Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Location: Dancing with the Mara
|Posted: Sun Jun 11, 2006 8:16 pm Post subject: An Open System - Part Two
|Okay guys, here's part two. The third and final part should be ready by the end of this week, if I don't melt!!
An Open System
He had been waiting for more than three hours before the computer picked up the first trace. He had passed the time by devising combat strategies. Flight Lieutenant Nateman painted the inside of his mind with pictures of burning alien warships cart wheeling through the darkness. The images felt solid, an extension of his body.
Sometimes, to vary things, Nateman had considered what he would do as one of the aliens. It proved surprisingly entertaining to imagine himself smashing through the Federation’s border defences. It would be a suicide mission of course, but it would still count.
Now that the computer had found something he could start to make the images real at last
He sat up in his chair, his bare back sliding against the damp material. There were still patches of vomit on the console, but not enough to get in the way of the work. Nateman demanded more information from the computer.
The trace was unusually distinct. Whatever it was, it must be very large. That in itself was not necessarily significant. This close to the edge of what was known, the normal measurements of scale ceased to have any practical meaning. All the same, he was momentarily surprised at just how different the information he was getting from the computer was.
Nateman ran his right hand over his bare chest, fingering the scabs. He couldn’t remember exactly when he had cut the arrow and circle symbol of the Federation into his skin. It might have been while he waiting for the computer to find something or it might have been before. It could even have been when he was talking to that woman on the ore carrier. He wasn’t even sure what he had used to make the incisions. There was a maintenance scalpel laying nearby in a pool of sticky fluid, so it had probably been that.
He had suggested to the other two pilots that they also inscribe themselves. The idea had not appealed to them. They were in the crew room now, preparing themselves in their own way. They were smearing the walls with their own faeces. They broke into song occasionally, a low monotonous chant that echoed through the ship. Nateman had no doubt that when the moment came, they would perform well. If he were injured - which was likely - one of them would be ready take his place in the cockpit.
The object from the Outer Darkness was moving closer now. The computer was alarmed, advising Nateman to request immediate re-enforcements.
These machines were so neurotic, he thought. Always panicking over every minor detail. Perhaps one day there would be drugs for them too.
The alien ship was almost within viewer range.
Flight Lieutenant Nateman waited for war to begin.
‘The pacification drug? That is the factor I am supposed to have overlooked?’
Servalan was disappointed. She had been expecting something better than this absurd suggestion.
Adnan nodded keenly.
‘Yes, the pacification drug. The basis of your power. It’s what will bring you down unless you do something’
‘Use of the drug is widely known and widely accepted throughout the Federation’ she explained patiently. ‘It is no secret. Even Federation troops use it now, to help them focus on difficult tasks’
‘And is that what it was originally designed for?’
For the first time, Servalan hesitated before replying. She still didn’t feel that she had the control over this meeting that she had become accustomed to. All the same, this strange young man did not seem to pose any immediate threat.
‘No’ she answered slowly. ’The drug was designed to quell resistance on planets that the Federation wanted to re-claim’
‘And then Federation pilots on routine patrols began to use it. Unofficially at first but then it became standard practice. And somewhere along the line, the formula was changed. Not much. Just enough to make it enhance alertness as well as to remove unwanted thoughts’
Typical, she thought. Interfering damn scientists meddling with something that already worked perfectly well.
‘And is that reason I will be…dead in six months?’ she asked.
Her tone was mocking, but she had some suspicions now as to where this conversation was leading . And if she was right, then the conclusions were terrifying.
Adnan looked almost sympathetic as he replied.
‘Like the Terra Nostra, your power rests on the control of a drug. Like us, you will lose power because of something you could not have foreseen. For us it was the Andromedans making a tactical error. For you it is Federation scientists making a mistake when they adapted the Pacification Drug for its new purpose’
‘And the nature of this mistake?’
The young man put his head on one side and grinned.
‘Can’t you guess?’
Of course she could.
‘It drives them mad’ said Servalan.
‘Yes. It still represses dreams and fears, but it enhances the aggressive instincts to the point of psychosis. Not straight away, of course. But take the drug for long enough and the effects can’t be reversed’
My god, she thought. An army of lunatics with Federation ships and weapons.
Servalan rose, barely aware that she was gripping the edge of the desk.
‘You can prove all this?’
‘Medical samples taken from the corpses of Federation pilots that we…captured’
She let that pass. It didn’t matter to her how madmen died.
‘Very well’ she said. ‘Give me the evidence and I will advise High Command. The problem will be stopped before it has chance to,,,’
She broke off.
‘Why are you looking at me like that?’
Adnan got to his feet.
‘Many hundreds of loyal Federation men and women will have to be executed. Explanations will be demanded. A scapegoat will be needed, if confidence in the Federation is to be maintained. There is still along way to go before the old empire can be fully restored. Widespread dissent could wreck all of that. And who better to blame than the Commissioner who started the Pacification programme in the first place?’
He was right. If Servalan had still been President, that was exactly what she would have done: shift the blame on to someone else and then execute them before anyone had had time to think too hard about it.
‘And yet you say you can help me?’
‘Yes. The Terra Nostra is not entirely destroyed. We can help you through this crisis, so that you will emerge even stronger’
Adnan was completely in earnest, she could tell that. He was confident that he could save her.
Which left only one question.
‘And what would you want in return?’
Everything in life is only for now.