Elder of the Conclave (cont.)

[I’m back! This is a continuation of this story. I doubt I’ll return to this little universe, at least for a long while, but I fell out of the habit of writing for awhile and wanted to get back into it with something relatively easy. It’s good to be back]

“How is this not a declaration of war?” Premier Asam growled, leaning over the table, staring incredulously at her Foreign Minister, Giermond.

“Comrade Premier, please understand,” Giermond said, rubbing his temple through his veil. None of them had slept much the previous night. Reports had been sporadic at first, but by morning local time, the only communication out of the Niyati system had been a civilian interlink clogged with terrified personal messages and cries for help. Asam and her Presidium had already been awake, waiting for news on the Gorgon Fleet, but that had been forgotten with the arrival of the Verid Citadel.

Giermond continued, “To say the Verid have a government at all is misleading. They have a legislature and an executive, but the posts are largely ceremonial at this point, filled only by tradition. Whatever power they have is nominal at the best of times. In all likelihood, the Basilica of Verimos has no idea this Citadel has entered our space.”

Asam leaned back in her chair and threw up her hands, “So you’re telling me; a Verid citadel, with all the armament needed to wipe a mid-sized star system clean of all life, can park itself in our territory, but don’t worry, it’s not a declaration of war because they’re not taking orders from anybody.”

“That might be the best case scenario,” Haga Druge, her Chief of Staff grumbled, “Our best projections suggest a mobilization of Verid forces against us is one of the scenarios that likely starts the dominos falling. The Marrikese will make their move in the immediate aftermath, and once that happens…”

“Alright,” Asam waved them down, “So what do we have to do to make sure this isn’t a prelude to full mobilization? Who do we talk to?”

“Normally,” Giermond blinked the tiredness out of his six eyes, “We would ask the Verid Ambassador to the Conclave, but they haven’t sent us one in almost two years.”

“Then who was at my inauguration?” Asam asked, blinking confusion, “Somebody from Verimos congratulated me.”

“Ah, yes. That’s Cassalius. He lives at the embassy,” Giermond opened his arms as if that explained everything.

“He ‘lives at the embassy?’ What does that even mean?” Asam was angry enough to let her voice rise.

“He was the ambassador about 70 years ago,” said Giermond.

“And what, he just never left?” Asam asked, incredulous.

“That’s fairly accurate, Comrade Premier,” Giermond said nodding.

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News

New Job Hype!

*ahem*

I started a new job this week.

I had hoped that while making preparations for my change in employment I’d find the time to write this weeks story still, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen before next week.

So nothing new this week, but come back next week and we’ll be back to business as usual.

 

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Jane’s War (part 5)

Jane (23.2.120.3) woke and stretched.

She spent some time trying to work a kink out of her arm before remembering that particular arm wasn’t there anymore.

She looked about for her arm. It was on the nightstand, and she had to reach over Bineshii to grab it.

As she did, she took some time to examine Bineshii without her armor.

Long black hair had come loose from her tight braid as they’d slept, falling like ink over dusky skin. She stirred, the feathers of her wings ruffling a bit.

Jane couldn’t get over the wings.

She had assumed the bulky, rucksack like protrusion on her armor had been accommodating a hump or a growth, but Bineshii had said the Julians had taken an interest and committed to “refining” her mutation.

And so Bineshii had two feathered wings, as black as her hair.

Jane thought of the angels that made up the mandatory religion of Homeland. By law they were always portrayed with white feathers and skin, but Bineshii seemed infinitely more beautiful to Jane.

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Long ago

Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the roads, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments destroying us. It had nearly happened, she knew that, but that was ages ago. A memory of her parent’s time, when angry men had shouted from a million television screens “Better Dead than Red.” It was not a part of her world. She lived in a world where there was no such danger, she thought.

Surely people knew better, she would tell herself, surely we’re smarter than that. And besides, there are smart people at the helm, they know better than to steer us back towards the edge.

She thought war was the only way it could happen. She thought the statesmen would have to be stupid or evil to kill us all. But to do great evil, you need not be evil, or stupid. Only lazy.

Things got worse, and killings started. But they were far away and done by remote, and the people she trusted to fix things told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing happened all the time, but that it was better this way and only temporary. She didn’t think it was normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

Killings became a frequent thing, a normal thing, and why should you fear the normal?

Things got worse, and the tides came. But they were predictable and started out manageable, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing happened all the time, over the years it was bound to happen here eventually. She didn’t think it was normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

The tides grew larger and receded back a little less every day, but it became normal, and why should you fear the normal.

Things got worse, and the draft came. But not everyone was called, the fighting was far away, and they very rarely died, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her this sort of thing had happened many times, and that it would all be over soon. She was sure this wasn’t normal, but she was not afraid, because she trusted them.

Why shouldn’t she?

The war dragged on, and more were drafted every month, but it became normal, and why should you fear the normal?

When the fish were gone, people were worried. But with the new tides, fishing was a dying art anyway, and the people in charge told her “This is normal.” They told her species died out all the time, and that it was all part of a cycle. She knew this wasn’t normal, but how could she be afraid? She trusted them. If they were lying it must be a good reason for it.

In the end, the world without fish became normal.

Then came the time when, once the sun was up, and people couldn’t go outside anymore, but this had been predicted, expected, and the people in charge had told her “This is normal.” They told her the planet did this on its own, and it would surely fix itself in time. She knew this wasn’t normal, and she was afraid.

It was too late.

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On the Scientist Salarian

Much like my thoughts on the USPS in The Walking Dead pilot, here’s a random thought about another piece of pop culture well past the point where it was probably relevant:

So in Mass Effect 2 (the science fiction shooting-of-mans game), the team scientist, Mordin Solus, explains to the player in a dialog scene that he was part of a cultural exchange program between the Salarian (the alien species to which Mording belongs) and Human governments. Specifically, he explains that he performed in some Salarian adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan. The player has the option to press the issue, incredulous that this terse scientist (and lest we forget, former spy) performed in British comedic opera. Mordin proceeds to perform the Salarian version of “Modern Major General,” which seems to have been re-titled “Scientist Salarian.”

“I am the very model of a scientist salarian, I’ve studied species turian, asari, and batarian;

I’m quite good at genetics (as a subset of biology) because I am an expert (which I know is a tautology);

My xenoscience studies range from urban to agrarian, I am the very model of a scientist salarian.”

Now, if you’re familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Major General’s song, you know that the Major General is actually terrible at this job.

The Major General, according to his song, is wonderfully skilled and knowledgeable, in all matters not related to warfare. He’s wonderful at math, biology, and history but he lacks a firm grasp on the very basics of strategy. He even claims to not be able to tell a rifle from a javelin on sight, which seems pretty bad.

Why then, in Mordin’s song, is the Scientist Salarian an actual expert, skilled in relevant areas to his field?

This is where it gets terribly interesting.

We know from the in-game encyclopedia, and a few characters we met in the first game, that the Salarians have a very different view of war than most. They don’t care for large fleets or armies and prefer the focus to on espionage and subtle, surgical strikes. They will often take preemptive action to turn the political tides away from war, or focus on attacking an enemies logistical capabilities, making a war untenable. Their Special Task Groups are made of not only spies and commandos, but also doctors, scientists, and other varied experts. They follow this sort of broad, outside the box problem solving as their standard MO.

So what does this have to do with the Modern Major General?

Well, the Major General, rather than seeming the buffoon that Gilbert and Sullivan intended to write, may have seemed an ideal candidate for military service to the Salarians. A Salarian general wouldn’t need to know anything about conventional warfare after all, because the Salarians don’t fight conventional wars.

The Scientist Salarian is good at his job, because as far as they were concerned, the Major General is supposed to be good at his.

So why does this matter?

Well, it doesn’t.

But I think it’s interesting. It serves as a fascinating in universe example of how different cultures in the real world can reach wildly different conclusions from the exact same data, simply due to their own cultural context. The Modern Major General, intended as a satire of the British Army officer class in the late 19th century, becomes the Scientist Salarian, an ur example of the expert.

I just thought that was super interesting, and it’s something to keep in mind when looking at pop culture around the globe.

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Local Politics

Local politics can be weird.

Correction: local politics are like national politics in microcosm.

Including all the weirdness.

At the end of February, I attended a Public Safety meeting at City Hall in my town about the police buying a BearCat (an armored vehicle) for the department’s Critical Incident Response Team (their equivalent of SWAT). I’m generally against the militarization of police forces in America, so I was more than a little concerned.

The meeting started simply enough.

The main concern of the committee was that they felt the police department had failed to properly inform the public about the purchase and their reasons for it. They hadn’t gone out of their way to keep a secret, but nobody likes to find out about this sort of thing at the last minute, especially if you’re part of a group historically targeted unjustly by police departments in America. The local chapter of Black Lives Matter was not happy about the purchase, but they were even less thrilled with what they saw as a lack of transparency.

The committee gave the police chief the floor first to explain himself.

To his credit, he made a compelling case.

He tried to say that his department had dropped the ball as far as communicating with the community, and that the concerns of groups like BLM were entirely fair, but he was firm that the department still needed some kind of armored vehicle for the CIRT.

When he was done, even I was just about convinced that the purchase would probably be fine.

But something came up when the committee asked questions that seemed like a major red flag. When asked what the guidelines were for how/when this vehicle would be used, as a major concern of BLM and the community at large was that this vehicle might be used to break up protests in town, the police chief’s response was…less than ideal.

He at first assured the community that his department had a long history of respecting protests (which, to be fair, they do) but when pressed on specific guidelines that would govern the vehicle’s use, he simply said that no specific guidelines exist as “We don’t have the vehicle yet.”

Now, call me paranoid, but that is an answer that raises more questions than it answers.

If the community is concerned about how you intend to use something, and you know this is the case, why would you not come up with guidelines for how you intend to use it before you get it?

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Forgiveness

“You have to forgive people,” a friend of mine told me not long ago.

I took issue.

You don’t have to forgive anyone.

At no point, no matter what happens, are you required to forgive someone for what they’ve done.

I had literally just wrote that sentiment in a bit of trivial fiction, and I had meant it.

We got into it, and what they meant of course was that redemption has to be possible, and that is perhaps true.

If redemption isn’t possible, offered another friend, then people may as well commit suicide after their offense or faux pas: there is no incentive to change.

This isn’t wrong.

It has to be possible to forgive someone, but there is the key word: “possible.”

You can forgive people for any offense, but nobody is entitled to that forgiveness.

The Christian pastor Billy Graham died this past week, and while many American Christians remember him fondly, many in the LGBT+ community aren’t willing to forget his despicable claims that HIV/AIDS was divine punishment brought down on the gay community.

A claim that is utterly wretched.

Believing that people deserve to die because they’re LGBT+ is simply evil, and this is only the tip of a horrible homophobic iceberg when it comes to Billy Graham.

Someone told me he recanted the HIV/AIDS claim later, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that.

More to the point, I do not care if he did.

It doesn’t change the fact that for years Billy Graham used his pulpit, his fame, and national attention to advocate that gay people deserve to die.

We are still living in the fallout of this rhetoric, and likely will be for generations still.

Nobody has to forgive that.

Period.

Maybe (just maybe) if we could wind back the clocks and redo the last half of Billy Graham’s life, and say he spontaneously realized what exactly he was saying and spent just as much time championing LGBT rights as he had previously advocating death, maybe I could see my way to forgive him.

But even if that could happen, it would never completely erase the harm he did.

Even if I could forgive him in this miraculous 45 year do-over, I could never demand that others do the same.

Because (and say this with me now), “THAT IS NOT HOW FORGIVENESS WORKS.”

Forgiveness can’t be mandatory.

It’s not magical points you earn.

People chose to give it, or they don’t, and you have to live with that.

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Jane’s War (part 4)

Connecting to the soldier’s implants digitally was almost trivial. The hard part was the actual manipulation of data. For obvious reasons, the implants were designed to resist this exact sort of tampering. Covering her tracks was time consuming as well.

Fortunately, most Janes were conditioned to ignore anything that wasn’t part of their immediate task. When Jane drew the curtain around her rack, none of the other Jane’s would bother her and her guest.

“How did you know where I was from?” The soldier asked as Jane worked.

“Hmm?” Jane mumbled as she finished pulling the cable from her arm, plugging it into the power connection by her bedside.

“You knew I was from Akiing…er…ES-89 I mean. How?” The soldier asked.

“Oh,” Jane plugged the cable into a port in the soldier’s armor, “You mentioned you were in the same division as the dead soldier. I made an assumption.”

“I could have been from anywhere though,” the soldier protested.

“It’s…your hump…on your back…I’m sorry, but I assumed it was a mutation. ES-89 is where most of the mutants come from,” Jane tried to sound apologetic as possible.

The soldier chuckled, “Not all of them.”

“Most of them,” Jane flicked her fingers in front of her as she navigated her display.

“I could have been from ES-63. Lot of mutants there,” the soldier made an exaggerated gesture with their hand. They didn’t seem upset, though that helmet made everything sound threatening, they seemed to just be making conversation.

“True, but they don’t have as many soldiers in the service,” Jane explained.

“How would you know?” the soldier waved a hand over the faceless mask.

Jane grinned, “I’ve seen the demographic records. They barely have a viable population as it is. They can’t afford to be sending too many people off world.”

The soldier shrugged.

There was a long lull in the conversation as Jane setup the process she needed to wipe evidence of her conversation.

She wondered if she was being paranoid.

She’d met at least a couple Does who’d been away from the Homeland long enough, and indulged by their owners enough, that they would speak that openly about their feelings on the Julians.

But in those cases the Julians had found it humorous.

Linisa wasn’t a Julian though, as much as she tried to be, and underestimating her intellectually would probably be a mistake. She’d risen this far hadn’t she; from soldier, to management, to Director General of this installation? Add to that the fact that she had that job because a soldier had turned on her predecessor. She was unlikely to be forgiving to even vaguely seditious utterings.

Better to err on the side of caution.

That was how you survived.

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Terrorism

I nearly lost my mother to terrorism.

I didn’t, but it was close.

I was 7 at the time, and didn’t understand it. It took me years before I really thought about it in terms of “Terrorism.” For a long time, I thought about it as something cool: a big national news story my mom had a connection to.

The year was 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia. The terrorist was a man named Eric.

He wasn’t caught until 2003, six years later, and he bombed three other places after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

Eric was (still is I imagine) a radical Christian. He didn’t like what he called “global socialism,” gay people, or abortion that much. He went on to bomb a lesbian bar and two abortion clinics after Centennial Olympic Park.

As a socialist leaning pro-choice bisexual atheist, I don’t think Eric would like me very much.

Fortunately, at the centennial park, a security guard spotted the explosives and started evacuating before they went off. Only one person died in the bombing (and another in the aftermath), but more than a hundred were injured. .

My mother was there, in the exact spot, less than a half hour before the explosion.

She had come down for the Olympics with a friend, and they may have stayed in the area had they not been worn out by travel and long lines.

It wasn’t until the next morning, turning on the news in her hotel room, that she realized something had happened.

When I speak with her about it today, she laughs it off.

“20 minutes or 20 years; it makes no difference,” she told me. As far as she was concerned, it didn’t matter how close it had come, she had missed it. She too, thought of it merely as a news story she had a loose connection to.

Ever since I put in in that context though, as an act of terrorism, I can’t help but think how close my siblings and I came to growing up without a mother.

But for half and hour and a diligent security guard…

So when people ask me how I can be ok accepting Syrian refugees into the country; or tries to tell me that Islam is an inherently violent religion; or any other bullshit based on the idea that the terrorists I should be afraid of are brown people half a world away, I want to tell them to shut their fucking mouths.

The terrorist who nearly ruined my family was a white guy from the States, killing in the name of Christ.

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The Fleet [Up the Spine]

Getting from Hab to the Spine is easy in theory. Just keep going up until you get to the doors labeled “Warning: Low Gravity Zone.”

Theories are treacherous things.

The gravity starts getting weaker pretty much immediately once you’re out of Hab proper. By three levels up I was already having trouble, bouncing with each step.

I hit my head four times before I even got to the first low-g signs.

The bulkhead to the outer regions of the Spine was propped open with a hook that was glued to the wall. Very unsafe, and very illegal, but you have to pick your battles. I ignored it.

A couple of vagabonds sat, drinking dime-make booze, on either side of the bulkhead, legs spread out across the narrow hallway.

“Officer Nic!” one of them, Marcela, waved at me as I approached, “What brings you up to our level?”

I smiled, “Crime, naturally.”

She threw up her hands, as did her elderly drinking companion.

“I didn’t do it,” she laughed.

“I hope not.” I smiled. Once I got close, my mobile picked up on their IDs. Alejandro was the name of her companion, “We had a murder last night.”

Marcela’s smile turned inside out.

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