Chapter 5
The President stared at Attorney General Brasher in amazement. "You’re saying that the radicals are blaming us for the moral decay of the country? Us? The true keepers of the faith?"
Brasher nodded. "Yes, they say we are flooding the country with pornographic joycubes that are destroying the minds and moral fiber of our citizens."
Beasley said, "I told you we shouldn’t have taken those…"
The President cut the Science Advisor short with a light tap on his silver prism. "There was no choice. It was sell on their terms, or have the stuff taken."
"But they also offered agricultural technologies," Beasley whimpered. "We could have…"
This time the President pressed down hard on the prism, achieving much more satisfactory results. "That’s enough of that. Those joycubes are bringing in vital revenue to this administration." He paused, then turned to his Treasury Secretary. "Myra, that reminds me, do you have the checks?"
"Right here, Mr. President. Ten billion for each of us, and twenty billion for you."
"Well done. As I was saying, the joycubes are helping to balance the budget and have contributed greatly to social peace. It’s not our fault they are pornographic. It’s the WGE who makes them, not us."
Lisa White was on the case. "Precisely, Mr. President," the Public Relations Director said. "What we have here is an elementary problem in public relations. We simply need to shift the blame where it is due. The Weegees are the ones behind the Minervans, and they are the ones behind the joycubes. They are the real enemy that is trying to destroy our country."
The President nodded. "That’s right, that’s right."
Lisa became enthusiastic. "Mr. President, this is nothing less than a godsend in disguise. The Minervans were too local a threat to really motivate our people. But the Western Galactic Empire is a Great Devil against whose enormous menace we can unite our nation in eternal holy struggle."
"Excellent," the President said. "Mobilize the press, the ministries, and the educational system. Our nation must speak with one voice, think with one mind, and have but one thought in that one mind. Death to Pagans! Death to the Minervans! Death to the Western Galactic Empire!"
"That’s three thoughts," Beasley tried to interject, before the President cut him off with a tap on the prism.
White House Chaplain Reverend John Meade intoned, "Surely Christ will bless us in this holy cause."
General Smith, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised his head sheepishly. "Excuse me sir, but our intelligence indicates that the Western Galactic Empire includes over a hundred million planets, and has a fleet of over a hundred billion interstellar battleships and a hundred trillion space marines. I’m not sure our armed forces can handle them."
The President stared at his General, shocked by his comment. "What! Are you scared?" He turned to his Secretary of Defense for an alternative opinion. "What do you think, Jack?"
Defense Secretary Jack Ripley thought carefully. "Well, I think we’ll need a significant increase in the defense budget."
That was unacceptable. Money was needed for more important things. But all his political instincts told him that a holy war would be the best possible thing for the administration. What to do? He looked to CIA Director Fred Collins for advice.
On cue, Collins spoke up. "Gentlemen, I think you underestimate the genius of our glorious leader. Of course we will not assault the WGE in open warfare. That would be idiotic. Only military simpletons would consider such an idea." He looked at Smith and Ripley with disdain. "All we need to do is mount a hate campaign against them. That will serve our purpose of uniting the nation. The Weegees will probably not even find out about it, and if they do, they won’t care so long as we keep the helicity flowing. Politics is politics and business is business, and the Weegees understand that as well as we do."
Now it was the Minister’s turn to be shocked. "I cannot believe what I am hearing. You mean to say that our holy war against the Weegee pagans will be a sham? I cannot condone such a course."
The President was taken aback. Meade’s legions of the faithful were central to his political base. He hastened to interject: "No, Reverend, it will not be a sham by any means. We will mobilize the faithful at every turn to hate and smite the pagans. But, except for our continued battle against the Minervans, we will not attack them as a government. That would give the Weegees too big a target to hit back at. Instead we will leave it to the faithful themselves, under your guidance and that of your shepherds, to strike the holy blows. It will not be the Army of the United States that brings the Western Galactic Empire to its knees, but the Army of Christ, with you as its vicar."
Reverend Meade reflected. The offer was tempting. With government support, he could lead the battle against the galactic pagan foe, without interference from defeatists like Smith and Ripley. Furthermore, the hate campaign would greatly expand his own political base, and thus his private funding sources. And yes, it was true that the US armed forces would be of little avail against the fleets of the WGE. More subtle techniques were called for to strike effective blows, and these could be implemented far better by his own faithful followers than by Smith’s uniformed cannon fodder. He nodded, "Very well. But I’ll need arms, funds, and a base of operations to train my elite cadres."
"It can’t be inside the United States," said Collins.
"How about Peru?" the President offered.
Meade smiled. Peru would do nicely. "Christ will bless you for this."
*
Hamilton watched the video screen in disbelief. Yankee Stadium was completely filled with people of every age and condition screaming at the top of their lungs.
"Death! Death! Death!"
The camera then switched to an image of the White House Chaplain, Reverend John Meade.
"And what does Jesus command us to bring to the Western Galactic Empire?" the preacher asked the crowd.
"Death! Death! Death!" the multitudes responded.
"Death to the pagans!" called the preacher.
"Death to the pagans!" responded the crowd.
"Death to the Minervans!" the preacher yelled.
"Death to the Minervans !" shouted the crowd.
"Death to the Western Galactic Empire!" Meade screamed.
"Death to the Western Galactic Empire!" screamed the utterly transported crowd.
Then cheerleaders deployed throughout the stadium began leading the several hundred thousand attendees in a furious chant.
"Death to the Weegees! Death to the Weegees! Death to the Weegees!"
As the mob chanted on, hundreds of floats depicting the Milky Way Galaxy were paraded into the playing field of the stadium. Then, on a prearranged signal, thousands of the Reverend’s flock jumped over the bleacher walls to storm the field. Surrounding each effigy galaxy, the rioters pulled down their pants and started urinating on its western spiral arm.
The crowd cheered them on lustily.
"Death to the Weegees! Death to the Weegees! Death to the Weegees!"
Hamilton heard a sound behind him. It was Aurora, watching the video over his shoulder.
You Earthlings are quite insane," she said.
In view of the display on the TV, this was a difficult charge to dispute, but Hamilton had to try.
"We’re not all like that."
Aurora arched an eyebrow. "Oh no? Are you claiming to be different? You who submerged your own conscience to murder six people?"
The charge of murder rankled. "It was not murder," he protested. "It was combat. What I did was entirely honorable. If you hadn’t captured me, I would be a hero now."
Aurora smiled ironically. "My point exactly. You can’t say your behavior was right, because it wasn’t. So instead you say it was honorable, which translates to mean ‘approved by the herd mind.’ And indeed, you are correct. If I hadn’t collected you, that mob of psychotics would be cheering you this very moment. Does that make you proud?"
The priestess had cut him to the quick. The crowd was crazy. He could see that. Would he have been their hero if he had gotten away after scoring on the Minervans? Certainly. Did that mean that everything he had done was just the act of a psychotic with a few more combat skills than the rest? Was there no courage, no honor, in his platoon’s heroic sacrifice? Did he have nothing to be proud of at all? He could not admit it. He would not. Yet the mob’s frenzy was a horrible mirror. Did he look that grotesque to Aurora?
"Poor Hamilton," she cooed, deepening his humiliation with sympathy.
Now a large statue of an extremely beautiful woman was paraded out on the playing field. She wore a blue robe with a golden triangle pendant, and her spectacular auburn hair, elegantly coifed, was topped by a jeweled crown. A golden owl sat on her right shoulder, and in her right hand was a small golden staff topped by a double-headed ax. In her left hand was another staff, around which two snakes coiled in a double helix.
"Who is that?" Hamilton asked.
"It is the Empress Phila Minaphera, the 243rd, supreme ruler of the Western Galactic Empire."
Observing the golden owl, Hamilton commented, "Looks like she believes in Minerva too."
"Yes," Aurora answered. "All the Weegees do. But note also the snakes of Aphrodite and the double ax of Hera. Their belief is not pure."
"So you mean they believe in all three Goddesses?"
"They believe in three Goddesses, and in one triune goddess with three manifestations. Three in one, one in three, as they put it. That’s what the triangle symbolizes."
Hamilton was bewildered. "Three or one? I don’t get it."
Aurora shrugged. "Neither do we."
Suddenly flames erupted around the statue. As the flames grew, the cheerleaders led the crowd in a roaring chant.
"Death to the Empress! Death to the Empress! Death to the Empress!"
Soon there was nothing but cinders. As the ashes collapsed in a heap, the crowd shouted its applause.
Hamilton turned to Aurora. "I take it the Weegees are not going to appreciate that little display."
Aurora shook her head. "No they won’t. But they probably won’t react so long as your people don’t actually do anything and the helicity keeps flowing."
Hamilton already had a rough idea of what helicity was, and so didn’t ask for more details. A more serious question was troubling him. A mass frenzy of the sort exhibited in the stadium could lead to war, even if that was not the government’s intention. "If it comes to a fight, what are our chances?"
Aurora giggled. "Less than zero." Apparently she thought the question preposterous. This offended Hamilton’s military pride.
"What do you mean ‘less than zero?’ What do they have?"
"Well for starters, the Western Galactic Empire includes over a hundred million planets, and has a fleet of over a hundred billion interstellar battleships and a hundred trillion space marines."
"For starters?"
"Yes, that’s just their active duty forces. Counting their reserves, they have a hundred times that many."
"Oh," Hamilton said. "But numbers aren’t everything. What’s their military technology like? Not as good as yours, I suppose?"
"Much, much better. And we’d be on their side, remember?"
Hamilton was awed. "So they would just crush us like ants."
Aurora laughed. "There you go again, with your delusions of grandeur."
Hamilton looked back at the TV. In light of the ridiculous imbalance of forces, the irrational frenzy of the rally seemed even more disgusting.
He turned the monitor off.
"Would you like to go for a walk?" Aurora asked.
"Sure." He needed some fresh air.
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