Chapter Five

"Well, that tears it. The Senate just approved the House's bill declaring war on China." The President and his Vice were meeting in the White House. Lawrence Gates, the Vice President of the United States of America, and President of the American Senate, wiped his brow. He'd failed Marquez, but both of them knew it couldn't be held off forever.

Marquez replied angrily to his vice. "That does not tear it, and I'll thank you to remember it." To the Secretary of Defense, he said. "Effective immediately, the United States Armed Forces are hereby ordered to Defense Condition One. Also effective immediately, no military forces are to make aggressive moves against the hostile power. That is on direct order of the Commander-in-Chief."

Surprised by the second order, Mrs. Botham could only say, "Yes, Mr. President." She left, and so only Lawrence Gates and Artur Lionel Marquez were in the Oval Office.

"Why, Artur? DEFCON ONE means war, means all our forces are free and clear to act against the enemy. Why hamstring them back to DEFCON TWO?"

"Because those are my orders, Larry. I'm still the Commander-in-Chief. And there are assets in place trying to confirm that China really is the enemy."

Larry looked at him frankly. "You really think they had nothing to do with this?"

Artur held the look for a moment, then turned away. "No, I don't. But I don't have the hard proof. One of our own presidents in history went after Saddam Hussein without the hard proof. For that, world historians crucified him."

"They're going to crucify you, too."

Artur shook his head, sipped at his coffee. "No, only my contemporaries will crucify me. Cooler heads in the future will see I was only trying to prevent a catastrophe from becoming even worse."

As it so happened, the President of the United States of America was exactly right. For what little good it did any of them.

The Hot Line from France began to ring again. Marquez did not pick it up.

"The Nuclear Attack: Day Four. Congress votes for war, and the President does... nothing!"

"An angry reaction from the public, the world, and from Capitol Hill."

"A special team of American investigators enters Chinese territory. Their mission, unclear."

"And from the Russian-Chinese border: the military buildup continues, ready to erupt southward."

"This is CNN Nightly, with Anne Elkins."

"Good evening."

It was a little thing, appearing first on Page Six of the San Francisco Examiner's war section. Michael Binkley had had his life saved two years ago by Miri'am Zor'el at the Tour de France when the bicycle race had a humoungous crash. Since then he'd been compiling information for his first book, tentatively titled, "Babes of Outer Space: The Homo Supremis On Our Planet". Unlike most tabloid stories and books, however, his had solid research to back it up. The publisher was salivating at the richness of the details, and at the reviews of selected test chapters. His so-called "friends" at the National Security Agency were trying to prevent the book from ever being printed, but the Examiner and the American Civil Liberties Union weren't going to take that one on the chin.

So Michael Binkley found it curious that of the known five cities where an Velorian lived, four of them were blown off the map. And another city was gone too. It had been on the list of about fifteen cities where these known Protectors had visited frequently, in fact number four on that list. Number three was New York. Two was Tokyo. One was Washington, D.C.

Four was Oslo, a city politically insignificant among world affairs. Very suspicious to a professional reporter such as Binkley. He didn't know that there was an Scribe based there, but he did know the usual meeting place for the Protectors was a four-star hotel fairly close to Ground Zero Oslo.

So he printed up the story, and ran it by the senior editor, who knew full well what Binkley had been working on. The editor figured, why not, and put it on Page Six. The story itself claimed nothing but speculation, things which the Examiner could run a harmless retraction on if the speculation turned out to be nothing.

But it wasn't nothing. The Associated Press and Reuters picked up on the story, did a little checking of their own, and raised a few eyebrows when they realized it was real. Or, at least, real enough to distribute across the United States and the rest of the world in international editions.

In Newark, New Jersey, one young immigrant, Igor Fodorov of the Ukraine, picked up on the story. He went to check it out on the World Wide Web, only to find the website was not answering. Oh, it was a real website, all right. But Igor Fodorov of New Jersey wasn't the only one looking for it. The Internet Service Provider for the website said the site was unavailable due to high traffic of demand. So, Fodorov went somewhere else the article pointed to, That site he got through to, due mainly to the site's owner paying for a much higher bandwidth. Fodorov was one of the lucky ones to get through for about three minutes. When he tried to click on a link in the site, he couldn't retrieve the other document. He tried to reload the homepage, only to find he was jammed out of that one too.

Fodorov tried several other sites mentioned:,, He did get through to Diana the Valkyrie's site, but found almost nothing related to these Velorians or Arions there. He tapped impatiently on his desk for a few minutes, then shut his computer down and went to work. Police officers didn't like being on the job late any more than anyone else did.

Co'ra'na Ky'zel, Scribe recently of Oslo, Norway, had no idea of the tempest raging in cyberspace until she tried logging into her "Site Maintenance" function on the website. After Lynn Besta had left Earth some decades ago, Co'ra'na kept up the site as a bit of an amusement. Though she never revealed her own activities to the extent Besta had, she thought it was rather an interesting anomaly about humans to be so fascinated by her and her fellow Velorians.

But she never in her life expected this level of fascination.

She had logged in to post an official note of condemnation for the nuclear attacks. Instead, she saw an immediate warning from the ISP telling her that she was being flooded off the Internet with HTTP requests. She'd never contracted with the ISP for that volume of traffic, and so only a small percentage of her customers were able to get through, and would she like to buy an upgrade to her existing bandwidth?

No, she most emphatically clicked. She posted the note, still unaware of how serious the problem facing her was, and moved on to the AUReaders Yahoo! group.

Yahoo! had talked about shutting down the groups before as an unprofitable venture, and every time the public had protested loudly. But Co'ra'na was stunned to see thousands, tens of thousands of people suddenly requesting to sign up for the AUReaders group. The lead moderator of the group had quickly turned around and shut off the new requests, instead posting another note saying moderators would approve each new member on a case-by-case basis as time allowed. Co'ra'na was one of the moderators who could approve people. The number of people in the queue for approval was over fifteen thousand and climbing by the minute.

"Unusual" didn't begin to describe it. Co'ra'na started checking a few other places, including a couple "back doors" where she had access the public didn't know about. Across the board, there it was: scores of people had suddenly taken a profound interest in the Velorians.

It was a public relations representative's worst nightmare, modern-technology style.

The secret was out.

Nor had the mass media ignored this story. The savvier reporters realized these underground websites were being flooded off the 'Net, so they went instead to another high-traffic website, the Internet Archive. And there, the full shame and glory of the Homo Supremis was for all to see, in archives as recent as three days old.

It made front-page headlines and the top story on CNN Nightly for "The Nuclear Attack: Day Five"...

By then, of course, Kara Zor'el, Xara Kor'el, and Ez'hah'bel'ar Zor'el were being surrounded night and day by throngs of news-hungry reporters and photographers. Ez'hah'bel'ar, the Virago ambassador to Earth, was not handling the situation well at all, and took to the skies fairly quickly to avoid the masses. Kara and Xara had an easier time (of sorts), locking the door to their home where the Chinese Army and Beijing police were already blockading the place. Newsies didn't have that much pull with the Chinese government. About the only thing the newspeople could report was when Kara and Xara lifted up out of their house and headed north, and that Ez'hah'bel'ar did the same thing from Australia...

In Canada, Co'ra'na Ky'zel scrambled around the Net, and had the television on constantly rotating channels. She listened and looked very carefully for any mention of her name, or her address in Oslo, or Luthor's name, or the cabin in Canada. For three hours, she tracked down any such references. She found nothing hard for the media to use in finding her or Luthor. So for the moment they were safe.

Yeah. Safe as beings who were invulnerable to bullets but not GAR weapons were, beings who were now "possibly responsible for the attacks on France and other countries," beings now headed for a showdown at the magnetic North Pole that Co'ra'na thought only three knew the full story to.

And indeed, three such beings did know the full story. But none of them were from Velor.

The commandant of the Arion Empire detachment and his two guests were watching the news just as Co'ra'na had been. "I think it's time for a little trip." To an aide he said, "Begin Phase Three." Standing up, he walked past the two women of the room.

O'mara parroted him instinctively and asked, "A little trip? Where?"

The commandant didn't answer her verbally. Instead, the two women instantly knew the answer was "North."