Ares Chronicles: What Comes After - Chapter 4: False Truths

What Comes After

Chapter 4: False Truths

It is hard to find a human who actually likes the sight of a Salrilian slithering into the room. Nonetheless, Admiral Gray and his aides must attempt to maintain a stoic expression, if not a smile on their faces when facing the Salrilian representative.

The Salrilian representative slithered into the conference room, closely followed by 2 armed guards who were obviously nervous. They had their hands on the disrupters holstered on their belts. The Salrilian representative was either unaware or unconcerned of that fact.

The admiral nodded at the guards, signaling them to withdraw. After all, his staff were well-armed enough. Even the room was re-fitted for some defense mechanisms.

"It is a pleasure to see you, admiral," said the Salrilian who subsequently gave a slight bow.

The admiral nodded. The admiral was not interested in mouthing diplomatic niceties.

"Allow me to introduce my staff-" said the admiral. The admiral was trying to limit the number of words he had to use so that he didn't have to speak with the Salrilian representative longer than necessary. To his surprise, the Salrilian cut the conversation even shorter.

"Commander Petrov Rajlinsky, UNS Naval High Command Strategic Staff. Captain Robert Bentham, commander of the gunboat UNS Trafalgar. Mr. Eugene Rawlings, First Secretary to Admiral Gray. It is a pleasure to meet you all."

The admiral didn't even bother asking how the Salrilian knew his staff.

"Well, let's make this meeting as short as possible, shall we? What is your report?"

"Before I begin," said the Salrilian. "I must express my sincerest gratitute toward your government in allowing me to come here and to provide me with such wonderful escorts. The honor of being transported in one of your ships is truly overwhelming.

I must say that this is a great day between the United Nations of Sol and my people. To open up a direct dialogue is truly a most exciting event. It is the beginning of the first step to-"

"Enough," the admiral truly had enough. "Just get on with the briefing, please."

The Salrilian seemed a bit taken aback by the curt staement from the admiral but he soon recovered.

"Very well. We recommend that you attack the Vekeryn System. It is defended by 3 gunships and 13 cruisers. It only has about 1,500 ground troops. It is the most vulnerable target."

"All the same, I want to know the defenses of the other star systems at the border."

"Very well." The Salrilian then handed to the admiral the pad he was carrying. "This contains a detailed report on the defenses of the 6 border star systems occupied by the Cantharans."

"Forgive me for saying this," said Commander Rajlinsky. "But you seem fairly indifferent to sell your ally down the river."

"It's just practicality, nothing personal," said the Salrilian with a smile.

"Captain's Log: We have surveyed Vekeryn System. The system is defended by 3 gunships although there could be an unknown number of cloaked ships as well."

"Just as the Salrilians said!" exclaimed an aide.

Admiral Gray is currently considering military strategy with his staff.

"Well, the Salrilians claim that they have 13 cruisers. We have no idea whether that number is right or wrong," countered another aide.

"I agree," said the admiral. "As far as we're concerned, it may simply be a Salrilian trick to lure us there and they might have 50 cruisers waiting for us. However, the fact remains that this system appears to be the least well-protected out of the 6 targets."

"How many ships can the others spare?" asked one aide.

"The Ishimans agreed to send a carrier and 15 cruisers. The Obiards also volunteered 3 cruisers."

The admiral nodded.

"Including our 2 carriers and 10 gunships, we should have enough forces to take out the system."

"Once we do," said an aide. "Our transports will come in through hyperspace. We've already organized 5,500 troops."

"The key," said the admiral. "Is to shut down the jump gate as soon as possible. Once the fleet enters the system, it will immediately jam all communications to prevent the Cantharans from sending any distress signals."

"The Salrilians claim that the next Cantharan convoy to the system won't arrive for another 4 days. However, the Cantharans do have a large fleet in the Caveas System that can reach Vekeryn within an hour." said an aide.

"Therefore the trick is trying to suppress the Cantharan fleet as quickly as possible, allowing our transports to land. Then, our ground troops will try to seize the jump gate codes and change them so that the Cantharans won't be able to send any reinforcements."

"I suggest," said an aide. "That we send our fleet far from the planet, luring the enemy forces to engage us. As soon as we can be sure that the enemy fleet is away from their world, the gate ship will immediately send our transports as close to the planet as possible, allowing for a fast landing. All this time, our fleet will be charging towards the planet in formation. The sight of our transports landing will definitely cause a disruption in the Cantharan forces. Our transports will be landing around their command and control centers, forming a circle to help slow down the progress of Cantharan troops, hoping to gain the jump gate codes quickly."

The admiral nodded. But before he was able to speak, another aide interjected:

"But you're leaving the Cantharan fleet intact while you go after the planet. If they rush back to attack, our transports will be vulnerable. Besides, maybe they'll leave a few stealth ships in orbit. Once our transports enter normal space, they'll be slaughtered."

The admiral shook his head.

"Some of our ships will be escorting the transports. If the Cantharan ships engaging our forces attempt to attack our transports, our main fleet will be following them closely. They'll make themselves vulnerable by exposing their rear to our main fleet."

The admiral scanned his aides in the room for a brief moment, His hawk-like eyes commanded attention.

"What we need to remember is that time is of the essence. We must gain the codes quickly before the Cantharans delete them."

"Evasive action!"

"Sir, we can't shake it loose. The Salrilian cruiser is still at our tail!"

"Where are our support?"

"The 2 Ishiman cruisers have already been shot down."

"Sir, the other 2 Salrilian cruisers are going after the convoy."

"Sir, if we don't-"

He opened his arms and she leapt into them. The force of her leap brought both of them down to the ground and they both laughed. It was on their honeymoon, on a bright sunny day with only a few figures at the distant horizon. They-

The admiral suddenly woke up. He suddenly saw a Salrilian at the edge of the horizon, monitoring them. He called the guards.

"Yes, sir."

"Get a transport ready in 10 minutes."

"Aye sir."

Tens minutes later, the admiral was on board his personal shuttle. A few minutes later, he was facing Colonel Serith.

"What did you do?"

"You were dreaming. You were about to experience a painful memory. I consider it my duty to prevent that from happening to you. Did I do something wrong?"

"You can manipulate my memories?"

"Yes. All Salrilians are latent telepaths. But only telepathic engineers are allowed to join the Division of Psychological Warfare."

"What are 'telepathic engineers'?"

"It's the term used to describe Salrilians who can manipulate other people's minds, against their wills if necessary. It's the highest level of classification."

The admiral thought for a while, then asked:

"I was visited by one of your people some time ago. Could I-"

"It was Dr. Lurith. He was one of the more gifted members of my division."

"What was his mission?"

"To make a preliminary assessment of your mind."

"And the results of that assessment?"

"He determined that you, like most people of your species, can be easily manipulated without you detecting it."

"Why did you insert yourself into my memory?"

"I was curious."

The admiral considered the matter for an extended period of time. He paced a bit in front of the force field separating her cell from the walkway.

"Is there any way to detect telepathic manipulation?"

"Yes. The Ishimans employ telepaths to make sure that people do not scan one another. Since the Elejeetians have no telepaths, they have been experimenting on technological solutions."

"Why haven't they told us any of this?"

"Telepathy is a very potent weapon. Unlike your people who produce telepaths at random, the gene marker for telepathy is much more widespread for the Ishimans. Therefore they want to be able to sue their weapon if necessary. The Elejeetians' technological innovations on this front are largely a mystery even to us."

While the admiral was considering what she just said, she added:

"Even if you have human telepaths, it won't make much of a difference. Your gene pool on this front is too shallow. You don't have enough of them. Besides, it takes years of training to detect telepathic manipulation."

"Tell me everything you know about Elejeetian technological innovations on telepathy."

"Since they have no telepaths of their own, they have been experimenting on using technology to jam telepathy. At first, we thought it was an exercise in futility and for decades, they made no progress. But a few years ago, we began to discover that their program was far more advanced than we thought. We have reasons to believe that they might have a working prototype of a jammer that can jam telepaths. They may also be developing weapons that are designed to injure or even kill telepaths when telepathic activity is detected. We were so alarmed by these reports that my division has been asked to start thinking about counter-measures 3 months before I received my current assignment."

The admiral stared at her large, purple, and beady eyes. For a moment, both were silent. Finally, he asked:

"Is there anything we can do to prevent your people from using their telepathy against us?"

She thought for a brief moment before quickly answering:

"Nothing of consequence."

Gray was clearly displeased by the answer. She explained:

"You simply do not have enough telepaths. Even if you do, they are not trained and designing an adequate training procedure will take years, if not a decade. Your technology is too primitive to come up with anything close to what the Elejeetians have accomplished."

The admiral suddenly asked:

"Why were you monitoring me? Is it part of your mission? Are there any other Salrilians on the planet?"

"To answer your questions, I was not monitoring you. Salrilians have the tradition that once one is married, the couple will then transfer...that's not a good word because it does not accurately describe the procedure. But in any case, the spouses will transfer part of their consciousness into their spouse. They will be telepathically linked. They will provide comfort whenever necessary.

And no, it's not part of my mission. There are no other Salrilians on the planet."

"And how am I supposed to verify this?"

She thought for a brief moment before smiling:

"I guess you will have to trust me."

The admiral sneered.

"I'll have to bring this up with the Elejeetians and the Ishimans."

"That will not do. They will deny everything."

"We're not asking them to share their secrets. We're in the Alliance together. All we're asking them to do is to lend some of their protection to us so that our people won't leak anything. It's also in their best interest."

She shook her head.

"You can try it if you wish, but it will not work. All it will do is to make them more suspicious of you."

"I'll simply tell them where this information came from. It's not as if we are spying on them."

"If you tell them that your information came from me, I'd be dead within hours."

"You're under our custody. They-"

"I do not think you appreciate how important these telepathic programs are. They simply cannot allow word of them to be leaked out. They are willing to go to great lengths, even start a war to prevent that from happening."

The admiral smiled.

"Well, if they do kill you, at least it would solve a personal problem of mine."

The admiral got up from his chair and was about to exit the room when he turned and asked:

"How were you able to select the specific memory of my honeymoon?"

"Dr. Lurith's initial assessment helped. I also had some data on your people's mental pathways, thanks to the Oracular Network's analysis. I am also fairly well trained."

Gray opened his mouth to speak, but caught himself. He called the guards to open the doors of the cell. As he was exiting, he casted her a look, a glance she understood.

He opened his arms and she leapt into them. The force of her leap brought both of them down to the ground and they both laughed. It was on their honeymoon, on a bright sunny day with only a few figures at the distant horizon. They then proceeded to...

"The trap will be set at the Phalerian System," said the Salrilian director.

He paused for a while, making sure that he had the undivided attention of all present before continuing:

"As we requested, the Cantharans have agreed to substantially decrease their naval defense there. And that will be where the Alliance will attack."

Everyone was silent. All eyes were on the director.

"What the Alliance won't be counting on is a vigorous ground war that will drain Alliance manpower. Once we force the Alliance to invest as many resources as possible into the planet, the Cantharans will launch a surprise attack through the jump gate which will annihilate the Alliance fleet in orbit and proceed to decimate Alliance ground forces from orbit then get out before Alliance reinforcements arrive."

"No doubt the Alliance would've changed the jump gate codes long before then," said another director.

"That's a minor detail. The Audemedons will plant a secret program deep inside the database. When the Alliance thought that they changed the codes, the Cantharans will be able to override Alliance codes and burst out of the jump gate before the Alliance knows what hit them."

"The Phalerians, they're a staunch Cantharan supporter, aren't they?"

"Yes, which is precisely why they will fight Alliance forces stubbornly and which is why they will understand and forgive the Cantharans for the bombardment of their world."

"When will this plan be initiated?"

"Soon. First, the Alliance must taste a few victories in order to lower their guard."

"The added benefit," smiled another director, "is that no doubt the Ishimans will question whether the humans have adequately secured the codes. Of course they have. But the surprise appearance of the Cantharan fleet would be beyond question. Human credibility will suffer. The Ishimans were never very enthusiastic about the offensive. Afterwards, they'll become even more skeptical."

"From there," continued that first director. "We will pry open that tiny chasm of suspicion and expand it into an unbridgeable valley."

"Where will the next trap be set?"

"At the Sodinor System."

- htjyang

Have you been talking with Nathan Lamont, or was that bit about the Sals being latent telepaths a lucky guess?

The Oracular Net would like to know your favorite color

I guess great minds think alike. 🙂

Seriously, I haven't been in contact with him.

On a side note, I like your signature very much.

Cotton Mouse to htjyang: "If you try and steal my thoughts again, I'll have you taken away in the middle of the night!!!"
Cotton Mouse: "I'm not surprised at Htyang or whatever, he strikes me as an ultra-conservative pro-life tree burner."
Dr. Tall to htjyang; "your a communist dictator beholding only to your own prejudicies"
foo12 commented on one of my posts: "I remember watching a "there is no global warming!" documentary---funded by OPEC. Gee... talk about impartiality there."

I like it but I knew you couldnt trust those Salrilians.

Grand Fleet Admiral Slathkill, Supreme Commander I.M.A. Fleet

'Take the piston rings out of my kidneys,
The connecting rods out of my brain.
Take the cam-shaft from out of my back-bone,
And assemble the engine again.'
-Traditional airman's song

Drat! my sig is too long.

(This message has been edited by Admiral Slathkill II (edited 02-18-2001).)

Well, pretty good, but I dislike it when the humans get tricked or the Ishimans act stupidly or don't like the humans.

But otherwise, great!

To Escape Velocity: Nova and Beyond!
Millennium. Its coming, prepare for it.
Coming to the (url="http://"")EV Chronicles(/url).

Hmm.. well done old chap. I look forward to your next post. Ares needs 2 chronicles. Htjyang and Other.

Intelligence is the function of our minds that controls our desire, a force of selfishness and identity. We destroy self in order to preserve the greater whole, and suppress desire in order to survive. - The Mesonic Creed

Once again, very, very good job. Every time I go on to the Ares website, I check to see if you have added anything new. The only thing I hope for is that the good guys triumph in the end, but the soon-to-be-sprung trap seems impossible to get out of unless the Allience finds out about it. Very good suspense. I wonder about how trustworthy that prisoner/wife is. Comments?

Ambrosia Software: The only kind of game you really need.

Come on, we want another chapter by the next century please.

"No one will ever silence the voices of Obain"
-Admiral K. Ackgott at the moment of execution by Gaitori terrorists

To jbcwill: First, I can't tell you how much I thank you for your post.

For better or for worse, my reasons for continuing "What Comes After" are not the same as the reasons that prompted me to write "What Comes Before."

At that time, I was motivated by insomnia, the desire to tell a story, and to fill up some time.

Now, I don't have the first and third motivations and the second one has become much weaker.

Instead, the 1st and 3rd motivations have been replaced by: the desire to finish what I started (which, regrettably, isn't as strong as I'd like it to be) and the desire not to disappoint people who read my stories.

I'm pleased to say that the last desire remains overwhelming. Indeed, people who read my stories can thank Captain Carnotaur for posting a reminder for me once. That motivated me to write one of the parts for "What Comes After."

Unfortunately, I do need motivations. It's reading posts like the one you just made that motivated me to stay up all night and finish Part 5 (which will soon be submitted to the proper authorities). I can handle such motivations because if they are made immediately after one part has been posted, I know I can ignore them. But when they are made weeks after the last part has been posted, they become very useful reminders.

The thought that I have people to write for is now the greatest motivation for me to continue and I thank all of you. Your patience is incredible.

Please feel free to post reminders to me. I do read them. And at times when I neglected writing my story for far too long, a reminder can be particularly powerful.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to address something: I was disappointed to see jbcwill's remark to someone else's chronicle.

I prefer to read constructive criticism. When it comes to writing, I'm all seriousness.

I hope people can appreciate the enormous inertia that writers must overcome. At least for beginning writers, that inertia is tremendous. At that time, you'd wish that you can do anything except writing. You'd wash the dishes, wash the dog, wash the car, wash the driveway, clean up your room, take out your garbage, organize your desk, organize your desktop icons! In short, anything.

99% of all writers never made it through the inertia. As you all can see, I'm having serious troubles with it, too. I don't believe the inertia ever goes away and this idea has been comfirmed by many famous authors in interviews.

The last thing writers want to read is how lame their stories are. True, some do get motivated. But I think they are the minority. I'm horrified at the idea that too many writers get discouraged just by one bad remark.

The author Douglas Adams once noted that he once took a writing course which nearly convinced him not to write. I once took a writing course and it had the same effect on me. (Please don't take it as an endorsement for not taking writing course. Just because they don't work on some people doesn't mean they won't work for you.)

The reason why I feel compelled to address this is because I think people should be aware of the kind of hurdles writers have to carve through. Whereas asking for more or asking why the author is "late" are great motivations, one cutting remark, no matter how minor, can end a writing career before it began.

I've seen people gang up on one of the past contributors before. The fact that that past contributor never submitted a chronicle again says something. People can't improve if they don't write.

This post isn't targeted at jbcwill but is for all of us. Every now and then, all of us may be seized by some desire to make a sharp remark that may seem perfectly justified to ourselves but can actually be devastating to a beginning writer.

When it comes to writing, I firmly believe in the idea that: If one has nothing good to say, don't say anything.

If you think someone's work needs improvement, tell that person that he needs improvement, not that it's lame. Point out exactly the areas that you think the writer needs improvement on. Tell him that you look forward to better works from him.

I never meant to write a lecture on this subject. But I think this topic is of such importance that it needs to be addressed by someone. Considering that no one has done it yet, it might as well be me.

After all, although I currently have no plans to write another Ares story after this one, (After this series, I'll be migrating to the EV Chronicles. And yes, I said this before. 🙂 ) I do hope to read other people's Ares stories.

It has been said that all of us have stories to tell. I wish to read all of your stories.

In about 3 hours, part 5 will be sent to the authorities. Hopefully, it'll be posted soon.

htjyang on htjyang: "He's a microscopic gadfly."
htjyang on htjyang: "He's a goose: noisy but harmless."

The only reason that you were the only one that I said that to, was that, yours' are the only posts that I personally care about. Yours' are by far the best stories I have read on these boards. I have no doubt of the mental, emotional, and physical strain that it takes to be a good writer. I know what it's like, and we appreciate it more than we can see. I now see that it was unfair to ask "by the next century" I am sorry. We just love your stories so much that we can't wait for the next post! Anytime you need encouragement, I'm here. Take care.

"No one will ever silence the voices of Obain"
-Admiral K. Ackgott at the moment of execution by Gaitori terrorists