The Practical Problems of Interstellar Empire

by 

Author : Bob Newbell

Trimet VII was the Emperor of the entire Epsilon Eridani star system. Of course, he didn’t know his solar imperium by the name a human celestial cartographer had given his sun. To Trimet VII, his star was designated Benzaprin and his planet, Benzaprin Prime, was the seat of his empire. But one solar system was not enough. He coveted the resources of another star system 10.5 light-years away. In particular, he wished to conquer the inhabited third planet of the system, a world called by its inhabitants “Earth”.

“Greetings, Majesty,” said Prime Minister Klav. “You asked to see me?”

“Klav!” said Trimet VII, “I want an update on my plan to expand our empire to encompass Earth and her star system. How long until an imperial battle fleet will darken the skies of the human homeworld?”

“Well, Majesty, there is the little matter of the system in question being 10.5 light-years away. Even fusion-powered vessels would take at least many decades, perhaps centuries to reach–”

“I don’t want excuses!” yelled Trimet VII. “That system has material resources that will make our empire fantastically wealthy! We must exploit–”

“Majesty,” interrupted Klav, “there’s no way the natural resources of that solar system could be shipped back here profitably. Even if the planets and asteroids were made of pure gold and platinum, it’s cheaper to mine our own system. And it’s cheaper than that to simply use Benzaprin Prime’s resources efficiently. A recycling program would make a lot more economic sense than–”

“Slaves!” said Trimet VII. “What about slaves? The human race could be pressed into service to cater to our every whim and to free our subjects from tedious and dangerous work!”

“Uh, Majesty, slavery hasn’t been economically viable since our industrial revolution four centuries ago. That’s why the anti-slavery movement gained so much traction within a generation or two of industrialization. We’re a service and information economy. Robots already do most of the drudgery. Transporting captives across light-years of space over a century or two is quite imposs–”

“A new world for our surplus population!” insisted Trimet VII.

“Birth control is many, many orders of magnitude cheaper,” retorted Prime Minister Klav.

“The glory of military conquest!” said Trimet VII.

“The Liberal Faction favors pacifism,” said Klav. “Besides, we can’t afford–”

“Raise taxes to fund it!” said Trimet VII

“The Conservative Faction favors tax cuts,” said Klav.

“A new scientific frontier!” said Trimet VII.

“Telescopes and robotic probes,” said Klav.

“Ambassadors and diplomats!” said Trimet VII.

“Radio transmissions and laser pulses,” said Klav.

“Spinoff technologies?”

Klav shook his head.

“Manifest Destiny?”

Klav frowned.

“No chance?” asked Trimet VII

“No chance,” said Prime Minister Klav.

The meeting over, Klav left the throne room and headed back to the Prime Minister’s Residence. Young emperors always went through this stage, thought Klav as he walked out of the Royal Palace.

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