As promised (or threatened, as the case may be), the Johnny Pez blog now presents an original Asimov fanfic based on the much-derided space opera "Black Friar of the Flame". We now turn back the clock six thousand years before the Great Rebellion, when the human race was in the early centuries of its expansion through the Galaxy, and the Lhasinu were a pre-industrial race confined to their original homeworld . . .
by Johnny Pez
Dr. Nelda Hartz was enjoying a cup of tea in her office when the call came through from Major van Orden.
"Good morning, Major," Hartz said as the young officer's face appeared on her monitor. "What can I do for you?" The major was a relatively recent addition to the staff of Lhasinu Base, and his arrival had caused Hartz nothing but trouble. In theory, he was subordinate to her, but Hartz was not eager to test that theory by refusing one of his suggestions.
"Doctor, I've just received word from the Resolute that several ships have appeared in the Vega system from hyperspace," said van Orden. "We have to assume that this is a Sirian flotilla. The ships are expected to reach Vega VI by noon tomorrow local time."
Hartz felt despair settle into her soul at the news. Her faint hope that the war would bypass Vega VI, already cracked by Major van Orden's arrival, now broke asunder. "What is your response going to be, Major?" She feared that he would attempt to fight it out with the Sirians.
"My orders in this situation are clear," said van Orden. "In the event that an enemy force appears in numbers too great to resist, I am to withdraw my own forces and bring word back to the General Staff back on Centuarus. I have given orders for the Resolute to send a boat down to pick up our ground forces. We will be breaking orbit within twelve hours."
"Very well, Major," said Hartz. "Carry on." Van Orden nodded and ended the call.
Hartz sat at her desk and considered the situation as her tea grew cold. The upside of the situation was that with van Orden and his force (if you could call half a dozen volunteer militia a "force") withdrawing, there wouldn't be any fighting taking place in Lhasinu Base. The downside was that the Sirians were an unknown quantity. They might well shut down the base permanently, and they would certainly not allow Hartz to continue as Chief Administrator. Presumably she and the rest of the base staff from the Centauri Bloc would be interned as enemy aliens. She found herself shaking her head at the senselessness of the situation.
After two centuries, the human race was rediscovering the art of war. All across the hundreds of worlds settled by humanity since the discovery of hyperdrive, military organizations were being hastily set up, and merchant ships were being converted into warships. Two years ago, Major van Orden's grandly-named ACS Resolute had been an ore hauler called the Daisy, and van Orden himself had been a politically connected business owner.
Hartz found herself wondering why the politicians in the Stellar Parliament couldn't settle their disputes peacefully, then immediately answered herself that their disputes were beyond peaceful resolution. The Centaurians and their allies had dominated the Stellar Parliament since its foundation fifty-six years before, and they meant to maintain that domination. The Sirians and their allies were equally determined to assert their own independence.
As far as Hartz was concerned, there was little to admire about either side. Perhaps living here among the Vegans had distanced her from the rest of humanity, for she could honestly see no more reason to the current conflict than she could to the Vegans' own endless feudal disputes.
But there was no point in sitting here and pondering the situation. She had a scientific outpost to run, and it was up to her to prepare the rest of the staff for the impending arrival of the Sirians. Switching on the general intercom on her monitor, she said, "Attention all staff, this is the Chief Administrator. There will be a general staff meeting held in the canteen in thirty minutes' time. All staff are required to attend. I repeat, there will be a general staff meeting held in the canteen in thirty minutes' time, and all staff are required to attend. That is all."
Hartz switched off the intercom, then sat still for a moment. Garcia and Weddell were out doing field work among the Vegans. She would have to send word to them to drop what they were doing and return to base. They wouldn't be happy about it. Right now, though, the complaints she would be getting from them were the least of her worries.
(continue to part 2)