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An Open System - Part Three

 
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Cockroach Boy



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 7143
Location: Dancing with the Mara

PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 7:56 pm    Post subject: An Open System - Part Three Reply with quote

The concluding part
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An Open System
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Part Three
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Nateman did not understand what he was looking at. It was a spaceship - he knew that much, obviously. The computer had pinpointed multiple life signs within and the thing was moving in a perfectly straight line, so what else could it be? But still it made no sense.

Its shape was…wrong. A vast, asymmetrical cylinder that bulged at the middle, turning slowly on its axis. The surface was a burnished copper colour and bristled with long, gently stirring protuberances. Parts of it seemed to be on fire, clouds of sulphur erupting outwards into the void.

The other two had joined him in the cockpit, pressing awkwardly against the walls to get a better view of the screen. None of them had spoken since they had seen the other ship. Nateman guessed that they were as confused as he was. It had all seemed so clear before: find an enemy, start a battle, win or die.

But this…this made a nonsense of all that. How could you fight something when it hurt your eyes to look at it, when your mind shrank from the very thought of it?

They were very close now. He wasn’t sure if his hands were still guiding the controls or if the patrol ship had been snared by a tractor beam. Either way, there was no possibility of turning back now. Their presence had clearly been noted. The computer was screaming at him that they were being analysed by systems it could not comprehend.

Nateman had briefly considered a suicide attack. There was a remote chance they could make impact before the aliens could destroy them. But then he had forced himself to look at the object on screen again. He doubted a dozen patrol ships crashing in to it would even scratch the surface.

Flight Lieutenant Nateman considered his options.

Attack was hopeless, retreat was useless and suicide would be meaningless.

There was only one thing left that they could do.

Wait.



‘And perhaps Commissioner, I could start by asking you how you feel about your new appointment?’

Servalan smiled at the interviewer. She was a short woman who’s face had seen far too much surgery during its long and distinguished media career. Still, she was respected and, more importantly, she was trusted by the civilian audiences.

‘I am delighted, of course’ replied Servalan. ‘The Office of Public Morals has been without a proper representative for far, far too long. I am eagerly looking forward to addressing the issues that have caused so much concern throughout the Federation. Now more than another there are certain standards that it behoves us all to uphold’

As she finished speaking, Servalan moved in in her chair to allow the camera drones a better view of her long. midnight blue gown. It was a more reserved choice of outfit than those she usually favoured but it sent the right messages.

The interview looked round the empty studio and beamed at an audience that wasn’t there. Aside from themselves and the drones, the room was empty. The Independent Information Broadcasters’ logo was displayed proudly on each of the plain grey walls, just so people would be sure that they could trust what they were watching. As Servalan remembered, the Federation had taken control of the I.I.B. two weeks after it had been formed.

‘Sentiments that I’m sure we can all sympathise with Commissioner’ enthused the interviewer. ‘Nonetheless, it is certainly a leap from your previous work which was of a more…shall we say military nature?’

‘Well, my involvement with those areas has been purely symbolic for the last year or so. I felt the need for a fresh challenge, something to stimulate my mind’

The interviewer leaned forward, her expression re-aligning into one of calculated seriousness.

‘And what do you intend to make your first priorities as Commissioner for Public Morals? The Space Rat problem or the situation in Freedom City perhaps?’

Servalan look directly at the swarm of camera drones, establishing eye contact so that those at home would know how seriously she took this question.

‘Well of course there are many issues of concern. In particular the behaviour of a very small minority of Federation personnel who practice excessive violence and abuse their position. The sort of behaviour that damages the reputation of the Federation. I intend to address that matter with great vigour’

‘I’m sure many people will be pleased to hear that, Commissioner’

‘And I’m sure they will be even more pleased when they see the results’

‘And what do you plan for your personal future? What next for Commissioner Sleer?’

Servalan laughed politely.

‘Oh I don’t like to try and predict the future. That is a job for advisors and analysts. But I do hope to be able to continue to make changes in our administration. We must create an open system of leadership if people are to trust us’

‘Thank you Commissioner’

‘It was a pleasure’

Later, she and Adnan watched a recording of the interview in her office. The young man sat at her side, nodding his head approvingly throughout.

When it had finished, he turned to her with a look of admiration.

‘That was excellent, Servalan. Absolutely perfect’

‘Thank you’ she said, inclining her head in a mock bow.

She cad come to like this strange man. He was overconfident, rash and probably asexual, but there was no doubting his intellect. A useful ally to have on your side. The Terra Nostra still chose their ambassadors well.

‘Have you seen the list of appointments?’ she asked.

‘Yes. Very generous’

‘Obviously, I couldn’t give all the positions to your people , but you have a good foothold. Within a year or most members of the Terra Nostra should be able to find themselves positions as advisors. I am sure you will be able to arrange things to your own advantage’

Adnan sighed softly.

‘A new beginning’

‘For us all’

He looked at her blue outfit.

‘So you won’t be wearing the kimono anymore?’

Servalan laughed at the ridiculousness of his question.

‘Unfortunately no. It would not be considered appropriate for a leader of public morals. It’s a pity, I shall miss wearing red’

‘It’s a small price to pay’ he said.

She thought of the opportunities unfolding before her. The people of the Federation would be terrified when they found out what the pacification drugs had done to the military and would treat the woman that found the solution as their saviour. She would ride to power on a wave of public approval. When the time was right, Servalan reveal her true identity. By then, they would be ready to forgive her anything There would be no more need for hiding. She need never be afraid again.

‘A small price to pay’ she agreed. ‘For making us all secure’


It was unfortunate that the three humans died during the exploratory surgery, but it couldn’t be helped. Besides, the sacrifice, however regrettable, had been worthwhile. The analysis of the results had yielded fascinating information.

Survey ships had taken the natives of this sector for examination in the past, but had learnt little of note. However, the behaviour of the crew of the small craft as they were taken aboard the Nest had been different - less predictable and even less rational than that of previous specimens. There were strong traces of chemicals in their bloodstreams, suggesting some form of biological modification. Was this a natural part of their evolution? Or were they deliberately altering themselves? And if so, why?

Suddenly this sector of space had become more interesting. They would need to explore further. Humanity might have its uses after all.

Long range scans suggested that the military defence along the outer edges of the sector - never very impressive at the best of times - was in a state of chaos. There would be little resistance.

The humans’ system was open before them and they would examine every part of it.



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For those interested, the ending to this story ties in with No Way Back which I posted a couple of months ago.
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