The Burning of Litash (5)

“These images are taken from the records provided by the command vessel of the fleet that carried out ‘Operation Ruby Gauntlet Sable’, the Unyielding Order…”

The ravaged planet hung in the center of the Conclave amphitheater, surface black and charred save for its fiery disfigurement; a crater over a thousand miles wide, filled with a sea of magma welling up through the world’s cracked crust, belching steam into the wracked air at its edge where it intersected the former coast.  Newborn volcanoes shouldered their way into the sky at its fringes and along radiating cracks, as the world heaved in the orogenic aftershocks of the detonation.

“These are simply the primary effects of the strangelet bomb deployed by the Empire’s task force.  The detonation set the atmosphere of the planet ablaze.  Firestorms driven by the pressure wave swept around the world, incinerating not merely everyone who escaped the initial blast, but the entire planetary ecology.  The direct radiation and particle showers produced by the bomb have rendered much of the planet radioactive.  That alone will render Litash unhabitable for a thousand years.”


“Ah, ni Korat, sit down.  I’m surprised you wanted to be seen meeting at a time like this.”

“We’re already so close to you in the public eye, it’ll hardly matter.  And all of us are nervous right now – everyone’s counting on me to find out what’s going on.”


“Technically, this is not a violation of the Accords as written.  Litash was not a signatory to any of the Accords, nor has there been any specific prohibition on the use of strangelet weapons.  Litash was a world which supported piracy, slavetaking, and other crimes against Accord members; a general threat to all the Worlds.  None of us here would quibble with the right of any Accord member to destroy the Litashian fleet with no quarter given, nor to prosecute general warfare against the Litashian government.  But this!  This is the destruction of an entire world, its entire population, its entire ecology.  This cannot be tolerated by the galactic community, surely.  If a smaller polity of the Accord had done this, it would be subject to the most severe censure, and it must therefore be so even if one of the Powers.”


“They’re really out for blood.  All your old enemies and half the neutrals are salivating over the chance to stick the knife into one of the Presidium powers.”

“I should certainly hope they are.”


“The Qiraf Assembly concurs with the League of Meridian.  While not a technical violation of the Accords, this attack violates their spirit in every way possible.  We condemn the actions of the Empire in destroying Litash-world in the strongest possible terms, and call for them to provide surety that they will never again use weapons of this nature!”


“We’ve always been your allies, and now we’re going to be caught in the backlash of this. All your allies are going to be caught in it.  Dammit, Calis, what are you going to do?

“We have it in hand.  Trust me on this.”


“This was an act of barbarism, of madness!  We cannot permit this to happen again!  The Calyet Guard demands that this assembly condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms, and we urge the other Presidium powers to take action immediately to prevent these madmen from repeating it!”


“But what are you going to –“


“The Presiding Minister for the Empire, Calis Corith-ith-Corith, now has the floor.”

“Gentlesophs of the Conclave, honorable representatives, at this time I would introduce Ambassador Extraordinary Cyprium-ith-Aelies, who speaks on our behalf.”

“Presiding Ministers, Representatives of the Conclave, on behalf of the Empire, I stand before you today to speak on the matter of the destruction, the burning – as the media is calling it – of Litash.  Let me first be clear on one point: we maintain absolutely that the destruction of the Litashian fleet, as active agents in piracy, slavetaking, and other crimes against sophoncy, was within our sovereign rights, as it would have been within those of any Accord member.  Moreover, we further maintain that the destruction of not merely the Litashian government, but also of the Litashian population, was justified as active supporters of these agents.  I remind you that the Litashian economy was principally driven by support for the criminal activities of its so-called fleet.”

“This being said, however, we acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the representatives here gathered where the excessive destructive power – unanticipated even by our own forces, as the bridge transcript records of the Unyielding Order show – of the strangelet bomb is concerned.  We do not desire any further destruction of worlds or ecologies to take place, at our hands, or indeed at any others’.”

“Therefore, the Empire moves that the Ley Accords be amended to include strangelet bombs, star- and planet-targeted respectively, as Tier I and Tier II prohibited instruments under Chapter I; and moves further that the protections and prohibitions of Chapter I be extended to all worlds and systems, not merely those actively claimed by Accord signatories.”

With that, the entire amphitheater erupted in general tumult, all but a few chagrined faces among the crowd – some of the former condemners prominent among them.


“You devious –“

“Would we ever have got those amendments passed if we’d proposed them cold? As it stands, the pirates are eliminated and the ambitions of a few dozen rogue states against their neighbors and Peripheral non-signatories will be neutered for the next century or two, all at the cost of one ecopoesed ecology duplicated elsewhere. All for the good of the Worlds, wouldn’t you say?”