Ive been really slow with the updates mostly because I wanted to do some fine tuning that I never really got around to doing. As a note I started a second, much smaller project, set in the same universe, in the same time frame as MT, which I should have published in a six or seven months depending. Updates will be returning to a once a week schedule.
Edit And I just realized I posted last week's post gahhh
So much talking in this scene blah blah blah
On her last night at the Aiegietti a banquet was held in which several persons of national state and emissary attended. Also some of business. All in the grand hall at a newer table wider by half than what it had replaced so that the pilot shared the table head with Dachni and Mai-kin. There were no musicians, no entertainments. The food catered, the champagne store bought and the tinted curtains drawn to perfect frame the dusky sun.
Two kings, declared Seabrook raising his glass, diametrically balanced that maintains our carious state cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos.
The glasses rose not without some hesitation.
Chinaberry, muliebral and of prominence in real estate, professed confusion. Whos the second king?
Seabrook looked at the empty chairs at the opposite head of the table. Matthias of course.
Another tradesman, Bejeck, was leaning on an elbow scrutinizing the table intensely. The toast lingered in the air. His alone, with the cups of the aienee, were not raised.
Up with your glass, said Seabrook.
Seabrook the posh.
Of the guests several hailed from the army and these allowed themselves to chuckle derisively.
Theres an honorific you can pin on your chest.
The general who had commented had a star on each shoulder, a tassel thrown over the right, and he had turned up his trouserleg to keep the blood gold braid from touching the floor on which he sat.
Hes an endless amusement for an investment broker, said Seabrook with an eyeroll. But what in god's name are you about? Tell me.
Im studying the seating, said Bejeck. The layout, the balance of the table. He spread his hands and wobbled them up and down as though they were scales weighing. Bad company, good food, better champagne but the dagestai is drinking a beer.
Does she drink champagne? wondered a colonel. He leaned to address the pilot. Or is it he? Theres been some confusion regarding that. Care to enlighten us?
I was born male, said the pilot. And later castrated against my will.
Feigned sympathy that showed more hostility than commiseration flashed on the faces and was almost immediately forgotten.
I guess uh you werent always dagestai then.
Tough luck on that account. Howd you make rank?
I was in the maegatchka, the army, as a forward observer. When my iagiit, roughly two regiments, command staff was decimated I assumed command and took the stronghold of Hastigatti, from which my surname, Hasti is derived.
Must have been a tough fight if the UE thought you needed to have a name for it.
We clawed down the walls. Out of forty-seven thousand assaulters nineteen survived.
Goddamn. You never heard of a pyrrhic victory?
What about the enemy? How many casualties did you inflict?
All of them.
Well, said the general, heres to you hammering out your name.
The glasses some, rose, tilted, dropped down to the table.
Goes to show, began a colonel, that anyone with the proper aptitude can rise in the ranks. The military is the great equalizer.
Her nameplate read Rosier. She looked at the pilot for confirmation. Isnt that right.
Please, begged Bejeck. Theres no equality. A man goes in is ruled like a dog, beaten like a dog and lucky if he gets put down like a dog. God forbid he outlast his use then the boot gets right in his ass and out on the streets you go.
Where youll be ready to loan to him at 34%.
Bejeck jabbed a finger at the colonel. Im up front about my practices. Im not the guy who installs recruiters at every corner and has them spin fairy tales about the noble life.
Im more interested, said Chinaberry, about what exactly it is you were trying to figure out.
About the table seating?
Yeah, tell us.
Yeah. I was saying I was studying the seating. Im here, Im a financial entrepreneur. I have you good men of uniform to my right, the ambassador to goddamn Bulgaria, Chairman Pelson, Im across from other hooligans of my ilky-
A bald hooligan apparently.
And with a waistline that would make a bear jealous.
-and then I look north. What am I seeing? Children on the dagestai's right, Mister Mai-kin on her left, another shosti, and then an android. I dont know what you do.
The agent looked gloomily down the table. I work in agriculture.
Seabrook perked. Same as me. Are you with Lield and Hassely?
Oh, said Bejeck nodding. Agriculture. So Im seeing this and wondering. What does this mean? I mean theres two four six seven people between me and the kids. Kazakhs right?
The Kazakhs were wary of this company in their funeral dress. The mother admitted slowly their ethnicity.
Bejeck smiled. Im trying to understand this.
Seabrook popped a crab rangoon into his mouth and washed it down with his champagne. Why does it have to mean anything?
Because it does, Bejeck said chuckling. Or put it this way. It doesnt have to mean something but it does. Im curious.
Major General Egeux finished his glass and refilled it. I think the meaning is obvious.
That the dagestai did not invite us.
Thats what Im thinking. Ive never met you before. Never sought a meeting but two days ago I get an invitation. Now if you didnt invite us then why are we here?
The champagne is poisoned, said Juraiska flatly.
The generals gagged. Chinaberry smiled nervously. Some food was spit out but Bejeck laughed.
I like that. Playing it off. But I cant get over it. Why are we here? I mean whats the scam? You have high ranking officers, leaders of industry and finance, government officials, Kazakhs. A Kazakh with a top of the line augment. Whats the job? What are we doing in Kazakhstan? I mean come on what is it were doing here? We might as well skip the foreplay and rip right into the business.
Theres nothing, said the pilot.
Getting the feel first. Alright. Alright. I can work with that.
Seabrook recovering cleared his throat nervously though the nervousness quickly left as he thusly spoke: I
suppose since the reason of our convening is temporarily denied us it might better serve the time to come together and figure what can be done now that we are here. As Mr. Bejeck astutely observed I think none of you here would disagree with me when I said the members of this table carry significant influence in every area of this country's life.
The eagle perched on my lapel means I ferry coffee from a pot to a general, said Rosier.
Laughter rippled through the officers.
No no really no false modesty. If memory serves both you and your colleague, Colonel Lourdes, are cyber security experts. I believe both of you have published articles. Miss. Lourdes I believe yours concerned virtual ecosystems which frankly I found quite compelling and I dont know how anyone could read your arguments and come away with any other impression that this regime is focused far more on maintaining its virtual dominion as you put it then with managing the actual city which supports it. I found particularly compelling your insight that the way the homo sapiens population levels are maintained seem more of an afterthought meant to placate us rather than promote us as equal partners. I also fear, me personally, although you didnt put it quite so explicitly but I couldnt help draw the conclusion that the regime would be all too happy to have a war with Russia as a means to tilt the balance of power even more in Matthias' favor. You Mr. Rosier your article...Im sorry the title escapes me. Really a wonderful title.
A Quaternity of Renaissances.
Yes. Wonderful title I dont know how I forgot but in it you, quite correctly in my opinion, prophesize that the age of the virtual is now entering an obsolescence it would have entered centuries ago if it hadnt been for that terrible cataclysm of irrationality.
Im sorry I didnt read this article, said Chinaberry.
Rosier drained his cup and refilled it. The thrust of my article was that since basically we now have the technology to augment fetuses and have the augmentations develop over the course of the term and mature with the child this negates the need to outsource both labor and calculation to automation. Later theres talk of encoding these augmentations into DNA, not genetic engineering per say. For example. Cognitive enhancement. A microchip to develop in the brain would be fed by supplements of silicon, copper, gold, administered by osmosis and constructed by nanomachines at the appropriate time in fetal development. These would be self-replicating and could be passed on to succeeding generations without further intervention. So it removes the need for machines. Or conscious machines.
Exactly, interjected Seabrook. Now from my understanding that technology is not far off.
And youre an agriculturalist, said Bejeck.
Yes I am, said Seabrook.
And this technology could feasibly be written into say a cereal and transmitted to those who ate them. Or any other food group. Or comestible.
Rosier nodded as though to concede partially the validity of his thought. Thats not how it would work but you could do something similar. Its very technical.
And so were all here, said Bejeck again. Obviously no accident. And considering recent events. Assassination of the leader of our regional competitor. What do we do?
Well to start we might try normalizing relations, said Seabrook.
A heart bleeder said the brigadier.
I am deadly serious. Even before the assassination I think the suspension of trade served only to deteriorate relations. And now new leadership has been installed and lets stay clear of the conspiracy theories about that but let us seize the moment. Thresh when the wheat is green you know? Certainly Im not excusing any of the grotesque transgressions committed by the Russian government but I dont believe that this country has acted any less deplorably towards our near neighbors. Need I remind you of the terrible excesses of the army of plunderers and manquellers hired by a one eyed slaver who shrewdly argued against, successfully argued again, an official military response so as to maintain the appearance of respecting the demilitarized zone but which a moment so epochal would have fully justified. This security force as it has come to be revealed by survivors degenerated almost immediately into what can only be described as a sanctioned genocide on a completely defenseless people while securing plausible deniability but is there any real doubt that this was not the intent from the beginning. That is a rhetorical question by the way. And while I can understand the predicament of you and your crew dagestai I feel it was absolutely criminal to keep news of your arrival secret for as long as it was. I think it was very crafty that you established relations first with a smaller power, I suppose the logic was superior technology might negate the advantages of a smaller power as opposed to a large one. I cannot fault you for that but nevertheless the fact of the matter is your arrival was used as an excuse for an illegal annexation of territory and the inexcusable slaughter and displacement of many hundreds of thousands.
Mai-kin looked to the pilot.
Juraiska sipped his beer. On behalf of the dagestai I apologize that every last of my friends, many of whom I knew since childhood, died upon arrival.
Seabrook clucked his tongue in a toss of his head. Dont mistake me I dont blame you. But your arrival did precipitate a deluge of bloodshed that had up to that point been kept in check.
You might want to close your mouth, said Egeux.
Seabrook turned his finger to the general. I will not sir. I am not an officer in the army I have a right to speak and all the ribbons on your breast cannot compel me to silence. Now that genocidal piece of history aside I want to ask you dagestai your opinion on a matter of agricultural significance. I am by birth and trade an agriculturalist. Your people it is my understanding developed along different lines but in human history agriculture marked the downward trend of nomadism which even in this age isnt fully eradicated. Stability though, regular rhythms in civil life were the foundations which gave rise to the first city states and civilizations. Agriculture served the same purpose for mankind as the invention of the musket did for the aienee. If I could draw for your benefit a picture of a bacterial culture in a petri dish. A bacteriologist puts a strain in a specified environment with conditions amicable to its thriving and that is on a much larger scale the way of the human species. The better the conditions the better the society and culture except that now the petri dish is benefacted our harmed by policies, personalities, entertainment, housing, transportation, and a myriad of other factors. Now we have the rescindance of the Hines Act. Poultry, cereals, vegetables, fruits, almost everything comestible, all already under intense regulation is with the repeal illegal to sell in Russian markets which despite our hostilities was our largest trading partner. Now there was an article in the Horizon Gazette yesterday that reported near famine conditions in northern Russia. Tell me is that how a culture thrives? Our policies are serving to back them into a corner where there only option is war thereby creating a virulent and terrible strain. The policies of this government are draconian, undemocratic, and laugh all of you I believe in democratic ideals. I am an idealist. And ok laugh shed your scorn on me but I am not naive. Idealism is not the idea that perfection can be sustainably achieved but that for a brief moment it might shine through and if at the right moment alter the course of the world. In this country we do not have a realistic or sustainable diplomatic agenda. Tell me dagestai, because I really do want to know your opinion, what would your response be to a foreign rival, on your border, who had occupied your historical agricultural region, annexed an enormous section of your territory while you were under military investment, while your own people are suffering almost every privation that a sentient being can suffer. How could you in good conscience not act?
Stockton, a scientician of the military variety and the second most ranking officer at the table, replied on the pilot's behalf. Because to think rapprochement is the appropriate response is to ignore three centuries of provocations. Considering the outrages weve endured this country has been heroically restrained in our responses.
Im appalled you would have the audacity to call annexing an entire mountain range restraint.
It was yielded. We take what is in our interests.
War is in our interests? said Chinaberry.
Egeux knocked the base of his butter knife against the table. Relax youll make money.
We are denied a significant and historical market.
I doubt you cant find a blacker market.
Chinaberry scoffed in time with Seabrook.
Stockton would know what mental deficiencies the traders suffered from. It would take a serious case of amnesia to believe that recent developments would cause any change in the expansionist agenda everyday espoused by Moscow of whom Dementyev has been the most notorious advocate.
And I would remind you general, countered Seabrook, of our neighbor's history. For all your military learning you seem to have forgotten that the Russians have endured eight major invasions by Mongols, Napoleon, Poland-Lithuania, Germany, the United States, the TransBaltic states, China and most recently by those murderous hordes from across the mountains. All wars of aggression fought on their territory. You would have to be the most biased chauvinist to not concede that their paranoia if you can call wariness that, is if not justifiable then at least understandable.
I dont need to understand anything.
Yes yes I am sure that you received your stars by worshiping at the altar of ignorance.
The general flushed began to bluster but Seabrook went on.
In light of your statement I say their sentiments are fully justifiable. Fully justifiable with officers like yourself who profess the most grovelling fondness for violent solutions to anything more complex than starting a car. Thank you for your input sir but I do not believe further discussion would be useful.
Now you listen here.
Seabrook threw his napkin in his lap. I repeat I do not believe further discussion to be useful.
A vein was throbbing in the general's temple.
For a minute no one spoke. Chinaberry tapped out a beat on the table. Then she inquired of the older general if he felt war was in the country's interest.
Egeux replied measuredly. I think whatever secures the future of this nation is in its interests. Whether the route into future history is one where we and Russia coexist in a compact, one where Russia is expunged from the earth, or some medium between I cant say. I am a prophet insofar as a historian is a prophet in reverse. But without even making an historical appeal the simple truth is that right or wrong, justified or unjustified, Moscow is and has been on a war footing and has not signaled anything that could be interpreted as a desire to deescalate. I think the question of whether or not its in our interests is irrelevant.
But why would you-
Act against your own interests? Theres a bar down the street. Go ask every drunk who's ruined a marriage, destroyed a car, lost his house, beat his children, why he continues to drink knowing that the drink is the source of his problem?
Its not the same, pouted Chinaberry.
It isnt terribly different. I dont pretend to understand why were fighting and I dont have the time to stop and figure it out, even if it could be figured out. What made you want to become a supplier to the army?
I didnt, it was chance. We manufactured prefabs and there was a contract out for field housing.
Ok. What makes a mosquito suck blood? What makes a moon orbit a planet? Biology. Laws of physics. The point being is tendency is in all things the cause of which is sometimes intelligible and discoverable, sometimes not. The more primitive the system the more obscure the cause. What makes us fight goes back to abiogenesis. Im sure for a long time there were molecules that in their self-replication didnt eat each other and my theory would be that they flourished in the ancient seas until whatever resource they fed on became scarce and then whatever set of molecules first mutated to ingest its neighbor flourished until there was nothing left to eat or something mutated to eat it and then you had things that wanted to eat and didnt want to be eaten. If you look at a nation like a single celled organism then to my mind it becomes intelligible. A nation eats and knows other nations eat. Gentemophagy.
You mean germs eat germs? Is that a word?
I kind of invented it. Its supposed to be Latin.
Very nice. Though I think youre plagiarizing from mercantile theory.
Dont you swear by the laws of market?
In the market.
Didnt you say everything is merchantable?
Chinaberry inclined her head curiously, her lips queerly parted as though to chastise by private gesture but it was done and none failed to realize the implications of this revelation. Among the ensuing lurid mockery that cackled out an inquiry from one of the uncles would have been lost had it not been amplified by Juraiska and what it was he wanted to know was what would happen if there were war. A question which Juraiska himself derided but which the uncle insisted be answered by the men of uniform.
You mean with your family? said Egeux.
Yes my family, said the uncle.
I assume from your being at this table you carry significant favor with the dagestai. Probably she already has arrangements for you and your family's evacuation if there should be a flashpoint.
I no want to move, he said angrily. He formed an X with his crossed wrists and swung them outward like wings spreading. We do not move. In last war. Most family die. American shoot us. Taypalar shoot us. We have bomb. Our sheep. Our goat. Our camel. Bomb our home. We dont fight. I am lose six brothers. My father. My grandfather, my grandmother. We dont fight. Why fight us?
Egeux exhaled up into his trimmed mustache. He smiled an embarrassed smile and proceeded into the authoritative and euphemistic mode which men of rank enjoy speaking in when describing the reality of their professions.
While its the policy of colonial forces to under no circumstances knowingly target noncombatants it is a regrettable aspect of conflict that civilians are inadvertently exposed to fighting. We take seriously our responsibility to minimize any collateral damage and take appropriate precautions to that end but in an evolving theater where everywhere is potentially an immediate battlespace it often isnt feasible to evacuate or even notify civilians beforehand. I understand the displacement conflict causes and I personally am committed to making every reasonable accommodation. Were a war to spill over into your living areas I can assure you that the appropriate agencies would establish camps for your housing and hopefully even before that establish and enforce blue zones.
The uncle wanted to know why such zones hadnt been established in the latest war.
The general shrugged. The war happened too fast. It hardly lasted two months in our AO.
The pilot leaned to the struggle who was straining to understand. The general means to say that he gives not a single fuck about you and that if the men under his command shoot your nephews then the practice they acquire in marksmanship will have been worth the sacrifice and if they rape your sister and niece then it is simply an ugly veridical of military operations.
Egeux slammed his fist on the table. Goddammit I didnt mean that at all.
The pilot smiled. Remember poor fool whose table you disturb.
Mai-kin was laughing silently.
I will not be maligned, Egeux growled, wiping his lips and throwing down his napkin.
I did not excuse you.
I can see that I am not no longer welcome at your table.
You were never welcome at my table.
Then please explain why Im here. I have other business I could be conducting.
We understand esteemed general, said Mai-kin, that you believe you have other business but for the very service you are officered in it is not for you to decide. So remain at this table until I relieve you of it.
Id rather resign my commission.
Undress then. You can resign to me. We are integrated into the services. If you do though your freedom will be shortlived and you will find yourself unceremoniously drafted into the infantry as a private and deployed to the front.
The general sat but the Kazakhs excused themselves and quickly the girls exeunt.