Chapter Six

Colonel Hitler was quite surprised to find a full Chinese National Army regiment assembled before him and his FBI investigators. Of course, he was even more surprised that President Marquez still has his team in Chinese territory. Congress had declared war, and yet here they were. If the Chinese were to betray them, well, there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it and live to tell.

They had just arrived at the launch site, near Urumqi, only to find it was indeed a mess. The Russians weren't too far away either. The tenseness on the Chinese soldiers' faces told that tale all too clearly.

Nonetheless, he stepped back and let the FBI experts get their hands dirty. Dirty those hands got, as they examined circuitry, mechanics, coolants, lubricants, software... Hitler shook his head, hearing a discussion about "slow field expansion" or some other bullshit.

Less than four hours later, the Russians engaged the Chinese at the Urumqi Launch Site. The Americans departed southeasterly in three minutes. Hitler only hoped he had the evidence they were seeking, whatever the hell it was.

One unlucky FBI agent, caught on the toilet, never made it to the aircraft. The Chinese were busing him rapidly south.

With nearly two centuries of digital technology in Terran history, it was nearly impossible to discover anyone not connected. Much like a driver's license, a solid backing in computer usage became an unwritten job requirement long before the current war.

In fact, there were only two times when your average Joe wasn't online. One was when he or she was asleep. Terrans by and large left their dreaming outside any form of control, digital or otherwise. Such dreams were by their nature far more random and chaotic than anything observable in the real universe. Men and women still died or went insane trying to interact with a dreamed reality.

The other time is when a person doesn't want to be connected. For example, most honeymoons are private. Criminals restrict their own activities online. (Why give the Feds information?) Boy Scouts disconnect on hiking trips. Then there are those who want to keep secrets from their peers, or are just traveling where connection is a hindrance and not a help.

Like Mach 2, thousands of meters above sea level, without any aircraft (and minimal clothing). Which is why Co'ra'na Ky'zel and the other Velorians found out what the Q're Ari'lo were really doing after it was far too late, after it had irreversibly occured.

It happened as the commandant left his office, with two T'set'lar trailing. The Q're Ari'lo put out a press release.

It wasn't just any press release, of course. For one thing, it was their first. It held no threats, no bluster, nothing aggressive to anyone at all. But it was a bombshell all the same.

The Q're Ari'lo officially confirm the report of the Associated Press, 
and request recognition by the United Nations and her member states. 
The Q're Ari'lo, in popular English the "Arion Empire", is a Republican government  
of Homo Sapiens.  We are dedicated to the preservation of life and law.  We recognize  
that without life there is no law, that the law must serve life. 
We have been at odds with the Vel'yena, or "Velorian Enlightenment", for some  
centuries.  However, we have investigated the matter at hand and believe the  
Vel'yena civilization is not responsible for Earth's current conflict.  Instead,  
our preliminary investigation indicates that an improperly trained and conditioned  
agent of the Vel'yena, Kara Zor'El, has rebelled against her own government  
and created an uprising. 
The nuclear bombings around the world are, in the opinion of the Q're 
Ari'lo, a direct result of Kara Zor'El's attempts to remove her colleagues from 
office.  The Q're Ari'lo detests these actions as vile and intolerable for a 
Homo Sapiens, much less a member of the Homo Sapiens Supremis subspecies such as 
The Q're Ari'lo apologize to the people of Earth for concealing their existence 
until this time.  Under Q're Ari'lo law, our citizens are required to be discreet 
in interacting with societies not yet openly welcomed into Galactic civilization. 
However, the preservation of human life is of paramount importance, even over that 
of ancient law.  The Q're Ari'lo must react when a renegade element of  
Galactic civilization interferes with such a society in so gross a manner as to constitute 
mass murder. 
To that end, the Q're Ari'lo can no longer stand by and do nothing in the face of a 
global conflict which a private citizen of Galactic civilization has initiated.  We must 
Accordingly, we request recognition of our diplomatic offices throughout the Earth 
as embassies.  We will render appropriate compensation to local governments in their 
own legal tender for the value of the properties our embassies occupy. 
We also request the Internet Top-Level Domain of ".qr", for the purposes of representing 
the Q're Ari'lo to the public at large.  We have a local intranet of web pages 
for public review, detailing our government structure, representatives on Earth, and 
humanitarian missions conducted throughout the Q're Ari'lo's territories and regions of 
The Q're Ari'lo look forward to healing the tremendous damage done by a single being, and 
to coordinate the Earth's transition into the Galactic civilization at long last: a 
privilege long denied Earth under circumstances which cannot continue. 
Released by Johannsen Public Affairs, New York City, New York, U.S.A. 
on behalf of the Q're Ari'lo 

Not many people noticed right away. But Johannsen Public Affairs wasn't foolish. The commandant had himself built that business from nothing to become one of the leaders in New York, and thus the world. At the New York Times, one George Rabian filed it quietly with his editor, and the editor read it. The editor asked, "Is this for real? You know the Times ain't exactly Weekly World News."

"It's genuine, Chief. The real deal."

The editor sighed, and assigned it to page 8 of the war coverage section. Rabian went back to work -- or so it seemed. Rabian's letter of resignation had already been turned in, and with that, Go'ra'ba would resume his rightful role as a Prime, defending the Arion Empire.

From what? he wondered with a smile. He only now appreciated the skill of the commandant's planning. Plus, the many years of work gave Go'ra'ba a new appreciation for American literature. As unsophisticated a people as they might be, they had a true gift for art at times which hardly anyone could match. That, and they managed to feed half the world without even trying. In his younger, brasher days he'd underestimated them. Now he appreciated them, and particularly the current administration. Marquez had been very wise not to immediately start a nuclear war.

Go'ra'ba, however, hadn't been told the full story. In fact, he was thousands of kilometers away from the real story in Urumqi. But his orders were strict, and he'd only defied the commandant once. He never quite forgot that lesson, and now, understood at a higher level the reasoning.

Amazing, how I might have destroyed all this without understanding what I was killing. By that, he wasn't referring to killing Americans or people in general, but killing the master plan, the process by which Earth (he couldn't call it Terra anymore) would join the Empire. It was a good plan, he saw: simply beat the damned Velorians at their own game. Provide help to the needy, assist in natural disasters, etc. The Betas had even done one better than the Velorians: they had insinuated themselves into the sports and entertainment industries. Two were professional wrestlers, eighteen American pro football players, three WNBA players, two NBA players, one baseball player, fifteen international pro football players, two movie actors, one reporter (himself)... one even owned a small chain of fitness centers. None of this counted those in the colleges, or those that had already retired in order to keep up appearances of being Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

At least Go'ra'ba wouldn't have to color his hair gray anymore. That was really driving him nuts. He needed to stretch his muscles, really stretch them, and recapture some of his younger days -- at least physically. He didn't need to be the young idiot he had been then.

Back at Kadena AFB, the FBI team had collated a lot of data, after getting over the shakes from a battle. By the time they landed at Kadena, they had something to report to the Commander-in-Chief. It wasn't good news.

In fact, it was the worst possible news. News that drained the color from Marquez's face, just as it had drained the color from Colonel Hitler's. It was something totally unexpected, and literally explosive. Marquez swallowed when he realized the magnitude of the problem.

The problem wasn't a physical one. It was a political one. Marquez thought for about two minutes on the consequences of the problem, and then decided to act.

"Dispatch spacelifts to every Chinese and American airport you can, right now," he told General Thomason. Then he got on the phone to Beijing. When the Late Bird appeared on his desk (complete with the New York Times' article), the President didn't even look at it.

Less than an hour later, the southeastern coast of China lit up with anti-aircraft fire.