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Issue Four



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A Question of Balance by James Bryron Love

Tom sat uncomfortably, staring down the expanse of the opulent long table. On each side of the massive table loomed scientists and bureaucrats, sitting in no particular order, discussing minor details of their specific professions. At the far end of the table, where no one had claimed a seat, a large map hung on the wall, displaying the single landmass that was his world. He looked at each face with disgust. The moron convention was beginning.

He eased back in his chair, slowly closing his eyes to the perceived nightmare around him. “Life never used to be this difficult “he thought. “These wars have gone on too long."

He thought of his brother Ted, probably sitting in a room just like this one with the same frustrations. Twenty five years these wars had ranged, in the brief moments between, nothing worthwhile accomplished. Yes, everybody wanted land, more space to contain their populations. Making the arm's manufacturers rich seemed like the real goal. He coughed out loud, unaware that, that particular gesture drew everyone’s attention to him. He opened his eyes see everybody staring in his direction.

“Tom," Samuel said, “I think we're already to begin. The material is extensive and time short, can you bring this meeting in order?”
“What’s the point Sam? You idiots have already made up your minds. This meeting merely a formality, everyone knows it. I’ve objected for months now. No one has truly heard what I have said. It’s really simple, there is no winning, there is no solution. We are the dancing doomed. You all have your head so far up your ass that you’re failing to look at the obvious. And then you have the nerve to force me to attend your stupid meetings. “

“It is not like that at all Tom; your input extremely valued. You are the Chairman; we couldn’t function without you. I know you think it’s all a waste of time, but we think that we have a real chance to win this time. We have modern weapons the other side doesn’t have; we have new technologies and communications making us faster and better. We outshine the opposition in every aspect, how is it possible for them to win?"

“Sam, you don’t understand the basics of the argument. Our debate is actually about, the cost to win? How many people are we going to sacrifice? How many dollars are we going to spend? Why is a diplomatic solution to you, so far-fetched? Is it perhaps because you and your family own several companies that build weapons?”

“It has nothing to do with that, and you know it; your own brother lives with the enemy. He migrated there shortly before the wars started, we’re not holding that against you and …”

“My brother holds the same opinion as I do over these stupid wars. If we go to war again, he’ll do his job the same as, I do mine. I don’t have to like or agree with you to do that. I’m tired of the pretense and all the garbage, meeting after meeting, when it’s already been decided.” Tom shouted, stopping Sam from completing his sentence.

Sam immediately lowered his eyes and began to shuffle papers in front of him in an veiled attempt to avoid the wrath.

Tom looked up and down the table, his frustrations mounting. Most were now pretending to have something else to do, some important document that they needed scrutinization.

John looked up briefly and instantly regretted it. Ted’s wandering gaze had settled firmly on him. He quickly looked down and tried to shuffle some papers, but to no avail.
“You have something to add John?” Ted asked with distain. “Weren’t you the one to suggest the last time that we eradicate the entire planet? What new super weapon have you and your cohorts, thought up this time?”

“That wasn’t my fault last time.” John said very quietly. “It it it it it was all taken out of context.” He stammered.

“Out of context! Are you serious? Would you like to view the minutes of the last meeting when you suggested that? You and your team came up with a weapon that would surely win the war. The only downside is that you would have wrecked the entire planet to do it. Your weapon would destroy all life on the planet. That’s bad. What is worse is that the entire planet would be totally unusable for thousands upon thousands of years. We would have to go in even after that time to completely terra form the planet. That is providing we could figure a way to neutralize that level of radiation. What part of that, is out of context?

Wiping sweat from his brow, John furiously shuffled papers in front of him. Without looking up, he said as quietly as possible, “We we we have a better idea. Not not not as devastating but but will be beneficial in winn, wi winning the war. That’s what we want isn’t it?

“Has it occurred you John, that for the last thousand years or more, we’ve had a peaceful coexistence with that other planet. We’ve been trading goods back and forth damn near forever. Suddenly, over the last 25 years, they have become the enemy. Half the population is related to someone over there. We are the ones that set up the colonies that you now want to so unjustly destroy.” Tom explained calmly.

“That all may very well be true, but we have the right to take it.” Fred’s squeaky voice emanated from the corner.

“And what gives us that right?” Ted stated venomously. “They never started this war; they seem to be more unwilling participants than anything else. Are you suggesting that we have the right because we force them to fight?”

“They have what we want, that’s what makes it right.” Phil stated emphatically in a shrill voice.

Tom stood up and stared down the length of the table, his clothes as disheveled as his mood. “How long have you been this stupid, exactly?”

Fred’s facial expression was frozen in a grimace as he stared back in disbelief. He stood quickly, knocking over his chair and made a mad rush to the door, muttering obscenities under his breath.

“You can’t be that rude to us Tom; you have to show some respect.” Samuel stated defiantly.

“Respect? Like the respect that you show me? You all are painfully aware that I never asked for this job. You forced it on me. All I am trying to do is save this planet and apparently, from you. Let us cut all the crap right now, put it to a vote, all those in favor of going to war again, simply raise your hand now.” Tom suggested.

The entire room went very quiet and slowly the hands began to raise. They looked at each other making sure they were making the right choice. With the exception of four, all hands were raised.

Tom looked around, revolted, as all the raised hands hovered as if in a breeze. “So the decision is, that once again, we go to war. I find that totally unacceptable, and I’m going to explain why. I’m going to state the arguments in a common logical manner.” Tom began.

“My particular job is nothing more than a figurehead without any real power; however, I do have options. These are options you may have not considered. The diplomatic solution is the best solution for both sides. I do believe we can easily come to terms with our so-called enemy. A common project will suffice in the beginning to draw all of our people back together again.”

“We have several moons that surround both planets. At least two of those can be terra formed and utilized. That will initially solve our issues with population. Further on that, scout ships have located several worlds that we can colonize. Once again, a joint venture makes more sense.”

“As far as money is concerned, the money that we would waste on war, will easily cover the costs.”

“Michael, is a reasonable man, I know this from many conversations with him. He does not want war, even though his population overcrowding is very similar to ours. Both of our faults; our governments’ faults, stem from not recognizing the situation earlier. We have now introduced population controls.”

“This is a far better concept than merely trying to take the land and destroy the other population. In the long run, all we would have succeeded in doing is put off the inevitable. Neither planet contains a large landmass. Who do we go to war with, after we very conquered that world and inevitably run out of space later? It’s a very shortsighted solution. Ben can tell you about what our scout ships have found. I have no doubts that our enemy has also attained pertinent data about other worlds.”

“Simon, sit your ass down, I’m not done.” Tom stated with exasperation.

“It’s because I’m a figurehead, does not mean I have no power. It is just extremely limited. For example, in this particular situation, the rules are wee bit muddy. It does allow me to take control of this situation.”

“Rule 30 7B, subsection 9, clearly states that if the chairman determines a very real threat to the safety and security of the population, he or she, can enact whatever measures necessary to secure the safety and security of the population.”

“This is what I propose, it’s not necessary for you to agree to it; however, it would be a good show of faith in your government to do so. If this proposal is summerily rejected, I will dissolve the parliament and will publicly state why. This will guarantee, that you’ll never be reelected again. My job however, is a lifetime job. I was never elected; I was selected. “

“These are the basic terms; you will now vote on this proposition.” Tom stated in defiance of the earlier vote.

“That is never been done before, I don’t think you’re allowed. You can’t just simply reverse our decision.” Simon said sheepishly.

“I can; I will, and I have. Vote! That is the only option available right now. To accept my proposal, raise your hand.”

The tension in the room mounted as all eyes seem to flow towards Samuel. His decision would influence the vote, and no one else was prepared to vote first.

Samuel let out an audible sigh; he knew he had never considered this as a possibility. It was too late to wish that he hadn’t been instrumental in installing Tom in the position. Everything it seemed to go so well for the last five years, Tom always bending to the assembly. Yes, he had made some noise; he had challenged, but nothing like this.

Defeated, Samuel raised his hand and slowly the rest followed the example.

Tom stood and put his hands on the table,” gentlemen; I do believe that concludes the meeting for today, it’s been nice doing business with you. I will start setting up the meetings with Michael. You all will have full disclosure of everything discussed. You are still the ruling body and will be instrumental in hammering out the details.”

Tom casually made his way to the door and opened it, suddenly aware of how fresh the air was instead of the staleness of the room.

Samuel took the opportunity to waive John over to his side, “we have things to discuss John.” He said very softly.

“Michael, it’s good to see you again.” Tom said casually, as he strode confidently across the expanse of the room, wearing his best finery costume has protocol demanded, to shake Michael’s hand.

“It’s good to see you to Tom, and it seems the circumstances are far better than last time as well, do you really think we can hammer out a solution?” He said, extending his ring filled hand towards Tom. “Can we at least, lose the jackets to these ridiculous costumes, they force us to wear?”

“Yes it’s a fine idea, and then we get down to some work.” Tom said jovially.

“Michael, you can deny it if you must, but I won’t. What has scared the hell out of me, over the last year, is this arms race. My scientists have come up with weapons that destroy everything. Basically, by everything, I mean the weapon will reduce the planet to ashes. Destruction would be absolute; therewould be nothing left to salvage and the planet would be unusable. What have your morons come up with?”

Looking down at the floor, Michael looked embarrassed. “We have similar weapons; I really don’t understand what they are thinking. Their solution is useless. I have been fighting my counsel about this, probably for longer than you have Tom. My planet simply doesn’t want to fight anymore, so to them, annihilating the enemy is a workable solution.”

“It is as bad as I had feared.” Tom said softly.” I suppose that they think, if they get the first strike in, that will be the end of it. The sad truth is that whoever makes the first move, automation will make sure; our weapons go off and probably the same for yours.”

“It’s worse than that Tom; the new systems in place ensure that, for any reason a special encoded communication isn’t sent regularly, every weapon we have, will launch straight to here. My biggest fear is that communications could break down for any reason, including technical glitches and cause that result. Most are buried so far underground that there is no way to destroy them.”
Samuel looked up from his desk, as a worried looking John, entered and closed the door.

He adjusted his posture to a more comfortable position and said, “John take a seat, relax; we're all friends here. We all have the same agenda. Tell me all about your new weapon.”

Fumbling with his folder, John slowly started to extract documents. “This is, a much better weapon than the last one I proposed. We worked out all the kinks and reduce the downside. This particular weapon, will only destroy humanoids and perhaps, possibly a few sub species of mammals. Everything else will be left intact. It is biologically-based and extremely fast acting. Within 24 hours, the planet will be ours. All will have to do is wait about a week for that biological strain to weaken and die off. I’ve done extensive laboratory tests, and I can state emphatically that it will work as projected.”

Samuel looked up from the papers in John’s hand, that he hads been trying to follow and smiled broadly.” When will this be ready?”

“It’s ready now. You can order the strike anytime you like. By the time they figure out something is wrong it would be too late to strike back, at least that’s what we think. Our various organizations that collect data have suggested that they have nothing like this particular weapon. However, that could be in error.”

Fiddling with something on his desk, Samuel grinned at John. “If it’s ready now, do it. I want to start selling real estate in a few weeks, there will be plenty of money to spread around, and you, John, will be rewarded handsomely.”

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