Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Fall of Titans - Three Takes

I could go over the details of what happened in B-R5RB, but I'm sure the news sites will do that.  Rather, I wanted to bring something different to the table.  A summary of "what it means", if you will, in three parts.  I suspect there's something here for everyone.

The Nightmare Men

The day began like any other, with timers set to end, fleets heading out for battle.  The Halloween War – named for an archaic holiday on some forgotten world – had been flaring on and off for several months.  Time and again, the sides fought each other, but each time, they pulled back at the last minute as communications with their forces began to deteriorate.  The sheer scale of the battles that never were was breathtaking to behold.

It is easy to forget, when you read numbers, of the numbers who waged war in those days.  Thousands seem so small, but when you consider the scale of the ships – titans, dreadnaughts, carriers, supercarriers filling the sky with their drones, projectiles, wreckage… after each battle, it took the residents of the contested systems years to clear the interplanetary lanes of debris.  Whole industries were build upon making travel safe again.

But that day began like any other, though it ended quite differently.  For that day saw the fall of the Nightmare Men.

All across the four empires and the wild lands, mothers would tell their children, “Go to sleep, or the Nightmare Men will drop on you.”  And the futures of some of those children would, indeed, hold annihilation at the hands of the Nightmare Men.

They would come and go like the wind, filling the sky with flashes of light one moment, and debris and death the next.  The famous fleet commanders of the day held their names in fear, and always was the possibility that they would descend upon their fleets.  It is said they had agents ready to light cynos in every brothel and boardroom across known space.

The Nightmare Men would see you.  They knew what you were doing.  They always knew.  And they would inflict their punishment upon you for the slightest error.

Many believed them to be harbingers of justice, or agents of the Jove to punish mere men for the arrogance of using jump technology.  They were the ever-present threat that chilled the hearts of every capital crewman.  Every jump could see the Nightmare Men appear to smite you.

On that day, though, the Nightmare came to an end.  And it all happened because of a clerical error.

CONCORD was merciless in its efficiency, as always.  A single missed bill, and they immediately reasserted control over the system holding the assets of many in the Legion.  The Nightmare Men had to fight for control.  They had to be there, at that moment, to recover all the assets they were using to fight the Halloween War.

And their enemies were waiting.

All those who had been flayed in the past, all those whose ambition had been thwarted, all those whose bodies were not the ones they were born with courtesy of the Nightmare Men… they all converged in a single, massive assault.  The Nightmare Men were caught, and they were obliterated.

Those who would come to their defense were bottled up in their homes as the Nightmare Men were seen to bleed and die just like any other men.  Yet they did not fall without a great thunder.  All day and night, they raged, burning those who sought their ruin.  Never did their resolve weaken.  Never did their skill flag.  Never did they approach the level of the common man.

Twenty-three million died in space that day, and the system was unnavigable for years hence.  A Day of Sorrow, for those who lost.  Justice, according to the four empires, who all declared a festival celebrating the death of brigands.  They cared not for anything but that rogue elements had all suffered.

But the Nightmare Men were no more.  In their place was a devastated Legion, now no longer legend.  They were not defeated, no, we all know that history.  In the decades since, they’ve shown that same dogged desire to survive.  They continued to strike out, to kill those they found.  And they continued to wield influence.

But on that day, the legend died.  The nightmares ended.  The Nightmare Men were no more.


We Will Never Forgive

“Mama, tell me again why we hate,” she asked.

Her mother fell very still as memory of that terrible day flashed through her mind.  “We hate because cowards stole our lands from us and used mathematics to justify it,” she answered, very softly.

“For many years, we tolerated their cowardice, hiding behind their Yulai Convention as justification for fattening themselves at the expense of our empire.  They kept their technology secret, giving no one a chance to develop it for the greater good.  Their rules, their control, and their absolute betrayal in the end… that is why we hate.”

The little girl watched her mother, not understanding all the words she was using.  But she understood enough to see the pain in her mother’s eyes.  And she hated them for causing that pain.  “Why does it hurt so much, mama?” she asked.

Hand instinctively reaching for the spot on her side where an exploding reactor unit had torn into the flesh, killing her, she muttered softly, “Because I was there, my dear.  I died there, by so many of my dear friends.”

Though the fresh clonejump had left her free of physical scars, the emotional ones would never fade.

And so long as they did, she would remember those who were responsible for the destruction of a dream.  Not the ones who fired the guns, but the ones who changed the ledger entries back in Yulai.

“Now eat your breakfast,” she concluded.  “We have to leave the quarter before the damn bees lock it down for the day.”

As her daughter dutifully finished eating, the woman sipped her rage.  One day, she would burn CONCORD to the ground, but not until she and her friends were ready.  Not until they had found where the clones for all the CONCORD executives were, and the mutagens had all been successfully delivered.

Death wasn’t good enough.  Eternity as a twisted wreck of a human was the only punishment sufficient for their betrayal.  They would never know who inflicted this suffering on them, but they would never, ever forget.

Just as she would never forgive.


News Reaches Deklein

The celebration continued well into the night, and the next day.  Overnight, citizens of VFK melted down every precious metal they owned and fashioned massive, if hastily inaccurate, likenesses of their glorious leader The Mittani, of Vee and the other military commanders who had played integral parts in the battle.  The coalition leadership hadn’t even had to pass a formal edict ordering them to do so, the zeal was so great.

Across coalition space, billions of children were conceived – whether the result of private celebrations or massive public orgies.  The price of alcohol tripled overnight as every drop within whole regions vanished.  Employers had no choice but to accept the de facto public holiday that stretched through the week.

Sure, the secret police made a couple half-hearted attempts to crack down on the obstructive celebrations, but even those efforts ended entirely when bureau leaders realized the majority of their officers were just as drunk and delirious as the citizenry.

The Center for Public Information, though, remained active and alert, successfully reporting the destruction of nearly the whole Pandemic Legion and N3 fleet with the loss of only a few brave interdictor pilots who selflessly gave their lives for the cause.

In more than one instance, it was reported, these pilots declared, as they dropped their bubbles, “May the glory of our fair coalition never fall, though I may do so here this day.  Let our glorious light shine on forever into the hearts of those who preach the chaos of democracy and so-called liberty!”  Their families were shown accepting posthumous awards and condolences for the equipment sabotage that saw the destruction of so many medical clones near the front lines.  The Mittani himself declared that he would not rest until those responsible were put to justice, even if it took ten more wars.

But it was a day of euphoria, and euphoria cared little for pledges and rhetoric, harkening as it may be.  For nothing now stood before the narrative of a bright future, a CFC future, orderly, controlled, and profitable for all.

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