Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Far Side of the Moon

The Fortarian Empire needed more warships. This was the decree of the Emperor. These warships would need nano-fiber hulls, fusion power sources, high energy lasers, computer systems, and countless other smaller investments. It wasn't immediately clear where the raw materials would come from. When traveling between the stars, it's best to travel light. You don't accelerate a million tons of carbon to relativistic speeds just because you might need a warship later.
Because of this, the Empire had decided to set up mining operations on the moon. They had been quick to create a domed city for the miners to live in. It was a hundred meters tall and two kilometers in radius, and could house about a million Fortarians. The person sent to administer over the largest mining operation in the solar system was one of the Emperors most trusted advisers. His name cannot be written in any human language, so let's call him Carpenter.

Carpenter was pissed. He was one of the most gifted Fortarians in all of history. So why was it that he was exiled to some barren moon by an Emperor with a brain made out of body fat?
He looked at the next item on his to-do list. He needed to build a space elevator sixty thousand kilometers long, stretching all the way to the Fortarian fleet. Building and operating it would consume as much wealth as the Fortarian economy produced in a week. Why wouldn't the Emperor have decided to built an army a few months earlier? It would have been so much easier in the asteroid belt. Carpenter once again decided that the Emperor was an idiot.
Carpenter called in his secretary in charge of air. "How are we doing on atmosphere? You know we're going to have people here in just a few weeks, and those people are going to want to breath."
"A thousand apologies to the servant of the Emperor. We did not bring enough air in reserve when we fled our home star. I am trying to produce more, but this moon is desolate. The crust is rich in oxygen, but we lack the carbon to create the carbon dioxide and the nitrogen."
"I don't suppose we could get that from Earth." Carpenter's thoughts turned to the pale blue planet he orbited. It's inhabitants may be precocious, but they were impetuous, and lived upon a planet lush with natural resources. Might they one day find themselves in the same boat as the Fortarians, fleeing for their lives through the cold emptiness of interstellar space. Somehow, Carpenter doubted it. It was only the sheer incompetence of Fortarian leadership, of Fortarian civilization in general, that had lead to this predicament. A thousand failures made by a thousand individuals. Earth had potential. They might rise to become mighty and respected. Or they might be crushed under the heels of an older, more powerful race. Even the Fortarians could do it without much trouble.
Carpenter turned his thoughts back the the idea of getting air from Earth just in time to hear his underling respond. "Not without the humans being aware, mighty servant of the Emperor. And I doubt they would appreciate us taking their atmosphere."
Carpenter turned the idea of military conquest over in his head. He rejected it. The Emperor wouldn't approve of a war over a cubic kilometer of gas. "We might try to buy it from them. And stop with the whole 'servant of the Emperor' thing. The Emperor is a-" and here he used a word that translated roughly to 'person who is fit only for comic relief and target practice.'
Carpenter's underling was a little taken-aback by the lack of reverence. Sure, everyone knew the Emperor was an idiot, but to actually say it...
"Forgive me, Oh- Forgive me. Another option is too extract the gas from the crust as we go. We can start small and build up the operation."
"Would that delay our plans?"
"Not much. It would bring us to nine of these lunar months instead of eight."
"You didn't hear? We're at nine anyway. Solar panels will take time to install. How does that effect things?"
"I don't know. Maybe this brings us to nine and a half? I'll have to look at the details."
"Do that. I want the whole report in my file before I get off work today."
"Very well." The air manager left to complete his task. Carpenter juggled whether or not to tell the Emperor about this latest minor setback. Should he wait until he had the report? No, the Emperor's office would be closing soon, and it would be better to tell him today.

Fortarians do not use phones. They are an advanced alien race, capable of bringing their entire species from one solar system to another. Their telecommunications included holograms, panoramic sound, and other devices to cater to senses humans don't even have, such as the very minor telepathic communication all Fortarians unconsciously share. Fortarians do not use phones, but it's fair to say that Carpenter was put on hold.
"What do you mean the Emperor can't speak to me right now?"
"He's in the middle of a very important engagement," the secretary on the other end responded.
"How long until he's free again." The secretary estimate how long it would take the Emperor to use the bathroom. "Not long at all."
Carpenter spent that time fuming about his Emperor's incompetence. Eventually, the cosmic leader picked up. "My servant, you have permission to speak."
"Thank you, mighty and wise one. May you rule forever in your unfathomable intelligence."
The Emperor took a second to remember what the word 'unfathomable' meant. "What matter does my servant wish to discuss?"
"The progress of my program here upon the moon. To create a fleet of new ships." Carpenter decided to gloss over the details. Partly because he didn't yet have the details, and partly because you never discuss details with an incompetent boss. "We had some minor trouble getting our hands on breathable air and electrical power, but we should have some soon. The whole process of constructing the ships might take nine and a half months." Only too late did Carpenter remember that the Emperor wasn't familiar with sidereal months in this new solar system. By the time Carpenter realized his mistake, the Emperor's aides had already made the translation.
The Emperor took a moment to turn the new timetable over in his head. "And you are working as fast as you can?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Fine. But no more unexpected delays. Our ally wants us ready soon."
"Very well, my lord." Ally? What ally? Earth?
"And, Carpenter, one more thing."
"Anything for my master."
"Tell me of these humans. Do they pose a threat."
"Some of them are clever. But their power is dim compared to that of the New Archivist, let alone our great and glorious empire. Their most dangerous weapons could barely penetrate our hull, even ignoring the fact that they would never reach us and the humans have no reason to fight us." Did the humans have reason to fight the Fortarians. If they did, then nobody had told Carpenter about it.
"So we and the New Archivist are the only powers within this solar system."
"The New Archivist is certainly a power, but I doubt she would do anything unless we went out of our way to provoke her. Rava-Iss had a strong policy of non-interference, and his successor would most likely continue it."
"That is good new indeed." The Emperor terminated his connection.  And Carpenter was left to wonder who this mysterious 'ally' was.

1 comment:

  1. How does that effect things?" to "How does that affect"