George Joshua was given Draper’s post as acting head of Moon Recon and personnel administration at East District H.Q. Draper was one of the few EarthCon officers with clout that could even remotely be described as human. Most E-Con Earthside commanders and regional leaders had the personalities of slave traders. Joshua reestablished this tradition at East District by increasing guard hours and executing informants and designers of war materiel. Joshua wasn’t much on administration, per se, or keeping track of day-to-day business on the base, but when it came to punishment, when it came to the falling of the axe against the neck, Major General George Joshua had no equal. Attaches bowed and scraped to a fair-thee-well to keep their heads off the block, administering to every insignificant little need he had, only making him more arrogant. They had no idea how long he was going to be there, so they took pains to insure that they lived to see him leave. A general in the land forces was higher in corresponding rank and importance than a commander or admiral of a flying fortress, sometimes being put in charge of whole metropoles known to be trouble spots.
The decayed metros of Mexicoast have had a succession of military administrators desperately trying to put a lid on the rampant narcotics trade in the region. They did manage to keep it from creeping into the rest of the Southland, but trying to push it back to the Caribbean and South America was proving to be a major problem. No sooner did they destroy shipments of narcotics and recreational drugs than the scientifically cultivated and growth regulated crops and distilled juices of strange trees saw Panamerican coastal borders in quantities surpassing that which was thrown back.
EarthCon had gone to war more than once over the problem, and the Southies were much better at warfare defending their most profitable industry than EarthCon had any reason to expect, but E-Con World H.Q. managed to make an impression on its administrators down there to put more emphasis on manufacturing and rubber and oil production and to exert pressure on the local populations to destroy, rather than cultivate, the illegal crops, or face the wrath of a very demonstrative flying fortress. The only reason the traffickers had been spared this long, according to rebel intelligentsia, was because of the rampant recreational drug indulgence of the SouthCal Metropole... .where EarthCon plays. It was the kind of vicious cycle that kept the drug trade alive for centuries. Post 19th century, the lowest ebb in the ongoing tide of drug trafficking and usage was the 1100-year period that the UFN occupied. Beta indulgence took its place.
Though hostilities had ended, Earth was still in an unbalanced and sorely retarded state of development. If EarthCon were on the winning end of this war, they would have the incredible resources of Veeyar to draw from for improvements, but as it stands, there was no way MarsShield was to volunteer any pointers on how to bring their would-be ancestral oppressors into the long restrained 37th century. Mars had resolved not to help Earth until it showed the gumption to decisively overthrow EarthCon. Now they had the breathing room to do so, but Mars realized there had to be an extended dialogue between themselves and the Earth rebels. Kessel had sent transmissions to both western Acadia and Granite Village, exhorting them to unite with as many nearby factions as possible now that the time was ripe to seize the opportunity. The Lyceum would be another problem.
Being geographically connected to the Asian homeland, they were watched ever so much more closely than central Panamerica for possible insurgents, Scandinavia, Poland and Turkey inparticular. Scandinavia, for its historical adherence to rebellious ideals, Poland for its well-known historical resistance to the Russian influence and Turkey for its mysteriousness. Though Turkey was by now nothing like its historically characteristic namesake, still, few people knew what exactly went on within its borders. There were rumors in the Lyceum that it was either the worst bastion of EarthCon tyranny yet, or some completely oblivious Utopia that EarthCon revered as much as Tibet. No one knew.... only EarthCon high command and the people of Turkey itself, and they weren’t telling. In Lapisaria, the present premier metropole of Turkey, a mere ten miles from the site of Constantinople, the local regent was, in fact, negotiating an occupationary force pullout with the EarthCon regional administrator for Kurdish and Slavic Affairs.
This regent’s name was Bilgan Atatarsus, a hereditary statesman whose line started at about the same time the Trans-World Peace Council came to be. He had kept EarthCon from overrunning his country by maintaining a middleman role with the rest of the neo-European Middle East, where the Central Asian Monster gets a good deal of its oil and legume crop. Legume, (peanuts and such,) were the source of the cheap plastic that EarthCon seemed to be so fond of; oil had long been exclusively synthesized for lubricating applications, so it was a mystery as to why E-Con was still importing it from a nearly depleted source. Perhaps there was a little of the romantic somewhere in the great corporate soul of EarthCon that yearned to be among the palms that had shaded Scheherezade and Kahlil Gilbran for the areas population was thinning out miserably due to desert expansion and racial memories of long wars that people forgot the reasons for. Palestine, or Israel, was now the Asian equivalent of SouthCal, with almost no traces of religion or specific history within its traditional borders.
Of the countries in the whole Fertile Crescent area, only a sparse reminder of Israel and Syria was still there. Iraq and Iran had become such threats to regional commerce and global peace, with the aggressive little nation of Iraq, though a charter member of both the TWPC and the UFN, making threats to nations much larger than itself and making their threats stick, that India, whose own culture took an ominous turn when the census went past 15 billion back in 2350, had to use the same methods that they had used on the Pakistanis and Sri Lankans. Thus started the Hindu-Kush nation. If Northern Asian and Chinese dominated EarthCon fell, this sweltering heap of Kurdish, Arab and Persian humanity would more than likely take up the mantle, and probably become a worse blight on history. In fact, any casual global observer would guarantee it. Egypt, perhaps the luckiest plot of real estate on God’s green Earth, avoided any troubles, either internationally or regionally, by keeping to itself and playing up its historic role in the world scheme. It was easy to forget that the Delta Nation even existed down there, though it had a healthy but balanced population and a definite place in world commerce. These were the peaceful progeny of shepherds, farmers, ancient kings, scholars and artists, who no longer wanted any part of the regions fabled insanity.
Bilgan Atatarsus had his eye on this becalmed, industrious little jewel. His office looked to be the main hall of a modernized palace, of sorts. The office itself was lined in pure, twenty four carat gold and typical Middle Eastern opulence was abundant in its every nook and cranny, with mother-of-pearl inlays in every stick of furniture, modernistic clusters of opals for chandeliers, and the mandatory scale model of the Hagia Sophia, the name for present day Turkey, adopted during the UFN era. Nothing has really happened in the Middle East for hundreds of years, a phenomenal record for this region, except for the counter-insurgencies in the Hindu-Kush, and Atatarsus’ pre-bureaucratic strain had been expansive in nature. The Byzantine peninsula and Egypt had a history that had intertwined for centuries before, first with the Hittites and Luddites, then the Ottoman Empire. To Atatarsus’ mind, it was time for the cycle to begin again. Egypt always did have this problem after extended spells of prosperity and peace; depending upon circumstances, it looked like history was about to repeat itself.
Atatarsus was speaking by spatial vid-phone to the regional EarthCon commander, hoping against hope that he would hear the news he wanted to hear about the occupationary retreat:
“Commander Regent, you know, of course, that there was never any reason to send your troops here in the first place. Asia Minor has been a paragon of order during its long association with Earth Consolidated! Your own superiors assured me it was neither the oil or the legume crop you were after, but the true reason was never made clear in the ten months you were here...” The reply came booming from every wall in the room as the spatial amplification had the effect of imparting God-like importance to the speaker:
“Atatarsus, we had it on good authority that there were elements within your borders consorting with the Hindu-Kush riffraff. We cannot afford any chaos in this quarter of the world. It is much too volatile!”
“I agree, but I at least should have been told....”
“Atatarsus!! You could have easily lost your hereditary post in this country, if the information had been confirmed; but rest easy, we will only leave a cursory troop strength to help you maintain the order you are so justly proud of.... switch to your earphone, man!” Atatarsus knew what the regional commander wanted to tell him, and though he resented being violated by the occupation and found the paternal attitude a put-off, he understood, to the point of empathy, why the information he was about to hear was going to be confidential:
“Atatarsus, our troops will be leaving in two weeks. Mark this down on your calendar. Exactly two weeks from today, at 1600 hours, and we require the regulation 2000-troop send-off. That is all, Atatarsus! Over and out.”
“Clear, Regent!” Atatarsus had a slight jauntiness to his gait, as he closed his day’s business in his office, and retired to the residential wing of the palace for the night.
“Chlöe says it’s within a month, troops! And then we’ll be among the first people to visit Mars by way of carrier beam. I dunno, guys; I’m all for scientific advancement, but something about being turned into free atoms, traveling along a carrier beam, and then being reconstructed fifty million miles away turns me off a little. How about you people...”
“C’est la guerre, Raoul. You make do with what you are offered. I, too, would prefer transport ordinaire, but this makes much more sense, considering the circumstances.”
“What circumstances?! The war’s probably over.... there hasn’t been a battle or any major pogroms visited upon anybody.... I think it’s safe to say that a private spaceship would have minimal problems making it past EarthCon. I don’t see the problem.....!”
“You forget, Raoul, that the Earth rebels don’t have any spacecraft. According to Chlöe, we’d have to go to either Acadia, Nile City, or Australia to get a hold of a private ship, and there are no guarantees of its condition, or our survival....”
“Nngh...! The things you have to go through for a little excitement, eh, Dag? What’s Fevrier up to.....?” A smattering of the gang was in the village gymnasium practicing their newly acquired proficiencies. Fevrier, it appeared, was shooting at Samedi with one of his lethal solar-bolt rifles, but at the other end of the gym, Samedi could be seen diving and twirling like a sparrow around the bolts, not so much as singing her leotard. This was the group shrinking violet?! The troupe never ceased to be a source of amazement for Ralph. On the Cassiopeia, he had always viewed them as vain and stuffy, but ever since Fahnsoma, he’s had to confront a never-ending spate of surprises from them. Though he had known them longer than anybody else in his acquaintance, he still found he had a preconception of how they were supposed to act, and what they were capable of. Ralph’s subconscious judgment left out one other factor that covered many: Being actors, they well nigh had to be capable of anything!
That was probably the basic reason for Kessel’s eagerness to use them during the lull. With his security problems before cessation and after, he had need for a few new faces that know how to captivate the psyche. He knew, or thought, that EarthCon’s guard would be down, now that its futile and inept three hundred year old vendetta against the prosperous Mars colonies had been aced, and a welcome yearlong rest had been unofficially declared. Kessel was almost certain that fighting would eventually resume sometime in the near future, and now was most likely the time that strategy was being plotted in EarthCon war rooms, plans being finalized, traps being set. And he was right. There were other mysteries, though, that would ultimately affect human history; events stemming from the time of the disruption or earlier. Things Pol Fatima knew, but didn’t disclose, things Ralph had heard at IMO bases, but had forgotten. It was possible that the lives of the fourteen would get very complicated in the days to come, war or no war.