Paralax in the Balance
I recently rediscovered a cross-over story I started a while ago between Turtledove's colonization series and the paralax trilogy of Robert Sawyer (hominids, humans and hybrids). The premise of the story is that the race has easily conquered Sawyer's Neanderthal earth, and will use the quantum gateways discovered by the Neanderthal quantum physicist Ponter Bonnet for an attack on our earth in 1998. I've done something slightly unusual, in that I openly made myself one of the main characters. My family vacationed very near the Sudbury location of Sawyer's trilogy, so putting myself in this story was pretty much impossible to resist. However, alternate "me" may or may not be a reliable narrator. He's had very different experiences than I have, and I'm pretty sure he holds opinions I don't, and will do some things of which I don't approve.
Parallax in the Balance: A Sawyer-Turtledove cross-over.
This is a work of fan fiction. All fictitious characters from the Paralax universe of Robert Sawyer and the Colonization universe of Harry Turtledove are used entirely without the permission of the respective authors. The views expressed in this story are in no way representative of, and in some cases may be directly contrary to those held by the respective authors. For that matter, the views expressed by the characters may not necessarily represent those of the author. All real people and nations appearing in this book are used fictitiously, and also without their permission, accept for the author himself, and you can't really rely on his alter-ego to be a reliable narrator either. The author would like to apologize in advance to anyone offended by the following work, or the depictions of any of the nations or individuals therein.
The gateway closed, and Ponter Bonnet looked around at the crowd assembled to await his return. His man-mate Atakur was there, along with his children, and several members of the gray council. And behind them... Ponter sighed as he saw the small, lizardlike forms of his world's conquerors. It looked as those Fleet Lord Atvar himself was present, along with two of his deputies.
"Ponter," Atakur cried joyously, "you've returned!"
"Yes, I have returned, from a world so strange I can hardly believe in its existence."
"We are all eager to hear your report," said the fleet lord. His words and body language were courteous enough, but then, the ruler of Tosev 3 had no need to be anything but courteous to one of his now most valuable subjects. Ponter Bonnet responded automatically and without thinking in the language of his conquerors, though he felt a momentary pang about the carnage which would soon be loosed on the home world of the strange glixens.
"It shall be done, superior sir, at once."
"It would seem that we have another planet of these big-uglies which must be dealt with, and beyond them, an entire universe to be added to the glory of the empire." Atvar and his ship lords were gathered in his headquarters three days after the spectacular return of Ponter Bonnet. Having opened the meeting, Atvar now waited for reaction.
"We must act with utmost haste," Ship Lord Straha interjected. "These new big uglies are much more advanced and fierce fighters than our original Tosevites, if the scientist Ponter Bonnet is to be believed."
"Indeed," Keerel added in uncharacteristic agreement with his rival, "the data that his implanted computer recorded seems to corroborate this assessment." Atvar nodded.
"It would be tedious to send to Home and ask that a soldier's time should be called. I will entertain suggestions."
"Two come to mind," Straha replied promptly. Of the two ship lords, Straha was the more ambitious but, if Atvar was to be honest, also the more able commander. "We can augment our forces with the Tosevite population. We have used the genetic data which they themselves have collected to determine those who will be most capable of violence. This will help augment our existing forces, which as you know have mainly been used in recent years to combat the ginger smugglers."
"And the other?"
"I submit that it is time to implement project ginger soldier." Shocked gasps followed this statement.
"We cannot use that accursed substance!" Keerel said, speaking for most of the ship lords.
"We do not have a choice," replied Straha. "We must face just how dangerous these so-called glixens truly are. They number almost 6 billion, and their technology rapidly approaches our own. Should they succeed in reopening the quantum portal from their side, I do not think we could hold Tosev 3. Additionally, the biochemists among the Tosevites claim that they have created a form of ginger which will not cause the impaired judgment of the base strain."
"Do we have sufficient members of the race that can be spared from necessary tasks?" asked Atvar. Straha nodded.
"This itself is also due to the ginger. Their has been an abnormally high birthrate on Tosev 3 in the past 50 years since the conquest because of flagrant ginger use. In fact, the colony lords have been at wits end to figure out what to do with them, and many are themselves ginger addicts, according to statistics my aid Sarlak has collected." Atvar hid his annoyance. Sarlak was a young colonist who had attached himself to ship lord Straha in the past ten years. He was widely believed to be at least partially responsible for the creation of the ginger soldier concept. Indeed, Straha had been collecting a staff of the disaffected around himself, oddballs, misfits and unconventional thinkers. Which, Atvar had to admit, was probably just what the conquest of the other Tosev 3 would require.
"Very well ship lord Straha. I will task you with the conquest of Glixen Tosev. Muster whatever resources you need from Tosev 3."
"He went for it?" Straha nodded curtly as he folded into his chair. Sarlak felt his pulse quicken. Though he had not been born in a soldier's time, the life of the military had appealed to him since his hatching. Now, thanks to Straha, he would have his chance.
"We are to present Fleet lord Atvar with our battle plan in five days time," Straha told his aid. "You have drawn up the preliminary list of gate locations I assume?"
"Yes, Superior Sir. We have assumed a maximum of seven gates correct?"
"Very well, superior sir. These then are my preliminary suggestions." Sarlak quickly pulled up a map of Tosev, with the gate locations highlighted in red. "Our first location is the initial gate which Ponter Bonnet created, into the glixen city of Sudbury in their nation of Canada. Ideally I would have preferred a gateway inside the United States, but at least in the initial invasion I could not justify another location in the glixen continent of North America. Canada is less populous and has a considerably smaller military than this United States, which is a great power among the glixens. Securing Canada would provide us with a long front against the United States, and prevent them from aiding their allies around the world."
"There are a high concentration of economically powerful countries in the western portion of the continent which the Glixens call Europe. I am still uncertain as to exactly where in Europe we should place the gate, but I am inclined to put it here, near the coast of the nation of Belgium. The countries of the west will be essential if we are to build replacements for any land-cruisers and flying machines we lose. Our primary objective here must be compelling the rapid capitulation of the glixen nation of France, which will be the only nation we will directly attack which has a nuclear capability, during the first wave at least." The idea of replacing technology made by the race would not have occurred to many other ship lords, or their staff-members.
"A good thought," Straha said approvingly.
"The other gates we will primarily place in areas which the race could possibly colonize. In particular, gate 3 will be placed in South Africa, gate 4 in Yemen, gate 5 in Argentina at the tip of South America, gate 6 off the coast of the Malay peninsula, and gate 7 in Central Asia."
"Why not Australia or the People's Republic of China?"
"Australia's military is far more effective than any of its neighbors, and it is isolated. This isolation should allow us to keep them from breaking out of any encirclement we place around them. The People's Republic of China is a rising world power, as is Japan. I think our battle plan should rely on conquering the easiest Tosevite nations first."
"And how will we keep the gates open wide — to send our armies through them?"
"The local Tosevites have developed an expandable tunnel which can be inserted into the gate. We will send a group of Tosevites through disguised as an embassy, then expand the tunnel and send the first units through. As the beachhead expands, we will send wider and wider tunnels through until we have successfully brought the armies into the other Tosev, and set up each regional command headquarters at the gates. The other gates are located in areas which are not heavily populated. The Sudbury and Western Europe beachheads will be the most difficult to secure, and the most important, thus I had planned to send our heaviest land forces through these gates. In addition, substantial naval forces must be sent through gates 2, 3 and 6, that is, Western Europe, Yemen and in the Straights of Malacca. This can be done, once beachheads are secure, and more substantial gates can be created.”
"It is a less than ideal process, particularly for our flying machines. They will need to be dragged through I assume?"
"If we can expand the tunnel wide enough we might be able to drive them through."
"Hmm. Again, less than ideal, but it will suffice."
"I hope so, Superior Sir. There is one more essential element to our success; the total destruction of all glixen space-based assets. This, I think, may be the easiest task to achieve; a maximum of three ships would need to be sent through a gate to destroy most of the space-based infrastructure the glixens have been able to establish."
"Might a space-based initial assault be preferable to attack through the gates?"
"I think not, Superior Sir, for a number of reasons, not least of which is the.. ahem... lack of battle readiness of the fleet." Straha bit back a hiss of frustration as he thought about all of those beautiful warships, mothballed and essentially ignored in orbit around Tosev 3. Accept for a small force used for routine system patrol duties, there was almost no armed, space-based race military presence at Tosev 3. The big uglies, after all, were an almost excessively pacifistic people unlikely to revolt. Still, the ability to launch kinetic or nuclear strikes on a few key Glixen capitals would have made his job considerably easier.
"But you say we do have the forces to sweep their skies clean of satellites, at least?"
"Yes, Superior Sir. A single ship of the race fleet would doubtless suffice, but I recommend sending at least three through, to be certain of success. Their satellites are primitive, by the standards of home at least, and poorly armed. Indeed, their space-based military infrastructure is, sadly, far inferior to everything else they have."
"Can we succeed, Sarlak?"
"It will be difficult, Superior Sir. What the Glixens lack in space technology, they make up for in the competence and technological innovation of their ground, air and sea forces. Destroying their satellites will hurt them badly, as they are becoming increasingly dependent on space-based intelligence. Indeed, if they were slightly more advanced, it would cripple them even more. As is, it will help, but may not determine the outcome. If we can neutralize the United States and the Europeans, the answer is probably yes. If not, we may at least succeed in colonizing part of their planet, and preventing them from becoming a threat to us in the near-term."
"I agree. It is unfortunate we did not discover the other Tosev sooner, but we may yet prevail with what we have now. It seems that you have planned well Sarlak. I will examine your blueprints and discuss them with Fleet Lord Atvar. Since Ginger Soldier has been approved, I think we should have sufficient troops to achieve at least the initial objectives. And what will make it easier," the ship lord said in pleased satisfaction, "is that the glixens will never see it coming.”
In a way, I suppose I was one of the first Americans to encounter the race invasion. My family and I had heard about the Neanderthal appearing in the nutrino observatory in Sudbury, and unlike most people in the US, we'd actually been there. Every year, we vacationed on Manetoulin Island in Lake Huron, and that summer of 1998 was no different. My mom and I spent three weeks in August up on the island, or at least, that was the original plan. We just so happened to pick the month in which the race invaded for our vacation. Of such decisions are our lives made.
August 8 was my birthday. August 16, 1998, the day the world changed forever. Didn't seem particularly unique to me when it started. I woke up, had breakfast, spent most of the day swimming. When the gateway reopened, I was lying on a raft of wooden planks catching some sun and, in adolescent fashion, trying to flirt with three girls from Michigan who were vacationing up on the island with us. We did notice the odd-seeming mid-day meteor shower which lit up the sky around 3 in the afternoon, but none of us could have guest it was the lizards frying every satellite in earth orbit. I had no idea that as I had fun in the sun, the first joy at the Neanderthals return turned to horror as the soldiers of the race came through the gate, their tunnels expanded, and the battle for Canada began. The Battle of Sudbury lasted about half an hour, and the majority of the soldiers of the race swarmed down the banks of Lake Huron. By the eighteenth of August, they would have taken Toronto, and broken east to Ottawa. By the twentieth, Prime Minister Jean Cretien was forced to sign the instrument of surrender, and the Republic of Canada officially ceased to exist.
You hear a lot of comments now, in hindsight, that the Canuks couldn't fight worth a damn, but that's a lie and a slander. The Royal Canadian Armed Forces took the full brunt of one of the lizards' too largest assaults, and they fought like lions to stop it. If it hadn't been for the Canadians, its unlikely the U.S. would have gotten its shit together in time for battles like Buffalo, let alone Medicine Hat during Operation Counterpunch. You also here a few Canadians—usually Canadians without any military background whatsoever—make bitter comments about the yanks “stabbing them in the back", but that's bullshit too. Any American force sent forward peace-meal against that race juggernaught would have gotten stomped flat. My dad told me later, much later, that the American high command was as shocked by the race advance as anyone, but even though I got stuck behind enemy lines for as long as I did as a result, I still think it was the right decision. Honestly, the people I blame most were the politicians, or rather, the political cultures in America and Canada both. America was obsessed with getting its "peace dividend" after the collapse of the Cold War. Plus, it was the nineties, the years of dot coms and sex scandals, and we were pretty sure nobody could touch us. And that went quadruple for the Canadians, who, under successive governments, spent a pittance on their military. A lot of the same Canadian politicians who made their pre-invasion careers pushing anti-Americanism also justified cutting military budgets on the implicit assumption that the Americans would always be there to take care of Canada’s security needs. Plus, it wasn’t “politically correct” to have a large military (if you can’t tell, I spent a lot of time running around with Canadian military types at different points after the invasion, and that colored my thinking a lot I guess). The Canadian troops were brave, tough, highly competent, and in no way adequately funded, provisioned or equipped. Those missions which were popular, like peace-keeping, didn't really prepare them for fighting off an alien invasion. To be fair, I guess nothing really does.
Anyway, all that was in hindsight, which came later. I was fourteen at the time, so its not like any of these thoughts were really weighing all that heavily on my mind. I was more frustrated by my inability to make any head-way with the three girls from Michigan. I wonder whatever happened to them? Our first indication that anything was going on was the evening of the sixteenth. The race, in their infinite wisdom, decided to use the island as an airbase. In aid of this, a detachment of race tanks, supported by Neanderthal heavy infantry, crossed the causeway and took Little Current, spreading out from their to occupy the island. The owners of the resort gathered everyone together in the "big house", where they lived, and told us the incredibly surprising news. Most of us were incredulous, and didn't believe a word of it until one of the representatives of the race came to the resort, and ordered all the Americans to come with them. That didn't happen for a couple of days though, so most of the people around me were pretty skeptical. We continued our vacation as if nothing had happened. I swam, ate excellent food, and read, ironically enough, a lot of science fiction. They came on the eighteenth. They were all lizards, about thirty of them in what I now know was soldier's body paint with rifles on their shoulders. They looked, in short, like they meant business. The company commander spoke via a small box on his battle harness.
"To us, your papers you will be showing." Nobody really even thought about resisting.
"Americans, with us to be coming. The rest of you, hear to be staying. Eventually, your oaths we will be to excepting, and to your homes returning." That first week or some, their translation programs left a lot to be desired.
One thing which I should probably explain about what happened next; I was born blind, with a condition known as Leber's Congenital Amerosis. I know that's hard for you to believe now, but it affected the way I was treated in the early weeks of my internment. The Americans were separated from one another, and shipped to Sudbury, and then back through the gate to what I would soon learn to call Tosev, the world of the Neanderthals, occupied by the lizards. There, we were to be held until America could be brought fully into the glorious service of the Emperor. The Neanderthal doctors did testing on all of us, and genetic testing in particular. It was the considered opinion of these wise and benevolent personages that mom and I ought to be sterilized, so that my genetic imperfections wouldn't be past onto future generations of glixens, making them less suitable to serve the race. Have I mentioned that I hate fucking thralls? (We developed nicknames for the race and Neanderthals: thralls for the big guys, I later learned its a Norse word for servant or something, and our nickname for the race was, of course lizards) Anyway, the thralls wanted to extinguish my genetic line. I can't tell whether the lizards said no just to piss them off, because I scored pretty high on the intelligence tests they put me through, or out of some kind of altruism. Lizards are people, and so are thralls, even if I have a very personal reason to think they're code of genetic ethics is fucked up in the extreme. But for whatever reason, I was transferred directly to race custody. And the first thing they did was fix my sight. They imported some scientists from occupied Canada to perform the rehab, but the surgical technique they used was a synthesis of race and Neanderthal technology. It’s ironic, but I think without the thralls, we’d’ve stomped the lizards flat in a month or two. That Neanderthal tech would prove to be a real force-multiplier for them, despite the pacifism of the pre-invasion Neanderthal culture. My mom was overjoyed, as you might imagine, but honestly I think they just did it because they thought it would make me more useful to them. In the end, of course, it turned out not to be the greatest decision they ever made. Gild the bars as much as you like, a cage is still a cage, and it didn't take me too long to start wanting my freedom.