took a deep breath he saw the capitol ship of Lord Shanks dematerialize right outside. His staff was shocked, the military officers were shouted orders.

“I guess he came to gloat” Andrews told himself.

“Your lordship, Lord Shanks would like to have a word with you in the holographic room” someone said, he just nodded and trudged to the room. He hardly had the energy.

It was a green park-like setting this time and the old fatty was in plaid shorts sitting under a tree with a blanket spread out for a picnic. There was even a large picnic basket next to him and he was waving Andrews over like a best friend.

“You have got to try one of these cucumber sandwiches, old chap, they are simply exquisite” Shanks said as a greeting.

Andrews sat across from him and grabbed a goblet, he could definitely use a drink. Shanks poured out some wine into the cup and said “Drink up! We might get to play some cricket before the sun goes down.”

After taking a rather long drink, Andrews raised a hand “Let's get down to it. You've won. That barrier technology is something remarkable, I never saw it coming. Wiped out 250 invasion fleets in one go, quite a show.”

The rotund figure polished off one of the finger sandwiches. “Cheer up, old boy, you got one wish out of the deal. That's something, isn't it?”

Andrews frowned. “What do you mean I got one wish out of this?”

The old man laughed. “You wanted a united galaxy and now you have it”

Andrews was obviously lost so Lord Shanks filled him in “While your fleets were running head-long into walls, mine were taking over your worlds. I was beginning to wonder if you were going to do it or not. My fleets were waiting for months, those stealth shields eat up a bloody lot of energy too, I can tell you that.”

Lord Andrews closed his eyes and put a hand over his face. Failed. He couldn't believe he had failed so badly.

“Oh, it's not that bad.” Shanks told him “I'll tell you what. Let's start with Andromeda next. You can start on one side and I'll start on the other”

Just move on to the next galaxy, why not?

“Deal!” Lord Andrews said


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