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The Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #7

David's and Jacob Holo's newest alternate, cross history series.
The Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #7
Post by runsforcelery   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 12:17 am

First Space Lord

Posts: 2425
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

This week's snippet!

And while I am posting, congratulations to one of our own for the National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards. Some of you may recognize the name of the winner in question:

Best Novel (over 100,000 words)

Against Three Lands, George Phillies (self-published)

And I might add that our own Toni Weisskopf won best book editor!


Chapter Five
Argus Station, SysGov, 2980 CE

"Thank you for waiting," the Argus attendant program said. "The Temporal Review Subcommittee will see you now."

"You ready for this?" Lucius asked, and Teodorà shrugged.

"I guess."

"What's the worst that could happen?"

"They tell us no."

"Then we've got nothing to lose." He winked at her and led the way down the hall to the conference room.

Teodorà trailed a few steps behind. The fact that Lucius had arranged this meeting at all meant the Review Subcommittee was at least willing to listen. That had to count for something. She'd read and reread her notes on the way up from New York City to Argus Station, but the nervousness had never died down, and when the gargantuan station finally loomed in her virtual vision, she'd almost backed out.

What we're doing is a noble thing, she told herself, not for the first time.

No one answered her thought, and once again she sensed the empty void in her mind where Fran used to be. A pang of longing shot through her, but she pushed it aside and refocused her mind on what they were trying to achieve.

Argus was the largest SysPol facility in the solar system, supporting a force strength of over five million physical and three million abstract officers. The majority of those officers weren't currently on the station but spread across Earth and its orbital environs, and that wasn't even half of SysPol's full strength. SysPol employed over twenty million people, and the man in charge of it all sat in the room ahead.

Who in their right mind would lie to someone like that? she thought. Oh, that's right. Us.

Virtual images lined the wide, arching hallway. SysGov had allowed Admin officials to decorate one side, which presented a strange dichotomy as she and Lucius paced down its impressive length.

The right side started with the desolation caused by the Near Miss industrial catastrophe, then moved on to the drafting of the Articles of Consolidation by SysGov's founding father, Isaac Maxwell, and the signing ceremonies for all fourteen members, from the United Territories of America in 2455 all the way to SysGov's newest member in 2943, the Venus State.

The Admin contributions started in a similar vein with their Articles of Cooperation, but then took a dramatic turn. Their government had been forged in a violent crucible when a rampant, weaponized artificial intelligence named Yanluo broke loose in 2761 and ravaged most of mainland China. It was only through sustained nuclear bombardment that its self-replicating machinations were defeated. The Yanluo Restrictions had been written to ensure that tragedy was never repeated, and the Articles of Cooperation had been created to lend enforceable weight to the Restrictions.

Other governments had joined the Admin, willingly or otherwise. In 2765, the newly formed Admin had crushed the Lunar Federation and established a puppet government of the same name. A government that was "happy" to sign the Articles. Mars and other factions had formed the Non-Earth Defense Alliance to counter Earth's aggression, but the organization had dissolved in 2775, with Mars's crushing defeat at the end of the Violations War.

A tale of two universes, Teodorà thought. On one side, a peaceful signing ceremony for Mars. On the other, the Admin's victory at the Battle of Phobos Command.

The conference room doors, dark blue with the golden SysPol eye, split down the middle and opened double-wide. She brought her face and posture under strict control, donning the professional mask she'd worn in hundreds of meetings before this, and followed Lucius into the circular room.

The doors sealed behind them, and she eyed the people seated behind the wide, arching table. Only four of the ten seats were filled, and she took note of each of them.

Oliver Lamont, Chief of Police, sat near the center of the table in the generic dark blue of a SysPol officer. He wore a slight, welcoming smile on his black, chiseled features and sat with his fingers knitted together on the table. If there was anyone in this room she had to win over, it was him. Not only was he President Byakko's representative on this committee, but he would also be the one to forward any official recommendation to the senate's Temporal Oversight Committee. Without his blessing, they wouldn't get anywhere near a time machine.

Clara Muntero, Ambassador from the System Cooperative Administration (or Admin for short), sat on Lamont's left. She wore the blue of an Admin Peacekeeper with her peaked cap set on the table. A strict buzz framed her round face, and her firmly set jaw gave her a severe and unwelcoming air. A virtual image hovered over the back of one hand, showing a dove and cardinal flying around each other, so close that they almost formed a yin-yang of red and white.

That must be her marriage sigil, Teodorà noted.

Next to her sat Jonas Shigeki, one of the under-directors of the Admin's Department of Temporal Investigation, their counterpart to the Gordian Division. Though, now that Teodorà considered his posture, "sat" was probably too generous a word. Slouched was more like it, and the young man, whom she understood to be the son of the DTI Director-General, hadn't even glanced her way. His peaked cap was pushed back at a rakish angle, he'd draped his long, black ponytail over a shoulder, and his eyes were half-lidded, as if he found himself ineffably bored but was — of course — far too polite to mention it. The backs of his hands were unadorned.

She was tempted to decide his position was the product of nepotism, but given the tense political landscape, she highly doubted the post would be filled so casually. Which suggested his outer indifference was an act of some sort, although Teodorà was at a loss as to why he should want to look like "the boss's kid" at a meeting like this one.

A gray-skinned, yellow-eyed security synthoid stood at attention behind the ambassador and under-director. The relationship between the Admin and SysGov could be best described as icy but peaceful. Each superpower was content to stay on its side of the transdimensional divide, though in the Admin's case, that was because they didn't have the drive technology to cross it.

Not yet, anyway.

Regardless, SysGov had offered the Admin a seat on the Temporal Review Subcommittee, and their vote could be counted as a resounding no, almost without fail. Teodorà supposed open minds were hard to find in a society that enslaved AIs.

"You stay on your side, we'll stay on ours," she thought. "Oh, and keep your dirty AIs where we can see ‘em!"

Teodorà smiled inwardly, then turned her attention to the room's remaining occupant.

Vice-Commissioner Klaus-Wilhelm von Schröder sat on Lamont's right, his back ramrod straight and his eyes keen, like those of a predatory bird. Where did she even begin with this one?

Former Graf of Imperial Germany.

Former four-star general of the Western Alliance.

Former provisional governor of the Republic of Ukraine.

Survivor of a dead universe.

Unraveler of the Gordian Knot.

And now Vice-Commissioner of SysPol, Gordian Division.

It still boggled her mind that here sat not just an indigene from the past, but from a past that didn't exist in this universe!

"Chairman Gwon. Doctor Beckett," Lamont said with respectful nods to both of them. "Thank you for coming."

"Thank you for having us, Chief Lamont," Teodorà replied. "We appreciate you and the rest of the committee taking the time to hear our proposal in person."

"Yes, I understand you have something a bit on the unorthodox side for us to consider."

"You could say that." She flashed a practiced smile.

"Well then, please." Lamont spread his open palms. "The floor is yours."

"Thank you." Teodorà opened her presentation and allowed the images to expand in everyone's virtual sight: microscopic bacteria, close ups of fleas and rats, images of men and women and children with necrotic toes, fingers, noses, and lips or with engorged lymph nodes that oozed blood and pus.

Lamont and Muntero grimaced at the grotesque collage, while Klaus-Wilhelm remained unfazed. Jonas Shigeki only glanced at it, then shrugged, and his security synthoid stared straight ahead, coolly vigilant.

"Distinguished committee members," Teodorà intoned. "I give you Yersinia pestis. More commonly known as the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death.

"The first of what we think of as pandemics, the Antonine Plauge, struck Asia Minor, Eqypt, Greece and Italy in 165 CE. Its cause was debated for centuries, but thanks to ART, we now know it was in fact smallpox, brought back to Rome by soldiers returned from Mesopotamia. It killed over five million people, just over two percent of the population of the world at that time."

She paused to let that number sink in, then continued levelly.

"The Plague of Justinian, the world's second pandemic, was far worse, however. It hit the eastern Roman Empire sometime around 540 CE, and over the next several years, it killed between twenty and thirty million people, a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean in a single year. In the city of Constantinople, alone, it killed five thousand people per day. By the end of the year, forty percent of the Byzantine capital's population was dead.

"But even that wasn't the worst. The Black Death struck Western Europe, as well as its traditional killing grounds, in 1347, and recurred periodically until about 1665. Peak deaths occurred between 1347 and 1351. It's estimated to have killed between seventy-five and two hundred million people in Europe, Africa, and Asia. To put that into context, the world's total population in 1500 was only four hundred and fifty million." She paused again, her eyes dark, as those stark numbers went home.

"Gentle beings" she said then, "it took two centuries for the world's population to recover to pre-plague levels."

A chill breeze whispered silently around the room as those members of two different advanced societies faced that charnal pit reality.

"Both the Palgue of Justinian and the Black Death were the result of Yersina pestis, which means the same countermeasures would work against both. We know the Black Death originated in Central Asia, Kurdistan, Western Asia, and North India, with rodents fleeing the dried out grasslands, and previous ART expeditions have confirmed that 1338 Kyrgyzstan was "ground zero" for the Black Death. Similar expeditions haven't been conducted for the Plague of Justinian, which happened eight hundred years earlier, but it probably came from the same general area.

"What we propose seeks to accomplish two goals. First, to further our understanding of the multiverse by conducting a controlled experiment. Second, to do a tremendous amount of good as a side effect of that experiment."

"And how will you achieve these goals?" Ambassador Muntero asked.

"With an ART expedition. One to the year 490 CE, a few generations before the Plague of Justinian ravaged the eastern Roman Empire. Ideally, we'd like to start at the plague's source, but since we're not certain where the earlier pandemic began, we've selected Constantinople as our focal point."

"Focal point for what, exactly?" Muntero pressed.

"Curing and immunizing the population," Teodorà said.

Muntero's eyes flared wide, and even Jonas sat up a bit straighter, looking actively engaged for the first time.

"Large-scale genetic engineering via airborne microbot swarm," she continued, undaunted. "We target the plague epicenter, then move east into the area we know the plague came from. In effect, we'll be building a firewall in the eastern Roman Empire that then extends east from Byzantium to try and choke the plague off at its source, or as close to it as we can come."

"An intervention of that magnitude would be almost guaranteed to spawn a child universe," Lamont noted.

"We're fully aware of that," Teodorà countered. "In fact, we view that as a feature of our proposal and not a downside."

"Indeed?" Lamont tilted his head. "How so?"

"Our understanding of how the Gordian Knot formed is woefully incomplete," she said. "But we do know that ART has conducted hundreds of expeditions, any of which might have spawned child universes, yet so far, we haven't found a single one of them. Because of that history, we know that while the risk isn't zero, it's certainly very low. By conducting a carefully controlled and monitored expedition that purposefully creates a new universe, we will be shining a light into the unknown, illuminating these dangerous mysteries. Only by comprehending the underlying structure of the multiverse can we truly protect ourselves from future tragedy. And, as an added benefit, we'll be set this new universe on a track free of the ravages of the plague. Certainly, you must all agree that eliminating the Black Death would have to have a beneficial effect, and we would also be—"

"I need to stop you right there." Klaus-Wilhelm von Schröder leaned forward, his eyes cutting into her. "When exactly were we appointed God?"

"I beg your pardon?" Teodorà asked.

"I know I missed a thousand years of history. Was there some point in there where that vote happened? I only ask because you've just demonstrated that you and the rest of ART haven't learned a damned thing. You still speak of the past as if it's your personal plaything. You're talking about creating a whole universe as a science experiment. What utter arrogance! Haven't you done enough damage flailing around in ignorance?"

"That was when we didn't know it could be changed," Lucius stepped in. "And everyone, please don't react without hearing us out. Without really considering what we're talking about here. Believe me, there isn't a person in this room who understands what Vice-Commissioner Schröder is talking about better than I do! My God, do you think the fact that I didn't know what I was doing makes it any easier to live with some of the horrible things I did? Did for amusement, not as part of our serious study of the past?! I treated living human beings like the constructs in some kind of VR game, because I thought the things I did would never 'really' exist, but the people I did them to did. All of them did. Even the ones that did reset did exist, and I chewed them up and spat them out like toys."

Pain warred with self-disgust in his expression, and he shook his head hard.

"Teodorà—Ms. Becket and I—are both only too well aware of the blood on our hands . . . and on ART's collective hands. Maybe that's part of what's driving us here. But it's definitely front and center in our thinking when we consider both the repercussions of our past actions and of the good we might accomplish. I think there's general agreement that we know entirely too little about everything that went into the Gordian Incident, and we have an acute scarcity of observational data on both that and on how a child universe's early stages differ from those of its parent.

"The object here is to acquire some of the data we so desperately need. Is it totally without risk? No, of course not! But isn't there a greater risk in acquiring that data because of some uncontrolled event? Another Gordian Incident that we may not be lucky enough to survive? Surely it's better to be in control of the parameters rather than their victim? And if we can accomplish that while simultaneously making some compensation for the incredible amount of human suffering ART unknowingly inflicted on so many millions, isn't that a desirable outcome, as well? Think of all the good that would come of this! The outlay for us would be absolutely minimal, and we would create an entirely new, unique human civilization that never knew the mass mortality of the Black Death! What a magnificent achievement it would be!"

"Are you out of your freaking mind?!" Muntero stormed, rising from her seat. "The original Gordian mess came within an eyelash of destroying not just your universe, but a dozen others, including ours!"

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: The Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #7
Post by Dilandu   » Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:18 am


Posts: 2512
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:44 pm
Location: Russia

Well, basically ART position are more... logical. They have two choices: A - abandon time travel completely, because they could not be sure what exactly each of their actions would bring, and B - try to understood how exactly it works, so they could reduce the risk of catastrophe.

Oh well, if shortening the front is what the Germans crave,
Let's shorten it to very end - the length of Fuhrer's grave.

(Red Army lyrics from 1945)
Re: The Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #7
Post by Fireflair   » Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:00 am

Captain of the List

Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:23 pm

I still maintain that this is a Bad Thing. Coach the presentation however you want but nothing good will come of it.

Somehow I suspect our intrepid heroes are going to be turned down then flaunt that denial by stealing a time machine and going back to do it anyway. At which point the bad man will reveal himself. Lucius will run off to play his own games and she'll get stuck holding the bag as things go...poorly.

Mucking about in the time line, no matter how the repercussions settle out, is not a good idea.
Re: The Valkyrie Protocol Snippet #7
Post by justdave   » Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:06 am

Lieutenant (Senior Grade)

Posts: 98
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:10 am

Fireflair wrote:Somehow I suspect our intrepid heroes are going to be turned down then flaunt that denial by stealing a time machine and going back to do it anyway. At which point the bad man will reveal himself. Lucius will run off to play his own games and she'll get stuck holding the bag as things go...poorly.

Lucius is lying thru his teeth, he plans on ‘creating’ a universe where he can continue his psychotic behavior.

What they need is RAH’s rescued Mike Holmes to compute how their actions spawn universes.

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