"Men must have the right of choice, even to choose wrong, if he shall ever learn to choose right." ~ Josiah Wedgwood
Minerva, Chapter 11
'Gentlemen, this is Ryan Miller from the CIA; he's also the leading expert on Minerva law at RAND .' General Riggs stepped back as Miller walked to the front of the room, located in the bowels of the Pentagon. 'Ryan, I think you know everyone here. That's Bill Norton from the NSA, filling in for Mark.'
'Good morning,' Miller said softly, looking at the men seated around the table. At RAND he had certainly lectured in front of more distinguished groups, but in terms of sheer power, this briefing was a first for him.
'As many of you already know,' Miller said as he clicked to his first slide, an aerial photograph of troops drilling, 'the situation in Lotos is heating up. We estimate that General Lugar is massing up to 15,000 troops to reclaim the neighboring island, 'Minerva,' which is how the residents refer to it.'
Miller clicked to the next slide, showing six tanks lined up in single file.
'The country of Lotos is very poor. Lugar really only has about two dozen working tanks, a knock-off Soviet design. We know he's loaded up ships with extensive artillery; he's definitely planning for a siege.'
'Mr. Miller,' Sandy Krupman from the Joint Chiefs said. 'What exactly is our concern? Nationalization?' Krupman knew that several American firms were heavily invested in the tiny manufacturing island.
'No,' Miller said immediately, forgetting his audience. 'What we have on our hands is not concern, but an opportunity.' Miller was pleased to see Krupman's eyebrow shoot up.
'The conventional understanding,' Miller explained, 'is that the Minervan population has no government and therefore no army, and in a sense, this is true. However, for the past six months a wealthy American businessman, Steven Peckard, has been quietly recruiting hundreds of sharpshooters from around the globe.'
Miller clicked to the next slide, of a magazine featuring various items of body armor: flak jackets, helmets, bulletproof boots.
'The odd thing to remember about the island of Minerva is that its police force consists almost entirely of unarmed women,' Miller said with a chuckle. This had been by far his most interesting assignment. 'Naturally, there's a booming market in protective combat equipment. Our operatives in these plants inform us that orders have more than tripled over the last four months.
'We also know'actually, a college professor from the island announced it on television'that Peckard has engineered some sort of real estate deal, so that he stands to make billions of dollars if Lugar's invasion can be repelled.' Miller paused. 'I think Peckard is quietly building an army of snipers, and I think we could have a very bloody war on our hands very soon.'
'But what else have they got?' Riggs asked. 'Has this Peckard imported tanks?'
'Not so far as we know,' Miller answered. 'In any event, tanks would be relatively useless on Minerva. The buildings are packed together; only the main highway is even wide enough for a tank.
'It is possible'' Miller said as he clicked on another slide, this one taken from a helicopter, and showing the skyline view of the Minervan downtown. The sky was filled with helicopters. ''that Peckard has converted any number of the commercial helicopter fleet into assault vehicles.'
'But how many more men does Lugar have at home?' Riggs persisted. He was realizing that the meeting was a waste of time.
'Well, that's the thing. I'd say Lugar could spare up to another 10,000 without jeopardizing his position. He's not exactly popular among his people.'
'And you're worried about the human rights situation,' Riggs asked, 'when, what is it?, 25,000 battle-hardened soldiers have to knock out some snipers and upgraded news choppers?'
'Again,' Miller said, becoming frustrated with the general's impatience, 'we don't have any worries; this is an opportunity. But to answer your question: No, it's not the Minervans who are going to be knocked out.'
The men all leaned forward slightly.
'Although the police are unarmed, that's not true of the average residents.'
Ahh, Riggs thought. He had just assumed that if the police were unarmed, then the civilians had to be as well. Yes, if a few thousand of the populace had Stinger missiles and such, there could be a very protracted struggle indeed.
'Remind us Mr. Miller of the smaller island's population?' Riggs inquired.
'A conservative estimate is 100,000,' Miller replied. He quickly added, 'But you need to remember, roughly ninety-five percent of that figure are men, mostly young and working class.
'Even among the women,' Miller continued, 'half of them are police officers. And the other half are in the sex industry,' Miller added with another chuckle.
Riggs shook his head sadly. These people were repugnant. He would never forgive the fools in the first Administration for approving the settlement. No matter how much Callahan had put up, Riggs knew it would not be worth it in the long run.
'You have repeatedly mentioned an 'opportunity'?' Krupman reminded Miller.
'Yes!' Miller said. 'My colleagues and I are not in agreement on this point, but I believe any invading troops will be wiped out. General Lugar surely doesn't fully grasp the situation, and I expect he will bleed his forces dry.
'This will leave him incredibly vulnerable at home. I propose that we immediately draw up plans for an occupation force, in order to keep the peace on the Lotosian mainland. Ideally we would have it ready for deployment the moment Lugar realizes he's in trouble, while world opinion will presumably sympathize with the routed Lotosian forces and their horrendous casualties.'
Krupman's eyebrow shot up again. He remained unconvinced by Miller's analysis, but the lad had certainly come up with an excellent suggestion.