8FOLD: Nonfiction # 3, "The New War"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Wed Jun 18 17:43:51 PDT 2014

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 == NUMBER 3 === [8F-114] === [PW-01] === BY TOM RUSSELL ==

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The UN is predicting another quick victory against
an alien invasion. But this time might be different.

ON MAY 29TH, 2014, A DELEGATE from the Pulse Collective appeared
before the United Nations General Assembly. Many assumed that the
purpose of this visit was to reestablish diplomatic relations between
the Collective and the planet it had recently and perhaps hastily
ejected from its Council of the Countless. After all, said ejection
had taken place over the perceived irrelevance of Max Lang, the Human
Zeppelin, accidental sort-of delegate to the Pulse on behalf of the
human race. If the UN had ejected member nations every time someone
made a fool of themselves, the whole thing would have fallen apart
long before Khrushchev banged his shoe. The Council, on the other
hand, has purportedly been in existence for three million years, and
so surely they would see that they have overreacted.
   But the delegate was not there to patch things up. Instead, it--
the sexless Pulse have no concept of gender-- was there to deliver an
eviction notice. To compensate for the insult Lang (and by extension,
Earth) had given them, the Pulse Collective would be taking possession
of the Earth within three months. Any humans still remaining on the
planet would be exterminated.
   At first, it was thought that something had been garbled. The
non-linear grammar of the Pulse makes their language especially
difficult to translate. But the delegate was asked to repeat itself,
and it did, and the message was clear: the Pulse had declared war on
the Earth. The delegate then disappeared in a flash of light.

"Earth has been invaded seven times since 1800," said U.S. Ambassador
to the United Nations Samantha Power the following day. "There have
been little incursions as well, by scouting parties, but when we're
talking about the actual, full-scale application of extraterrestrial
military force, it's happened seven times. And none of those invasions
has lasted more than forty-two hours. That's a fact."
   This reassuring statement has been echoed throughout our government
and the governments of other nations. And, since you're reading this,
it is true that none of these invasions succeeded.
   "In fact, we're a little old-hat at this," says Yves Burton, author
of 2011's THE BATTLE OF EARTH, considered by some to be the definitive
study of invasions one through six. "Last year's invasion [by the
Tribots] saw a quick, well-planned, and effective coordination of
efforts across the globe. A mobilization of scientists, military,
[and] costumed adventurers from two dozen nations."
   Time and again, we've shown the ability as a species to band
together and put aside our differences to throw off a hostile invader.
So why should this time be any different?
   "Because the Pulse is different," says Burton. All of the previous
invading aliens were what he calls "universal locusts". They descend
upon a planet, burning through all of its natural resources until it
cannot support any life, including themselves. "Then, they move onto
the next planet. And the next. A cycle going back sometimes hundreds
of thousands of years, until they come to Earth, and for the first
time, they're stopped dead."
   But none of that describes the Pulse, a civilization that has ruled
a vast empire in Deep Space for over three million years. This they
have done from a home planet with abundant natural resources that have
been carefully and scientifically preserved, protected, and exploited
for at least half that time.
   "Universal locusts are short-sighted," Burton wrote in THE BATTLE
OF EARTH. "They drain a planet of all its resources, and then throw
everything they have at the next world in a desperate bid for
survival. By their very nature, they cannot have the resources
necessary to sustain the sort of lengthy campaigns one would imagine
would be necessary to subjugate our world."
   The Pulse have those resources.

Though various governments including our own have publicly stressed
our 7-0 record and the need for a well-prepared and vigorous defense,
a source close to the White House indicates that the President and his
cabinet do not believe that the universal locust model applies.
According to this source, "What we are facing is completely
unprecedented in human existence. A state of war exists between us and
a highly-evolved alien civilization in Deep Space. And once you accept
that, you start to face some pretty difficult questions. First off,
how do you fight that war? You don't just wait out their attacks,
because unlike the locust model, they will keep coming. Wave after
wave. Week after week."
   We know precious little about the Pulse and understand less.
According to Tina Wazowie-- the musician who remains the closest thing
we have to an expert on the Pulse-- they can apparently make the
journey from Deep Space to our solar system in the space of between a
few hours and four months, depending on the method of transport. But
we're still quite in the dark as to what those methods may be and how
many of their soldiers and supplies those methods might move at a
given time.
   NASA has employed Dr. Fatima Tarif, the "freelance consulting
genius" and expert on alien technologies, to help determine how
they'll do it, and in turn what we can do about it. And beyond that,
how can we replicate it?
   The image of space marines HALO-jumping through rips in the fabric
of space and time onto an alien world seems ludicrous, or at the very
least something that falls strictly in the purview of costumed
adventurers. "The alternative, however, is perpetual defense," says
military historian Andrew James Lanktree. "My apologies to Clausewitz,
but defense is not the stronger form of war in this century. The
attrition, the losses, always reacting and never seizing the strategic
initiative: it wears down national will, or in this case,
international will."
   Burton agrees. "Previous invasions, we all came together in a time
of emergency. But that never lasted more than a few days; it never had
to. The longer the war lasts, the greater the chance our alliances
will fall back into acrimony and squabbling. The greater the chance of
a fracture. And that would damage our ability to fight perhaps
   But a "space marine" war isn't necessarily shorter than a purely
defensive war. The cost of developing, supplying, and deploying such
units, in both treasure and blood, would put considerable stress on
those alliances, not to mention public opinion.
   "The public doesn't really get an opinion on this," says Burton
with an air of academic bemusement. "This isn't a neighboring country
that we can make peace with."

Others aren't so sure. Various sources in the United Nations are still
hoping for a diplomatic solution. There are some whispers of countries
and blocs of countries attempting to negotiate peace separately. "An
American started this war," says one source. They spoke to us on the
condition that their nation not be named, but it was not a NATO
member. "So their quarrel is with the Americans."
   So far, however, all efforts on the parts of all parties have
proved fruitless. "This is all just so bizarre," confides another
source. "Bizarre and, well, alien. What on Earth did we do to deserve
   Lanktree feels that we can find the answer by looking back on our
own history. "In 1870, the French Ambassador to Prussia had an
informal meeting with the King about the throne of Spain. They didn't
quite see eye-to-eye. An account of this meeting finds its way to Otto
von Bismarck, and he did a sort of press release in which he... edited
the language of the telegram. It made it seem like the King had
insulted the French Ambassador, and thus the French people. This was
published in France on Bastille Day, and so, 'naturally', France
declared war five days later.
   "The point of this is, the Ems Dispatch was not really the cause of
the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Otto von Bismarck wanting to go to
war and needing an excuse, that was the cause. I don't think the Pulse
are so thin-skinned that they were really and truly insulted by some
kind of toilet joke. I do think that they were waiting for some kind
of an excuse so that they could justify their conquest-- their
attempted conquest-- of the Earth."
   If Lang's "insult" is just a pretense, then that helps explain why
individual countries have so far been unable to negotiate a separate
peace. It then begs the question, what is it that the Pulse want with
the Earth? What do we have that they envy?
   And, more importantly, could we use that to our advantage?

Previous invasions, of the universal locust variety, have been
thwarted at least in part by the efforts of four-colours and even
black capes. During the Tribot invasion, to take the most recent
example, super-powered response teams fought alongside traditional
military at key spots around the globe. They also assisted in the
clean-up and relief efforts, with Darkhorse III's celebrated medicine
run being only the most visible example.
   But a war is different. The UN resolved in 1948 that super-powered
humans could not be soldiers, and cannot fight in wars. There have
certainly been incidents in which this was flagrantly ignored by
individual nations (most shamefully, our own in Viet Nam). A
hypothetical war effort coordinated by the United Nations (or, more
likely, NATO, given the UN's peacekeeping mission) would make it
impossible to ignore. Which means either the super-humans stay home,
or a new resolution is called for-- a resolution that might set a
dangerous precedent in future nation-versus-nation conflicts.
   Our country's Secretary for the Department of Super-Human Affairs,
Lacey Trimmer, refused our requests for an interview. However, sources
close to her office state that she has been speaking with the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and the President about the possibility of four-colour
   "At the same time," says the source, "there are certain challenges
to our world and our nation that traditional law enforcement has been
unable to meet. And if past history is any indication, I don't think
those threats are going to just put themselves on pause while we deal
with the Pulse. It's quite likely that the opposite is true."

Last month, every person on Earth "heard" someone claiming to be
Gregory Dingham in their head. This caused the worst mass fear event
since FEVER's attack in October 2008. Dingham was the black cape who
caused the 2005 Wisconsin 9.9 scale earthquake by willing it to
happen. Now, he has purportedly dedicated himself to "the misery of
all living things". What this means, the limits of his powers, and
where he is all remains unknown.
   FEVER is still at large. It is assumed that the terrorist
organization is a shadow of its former self. Thanks to the vigilance
of the Daylighters, they have never pulled off an attack on the level
of the 2008 attacks. But as ever, their true numbers, goals, and
motives are inscrutable, mysterious, and terrifying.
   The Gorgon has returned, and has made an alliance with Hotspur.
Both are artificial intelligences bent on the destruction of all
mankind, and in the past, each has come eerily close to achieving
their goal.
   And the cosmic godflood is still cascading towards us, ever-nearer,
a threat not only to all life on Earth, but to all life in the
universe itself.
   Any single one of these has the potential to become a crisis that
might require our full attention and resources. Happening
concurrently, those resources might be stretched dangerously thin.
That's without adding the Pulse into the mix.
   There is a theory in multi-dimensional four-colour studies called
"the last story". Simply put, it observes that "existential threats"--
such as alien invasions and reality-altering cataclysms-- have become
steadily more dangerous and frequent. It postulates that this will
continue, building to a kind of climax: a perfect storm of
simultaneous existential threats so vast, dangerous, and unfathomable
that we cannot help but be overwhelmed.

And yet.
   It says something that, taken singly, any of those threats are
something that most people feel that the Earth and its defenders can
handle with some effort and some luck. We have handled those kinds of
threats in the past. By all accounts, our planet has seen more of them
than any other planet with which we have had any contact. After all,
before they set their sights on Earth, the seven universal locusts had
never failed to take over a planet. We are the only beings in the
fourteen billion year history of the universe to defy them and win.
   The new war will be unlike anything we have ever faced. It will be
long, and it will be hard. The losses are likely to be catastrophic,
and the strain on the slowly-recovering world economy perhaps
unbearable. It will test our alliances, our ingenuity, and our will to
live and to fight. The challenges are numerous and seemingly
insurmountable. Victory seems impossible, and so it's easy to see why
so many world leaders are so quick to pretend, at least in public,
that this is just invasion number eight, right on schedule.
   And yet, without the benefit of hindsight, victory seemed
impossible all those times, too. Impossible, it seems, is simply what
humans do. The new war may very well be the worst crisis we have ever
faced. But it might also be the best we've ever been.


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