Chapter Three

Yevgeni ruffled a few papers, shaking his head. He was reviewing his speech with distaste. It was eloquent, historical... and choking. It had sounded good when he'd written it the first time, but to read it aloud? His audience would be asleep before he got to the good stuff. This wasn't a school, it was theater.

He looked at the speech one last time, said to himself,Yuck, and crumpled it in his hands. He'd just wing it. Then he opened his briefcase, and pulled out a small sheaf of paper.

Good evening.

Will someone please tell me why we're still kow-towing to the Arions?

I'm not sure I understand it. Over a hundred years they have ruled this planet -- yes, ruled! Iron fists and all. And for what? Because they saved us from our own stupidity?

Let's rehash a little history here. The Fourth World War. We didn't blew ourselves to hell, they told us -- we were sitting on the curb getting run over by a truck! Oh. Really. Wow. Who did this?

Those evil Velorians, they told us. Those self-serving, greedy, rip-your-face-off-and-swallow-it-for-breakfast Velorians. Oh, actually, it was just one self-serving, greedy, rip-your-face-off Velorian, Kara Zor'El! But why go after us humans? No. She didn't care about us, did she? No, she wanted to make sure she could have the planet all to herself. One little Earth for her daughter Xara, a Christmas gift.

Funny thing is, they were almost telling the truth.

You see, we came from that Fourth World War running from our lives. We of the Military Colonies, aboard Station Hercules, suddenly became the Great Starliner Hercules, with twenty thousand passengers who hadn't bought tickets. You want to talk bankruptcy? We were talking death. For every last one of us. That fourth war meant a lot to us. So we studied it -- what went right, what went wrong, what really happened down there... and it just so happened we picked up an FBI agent in China who had been there at Urumqi, collecting samples. We even got his samples.

You know what those samples told us? Not much. Not right away. But after a few years among the stars -- a trading post here, an Arion Protectorate there -- we collected a lot of other stuff. Some Velorian, some Arion, some that just didn't have anything to do with them. We picked up some scientific lab equipment the Arions exported off our world -- that was an eye opener. Enough of the right stuff -- the knowledge for our hungry scientists -- to figure out something.

What did we figure out? Only that Kara had never been to Urumqi.

That doesn't say much. But who had been to Urumqi?

The Arions. Those self-serving, greedy, rip-your-face-off-and swallow-it-for-an-hor-d'oeuvre Arions!

I'm thinking to myself, "Wait just a damn minute. I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask you to blow up my planet. I didn't ask you to kill millions of people and cast us from the Earth into the depths of space. So why did you do it?"

You see this? In my hand, I'm holding a report from the Arion Empire about their little fiasco on our planet. Yes, a fiasco! We were an embarrassment to them, and why? Because we humans had blown up the planet they'd worked so hard to get!

To steal.

What did they do?

They paid for those bombs to be built -- not normal bombs, not even thermonuclears. Special bombs. We used to call the first thermonuclear a Super Bomb. What else could kill a super woman than a super bomb?

A micro bomb.

A microfusion bomb!

A bomb developed by Dr. Najla Imelda Thomas, who was herself duped. Her team of death and mass destruction was composed almost entirely of Arion agents. Her funding, though she thought it was Chinese and American, was Arion.

What did the Arions get for their money? A weapon that could kill any Homo Sapiens Supremis without a direct hit.

Oh boo hoo. You lost a few Terrans, a few humans to our bomb? Too bad. A few million? So what? We don't know why you blew up after we lit the powderkeg under you.

We don't read the UN Charter. Why should we? After we get rid of the Velorians, we'll just take over. Who needs their enlightenment, when we can enlighten you just fine? Who needs the UN, for that matter? All they did was turn a perfectly good planet to ashes.

The ashes of Paris? The ashes of Oslo? Or Rio de Janeiro, or Sydney, or Cairo?

Collateral damage. They were in the way. Not our fault if a Velorian is standing there.

And yet, we kow-tow to them.

Oh, but that wasn't all. They also got indigestion. Those micro bombs had macro effects. Too great to conceal! Many Arions and Velorians across the Galaxy felt those blasts before our own news services found out.

The Arions have never used them since.

We kow-tow to them. We spend 120 years worshiping O'mara as a saint and savior. She was no saint. She knew -- she bloody well knew! She knew, she even told her superiors that in this very report, that the Arions had done this.

Yevgeni tossed the report onto the floor a few feet in front of him. The sound of the papers shuffling in their binding echoed through the chamber, though the microphones didn't quite pick it up. He looked around the chamber, keeping silent for several seconds.

What proof do I have? Any proof in my possession is suspect, as our Colonies were cast out, evacuated, in the Fourth World War. We have a vested interest in this matter.

The Russian Federation, however, collected and froze evidence from the Urumqi Launch Base in China, before Forsythe's Fires. That evidence is in cold storage in Siberia. I call on the Russian Federation to examine that evidence.

Arions and Velorians alike have been on this planet for centuries. Surely a Russian lab can tell the difference.

We suspect these samples will agree with ours, and prove that the Arions launched World War IV for political gain.

I don't know about you, but I've had it. I've had it up to here!

The Arions have lied to us, again and again and again. They have murdered millions of us, deceived us while we fell for their odious trap and destroyed two good nations and members of this assembly, and pillaged us for every drop of blood we have!

And I mean that literally, ladies and gentlemen. Guess what Earth's number one export is?



Laboratory animals for their tests, breeding animals for their broods. Their stock is too pure, they say, too susceptible to another gene bomb. Of course, they don't want to tell you what a gene bomb is.

It's a weapon they fear greatly, one the Velorians used on them in an ancient war. Apparently, they didn't learn the lesson -- or maybe they learned all too well.

We don't have a gene bomb. Quite frankly, I wouldn't want it if we did. But I'll tell you this: we do have a bomb to use against them.

A micro bomb!

They gave us the weapon that they themselves are too damned scared to use.

Well, I'll tell you this: I'm not scared to use it!

We are going to end their occupation of Earth. We are going to end the enslavement of Earth and her peoples. We are going to end the tyranny of the Arions once and for all!

But will you support us?

I won't lie to you. I'm not a filthy Arion. I want them off Earth. For good. But if you want them gone, it's going to cost.

Already, we've repelled one major attack by the Arion Empire. But only one. There's going to be more of them before we put a stop to them.

I came hundreds, thousands of light-years, to defend my home. I want to know: is it worth defending? Or would you rather have the Arions back?

One hundred and twenty years. Are you going to take that again? Or are you going to take the stars? Are you going to take the Arions on... or are you going to take them out to lunch?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ambassadors of the United Nations... I await your decision.

Admiral Yevgeni left the podium, and the murmuring began.

Afterward, he thought about it, about what he'd said. He'd missed something he meant to cover; he'd only glossed over the fact that in war, people die, and some of those might be human. Some of them might be on Earth.

Oh, well. It wasn't that bad of a speech. Better than that drivel he'd come up with earlier.

Siberia. It would all be decided in Siberia. Xara couldn't sleep -- her stomach was tied up in knots. Could it be? Could it be that someone had proof? Proof she never thought to look for? Proof that would clear her mother's name?

Neither Cory or Sharon slept either. They kept close watch on Xara, as Xara fretted and paced and did whatever she could to pass the agonizing hours. One way or another, this would break her. How would she handle it?

Two days later, the Kremlin in Moscow held a press conference. Russia's chief science advisor was abashed, red-faced and furious. Xara waited to hear the English translation of the man's machine-gun Russian:

"In eighty-three percent of the samples tested, the Arion 'gene-bomb' genetic signature is... confirmed."

Xara broke, all right... into tears, as she mourned her mother and colleagues anew. She knew, right then and there, she'd do anything for Admiral Yevgeni. Absolutely anything.

She cried the rest of the night.

The vote was a hotly contested debate, but the winds were favoring in one direction. Sharon gave Cory very clear instructions, and Velor received the message three days later.

It sounded like a rebellion. But with those damned bombs unearthed... Sharon shook her head at those words passing through her head.

Three of the Ne'Trona candidates at the time had nearly died from the aftershocks, hundreds of light-years away. In that extreme gravity, they were much more vulnerable.

With those damned bombs, it only sounded like a rebellion. It was really a war warning.

And no matter how you did the math, Earth was still outgunned.