Essays and discussions

Plots are for Pansies

Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Secret Police

The map of the known cosmos was laid out on the quint-D scanner in front of Mabe Sherleyke, High Temporal level 5 of the Sphere of Tahten'reg. A glorious display of seventy three suns, sixty nine of which held planets that were the sovereign property of the Knights Of The Mists, floating inside three thousand, one hundred and thirty nine sectors of open space. Metrion nebulae glistened in Sector Tau Twenty Three, the trinary star system of Infies Eplus and it's mammoth collection of fifty nine planets with precious ores, the...

"You know," Mabe wondered to herself, "I've always wondered: what the hell is a sector, anyway? I mean, how big is it?" She flipped a switch to change her display monitor from the galactic map to the more simplistic Ask Jeeves screen. "I'm sure I read it when I was at school."

It soon became apparent there were more pressing questions, however, for at that moment, the giant doors at one end of the Watch Hall of Tahten swung open slowly and the Terran ambassador strode in. He wasn't in a good mood. The atmosphere was too dry, the gravity uncomfortable, and with seventy-nine suns, he just knew that he was going to burn, even with factor five hundred protection. And on top of all that, the locals couldn't pronounce his name. "I mean, how hard can 'Bob' be, for God's sake", he wondered to himself as he approached the Temporal seated in front of the giant screens that acted as the early warning system and communications hub for the whole planet, what was it they called them? Oh yeah, quint-D, whatever the hell that meant.

Bob recognised the Temporal, but couldn't for the life of him remember her name. For some reason, maple syrup kept coming to mind. "Temporal," he acknowledged her greeting (was it Beryl?) whilst again marvelling at the woman in front of him. The genetic engineering and mental expansion programmes that had occurred here during the Centuries of Isolation had produced some real freaks, as far as he was concerned, but wasn't about to let his repulsion at the thought of such experiments ruin the treaty he could obtain today. The power of the Knights Of The Mists was vast, their space huge, and the Global Confederate Of Earth could use all the help it could get.

High Temporal Sherleyke was proud of the fact she was a High Temporal, one of only twenty in her Sphere, but knew that the human mind had trouble with such minor details so decided to let the minor matter of her exact rank slip. "Mr... Booohbe Samif," she said, rolling her tongue around his odd name, "It is nice of you to join me. I was merely admiring the current state of affairs within my species' territory: we seem to be in a pleasantly calm period. I wish I could say the same for you."

Bob nodded, trying not to stare at the Temporal's hair, but couldn't help glancing between her eyes and it's... unique form. "Indeed, when your lord... Hemmer, is it?"

"Hymir is a Fourth Celestial, my superior in all internal security affairs, yes."

"Yes, well, Hemmer said that he would put word through to your people to find available troops to help in the combat against the Masauwu..." Bob noticed the way in which the Temporal's almost grey (or was it more ochre?) face twitched at the name of their mutual enemy being spoken out loud. Hymer had been the same, had preferred to refer to them as "our enemy" or "your problem in Pluto." Why, he wondered, did they fear them so? Was it because of the great defeat that they had suffered at the hands of the Masauwu five, no, six centuries ago. Jeez, these guys really held a grudge. He really needed to have a word with the cultural attaché. Simmons might not be good for much, but he certainly know about the Knights and their history.

As Smith struggled to remember the details of what was still known on Tahten'reg as the Great Blight he was distracted by an incoming transmission from the outer reaches of the Sphere. The Temporal turned away to answer the call and as he waited idly for her to finish he became slowly aware of the urgency of the voice on the other end: a human voice. He turned towards Temporal Sherleyke who was listening calmly as the voice repeated that they were under attack.

Knowing better than to get in the way, Smith stepped quietly to the back of the room as it quickly but efficiently filled with Knights of various ranks as they assessed the situation. He only came forward when one of them had trouble interpreting the archaic code used by the vessel in distress.

Unfortunately there was very little that could be done. The small freighter Antagonism was quickly overwhelmed and destroyed by the ruthless invaders on the very border of the Terran Solar System itself.

Smith had never felt as helpless as he had whilst listening to the voice on the other end of the transceiver. Helpless to fight back, helpless even as he was unable to reply, to reassure the freighter captain and his family that their deaths would be avenged. The entrance of the Knights of the Mists to the war against the Masauwu was still uncertain but this event more than anything hardened him to get the Knights into the war. Their technology was still substantially beyond that of Earth, despite the progress that had been made since the Centuries of Isolation and he felt sure that with their help the Masauwu could be driven back to their home world. After that, well, Smith didn't want to dwell on what might happen after that.

"It would seem... your problems have escalated." It appeared to be the lead Knight in the room, his sash showing his rank of... a Celestial of some sort. The complex arrangement of triangles to show position was still escaping Bob. His eyes were not the usual grey of the Knights, but instead seemed to be blue: albeit a very, very faint shade of blue. "Mr 'Simmifff', it seems clear to me that your kind will not survive a continue assault from... our mutual enemy."

Smith nodded. "Not without any assistance."

The Celestial walked out of the throng of other Knights and looked at the quint-D display. He pressed some buttons whilst everyone else waited with bated breath for his next speech, stared in suspense as he calmly zoomed into what the monitor claimed was Sector Delta Thirty Six.

He pressed a button on the panel and spoke. "K.E.F. Ship Quin'Tair, this is Second Celestial Griiish. Initiate combat protocol Omega Omega One Three."

Smith almost jumped for joy when we heard the Celestial speak, and even the Knights seemed somewhat more purposeful in their stance. From the back of the throng, however, came a voice. "But, sir, the Pledge Of The Fo..."

The Quint-D display's speakers kicked into life. "Damn the Pledge! It's time to go settle an old score. Quin'Tair on her way."


Six months later, Smith sat at his desk, absolutely exhausted. It had been a long and gruelling period of time, but it was worth it. With the entry of the Knights into the war, the whole dynamic of the Terran community had changed. Moral had improved, and there was a new sense of purpose. There hadn't been a Masauwu attack in over a month. The counter-offensive was starting to bite. Smith was finally starting to believe that they were being beaten back.

Just as he was getting ready to retire for the night, his personal quint-D display starting beeping urgently. Smith sighed and flipped a switch.

"Smith here, go" he said tiredly.

"Sir," came Simmons' voice, more excitedly than usual, "we've done it! We've located the Masauwu home world".

A burst of adrenaline and fear jolted Smith. "Details," he ordered brusquely.

"An ambush by the Atlantic, the Churchill and the Yon'Dir was able to disable a Masauwu warship. She was boarded and we seized their star charts, which the Knights have been able to translate. We can do it now, we can finally finish this war! We can go and... "

"Do what?" Smith interrupted. The thought that had been preying at the back of his mind for six long months came to the fore, "commit genocide?".

There was a pause at the other end of the line. "Well, sir", Simmons finally continued, "If you really want to safe guard our space, do we have much of a choice? The Masauwu haven't shown much quarter..."

"Damn it, Simmons, I can't order the destruction of an entire race, even if they are an evil destructive empire with a stupid name!" Smith tried to hold back is anger, but it was hard. It was as if the whole room was turning darker in his rage...

No, wait, that wasn't rage. The room WAS darker, as if the light from everything was fading... His office turned into crude black shapes, the distinction vanished from his vision to the point at which he could hardly see the time on his digital watch.

In the darkness, he thought he heard some voices that clearly were not speaking English. Alien speech? A mysterious code?

He mumbled to himself, "No, French."


Jereme Tissander sat behind his desk in the Neo-Paris branch of the French Secret Service headquarters, and read his latest report. Apparently, the experiments they had ran over the latest candidate for the title of Earth ambassador to the Knights Of The Mists had once again shown a potential candidate to not quite have the sort of attitude they were after. He had passed the first few weeks of the holo-simulated War scenario that they had placed him in when he was sleeping, but it had turned out that Robert Smith was just too soft for the job.

He typed in his authorisation code to approve the report, then lay back to listen to some Theta-Wave filled sounds of crashing waves to calm him down. It was almost 11am and the thought of not having an appropriate ambassador yet was getting him a little tense. But he knew the time would come.


... at that moment, the giant doors at one end of the Watch Hall of Tahten swung open slowly and the Terran ambassador swaggered in. She was in a good mood. The atmosphere was too dry, sure, the gravity was uncomfortable and with seventy-nine suns in the vicinity she just knew that she was going to burn. But she had gotten the Knights on her side in the destruction of Matri'wau no problem, and now she had the time to explain to them how to pronounce her name. "I mean, how hard can 'Lynne' be, for God's sake... "

– October 2002, written in collaboration with George Q

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