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by David Edward Gault
A few years ago, on a planet not that far away...
...the republic is in turmoil. Isolationists and Interventionists in a contest of policy-making and political maneuvering debate the future of their planet, and its safety in the wake of menacing aliens...
"That probe of theirs has generated some serious public interest, despite our efforts. We've been able to thwart about half of their missions here without arousing suspicion, yet they seem relentless in their efforts to reach us. The upcoming year 2000 in their calendar will provide a great distraction, but that effect will only be temporary." General Yakutz, Commander of Planetary Defense Operations, never enjoyed these briefings before the Committee, but today he was more prepared than he'd been in the past.
"How effective was our last sortie?" The question was delivered quickly and flatly. If Yakutz had not recognized the sound of the voice it would have been tough to tell who had asked it, as the questioner had his head lowered, sifting through papers, behind a plaque that identified him as the head of the Committee, Senator Lobodin.
Yakutz smiled to himself. Just as he'd expected, Lobodin was dispensing with the usual formality of allowing the other Senators to ask him meaningless questions before he got down to business. This hearing was getting started just as the General had expected.
"They don't suspect anything," said the General, "despite not having any explanation for why the supply ship struck the Russian station. We don't think the station will last much longer, and our efforts at delaying the building of their new Freedom space station have not been disappointing. We have noticed a decreased interest in a manned expedition, but the success of the cheap six-wheeler mission provided an opportunity for enthusiasts to speak out in support of human exploration. And since no one died in the Mir accident, it's being perceived more as a learning experience than a disaster. As we've been particularly active in crippling the Russian programs, the Americans seem confident that they would not have the same kinds of problems. If I may be so bold, Senator..."
"You've been bold enough, Commander." The Martian legislator was visibly upset by the military advisor's remarks. "If I am not mistaken, it was you who came before this panel, when the American President Bush was making promises of a manned mission to Mars a few years ago, proposing that we concentrate our efforts on the former Soviet space program."
"You are correct of course, sir, but at the time that seemed like the best option. The Earthlings' space program is young and therefore unpredictable. Since their trips to their moon were largely the result of competition, it seemed obvious that we could eliminate the human threat by eliminating one of the competitors. In essence, I was just carrying out the policies of my predecessors, who successfully orchestrated the downfall of the Soviet Union after they surprised us with that satellite, Sputnik."
"And weren't you responsible for executing a similar plan in the United States, Commander?"
"And how do you justify your failure on that front?"
"Well sir, it's still an ongoing process. As you know, the American initiative to go to the moon was possible only because of their faith in their President Kennedy..."
"Spare me the history lesson, all I want to know is what your current status is in this area."
"Frankly, our attempts to take away the American public's trust in their President is stalling, despite making public all his embarrassing behaviors, the people still support him. So we have focused more attention on their legislators. Unfortunately, our work in creating campaign finance scandals was greatly overshadowed by the incredible public interest in their little Sojourner."
"How do you account for this odd phenomenon, Commander?"
"I can't, sir."
"You must have some explanation."
"Frankly sir, it boggles my mind. No Russian programs offer any kind of serious competition for the Americans. We've successfully created a generation of selfishly preoccupied Americans who believe that the most effective space exploration is done in a hangar 51 in the desert. We've created distrust and disgust between the general public, the space enthusiasts, the scientists, and their government."
"I assume you have another plan; isn't that why you're here?"
"Yes sir, I'm here to request permission to get even more involved in Earth politics."
"A very dangerous proposition."
"But a necessary one, we've already done everything we can to hide our presence from the surface, and even though they may not find us out with a manned mission, the public uproar that would ensue from having aliens walking the red surface would be devastating."
"Point well taken, Commander, let's hear your plan."
"The first part of the plan is to utilize the same strategy we did with the Soviet Union to cause the collapse of the American economic system, or at least slow it down enough to where they won't be able invest the same amount of manpower and capital into their space efforts. We hope to accomplish this partly via their volatile stock market system by..."
"It seems to me that's obvious," Lobodin interrupted, "You were the one who convinced us that such interference was not necessary. Now you come before us to ask permission to do what we thought you should have done years ago; that doesn't sound like a plan, General Yakutz, that sounds like you changing your mind and realizing you and your predecessor were wrong about the human motives for space exploration. There is obviously something more besides competition between superpowers that propels them into space. How on Mars they ever got this far is amazing. There must be a factor you're overlooking."
"Yes, sir." The Martian commander conceded. "But for the Life of me, I don't know what it could be."
"Well don't you think you should find out?"
Lobodin was visibly upset, but this was the opening the Commander had been waiting for.
"Yes sir, but it's going to take a little more of a hands-on approach, which is the second part of my proposal."
"So you came more prepared than I thought. Very well, share your new idea with us."
"Yes sir. If you will recall, sir, when I first took over this position I did some research into the then-current US President, George Bush the Elder, and examined ways in which we might personally influence his decision-making process..."
General Yakutz paused for any objections, but just as he had hoped and planned, there were none this time.
"During the course of that research we found that the best way to influence Bush was through his two sons, Jeb and George W, who were highly susceptible to our telepathic influence. As you know, neither Clinton nor his second in command, Al Gore, have been susceptible. Instead of waiting for a president that we can easily influence, I propose that we position a person whom we know we can control."
"Are you proposing that we manipulate an election on Earth?"
"I don't believe that will be necessary, sir, as the Bush boys are already highly involved in politics, and though they lack certain skills to get them to the top office, with very slight tinkering we can get one of them elected."
"What do you mean by very slight tinkering?"
"Well sir, we have a certain influence with different demographic sectors in the United States. Geographically it seems that people from the middle part of the country are more likely to be mentally influenced by us, perhaps because that's where they've sighted most of our ships. Also, the older population can be easily confused by our influences. We may not be able to get them to vote for our candidate, but we believe we can confuse them enough to make them think they're voting for their candidate, when in fact they're voting for a completely different party, thereby nullifying their vote. We may have to make the ballot confusing enough that they won't suspect it, and of course we can't make it seem like this was done by the people in Bush's political party, but it is definitely doable."
"How can you be sure they won't suspect us?"
Yakutz proudly realized the Senator was hooked.
"Frankly, sir, that'll be the last thing that'll cross their mind."
"Once one of these Bush sons is in power, how can you make him work for us without arising suspicion?"
"That's easy sir, we may not be able to influence his decisions directly, but we can influence his choice of advisors, and all data indicate that either one of the Bushes will be highly dependent on advice from others. The tentative plan is to make Bush surround himself with people who are opposed to the space program and funding of related technological and scientific research projects. Also, we can make him surround himself with people who do not favor protecting their natural resources, which in the worse-case scenario will make it easier for future generations to deal with Earthlings, and in the best-case scenario will accelerate the self-destructive tendencies we've already observed."
"What about the influence of the father? Won't the young Bush feel pressure from him to continue that dream of exploration?"
"Perhaps, sir, but we think we can direct that towards a dream of military satellites in their immediate space in orbit around the planet, as we did with their President Reagan, rather than far-reaching missions to explore the other planets in our solar system."
"I must say, Commander, I don't dislike your plan, but shouldn't we do something more immediate? Is there any way this young Bush could do things to distract earthlings from the space exploration issue?"
"I suppose so, sir. In addition to the economic turmoil and lack of funding for exploration, we could also influence him to sour relations with other countries involved in the joint space station project, and maybe even adversely affect relations with Russia and China, bringing the nuclear threat back into the picture. Also, we could make him ignore trouble spots like the Middle East that could be a major distraction to any Mars adventure they might plan."
"Let's not get carried away, Commander, our policy has always been not to hurt the Earth inhabitants directly, and this is bordering on that. But overall I like the plan, and I give you permission to proceed."
Story copyright 2001 by David Edward Gault email@example.com
Illustration copyright 2001 by Jon Eke firstname.lastname@example.org
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