“Sophonts of Gervés.  Observe.”

The images accompanying the broadcast were an aerial view of a crater, carved abruptly into a landscape that was otherwise blue-black and growing.  Within the crater, the ground bubbled and seethed around a few shattered remnants that might once have been buildings, rock and earth half-melted by the violence of whatever had happened here.  Beyond the fringes, roads cut off abruptly, freakishly undamaged for anything that close to such total destruction.  The forward half of a shattered vehicle hung balanced on the lip of the crater, tipped, and toppled into the ruin.  Nothing living was visible.

“This morning at 0.434 local time, Talyn Peressin-ith-Peressin, a visiting academician from the Imperial University of Almeä, was kidnapped by a Gervéssin separatist group, the Solidarity Faction, while travelling to an outlying research facility, and taken to the village of Résené, a known and officially tolerated center of Faction activity.”

“In response, at 0.443 local, this village was destroyed by orbital kinetic bombardment from the diplomatic cruiser First Under Heaven, assigned to our embassy here on Gervés.  Citizen-shareholder Peressin is being restored from backup, and is expected to have lost no more than one hour of memory.”

The images of destruction ceased, replaced by a man in the blue-and-gold of the Imperial Navy with arctic eyes and voice to match.

“A personal word for associates of the Solidarity Faction in particular: While you addressed your communique to us in terms of your ‘rightful freedom’, assuming no doubt that we would sympathize with this, you should understand that we are understandably less sympathetic to such appeals when they come from self-demonstrating petty tyrants and kidnappers.”

“In addition, your planet’s World Assembly is accustomed to treat you with a light hand, in the interests of reconciliation, stability, and due proportion.  We, however, are disinclined to do so when barbarians indulge the notion that they may prey upon Imperial citizen-shareholders; rather, we prefer a disproportionate response that only becomes more so should we be compelled to repeat it.  You will cease to have such notions, or you will all die.  Either will satisfy our requirements.”

– Admiral Kalkis Roquentius-ith-Roquel, responding to the Gervés Incident, 5331