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The grand old Duisenberg pulled smoothly up to the curb outside Pennsylvania Station. Richard bounded out, his youthful exuberance on full bore. Bruce stepped easily out behind him. The porter retrieved their bags from the limousine's capacious trunk, pocketing the gold double eagle Bruce handed him with effusive thanks. Alfred pulled easily away, headed back upriver to Gotham.
Richard forestalled the porter's attempt to take their baggage by picking up two suitcases himself. "You don't need to do that, young sir!" the porter exclaimed. "Your father has paid me to carry them."
"That won't be necessary," Bruce said, hefting the other two. "We're to meet others in the V.I.P. lounge upstairs, so we'd need to take them from you shortly in any case. But thank you for your kindness." He slipped the man another $10 piece, the gold glistening in the sun. "But if anyone should ask, you escorted us to our private car; understood?"
"Of course, sir," the porter agreed with a wink and a nod. They entered the cathedral-like railroad station. Bruce paused at a newsstand, flipped the proprietor a dime, and took a Herald Tribune. Then they proceeded up a flight of stairs.
"It'll be great to see Sis again!" Richard burbled. Bruce nodded with a smile. Down a corridor and into the V.I.P. lounge, where they met an unsmiling government bodyguard. They exited the lounge through a rather unremarkable side door set behind an array of potted plants, and proceeded down an empty corridor. The agent unlocked a door and stepped aside to let them in, coming to guard rest outside as Bruce closed the door behind them.
Inside, the room was Spartan – almost no furnishings save a table with an odd-looking device lying on it. Setting a suitcase down, Bruce picked it up, keyed it on, and held it to the side of his head as if it were a telephone handset. "We're ready," he said.
"Acknowledged. Acceptable" came from the device. Bruce set it down and picked up his suitcase, moving to stand alongside Richard. Moments later, they turned into flickering columns of light, and then vanished.
As they materialized, the unsmiling Vulcan at the transporter stage controls said "Good day, Mr. Wayne, Master Richard," in a clipped British accent.
"And a good day to you as well, Xupar," Bruce responded. "Your command of English is improving greatly, including the idioms of polite speech that are alien to Vulcan custom. My compliments to you and your teacher." Xupar made a half-nod of acknowledgement.
They proceeded to the passenger lounge and viewing area adjacent to their cabin. Richard set his suitcases outside the cabin, took Bruce's and placed them with his own, and hurried to the viewport. "I never get tired of seeing the Earth from space," he said.
Bruce stepped up beside him and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Me too, son," he said. "And to think we owe this to your sister and brother-in-law." He paused pensively. "I often wondered what my life might have been like before you came into it, if you never had. Would I have become a miser, a veritable Scrooge? Would I have been content to use my money to help the police fight crime, and help children? There was a time when I thought of turning into a vigilante, you know – imagine: a millionaire playboy who disguises himself to fight crime at night. Who would ever believe such a wild story!?"
"Holy sehlats, Bruce!" Richard laughed. "What a strange idea!"
Together they watched the beautiful blue world below them for a few more minutes, until the signal came that they were breaking orbit. As the ship rotated away from Earth, Bruce unfolded his newspaper and began reading. Richard reached into his suitcase and pulled out a digest-sized magazine entitled Thrilling Science Stories.
'Senator Denounces League Pact' ran one headline. It figures, Bruce thought. A senator in the opposition party up for re-election is getting publicity by claiming the recently ratified League of Nations treaty would give away U.S. sovereignty. After skimming the rest of the article and making mental notes of things that might affect his investments, he went on.
'Munich Trial Ends; Riot Leaders Convicted'. Well, it took them long enough, he thought. A 1923 riot in Munich, started by members of one of those lunatic right-wing fringe parties, this one calling itself the National Socialists, had tried to foment a riot against the Bavarian government. The Federation of German States had taken the threat seriously, and held a full public trial of the leaders: Anton Drexler, Ernst Rohm, Josef Goebbels, and someone named Adolf Hitler. All had been found guilty by their peers and sentenced to death. Bruce nodded; riots were no way to effect change.
'Czechs Agree to EuroFed' was the headline of another article. Bruce took notice. Maybe it was safe to invest in Europe again. After the bloodletting of 1914-16, there was a movement afoot in Europe to bring an end to the national bickering. The German Federation was firmly behind it; the young Austrian Emperor had signed on avidly, as his dominions collapsed around him. The French Army favored it, but many French politicians were fighting it, especially as George V of England was prepared to guarantee it by establishing protectorates over any country that joined, backing the locals with the might of the Royal Army and Navy. The smaller countries were on the fence, fearing Germany without France as a counterpoise. For the Czechs to endorse it was an unexpected gain, and meant maybe long-term peace in Europe was now possible.
A silvery laugh from his ward, and son in spirit, distracted his attention. "What's so funny?" he asked Richard.
"The letter column," Richard giggled. "Listen: 'The third part of War of the Raptor was excellent. Maxwell and Stenson have a sure way with words. The scenes in the Forge make it seem almost like the authors have actually been there.' I feel like writing and telling them that Arthur and Sanjak have!"
"You can't, of course," Bruce answered. "But I certainly understand the temptation!" He chuckled. "How does it feel to know two published authors?"
"More than two," Richard said laughing. "Wesley did a spaceport-bar story that is hilarious. And the next issue will start serializing Robert's Space Cadet."
"You do realize, don't you, why Sarek is underwriting this whole thing?" Bruce asked.
"I'm not naïve, Bruce!" Richard was amusedly emphatic. "It's the perfect way to condition Earth humans to accept contact, when they finally go public. Father told us that when he was a boy, nobody trusted anyone in Europe, and most of them didn't trust each other. The Germans were all warmongers, the Russians... well, look what the People's Ministry has done to reform and modernize things there. Imagine if that had gone on a few years, radical Marxists might have overthrown the Tsar instead."
"That would never happen!" Bruce scoffed. "The Tsar's armies were always quick to put down rebellions."
"I wouldn't be too sure," Richard said, with the easy confidence of his 16 years. 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.' What if the Army wanted the reforms just as badly?"
"You have a point," Bruce conceded. "As it was, when Thulan of Andoria ran his extrapolations and then the Vulcans applied their logic, Nikolai had no choice but to see the benefits of bringing in popularly elected ministers that would make the changes he needed to stay competitive with other nations. But you're missing the bigger picture. Remember how I reacted to Sarek when I first saw him?"
Richard giggled. "I was getting to that. What Robert and Arthur and the rest are doing, is to turn the idea of extraterrestrial aliens from dangerous monsters to friends with common goals. It's Surak's philosophy: IDIC. What it did for Earth, bringing international peace, is a side effect. But the eventual result will be a world that welcomes Vulcans and Andorians as our friends."
"I was hoping you'd see that," Bruce agreed. "Which brings me to something I plan to do, and with you as my heir, you deserve a say. I've talked with old man Reynolds at Gideon, the Dysons, and so on. Even got Zeb Whatley on board, kicking and screaming as usual." Bruce picked up the newspaper and pointed to the article about the Senator. "The President wants to saturate the country with the benefits the League has brought. We're going to play up Vulcan technology as the benefits of economic progress – though, of course, not admitting where it comes from. He turned to us major campaign contributors to back the idea. I think it's a good one."
"You want my opinion on it!"
"Of course. I've been making sure you're educated to take over when I'm gone, fils-aimé. You know what Wayne Industries can do. I want your opinion if making a contribution like this is the right thing to do."
"No doubt about it!" Richard was firm. "Go ahead; not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but Sarek will be pleased, and you can leverage a bit more technology from him as a result." He smirked in a mercenary way.
Bruce laughed. "Exactly what I was thinking." He drew Richard into a warm, deep hug.
The King's drawing room had a slightly threadbare understated elegance to it. King George smiled warmly as he welcomed his visitors: From America, the President and Secretary of State, and Bruce; from Russia, the round-faced People's Minister for Foreign Relations and Science Minister; Sarek; and his own Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The Minister of Mines of Bolivia seemed to feel badly out of place. Over in the corner sat Richard and Amanda, and one other.
"Thank you all for coming," the King said. "As agreed, we are gathered to hear the results of Mr. Wayne's mission in our behalf."
"The Tsar wishes to again register his objections to having an American capitalist represent Earth," the Russian Foreign Minister bluntly interjected.
"Thank you, Your Majesty," Bruce replied. "Maxim, I doubt we will ever see eye to eye on this, but let me say to you again that in this matter we are on the same side – the long-term welfare of the people of Earth, yours as well as us Americans. In any case, it's your own objection, not Alexei's." He smiled at his old sparring partner.
"Señor de la Paz, I must ask your word of honor as a Bolivian and a gentleman that you will not divulge the results of our deliberations here, beyond the list of people you will be provided who know Earth's greatest secret."
The Bolivian gentleman seemed taken aback at this. "I must act, sir, as seems to me right for the benefit of my country."
"I am confident you will see that giving your word will do just that," Bruce said. "But we must insist." The other diplomats and leaders around the room solemnly nodded agreement.
"Then, sir, you have my word, contingent on that reservation," the slender Bolivian Professor turned Minister responded. "One must always act as seems best for oneself and for those who have put their trust in one."
"On that principle we are, I think, all agreed," the President smiled. You are now joining a conspiracy whose goal is to help our whole world." The Professor grinned; this was the sort of thing he enjoyed. "Four years ago, the leading governments of Earth were contacted by extraterrestrial races. After demonstrating their good faith, they proposed an exchange of knowledge. The fruits of that exchange have already begun to benefit us – consider the gift my government gave yours, of the new hospital in LaPaz, and the advanced technology we provided in it. Bolivia will be the first of several nations besides the Big Three to be brought in on the secret. And that is because you have a resource needed for the common good. Bruce?"
"Let me brief everyone on what I learned at the Academy of Sciences, and then I hope a plan of action will fall into place. I confess that there are serious objections to every scenario I have devised for implementing it."
"Vulcan's experience has been that giving technology to other races has a debilitating effect on them, making them dependent on Vulcan science instead of advancing their own. As you all know, Dr. Cochrane independently devised the warp core that is the basis of interstellar flight, hoping to use it as an earthbound power source – which would have had disastrous consequences. It was, of course, his experiments that alerted the Andorians and then the Vulcans to Earth. If he'd been simply handed the plans for a warp core by a Vulcan, instead of developing the theory and implementing it himself...." Bruce trailed off, allowing them to finish the thought for themselves.
"Instead," he continued, "what they propose to do is what they've been doing with my research people the last four years: ask leading questions that enable the human researchers to find the answers for themselves, along with pointing out the flaws when humans start going down a blind alley." Sarek was stoically nodding as Bruce spoke.
"In particular," he went on, "they have found that encouraging spaceflight has an excellent effect – the technologies needed trickle down into the planetbound side of things at just the right rate for social acceptance and the evolution of new social norms to accommodate them. For that reason, they have been training an internationally selected crew to man Earth's first spaceship and others to advance the diffusion of such knowledge at an acceptable rate throughout humanity."
"Yes, yes, go on, we know all this," the Prime Minister said.
"The good Professor from Bolivia and Maxim's associate for Science do not, sir," Bruce replied equinanimously. "I wanted to be sure they were up to speed, so to speak, with the rest of us." The Prime Minister grumpily conceded the point with a gesture with his cigar.
"What they propose," Bruce went went on, "is that you come up with a cover story about using missile-launched space probes, getting man into space, and use this to disguise the actual program. The League would build, first, a small prototype starship, and then a full-scale one for exploration. The cover story is that it will be a series of international space stations, which would actually be the drydocks for building them. They will also aid us to start one colony, around Alpha Centauri. It was their thought that Britain take the lead on the colony, and America on the starship. Russia's share of the first phase of development will be basic weather control to better develop Siberia. Each Great Power and several protectorate states would contribute people and equipment toward the projects, Bolivia is needed because of its lithium deposits, and will receive access to technology on a par with the Great Powers in compensation."
The assembled leaders contemplated this series of proposals. Maxim spoke up. "Russia accepts, on condition we receive equal benefits from the second phase."
The Prime Minister motioned the rotund Foreign Secretary over to confer with him and the King. "We cam consent to this, provided that sovereignty is vested in the King until the colony is ready for Dominion status, like Canada and Australia."
"I was empowered to speak for Bolivia by the Generalissimo; I wondered why," the Professor said. "The offer is generous; we will want a small share in the colonization effort, but otherwise we agree."
The President was shaking his head from side to side. "The other party is still largely isolationist," he said. "For our share to be the International Space Station would not be something I could get through Congress." The Secretary of State dolefully nodded agreement.
"Cannot this be resolved?" King George bluntly asked. A lively discussion followed, without any useful results. "Cannot you assist us?" the King asked Sarek.
"No, it would be seen as favoritism if Vulcan were to propose a solution," the Ambassador said.
Finally from the corner with Richard and Amanda the man who had been sitting with them stood, resplendent in his tweed greatcoat and deerstalker hat.
"It's quite simple, really," he drawled, Cashmere pipe in hand. "Present it to the world as the United States building an International Space Station. But take your Senate into your confidence, Mr. President, and present it to them as a secret U.S. project, to help keep the peace through American power. It will also help explain why the so-called space station is highly maneuverable."
The President nodded in pleased acceptance. "I believe that could work. However did you come up with it?"
"When you have eliminated what is not possible, then whatever remains, however improbable, is the answer you seek. It's elementary, really." And he strode from the room.
Sarek looked over at Amanda. "Remind me, t'hy'la, to find out if one of our ships called here before official discovery."
"Why is that, sir?" the heavyset British Foreign Secretary asked.
"Well, you're clearly not Vulcan, Mr. Holmes, but I suspect that he might be."
The Foreign Secretary grimaced. "Sometimes I hate my brother."
After over 25 years, Richard felt comfortable as he and Bruce were escorted to the Oval Office. But every so often, the sense of 'how did the son of a circus acrobat get to be here?' still had the power to move him.
Sarek and Amanda were there, waiting for him. He rushed over and planted a kiss on his sister's cheek. He looked around. Four cabinet secretaries, the Andorian ambassador, a rather pugnacious-looking Tellarite in uniform, two Vulcans in formal robes, and several men he didn't recognize were present. Standing in the room was a large viewscreen, of obvious Vulcan make.
The President rose from his desk with a warm smile. "So glad you could join us, Bruce, Richard! Please have a chair." He nodded at Sarek.
Sarek activated the large screen. Three windows opened on it, one showing the King and Prime Minister in London, one the Tsar and Tsarevich and the People's Premier in Moscow, and the third displayed the Captain's Ready Room on the Enterprise, with Archer, Trip, T'Pol, and Robert in full uniform.
"My people's history tells us that reason must always be the master, not the servant, of emotion," Sarek said. "Accordingly, we have for 28 years given the peoples of Earth logical reasons to take their place among star-faring races, and done it in a way that would appeal to their emotions. The logic of this approach has borne fruit." He gestured at one of the robed Vulcans.
"Our study of Terran social trends," the Vulcan said haughtily, "suggests that from a barbaric attitude of fearing the other, Humans have made tremendous strides towards IDIC." The Tellarite snorted at the Vulcan's attitude.
"Our sociological researches at the Tolhurst Institute," one of the suit-wearing stranger Humans added, "support our Vulcan colleague's conclusions. Assuming a standard error of 4%, our studies suggest that 54% of Americans, 56% of British and Europeans, and...."
He was interrupted in mid-analysis by the Tellarite. "What he's sayin'," the bluff pig-snouted alien blurted out, "is that you Humans are as peaceable as we are." The Andorian reacted strangely; in a less august setting, Richard would have interpreted it as suppressing a laugh. "You are as ready as you're ever going to be, to end the masquerade."
Tsar Alexei nodded. The frail, hemophiliac ruler of Russia smiled wanly. At his side, Tsarevich Travis grinned. After a glance at the Premier, the Tsar said, "Russia concurs."
The Prime Minister waved his cigar. "You called this meeting to seek consensus the time is right, Frank?" The President smiled agreement at his longtime friend. "Very well, then. The Home Office Statistical Service forecasts concur with the Vulcans and the Tolhurst men. Your Majesty, your Government advises agreement."
The King smiled. "Advice I am personally pleased to receive. Mr. President, consider the British Empire in agreement with you."
The President looked at Robert. "Your opinion?" he asked in a no-nonsense tone.
Robert's thin mustache and balding head were eclipsed by a joyful, almost boyish smile. "It worked, then? Mr. President, I recommend going public." One by one, the Cabinet Secretaries gestured thumbs up.
"Who are these uniformed men?" the Tsarevich asked.
"Your Royal Highness, may I present to you Capt. Jonathan Archer, commanding the flagship of the United States space force, the Enterprise, with his second in command Trip Tucker and his wife T'Pol of Vulcan, and the Chief of Space Operations, Admiral Robert Anson MacDonald." The three men smiled at Travis; obviously thrilled to see actual men in space, he waved happily.
"Would you like to tour the ship, Your Highness?" Trip asked with a smile.
"Oh, da! Buzhet, Papa?" he asked his father. The Tsar of All the Russias smiled indulgently at his son, and nodded okay.
"I asked Bruce Wayne and his ward to be present for the decision today, as he has been instrumental in introducing Vulcan technology covertly on Earth, in our campaign to make space and aliens acceptable, and because his ward is the Lady Amanda's brother," the President said.
"It is then agreed," Sarek observed. "How will it be announced?"
"You may leave that to me," the President said.
Back in 1922 the handful of bank failures led my advisors to recommend we put some regulatory brakes on the free market. Because such an idea was shocking to much of America, I used radio to explain the idea to Americans as being like a powerful locomotive. You do not, I said, try to limit the power of the locomotive, which needs to be powerful enough to pull us up and over the hills. But it does need a brake, so that when it goes downhill, it does not go careening off the track and wreck. Some pundits credit those brakes with having kept us out of a panic in 1929, one they believed would have been worse than the two which happened last century. Later, we took decisive action, with our friends in Britain and Russia, to prevent aggressor nations from taking over neighboring smaller nations, and I reported to you on our joint actions there – actions that I feel sure kept us out of war.
That began a tradition of these chats with the American people. When television came along, we moved them to television.
This is a historic chat, for tonight I do not only come before the American people as their President. Rather, I am speaking to all the peoples of the Earth as the chosen spokesman for the entire League of Nations. Along with the American people, I am speaking over the broadcast facilities in Britain, Canada, and Australia. Translators are rendering my speech into French, Russian, German, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and several other languages.
I said we began these talks in 1922 about market regulation. But something else happened that year, something with even more earthshaking consequences. For reasons that will come clear as I explain, we agreed to keep that event as secret as a general's strategic plans to win a war – until the day that secrecy was no longer necessary.
I ask my older listeners to remember what things were like in 1920. Everywhere on Earth, there was a general fear of The Other, as someone sinister, not to be trusted, someone out to harm me and mine. My younger listeners, those under 30, can scarcely remember those days if they can at all.
One of the ways in which that fear of The Other was played out was in the science fiction and fantasy of the time. Other races were bug-eyed monsters bent on conquering Earth and kidnapping our women – which, if you think about it, makes no sense, since our women would be no more desirable to bug-eyed monsters than a female spider would be to a man.
In point of fact, we were contacted by aliens, and they did want something from us. But they were not monsters, and they proposed to give far more than thy got. What they wanted from us was to learn how we could live together in peace. What they offered was the advanced technology that we have been slowly introducing: fusion power, electronics, things we might have developed on our own but not for many years yet.
What they asked of us is time to observe as we conquered that fear of The Other, and learned to live together in peace. This benefited them because, from three civilizations at swords' points in an uneasy peace, they learned from us how to become true friends.
To show their goodwill, one of the first things they did was to warn us of the danger in Dr. Cochrane's energy-generating experiments – something that if we had not stopped it, would have blown half of Long Island off the map. And they built us a starship, and trained people to crew it, the foundation for Earth's own fleet.
At the President's gesture, the camera panned back.
Peoples of Earth, allow me to present to you Garav, of Tellar Prime; Ermon of Andoria; and my good friend Sarek, son of Skon, of the planet Vulcan. With him are his wife Amanda Grayson, of Earth, and their young son Spock.
These people have proven to us that they are our friends. Today the time has come to remove the secrecy from their original contact, and proclaim that for Earth, it is time for the stars!
Thank you and good night.
The results of the President's announcement were predictable: the news media had spontaneous orgasms. It was a tribute to how well Robert, Arthur, and their friends had prepared the way that most of the public accepted it as 'something that was going to happen sooner or later, anyways' – newsworthy to be sure, but to be accepted as the next step in Our Conquest of the New Frontier of Space. Robert, now Admiral MacDonald, went back to visit his native Kansas to a hero's welcome. The Lady Amanda charmed America by taking her husband, the Vulcan Ambassador, to a wide range of diners, museums, and libraries she proved she was intimately familiar with. She didn't bother explaining that she'd visited them 30 years before with her father, on breaks from their act when the circus came to town.
There were, of course, some sour notes. A couple of conspiracy theorists took it as a way to denounce the League. A few fundamentalists decided that Vulcans were devils – or maybe, they were was the Andorians or Tellarites. The aliens-are-devils convocation dissolved in arguments over which Scriptures 'proved' which alien race to be devils.
What was the final convincer, though, was the results already achieved. Cure of five forms of cancer, reasonably cheap electrical power from fusion plants, four extrasolar colonies were good enough. But two starships, the little Phoenix and the Enterprise, and an actual drydock/space station, the Phoenix II, ostensibly belonging to the U.S. but actually the League's, made virtually everyone feel that Earth had indeed come of age, as the equal of any of her older mentor/partners.
National Geographic, Popular Science, and Astronomy Monthly were featuring article after article about the new worlds – the homes of the other races, and all the colony worlds of ll four races. Nature went into paroxysms over the physics of warp drive. Many of the small protectorate nations rejoiced to find they had played important parts in bringing Earth up to this point, such as Bolivia and her lithium.
Sarek smiled inside, never letting on that one reason for all this was in the prophecy that called Earth the Brother of T'Khasi.