“C’rululian Empire warships in Martian space, C’therax!” Dr. Vyryn shouted. C’therax slammed a button on his watch and an alarm sounded throughout the press offices of the Martian Muckraker.
“No worries everyone! We’ve rehearsed for this! STAND FIRM IN THE IMMUTABLE!” C’therax roared.
“STAND FIRM IN THE IMMUTABLE!” a chorus of reporters and office staff responded as pandemonium broke out. Employees ran left and right. Notebooks were burned, and encryption codes were entered into every computer terminal.
“Dr. Vyryn, why isn’t our cruiser…” C’therax began, only to be caught off by a deafening rumbling noise. Good, he thought. Air traffic will only let one Mobius Drive equipped starship in this airspace at once. That should buy us a little time…
“We have three minutes before airspace is clear. They will be on our doorstep soon!” Dr. Vyryn shouted as he scrambled to tap in some last-minute encryption codes.
“All non-essential C’rululian employees need to vacate! All foreign nationals come in!” C’therax roared into his communicator. The presence of foreign nationals were essential to the Muckraker’s bargaining strategy. Even though the Muckraker’s offices were firmly within C’rululian territory, the high presence of foreign nationals meant that the C’rululian authorities had to weigh their actions against the intergalactic backlash they might cause.
There was a knock at the door. The staff immediately started typing away as though nothing out of the unusual were happening.
C’therax opened the door. “Unless you have a warrant get your butt out of here…” he began and immediately started to slam the door in General Vikiper’s face. Vikiper kicked the door and barged in with an escort of six soldiers.
Vikiper marched through the office and inspected each employee. A tense silence fell upon the office. Eventually Vikiper got around to C’therax and spoke in a loud voice.
“At our last meeting, kind sir, you offered to have your medical exam done in public. At this time, the Controlled Substances Division has rescinded its request to examine your need for medical grade Ring Dust, as a diplomatic favor to our Venomite allies.” Then Vikiper turned on his heels and left. His soldiers followed.
There was silence. Sp’Rark was the first to speak. “Well that was underwhelming”
“True, but it was brilliant.” C’therax muttered. Sp’Rark looked at him confused.
C’therax explained, “We dropped our story on Sarah Debattista around the same time they started pushing their narrative that I am a druggy. They knew that if they pushed for a medical exam now, it would appear that they were punishing me for that story. Our allies, including the Venomites, have pumped that narrative ever since the ‘investigation’ into my medical records has intensified. So Vikiper retreated…but framed his retreat as being orchestrated by a foreign power. The fact that we have a large amount of foreign nationals here—and that we use that to tie their coercive hands—will feed their narrative. In short, they can’t make me out to be a druggie, so now I am in bed with foreign empires.”
Sp’Rark bit her lip and thought the situation over. C’therax confirmed that the C’rululian ships had withdrawn and motioned for the red alert to be cleared.
Later Dr. Vyryn, Xogue, Sp’Rark and C’therax met in the boardroom.
“It’s a bloody mess, C’therax.” Dr. Vyryn said. “If we deny that we are a Venomite puppet organization, the fact that we are defending ourselves will itself be used against us in the court of public opinion. If we show the current regime for the wannabe tyrants they really are, they will clamp down on us. If we don’t speak out, then they win by our silence.”
“The Venomite councilor just radioed us. They never asked Vikiper to rescind the medical investigation. The whole thing is a smokescreen,” Xogue said.
“We could hit back with the foreign help the Regime got from Liz’Vilian bankers and propogandists during the elections,” Sp’Rark said.
C’therax shook his head and turned on the holoscreen. He drew a line with his hand. “Let’s say this is the spectrum of opinion. People on this end,” he said marking of one side of the line, “are going to buy Vikiper’s story and the more we try to convince them otherwise the bigger hole we dig for ourselves. This end is roughly on our side as long as we show some kind of coherency. It’s the middle we are fighting for, those who don’t know what to believe. Vyryn, where was the election tightest?”
“Miridian Belt and Outlying Colonies were the tightest races,” Vyryn said.
“Precisely. And what do all those planets have in common?” C’therax asked.
“Higher than average immigrate populations,” Xogue answered, starting to see C’therax’s plan.
C’therax nodded. “We play our cards right we can make this work. It will be tricky, but it can be done. The anti-Venomite, anti-immigrant narrative inflames the Regime’s base and alienates the periphery. If they want to say we are in bed with foreign influence, we need to show how this connects to their suspicion if anyone who isn’t a “real” C’rululian. And if the species-baiting escalates, they will inflame their base against us, sure. The core supporters of the Regime will hate us more than ever before, but their periphery will defect.”
“So what do you plan to do,” Dr. Vyryn asked
“Interview the Venomite leader about the plight of immigrants,” C’therax said.
“We are going to get so much hate mail from this,” Xogue said.
To Be Continued…
(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)