Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

A savannah night is interrupted by the snarls of attacking lions. I hear screams, see flashes of weapons as wielders fall. They keep popping in. I’ve become adept at making sure they don’t leave.
While watching, my mind returns – as usual – to the afternoon I got this job: I’d been listening to a UN council vacillating when Colonel Verdi, our military liaison, threw her hands up in frustration and turned to me, the head of her security detail.
“Captain Miran, do you have an opinion?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Share it. A fresh view might help.”
“You’ll all have to excuse me for using gross simplifications of the science involved. Not my speciality, I’m afraid.” I saw smiles.
“Nine years ago, we discovered lateral dimensional travel. Minutes after that first ‘side-slip’ happened, people appeared. All over the world, where none had been moments before. Eventually, these visitors proved, to a select audience, that they were from Heasa – the Earth in the dimension ‘on our left’.
They’d been visiting us unseen for years because our reality ‘ignored’ them as they didn’t originate here and we hadn’t the science to get there. When we discovered the science, our reality incorporated the visitors in a ‘flash adjustment’.”
“We know the history, Captain.”
“Just showing where I’m coming from, ma’am. So, we soon worked out there’s a dimension ‘on our right’. The Heasans knew about it. – Seems they can view further than adjacent realities. – According to them, Euralyn hosts a global dictatorship that knows about and wants Earth. We’re safe until someone in this reality side-slips to Euralyn, letting their technologically superior, billion-strong army in. The invasion after that would likely be Heasa. That’s our real problem.”
“What would we do if the situation were reversed? Given how few humans know, we’d frame it as ‘only them, or them and us’. Executive action would be authorised. We’d exterminate the Heasans. Probably turn the place into a toxic wasteland as well. Just to prevent any outside chance of Euralyn scouring the ruins and finding a hint.”
“Heasa wants to work with us!”
I pointed toward the delegate who spoke: “Some do, some don’t. We’ve been contacted by Heasan groups not aligned to the main faction, and what we’ve got from correlating what they say – and what they don’t – shows a world much like ours, but with four superpowers. Two want to ally, two want to exterminate. Thankfully, their populations know about side-slipping and about Earth. Right now, their public is overwhelmingly in favour of trying to save us.”
“Your suggestions?”
“Heasan visitors remain sub rosa. We quietly embargo side-slip research and enforce it viciously. Then we work with the ‘save’ factions. As a precaution, all factions will be monitored: for obvious things like attack, but also to prevent subterfuge, disclosure or discovery of topics that could adversely affect our standing. Anything deemed undesirable will have to be neutralised by information manipulation or by those involved suffering arranged incidents, fatal or otherwise. No matter what, nothing can be attributable to us.”
There was silence. Voting screens lit. A flurry of activity culminated in Colonel Verdi turning to me and saying: “Congratulations, Major Miran. You’ll be commander of SDS – the Special Defence Service. I’ll need an initial roster to me by next Tuesday.”
That was three years ago-
Movement! Some Heasan’s risen to run for it while the lions feed on his companions.
My bullet tears through, being way overpowered for soft targets. Scavengers will obscure my handiwork.
The savannah’s beautiful. As long as we SDS do our jobs, it’ll stay that way.