Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Thirty-one

The Colonel listened to the debate among the staff officers as they argued about the best method of invading the planet. He watched as small groups argued over minor points, looking as if they were going to punch one another, and then solve the problem. He watched as they studied the Citadel that sat atop the world, viewing it from every angle using the limited data provided by the scouts and enhanced by the ships computers.

The hatch irised open once and as it did, everyone in the room fell silent. As soon as the hatch was closed, they all began to talk again. The woman came forward, leaned close to the Colonel and said, "Preliminary reports from all intel teams have been received."

The Colonel looked up, into her eyes. "What is it?"

She raised an eyebrow. "All negative."

"Now what in the hell does that mean?"

"None of the teams found anything to report. Two of them mentioned there was no animal life encountered. One said there were no insects. One mentioned there were no roads or railways as far as they could see. Another said no cultivated fields though it appeared the forests had been modified by genetic engineering or by simple cross breeding."

"That tells me exactly nothing," said the Colonel.

"That's all there is. All teams reported in and no team reported any type of trouble. All reported on schedule and there was no interference from outside sources. All are continuing to make their way toward the Citadel."

"All right. Thank you." He was quiet for a moment and then asked, "Oh, has the general seen this?"

"Yes, sir. He said for you to continue with the decision process. Final decision will be made based on the next reports from the intel teams and the best probable course of action."

"Thank you."

The woman left and the Colonel watched the debates continued. Finally he stood up and said, "Let's get something organized."

"Any word from the teams on the surface?" asked one of the officers.

"They have negative contact. Nothing. Apparently the only life exists around the Citadel." He held up a hand and added, "That is what they report at the moment."

"Then this should be simple," said a voice.

The Colonel nodded his agreement. Land south of the Citadel and advance on it. If the experiences of the intel teams were representative, there would be no opposition until they reached the Citadel itself. Then, if they were on the ground, there still might be no resistance at all.

"Do we know anything about the inhabitants of the planet?" asked an officer.

The Colonel reached down, used a keypad. The planet was replaced with a holo of the alien found on the asteroid. It rotated slowly, just as the planet had.

"This is the enemy, as far as we can tell," said the Colonel. "It is not very strong, isn't very clever and is very fragile."

"Not much of an enemy."

There was a bark of laughter. The Colonel let it die out and then said, "That might be true, but it's the only enemy that we have."

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