Once again, Michael was sitting behind the desk in the conference room, waiting for the arranged time to join the videoconference. He was going through the list on his CEI of all the things he wanted to say and do; it was time to make some leaders mad.
One of the most jarring differences in the room was the absence of people… he was all alone. His gaze went to the chairs placed on the far wall, close to the door. Last time he was here, his father was sitting in the first one, Elizabeth and Alice were next to him. Now, one of those chairs will forever stay empty.
He nodded to Max and the holo-screen in front of him activated. All the usual suspects were present, including the US president’s flunky, who was fidgeting in his seat. He saw the startled flinch on several faces, at the moment when they realized that he was the one on the other side of the camera.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for responding to my request for this meeting.” He said and nodded to the people on the monitors. He had to spend the next ten minutes listening to their impromptu statements of how appalled they were about the attack, and asking him if he was feeling better, after that dreadful ordeal.
“Yes, I’m fine now, but let me first explain to you what happened. Six days ago, when we were returning ISS astronauts back to Earth, we were attacked by a Predator drone that fired a Hellfire missile, with me as its intended target. The astronauts and their families suffered injuries, but luckily, they all survived. Unfortunately, my father was not so fortunate…he was murdered. I have spent some time since then recuperating from my injuries, and was only recently released from the hospital.”
They offered their condolences, but they were only repeating what was expected in such situations, in their eyes, he couldn’t see a trace of true compassion.
“Thank you for your kind words, but now we must talk about things that affect the living, the dead are at peace…or will be soon. What I learned after regaining my consciousness was that several of you ordered extended families of my people to be gathered in the same way Nazis did during World War II. You placed entire families into custody, even children, and their only fault was that they were related to those who reside on the Ascension. Subsequently, you sent demands that this spaceship should be returned to Earth and given to you. Well, actions have consequences… and actions you chose were… unwise. Hence, I made some decisions, and they will affect you; that is the main reason for this meeting.”
Nobody said anything, waiting for Michael to continue.
“First of all, I want to inform you that from today we are declaring our independence from all countries of Earth.”
He had to stop talking; the uproar his statement created made the sound coming from the speakers crack.
“We will never permit such a thing!” the Russian president finally roared and overpowered all others.
Michael fixed him with his eyes. “We are not asking for your permission; I was telling you what the new reality is. From now on, you can look at us in space as a new political entity, for all practical purposes—a new country. The name we chose to call ourselves by is the Solarian Union.”
They were starting to yell again, but Michael increased his tone, “I am not finished!” and that brought some semblance of silence.
“The Solarian Union is open to establishing diplomatic relations with all those who acknowledge us and are amicable to our position. In essence, diplomacy’s purpose is to avert conflicts and all they inevitably cause. That is why I am going to ask all those amongst you, who made arrests of our citizens’ family members, to release them. They were detained without just cause and due process. Their only fault was that they could be used as leverage to compel our citizens to submit to your will. Their immediate release would show your intent that a peaceful solution could be found.” He finished his request.
The people from the other side of the monitors almost laughed to his face. Making excuses about how they had nothing to do with it and how the entire matter was in the hands of justice departments of their respective countries. They were experienced in diverting the blame and not agreeing to anything they did not absolutely need to. There were a variety of reasons why such a thing was not possible. Those who were not part of the arrests did not say a thing, just listened, as Michael was, to all the excuses. He did not expect anything less, to them he was an upstart with delusions of grandeur… a nobody.
Michael smiled into the camera. “All right then, now we come to that ‘consequences’ part I was talking about earlier. Effective immediately, all satellites and space assets of the countries responsible for this atrocity are from this moment seized by the Solarian Union and are no longer your property.”
He barely finished saying that, when the uproar started again.
The Russian president once more managed to be heard over all others, threatening to blow Michael and his group of separatists out of the sky. Therefore, Michael did the most natural thing for him in this type of situation; he put two fingers to his lips and made a piercing whistling sound, creating absolute silence in a second.
“Since the Russian president decided to threaten us with military aggression, it is a good time to show you a small demonstration we made for you all.”
To the gathered politicians, Michael’s image changed to one transmitted from a satellite. A device that looked like a polished metal tube with a sharp end was floating in space and pointing at the Earth’s surface beneath it. Around it were many more, hundreds of the same.
Michael narrated what was happening, “What you are looking at is a live video feed from one of our satellites. This device we call the Hammer, and it is the same as the one that ended the lives of 3500 members of the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria. Now… observe.”
The lone Hammer left its flock and started to descend towards the planet, with each second its velocity increasing. The picture split into two, the second one transmitting from a far lower altitude. The Hammer descended from heavens followed by a trail of fire; the second camera held it centered until it reached the ground. The results of their joining were catastrophic; an instantaneous flash overwhelmed the camera sensor for a second but the picture returned immediately to show a mushroom cloud forming and rising from the surface. The place it hit was bare and rocky, yet after a few minutes, a crater could be seen through the dust; its surface covered with molten rock produced by the intense heat.
“What have you done!” The Russian president screamed. “This is a breach of the Outer Space treaty, Russia will not stand for this, you are declaring war!”
Michael looked at the camera, showing no emotions. “This was one small demonstration of our Hammer weapon system, and the target was an unpopulated small rock island close to the Antarctic Circle. The weapon is a kinetic one, and under the treaty you mentioned, such weapons are allowed; funny how that slipped through. Besides, the Solarian Union is not a signatory of that treaty; in fact, we are not signatory to any.” Michael looked at their stunned faces. “We only have a few thousand of them in Earth’s orbit, but I think it will be enough to guarantee our safety. Now, about the Russian President’s threat to blow us out of the sky, you should all know that if any missile launch is detected, we will assume that we are the designated target and will respond accordingly. Just to clarify, that missile, together with its launch site will receive a Hammer strike… pun intended.”
“You cannot threaten us like this! Who do you think you are?” The Russian president thundered.
“I am, as you are, a leader of my sovereign state, and as such, I am responsible for the safety and well-being of my people. Let me be blunt with you since I am not a career politician as you are. Doublespeak and innuendos that you use daily are foreign to me, so I will use the language I am used to; that way there will be no misunderstandings between us. You have abducted people that I feel are under my protection and put them in jails, so my response to that action is to put a gun to your head or above it, as it were. The Hammers are there to stay, as I fear you would do something foolish without them to remind you not to overreact. If you attack me, I will attack back, and since I am a firm believer in personal responsibility, that means I will come after you personally, not just your countries. When all's said and done, if you lead the country, then all guilt of its actions falls on your head.” He looked at the USA representative, “and that is a piece of information you need to inform Philip Cain about.” Michael paused and gave them a piercing gaze. “Taking those people will be considered as an attack on the Solarian Union if they are not released within 24 hours. But I am not without reason, treat us fairly and we will do the same to you; declare war on us, and may God have mercy on your souls… as I will have none.”
There was complete silence on the videoconference link, so Michael decided to bring this thing to a close; there was nothing more he needed to say and frankly, he was getting annoyed with their protests and disagreements. “If any of you still don’t recognize this new reality that is upon you, get a dictionary and look up the definition of ‘Force majeure’.”
He gave one more look to the silent crowd. “That was all I had to say, I hope we will be hearing from you within 24 hours… Have a nice day.”
With those words, Michael disconnected the video link.
Max took over the duties of being a diplomat, who would negotiate the release of the prisoners. He changed his image so there would be no confusion, and even Michael couldn’t recognize his new persona. It was a good thing he did, a few minutes after Michael ended that meeting, most of those world leaders made personal calls to discuss the particularities of the ultimatum. A normal human could have never answered them all simultaneously.
The majority of them were offering assurances that it was all one big misunderstanding and that detainees will be immediately released. Furthermore, they were all trying to make arrangements for diplomatic missions, and asking permissions to establish embassies on the Ascension. In exchange, they were offering to publicly recognize the Solarian Union as a new sovereign state. Max thanked them but made sure not to make any binding promises as they had no intention to let foreign agents onto their territory. Besides, Michael said that they really didn’t need those recognitions right now, superior firepower is recognition in its own right.
He was amused at the thought of what their reactions would be when, sometime in the future, they realized that the Solarian Union had laid claim to the entire Solar System.
“Max, how many Hammers do we have?” Michael asked after a few hours.
“A few less than you told them, or that CGI video showed. To be exact, we have an even dozen. Moreover, it will take some time to make more. The metal cylinders are not the problem, but Gravity-drives and fusion reactors are the bottlenecks. In a pinch, we could cannibalize the transporters, not that I would advise that.” The AI answered.
“As long as they think we have plenty,” Michael said, hoping that their claims wouldn’t be put to a test.
Unfortunately, that hope was a futile one; they had to use them by the end of the day.
Of all countries he expected to react explosively, North Korea was the one that fired the first shot. Then again, maybe it wasn’t that surprising since their leader was a self-centered maniac with an inferiority complex. He never did anything to earn his position but inherited it from his father as if he were a king. To that man, an idea that someone was showing superiority over him was driving him crazy, so he ordered two missiles to be fired at the Ascension. One exploded by itself, half a minute after the takeoff; the other was destroyed by a well-aimed Hammer, long before it reached its destination. Those two launch sites, together with eight additional ones, were destroyed immediately, and Michael kept a few in reserve. Six hours later, they had one less in their armament since the Supreme Leader in question showed his face while exiting a bunker where he hid together with his generals. That one wasn’t accelerated as much, so the explosion was much smaller, but it did hit a bulls-eye.
Max showed him a picture that the Hammer took before the impact, and the look on that chubby face was priceless. North Korea immediately sued for ending all hostilities; some low-level Colonel took power, promising big changes.
That was enough to convince the rest of the world that Michael was being serious with his ultimatum; a few hours after that last Hammer’s strike, even those countries who were dragging their feet to comply with his demands, immediately released all captured people.
From the moment he informed them that their satellites were confiscated, Max, who already had full control over them, simply refused to accept their commands. They were, undoubtedly, even more surprised when their so-called secret spy satellites refused commands as well.
One of the most amusing conversations he had that day was when the head of NASA called and asked why was ISS not where it was supposed to be; the man hung up the connection when Michael informed him that they had laid salvage claim on it.
The reaction of those who lived in the City-ship was very positive. They liked the idea of them becoming a separate state, and the Solarian Union was an idea they could support. There were a few who expressed concerns about how their own countries would react, and if they would be obligated to renounce their citizenships to become ‘Solarians’, as they started calling themselves. Fortunately, Max was there to ease their fears; for now, those things were still quite loose and informal. Live and let live was the official attitude of their new state.
There was a special room near the bridge; it was circular in design with holo-emitters embedded in all the walls. Max designed it so one could experience space, almost as if it was outside. The gravity could be turned off and the walls showed the outside. Michael spent several hours there, thinking about his father and the recent events. He needed Elizabeth by his side, but she would be in AutoDoc until the next morning.
Tired and emotionally drained… he slowly drifted to sleep.