CHAPTER 6: All but One
The three Earth Resistance Representatives were a little surprised by FFL02’s Board of Directors decision to let them ride along, round trip, in one of their reconnaissance spaceship voyages to the Sol System Space. The FFL02 Board of Directors did promise to take them back to Sol System Space. They did this because it was they who took them from the Sol System. But the Earth Resistance Representatives had no reason to expect that they would bring them back to the Alpha Centauri System for a second time. They had this worry despite Frank Weaver’s assurance that FFL02 would honor the vouchers they accumulated and the unsigned starcorp contract they had in their possession.
“You have a legitimate business proposition to negotiate with the starcorps,” Frank assured. “They won’t refuse you.”
If the FFL02 Board of Directors had not approved their request to communicate with their superiors on Earth the resistance representatives would have had no recourse but to put Frank Weaver’s business proposal on hold and go back to soliciting starcorps for help using the vouchers still had in their possession. Elijah Cromwell, Phillip Hecht and Lee Miyoshi came to this decision before they made their request for a round trip ride to and from the Sol System. They were doubtful that the leaders of their respective resistance movements would sign off on Frank Weaver’s business proposal. The only reason why they were presenting it to them was because it was the only positive result they had. Their past efforts to convince a starcorp to come to their assistance produced nothing, and they had no reason to believe their future efforts would do better. It was concluded that this communication with their leaders had the potential for being the least wasteful use of their time.
Their travel time to Starcorp FFL02 took seven weeks in real time. It took another week for the FFL02 Board of Directors to decide on their request for a round trip passage to the Sol System aboard one of their reconnaissance spaceships. An additional three weeks went by waiting for the next Sol System reconnaissance spaceship to depart.
There was no sneaking into Sol System Space across the threshold between null time and real time. The energy signature created by a star-drive’s reentry into real time was too distinctive and too easy to detect by a spacecraft within 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) of the event, and it was detectable by sensors on any spaceship within 17 AUs of the event. On top of this, the Spaceship Aurora’s arrival to the Sol System was not unexpected. UEF sensors and spacecrafts had been detecting arrivals and departures of starcorp reconnaissance spaceships every three months, on average, and tracking their movements while they were in the system. This was the best they could do given the immense size of the star system and the unpredictable points of entrance of the starcorp spaceships. Pursuing the starcorp spaceships was equally futile because of their star-drives. The UEF spaceships had no comparable propulsion system. It was easily within the capability of a starcorp reconnaissance spaceship to jump to the far side of the star system in 1-millionth of the time it would take a UEF Spaceship to travel there. For the UEF and the starcorp reconnaissance spaceships this was nothing more than a staring contest.
Within hours of the Aurora’s arrival to the Sol System the three resistance movement representatives transmitted encrypted messages to Earth. This was a contingency that was put in place before they left Earth to make contact with the starcorps. The Tellurian Resistance Fighters, the Rebel Warriors Army and the Free Earth Legion were equipped to decipher this encryption. Included with the messages were copies of Frank Weaver’s contract. The intention here was to give the leaders of these resistance movements the option of attaching their electronic signatures to the contracts and transmitting the signed contracts back to the Aurora or declining the business proposal in a return message. Once these messages were sent, Elijah, Phillip and Lee could do nothing more than wait for the reply.
The Aurora was scheduled to complete a three-month stint in the outer half of the Sol Star System. It’s sole purpose for being there was to record electronic transmissions coming from the interior of the system. The spaceship orbited Sol at a distance between Saturn and Uranus. This was far from industries and habitats in the system, and this separation provided the Aurora with more than enough time to elude any spaceship coming from those areas. Depending upon where a UEF spaceship was, it could take several weeks to more than a month for it to push itself out to where the Aurora was, even at maximum thrust. However, it was close enough for a transmission to reach Earth in little more than three hours. This speed of communication and their three months loiter in the system gave the three resistance representatives cause to believe that a reply to their message would come in short order. But this was not what happened.
Weeks began to stack up as the three resistance representatives aboard the Aurora waited for the encrypted reply to the message they sent out. During this time the Aurora collected dozens of messages sent from Earth demanding that the ship’s Captain surrender the resistance representatives to UEF custody. This request was of little surprise to the occupants of the Aurora and increasingly less so as they continued. It was expected that the transmission from the Aurora toward Earth would be captured by the UEF. And it was expected that they would assume it originated from the resistance fighters that a previous starcorp spaceship collected from their star system two years earlier. Without the encryption key, it was expected that the contents of that message would be beyond them to read any time soon. The communications from the UEF made it clear that this time had not arrived.
It was clear in the messages sent by the UEF to the Aurora that they were assuming that one or more of the resistance forces on Earth were soliciting the starcorps for help. The UEF transmitted numerous arguments that contended that these resistance movements were criminal organizations, and they maintained that the starcorps were duty bound to surrender their representatives to them. Mixed in with these messages were warnings that any attempt by the starcorps to interfere with the UEF’s governance of the Sol System would be considered by them an act of war. The Aurora gave no replies to these messages.
The Aurora was 18 hours away from the end of its tour in the Sol System when the first resistance movement encrypted message came in from Earth. Using the key provided by the three resistance representatives, the Aurora computer decrypted the message as it came in. The communication was addressed to Lee Miyoshi. Inside the message was a digitally signed copy of Frank Weaver’s contract. Lee verified the signature and then read the attached message.
You are authorized to act on my behalf to bring this agreement to fruition and with haste. You are free to pursue the implementation of this venture in concert with Representatives of the Rebel Warriors Army and the Tellurian Resistance Fighters or on your own. This agreement must go forward.
Free Earth Legion Supreme Commander in Chief
The second resistance movement message reached the Aurora 384 minutes behind the first message. This message was addressed to Phillip Hecht. It also had a digitally signed copy of Frank Weaver’s contract and a message.
Do all that you can to make this agreement happen with or without the assistance of the Free Earth Legion and the Tellurian Resistance Fighters. We need the help of the starcorps as soon as possible.
Rebel Warriors Army Supreme Leader
Elijah Cromwell waited for an additional 7 hours for his return message from Earth. The long wait for its arrival had him, Lee and Phillip concerned that there would be no message. When it did arrive, there was no digitally signed copy of Frank Weaver’s contract inside, but there was a message.
You are, under no circumstances, permitted to participate, assist, exchange information or cooperate in any way with the implementation of this agreement. We do not support any agreement that gives the starcorps license to reestablish a presence within the Sol System for any length of time. You are free to negotiate for a deal that precludes the starcorps from reestablishing a fixed presence in the Sol System. You do not have permission to give support of any kind to this agreement.
Tellurian Resistance Fighters Commander in Chief
The response from the leader of the Tellurian Resistance Fighters did not surprise any of the three Earth Resistance Representatives. In fact, they were surprised that the other two resistance leaders did not say the same. The resistance representatives understood from the beginning that their goal was to secure military assistance from the starcorps that was exempt from any obligation to pay for their services. From the perspective of Sol System inhabitants, the starcorps were military super powers. The overwhelming majority of Earthers believed that the star-drive made the starcorps invincible. The resistance representatives were instructed to prevail upon the starcorp’s kinship with Earthers and impress upon them a feeling of obligation. In exchange for their services the representatives were given permission to tell the starcorps that all past claims and grievances directed at the starcorps would be forgiven. Inviting the starcorps to resettle in the Sol System was the one thing they were specifically forbidden to do.
The plan that Frank Weaver proffered in his contract precluded the return of starcorps to the Sol System, but it did outline a prolonged presence of an offshoot of the WDF02. After the defeat of the UEF, the function of this offshoot in the star system would be to manage Earth’s space force. This work would be performed by Sol System inhabitants for all lower management jobs and down, and with funds supplied by the new Sol System democratic government. In addition to managing Earth’s space force, WDF02 would be the exclusive import/export agency between the Sol System and the starcorps and with unrestricted access to all markets. This access extended to Earth’s workforce. WDF02 would be free to recruit Earthers for immigration into a starcorp. The contract further explained that they would remain in this position until the expiration of their contract with the new Sol System government. The expiration date requested was 100 years in the future. The promise that they would leave after this time was backed by the proclaimed integrity of the starcorp community judicial system. Adherence to contractual agreements was important to the starcorps, and this fidelity was well known on Earth. Business contracts was the life blood of the starcorp community. The starcorps could not function as trading partners if contracts were not held sacrosanct. By law, starcorps were obliged to discontinue doing business with any starcorp that willfully reneged on a contract. What gave the Earthers cause to worry was the fact that Earth was not a starcorp. This distinction endorsed fears that they could end up under the dominion of the starcorps, once again. It also gave the resistance representatives cause to believe their leaders would not accept this agreement.
“What do we do?”
Lee Miyoshi’s question was predicated on the belief that the Starcorp Senate would disavow the contract if it was not signed by the leaders of all three Earth Resistance Movements. Frank Weaver stressed this to Lee and his associates when he gave them the contract.
“We have two signed contracts,” Phillip insisted. “We proceed with the war-machine plan.”
Elijah was quick to challenge this thinking and did so forcefully.
“You can’t do that without an agreement from the Tellurian Resistance.”
“We don’t answer to the Tellurian Resistance,” Phillip argued back.
Phillip and Elijah squared off face to face as they prepared to debate their positions.
“This mission is a joint endeavor,” Elijah disputed. “You can’t go forward with this without us.”
“If we don’t go forward with the war-machine plan, then what do we do?” Lee interjected before Phillips could speak.
“We negotiate for a better plan,” Elijah returned with a stern expression.
Phillip was not swayed by anything he just heard. He scowled at both men as they spoke between them, and then he spoke.
“We have orders to proceed with this plan as is,” Phillip growled out at Lee Miyoshi in definitive speech.
Lee took a moment to ponder this statement and to weigh his options with shifting glances between his associates. He knew that the time delay for messages sent to and from Earth made it impossible to communicate with their leaders again before the Aurora generated its time-jump bubble. This reality brought to Lee’s mind a couple of options they might be able to utilize. One option was to ask the Captain of the Aurora to delay his departure. The second option was to request a transfer to the starcorp reconnaissance spaceship that recently entered the system. Both these options seemed drastic to Lee, and he was reluctant to mention either one. He was also loathed to waste time trying to implement a business deal that was likely to be blocked by the Starcorp Senate.
“I think we should ask for instructions on how to proceed if the Starcorp Senate blocks the agreement,” Lee tentatively tossed out for consideration.
“There’s no time for that,” Phillip barked back. “The Aurora is leaving the system in less than five hours. And we are under orders to move forward on this agreement now.”
“If you do, you do it without my help,” Elijah countered Phillip from behind a steely stare.
Lee took a moment more to consider his position one last time and then responded with his decision.
“Okay, we act on what we’ve got.”