Imperial Palace, Ajaccio, Corsica
Earth, Sol System, Terran Empire
"General Schraeder, good!" the Emperor noted happily as the officer entered the War Room. "Of all my advisors, gentlemen, Schraeder here has always been completely honest with me. Come, Schraeder, we are discussing how we shall conquer these Jeffersonian rebels! Continue, Admiral Demoit."
"Of course, Your Majesty. We will begin by targeting their infrastructure for orbital bombardment, as we did in Switzerland and Israel - power and communication grids, road junctions, centers of industry and distribution, port facilities, and so on."
"...Is something wrong, General Schraeder? You seem troubled."
"Your Majesty - that is what I have come here to explain. This plan of attacking the Jeffersonians' infrastructure, it is... ill-advised."
Demoit mildly asked, "Why would that be, General?"
"Ah... that is, the...."
"Come, come, Schraeder, don't be shy," said the Emperor. "I have come to expect complete honesty from you, do not disappoint me now!"
"Your Majesty, the Jeffersonian infrastructure - Your Majesty, they don't have any!"
"Don't be ridiculous," Demoit scoffed. "Of course they do."
"Majesty-" Taking a deep breath, Schraeder plunged ahead. "Majesty, the intelligence reports you have received have been woefully incomplete, even deliberately misleading. Aspects of Jeffersonian society have been misinterpreted or misrepresented in these reports in order to please, rather than to accurately inform Your Majesty. For example:"
General Schraeder began quoting from the reports in his hand. "'The Republic has very few roads. Privately owned automobiles are nearly nonexistent. It should therefore be a simple matter to immobilize large segments of the population by destroying mass-transit systems.' Your Majesty, the truth is that in the Republic, nearly all travel, civilian, commercial and military, is done by air - they don't have roads or automobiles because they don't need them, and the lack would instead be a strategic advantage for them against our invading ground forces."
General Roth sneered, "You exaggerate, Schraeder!"
"Silence," said the Emperor, in a voice suddenly much colder than it had been. "Continue, Schraeder."
"Yes, Majesty." Schraeder continued: "A closer reading of the original, unedited intelligence reports indicates that the Jeffersonian mass-transit systems are used almost exclusively in their cities, and only in the most densely-populated areas; most of their people have access to individual transportation anyway and only use public means for convenience. The mass-transit systems are largely aerial as well, and also largely automated, using decentralized artificial intelligence; we would have to destroy nearly every individual vehicle to put such a system out of action. There are even suggestions that their mass-transit systems have been designed for military use, with priority overrides for evacuation of civilians and transport of troops and materiél in the event of an attack.
"Their advanced fusion and solar-power technology makes them independent of fueling or power-grid infrastructure - each vehicle can operate for weeks, even months, without refueling or recharging, and a collapsible solar array can be deployed to recharge batteries and process ordinary water into hydrogen fuel in the field. The vehicles themselves are simple to operate and maintain and are known for high reliability. Most Jeffersonians are taught piloting and vehicle maintenance as schoolchildren - and nearly every household contains at least one privately-owned aircar capable of carrying at least two adults and at least an additional 100 kilograms of cargo. I stress that these are minimums; the per-capita ownership of such vehicles is nearly one for every two people, counting children, and the average lift capabilities of these vehicles are much higher."
Schraeder quoted from another report: "'The Republic operates a small number of large power plants. Selecting these as strategic targets would disrupt the general population's ability to resist.' Your Majesty, the first sentence of this report is literal truth; the second is utter fabrication. With few exceptions, there are no power grids in the cities; the majority of buildings are independently powered with their own fusion packs, or solar arrays, or both. Those few large power plants are almost exclusively for specific heavy-industry applications, and only coincidentally, if at all, supply power to the general population; to destroy them would be to destroy the very industrial prizes we seek to acquire.
"'Most outlying areas are not connected to power or communication lines.' This also is true, but must be taken in context. Outside the cities there is almost no development at all; each community, often every individual house, is independently powered. Communication is by satellite, or ordinary radio, or by line-of-sight laser or microwave relays, each relay station with its own independent power supply and capable of redirecting itself to active nodes in case of network disruption.
"'Republic worlds are rich in agriculture. After bringing the native labor forces under Imperial control, this wealth can easily be redirected to the needs of the Empire.' Farms are everywhere, yes; some barely a hundred meters square for a single household, some spanning hundreds of kilometers for industrial agriculture, and every size in between, distributed widely wherever the climate and soil will support them. But the native populations have better things to do with their lives than work in the fields! Most farming labor is robotic, almost fully automated, again independently solar or fusion powered, and with automatic repair and maintenance systems. There is no native force of agricultural labor for us to subjugate, and a few minutes' work by guerillas at the first sign of our approach would wreck the control systems of the robotic tenders and harvesters beyond our capability to repair in a cost-effective manner. Coupled with the low population density throughout the Republic, we would soon find ourselves in the position of exporting Terran labor to occupied territory in order to collect the spoils of our conquest - and imagine, Majesty, the difficulties of trying to control common Terran subjects on Jeffersonian worlds, in direct contact with Jeffersonian agents provocateur!
"'Crops are chosen for hardiness, and require a minimum of tending. This would simplify feeding Imperial personnel in occupied territory.' It is true that food-bearing plants have been deliberately seeded across much of their worlds' land areas, but this is so that guerillas could live off the land while resisting an invader; the labor costs of harvesting this food for our own uses would be prohibitive, even if we captured the Jeffersonians' own robotic farming machinery before it fell to sabotage. And it is not just agriculture, Your Majesty; wildlife is abundant, and hunting is one of their national pastimes; nearly every Jeffersonian possesses the skills and weapons to successfully hunt for survival - in fact private hunting is a primary source of meat in many non-urban areas. These resources are easily available to them, but practically unavailable to us.
"'Central Terminal, located on Monticello's South Continent, is an enormous spaceport and distribution center, as well as the capitol city of the Republic. It should be a primary strategic objective. As with other port facilities, if Central Terminal cannot be captured, it should be destroyed to deny its use to the enemy.' This certainly sounds correct, Majesty, but it does not take many important facts into account. There are heavy orbital and ground-based defenses on and around Monticello and throughout the Tau Ceti system, including regular patrols by rotations of their best warships. Monticello Station is situated in synchronous orbit on the same longitude as Central Terminal, from which location it can command that entire hemisphere; the planet's other hemisphere is mostly empty ocean. At least a quarter of the space-station's capacity is military, including at least four aerospace fighter squadrons, and at least one warship is commonly docked there or in a nearby orbit. The station also mounts their heaviest faster-than-light energy weapons, which can destroy any known ship from at least fifty thousand kilometers - and that is only what we have seen demonstrated; the true capabilities of these weapons are closely guarded against our spies. The First Legion of their Exploration and Colonization Service - actually their Marine Corps - is based at Central Terminal, with most of their heavy weapons and equipment close to hand. Central Terminal is also home to the Space Patrol Academy, with at least a hundred combat aerospace craft, and the Charles Yeager Academy of Flight, with at least as many craft, is less than thirty minutes' flight time away on East Continent - and at least half the pilots at these academies at any time are not raw cadets but experienced pilots receiving advanced training, with extensive live-fire exercises, from large stockpiles of live munitions.
"As for port or distribution facilities in general, they have only a few that we would call such, and only for individual cases of convenience instead of general policy. With their widespread use of air travel, and with nearly all their air vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing, factories and assembly plants can simply load their products and dispatch them from their own property to anywhere on the planet without need for a distribution system, or even send them directly to starships in orbit for interstellar transport without need for a spaceport. We would have to destroy every factory, every farm, nearly every building, one at a time.
"As for Central Terminal's function as a capital city, one must remember that Jeffersonian Citizens have a generations-old distrust of central government. Many would actually applaud the destruction of their bureaucracy while at the same time taking up arms to defend their country against invaders! Regional and local governments would quickly reorganize to continue resisting our invasion. Your Majesty, the Jeffersonians have had civil-defense drills for just such an eventuality! They are planning on losing centralized command!
"Perhaps the most glaring omission, Your Majesty, is that except in passing, none of these reports describe the Jeffersonian people. Citizenship in the Jeffersonian Republic is earned, not granted, most usually by serving in active-duty military forces for no less than three of our years. Over eighty percent of the adult population has earned full Citizenship under their law, and with it, a Constitutionally-guaranteed right to own weapons, including military anti-aircraft and anti-armor weapons, artillery, explosives, even combat vehicles - and, through the military training and experience they received while earning that Citizenship, they have all the knowledge and skills to use such weapons and equipment to the fullest!
"In civilian life - and the line between civilian and military is rarely distinct - local, Provincial and Planetary marksmanship competitions are respected and popular sporting events throughout the Republic. Many of these competitions are based on combat tactics, using sophisticated technology to create highly realistic combat simulations. The most popular events are those whose targets simulate Imperial troops and vehicles! Champions are celebrities, with cash prizes and corporate endorsement contracts!" Before Admiral Demoit could scoff, Schraeder handed him a copy of The Republic Arms Association Journal, whose front cover displayed several competitors in Monticello’s Combat Pistol Championship, and whose back cover was a full-page advertisement for a maker of rifle ammunition, featuring an endorsement from a recent winner of the Daniel Morgan Cup.
"Standard-issue military small-arms are privately owned in at least three-quarters of all Jeffersonian homes, and there are no restrictions on their storage; they can be accessed and used instantly. There is a national tradition, generations old, of private and unrestricted ownership of weapons by civilians. Children as young as eight Terran years of age are trained in the use of small arms and guerilla tactics - and trained to higher standards than our own regular troops!
"Furthermore, these children are often what used to be called 'home-schooled,' before the practice was outlawed here. They are raised to much higher standards of literacy than our Terran subjects, and beyond this, their indoctrination is the very opposite of our own! Instead of being taught to trust and obey the state, they are taught that all states are the enemy and must be restrained; they are taught to trust only themselves, and to obey only those who have earned their respect.
"As I said, at least half of the Republic's full Citizens became such as a result of military service. The training for this service is far more extensive and rigorous than our own, conducted in all conditions of climate, and frequently in the higher gravity and thinner atmosphere of Monticello itself. By Republic-wide law, all military and commercial interstellar travel is conducted with shipboard conditions simulating those on Monticello, to acclimatize as many of their people as possible. Native Monticellans, or Jeffersonians who have been acclimatized to Monticellan conditions, possess dramatic advantages in physical strength, speed, dexterity and endurance over any human accustomed to Terran gravity and atmosphere.
"I have seen the results of this physical conditioning, Majesty, in action against the Texas rebels, who are supported by the mercenary 'Jeffersonian Volunteer Groups.' I saw a young woman, no older than our own beloved Princess Emanuelle, with a J.V.G. patch on her uniform and the rank of a private on her sleeve. She was already wounded, shot in the side and the leg, yet she emptied her rifle at my troops, aiming deliberately, wiping out an entire squad. She then fought hand-to-hand with her rifle and bayonet, wounding five more men and killing three before she was finally cut down.
"Majesty, she was so young she could not have received advanced commando training. Taking my own observations into account with first-hand reports from officers all over Terra, men I know and trust, describing similar skill and ferocity wherever Jeffersonians have been encountered, I must conclude that this... girl was representative of the average Jeffersonian soldier. Majesty, based on what I myself have seen, any single Jeffersonian soldier would be a match for any three of our own - possibly much more!
"Many of their commissioned and non-commissioned officers have actual combat experience against our own forces, as mercenaries in these same 'Volunteer Groups.' Most of those with combat experience are career soldiers, unit commanders, instructors, senior sergeants in their Marine Corps and senior petty officers in their Navy - these 'Groups' are not simply composed of adventurers and mercenaries, nor are they without official sanction; they are cadres for the deliberate training and blooding of their officer corps!
"Most other military veterans are reservists in local and regional militias, keeping military weapons and supplies in their own homes; tens, no, hundreds of thousands of trained, armed and equipped troops ready to deploy in mere minutes, and I repeat, their commanders are usually combat veterans. On a rotating basis, approximately twice every three of our years for any particular unit, these reserves are activated for several weeks, receiving updated training and equipment, going on full field maneuvers, performing live-fire exercises. These activations are also required for maintenance of Citizenship and all the rights, such as voting, that accompany it, which gives these reservists a powerful motivation to do their duty.
"As for deployment of such vast numbers of reservists, as I implied earlier, privately-owned aircars are as common as automobiles used to be here on Terra; nearly all Citizens, and many Subjects who have not yet earned Citizenship, have individual freedom of movement on a transcontinental scale, often with supersonic capability. These small personal vehicles are frequently armed, and most are at least capable of mounting weapons, including automatic cannon, missile rails and bomb racks." As General Roth snorted, Schraeder thrust documents into Roth's hands, continuing, "These features are advertised in the manufacturers' sales brochures!"
Handing another brochure to the Emperor, Schraeder went on, "An increasing number of Citizens have private vehicles which are capable of reaching low orbit, where they can rendevous with starships - imagine the difficulties, Your Majesty, trying to detect and intercept hundreds, even thousands, of small, maneuverable, armed, transatmospheric craft, any one of which could be carrying military intelligence, commando teams, weapons and supplies for guerillas, even weapons of mass destruction to be smuggled into our strategic assets!
"At least ten actual warships are also privately owned, older designs but still fully armed and capable of faster-than-light travel. At least half the Republic's merchant vessels, and at least a quarter of their passenger vessels, are also armed; I believe the real numbers to be much higher, and their actual armaments far more powerful, than we have been able to confirm. Many of their smaller starships are capable of atmospheric flight and planetary landing; most of their smaller military ships have stealth characteristics. These would be used for guerilla and resistance operations. Guerilla tactics and the principles of 'leaderless resistance' are taught to young schoolchildren!
"Your Majesty, I ask you - are we fools, to set foot in such quicksand?"