"You know, I never though I'd end up playing bodyguard to you of all people," said Casey. "It's novel."
Rachel looked up from the report she was reading and gave him the gimlet eye. "Laugh it up," she said. "I'm not the one who's going to have to sit through all these endless meetings without even getting the privilege of speaking once in a while when the windbags shut up."
"You take all the fun out of things."
"I'm really not seeing the fun in this," said Rachel. "I have much better things to do with my time than play at being a superhero-sized rubber-stamp for whatever those damned politicians have got planned."
"You should lighten up," replied Casey. "It's not every day you get invited to this sort of thing. In years to come, this is going to be a major deal for all the historians. Itll be in every book, like the Yalta Conference."
"Because Force knows I'm not famous enough."
Casey grinned and shook his head. "Hey, you're going to help shape the future of humanity," he said. "What's not to like?"
"Casey, my reason for being there derives from the moral authority granted to me by a series of Hollywood movies," said Rachel. "I'm the head of a religious order with two adherents."
"Yeah, yeah. And the superpowers and medals and all the rest of it have nothing to do with it."
"Harry has all that too," said Rachel. "He even brought Osama in pretty much off his own bat. What's the difference between us? Thirty years of Hollywood-style indoctrination courtesy of George Lucas that has generations of Westerners and a good chunk of what's left of the rest convinced that the Jedi are the embodiment of good. It's not exactly something to be proud of."
"You really need to lighten up."
Rachel closed her eyes and counted to ten before she replied. A rather childish method to gain control, but effective. "I apologise," she said. "But this is a complete waste of my time. There are so many things I need to do and yet I've been summoned her for something that I'm not really needed for. Politicians! If they had the sense they were born with, we'd all be a lot better off."
"And you're not sleeping right."
"How . . . I didn't think you were that observant, Casey," said Rachel. "Ah, I should have known better. But yes, my sleep has been interrupted recently. My dreams have been unpleasant."
"Take more than bad dreams to throw you off."
"My bad dreams tend to be prophetic," countered Rachel. "And I have to write them down quickly to fix them in my mind, which doesn't exactly help."
Casey looked worried. "Oh," he said. "Uh, you talked to the general about this?"
"And what do I tell him?" she asked. "My having a bad feeling doesn't mean a whole lot with the way the world is now and I can't offer anything more firm than that just yet. It was the same before the war. I knew something bad was coming, but I didn't know enough for it to matter."
"You should still send it up," he said. "People don't make good decisions without all the information."
"And what information do I have to offer?" she asked. "A bad feeling? Premonitions of violence and death and destruction? These aren't exactly unique things. They're exactly what I had before the war started and they're just as useless now as they were then. I was going to spend some time probing the Force so I could get some answers, but guess what? I have to attend a meeting on the other side of the country instead."
"You're much easier to deal with when that Faith girl's around. You know that, right?"
They lapsed into silence for a while before Rachel spoke again. "I'll tell them when I have something to say," she said finally. "But there's not much point telling them that there are bad things coming. The bad things are already here and we're mastering them as we speak. I need something more before it's even worth bringing it up."
There wasn't much more said after that. They reached New York and were quickly moved off the transport and to a hotel that had been secured for the many important people who were attending the meeting to stay in. The whole thing was done very quickly, very efficiently, without a single press camera in sight. Just how Rachel liked it.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was certainly nothing special to look at. His height was slightly above average, his build spoke of someone who hadn't had enough time to exercise and had gone to see somewhat, and his facial features were of the sort that you see in the street every day and glance past without a second look. Utterly unremarkable. And yet there was a surprising amount of strength in his gaze and a harshness to his features that didn't really look to belong on someone so utterly average.
"Rachel Giles," he said with an attempt at a smile that ended up more like a grimace and an offered handshake. "It's an honour."
Rachel accepted the handshake and carried out the forms. "The honour's all mine," she said.
The Prime Minister dropped the handshake and waved at a comfortble looking chair. "Sit down," he said. "Might as well be comfortable while we talk."
Rachel sat down. There was no reason not to. "Are you anticipating this to be unpleasant?" she asked. "I can't see any reason for it."
"No, no," he said, sitting down opposite her. "Not at all. But I'm tired, it's been a long day, and it wouldn't have seemed right for me to sit down while you stood there. I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to meet me here."
"It had crossed my mind."
"It's quite simple really," he said. "You're here to represent the Jedi Order, yes, but you're also a British citizen, a subject of the Crown like any other, and I think it would be best if we spoke with, well, not a unified voice, perhaps, but at least not at complete cross-purposes."
Rachel nodded. "I have no intentions of openly undermining you, Prime Minister," she said. "That would be counter-productive. No, I won't do that. But then I have no intention of becoming entangled in politics if I can avoid. I will offer advice if asked, but the Jedi Order becoming entwined with government is something that never ends well."
"Yes, the principle of separating church and state," he replied. "I can see the merit to maintaining that, though it's not generally the church that argues in favour of it."
"The Jedi Order isn't your average church," said Rachel. "In fact, we are rather inclusive. We have no particular interest in supplanting conventional religion and it's not unusual for Jedi to have other beliefs. Some sects won't go along with it, of course, but that's their problem."
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," quoted the Prime Minister. "It could easily become a problem if society took a theocratic turn, but that's not why I wanted to talk to you, as interesting a discussion as it could be. No, I want to ensure that we don't assume positions in the debates to come that oppose each other too strongly. And, somewhat unfortunately, I don't believe you'll have the luxury of separating yourself from politics. You're too public a figure for that."
"I have no agenda here," said Rachel. "No interests to serve. I will ask for humane, merciful treatment for the common man and appropriate punishments for the leadership as determined by a court of law. The flux of national borders and the like . . . well, that's not an issue I have much of an interest in, and it won't be relevant for much longer, I'm afraid."
"The Americans and their idea of a world government," said the Prime Minister. "I've heard quite a bit from them about that."
"It's inevitable," said Rachel. "All roads lead to unification. It's just a matter of how painful the process will be now. Really, in the face of what's happening, with confirmed, undeniable proof that humanity is not alone, how could we not unify? A divided humanity is one that has a much weaker ability to deal with these threats."
"I think you should tell that to the Chinese, the French, the Pakistanis, the Arabs, and all the rest," said the Prime Minister. "They're the ones who broke ranks. And we seem to be getting along well enough without them. I've never seen the like of some of the things we've accomplished in the last few years. Electricity prices are the lowest they've ever been in Britain and it's a time of total war!"
"Spoken like a true politician," said Rachel dryly. And suddenly the reason for her visions made some sense. "I'm sure it'll do your re-election chances no end of good, that. But these Ethereals . . . well, they're amateurs, to be honest. Arrogant fools, at best. They've been active for at least fifty years and they waited till we could defend ourselves to attack. Stupid, no? As good as the Spitfire and the Sherman were, they wouldn't have been much good against the sort of advanced technology the aliens have.
"Exploiting national enmities was intelligent, as far as that goes," said Rachel thoughtfully. "Divide and conquer personified even. But it's too little too late. They should have overran us while we were primitive and reeling from World War Two. We can't count on the next batch of enemies, and it's just a matter of time till there is another batch, I assure you, being so utterly foolish."
"And you think it can work? That we can put aside our differences? I haven't seen much evidence of that in my lifetime."
"We're doing it now, are we not?" asked Rachel. "We have a unified military command structure, even more so than NATO was, and we share resources and intelligence on a scale not seen before. Even our research is unified and fully shared these days and that's something that's always been quite jealously guarded when it came to military secrets. It wasn't that long ago that the NATO nations refused to share the spoils of my team's research work with China despite the X-COM treaties and now look. Necessity is the mother of invention, but even so progress has been highly impressive."
"Those are all government things," said the Prime Minister. "This is a time of war and governments have a great deal of leeway. That isn't going to be the case when peace comes."
"The people are tired of war," she said. "They'll accept a great deal if it means no World War Four. We couldn't afford that anyway. It would be the end for humanity if we went to war with each other again after this. We've grown too powerful as a species for internecine conflict to be viable."
He gave her a probing look before speaking again. "Your thoughts mostly mirror my own," he said. "Though I do not look forward to wrangling it out, a unified world government may be our only chance of survival as a species in the long run. Some of the reports I've seen on future weapons systems are just terrifying: far too powerful for humans to turn them on humans. Nuclear weapons were bad enough; these are just unspeakable."
"If you wanted advice, you could have just asked, you know," she said.
"I find that a debate setting, no matter how mild, settles the mind into making its best arguments," he said. "And I as good as asked. It was certainly implied."
Well, what could she say to that? "As you wish," she said. "Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"
"Not at this time," he replied after a moment of silence had passed. "There are other things I'd like to know, but they'd be covered by the briefing you're scheduled to give tomorrow."
The UN Headquarters district had been pretty much abandoned with the beginning of the Third World War. The UN had failed in its aims, though it really wasn't the organisation's fault as such, and with the time for diplomacy done with the people of the world had seen little utility in maintaining an expensive talking shop when they needed every cent they could get their hands on to fund the creation of new armies and the weapons for those armies.
But now that the war seemed to be turning solidly in the favour of the Allies the time had come for the world's future to be negotiated in advance. And where better to discuss that than in the Security Council Chamber? It was what the chamber had been built for, after all, and North America was the safest place in the world, being at the very edges of the aliens' range for raiding missions and being very, very well defended by the United States Air Force from such lightning raids.
Rachel found herself seated between the United Kingdom's Prime Minister and the Russian Federation's President at the circular conference table. The chamber wasn't as full as it normally would have been; the meeting wasn't for the press to publish for public consumption, after all. There were the representatives of the invited nations and groups, their entourages, and a few soldiers in full armour at each entrance to the chamber. And that was it.
The groups invited were fairly predictable for the most part. You had the large, powerful nations such as the Americans and the Russians, you had the representatives of larger groups such as the UK representing the commonwealth and Germany representing the EU, but then you had religious groups there: the Catholics to represent general Christianity, Egypt to represent the Muslims of the world, and India to represent the Hindus. And then there was Rachel, Grand Master of the Jedi Order; she was sure that Jedi Masters universe wide were spinning in their graves quick enough to break orbit at that designation.
The US President opened proceedings from his position at what was effectively the head of the conference table, stood in front of the mural depicting a phoenix rising from its ashes.
"I am glad to see that everyone made it here safely," he said, his voice carrying easily over the sound system. "Such are the times that it is almost surprising to see the familiar faces of my colleagues here without a single death since our last meetings. I extend my warmest welcomes to all of you.
"Before we begin work on setting the agenda for the meetings to take place over the next few days, I think we should report on the latest news from the front-lines and other relevant issues," he continued. "Unless there are any objections? No? Good, then we can continue.
"I do have some good news to being with. Very good news. As of Nine O'clock this morning, Korea is under Allied control," he continued with a smile briefly appearing across his tired features. "The last pockets of North Korean resistance in Pyongyang have finally surrendered and the Chinese forces fighting with them attempted to break out and surrender but they were encircled and forced to stand down by elements of the reconstituted Currahee. We have our second front, gentlemen."
There was a round of applause at that.
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to take Kim Jong-il alive," he continued after the applause died down. "He was found in their last holdout quite dead along with a number of aliens and Korean soldiers. The cause of death, from preliminary examinations, appears to be asphyxiation. Given the lack of any marks around his throat and the fact that we found an Ethereal corpse nearby, it seems that the aliens disposed of him as punishment for North Korea's failure. A fitting end, I think."
Rachel frowned. Choking someone telekinetically was the trademark Sith method for disposing of failures, not the aliens. They preferred the much nastier but also vastly inefficient psychic assaults. And the Sith had every reason to want a human victory in this war to come quickly. You can't rule over ruins, after all. Still, she had no proof.
"In related news, the general staff tell me that barring a major disaster we should be able to begin Operation Judgement Day in five months time," he continued. "I am aware that my esteemed Russian colleague would rather we moved earlier, and I assure you all that we would like to end this slaughter rather than later, but the aliens still have a considerable force based on Chinese soil and it's making the transport of our forces to the appropriate areas rather more dangerous than we would like.
"On a more positive note, the North American Shield Network is now providing coverage across approximately sixty-five percent of the continent," he said with a smile. "It is, as we expected, a terrible drain on our electrical network, but the results speak for themselves. Losses to alien raids have dropped to virtually nothing and, I have to tell you, watching an alien raiding party collide with the shield and be destroyed is a rather satisfying experience."
There was a polite round of applause as the American finished and took his seat. It would probably have been a whole lot more enthusiastic if a protected North America hadn't had the effect of redirecting the attacks to South America, who were rather justifiably peeved at the whole situation, Well, those were the breaks. No-one was going to skimp on their own protection because someone else could suffer as a consequence of their becoming too tough a target.
The Egyptian President was the next to stand and he spoke in a flawless English accent that sounded like it had came straight out of an Oxford college. "Before I begin my report, I would like to express how honoured I am to be invited to this gathering," he said. "It has been a long time since a Muslim nation earned the right to sit amongst the great powers of the world and it does my nation proud to be the one to earn such a right.
"The military situation of my country is excellent," he continued. "With aid from our Israeli brothers-in-arms and the European forces, Allah praise them, that have been moved into the region we have pushed the alien invaders far from our borders and now threatened by nothing more than the occasional raiding party or aerial attack. This is, without a doubt, far superior to the situation this time last year.
"Specifically, components of the second army group, with able support from our many allies, has reached Mali and made contact with the allied forces that been landed in North Africa," he continued. "And the other components of the second army group is making solid progress through Somalia and Ethopia on its way to link up with South Africans. Specifically, the seventh army corps has reached Mudug, where it has been temporarily forced to cease its advance by a series of alien defensive positions, and the first army corps has reached the Genale Wenz.
"The first army group has moved into occupation duties in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria as per the Berlin Agreement," he continued. "There is little of note to report there. As expected, the population levels are extremely low and the infrastructure of those nations is almost entirely useless. Some alien stay-behinds have been encountered but with the aid of allied forces they were defeated with the expected minimal losses. The prediction that they would be entirely incapable of normal guerilla activities in human territory was borne out.
"The economic situation, however, despite these military successes, is perilous," he continued. "The resources we receive from the United States of America allow us to maintain a basic standard of living for those of out people who have not been conscripted into the armed forces but if the aliens were to interrupt the flow of those supplies for any period of time we would be in a very poor position. If we are not given aid of some sort to help rebuild our damaged industries, there will be trouble in the future."
And with that he was finished and sat down to a polite round of applause. The speeches continued from then on with few surprises. It was all very tedious, but the formalities had to be observed, so she had to sit through an interminable series of world leaders standing up and talking about how honoured they were to be there before reporting on the current military situation. If there was a better definition of hell than that, Rachel hadn't seen it.
Eventually it came to be her turn, the last to speak courtesy of the policy of having the religious leaders speaking after the national leaders, and she rose from her seat. There was a distinct feeling of strangeness as she did so. This was the sort of situation that Revan had thrived on. She'd have had them eating out of her hand in five minutes flat and she'd have loved every minute of it. Rachel saw the necessity of it all but she felt none of the thrill that Revan would have felt. It just wasn't there.
"I am, of course, honoured to be invited here," said Rachel, being very honest. "For a religious order as small as the one I have been appointed as leader of to be invited to such an event is a truly exceptional occurrence and, in fact, entirely without precedent to my memory. I can only hope that my presence here will prove to be productive in a way that will justify the invitation.
"I have much to report," she continued. "But that is scheduled for a special briefing I am to deliver in tomorrow's morning sessions. To provide something useful for now, I will simply state that progress has been adequate in all the ordered fields of study."
And with that she sat down. She really didn't have anything else to say. Oh, she could have spun it out for a while, but there was no more content for that day. The meeting quickly moved on to settling agendas after she finished and there was little enough to squabble over there that they were quickly finished.
The chamber was again full when Rachel took her place to deliver a special briefing on the progress of the research and design efforts being undertaken to provide the weapons needed to defeat the alien threat. The table in the centre of the chamber, the one surrounded by the circular table that the heads of state were seated at, had been replaced with an older holographic projection system that was somewhat larger and clunkier than what Rachel was used to but it was otherwise the same as it had been for the initial meeting.
"The meeting will now begin consideration of the item on its agenda," said the American President. "The item in question being the progress being made towards a viable method to deal with alien base on Mars. In order to do so, we will now hear a special briefing from Doctor Giles on the current status of the research and design effort."
"A great deal of progress has been made since the last general progress report, A/10289-B, was released for your consumption" said Rachel once she'd took her place. "As of the time of that report the progress made towards the goal of a space navy was substantial but mostly in fields that would support that construction of starships rather than in obvious steps towards accomplishing such a feat. There was nothing that would stand out to someone who was not playing an active role in the research as being terribly interesting. Nothing that would stand out to an observer.
"That has changed," continued Rachel. "Considerable progress has been made now, obvious progress, and we can, using this holographic projector, show you the proposed designs for the starships we have designed. They are, it has to be said, difficult to believe for someone used to conventional technology and its capabilities but I can assure that they are within our grasp. Or if not they are within our future grasp given our project expansion when the war is over."
"The first design has been dubbed the 'Fist of God' by some of the engineers working on the design," said Rachel as she activated the projector to show it. "It is, it should be noted, a theoretical design. It is the 'dream machine' that has the deluxe version of anything and would cost an absolutely hideous amount. I am, in fact, quite sure that the available construction facilities would be entirely inadequate.
"As you can see from the hologram, it is quite a large design," continued Rachel. "The Nimitz has been included as a reference point for size and as you can see it is dwarfed. At exactly one mile, sixteen hundred metres, in length and proportionally similar in width and depth it is far larger than any existing human construction of any sort. Its armament consists of sixty-four heavy energy weapons, turbolasers, as well as a dozen missile launchers designed to carry heavy missiles used for anti-capital-ship work. The name of the design comes from the turbolasers. The energy bleed-off from the bolts, rated in the hundreds of megatons, as they pass through a planet's atmosphere towards a target will generate a column of fire that looks much like the biblical smiting of the Old Testament.
"Defensively, the ship has thirty-two completely independent shield generators which produce an overlapping series of shields which will protect the ship from all harm as long as they are kept active. The design is also equipped with a sophisticated ECM system that will disrupt all enemy targeting and communication systems within a star system.
"Propulsion comes through two systems," said Rachel. "At sublight speeds propulsion is provided by half dozen ion engines spread across the rear of the main hull. At supralight speeds, propulsion comes from the three hyperspace units located in the same area. Calculations indicate a top speed of somewhere in the area of eight-hundred light years an hour for faster-than-light travel. A more exact number will be provided when further hyperspace trials have been performed using the Icarus prototypes.
"It is, as you can see, an Imperial Star Destroyer in all but name, and it will, if ever actually built, strike terror into the hearts of any enemy humanity has cause to face.
Rachel switched the projector. "But that ship was not a design we could build in time for this war. This design is. The Dreadnought, like the HMS Dreadnought of years gone by, is the ship that will change everything. It is a factor of two smaller in each dimension reducing the overall volume by a factor of eight, bringing it within current construction capabilities. There is, of course, a corresponding drop in capabilities. Remember, as has been stated in the reports, that reactor mass determines everything with starships. Eight times less volume means eight times less reactor mass. It should be noted that this results in a considerably lower maximum speed in hyperspace.
"Another notable design is the Enterpise," said Rachel changing the display aain. "Theoretically named for the American carrier of the same name during the Second World War but in fact I think the name came from Star Trek. It is approximately the same volume as the Dreadnought but it's a box shape instead of a wedge and much more lightly armed. It does, however, have the capacity to carry, launch, and support approximately twenty-four squadrons of fighters when using the recently standardised twelve-fighter squadron.
"The final design is the Yamato," said Rachel, changing the display again. "This is the proposed destroyer class of the new starfleet. It's a cylindrical design, somewhat larger than the Nimitz-class, and is mainly designed to pick off smaller threats before they can approach the main ships of any fleet formation. It has the capacity to engage larger threats with six heavy guns but the main part of its armament is lighter weapons that would be more useful for engaging smaller ships or even fighter or bombers.
"In order to give you an idea of the levels of firepower we're talking about here, I have prepared a simulation," said Rachel. "This simulation will show the effects that three Dreadnoughts along with an escort of a dozen Yamatos and a bomber wing deployed from an Enterprise could do in a planetary bombardment operation. The target select, for obvious reasons, is Mars."
Rachel then set the simulation to run and watched with the dignataries as the simulated fleet set about sterilising the simulated Mars. She didn't let the simulation run for the full sterilisation operation, it would take too long, but she left it running just long enough for them to get the idea. Seeing a planet blasted to an irradiated dustbowl seemed quitenough to her. No real need to show them the crust beginning to melt or the atmosphere being boiled off. They'd got the message.
It did her well to see how shaken they all were, though. Good. If they were going to destroy Mars then they needed to see what that meant, just like how the Cold War leaders needed to know what they'd be doing if they let the bombs fly. She didn't have a Hiroshima to show them so a computer display would have to do.
The next few days passed in a blur of meetings and debate as the leaders of the free world set about deciding the fate of the not-so-free world. It wasn't something Rachel had any great desire to attend but she had no choice in the matter; she had to be there and she had to endure. It would have been nice if she'd felt like she had a great deal to offer to the meetings but she didn't really. The fate of places like China and Pakistan were already as good as sealed. It was just a matter of settling the details, who'd administer which parts and what concessions and other nonsense would fly around in the end.
Her own position was confused. Her natural instinct, the instinct which had destroyed the Mandalorians forever as a great power, was to go for the throat and ensure that they could never offer a threat again. But that went against the Jedi way. A hand lent in assistance can be worth a thousand crushing victories in war or so the saying went. And it was something she wanted to try and live up to this time around. So she found herself curiously allied with the Catholics in asking for humane, merciful treatment of the vanquished enemies. It was all a bit strange.
The last meeting, what it was all coming towards in the end, the one that really mattered, was the one that would set the shape of human government for years to come, if not virtually forever.
"I welcome you all to our final meeting," said the American President. "I expect that you have all read the agenda and know what this is about but I shall summarise as a courtesy. It is the belief of my government, and of many others, that the days of national governments being supreme have to come to an end. Many are the voices who will stand against this but I, myself, believe it to be the most important decision we could ever make as leaders of our nations.
"Just look at what our national differences have wrought," he continued. "War. Endless, brutal war across the globe. Billions dead and for what? All because we weren't unified enough to resist alien manipulation of our politics. All because we were more separated than we were unified. The time has come for humanity to come together, totally and finally, and to recognise our true enemies: the aliens. We must protect ourselves, we must or we will have no future as a species, and we can't do that unless we are together, unless we are one in our aims.
"Please, I beg of you all, just listen," he continued. "Don't allow old national differences, old arguments, traditions, sway you against this. What is the real fundamental differerence between an American and a European? Or an African and an Asian? It's tiny. Infinitesimally small by comparison to what else is out there. The universe is full of others, we cannot allow ourselves to be separated any longer by tiny genetic differences or by cultural differences. We must be one."
"The United Kingdom is in full agreement," said the British Prime Minister. "While we reserve the right to debate details, we agree with the sentiment that humanity must be unified. We cannot afford to go through another war like this."
"India does not agree," said the Indian President. "While the sentiment is a noble one, we do not believe it could work adequately. The world is a large and diverse place and despite what the American President believes the differences are important. Not all parts of the world wish to be governed in the same way as America. In not all parts would it be regarded as a good idea.
"And we well remember colonial rule," he said. "While this new government is not an empire, it would share the same great distance of rule, the same lack of self-determination for its peoples. Technology could ameliorate some of that, yes, certainly, especially the communications networks, but it cannot change the fact that a single government would be necessity have to have a single way to doing many things. For example, India's idea of separate laws for separate religions would almost certainly be done away with by a world government, while we feel that to be an adequate compromise position for the governing of a multi-religious state.
"And the fact is that people have not, do not, and will not like the idea of being governed by a government seated in a distant land and made up mostly of foreign people," he continued. "So has it always been, so shall it always be. The resentment to such would be a fault line which any wily foe could exploit to set us down this familiar path of war against our fellow men once more."
When the Egyptian President stood to speak next, Rachel could see that many expected the worst. "I too come from a nation that has a cultural memory of the days of colonialism," he said. "It has been only a few short decades since the Europeans tried to occupy the Suez and we remember it well. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't listen to this proposal with an open mind.
"The idea of a world where Muslims can live in peace with Jews and Christians and Hindus and all the other races and creeds of man has a great appeal to us, the Egyptian people," he said. "We have suffered through so many wars, lost so much, and it's all so pointless. This war has shown us that. Let us all live in peace as brothers. We are all men despite our differences."
The Turkish representative spoke next. "While Turkey would like to express some cautious interest in the idea we must say that there are routes to peace other than this," he said. "There has been peace in Europe for over sixty years now and those nations are still independent, sovereign states. And there are few parts of the world with grudges and histories going back as far as the nations of Europe."
That was where Rachel stood up. "I must say that I regard the idea of a unified human government as a very good one," she said. "The objections are fair ones. Yes, people will resent it. Yes, this will be an exploitable fault line. Yes, there will have to be some hard compromises made. These are all true. But do they outweigh the benefits? I don't think so. I really don't.
"You see, humanity is about to take its first steps into a much, much larger universe," she said. "We've already sent probes to Alpha Centauri as a test mechanism for hyperspace units. No, there isn't much interesting there, but it's just a start. Soon, with the aliens inevitably defeated, we will move into the galaxy at large and we will encounter other alien species.
"Some will be hostile, yes," she said. "And for those we will have to fight. We will have to fight as if our lives depend on it. But not all will be hostile. Not all are madly bent on conquest. Some will be friendly, some will want to trade, some just won't care about us or our world at all. But even then, we must speak in a unified human voice to be heard. Just cast your eyes back through history. Who garnered the most respect, the Holy Roman Empire or its successor state, Germany?
"Even America can't do it alone," she continued. "Even the most powerful, most wealthy, of us couldn't do it alone. Single nations are weak compared to unified worlds. They don't have the resources. They can't play at the same table. And humanity needs to be able to sit at the top table and have a strong hand.
It all made sense to her. The visions. "I have seen the future," she said. "And there are great things head of us. But there are also terrible things. Things that make even these invaders look tame. We must be strong enough to face them head on and defeat them or we will be destroyed. And that will require a unified human race with a unified government and a unified military force.
"I beseech you," she said. "Do not let old grudges hold humanity back now. We stand on the cusp of greatness. Don't back away."
And then she sat down. The room was quiet. She had them. She knew it. She had appealed to their vanity with the use of the word greatness and they would take the bait for sure. Ever politician wants to be remembered as a Winston Churcill, not an Anthony Eden. That was just how it went.
"The Church, speaking as representative of all Christian denominations and almost a billion people, agrees completely."
And so it went. Victory, of a sort, if you looked at it as a battle. It took them a while to hash out the details of it all but in the end the United Nations of Earth was set to take its place as the governing body of all humanity with the United Nations Naval Service taking command of all space-borne assets and the assault on Mars as inauguration activities when the time came.