chapter three
Part Two

"Maxwell's going to want the contract." Victoria said eventually.

Fiche's brow furrowed in thought.   Maxwell was the Chief Commissioner of the WestCan Constabulary, whose tradition stretched back to the original North-West Territorial Mounted Police, or Mounties as they were still commonly called.  "After action?"

Victoria nodded.   "There's a growing thought that the Brits conceded too much of that territory in 1830."

That was going to be a problem.   America East and America West, the United States and Union of Western States, were regularly squabbling over territorial rights in the Commons.

Adding northern interest was bad news, particularly considering so much of what was Washington State and Idaho had joined WestCan during 'The Troubles'.   The idea for people on both coasts that American was still 'One Nation, Under God' was powerful, and resentment still lingered toward WestCan for the land grab, even though these things were generations back.   Odd how the big picture mirrored the little one.

"We need to keep that from happening."

"You can't.   Maxwell won't support the action unless he's given authority to set up the Police force that takes over after the PKF moves out.   Too many others owe him favours to go against that claim."

What ever happened to the idea of Government doing what was right?   Fiche corrected himself, these people weren't Government, just people in power.   It was a whole different game, and the reason they'd formed Strategic Intelligence in the first place.

And they had prevented more than a few wars.   Successes that no one would ever know about because assets were still out there, still in jeopardy, waiting for the dreadful time they may be needed again.

The only one of those operations that had broken public was 'The Farside Incident' and that was simply because someone too close to the action was a Journalism student who didn't know what the game was yet.

They'd corrected that, and how.   Fiche smiled again, credibility was a very valuable tool when you were trying to guide the population in the right direction.

"It'll have to be a separate agency.   We'll treat it as a contract, with penalties and renewal clauses."

Victoria was suspicious.   She might be able to get the WestCan concerns to buy into that, but then what.   "You think you can sell that outside?"

Fiche frowned.   The Constabulary had a world wide reputation and a state of the art training centre, more importantly it was the only police force, in the only region, with the resources to take on a job this big.   It would sell because no one else could compete.

"What about Stabler?"   He asked.

Now it was Victoria's turn to frown, though it came off like a pout.   Stabler actually read the reports and would know they didn't have overhead assets in place.

"I think we just need an answer for that.   If we can give a timetable for overhead recon assets he'll buy into the program.   How many people are we looking at anyway?"

Fiche tapped up the separate file with the estimates allowing both to view them simultaneously.   Easily thirty thousand troops, support personnel and equipment.   He couldn't figure out where to get these assets from the available pool.

"You know," Victoria began in a voice that Fiche recognized.   She was about to launch a conspiracy.   He missed that as well.   "It's a pity the current Command Authority is so Fleet oriented."

"Really?"   Fiche realized that Victoria was the only person in the Universe he trusted, so long as she didn't have a shot at his job.

"Well, I was just thinking that we've got ten Battle Groups in the field, some twenty Astral Carriers loaded with under-utilized Troopers, each equipped with full Live Eye arrays.   It's a pity they're way out in the field."

Good point. And each Astral Carrier was followed by a Forward Prepositioning Vessel, loaded with medical supplies, Ground Assault Vehicles, makeshift hospitals.   None of it was needed in the system wide 'cat and mouse' game they were playing with the New Soviets.

"Yeah," he added while nodding knowingly, "a real pity."

Victoria agreed.   An awkward silence descended on the conversation.   It was a good thing they controlled the Intelligence and this conversation would never get out.   It wouldn't look good for either of them.

"Well," Fiche leaned forward, ready to terminate the call, "we serve at the pleasure of the Network."

"Aye."   Victoria shifted and there was something now about the way she was sitting that was distorting her face, or maybe it was the signal.   Odd.

"I'll copy you in on the meeting?" She offered.

"Subchannel, yeah."   And with that the conversation ended.   Fiche was old enough to realize it couldn't be love if it wasn't reciprocated.   Pity that.

* * *

Victoria remained there a moment, dreamily.   The Float Display quickly clued in that its services were no longer required and drifted back to its housing, to recharge.

As she laid there, enjoying the sensation of her silk gown on her bare skin and the perfectly auto-adjusting cushions of the settee beneath her, and she frowned.

She loved her residence, sure, and would miss it terribly during this assignment, but she would trade it all in a heart-beat for a chance to run Strategic Intelligence out of Station 5.

If only she could figure out how to bring that about.   If only...

* * *

The meeting went pretty much as expected save for a couple surprises.   Maxwell indeed pushed for "after action" rights to set up the police force in Buffalo Commons, which went uncontested, as expected.   But he was also pushing the "after action" in other areas.

"We need to know how its going to end first?"

Stabler piped in, "We turn it over to the people and get out."

Maxwell turned to the old man, "We've tried that a hundred times before.   I can count the success on one hand.   You can't imprint a civilization on people that they don't recognize."

Pamela Newhaven, junior, chimed in, "What do you recommend Commissioner?"

"I don't think we need an invasion force rushing in, that'll just put what's in place on the defensive."   That made sense.   The cost of Invasion was usually too high a price to pay, particularly when there were alternatives.   The smartest move ever made had been what the Alliance of African States had done to Zambia a generation back.   The central African state had been the source of raids along the northern border of the Alliance, and that had been tolerated until they tried to push the border south.

The AAS struck the dictatorship hard, knocking out its command and control, and then pulled back.   Their President announcing they wouldn't tolerate a hostile government that close to them, but clearly left the Zambias to find their own solutions, with offered help.

The offer was rejected by the military junta that rose up in Zambia, threatening to make the Alliance pay for what they'd done.   The AAS struck again and immediately pulled back repeating their statement.   This repeated over and over again, during which the Alliance continued mid-night airdrops of supplies on the starving populations to their north.

Eventually a coalition rose in Zambia that wanted to put an end to attacks from the south and even requested the Alliance help them set up elections for a free government.

Trade began immediately and sixteen years later Zambia joined the Alliance as a member state.   It became the textbook case for such things.   Everyone in this room knew that the people of the region, like the Zambians, would have to decide what government they wanted for any in place to work, but without a central command or opposition government to strike the question remained, how to bring that here.

Maxwell seemed to have the answer, "The first wave needs to be a sales force."   Everyone stared at him.   Had this come from one of the business leaders present it would have looked like an overt attempt to get a contract, but from the Police Chief?

"Sales?"   Victoria was intrigued by what the old fart meant.

"Like anything, you need planters to go in and sow the field.   You need a sales force to prepare the residents for what you are selling.

Stabler protested, "We're not selling anything, Commissioner."

"Yes we are, Mister Stabler, we're selling peace, order and good government.   We need to stress the community of it, the benefits of being connected.   We need people to go in there that can spot what these people are lacking, that connection to the network can provide, and we need people who can build a demand for this product.   That requires a sales force!"

Pamela nodded.   She could readily think of a thousand products in her line that no one ever asked for, but they sold well because of targeted marketing.   But ideals were a harder sell than things, they needed a product that represented everything else.   She rose, looking at the display on the wall.

The key to community was connection and connection required a network.   Something they were ironically well versed in.   She turned to the rest, "We need to create a device that will connect each community, village, what-have-you to the network, no, to a network.   A special network just for Buffalo Commons."

Tilley leaned forward shuffling through his portable displays until he found the right now.   Quickly he scrolled through the product list and on finding what he was looking for he tabbed it through the interface so it could appear on the main display.   He leaned back, "We call it a 'Congress Unit'."

The device was compact, about the size of a duffle bag.   It had a protective case, which in the display, opened to reveal a very simple interface.

Victoria looked at Tilley, "What's it used for?"

"Field surveys in the Asteroid Belt.   But it's processor is very flexible.   If we could get a network of these positioned in the region, say one every hundred kilometres, we wouldn't need overheads."

"Line of sight signals or TranSepps?"   Newhaven senior had made his money in telecommunications.   TranSepps had a fixed range regardless of terrain while line of sight signals didn't.

"TranSepps."   Tilley responded, "Though they do UHF as a back-up."

Newhaven smiled, his company held the TranSepps patent and was a leading provider of UHF components.   If this device used both then his company was most likely the provider.

Maxwell had heard of UHF but didn't know what it meant.

"UHF signals can, in certain atmospheric conditions, bounce off the atmosphere and travel thousands of kilometres."


"No, but even if they don't bounce they've got quite the range.   At least line of sight, often, further.   Best still though, and this isn't commonly known, but the Units allow back-door observance of the region, so each one we plant increases our Network.

"And they don't know about it?"

"Not unless we tell them."

This was an ideal situation for the group, but Pamela Newhaven didn't smile.   She knew some of her Rigel Aerospace operations were using the Congress Units.   They'd be switching to a Rigel built system as soon as she could get one made.

* * *

Grayson Redbird came out of the meeting with his head spinning.   The weight of what was transpiring began to impact on him about half way through the session, and by its conclusion he was struggling to contain his smile.   Fourteen generations of preparation by his people had opened up before him like a daisy seeking sunshine.

Few on the Calgary Committee were even aware of his presence; he never spoke during any of the sessions, preferring to nod, in his somber way, whenever a vote was taken.   He almost always voted along with the majority, as had his mother, and her father before her, and every other ancestor he could think of.

It wasn't because they felt they had to, it was, as he'd been raised to understand, all part of the strategy.   Their purpose in attending the Committee gatherings, in fact their purpose in forming the Committee thirteen decades earlier, was not to control the decisions made directly, but instead to observe and then, through other channels, guide everyone to the desired results.

To this end his ancestor, Robin Michael Redbird, one of the first successful Lakota lawyers in history, had been very smart to lay the groundwork for what was to come.

Grayson would have to be equally as smart to ensure it occurred, but first he had to send the word, through a communication net that even Information Management knew nothing of.   The time has come to unite them all.

* * *