Barghest II – Chapter 14

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Who Is, Who Was, And Who Is To Come

 

Year 2152, Day 328, Hour 0930

Troisi Doctrine. An attempt in 2042 by the now defunct European Union to stabilize the economy and quell social unrest by indefinitely closing borders to refugees. During the 28 months the policy was enforced, an estimate 380,000 died of disease, starvation, and rampant crime in the temporary camps that surrounded military checkpoints.

“My group is requesting an additional shipment of the Ennead plant material. Although we are only ten years into the human trial, results are extremely promising. Telemere shortening appears to have been reduced by as much as twenty percent.”

“That is very exciting, Doctor.” Helen Maker added a few notes to her files and praised the researcher, “Well done. Unfortunately, we are in a budget crunch, and with a new administration, we need to appear as lean and utilitarian as possible. When you submit the final request, make certain you note any possible impact this could have on the military.” There were several chuckles around the table.

“We are running short on time, and I did promise to keep everyone on schedule today, so we will break here. I’ll see you all next month. Dr. Patay, if you have a moment.” Researchers and scientists filed out of the private conference room, chatting quietly. Once the door had closed, Patay pushed information from his tablet to the wall display.

He was a thin man, his long dark hair wound into a turban. “Thank you, Minister. I will try to be brief. The subjects in this test unit remain within the goal parameters we originally set. They should complete their training within the year and be ready for field duty. We continue to work on the side effects, but so far the treatments have only managed the side effects. There are two in this group that show a strong resistance to the long-term consequences, which is promising. I have ordered additional genetic testing as well as continual brain activity monitoring through their implants. If we can map the way they are absorbing and translating the electrical currents, it will only be a matter of time before we can replicate it.”

“How are the early groups dealing with the headaches?”

Patay sighed. “Poorly. Analgesics seem to loose effectiveness at a rate of eight to ten percent per month of active duty. The rate increases significantly with higher exposure to Cullers. Another front line translator, one of ours, has committed suicide. The military units are clamoring for more skilled communications soldiers, but even if we could double our output, only one in every five translators would be able to go through the program.”

“The Coalition throws away enough lives as it is, Doctor. There is no need for us to encourage them.” Helen scanned the data on the display. Patay was much closer to success than he had been thirty years ago. “Throwing the outliers aside, each iteration is becoming stronger?”

“Yes, ma’am. The latest combination of pharmacologicals and cortical stress has unlocked incredible potential. If I had more subjects – a wider pool of comparison – we might only be five years away from our goal.” His mouth turned down and his voice soured. “If the Confederation Congress spent even a quarter of what is budgeted for weapons manufacturing on our research, we would already have the aliens subdued.”

“As you pointed out,” Helen reminded him, “it isn’t just money. There are only so many genetically appropriate subjects available.”

“And fewer all the time. The way the Coalition separates high and low Vindloo scorers between the front lines and support position almost assures that they won’t blend their DNA.” He sighed, letting go of his frustration, and then smiled. “What I wouldn’t give for an unmodified human eugenics program. Ah, well. There is no great breakthrough without struggle.”

“We have that in spades, Patay.” She considered the data for a few quiet minutes. “Go ahead and increase your budget request by ten percent.” Helen glanced at her elegant gold bracer. “The President-Elect is arriving for his debriefing and tour soon, but I’ll look over the rest of this later today. I would like to see the next generation of cerebral-electrical stimulants put into production immediately.”

“Wonderful, I’ll start the preparations.”

Helen’s assistant came in as Patay left. The young man cleared away used cups and half-drank glasses of water and opened the sliding panels between the conference area and Helen’s personal office. A fresh pot of tea was placed on her desk and an updated schedule appeared on her tablet as the assistant announced,

“Captain Yardley has arrived, ma’am.” Two agents entered her office, giving it a perfectory inspection before the next figurehead for humanity entered.

“Show him in, please.” The President-elect was as professional and blunt as she had been told. An average height and built were set apart by striking silver hair, cut as short as any new recruit. His clothes were above average quality, but not extravagant. He was the epitomy of the working leader. A President of the people.

“Minister,” he said shortly, “thank you for taking the time to review your projects prior to the inauguration.”

“It is my pleasure, Captain. I am always eager to discuss the valuable research done here at SAR.” She shook his hand; his grip was firm and cool.  The agents left, taking up position in the outer office. Helen gestured to one of her guest chairs and took the other. The door closed softly as she reached for the tea. “Something to drink?”

“Let’s not do this.” Helen opened her mouth, but Yardley refused to allow her the opportunity to deflect. “Your department has received a bloated budget increases for the last six years, and most of it into black projects. I’m here for a full recounting of what you have been spending trillions of taxpayer money on – and how that relates to ending this war. Because I do not what you to misunderstand, Minister, whatever you might think is in the best interests of SAR, I can assure you that if those interest don’t align with mine – quickly – then I will find someone else to fill you position.”

Helen blinked, then continued to pour tea. She added lemon and milk to hers; his received two cubes of sugar. She knew how he drank it, without asking. That, more than anything, convinced Yardley that he had taken the correct tactic with the Minister of Science and Research. Helen Maker had the information, the connections, the power to topple governments. Or to run them from the expensive velvet chair that she sat casually on.  She took one long sip. Her pale lipstick did not dare to leave a mark on the china.

“Well,” she said softly, placing her cup precisely in its saucer. “Where would you like to start, Captain? With the disturbing correlation we have been studying between Culler language and bioelectrical fields? Or perhaps you are more interested in the bigger picture? It took almost seventy years, but we have determined the origin of our enemies. And, interestingly enough, their most likely motivation for attacking us. The Repulsion was never supposed to happen in 2056. That first ship attacked before their armada was ready, and it gave us time to fight them off. They have never really recovered from that setback.”

Carefully, slowly, Yardley let out a breath. He held his face impassive, unmoved from the mild irritation and frustration that had started the meeting. He picked up his own cup and took a drink. The tea was smooth and a little smokey. The vague bitterness was cut perfectly with the sugar.

“No, forgive me,” Helen continued. She relaxed back into the chair, one graceful hand tapping on the edge of the table between them. “We should work up to that. Let us start with something less shocking. I imagine you have heard of the Legion?”

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