Common Enemy

Author : Beck Dacus

From the window of his cabin in the I.P.S. Red Baron, Admiral Mortigna sipped coffee and watched as the last repairs were made on Jupiter’s dynamic orbital ring. A hoop of solid material twirled around the planet at speeds faster than needed to maintain orbit at its altitude, creating a net-outward force on the habitat ring built around it and on the tops of the space elevators hanging from below it. This kept it suspened above Jupiter without requiring its inhabitants to be in freefall. While humanity was fighting the Knorotoks, enemies from another star, this vast construct had been destroyed, cutting the Solar System off from vital elements used in fusion reactors. Now it was coming back together. Mortigna had been smiling at that all morning.

Then he received a message.

A petty officer rang his door chime, and the Admiral nodded to the camera above the door. The cabin bot slid the door open and the officer walked in. “Sir?”

“Yes?”

“I have some things to show you on my tablet.”

“You couldn’t have just sent them to me?”

“We agreed that you should have someone here who can answer all your questions. And we didn’t want to do a video conference, since that’s not physical and sincere enough for what you’re about to see.”

“Okay… what am I about to see?”

The man stepped forward and crouched next to his superior, who had forgotten to offer him a seat. He started playing a video of rioting and gunfire, with crowd control teams barely managing to hold the civilians back with their phono-shields.

Mortigna looked at the blue, bright sky in the video’s background. “Where… is this Venus?”

“Yes, sir. They’re in front of the United Solar Authority’s local control palace. Saying they’re not being fairly represented.”

“But it got them through wartime! It got everyone through!”

“Yes sir. But it’s not wartime anymore. They’re reacting to that.”

“My God.”

“There’s more,” said the petty officer, switching to a video from what looked like the surface of Callisto. A placid dome sat in the foreground, before a sudden explosion forced a cloud of valuable breathing air out of the habitat like a hurricane.

Mortigna looked back out the window. He could see Callisto from his seat, coming out from behind its giant parent planet. He was awestruck. “All this, because of the United Solar Authority?” he whimpered. “All this because the war’s over?”

The petty officer shrugged.

Mortigna was silent for a long time. Then he said, “Maybe… maybe we found something.”

The officer raised an eyebrow.

“Maybe we found a mysterious object outside the Solar System. Strange energy signals. Coming in fast by the look of it.”

“But sir, we haven’t–”

“Maybe it looks like a scout. Maybe the Knorotoks had colonies around the galaxy, and word has started to reach them about the recent Knorotok defeat here. Maybe another attack is only a couple years away, with the speed of their ships.”

The petty officer’s mouth was agape. “A… a conspiracy, sir? Is that what you’re proposing?”

That question was never answered directly. Mortigna just said, “Get Earth Central Headquarters. Make some data that looks like an incoming scout probe from the stars. And make sure word of that gets around the System ASAP. We have some reunification to do.”

When the petty officer left, the Admiral relaxed in his chair once again, looked out the window at the dull reds and yellows of Jupiter, and smiled.

8 Comments

  1. Jae

    “Apparently, anxiety and fear bind people together better than love and curiosity.” Only because the former pair allows people to be manipulated with greater ease.

    Fun tale. Nicely done.

    • BeckD

      Thank you. Touché– it’s hard to command people when they’re thinking rationally for themselves.

  2. tenebrous1

    And today’s quote in my e-mail was:

    “The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.” -James Madison, 4th US president (16 Mar 1751-1836)

    Wonder why that’s on everyone’s mind all of asudden?

    • BeckD

      Well, I wrote this one a while ago, but it is interesting. Mostly because it’s becoming very relevant, as Simon mentioned below.

  3. xdhz8

    Good story and scientific description of the orbital ring.

    • BeckD

      Thank you. That was the one part that I thought might’ve been too much, but your complement on that specific part turned that feeling right around.

  4. SimonJM

    Now, what would Trump say about that? Oh yes, “we’re going to build a wall …”
    Using external threats, real, perceived or wholly false is a long-standing gambit; good to see things don’t change 😉

    • BeckD

      Indeed. Too bad we can’t unite under common peace. Apparently, anxiety and fear bind people together better than love and curiosity.

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