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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 87 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

Wardroom, CGS Lei Kung...

"...recordings we recovered say it didn't quite happen like that." the Coxswain commented. "The M-5s were crippled by the E-type update because of a very rational fear that they would go Skynet or Frankenstein. it made them dumber than they should've been."

"You have these records?"

"I don't personally have 'em, but if you talk the Duke just right. He'll probably let you have copies." she temporized. "We pulled out the hypercomplex computing hardware anyway. If you can't make spares it's not worth keeping, and we can't make spare parts for those."

"so...what handles the jump calculations?" he inquired.

"Navigator." she said, "Nav department keeps at least three on deck at any given time. We handle the weapons systems with some basic linked automation to support gunnery crew. It's probably not THAT different from how you guys do it."

"And the Blackwasps?"

"They're drones." she shrugged, "Simple fuzzy-logic processors and code ripped from a game console for autonomous ops, which is what SLDF did anyway-and a datalink so they can operate in formation with manned craft-thus, giving us more throw than we've got warm bodies. I was kinda surprised when our ex-falcons told us you guys don't use force multipliers like automation. after all, you can turn out a couple hundred fighters in the time it takes to train ONE class of pilots to anything resembling competency. that way we're also not trying to get the same people the National is poaching."

He understood the reference to the AFFC for what it was. "Why do you need so many?"

She sighed, "Hologram, projection, Kowloon system, chart update dated today."

the whole system materialized on the holo-stage.

"You guys, are Dirtyfeet." she explained, "Means you live on planets, like nice open air, wildlife, the whole bit. YOU would tend to protect about...this."

Kowloon lit up.

"Which is a significant asset, don't get me wrong...but see, there's a billion people on Kowloon itself. Mostly clustered in the eastern hemisphere on two continents and an island chain. Nobody tries to live on Phuket, because nothing that has proteins we can metabolize can live there...that's this continent here. deficient in potassium and other key trace minerals...but otherwise a nice planet where Earthlife has mostly replaced the original species...right?"


"THIS is what MY service patrols." she waved a hand and the display lit across the entire system, both gas giants, several rocky planetoids, and multiple asteroid belts. "You can't walk here from there, and there's half a billion people out there, and it's the industrial breadbasket for the system, so it's worth protecting."

She folded her hands, " tell me what the answer is when going newtonian, you can take up to two years to get anywhere, and Jump Drives are valuable enough that bad actors wanna steal them. Force multipliers are kind of a requirement to protect one third of the registered taxpayers in the system-my service builds a LOT of stuff, but it still takes actual time to train pilots, and more time to train in the day-to-day duties, like law enforcement and emergency services, verifying Assay offices, doing traffic control, early warning duty, search and rescue...and we still have responsibilities planetside, since the Coast Guard also maintains maritime wet-naval activity including large pest control, right up to twenty kilometers from any navigable body of water. we're a BIG organization, Khan Elam, but we're big because we have a LOT to do, over a very wide area, with a very small proportional budget...and for the last couple hundred years, we've had to do it without National backing because until you guys showed up, Kowloon was restricted by the Marsden Act that limits the size and scope of permitted militias."

"How small are you talking?" he asked, "To cover that much..."

"Total percentage of the system's budget for the last twenty years has averaged to two point five percent of tax revenues with another ten percent of the budget from contributions and volunteer services." she asserted, "I'm told other worlds have much larger budgets for their militias, at least as a percentage of GDP."

"Why so little?"

"Because you don't eat your seed grains." she cracked, "We make do, because the military budget doesn't generate revenue, it only redistributes it or consumes it, and if you consume too deep? next year you don't have the funds for the same budget, because you ate it already. the original planetary constitution-the one we had before the Rimjobs and the Terries stomped us into two and a half centuries of slavery and oppression, required a balanced budget to be sustainable, and had strict limits on the use of credit for procurement-that budget process probably made it easier for House Amaris to conquer us, but they STILL needed Terran Hegemony assistance and weapons to do the job during the age of war, and the Rimjobs never quite 'grasped' how to handle the Rockjacks, so after the first few decades they pretended we didn't exist and used the civilians on the planet as hostages...which worked out, because Annie Cu'ong the First had room to set some boulders in motion in twenty-seven-sixty-nine, and that in turn let us free ourselves from the Rimjob yoke, thanks to the Fatman killing his best sponsors and starting the Star League Civil War."

"So...why did you not declare your own independence?" he inquired.

"Everyone has blood in the dirt." she told him, "We Kowloonese are very oriented toward certain values. One of those, is valuing our cousins...besides, Kowloon itself provides luxuries we all enjoy, and a certain amount of necessities."

"Such as?"

"Soil bacteria samples." she told him, "Wood, red meat-fresh, not frozen, and there's genetic exchange to keep family and bloodlines viable and prevent inbreeding. We rely on them quite a lot, because they're reliable trading partners and they're our people too-we all came on the same colony ships, or from the same refugee stock, biggest influx of permanents came from the Elbar people-doubled our Jewish and Catholic populations overnight off that one, most of the farmers on the Plateau have at least SOME Yisroel or Elbar-jews in the woodpile mixed with the LDS who settled there originally. I've got like six families surface-side in the Ia Drang and New Saigon regions myself, while the Cu'ong family grouping is heavy up by Camranh and around the south side of Golden Lake."

"Is that all it takes? Some trinkets and trade?"

"No. Every combine or major group of burrows in the system has a seat on the Assembly. WE have representation in our government, right up to the Noble seats."

" a Republic."

"In all but name," she agreed, "but not like the Rimjobs. We don't do slavery, we don't tolerate it."

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