News of the Anath depopulation incident reached my father quickly, even before I had heard of it, and I work for the corporation that sent a humanitarian fleet that way, if that tells you anything about how informed my father is. As always, he had no emotional reaction, having grown up in challenging conditions, to say the least, and thanks to some brutal training and exhaustive schooling which had really gotten him in control of his emotions and reactions, at least better than most. Those of us, such as myself, who had grown up with him knew that his lack of any emotional response did not mean he did not care about the hurt people, only that he was assessing the incident very objectively, logically, analytically, thus more likely to come up with and eloquently propose a decent response we could together mount.
For decades, my family built up its network in Aridia, starting with Soliara III, then its neighbor planets, then colonized planets in neighbor systems, and finally our whole constellation and many of the nearby constellations the jump-gates connect us to. We have been working on taking the next step in this expansion of our businesses; we have already started establishing ‘feeler’ relationships and networks outside Aridia. In order to succeed at the complex process of not only keeping a business alive, but many businesses, and making sure they are still profitable in the civilizations, cultures, and bureaucracies across the void of Space, we take our time like this, making sure we have friendships and requests first; we establish rapport and conduct thorough market analyses before taking big steps such as opening up an interplanetary outlet (a.k.a. off-world or extra-solar regional office).
In case you don’t know, every empire is only as strong as the stable businesses that provide all its products and services. No matter how grand the imaginary line is that any nation calls its border, the real nation is only a set of scattered pinpoints (cities and towns) on its paper-thin layer of whatever world or worlds it happens to be sitting upon. Within those scattered pinpoints are even smaller pinpoints; places such as mines and farms where the raw materials are gathered, and places such as factories, warehouses, and offices where those materials are converted, assembled, recorded, and sent from.
No matter how big a land you claim to own, or how many people you have, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and the only thing linking people together is interaction, namely trade, i.e. business transactions, and this is why corporations are prioritized and protected over people, and why people get thrown in jail or killed for revealing trade secrets or other sensitive information that could destabilize economies, jeopardizing the nation. In other words, governments know that they exist to pass laws to protect the corporations that know how to use their land’s resources to keep them comfortable and in power, and to pass laws in most systems… you need to have a talented advertising (some might call it propaganda) ‘machine’ (i.e. the “news”; salesmen armed with broadcast television and radio, plus extensive education and practice in using more clever psychological techniques than you might ever believe, including how to act, how to dress, how to speak, and how to do everything else that is statistically proven to make your target audience think you are familiar, trustworthy, ‘one of them’, thus their best source of factual information and guidance, freeing them from the after-hours chore of thinking). It takes a long time to set something like that up, and to slowly and steadily win the confidence of the usually-temperamental, problematic, erratic masses; the labor demographics you need to keep the corporations your nation and power relies on… running, staffed, alive, believed in.
This is why we don’t just mindlessly assume everything on “the news” is accurate, and why we always set up our own channels and feeds to cross-reference all “news”, ‘reading between the lines’, as it were, figuring out why certain things are reported in certain ways; why the corporations dominating the areas where each news agency is based… are pushing for various things, from time to time, which they apparently need. This is how we are able to impress other businesses out there with offers which the news from their areas hinted at us they are probably desperate for. This is how we draft and secure mutually-agreeable deals --or, at least, deals which seem like godsends to them, and which are as profitable for us as we know we can make them.
Black Operations are those which are too risky or controversial for any mainstream military or law enforcement unit to take them on. Sometimes a Black Op is so sensitive and critical that most of the people involved in it don’t realize they are involved in it; it is kept as compartmentalized as can be, making it virtually impossible even for the vast majority of its participants to mess it up --even if they are determined to. Many Black Ops even have so much misdirection engineered in that they seem like one thing, and pretend to be exposed and shut down, while that ruse either had no effect on them… or was helpful toward the completion of their actual ultra-classified goal/s.
Business is cut-throat in most places. If you do everything in accordance with the law, eventually you will be steamrolled, other businesses will tempt your best employees with slightly higher pay or other benefits, and you will become one of the underpaid menial laborers, kept in financial/debt slavery so that you can never become a business rival again. This is why some businesses lobby their elected representatives, and why some get into Black Operations. Any business that has been around an impressively long time, like generations, has almost invariably at least dabbled in these things --and probably after learning the hard way, nearly going bankrupt and/or being sabotaged, perhaps by a smear campaign on TV --on the “news” --controlled by other, bigger, older, more ruthless businesses.
Do you love your family? Do you like your neighbors and fellow countrymen? Do you want them to be free or enslaved? What about tortured or dying? What about dead and gone, forgotten, your civilization enveloped or erased? Your willingness to not only resort to Black Operations from time to time, but to really study and excel at them, can be what makes that difference. It always comes down to who wins and who dies or gets controlled forever. Honor, then, can be said to include dishonest tactics, such as camouflage, diversion, and illegal operations which save far more lives than authorized ones.
We all appreciate the empire which shields and provides for so many of us, asking only an understandable tithing in return, the amount they need to make their ships and train the personnel which bravely pilot them out across the badguy-riddled Great Unknown, our cluster of the galaxy so constantly strained by unexpected troubles and pulled in every direction. Most of us also probably understand that they are extremely preoccupied dealing with a severe invasion faraway, keeping their presence out our way stretched thin as can be; they are not to blame for tragedies that occur on our side of the cluster. In spite of their amazing technology and best intentions, we are on our own for now… and maybe for a very long time.
Nothing could be a more perfect indicator of this than what happened recently in Anath; the empire wasn’t able to intervene in time, billions got harvested, countless businesses and entire nations were reduced to ruin, wiped out, never to be seen again. An entire planet in Anath may as well have been blown apart, turned into another asteroid field. It will happen again, too; another world… somewhere out here on our side of New Eden… is going to be next, …and then another… and another… and another… until we take matters into our own hands.
“Daughter,” my father’s tone was always polite and loving, hopeful yet patient.
“Yes, father,” I smiled, looking at him through our hypernet-connected screens.
“How are you?” he asked, always opening conversations with some genuine concern, ‘catching up’, a timeless tradition and very effective way of warming things up for much better business in the moments ahead.
I told him honestly, and we chatted about this for a moment, each letting the other take his or her turn to say whatever was on his or her mind. I was doing just fine, as was he, but we both knew something was about to change. Something had to; one of the worlds we had expanded our businesses to had just gotten wiped out, almost to a man, and the empire of trillions had come to the upsetting but understandable conclusion that the millions who had survived the unthinkable almost-genocidal attack… were a statistical anomaly not numerous enough to keep empire assets in their system when entire solar systems elsewhere were falling to the Trig’s.
“How is Luna’?” he then asked, his slight facial-expression changes making it clear that he already had some idea; no one who watches their homeworld get attacked twice in their lifetime is having a great day.
I just looked down a moment and blinked once, my lips pressing together a bit, my dimples showing in that moment, and then looked back up at him. Our hearts were heavy for her.
“Would you like to come home for a bit, maybe help us out with something here?” he asked in a neutral tone, his face so difficult to read, though I had learned over time that his ‘tell’ was not having a tell at all; when he had something on his mind, his expression was as neutral and unreadable as can be; it was when he was pretending to have something on his mind that he exhibited the kind of facial expressions and mannerisms that ‘normal’ people would assume were his tells, a technique he’d used to ‘fit in’ when making in-person observations in various public gathering places.
It took me only a couple seconds to make the connection; he was asking me if I wanted to help with what she had just tried to help with, and he was asking me not to be direct about it. I just blinked once, looking at his eyes on the screen, and nodded, still in a moment of silence for all the people they/she had lost in Anath.
He smiled a bit, glad to see my answer, and simply said, “See you in a bit. I love you, Zedi’.” He would wait for my reply, then disconnect.
“I love you, too, dad. See you soon.” I closed my device, showered, dressed, and went straight to my shuttle. As long as CONCORD was still doing its job well, I would be home within half an hour, light-years away though it was.