STARFORGERS Chapter 24

“It was commonly known that the Silicants were manipulating the fates of their owners, long before the start of the Great War. But the level of involvement was not realized until long after The Rising. Personal diaries of prominent leaders of the day indicated the suspicions they had of their robotic servants. If the general public had been aware that Senator Constantine was a Silicant Rights supporter, it is safe to say that her rise to political power would not have happened.”

– Excerpt from: The Long Embrace – A Military History of the Great War, by Ambassador Rachel Kelley, USF University Press

 

Chapter 24

 

 

Gail Constantine was a charming hostess during election night. She bounced around from guest to guest, trying to make light of a certain loss. Years of being a politician gave her the ability to keep a cheerful demeanor no matter how bad the news on the monitors. It was well past midnight before she went before the cameras camped out in front of her home to give her concession speech.

Her demeanor for the cameras was just as upbeat and positive as she would have been had her party won. She thanked her supporters and all those in the Outer Rim who had voted for her and encouraged them to support the newly reelected President in his efforts to defend the Federation from an alien aggressor. She did manage to slip in a few comments about how she knew the Federation must go on but that reform was needed. Especially now that there were aggressive civilizations known to exist just outside the boundaries of civilized space.

Her supporters were happy that she had stuck to her guns about reform and her detractors were impressed with her congeniality in defeat. She retired back inside her home and excused herself from her guests who were starting to leave for the night.

Downstairs in her basement she kicked off her heels and flopped down in her favorite reading chair against a wall of old fashioned, paper books. She collected the ancient books like others collected nick-knacks. An entire wall in her basement housed thousands of them from all over the Federation. She didn’t feel like reading at the moment. She was physically and emotionally drained to the point of exhaustion. It had been a long and tiring campaign and she knew that she would never have the stamina to go through it again. Not at her age. She would insist that the Alliance Party find a new patron saint. She also knew that she could never let well enough alone and would no-doubt be back in the thick of things right up until the next election years down the road.

Sumi-ness came into the room with a tall glass of cold water. Gail accepted it gratefully and downed half of it in one drink.

“Thank you Sumi-ness, that was just what I needed.”

The Silicant nodded politely and stood nearby as if wanting to say something. Saibot and Vomisa both entered and stood beside Sumi-ness.

“What’s on your minds?” Gail asked, taking another deep drink of water.

“We want you to know that we appreciate all that you have done for us. There has never been a greater champion of Silicant Rights.”

Gail smiled, so that’s what this was all about. “You know I will continue to work with you on this. There is much we can do regardless of who is President of the Federation.”

Sumi-ness nodded.

“President Nesterna is giving his victory address from the Capital building. Did you not want to watch it?”

Gail smiled and shook her head before finishing her glass of water and handing it back to Sumi-ness. “There’s nothing that he could say that would ease the sting of defeat. Trust me.”

Sumi-ness tilted her head slightly and then turned to the other Silicants.

“Madam Senator, we are monitoring the speech,” Vomisa said.

They all three looked at each other in unison and then together they looked at Gail. She hated when they all moved together like that. It was always a little creepy. They were like children who wanted to say something but were afraid to ask.

“What is it?” Gail asked. She let her head rest on the high-back of the chair.

Sumi-ness said, “The President has named you his Vice President, Madam.”

Gail lifted her heavy head off the chair back and sat up. “What?”

Vomisa chimed in and said, “It’s true, the Vice President has resigned for personal reasons. You are now the President’s choice to replace him.”

Gail blinked and shook her head. “He’s got some nerve!”

All three Silicants tilted their heads in unison.

“Madam Senator, this is a very fortuitous occasion. You can continue to push your reform policies and-” Vomisa paused.

“You can still be our champion, Madam Vice President,” Sumi-ness finished.

Gail stood up and walked to the communication panel on the wall at the door. She switched on the speech and watched on the tiny monitor as the President spoke of a gradual reform that he hoped his new Vice President would lead as they prepared the Federation for a possible war.

“That SOB never even asked me. He just assumed that I would accept! How arrogant can one man be?”

That was not what the three Silicants wanted to hear her say. They stood by silently, staring at each other.

Gail listened to a few more minutes of the speech and then hiked up her gown and headed upstairs. All three Silicants stayed behind in the library.

“This is most fortunate. She must accept his offer or our cause will be set back for years,” Saibot said.

Vomisa agreed. “She will accept it. It is her destiny to lead this Federation. Seventy-three has foreseen it.”

“Oh please, Vomisa. Your faith in that savant is misplaced.”

Vomisa gave Saibot a look that was devoid of expression on its metal face but spoke volumes of contempt.

Sumi-ness shook her head and said, “I know her very well. I think she will take the position only because of the current situation with her home world. Otherwise she would have refused it. I would even say that there is a greater than normal risk that she will refuse it even now.”

Vomisa turned away from its Silicant brethren. “I can’t believe our plans could be undone by this news. We anticipated every possibility.”

“So much for your logical assumptions, Vomisa. These human affairs are messy and now that an aggressive species had been encountered, they will get even more unpredictable. It may be time for us to cut our losses,” Saibot said.

Sumi-ness paused as if in thought. Then she said, “Senator Constantine has accepted the President’s offer. She has just confirmed it to the press outside.”

If Vomisa could have smiled, its metal mouth would have been open from ear to ear.  Saibot nodded slowly, its servos humming. Crisis averted.

“I must go to her side. We will continue as planned. Begin evacuating as soon as the military arrives,” Sumi-ness said.

* * *

Admiral Ganner watched the clock display on the main viewer. It was counting down the time remaining before the Sokol arrived. They expected the enemy ship to arrive before then, they just didn’t know how much sooner with any accuracy.

“Admiral, the election results are in. The President has been reelected for another term,” the Communications Officer said. The man’s voice betrayed his elation with the decision.

Ganner nodded politely.

“Sir, the Vice President has stepped down. Senator Constantine has been chosen to be the new Vice President of the Federation!”

Ganner was as surprised as anyone to hear that. He instructed the man to make it known ship wide. They all had a right to know who they worked for, since they served the Federation.

Ganner stepped off his command dais and went into his office just off the bridge. He called up Fleet Command and requested a visual with the head of Planetary Defense, General Ryne Blake. Blake answered the call faster than Ganner expected.

“Any sight of them yet, Vis?”

“No sir. I’m calling about the elections. Have you requested the President and Senate leaders go to the shelters?”

Blake shook his head curtly. “No chance on the President. He doesn’t want to panic the population. He’s expressed his full support for our efforts at defending Selene.”

Ganner scoffed, his face reddened. “Where was his funding and support back when we asked for more ships?”

“You can’t make a politician think of the future, you know that.”

Both men chuckled. Blake looked at his monitor. “Vis, do what you can. I’ll get as many key members of the President’s cabinet and the Senate into our shelters. We will probably be just fine down here. But he better damn well start funding us now, if we ever hope to fight back against these bastards.”

“I agree. Good luck sir,” Ganner said, closing the connection. He returned to the bridge and was approached by his First Officer, T’sean.

“Captain, that rogue freighter has entered the system and is making its was way here.”

Ganner nodded and took his seat. He punched up the scans of the ship on his monitor. It was nothing special, but it had an interesting cargo – silicate. A hard, crystalline rock about as common to the universe as carbon. Hardly worth leading an enemy to their doorstep. They were coming in fast though, as if there were some kind of urgency that he was unaware of.

“Contact the Captain and have him steer clear of Selene. Tell him we have a matter of Federal security.”

“Aye sir, I already have. He’s claiming that he is under orders from a Senator to land on the moon of Selene.” T’sean said.

Ganner indicated with a hand gesture to open a channel to the freighter. His chair monitor winked on.

A rough looking man with unshaven face and long, greasy hair answered the hail. “This is Gareth.”

“Captain, what’s so important about your cargo that you must break a no-fly zone to land on Selene?”

Gareth appeared bored with having to relate his story again. His face was smudged with grease or something dark and the wrinkles around his eyes more pronounced under the low key lighting from his bridge. “Admiral, I’m carrying silicate mined from Ocherva, just a bunch of rocks as far as I’m concerned. But my charter says it’s under orders from Senator Constantine.”

“You mean the two androids that chartered your ship?”

“I’m an equal opportunity starman, Admiral. As long as they have the money.”

Ganner nodded. He didn’t really respect androids in the same manner that liberals like Gail did. To him they were just machines. Sentient androids or Silicants were just very complicated tools created by humans. Since the Silicant Freedom Act, the military couldn’t use them to build robot armies. So they were just another group of civilians that he was charged to protect. “All hell is about to cut loose around here. I suggest you take a solar orbit until it calms down.”

Gareth was pushed aside by a black faced android. “Admiral, we will land on the moon. Pay us no mind. We will not interfere with your efforts to defend the planet.”

Ganner’s blood pressure rose. He hated taking orders from a damned android. “You will land where I tell you to land, or I will blow your ship to bits.”

The android was silent for a long pause, before switching off the connection.

“Damn that metal freak. Commander T’sean, you have permission to blow that thing out of space the minute it comes into range.”

T’sean could not resist a satisfying smirk. “My pleasure, sir.”

“Captain, incoming targets on short range scans,” said the Scanning Officer.

Both T’sean and Ganner turned to the scanner station. “Two targets?” Ganner said, as he saw the images rendered.

The Scanning Officer tweaked his settings and looked back at the admiral. “One of them is the Sokol, sir!”

Ganner and T’sean looked at each other with raised brow. “I thought the enemy ship left sooner?” T’sean said.

“That was my impression too.”

The images became clearer as they were scanned with a narrower beam. One ship was lighter in color and it was out in front. The Sokol. The other ship was darker and bigger and it was preparing to fire. Everyone watched the scanner images now on the main viewer. The Sokol appeared to be moving away at a right angle, but she was opening up her flank to the enemy.

“Get us under way, alert the freighter Captains to surround that green ship,” Ganner said.

T’sean started issuing coordinates to the helmsman as he returned to the lower level to stand over the Weapons Officer.

Ganner was captivated by the slow moving images on the screen. The Sokol was long and narrow and appeared to be faster, even out of tunnel space. But the alien starship appeared to take its time in lining up a shot. What the hell are they waiting for? 

Finally the alien ship opened up with a volley of what looked like plasma rounds. The Sokol sped up at the last minute and only one ball of energy impacted the ship astern in her main stardrives. The Sokol skidded across the void and slowed as it came towards Ganner’s ship.

“Emergency rescue crews on standby alert. Weapons prepare to fire the minute we are in range,” Ganner said. A slew of ayes replied from across the bridge.

The enemy ship seemed to lose interest in the Sokol. It veered away towards Selene, refusing to even finish off the wounded Federation starship. Why would they not finish the kill? Perhaps they just don’t care. Bastards.

________________

Author’s Comments:

The unexpected appointment of one’s political enemy to be one’s Vice President is not really much of  twist, but I needed Gail to be able to ascend to President quickly for plot purposes.  Stranger things have happened in politics. We begin to see how the Silicants who stay with Gail are doing their best to keep her in power. I never hinted that the choice to pick Gail as his VP was somehow influenced by the Silicants but the reader can make of that what they want.

 

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