I was getting frustrated by people of a supposed libertarian bent objecting to any kind of border enforcement (I’ve already spoken on my rather mixed feelings on “the wall”) because people should be free to move as they wish. Well, in an ideal world that would be true, but we live so far from an ideal world that it’s not even funny. The problem is that you cannot keep importing people who are opposed to the very idea of Freedom and expect to build a free country.
Look, in most of the world revolution isn’t about creating a free(er) society. Revolution is about removing one set of tyrants and replacing it with another. It was once popular, during the Cold War in particular, to complain about the US supporting various dictatorships around the world “merely” because they opposed the Soviet Union. This wasn’t because we had some perverse preference for these dictatorships over free governments. It was because there really weren’t any viable liberty-supporting organizations to support. This is why Reagan, in his “A Time for Choosing” speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention said “If we lose freedom here there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth.”
So, that said, let’s proceed with the “blast from the past”:
Immigration policy is a perennial subject on social media and in politics. I, of course, have my own views. Specifically, I support legal immigration while not supporting illegal immigration. The question often arises of what to do about the children of illegal aliens, brought here through no fault of their own.
In the case of these kids there are two options as I see it. First, either they are still kids in which case the only realistic thing to do with them is send them back with their parent(s). Second, if they are not still kids, then as an adult they chose to stay here illegally and that’s on them.
The above options are for children brought here from out of country. In the case of children born here to illegal alien parents, there are two different options because of “birth citizenship.” The first is that the parents may choose to retain their parental rights, in which case the child goes back with them (As far as I’m concerned amnesty followed by promises of future border enforcement* is a non-starter. “Fool me once….”) but, as a citizen, they may return on reaching adulthood. The second is that the parents may, at their option, give up their parental rights and allow the child to be taken into foster care and possibly adopted by an American family. In neither case do the illegal aliens remain in the US.
“But!” someone will say. “It’s not the child’s fault!”
No. It’s not. But the child does not get to benefit from the illegal actions of the parent any more than a child who, innocent of theft, would be allowed to keep stolen property given to them by a thief parent. The child being deprived of that is on the parents who provided it illegally in the first place.
“But you’re breaking up families!” Someone else says. “You can’t do that.”
It could be if the parents choose that option. But how is that different from any other crime? Entering the US illegally is a crime. (Kind of implicit in that word “illegally”.) Overstaying a VISA is a crime. Working in the US without being here legally with proper authorization to work is a crime. Collecting government benefits without being here legally is a crime. Those latter two illustrate that it’s not just the illegal entry that’s at issue, but that unless they’re independently wealthy and therefore self-supporting (in which case, they should have no problem entering legally) they continue to break the law as they continue to remain here illegally.
So, no, if I had my way, illegal immigrants would not get to stay.
Now, while that would be the base policy I would also agitate for a bit of flexibility to deal with innocent mistakes, paperwork errors, or being misled in procedures that lead to someone through no intent of their own being here illegally. I’ve known people who’ve had that happen, My wife had that happen. (We filled out my wife’s paperwork after our marriage. I sent it off. Only between the time the paperwork sent to us was printed and the time we sent it back, the location to which it was supposed to go changed. After a period of no response, no response, no response, we ended up hiring an attorney who helped us resolve things. And I checked. Our copy of the forms said “send here”. Lawyer said, “No, send there”. And the “there” is what finally got things straightened out.)
Some people do make a good faith effort but, through no fault of their own, things go bad. Judicious people with the ability to make exceptions can handle that when it happens.
Oh, and I would bend. over. backward. to encourage people I think of as “Americans who just happen to be born elsewhere” to come here, people who could read the Constitution (the Bill of Rights in particular) and the Declaration of Independence, and basically say “Duh” (Or call it, oh, say, 85% or more agreement), people like Darryl Hadfield and Sarah A. Hoyt. I don’t much care how they get here, so long as they do get here to counteract the “we’re going to come to America and turn it into a replica of the place we just came from” folk.
That’s the thing. I want people to come to the US. While the lines on the Statue of Liberty are a poem and not US policy (and never have been) the line is “yearning to breath free” not “yearning to bring our tyranny here”.
Which brings up another issue. We could handle quite a few of the latter, immigrants who don’t believe in the American Ideal as laid out in our founding documents. They might not, but their children would–or their children would if we didn’t have educational and media establishments that are actively hostile to those ideals and deliberately work to turn people against them. Instead of focusing on the ideals, on the value of freedom, self-reliance, and the dignity of the individual they focus on the flaws of those individuals and use their shortcomings to denigrate the very ideals themselves. No, we are not, and haven’t been, perfect. But they use that imperfection to tear down the very core ideals of the nation.
And they teach that to the young.
Without that deliberate effort, I would have little concern over immigration even by people who despise everything America stands for. They might hate us, but their children wouldn’t.
And with that, I leave you with this musical interlude:
*There is one form of “amnesty” that I might be willing to buy into. Not a “you get to stay” amnesty but an “if you leave now, without a fuss, we won’t hold your former illegal status here as a mark against you should you apply to enter the US legally in the future.” “You have to go, but you can get in line to come in legally if you wish.” There isn’t any logical reason to allow that. Basically, I’m just soft hearted.
In biology there’s a concept called Hormesis. This is where a small amount of a substance is beneficial but larger amounts of a substance that’s normally considered toxic are actually beneficial while larger doses are harmful.
The basic concept of small doses of something being beneficial with larger doses are harmful is not controversial. Anything which is beneficial–food, water, medications–becomes harmful or even toxic at a sufficiently high level. It’s in the idea that things that are normally considered poisons might actually be beneficial in small doses where controversy arises.
The concept can be considered beyond biology. Consider the field of political philosophy. As readers of this blog will know I am a strong proponent of individual liberty and of an economy based on voluntary exchange. From such a position one might consider government to be analogous to a toxin. There are many in Libertarian circles to believe that any “dose” of government is bad, that government with its coercive power should be completely eliminated and only voluntary transactions of all types are acceptable.
The problem with that is illustrated as follows:
Being able to get up on your roof with a rifle to defend your home against barbarians (whether rioters, terrorists, invaders, or whatever) is freedom.
Having to spend all your time up on that rooftop because the barbarians are ubiquitous is not.
Having some means of keeping the barbarians pruned back so that you can come down off the roof and do other things, while it may involve some element of the coercive power of government actually increases your net freedom because you are less restricted by the need to spend all your time just fighting off the barbarians.
Now, in principle, people could voluntarily get together and organize to keep those barbarians away. The problem with that is incentives, specifically the freeloader problem. Each individual gets the benefit of the barbarians being kept away whether or not they, personally, contribute to whatever is done to keep them away. The incentive is for a particular individual to have someone else spend the time, effort, or other resources to defend against the barbarians. And once you have some freeloaders, this leads others to look at them and wonder why they’re working at it while those other folk are reaping the benefit for doing nothing, leading to some of those others washing their hands of it–“if he’s not going to pay then neither am I”–which, of course, makes the matter worse. It snowballs, sort of a reverse “tragedy of the commons.”
Some small level of government, thus, is necessary to maximize freedom for the people living in it. This is not to say, then, that if a little is good, a lot is better. All government is coercive. That’s pretty much a definition: government is the license to use force to impose ones will. It is only when the government is small, and strictly limited to controlling those things that interfere in others liberties–“to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men”–that the balance is on the side of greater liberty. I submit that every government in the world, even in “failed states” where the “government” is simply the local warlord, falls on the high side of that hormesis curve, in the “toxic dose” range.
As things stand now, government interference in people’s lives needs to be reduced anywhere we can manage it. Exactly how far, where “reduce it some more” interferes with greater liberty is a question we can defer when things are much smaller than they are now. The question should not be (except as a theoretical exercise) “how small should government ultimately be”? Practically speaking, whatever answer we have for that, we aren’t going to get there quickly. “Minimum government” is not on the table. What we need is to consider how we can make government smaller and less intrusive than it is right now and those who think government should be smaller, that individual liberty should be increased, need to put aside their differences over the ultimate end point and work on achievable goals of reducing government intrusiveness.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.”
There was no lesson this week because of the holiday weekend. I think the real reason, though is they were using that rink for some hockey event, which was probably because of the holiday weekend. The other rink (they have two at the facility) for “public skating” was open. Went there. My daughter, Athena, had her skates and I used skate rental.
I’ve improved. I managed to get around the rink twice. This was slow for a couple of reasons. One was that I’m still just that shaky on the ice and thus tend to creep along. The other is that I was deliberately practicing one of the techniques they covered in my first lesson, the “snowplow stop.” So I’d get going, then I’d stop. Then get going and stop again. When I skated way back in the early days, I never actually learned to do this technique right. I always caught too much edge and ended up flat on my face. The stops I used back then were either a T-stop (skating on one foot and turn the other crosswise behind it so the edge rakes across the ice) or simply dragging the toe picks (the little spiky projections at the front of figure skates) in the ice.
I’m still not exactly stable and fell several times, however no really bad spills like the last time I did a public skate (at the other rink). The trick is to recognize that narrow window where you know you’re going down, but still have some control over how you go down. So falls were to knees or hip, not flat on my back. And most of the falls were from catching the toe picks–foot stops; body doesn’t.
I’m still having issues with my feet. I really need to get my own skates so I can wear my custom orthotic insoles in them. Still, it wasn’t as bad as before and, indeed, it wasn’t pain in my arches that brought my session to a halt. I’ll get to what did in a moment.
It took about 20-25 minutes to do those two laps and at the end of that second lap I was done. I was tired but mostly my ankles hurt. This is, I think, to be expected. Balancing on and controlling those blades uses small supporting muscles that don’t get that much heavy use normally. I need to come up with some exercises to strengthen those muscles when I can’t get out to the ice.
As with most things, I suspect the more practice the better so I looked into their public skating schedule. While my daughter Athena and I are taking lessons, the public skate times is also included at no extra charge. Most of the weekday sessions are in the middle of the day, so they’re out of the question. However, they have an evening time on Friday, afternoon and evening on Saturday, and afternoon on Sunday that we can attend. Well, they also have a Sunday evening but with both of us having to get up on Monday (her for school and me for work) that’s not really viable). So that’s four times a week that we can go and get some practice in for just the cost of gas to get there.
That’s more than just a line from Star Trek. That’s the essence of collectivist philosophy. Whether the “many” are called the Proletariat, Volk, or “working class” the needs/wants/desires of the individual are to be subordinated to the needs of that “many”.
In reality it’s remarkable how the needs/wants/desires of that many map to the needs/wants/desires of the “Party” leadership (just ask them; they’ll tell you). And the needs/wants/desires just happen to be whatever it takes to keep the Party leadership in power. Funny thing that.
The excuse given, when this blows up and produces widespread shortages and misery is “that wasn’t real socialism/communism”. Socialism and communism of course are the only forms of collectivism that get that pass. Nobody makes that claim about fascism and Nazism).
But even that’s beside the point. At it’s core the collectivist vision that takes “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” can be shown to be despicable in itself.
Consider a healthy young man. Shoot that man and, if one is careful about shot placement, you’ve got two kidneys, a heart, a liver, lungs, intestines, pancreas, thymus, eyes, bone marrow, many things that can be used to safe a dozen lives and improve the quality of life of a dozen more. If “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few” is axiomatically true then it must be moral to sacrifice one life in order to save a dozen or more others.
Very few people, of course, would accept this as the case. The needs of the many does not automatically outweigh the needs of the few, or even the one, in every case. Once you accept that, it becomes possible to start exploring the limits of such “outweighing”, when if ever it is valid and when it is not.
It also means that you can’t just throw out “the good of society” as a reason to restrict individuals in pursuing their own needs, wants, and desires. You have to make a better argument.
I propose that the needs of the many are best served by upholding the right of individuals to pursue their own individual needs, wants, and desires as they see them so long as they do not forcibly infringe on that same right in someone else. Indeed, this is what we see when we look at cultures in general. There are very few exceptions to that principle. Generally speaking the greater a society does so, the better off even the masses within that society are. The more a society enforces subverting individual wants and needs to the collective, the worse off the masses within it are. It takes very careful cherry picking to try to present those collectivist societies as “better” in any meaningful way than those with a greater respect for individual liberty, personal and economic.
It may seem, perhaps, a paradox, but as the late economist Milton Friedman observed in a different context: “The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.” This is a much more generally applicable concept than equality vs. freedom. It is simply that people serving their own self interest will often end up serving the common interest as a side benefit. It was not through any altruism that John D. Rockefeller made kerosene for lighting far cheaper than it was previously. It was not through any noble motives of help to the masses that Henry Ford made the automobile cheap enough for the “working class” to afford them (as opposed to just being toys for the wealthy). They did it to make money and in the process bettered the lives of millions–billions if you consider second and third order effects.
Thus, the needs of the many are best served by respecting the needs of the few, or the one.
So, there’s a new spending bill which provides some money–not all that was asked for but some–for Trump’s border wall. In return, Trump declared a “National Emergency” in order to spend military construction budget on said border wall. And in return to that Pelosi, “suggests” that the next Democrat President (fate forfend) can use a declaration of national emergency on the subject of gun violence (presumably eradicating the 2nd Amendment and going whole hog on gun confiscations).
Wow. That’s a lot.
First off, I’m of mixed feelings about this border wall, not because it’s “useless” (every builder of fortifications throughout history would laugh at the blanket “walls don’t work” claim–they do work as a force multiplier. They have to be defended but they mean that existing forces on our border can be more effective by complicating the problem of those trying to cross illegally) but because the resources being spent there might be better spent in other ways to reduce the problem of illegal immigration. Things like aggressively checking that people who get government assistance are actually citizens and not providing said assistance to those who are not. Things like actively seeking and censuring companies that employ illegals, with penalties strict enough to discourage said hiring. Remove the incentive for people to come here illegally and much of the problem will be self correcting. OTOH, I don’t have enough information to determine which would be a more effective use of resources and with a number of cities and even states actively working to undermine those laws shifting the balance… Like I said, mixed feelings.
As far as the national emergency goes, some people complain that it sets a bad precedent. While I may be skeptical that this is the best way to accomplish things, that ship has sailed a long time ago. And just like we’ve seen how empty “I’ll give you a concession Tuesday for a concession today” has been, so too is “If you don’t use this today, I won’t use it tomorrow” is a thin reed indeed to hang on. If they really thought they could do it (that “national emergency on gun violence” bit), then they’d do it whether Trump used it now or not. They’re already all-in on gun banning and will use any tool they think will work toward that end.
There is just one problem with this hypothetical future president declaring a “national emergency” on gun violence and using his pen and phone to ban guns. That would be “go time” on something no sane person wants. Oh, some may think they want it but that’s because they have unrealistic expectations on the results. I don’t want it. After all, I like to think (YMMV, of course) that I am reasonably sane. The immediate results would be horrific and the final result? Unlikely to be good.
But I keep watching those in power flirting with triggering just that result by pushing people into situations where “unlikely to be good” is still the best option they have.
It occurred to me this morning that our concept of love might be struggling to go back around to the historical mean — and not the sensible part of the historical mean — but the easier, and less civilized part.
Look, our entire concept of romantic love as shaping and creating your entire life was partly a construct of the same wonderful Rousseaunian philosophy of the “natural man”. If you’ve ever read Tess D’Ubervilles, not to mention suffered through Effie Briest in German with a slightly deranged teacher, you are aware that the “natural” philosophers of the 18th century more or less invented the concept that you should abandon everything for love and reshape your whole life around it. Also, that there was only one true love, and you couldn’t really have another.
I’m not a hundred percent sure who came up with the idea of soul mates, because mostly…
Ten minutes later, Li sat at the con on the bridge. The icon for their remaining opponent floated in the main holotank. Numeric values floated next to the icon indicating estimates of mass, acceleration, and bearing. A red fog filled a roughly spherical area indicating likely future positions of their opponent. A yellow fog filled the area indicating where it could possibly reach, given what they knew about the ship.
At Li’s left, the nav repeater was set for holocom and showed Coll, down in Nav, overseeing Small’s work on the navigation and tactical system. The Jin Long was only armed as an anti-piracy measure and did not have a dedicated tactical station. Navigation would have to serve that purpose.
At Li’s right, the engineering repeater displayed a schematic of the ship in green. Battle damage that they had not had time or facilities to completely repair glowed in yellow, as did the starboard wormhole trap with its fuel-eating flutter.
“Brenda,” Li said, “Tell me again about these second claws.”
“They’re similar to our own pirate chaser craft. Very long-legged, but they trade armament for that. If they’re the generation I think they are, they’ve got three phased tunnel cannon turrets to our one, but we outrange them, maybe ten percent.” Coll tapped on her keyboard and in the main holotank in front of Li, two spheres appeared around the opposing ship’s icon, one representing the Second Fang’s expected tunnel cannon range, another representing the Jin Long’s.
“So, we can hit them from beyond their range?”
“We can, but they’ve got missiles which we don’t have. Probably a quad- or an oct- fixed mount. The missiles outrange our tunnel cannon by about two to one.” A third sphere appeared around the Second Fang.”
“Who’s on our cannon?”
“Ephraimsen. He’s done the best on sims.”
“I know, but that’s the best we’ve got.”
“Remind me when we get back to port to hire at least one former gunner’s mate for the crew.”
“Yes, sir,” Coll grinned. “I’ll remind you…again.” She looked down at Small’s display, then looked back up. “We’re closing to his missile range. Two minutes.”
Li nodded then thumbed the communicator switch. “Engineering, Li.”
“Engineering, Skipper. Orders?”
“We’re about to start maneuvering. Keep the limiter on our top pseudo-speed from down there. I don’t want to have to think about it while I’m trying to maneuver so keep the lid on until I give orders otherwise.”
Li switched back to Coll.
“What do you think, Linda,” Coll was saying as the holo came back to life. “Single shots or will they flush the tubes?”
“Single…missile inbound. Single round.”
Coll turned, her hand reaching out for her own communicator. She stopped when she saw that it was already active. “Incoming, Skipper.”
“Tunnel cannon on defensive fire,” Li said. “Your discretion, Brenda.”
Li gestured, drawing with his fingers in the holotank. While he tapped commands into a keyboard with his right hand, his left sketched out a course that would keep the Jin Long outside the Second Claw’s tunnel cannon range, remaining just inside missile range. If he could encourage them to fire off their missiles at extreme range…
A second missile icon erupted, then a third.
A fourth appeared just as the first winked out.
“Good shooting, Guns!” Coll said from navigation. “Now if we can just.. ”
The starboard wormhole trap in the engineering schematic flashed red. The holo tank blurred then redrew dizzily as the Jin Long’s pseudo-speed dropped.
“Oh, shit,” Li whispered.
Li noted with satisfaction another icon on the engineering schematic. Engineering had responded to the failure of the starboard wormhole by dropping the limits he had ordered placed on the drive. Initiative. And the right call despite his earlier orders. He had available all the pseudospeed the remaining wormhole trap could provide. The ship was almost as fast with a single trap as with both. Almost. She just burned through fuel to do it.
“Guns, drop those missiles now,” Coll said, anticipating Li’s order. “Skipper, I think I’d better get to damage control.”
“Agreed.” Li’s right hand beat a staccato pattern on the controls while his left drew a new course into the holo tank, trying to delay the now inevitable moment when they would enter the Second Claw’s tunnel cannon range.
“Small,” Coll said, “Tac is yours.”
Two more of the missile traces vanished from the display. “Ephraimsen,” Li whispered, “if you keep shooting like that, I’ll restore every centicred of your pay, and throw in half of mine.”
Two more missile traces appeared, replacing the two Ephraimsen had shot down, just as the Jin Long crossed the line indicating that the oncoming Second Claw was within the Jin Long’s tunnel cannon range.
Li reached for the communicator to remind Ephraimsen to stay on the missiles, leave the second claw alone for now, but saw there was no need. One missile icon winked out, then another. A moment later and they were within the other ship’s tunnel cannon range.
A terajoule of energy burst past the Jin Long, close, but not close enough to damage her. The ship trembled as it passed through the tunnel cannon’s wake in wormhole space. One of the oncoming missiles in passing through that wake veered off course while Ephraimsen’s gunnery accounted for another. The sixth arrowed in and Li overrode the computer-generated course, pivoting the Jin Long through a sharp angle and driving the Jin Long at the fastest pseudospeed her damaged drives could achieve.
The maneuver was not enough. The missile detonated, the detuned particle generator in its warhead erupting in more power than should be possible in so small a package. The Jin Long’s realspace intersection clipped the effect zone of the missile’s warhead, dragging superhot plasma with it into wormhole space. Yellow and red spattered over the engineering schematic at Li’s right.
“Coll,” Li said into the communicator, “status?”
“Multiple hull breaches,” Coll said. “External comms down. Fuel seven streaming to space. Remaining wormhole trap good. Tunnel cannon good. We can still fight and maneuver, Skipper.”
“All right,” Li said. The holo display showed no more missiles. “Ephraimsen. Hit that ship with everything you’ve got.”
“On it, Skipper.”
Li pivoted the ship again, trying to keep the already damaged fuel tankage turned toward the oncoming Second Claw while still giving Ephraimsen a field of fire.
More red blossomed on the ship schematic. An angry red boil marked navigation and the holo display winked out.
“Dammit,” Coll said. “Johnson, get the secondary nav up now!”
“Captain,” Ephraimsen’s voice broke into the comm. “If you can hold her steady, I’ve still got the gun’s sensors. I’ve got a shot.”
“Do it,” Li said and locked pseudospeed and bearing. The ship trembled under the outgoing wake of Ephraimsen’s fire.
More red blemishes appeared in the display. Fuel three. Crew quarters. Officer’s Mess. But the remaining wormhole trap, and the tunnel cannon, remained green.
The holo flickered to life, resolution down from normal but functional.
“Captain, we’ve got secondary nav up. You should have a display.”
“Got it, Brenda,” Li said. “Any word on primary nav?”
“Not yet. I’ve got a crew cutting through now. The shot to crew quarters got Hitchens and Blake. Small’s status is unknown.”
“Understood,” Li said, “Ephraimsen. You good?”
“Still here, Skipper. I read increasing range to target.”
Li read the icons in the holo tank. The Second Claw was falling behind. “Confirmed, Ephraimsen. I’m going to try to keep us at extreme range. Keep shooting.”
“You’ve got it, Skipper.”
Somehow, Ephraimsen had managed to do enough damage that the Second Claw could not keep pace with the Jin Long. Even with the Second Claw’s greater weight of gunnery, the accuracy Ephraimsen and the Jin Long’s computers had shown gave the Jin Long the edge in a long-range duel. So long as Li could keep it at long range, it was just a matter of time.
Li set the parameters he wanted into the computer and sat back to observe.
“Just breaking into Nav now, Skipper and…damn.”
“We lost Small. Looks like debris from the hit tore open her suit.”
“Any other casualties?” Li asked softly.
“Hitchins, Blake, and now Small dead. Aside from that, minor bumps and bruises.”
Li pressed his lips into a thin line and shook his head. Space combat was like that. Wounds were rare. A hit either killed you outright or left you with no worse than a shaking.
Behind them the Second Claw continued to limp after them, slowing perceptibly as Ephraimsen hammered at it with the tunnel cannon.
Form follows function, Tanaka thought as he watched the giant bulldozer crushing trees in the Jakakalat game preserve. The control cabin fit Eres rather than human shapes and a free-radical fuel cell rather than burning hydrocarbons powered the engines but the basic design would not have been out of place five centuries before on Earth.
The heat and the rising humidity, had passed uncomfortable and were racing toward oppressive. To the west, clouds loomed, heralding the approach of a storm that meteorology claimed would not arrive for several hours yet.
Standing on the top of his floatcar, Tanaka winced as another stand of timber fell to the dozer’s twenty-meter wide blade. In another part of the former park, construction crews were erecting blocks of temporary housing. The Eres were converting this park, which had been wild lands since before Humans had tamed fire, into a giant refugee camp. Considering the religious reverence with which Eres treated hunting, and hunting spaces, they must be feeling a great deal of pressure.
The other explanation, proposed by bureaucrats back on Earth, was that the Eres were preparing another Great Hunt against which this park was a small price indeed. That explanation did not feel right to Tanaka.
He turned at the sound of another floatcar’s approach.
Sheshak stepped out of the floatcar. “I greet you, Tanaka Captain,”
“I greet you, Lesser Stalker,” Tanaka replied in return. “You picked a strange place to meet.”
“I know.” Sheshak gazed at the destruction of the park for a moment. “I wanted one last look at this place before it was completely gone. Many siril fell to my claws here when I was young.”
“It’s a sad day,” Tanaka said.
“Sad indeed. But the times are the times.”
Tanaka hopped off the floatcar, landing lightly on the forest loam that released a scent reminiscent of roses of all things as his feet struck the soil. “I asked to meet because I got an answer from my government.”
“They have answered our proposal?”
Tanaka nodded. “There was great concern. You offered too much, too fast, leading a lot of people to look for the trap.”
Sheshak touched his tongue to the upper teeth. “’When the tunok reveals himself to your blade, look for the mate to lie hidden.’”
“Exactly. In the end though, they agreed.”
“I am glad. It is past time we ended the conflict between our people. As I come to know you I see the attraction of the Jekat, the ‘not-prey’ sect.” He swept one arm outward, taking in the park and its destroyers. “Would you watch with me a while, and weep for the loss of this place?”
“Of course, Lesser Stalker,” Tanaka said. “And I’m honored that you ask.”
“I fear that many more such places will soon be lost.” Even the vocoder conveyed sadness in the tone. “And there will be no one to properly mourn them.”
President of the Terran Confederation, Hukmi Bhatti looked across his desktop screen to his visitor. “What do you make of this latest report, Tom?”
Thomas Little Bear, Terran Minister of Defense leaned forward in his chair. “Sixty percent drop in contacts along the border; Evidence of extensive ship repairs at Chakentak. No report yet on what those repairs might be but about the only thing that can put that many ships into the docks without prior warning is battle damage. Add in that the Eres are tearing up major game preserves to build low cost housing for thousands of refugees. I think we’re looking at a civil war.”
“That’s not supposed to be possible. The Eres pack structure…”
“Lots of things aren’t supposed to be possible. Eres weren’t supposed to be able to see other species as anything other than competing predators or prey. But here we are.”
“Civil war, huh.” Bhatti leaned back and chewed on his index finger—a nervous habit he had never been able to break. “I’m glad you brought this to me privately. I can’t say I’m unhappy about anything weakening the Eres, not after the last war, but…” He stood up and walked to the balcony. A plassteel dome provided security but the balcony provided the illusion of openness as he looked out over the city.
Bhatti leaned against the railing. Only a few floatcars were visible in the streets below at this time of night. The various offices of government, such as there were, had closed hours ago but the business of government continued behind closed doors. “Too many politicians would welcome an Eres civil war for exactly the wrong reasons.” He sighed and turned back toward the office, leaning against the railing, his shoulders just brushing the plassteel dome. “You fought them in the war. What do you think?”
“About what, Mr. President?”
“Civil war. Are they really capable of it?”
Little Bear drew a deep breath and blew it out, puffing his cheeks. “Last war they finally stopped having ‘honor hunts’ with prisoners…mostly. And as best we can tell, they’ve stopped such hunts of sophonts within their borders…mostly. If they can amend such a deeply seated imperative, what else can they amend? Hell, maybe the two are connected.”
“They are driven to hunt in a way humans are not. If they’re suppressing that hunting instinct when it comes to us, maybe they’re turning it on each other.”
“So, we could be looking at a breakdown of Eres society, all caused because we got them to stop hunting us?”
“Could be. Or maybe not. We’re speculating in the dark here.”
Bhatti nodded. “How long can you keep this private?”
“Not long. A couple of weeks at most.”
Bhatti nodded. “Keep it private as long as you can. In the meantime…”
The silence dragged for several seconds before Little Bear said, “In the meantime?”
“We need more information. Have some deep recon ships tasked with penetrating Eres space.”
“Hukmi? That’s a blatant treaty violation.”
“Yes. Yes, it is. But we have to know what’s going on before we go public with this.”
“That will be all, Tom.”
Little Bear nodded, stood, and turned to the office door. “You sure about this, Mr. President?”
“We’ve had three Eres wars so far,” Bhatti said. “I don’t want to be the president that led us into another one. Some folk would use this as an excuse to do just that. While they’re fighting among themselves…”
“Understood, Mr. President.”
“I need to know what’s really going on over there.”
“We’ll find out for you, sir.” He nodded and left.
Bhatti turned back to the view from the balcony. The Eres had been opponents for much of the past three centuries but they had always been constant. If they were fighting a civil war, if they could fight a civil war, then that constancy was gone. He did not know what that meant for the future, but it was unlikely to be good.