It took a few days to get word back to Earth that the toxic energy had been neutralized. Once it did Singer ships started filtering into our area of operations. I had personally invited them to the Ristavron system and once I got back I was heartened to see that they had not only arrived. They had brought their biggest ships.
The most common Singer ship was a little more than a hundred feet long. Many of their ships were a bit bigger than that, a few were smaller. What was orbiting over Ristavron 4 was absolutely gigantic and there was more than one. Four ships, each well over seven kilometers long. The sheer power of a ship that size, built by the most advanced race humanity had ever encountered was both tantalizing and terrifying. The Allied Fleet could often be a chaotic mess. But we could all understand each other and each other’s technologies. The Singers were alien in every way I can describe.
When I landed back at the primary launch facility I found that there was a group of nine Singers there waiting for me. They wanted me to personally brief them on the situation. I had to admit that I was flattered that they held me and my knowledge in such high regard. When I told them this one of them replied.
“In our dealings with your species we have found that you lie, a great deal. You often lie about things that you have no knowledge of for reasons that seem utterly nonsensical. You do not lie as much as many of your species. So we prefer to talk to you.”
I was confused. “I have never lied to you. That would be pointless.”
“You do lie, not intentionally. You lie to yourself, then these lies are reflected in your life. These lies are minimal compared to your compatriots. But they are still there distorting your existence and causing you to lie, unconsciously.”
I was hurt by this, I demanded that they provide an example where I had lied to them. One of the Singers clomped back to it ship. It came back with a pipe and what looked like 5meoDMT. “We have found that the only way we can get humans to tell the whole truth is when they smoke this molecule. Preferably in large quantities. Smoke this and you will see where you have lied to yourself.”
I felt like my eyes were bulging out of my skull. “Where did you get that?”
“It was a gift from the Martian, Drakous. He has used so much of this that he sees the universe as we do. He no longer lies to himself so he does not need it.”
I gulped hard at the offer. I wasn’t ready for that just yet. I politely declined and the Singer replied. “Very well then, tell us of your adventures then.”
I called for a chair and started telling the group of nine Singers everything that had happened. I knew that it had already heard all of this before. There was no way that they were ignorant of how the war was going. They just stood there and listened to everything I had to say. Finally I got to the part where James had found the machine. They leaned forward, I suppose that signified that I had piqued their interest. They asked as one.
“Tell us everything about this machine. Every detail, no matter how small or insignificant.”
“I can do more than that.” I summoned my assistant Trevor and had him retrieve all the video records he could carry on the machine. I set up a large slate computer for them to view the videos on. The Singers took a good long look at what I provided. Occasionally stopping to rewind and examine the machine in greater detail I described what I was looking at as well as I could. Then when I ran out of footage they asked me to detail the location of the device. Suddenly I had a realization.
“Please don’t destroy it! I have no idea what the consequences of destroying the machine would be, but they would probably be very bad!”
“We are not going to destroy it. We just want to have a look at it. We have never encountered anything remotely like this device. We are just curious, nothing more.”
“Alright, I just wanted to be clear on that.”
Eight of the Singers clomped away when I explained that I was out of film of the machine. The remaining one asked.
“Before we travel to the planet with the machine we would like to see your enemy in the flesh. We have been shown images of prisoners. We want to see how they fight.”
“Mm, I think that can be arranged. But on our terms, you got it! You don’t cut loose unless we ask you to. We can’t have you killing an entire planet with our people and friends of our people on it.”
“Understood, now take us to see our enemy.”
The current hot spot of the war was the Sagaglog system. This was the site of the first major ground offensive of the Allied Fleet. The planet Yttrium. Thirty percent smaller than Earth, orbiting a rather weak sun. The home of a curious civilization. It had been partly colonized by humans. But the dominant life form there was the most advanced indisputably alien civilization that we had found in imperial territory. They called themselves by a name thirty syllables long that roughly translated as, the people. So we just called them Tripods because of their three legs.
At some point in the past a number of humans landed on their planet. The human colonists and Tripods existed together in an uneasy but stable relationship for centuries. Interbreeding was impossible between the two species. Somehow over the course of centuries serious en mass conflict had never broken out between the two races. Then the empire found them and the Tripods and their human allies had been fighting the empire ever since.
While we were traveling to the Sagaglog system I familiarized myself with the latest intelligence on the conflict there. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of war had ground down the native population of Tripods and humans down to around 27,000 Tripods and 4,000 humans. Their entire society was militarized to a degree that was greater than any society in known history excepting perhaps the ancient Spartans. They knew nothing anymore but war and supporting the war effort.
Sagaglog was the first place where anyone in the Allied Fleet besides the Eutopians had decided to hold their ground on the ground. All previous operations by non ECF ground forces had been hit and run operations. This was a determined campaign to completely root out enemy ground forces. No one would have even considered it if there hadn’t been friendly natives, even if they were minuscule in number.
The bulk of the USMC and the Russian army had deployed to the planet. Along with three quarters of IEC ground combat volunteers and a new force. The sentient lizard creatures we had discovered being used as a source of medicine by the Empires medical community had become an effective light infantry force. Once fitted with an ultra-fiber suit they demonstrated an incredible ability to sense and track enemy forces. They had a slightly faster reaction time in combat than humans. Even those who used 5meo. Their force was small, but reportedly they had been amazingly effective in combat and utterly determined to get revenge on the empire for years of cruel treatment.
In contrast the large Russian army had not done quite as well as their navy. They were already in the process of packing up and leaving the planet. The USMC however, following their reequipping and retraining had pushed back the imperial ground troops. Copious application of airborne firepower had helped of course. The Allied Fleet had severed their lines of communication and bombed the shit out of their bases. Being a ground war this conflict was not going to be wrapped up as quickly and gloriously as fleet to fleet combat. That said my people on the surface of Yttrium estimated that the war couldn’t possibly go on for another month.
The planet looked like an utter shit storm, even from space. Huge tracts of lands had been converted to a morass of mud. Trench lines snaked all over the surface. Whole mountains had been leveled by exotic weapons. Thick clouds of toxic smoke wafted over the surface.
I could have brought the Montana down in secure territory. But the Singers said they wanted to see how the enemy fought so I gave them a show. There was a major enemy stronghold on the planet that still had air cover. Helicopters and the occasional turbine driven armored attack jet still launched from one of the mountain redoubt that the imperials loved so much. I brought Big Blue down into the atmosphere above the mountain stronghold.
Big Blues combat information systems had become so refined that it could detect underground bunkers, armored vehicles and even individual soldiers on a battlefield. Compare that data with scans from other IEC ships. Then feed that data directly into the fire control computers. Rationing just the right amount of firepower to a specific target. All the power in the world won’t do you much good if it is not carefully applied.
Once all the data was processed Big Blue carefully applied thousands of rounds of ammo. Dozens of missiles and several heavy railgun rounds to the mountain fortress. Small plasma pulses splattered ineffectively against the hull while attack aircraft desperately charged my ship, to no avail. A few Singer ships orbited overhead. Doing nothing but quietly observing, thankfully. As much as a mess as my ship was making I didn’t even want to imagine what their firepower would do.
Once the last few flickering enemy life signs were snuffed out I brought Big Blue in low over friendly troops. I ran out to the bow as the ship slowed to a hover. I heard crowds cheering over the sound of the wind. What a rush!
Amidst the cheers of the ground troops an evacuation was being organized. These troops, that had expected to be locked in an extended siege for weeks were needed elsewhere. Tripods, humans and the occasional lizard were hustling to get their things together to be moved in Auxiliary Fleet and IEC ships. The native humans didn’t look all that different from others I had seen all over the Galaxy except that they were a bit pale and their hair was mostly shades of red. The Tripods however looked incredibly alien. They averaged about seven and a half feet tall. Had three arms and three legs. Had a distinct orange tone to their skin. Only one eye, a very odd looking nose. A small tuft of gray hair sat on the very top of their heads. Triangular ears and no mouth. It was a bit difficult to get a read on their emotions. I swear that their giant eyes smiled at me and my ship. The native humans been equipped with Liberator rifles. The Tripods however were armed with big bore lever action rifles. With a scary looking tanto tipped bayonet at the end. Their rifles probably recoiled so hard that they couldn’t be used by most humans. It did not look like an ideal weapon to deal with Imperial Warriors. Probably firing a large metal slug at relatively low velocities as opposed to the high velocities needed to defeat metal armor. But it was probably the best that local industry could come up with for the job.
The humans of this planet all looked the same. Everywhere I went they all had the same short haircut. The same uniform. Which resembled a burlap sack. And the same thousand yard stare in their eyes. This was a world that had been at war for generations. The entire population had been dragooned into the military. Men, women, the elderly. I saw several people that had to be children during the evacuation. All of them had been worn down to a nub, about to go extinct when we showed up. Most of their equipment was new and clearly of Allied Fleet origin. I didn’t know if this was because our equipment was better or if it was because their gear was worn out. I lean towards a combination of both factors.
While I was watching this evacuation I was snuck up on by my primary agent on the planet. Graham Pertwee, he had been promoted to major in the New Zealand army by this point. Though he had been working for the IEC for so long that he was for all intents and purposes my general of ground forces. His Angel Suit was filthy with blood, dirt, grease and god knows what else. Though it looked like he had splashed some water on his shoulder to wash the filth off of his unit insignia. The symbol of the Angel weapons program. A winged toad. I addressed him.
“My dear Graham, I see you are still leading from the front.”
“That’s where the action is sir.”
“How’s Amanda doing?”
“Pretty well, she is covering the Russian evacuation over on the other side of the planet. We will be married once we get home to Earth.”
“So, she really left an impression on you eh?”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
“Oh come on, I get to make whatever puns I want when I am the one who paid your dental bills.”
“Alright, but before we get started, is that a Singer ship flying over the ruins of that mountain that you just pulverized?”
“Yep, we found the source of the toxic energy and shut it down. They are in the war now.”
He started breathing anxiously. So I told him, “don’t fret, they aren’t going to glass any planets. They are just here to observe for now, though it sounds like they have a craving to do some fighting. Now, before you deliver your briefing, you are going to have to shower and change your clothes. But before you do that, answer me this. How do our Tripod friends eat?”
“It’s kind weird. They have a mouth in the back of their heads. Their digestive system is completely separate from their vocal and breathing apparatuses. It makes their voices very high pitched since they speak through their noses. But they don’t ever have to worry about choking on food.”
“Interesting trade off.”
“A very interesting race boss lady. Now if you will pardon me I think I am going to enjoy that shower you offered.”
About an hour later Graham had cleaned and changed into a clean New Zealand army uniform. His Angel suit was in need of some serious repair. The shipboard tailor wasn’t even sure that it could be salvaged. Graham had lost the little fat he had on him. One of the toughest men I knew had been hardened by the experience of months of combat on this planet. He began his debriefing in an unexpected way. With the unrolling of a scroll on parchment.
“I have been told to hand deliver this message to you by the council of nine. That’s what’s left of the human government on this planet. It’s written in English and Jrvuitain, the primary local language. It’s long and flowery, mostly talking about how you are the greatest hero that humanity has ever created. Praise be unto your glory, yada yada yada. They would like to formally request to be evacuated back to Earth. Or at least off this planet. They have never felt welcome on this planet and after all the horrors that they have seen here they desperately want to return to their ancestral home.”
“I see, if there is only a few thousand of them left I imagine I can evacuate them once the war is over. Though they might want to consider settlement on Mars or Venus instead of Earth. Now major, regale me with tales of your glory.”
He put down the scroll and picked up a diary.
“Once we arrived in orbit it was pretty obvious that the natives weren’t going to last very long. We needed to get amongst them immediately. I could have tried landing in one of their remaining cities. Desperately tried to work out their language and perhaps, in time they would have understood our intentions and worked with us. But that was going to take too long. We needed to stop the enemy and demonstrate our sincerity to the locals. So I ordered half the USAAC ships to start bombarding enemy fortifications then went looking for a fairly easy to deal with target to test our capabilities and illustrate to the locals what we were here to do.
Amanda detected a raid in progress on one of the few remaining tripod cities. We came down some kilometers away from their position. Glided in from high altitude. That allowed us a good long look at the locals, their architecture, their weapons and what the empire had on tap. Theirs was a very heavily armed raiding party. Fifty armored warriors, four armored vehicles and artillery backing them up.”
“Amanda took the bulk of the unit to help the tripods and local humans evacuate while I provided a distraction. I went slicing in to their main formation, chucking grenades everywhere. When I ran out of those I used my disintegrator to start dropping light fixtures, trees and buildings on them. When that was depleted I drew my sword and started slicing around them as fast as I could.”
“I got a message that the civilians had been cleared out. Right as the Semblance and the Hustler came down through the atmosphere. I had them on my heads up display, just 200 miles out. Then a storm of plasma pulses erupted around me. I was surrounded by armored cars and warriors. So I surrendered, they advanced on me, weapons drawn and pulled out some kind of shackle looking things to restrain me. Then right before they grabbed me I pointed up and behind them.”
“I couldn’t see their faces. But I swear I could read their body language through those tin suits. They saw the sword of Damocles cutting through the clouds. They had called in their own air support, it wasn’t going to do them any good. Right after the corvettes came two USAAC cruisers and a Russian battleship to deal with the really heavy stuff. Would have preferred having the Montana or an Orion class boat backing us up but beggars can’t be choosers.”
“It took the Semblance a moment to plug in all the targeting information. The Hustler and a squadron of Corsairs went after their air support. Cut those poor bastards in their helicopters and fighters in half with laser fire. Some of their fighters crashed into the raiding party. Then the Semblance went to work.”
“I really didn’t think it was possible to cram that much firepower into a ship that small. Their precision was mind blowing. When the fist of an angry God comes streaking out of the sky you only worry about one thing. Not getting roasted yourself.”
“They knocked down a few buildings, but local damage was amazingly small. Of course once air support showed up the raiders were utterly fucked. I would have been too if I hadn’t gotten the hell out of there. One of the armored warriors had some kind of a gravity dampener and tried to chase after me. I maneuvered around him and chopped off his dampener. Don’t think he made it out of there.”
“After showing them that we wanted to fight alongside them and take care to not destroy their property and lives the locals decided that they were open to an alliance. It took awhile to work out their languages, the Ruskies were pretty helpful with that. Those guys are some really cunning linguists. The fleet started chewing up enemy ground emplacements. So far our Marines have only had thirty casualties. The Russian army though has been shredded. They are down to 20% of the troops they came here with. The Russians really need someone to tell them that human wave attacks don’t work very well against heavy plasma cannons. Their lack of body armor and continued use of bolt action rifles have left them nearly useless in sustained ground combat with enemy forces. So they are leaving.”
“Well, that sounds terrible. How is the combat effectiveness of the IEC Marines and the lizards?”
“In combat the volunteers from your company are the best fighters on this planet. I have never seen anything like it. Those who have had full release doses of 5meo are utterly ruthless, nearly unstoppable. To be honest, it’s terrifying to see them fight. If they get their hands on enemy troops they rip their heads off without hesitation, then throw the heads back at their comrades to sow doubt, disbelief and fear. My understanding is that 5meo allows a person to operate at the peak of their mental abilities. To dissolve any blocks or limiters between mind and body. Most of the people who have volunteered for the program, knowing that they would see combat give themselves fully to combat.”
“Almost as effective are the Lizards. They have a lot of pent up aggression to work out and they move unlike anything else in the galaxy. They are stealthy, they stay low to the ground and when they get in amongst any kind of bad guys, they slice them to ribbons. They are hard to see, and harder to stop. I’m just glad they are on our side.”
“Finally we have the marines that you folded into the IEC. They are kinda awkward, in every way I can describe. Many of them tried 5meo and it didn’t work out too well for them. So they can’t use the weapons provided as well as the rest of the volunteers. Plenty of them have a killer instinct. But many of them don’t. Those that don’t can’t give themselves completely to combat like the Volunteers can. Most of these guys are a complete mess of psychological issues. As much as 5meo scares me I am impressed with the way that it cuts though psychological traumas and whatnot like a fucking scythe. These guys had gone through all sorts of crap in the Banana Wars, the unpleasantness in China and a pile of other dirty little wars before they got here. Frankly they are out of their element, outnumbered and outgunned.”
I was about to say something about terminating their contracts when Pertwee stated.
“But! As much as they are out of their depth here they don’t want to be sent home. They have been at war for so long that it’s all they know. Back home they are separated from their friends, their culture. These toerags have even gotten used to the shitty treatment and food that they get from their officers. They bitch to me about how the food they get is too good. That’s marines for you though, they always find something to bitch about. Anyway, I don’t know what you are going to do with these guys once the war is over. As crazy as this sounds I would recommend putting them all through some sort of program like what Drakous put together to unfuck their heads. I don’t like to think what the consequences of pouring the worlds most powerful psychedelic drugs into someone’s head is. But I also don’t like to think what the consequences of having thousands of highly trained, heavily armed and seriously psychologically damaged men wandering around looking for something to lunge out at.”
“You really think that the marines are that much of a potential threat?”
“Well, probably not to society in terms of them taking over. A threat to their friends and families and anyone who has the misfortune of being around them. Seriously, I went to a bar with five of these guys while we were on leave in San Francisco. Twenty minutes in and three of them were talking about how they wanted to kill everyone in that bar, and they sounded damn serious about it.”
I looked the major on the eye and asked. “Isn’t this just the way things have been for soldiers forever?”
“Think about that word for a moment sir, soldiers, soul diers. Unless you are a psychopath when you go off to war you have to do things that will traumatize you. Things that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. Part of your soul dies. Now, after seeing what is done with 5meo it reveals that there is no soul. That there is just you and the ever unfolding now. That the most horrible mental traumas can be healed.
“Alright so what happens next?”
Graham unfolded a map, “with your annihilation of organized enemy forces in the Breezilpquip mountains there is one last enemy stronghold to deal with. A vast bunker and launch complex on a very heavily defended island about 1,500 miles southwest of here. Harappa Island is the last and most heavily defended enemy position on this planet. It was where the empire made its first base on this planet. The Army Air Corps and the Semblance have been pounding the living hell out of their bunkers since shortly after we got here. They haven’t quite got enough firepower to get the job done. But with the Montana I think we will be able to finish them.”
“Very good, if you have everything you need we will just zip over there right now. Before we do that though I have to ask. You have spent much more time on this planet than I have. Does the rest of it look as bad as it does around here? There is no color, everything just looks dim and cold and ugly.”
“Actually this area looked pretty nice by local standards. Until you destroyed those mountains. Spend a few weeks here and you will see why the humans who live here want out of this toilet. Even on a sunny day there is barely enough light in the sky to see any kind of distance and with all the particulates kicked up by the war sunny days are few and far between.”
It took another couple of hours to get everything ready. Once we arrived over Harappa Island I could see that it was a slightly tougher nut than I was expecting.
There was a long, roughly sword shaped peninsula leading to it from a nearby continent. The island itself was about 40 miles in diameter. Ground forces were attacking along the peninsula against extremely well fortified defenses. The island itself was almost solid granite. A mass of solid rock stabbing into the sky. Looming over everything in sight. Massively reinforced with lots of concrete and hundreds of plasma cannons. The cannons weren’t powered by some lost technology or a geologic anomaly so they weren’t as powerful as the almost reaching into space plasma cannons that defended most imperial hard points. But these were punchy enough.
The Russians had tried to attack Harappa. They found out that, as many had suspected. CLeRGy lasers were ineffective in an atmosphere. A strike from space ran the risk of hitting friendly troops. Besides the Russians had never done an orbital bombardment before. All other ships in the area weren’t quite powerful enough to destroy the hardened island. Though they had swept the surface clean of launch gantries and whatnot. When I got my first look at it the Semblance, Hustler, a German corvette. A bunch of fighters and a variety of Auxiliary Fleet ships were making strafing runs on it.
While we flew around the island, just out of the effective range of their guns I pondered what the best strategy for dealing with this would be. Then it came to me.
“Take us up to 60,000 feet. Inform all friendly forces they have 6 hours to get as far away from the island as possible. And load a mark 30 into torpedo tube one.”
As we floated up Graham asked the inevitable question. “What’s a mark 30?”
“You remember our first trip to Mars together when we acquired all those fun toys? A mark 30 is a Martian fusion bomb. An unusually big one, 20 megatons. Encased in an inconel and ceramic penetrator. I have four on this boat that I have been saving for a special occasion and this is special enough.”
I ran through the checklist for a nuclear mission. Every fleet had their own specific protocols for atomic weapons. On the Montana I had to sign off on every nuke deployment along with the captain and XO. Once the mark 30 was loaded I requested that the island be targeted with both rail-guns and the torpedo targeting systems.
I gave the locals six hours to retreat up the peninsula hopefully that would be enough time for them to get out of range. While we waited I requested an analysis be done on the likelihood of fallout causing damage. The winds would blow most of it out to sea. But using nuclear weapons on a living planet was something never to be taken lightly. There will be fallout and there are always consequences from fallout. It’s a problem that gets exponentially worse the more you pound the rubble.
Once the six hours were up i. I was always the one who had my finger on the button when atomic weapons were deployed from the Montana. A blast warning went out to all friendly ships. The firing button was built into my chair in the CIC. As I unlocked it I whispered a reminder to myself of the danger of these weapons and the utter insanity of using them on a living planet. Hoover asked, “I’m sorry did you say something boss?”
In a much more triumphant and insane voice than I intended to. I shouted.
“I said, now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds!”
After the torpedo picked up speed I ordered that the rail-guns be fired in a volley at the island. Big Blue’s shells made an awful mess of things. Huge chunks of bunker complexes and large plasma turrets went flying in all directions. As ugly as that was they were just a distraction.
The external view screens went dark seconds before impact. The bombs telemetry indicated that it had penetrated to a depth of over 600 feet. Once detonation was confirmed the screens came back on. Harappa Island wasn’t there anymore. It had been replaced by a giant boiling fireball. Most of the damage was localized to the island. That said there were quite a few building sized chunks of granite and concrete flying in all directions. As the fireball rose Big Blue took evasive action to get away from the fiery air convection currents while a few Singer ships dove into the mushroom cloud to take readings. For all my fear and triumphant insanity here comes the Singers. Showing the most powerful weapon I had at hand to be little more than a light show to them. I felt very small all of a sudden.
The heat of the blast vaporized millions of gallons of water around the island instantly. It fell in a toxic black rain over the remains of the island. Which was reduced to a collection of rocks sticking out of the sea. Nothing could have lived through that. The occupation of Yttrium was over.
After this I took Big Blue over to the regional Capitol. The city was enraptured with celebrations following the end of a centuries long conflict. Even with music and fireworks going off everywhere the run down wood, stone and mud brick city did not look inviting at all. Every place on this this planet had a washed out color palate. The Sagaglog system orbited a dim, low powered star that would burn for much longer than Earths sun. But provide a cold and dull existence for any life form in the area for tens of millions of years to come.
The Capitol building of human life on this planet was clearly an attempt to build a grandiose structure. While it may have been grand on a local scale the crudely cut stone five story structure was not too impressive. I was led to the central chamber of the council of nine. Graham would act as my translator. As we walked I had to ask, “nine people? That seems like an awfully small government?”
“Oh they used to have a variety of governments all over this planet. Republics, chiefdoms, nomadic tribes and nine kingdoms of humans. The war whittled all that down to what you are about to see and a council of military officers.”
“Uh huh, and how are the tripods organized?”
“Shamanistic voluntarists. Though currently under a temporary military dictatorship. Think Eutopos combined with Eskimos. Oh, one other thing you have to know about the natives. The humans here are a tad inbred. They had a pretty shallow gene pool to work from when they first arrived and the war has not helped things at all. So they can be a bit, eccentric to put it politely.”
When we came into the chamber it became clear that the council was not the August body that their name suggested. At least not at the moment. Most of them were naked, all of them were drunk to varying degrees. They were eating all sorts of food, several seemed to be imbibing narcotics. There were also much more than nine people in the chamber. I assumed they were servants or people further down the chain of command. A Russian officer awkwardly stood in the corner. It looked like he was making small talk with a Reptilian in sign language. (Reptilians don’t have vocal chords.) Both of them tried to ignore the debauchery.
While I was drinking in this insane scene Graham shouted “OI!” At the top of his lungs. The chaos stopped for a second. Then it started again as they welcomed us into the room. There was much hearty backslapping and handshakes as Graham and I were led to the center of the room. After a few more drinks and some putting of clothes on the council took their seats. There were six men, two women and something that was simply the most androgynous looking human I had ever seen. They were a bit more well fed than those they ruled. Though still lean and riddled with scars from battle.
The Reptilian and the Russian, apparently he was a colonel named Kapitokhin according to my limited understanding of Cyrillic sat down next to me. They didn’t have too much to say during the discussion. Yttrium was going to be a black mark on the Russians otherwise good record in this war. The Reptilian forces were basically under IEC command. Their representative was just proud to be at the final negotiation.
Though the council had their own English translator. Graham handled most of the talking. After he introduced me the council became quite animated. Smiling and thanking me. It took awhile for them to calm down. Once they did the man sitting at the center addressed me directly.
“Our people cannot thank you enough grand CEO Hammond. But we must beg of your eminence. One final request.”
“I raised my hand and replied. I have considered your request for evacuation back to Earth. And I will grant your request once the war has concluded. Or within a period of two standard Earth years. Whichever comes first. I have a contract here stating as much. I have already signed it, so if you would like to have a look at it and bring in a representative for the Tripods to act as a witness and notary then I think we have a deal.”
The androgynous person raised a finger and pointed out.
“That brings up a concern. We have been on this planet for millennia. We are a major part of the local economy. We are not sure if the Tripods will allow us to leave.”
“Then how were you planning to get off this planet? Do you think they wouldn’t notice when you all started boarding ships and flying away?”
I whispered in Graham’s ear. “Not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer are they?”
He whispered back, “what can I say. Their society was barely advanced to the point of the Renaissance back on Earth and it devolved pretty dramatically when the war started. If you showed up here and had to guess which civilization had arrived on a spaceship most rational people would guess that the Tripods were the colonists.”
I thought about this for a moment and asked.
“It might not be a good idea to take them back to Earth if they are this dumb and traumatized.”
With that I retracted the contract and stated. “Okay, new deal, you tell the Tripods that you want to leave. If they are okay with it then we go ahead as planned. If not, then we negotiate a new deal. The Tripods might not be the most advanced race. But they have fought and died alongside my people for months. And with you for much longer. We will not fight them, and you damn well shouldn’t. Especially if the cause of the attack is a misunderstanding.”
The council agreed to my deal. With that I allowed Graham to handle the rest of the details. I was needed elsewhere. There was a particularly nasty fellow who refused to acknowledge that the war was over.