"The Rings of Darelius" is my first attempt at science fiction, and takes its roots from a short story of the same name. This is the Prologue and first chapter which set the scene for an 80,000 word novel.
Second planet in the Arthrelian System. Mass 5.2413 x 1024Kg. Volume 1.0652098×1017km³, Circumference 3.865977×107m. Atmosphere 75% nitrogen, 22% oxygen, 3% carbon dioxide and other minor gases. Surface Pressure 100.05kPa.
Its population of just under 1billion had been stabilised for many generations and was spread evenly across a planet of dramatically contrasting climatic zones. From the frozen wastes of its polar expanses to the sultry regions of its tropical paradises, much care had been taken by its inhabitants in preserving a delicate ecological balance.
Culturally, it was, and had been for many millennia, diverse and tolerant. History had revealed alternatives too appalling, and its races had long since thrown off the xenophobia which had dogged earlier times. Politically it was a model of democracy, and a planet-wide federation ensured that, as well as guaranteeing individual freedoms, there was a collective mentality of co-operation and tranquillity.
Magnanimous in their attitudes towards friends, the Darelian people were, nevertheless, unafraid to stand up against tyranny and injustice. They had not been at war for many generations.
Orbited at its Equator by a ring system of stunning beauty, Darelius was the Shangri-La that the Earth scribe James Hilton had written of.
The threat of extinction had come out of the black void of space with no warning.
Distance from Earth: approximately 80 light years.
PART I - BALAN
Calor Delantris stood at the window and stared out at the city skyline. She was the last of the delegates remaining now that the summit had broken up. This had been their final chance of resolving the global conflict which was threatening to tear Balan apart. The opposing forces in the dispute stood ready and waiting for the final command - massed in strategic locations along a fortified border. They had come so close to agreement that it was now inconceivable to her that all had come down to a single sentence in the draft agreement which would have ensured peace.
“Madam.” She turned at the sound of Boran Vestron, her aide. “Councillor Trevis wishes to speak with you.”
“Very well, Boran. Tell him I’ll be with him shortly.” Vestron bowed and was gone.
Malkon Trevis was one of
Delantris sighed. She had put much personal effort into bringing the two sides together, but in the end there had not been enough doves present to counter the hawks massed to Trevis’ cause. It was to be hoped that he had at least some form of compromise up his sleeve, albeit heavily weighted to the benefit of his people. Gathering up her papers, she headed for the council chamber door, and the small side room to which she had directed he be shown.
“Councillor Trevis, you wished to see me in private?” Delantris’ face bore no emotion at all.
“Yes indeed.” He smiled – a fact which should have sent out warning bells. “May I take a seat?”
“Please do. Would you like some refreshment?” This was a mere courtesy which she did not expect him to accept. She was mistaken. He took the glass offered, sipped at the liquid, let out a murmur of satisfaction, and sat down.
The atmosphere in the room was one of deep suspicion on her part, and uncharacteristic openness on his. Once the pleasantries of the food and drink were dispensed with, his demeanour changed and he came straight to the point. Placing a bound folder on the table he sat back.
“I prefer to do this the old-fashioned way. You never know who can tap into electronic devices, do you? Please take a look.”
He sat back in his chair and waited as she unfolded the paper. The frown which followed gave him a sense of immense satisfaction.
“This is…what? A deed of surrender?” Delantris looked up in astonishment.
“Not at all Madam Chairman. Merely the setting out of our position with regards to a mutually beneficial settlement of the dispute.”
“You seem to have drawn the borders enclosing two thirds of the planet’s surface in your favour. Why was this not presented in the full meeting?” She pushed the papers back across the table.
“For the simple reason that it needs your influence over the remainder of your people. The Chair’s agreement in principle would go a long way towards securing peace on our planet for some significant length of time. It’s quite straightforward.”
“But the delineation of the borders is quite unacceptable. I cannot agree to anything remotely like this.” Delantris shook her head and scowled at the now recumbent figure of Malkon Trevis.
“You do not seem to appreciate the full implications of resisting this offer.” He sighed, stood up, gathered the papers and made for the door. He turned. “You have one cycle to make a decision. I will return at this time tomorrow, but be warned that this is your final chance to prevent a conflict the like of which Balan has never before experienced.”
The chilling tone of Trevis’ voice echoed alarmingly after his departure, and Delantris returned to her seat to ponder the ultimatum which had been so coldly delivered. Had it really all come down to this?
Balan had, it is true, suffered the savagery of numerous internecine conflicts in its history, and some of them had brought the planet to the brink of annihilation. That, however, had been long ago, and the entire world, diverse as it was, had lived in peace and harmony for a number of generations. For a society of such cosmopolitan variety, this had been an achievement in itself, and Calor had sat at the knee of her grandfather listening in rapt attention to stories of battles fought in days long past. The frontiers marked out on Trevis’ plans made serious inroads into territory never previously occupied by his people, and the chance of a full council agreeing to the terms was nil. She returned to her office and pressed a small pad on her desk.. A familiar voice resounded back to her.
“Madam Chairman?” The voice of Boran Vestron was its usual calm timbre, and the sound of it relaxed her demeanour.
“Ask Sonder Malafey to come and see me, please.”
Sonder Malafey was the chief military adviser to the council, and had not been present at the earlier meeting. Nor, for that matter, had the tactical staff of either side been in the chamber. It was now important that he be briefed on the conversation which had just taken place. He arrived within the hour.
“You summoned me, Madam Chairman.” It was a statement, not a question, and he bowed in deference to her position.
A man of considerable charm and technical knowledge, he had been at the head of the military arm of the Federated States for most of Delantris’ career, and commanded immense respect from all factions within the regime. He was an individual of no political ambition, and served whatever master happened to be occupying the Chair with equal loyalty.
“I did. Please take a seat, there have been developments following on from the meeting with the Thyrenian delegation.”
“I understand that you met in private with Malkon Trevis.” His face offered no hint of opinion or reproach.
“News travels fast.” Delantris smiled ruefully. “He has offered us a deal for ensuring peace.”
“No doubt on terms eminently suitable to the Thyrenian cause.”
“Indeed, and the redrawn borders cede much of the southern territories to their side. We cannot allow that to happen. Millions of our people live and work there, and the area is vital to the economic and social welfare of the entire planet. In the wrong hands they could instigate a dangerous shift in the balance of power.” She had paced the room during the speech, but now came to a halt by the window overlooking the city.
Malkon Trevis was something of an anomaly. Traditionally, the leaders of all political movements were drawn from the upper echelons of the particular society which formed their base. He, however, was not of this class and had emerged from the rank and file of the general populace within what had become the Thyrenian Alliance. A sharp mind, allied to a shrewd eye for opportunity, had propelled him to the forefront of one of the minor factions within the Thyrenian sphere. Within a very short space of time, he had gathered around him a group of likeminded individuals, and this knot of activists had seized the chance to inspire the general population with their rhetoric.
“We have seen his kind come and go before, Madam Chairman.” Malafey was dismissive towards an individual whom he saw as nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
“True, but this time it’s different. He seems to have mobilised public opinion in a very short space of time. Our intelligence agencies should have picked him out long before it came to this. We may now have the makings of a significant problem. Are your forces ready?”
“They are, and we outnumber the Thyrenians two to one. Unless Trevis has something up his sleeve, he is bluffing on a grand scale. Will there be anything else, madam Chairman?”
“No, thank you, Sonder.” She smiled thinly, and he turned to leave. “Wait. Check with our people over on the Thyrenian side. I’d hate to be caught unprepared if Trevis has been up to something.”
“Very good.” Malafey left with a smile on his face. A clear instruction to dig around on someone else’s patch was just what he liked.
Calor Delantris did not share the enthusiasm of her military chief for sabre-rattling, and remained deep in thought after his departure. A call on her communication channel from Boran Vestron shook her from her reverie.
“Yes, Boran, what is it?”
“Madam, reports are coming in of a cross-border incursion by the Thyrenian forces.”
“Inform Sonder Malafey immediately, and summon the full council.”
“Very good, Madam Chairman.”
So, despite his fine words, Trevis was clearly in no mood for waiting. It had begun, and the fate of the entire planet now rested on the decisions of the next few hours.