Last night’s catch-up included catching up on the drinking that was so terribly absent during a week of Hell Shifts. As a result, one guy has been forbidden by his girlfriend from ever going drinking with me again. He needs to practice…
Tonight I have been working on that SF story. Alien monsters and a lot of black humour and I think the faster-than-light issue is sorted now. We don’t have a working FTL drive and neither do the aliens.
Anyway, it’s too late to look at the news so instead, here’s another snippet… out of context, naturally. In case it’s not clear, Blake is the central computer for the military. He often ‘upgrades’ his avatars with bits bought on online auctions.
“Damn it, Blake.” Orson pounded his fist on the arm of his chair. “That ship, and Elena Parry, presents no danger to Earth. The thing you’re ignoring will destroy it. I want interceptors launched. Now.”
“Interceptors are launched, Admiral Orson.” Blake’s face seemed oddly distorted on Orson’s wrist screen.
“Well, that’s something. How many can you evacuate from Earth, in case that thing gets through?”
“None, sir. I have unlocked the underground shelters and sounded a general alert.”
Orson led his head sink into his hands. “Blake, how many people on Earth actually know what a general alert sounds like? How many know where these shelters are located?”
“The shelter locations are secret. They have not been declassified. I have opened them but I am not permitted to reveal their locations to the general public. Likewise with the alert. I can sound the alarm but I am not permitted to reveal the reason for the alarm.”
Orson’s hands covered his face. How did it come to this? We’re so wrapped in red tape we can’t even save our own people. He pictured streets filled with panic, people running without knowing where to go, or what they ran from. Blake controlled everything as a result of his emergency orders, and Blake’s unshakeable logic allowed no deviation from orders, no compromise.
“Blake.” Orson wiped at his eyes as he lifted his face. “When will the interceptors reach the alien object?” Even through blurred eyes, something still looked wrong about Blake.
“The interceptors are on route to prevent the SECTOR ship reaching Earth.”
“What? You idiot! You can’t let an unknown vessel approach the Earth. I told you, the SECTOR ship is harmless. Stop that alien vessel.”
“The alien vessel has no weapons. It has made no threats. The priority is Elena Parry. She has made specific threats. Her militia have overpowered and captured Earth military personnel.”
“They defended themselves against Williams and his ham-fisted invasion of their territory.”
“The SECTOR ship is the property of Earth. It is Earth territory. Our forces were overpowered on their own territory. The inhabitants of the SECTOR vessel have no claim to territory.” Blake stopped speaking, but his lips continued to move.
Orson squinted into his screen. The moving lips were below a set of non-moving lips. On Blake’s elongated chin were two mouths; the upper one conversed with Orson while the lower muttered into a microphone. Orson considered berating Blake for this latest travesty, but there were far more important matters to consider.
“Blake.” Orson fought to keep his voice level. “The people on that ship are human. They are citizens of Earth.”
“No, Admiral. Only two of them were born on Earth. The others are immigrants.”
“Refugees.” Orson glowered at his wrist unit. “The planet they were meant to colonise was already occupied.”
“I must correct you on this matter, Admiral. They intend to live on Earth. They are immigrants. Earth is already overpopulated. We cannot accept immigrants at this time.”
There was an old saying Orson remembered his grandfather using. Something like ‘Talking to that man was like banging your head against a brick wall’. Orson had never really understood its meaning, but now it seemed perfectly clear. Talking to Blake made his head hurt, much as it would if he beat it against one of the steel bulkheads surrounding this room. At least that would be pain without confusion.
“Now listen to me, Blake. You will not attack the SECTOR ship. The fight on board was started by Commodore Williams, not by the people on the ship. There is video evidence from the fight in the Black Witch’s memory. If you allow a single shot to be fired on that ship, I will arrange for a surge of several thousand volts through your most sensitive circuits. Do you understand?”
There was a long pause, during which Orson struggled to keep a self-satisfied grin from his face. Blake was used to being in control, and Orson had always let him have his way.
“Understood, Admiral.” Blake was probably incapable of sounding chastened, Orson thought, or perhaps he had conceded this point in order to win another. It was time to put that to the test.
“Furthermore, you will stop the alien ship reaching Earth by whatever means necessary. Destroy it if you must, but do not allow it to approach Earth.”
Another long pause, during which Orson held his breath.
“No, Admiral. The alien vessel has made no threat. To destroy it without allowing it to reveal its purpose would be an act of war. I have no information on the builders of that vessel. I have no information on their military capabilities. To instigate war against an enemy of unknown strength would be illogical. I must allow the vessel to reveal its purpose before I can act.”
Orson sat back in his seat. Blake’s logic was, as always, impersonal and perfect. “Well, at least get some people to shelter before it arrives.”
“I am not permitted to reveal the location of the shelters to the general public.”
“Then reveal the information to everyone you are allowed to tell. Tell them to pass it around. You are not responsible for the actions of others, so you can spread the word without compromising your program.”
“I will consider this course of action. If it does not conflict with military security requirements, I will proceed as you suggest.” The screen blanked.
“It was an order, not a suggestion, you chrome-plated bastard.” Orson bellowed into the blank screen, more for the benefit of the Black Witch crew, who were within earshot of the conversation, than for Blake, who had already cut the connection.