SANDY JONES, Vanu Sovereignty, Chief of Research and Development.
Jones looked up from his computers to the bank of monitors lining the wall above where he sat. He had been warned that morning by his sister, Genny, a Private in the Terran Republic military, that something big was going down on the volcanic island of Searhus.
“Why are you doing this, G?” he asked her. “There’s no reason you have to join the military. There’s no reason you have to take sides. They’re both insane, you know, the Terran Republic and New Conglomerate alike. They’re going to kill each other and take down a lot of innocent bystanders.”
Genny laughed. “Unlike you Vanu lunatics? You believe in the magic powers of some alien God…”
“Not a God. Just an alien. We know they existed. We’ve excavated their cities. We’ve analyzed their artifacts. And ever since what happened to Briggs we’ve gotten sporadic telepathic feedback. Vanu and his people were real.”
“Operative word, Sandy, is ‘were.’” They died off a zillion years ago. And don’t dare correct me. Five hundred years or a zillion don’t make a hell of a difference when they’re dead. Look, I get it, brother. You scientists don’t take sides. You analyze. You poke. You rip the atoms out of whatever the hell you’re researching just to see what happens. Then you do it again and again to see if the results are the same.”
“The scientific method. It’s worked since the dawn of science.”
“I know. And I love you for your dedication. But those of us who don’t hide our emotions behind test tubes and equations get excited about things. We’ve only been on this world two hundred years. That’s not enough time for mankind to want to wipe everyone out again. We need peace. I believe in that so much I want to be part of the process.”
Sandy gave her that look he knew she hated that said, I’m now going to speak sense into you, kid, so you’d better listen. “Which is why I’m telling you that you should stand aside and let both sides blast each other until the idiots are dead and stay dead. Then this planet will belong to the rest of us who believe in peaceful research. Besides, you do know your Terran Republic friends aren’t all sweet innocence and light. They’re dictators of the worst kind.”
He saw her face flush red with anger. “And the New Conglomerate are any better? They’ve worked against the colonies since day one. They refused to do their jobs unless they were paid and when there was no way they’d go back home and get their creds, they took off. The T.R. wants us to work together…”
Sandy leaned in and interrupted. “Under their rules and draconian laws. And if you disagree, you are either arrested or executed.”
Genny talked over her brother as if he hadn’t said a word. “…while the N.C. went off and built their damn underground cities and let the rest of us rot.”
“Exactly. For them it’s all or nothing, my way or the highway” Sandy said. “Which is why I stay neutral. It’s why I and the rest of us refuse to get involved with that insanity. Sis, all I want is for you to be safe. Look, why don’t you let me take you to our camp. See what I see. Understand what we’re about. When you’re shown the truth of Vanu, I know you’ll want to join us.”
“Sandy, come on, be serious. I love you. Really. And because I do I read about Vanu. I understand him. And that’s why I am not going AWOL to watch your friends talk their mystic gibberish.”
“Gibberish? Genny, you’ve only read T.R. and N.C. propaganda. You have no idea what Vanu is about. Please. Let me show you.”
Genny gave her brother a dismissive kiss on the cheek. “I’m sorry, but no. I can’t and I won’t. Besides, you and I both know it won’t come down to war. They’re talking. They’ll find some compromise. They always do. We’re all stuck on Auraxis so ultimately we’ll have to work together whether we want to or not,” she said as she gave her brother a kiss, and promised she’d be back in time for Wednesday’s family dinner. It was Genny’s birthday and Sandy’s wife, Elayne, was preparing Genny’s favorite, Turkey faux.
She gave one parting grin, flicked her brother’s earlobe as she always did, then left. Tomorrow was going to be one helluva day.
Sandy looked up at the live news feed that scrolled across the monitors. The reporter, Richard Morgannis, named for his great, great, great grandfather, Richmond, and the great grandson of the still beloved Jessicana Morgannis, looked serious as he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Representatives of both the Terran Republic and the New Conglomerate report that all peace treaty meetings have been cancelled.”
“There’s no way we can reason with those traitors,” said George Harris, the T.R. spokesman.
New Conglomerate spokesman Diane Draper responded by saying, “We didn’t walk from the peace table, George. Your side did.”
Harris’ face filled the screen again. “We left because your people ordered your mercenaries to attack T.R. settlements in the Kaorr desert region.”
“No, you marched in and slaughtered dozens of settlers.” Draper responded.
“Settlers? They were building weapons of war out there, Diane, and don’t act like you didn’t know it! You terrorists were intending to use them against innocent citizens of the Terran Republic!” Harris yelled.
Morgannis’s face replaced the two feuding representatives. “T.R. officials say they deny all N.C.claims and that unless the N.C. leadership is willing to…” Morgannis touched his earpod; he was receiving new information.
“We are now getting reports that a large scale battle is taking place on the island of Searhus, in the vicinity of the Kane Prison Compound. Both sides have sworn that the battle will not stop until their opposite numbers are all dead. Our reporters on the scene are replaying information indicating that weapons of mass destruction are being used and that the death toll on both sides is quickly rising. They say… wait… I’m no longer connected with our people on Searhus. All I’m getting is static. It appears communications are...”
Sandy Jones stared at the monitor screens alive only with static. Genny was somewhere in that warzone. He had to know what was happening.
“Sandy,” a voice coming from behind him called his name. He turned to see Chairman Willis Scott enter the room. “Those fools did it. This planet is now at war.”
“We’re staying neutral, sir. Aren’t we?” Sandy asked.
Scott shook his head. “We’re not siding with either of them, if that’s what you mean. But we also can’t stay on the side any longer. To save the world that Vanu once ruled, in order for humanity to reach its full potential, we must take up arms and destroy them both. We must eradicate all that stands against us. Today we have declared our Sovereignty, a Vanu Sovereignty. Only one force can live on Auraxis, and it must be us.”