Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Chapter 18 - December 2073

Deep Space Automated Tracking System

Updating target track: UKX7834-101
Timestamp: 0020731225.23.59
Calculating destination vector... [249] [008] [+/- 12%]
Calculating velocity... 43170114 [+/- 8%] km/h
Calculating distance... 85321413215 [+/- 13%] km
Calculating time to intercept... 724 [+/-  10%] days
Calculating signal lag... 3 [+/- 5%] days
EZRead POI: Pass Sedna orbit
Priority override...HIGH

Arabian Solar Farm offices, Bagdad

The first day of meetings went well. Michael never had reason to deal with the Islamic League before. They weren’t very active in the space industry. The ores and minerals they did buy were usually supplied by the Europeans. The ESA also handled the usual satellites that any nation needed to function.

For the first half of the 21st century the Arab and Islamic nations fought a series of wars, mostly against the Americans. After successive defeats and with rapidly declining oil revenues they began to consolidate. Iran was the last of the Islamic nations in the Middle East to join the League. In 2055 after brief war with Turkey and Israel they were soundly defeated and joined the League. From that moment the League covered from Tunisia all the way to Pakistan in the east.

The Islamic League grew ever more isolated as the years passed. They focussed their efforts on becoming self sufficient, reducing and eventually eliminating their reliance on other countries. Politically  they evolved a system that blended democratic representation with Islamic law. They built vast solar farms to provide power for themselves and export to Europe for international currency. Their quest for self sufficiency was a direct contrast to the rest of the world, but it seemed to work for them.

Huge areas of desert were transformed into farmland. They were able to grow enough food to feed their population. They no longer interested themselves in other nations’ business. Israel remained a point of contention, although with their alliance with Turkey had adopted a more defensive posture. A low grade war of wars still existed, but actual conflict ceased. So now the Islamic League looked inward, the rest of the world liked it that way and left them to themselves.

Michael Richards hoped that this isolated independent power would provide what he needed. Jacob provided some intelligence that indicated this could be the case. New factions, especially amongst the business community, looked to expand their interests. This new desire to expand could provide the opportunity Michael needed.

He met with Amir yesterday. Amir was a large powerful man, both physically and financially. He led the principal shareholders in the Arabian Solar Farms. Michael pitched the proposed trade mission to Amir over a series of meetings. At first with the aides and finally Amir himself. Michael was convinced that the businessman had some prior knowledge of the alien contact. It certainly hadn’t come as a surprise.

The business with the solar farms was purely for investment. Michael’s initial pitch had stuck to that line, however, there was a greater prize to be had. Samir had extensive political contacts and according to Jacob was exactly the man who could provide the weapons they needed.

Michael drank more of the sweet tea, placing the glass on the table in front of him as he heard the door open. He immediately stood as Samir entered the room. They shook hands with warm greetings.
“It is good to see you again Mr Richards. Please, come into my office.”

Michael followed Amir into his office. They sat opposite each other on luxuriant chairs. The office space was a large open space, the full sized windows providing a rich view of the city below.

“Would like any refreshment Mr Richards?”

“No, I’m fine thank you.”

“Straight to business then. I have discussed your proposals with my advisors. They seem to think it is a solid proposition. However. “ His voice lowered slightly. His aides discreetly left the office. “We are aware that you require more from us than you have told us.”

Michael nodded. “That is true. My intention was certainly that our business relationship would develop into something greater. I know it is not the custom to rush these things.”

Samir smiled, his full beard failing to hide the width of that smile. “Ordinarily it would be my pleasure to indulge a  partnership that matured over time. You are correct, that is how we prefer to do business. Time unfortunately for this venture is not in abundance.”

“So tell me Mr Richards, what exactly do you want from us? And please be candid.”

“The proposals I put to you yesterday are an important part. We do need financial investment to fund the trade. It is, as you’ve guessed, only a part of what we need.”

“Our intelligence indicates that the Chinese intend to try and prevent the trade with the aliens.”

“Before we go into that. Hasn’t the UN already agreed to trade with the aliens? Wouldn’t that interfere with your plans?”

“We’ve already contacted the aliens directly. They have agreed to deal with both parties. Besides, I don’t believe the Asian Alliance will allow the UNOC to make the trade. “

“And how do you intend to complete the deal if the Chinese and their friends are trying to stop it?”

Michael took a deep breath before replying. “We will fight them. I’m hoping it won’t come to that, but we need to be prepared.”

“So now we come to it. You want us to provide the weapons you need. Before we go into that, answer this question.  You believe the Chinese could stop the UNOC mission. Why won’t they stop you as easily?”

“That is a fair question. If the trade was to take place on Earth or even close by then our task would be difficult, suicidal even. In deep space their power isn’t so absolute. With your help we can match the Chinese and complete the trade. A trade that will benefit the consortium and mankind in general.”

“We also have an advantage over the UNOC.”

“What might that be?”

“We’re not part of the United Nations.”

“But you are subject to its edicts.”

“That is true, but we do not have committees populated with our enemies. The danger for the UNOC are the politics within, probably more so than the forces the Chinese are sending to Mars.”

Samir considered this, then nodded in agreement. “One more question. How do you plan on crewing the weapons? I can see how you can arm your freighters, but creating combat crews will be very difficult. Only a few countries operate combat ready vessels.”

Michael had been discussing this very concern a few days previously with Jacob Manning. They agreed to complete a full conversion on three of the small freighters. The crews for these ships would get full training. Jacob also secured the services of a European start up PMC. They were specialists in space security, comprising of experts from various air forces. These three ships would form the core of the fleet, a strike force allowing them to take the initiative, if needed.

The rest of the freighters would be upgraded as part of their maintenance cycles. Primarily this would be point defences and training would be provided on their use, against meteors. New weapon packages would be assembled in cargo pods, so they could easily be added when the time came. Meanwhile a cadre of weapon specialists would be trained in secret and deployed on the ships before they departed from Mars. It was far from the ideal approach, but it offered the best chance for maintaining secrecy.

The last piece of the puzzle was off the shelf expert systems. A number of systems for target tracking and engagement were easily available. They would need upgrading, Jacob already had a team working on this.
Michael explained this plan to Samir. Samir considered what he heard before replying. “That seems a reasonable plan. Expensive, but relatively low key. However, I don’t think we can provide all that you need and the bit we can is going to cost you.”

He stroked his beard. “You see, we maintain a small annual growth of our armed forces. Nothing too dramatic, we don’t want to  make our neighbours nervous. So if we start selling you large quantities of our inventory, we’d need to replace it and that would cause notice.“

He noticed that Michael seemed about to speak, so raised his hand to forestall him. “Please let me finish. Now after studying the problem with our defence ministry, they see a few options. Don’t worry, this was done in complete secrecy. We can upgrade some of our older patrol boats and surface to air systems. We can pretend they were scrapped when replaced with the newer systems we buy from the Russians. We would expect not to be out of pocket on these upgrades.”

Michael’s turn to contemplate. It wasn’t as good as he’d hoped, but neither was it as bad as he feared. “I’d like to see a list of the inventory we would gain from that?”

“Of course Mr Richards. First let us discuss terms. Rather than a simple return on our investment, we want something more.”

“More in what way?”

“We want to become full partners in this venture. We want to benefit from the new technology from this deal. We also want to join the consortium to help our businesses expand into space. Finally we also want you to use your influence to help us enter the African markets. It’s time the League entered the wider world again and you will help us do that.”

“Well that seems achievable, you are asking a lot, especially as you are not able to provide everything we need.”

“I can help you with that. What if we increased the financial investment? Some of it would be counted towards the cost of the naval and air defence upgrades. I can also put you in touch with a useful Russian contact. The Russians are past masters at selling weapons without others knowing. I can assure you they will help make up the shortfall. For a price of course.”

“Samir, I think we might have a deal.”

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