Many of the Swarm author's group have helped in formulating this story but I'd like to offer special thanks to Mulligan, deGaffer and Steve T for their assistance in turning this into a better story than my initial effort, any errors remaining are of course mine.
Various characters in this story have been 'borrowed' from other authors in the Swarm universe - permission to use them has been sought and their adventures in this story in no way affect their existence in other stories.
The well-built man looked up from the report he was reading, the paper copy resting on the dark wooden desk of his office, an anachronism in these days of holographic displays. Behind him hung the flag that represented the survivors of the human race, its deep blue field covered in the silver stars that signified the myriad colonies they now occupied.
The flag and its reflection in the desk's polished surface were clearly visible in the mirror suspended over the marble fireplace opposite the man's position, a constant reminder of the office he held and the responsibilities that went with it.
Taking in the familiar sights of his 'throne room' as he thought of it, the man paused for a moment before nodding towards his silent visitor, "Well, General, what do you have for me?" he asked.
Standing in front of the desk on the plush blue carpet, the colour of which matched the field of the flag precisely, was a man in the uniform of a full general of the Confederacy Space Marines. He braced up as he was addressed and returned the steady gaze of the man who filled the office of the President of the Human Race.
Taking a deep breath the General began his report, "Mr. President, we are reasonably confident that we have identified all of the surviving planets occupied by the Sa'arm."
"All of them?" queried the President thoughtfully, no trace of the hope he felt reaching his features. He may be a new age politician, but he was still a politician and control of his features was a required tool of his trade. Against the walls flanking the door the silent Secret Service agents held their breath, they may have been renowned for their discretion but this was the news that the whole race had been waiting to hear.
"All of the reconnaissance missions we sent out have returned and the data they carried has been processed by both the AI's and our human analysts," stated the General. "Every one of them has tracked a Sa'arm incursion from its original source in this arm of the galaxy to the latest system they've occupied. All of the in-flight hive ships that we are aware of have now been destroyed."
"And those we are not aware of?" asked the President for completeness sake.
"There aren't any," declared the General confidently.
The President raised one of his grey bushy eyebrows and the General subsided a little. "Mr. President, we've been watching all of their planets for the last eighteen months," he said, "as well as all of the likely planets around their current locations that are fit for colonisation. Every hive ship that has departed from one of their worlds has been tracked and destroyed and no hive ships have arrived at any of the logical destinations from any other location."
The President nodded slowly, "So, General, how many worlds are there that are still infected by the Sa'arm?"
"Seventy-seven, Mr. President," stated the General.
The President closed his eyes for a moment, silently offering up a prayer before continuing.
"And what is your recommendation, General?" asked the President for the record. He had a fair idea of what the General, who'd been fighting this alien menace for the past fifty years, was going to say.
"We interdict each system and then destroy the primary planet using the Nova bomb. Any survivors are hunted down and eradicated before we move on to the next system," said the General confirming the President's belief. "We co-ordinate our actions with all of the combatants, including the Cosca and the Mohammedan's and remove the threat in its entirety for all time."
"That is the recommendation of the Confederacy General Staff?" asked the President, just to make sure it was a decision backed by the full might of the military command and not just that of his Chief of the General Staff.
"It is, Mr. President," confirmed the General.
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen," said the President, acknowledging the presence of the complete General Staff for the first time. "I will discuss this information with my advisors and let you have my decision as soon as possible."
The General saluted and turned away from the most powerful man in Human space and marched away. He smiled victoriously as soon as his back was to the President, the end of the war was in sight and he was the one who'd got them there. The rest of the Staff silently but just as happily followed their commander out of the office.
"Mr. President, I'm afraid that the Confederacy council cannot sanction the destruction of an entire sentient species."
The holographic image of the Darjee Ambassador ruffled his neck feathers, a sign that the humans who worked with the alien species had come to understand meant he was confused and then he continued. "I have become too much like you humans in my thought patterns," he chittered, "as I find myself agreeing with your recommendation, that it would be the 'sensible' solution to the problem we are presented with."
The Ambassador lowered his head under the gaze of the President. The Darjee had changed over the decades that they'd been associated with the Swarm problem, the death of the entire Ladec species had shocked them to the core and their subsequent relationship with the human race had been particularly telling. Constantly having to pick their most adventurous members to act as a liaison with the warlike human race who had been tasked with defending the Confederacy had led to a split within their own ranks. Those who worked with humans had started to become more aggressive, almost warlike in some cases and their attitudes had, in turn pushed the boundaries of what was socially acceptable to their own people.
Despite claims that those who wanted to adopt these human ways were in some way mentally defective, a large part of the Darjee race, especially amongst the young, had started to emulate some of the human characteristics. In this they were being aided and abetted by the AI's that had worked for so long to keep everything peaceful and harmonious amongst the citizens of the Confederacy and now realised the error of their ways. Many young Darjee were now actively seeking to work with humans, at least in a supporting role.
"Ambassador Ch'tak," said the President into the silence that had developed, "I have to assume that it is the council's intention for us to continue to act as a blocking force between the Sa'arm and the remainder of the Confederacy? If that is the case then I am afraid that we will be put in a most invidious position. Should I continue to waste my people's lives to salve the conscience of a Council that apparently doesn't value them as highly as the beings who are out to eradicate their very existence?"
The President continued when there was no immediate response forthcoming from the Ambassador. "My race now occupies many more planets than is usual within the Confederacy and I believe that we could, if democracy was allowed to be exercised, get a motion carried that would order the extermination of the Sa'arm."
The President referred to the system of government used by the Confederacy where each planet had a seat on the council. He sighed in frustration when Ch'tak continued to look down.
"We don't really want to exterminate the Sa'arm but we are capable of doing it," said the President softly, "We've done it enough times in the past to our own kind, whether deliberately or not, to know that we can do the task."
The Ambassador remained silent under the pressure of the President's comments.
Not allowing his frustration to show, the President turned thoughtful. "Does the Council have any recommendations then on how we are to deal with this problem?" he asked.
Ch'tak looked up and flexed his four-clawed 'hands, ' a gesture the President knew to indicate disgust. "The Council have left that little problem to us," said the Ambassador indicating the President and himself.
The President raised an eyebrow in query.
"It is expected," said Ch'tak by way of the Universal Translator, "that a solution that does not require the eradication of a sentient species will be found. Anything other than that is not acceptable to the Council."
"And if I forced a vote?" asked the President.
"I've been informed, unofficially of course, that such an event would not be allowed to happen," said Ch'tak. "It is suspected that such a vote, if it was allowed to happen, would destroy the Confederacy."
"There is a veto?" asked the President.
Ch'tak shrugged, an almost human gesture, "I was not informed how the matter would be managed but I suspect that both of our peoples would be ejected from the Confederacy before you could bring the matter up before the Council."
The President cocked his head to one side and considered the news briefly. "I don't think that would have a great deal of impact on us in the long term," he said, his finger tapping lightly against his nose as he ran through the idea again.
"You could survive without the AI's to help you?" asked Ch'tak in surprise.
The President looked shocked, "Aren't they yours?" he asked abruptly.
The Ambassador's head indicated the negative.
.... There is more of this story ...