by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents
Chapter 14, part 3
Chapter 15, part 1
Chapter 15, part 2
appeared in issue 232.
Chapter 16: Council of the Regions, Dome
Long before these unfortunate local developments, the President had, as always, absorbed with great care the latest silent debate of the Council of the Regions. And the arguments in favour of a further modification to the Instructions of the five Initial Missions of Exploration had been quite compelling.
It was the invited scientists who had been doing the strong persuading, this time, rather than the temporarily puffed-up Ovanavon delegates (although their Utor Party was still exerting a strong short-term influence on inter-regional policy).
And these days the scientists must be listened to far more attentively. They were now reporting, following the top-priority re-explorations that had been commissioned and executed across the entire planet in recent months, that the predicted levels of reserves of some of their scarcest mineral elements were proving to be dramatically over-optimistic. And that Dome’s sand, with its precious silicon, was daily becoming ever less accessible.
What they were now recommending translated into a sea-change in Mission strategy. And the President wondered just how much of a surprise that really was to them all.
‘Fellow delegates,’ she concluded, ‘I appreciate that the news we have recently received is not good — not good at all. And I acknowledge that one very sensible possible strategy, in parallel with the few others now open to us, is to order an escalation in the priority and magnitude of the experimental extraction activities of the New World Missions.
‘But before we confirm our vote on this crucial issue, may I ask you to consider carefully the potential implications, as well as the probable benefits, of such a course of action?
‘We have always agreed that we seek to achieve peaceful co-existence with any civilisations we may discover, whatever their levels of maturity — provided of course that they are willing to accept us in the same positive spirit. But the proposed extension to the Captains’ Orders, which insists on an immediate transition from optional, limited and unharmful exploitation activity to a compulsory programme of major sample extractions, carries with it the likelihood of serious cultural effects on the inhabitants of such worlds, and many other consequent aftermaths. In particular, the Captains will be left with no choice but to deal firmly with any local resistance which they might encounter ...
‘And of course, the greater the extent of such conspicuous “mining” activity, at this early stage in any discreet inter-planetary diplomacy which may well be under way on any particular New World, then the greater the exposure of the star-craft to physical revelation and military attack.
‘So be it. You know my thoughts, and I know yours. We all see clearly the likely outcome of our imminent vote. I merely repeat my request that each of you should think again, with all due care, and consider a change of heart.’
The vote on the motion for new Captains’ Orders was carried with a majority that was only slightly smaller than had earlier been expected by all present.
The President rose, left the chamber in disappointment and great dismay, and signed the Instructions that would be transmitted at once to the five star-craft, via the newest batch of carrier pigeon quins.
Copyright © 2006 by Michael E. Lloyd