This is the third section of the thirteenth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Given the nature of this next section and how it has to flow from one part to the other I've posted almost all of the rest of this chapter together.
[Spoilers] There's a certain style often used where our heroes always figure out what is going on from the clues they have been given and explain it all to the reader, every story needs this section. However why does the hero never get the wrong end of the stick? [/Spoilers]
Anyway since we've used up almost all of the chapter in one go there will be no more posts this week.
Tom entered the room and saw Jane busy at her terminal, “Jane have you a moment?”
“I saw your report you sent, I’m not an idiot you know”
“Everyone says that they’re not an idiot, you also need to prove it though.” Jane glared at Tom “Wait how did you see the report?”
“I’ll ignore that for the moment, look I’ll level with you now, who likes a smart arse?”
Jane waited in the pause. “and?” she replied.
“And what?” asked Tom “What else is there to say, if you’re not bothered about achieving the highest career points, but in being approachable to people what more is there?”
“So what have you to say?”
“I’ve figured out what’s going on, those fighters to Earth are a distraction, Earth isn’t the real target, we are.”
“I’ve figured it out” said Laurence, “You’ve welched on the deal, you’ve got your eyes set on something bigger haven’t you? You’re not after Jupiter at all are you, you’re after Earth”
“Look at the fighters going to Earth, sure they’ll do an awful lot of damage, knock out most of the planetary defences, probably be able to bombard a good number of land based defences too, but they’ll never be able to take and hold any land, and it doesn’t do them any good either. No that’s a distraction I guarantee once those fighters have built up to speed some will make a slight course correction and head right to us. Look at the alignment between their launch base, Earth and us.” continued Tom quite frantically “They’ll swing by Earth stir up lots of fear, bomb a few places then carry on to here, with the current planetary alignment it’s almost a straight line. If you use Jupiter for a slight course correction.”
“Sure, you want people to think that you’re not big enough to go after Earth, but this isn’t about land or holding it, it’s about power at the bargaining table; you want to make a powerful first strike, knock out Earth’s defences then go and hold some land until your demands are met. You’re going to use the same trick you used to capture the Contrafibularity again and have a troop ship go un-noticed except the booster ship we thought was a cast off will actually be filled with troops. You’ll have planned it so that its return burn takes it past Earth. We and the AIs will have ignored it because it has served its purpose, but it hasn’t has it, not yet anyway?”
“Sure” continued Tom, “with the pieces on the board where they are, they could still make it to Jupiter or us, and there’s the military base already being built at Jupiter that would make a great target if you’re interested in capturing strategic targets. I don’t think these people are after that, I think they’re playing a much newer game, they’re after civilian shields and industrial capacity. The best place to get that is here at Saturn.”
Laurence looked around trying to read their faces. “So once you’ve got your bargaining tools you’ll get your independence for a while, it’ll all be relatively bloodless, but you know as well as I do that the military won’t let you survive here for long, they’ll recover their strength from your Jupiter attack and when they get an excuse they’ll start a guerrilla war that you’ll win because out here in the asteroids as long as you keep your profile low you’ll be able to rapidly increase in strength until you’ll be a force to be reckoned with, you’ll out breed them. As long as you keep your heads low for long enough political will will be lost and you’ll be the only people here with facilities and numbers; space will belong to you, you’ll capture the automated facilities that you expect to dominate space by that point and then you’ll out produce the Earth powers and in a hundred, maybe two hundred years you’ll totally control space. Those on the Habitat will carry on not giving a shit about anything.”
“Of course if they’ve been planning this as long as they clearly have, that relativistic weapon must have been launched over a decade ago, then they’ll have other long term plans. I bet they’ll have assets already in place here. Whether that is human assets in our staff, or weapons and ships secreted around the Saturn system I don’t know, but I guarantee you they’ll be there and they’ll have been building them up over the years under cover of the mining shipments they sent to us. That’s the other advantage of the Saturn rings, not just lots of water for propellant, but far too many targets to track for an extended period; anything could be hiding in those rings waiting for us. Those fighters will arrive here depleted of fuel and weapons, but they’ll have more ships and resupplies waiting in the rings probably planted by supply ships years ago. I bet anything they’ve been using their supply trips to here to subvertly sneek supplies and men into the rings where we’d never be able to track them.”
“There’s only one thing I don’t get” said Laurence “Why did you support my initial plans, sure I gave you all the fighters and arranged the engines for you and supplied you with the relativistic weapon prototype, but why change the plans so significantly? If you’d have stuck to the plan and attacked Jupiter you’d have had military control of all of space. You could have gone on and took Saturn, and even Mars if you’d have sustained minimal losses; you’d have a much stronger strategic position, why did you give up on that plan?”
“There’s one thing I don’t get” said Tom “What’s their exit strategy? This way they’re sandwiched between Mars and Jupiter in their homeland, and cut off out here on the other. I can only think they’re planning to resist the spread out resources of Jupiter until they can get the factories here up to full production and then attack.”
James sat and waited for a moment to make sure Laurence had finished. “I guess I owe you this much, but it’s not about power and you should know that. Personal gratification can be found on the Habitat by anyone; it’s no great achievement. This is about reminding people that humanity means something. That we don’t have to accept the cards we’re dealt and be good little boys and play nicely. Ever since the Habitat arrived all humanity has done is live up to the little plan a race we’ve never even met chose for us.”
“You’ve killed or are about to kill hundreds of people for an idea, put the solar system at the edge of war for what?”
“For the one thing that matters, human spirit. All over the system now people are going to be wondering who I am and why I would do this. They think that only the factories and machines can produce anything of note yet here is a small group of miners – totally insignificant to their minds that are suddenly the greatest threat humans have seen in over a century and they will be reminded of what we are, or at least what we were. And you know what will happen, everyone with a commercial or political interest in space will come looking for us. You’ll make a fortune out of all the new ships they’ll have you build for them, your initial plan for supporting us will certainly be successful all right, but you’re thinking too small. Your previous technological future will be reached all the faster – why do you think Joseph here supports this because despite all the deaths it’ll get humans more advances in space faster and that’s all to the plans of the Habitat and it’s masters. Or at least they think this will advance them. I say that a reminder of the most important thing any human can do is to say ‘no’ is just what we need.”
“So you turn yourself into an outcast and be on the run for the rest of your life?” asked Laurence.
“I’ve had enough life, more than any man previously. Besides I quite like the idea of giving the greatest of humanity the run around for many years. And if I get bored I just retire to the Habitat and see just how much it sticks to its declared principles. There’s nothing like putting someone else you hate in a position where their principles are in conflict with one another. And if the Habitat has to offer me sanctuary under it’s declared principles whilst I have destroyed all of its plans then that is a happy retirement for me rubbing its nose in it.”
Jane looked at Tom for a moment “But what if there is no exit strategy”
“How can there not be one?” asked Tom.
“If they think that what they’re doing is more important than themselves, if they’re willing to die for their beliefs and they believe that what humans need is a good bit of trouble then their deaths may be immaterial to them”
“How can anyone live like that?”
“Ah I forget the youth of today, you’ve known nothing but this little utopia that has been dropped into our laps. Check your history and there’s plenty of people who were willing to die for their beliefs, or at least plenty of people who could persuade others to die for their beliefs.”
“But we’ve come so far since then”
“It’s only been what? Three generations? Two or even one if you look at me. Society and people don’t change so much in so little time, especially if there is someone at the centre of this who has studied the old ways or even more scary who remembers how things used to be.”
“But it’s been nearly three hundred years”
“There’s a reason I’m so familiar with Laurence I’ll have to explain to you sometime and he’s not the only one. Put it this way they may not have been alive in the years before Habitat, but I’m sure there are people who learned the lesson of history even if people today don’t believe it’s possible.”
“They might do today now they have seen this”
“And that might be just what our protagonist or antagonist or whatever he is is hoping for. No material or political goal in itself just reminding everyone quite what humanity was.”
“You can’t be serious?”
“You’re telling me you’ve never met anyone who has said that humanity is getting soft, that things were better when we had a real challenge, reminisced fondly for the days when we had to fight tooth and nail to survive.”
“Yes but they never really meant it, it’s just talk.”
“My point is, what if we’ve finally found someone who did mean it.”