Table of Contents
Chapter 15 concluded
in issue 136.
Chapter 16: Council of the Regions, Dome
Long before Toni encountered Carla, the Council of the Regions had met in special session.
Their extraordinary debate on the Missions of Exploration had been conducted with passion, and was reaching its inevitable end ...
‘I am certain that nobody is suggesting that the Initial Missions should not have been launched when they were,’ the leader of the Utor Party was thinking with a final dramatic flourish. ‘Am I correct?’
The stony silence of acceptance in every delegate’s mind was more intense than the actual silence that had accompanied the entire debate.
‘At least, then, we are all agreed on this. I suggest therefore that we have a simple decision to make: whether to leave the objectives of those Missions exactly as they stand, or to modify their priorities, as proposed.’
The President rose, took over control, and reasoned ‘Our discussion has come full circle.’
Recognising, as could everybody else, that there was a new Consensus, but mindful of the need to allow for any last-minute changes of heart, the President then proceeded to summarise the issues before the full Assembly, mentally articulating each point with absolute clarity.
‘There has always, as you are all well aware, been unanimous Council agreement on the fundamental desirability of carrying out the Missions of Exploration, following the success of the early detector missions and the identification of the five radio sources — the so-called New Worlds.
‘One of the core objectives for the Initial Missions, the Observation Imperative, has also always had unanimous Council agreement. The three Observation Aims within this Imperative are, of course:
To map and model, as completely as possible, the geophysical characteristics of each New World of interest.
To collect, through observation and engagements, other categories of factual information relevant to the establishment of an initial profile of the populations of each New World (all living forms) and their behaviour patterns; and, in the case of the Controlling Species, its technologies, its overt modes of operation (especially in the area of world government), and the overall stability of its Civilisation.
- To gain further insights into the underlying true beliefs and integrity levels of carefully selected significant individuals of the Controlling Species. This to be done using standard sampling techniques, within the constraints imposed by the total time available in the environs of that New World and the inefficiencies of the insight gathering technique.
‘However, this Council has not, to date, achieved full agreement on the relative priorities of these three Aims. But for as long as the Observation Imperative remained the sole active objective, this was of little consequence. The three Aims could be pursued in parallel, with the commander of each mission dynamically deciding the most appropriate tactics as each situation developed.
‘Closely allied to the Observation Imperative, of course, is the passive Moral Imperative, which again has always had unanimous Council backing. As you are all aware, this simply mandates that if any specific assistance or improvement can be readily given to any New World by the visiting crew, then it shall be given.
‘Finally, a proposed extension to the objectives of the Initial Missions, the provisionally-labelled Exploitation Imperative, has already been debated at length. Even in its most conservative forms, this Imperative has always been rejected by a significant majority vote. Only a small number of Parties has ever proactively supported it. However, it remains a technically feasible Imperative, and draft proposals representing further reductions in its scope, along with revised cost estimates, are under development and will be presented, as planned, at the next scheduled meeting of this Council.
‘In conclusion, at the time of the Mission Launches, the priorities of the Observation Aims had not been resolved, and the question of a possible extension to the Initial Missions’ scope had not been properly considered.
‘I must remind you all, in addition, that the time-limited experimental projects and launches, using prototypes of the star-craft and the radimote technologies, had identified many minor weaknesses and a number of significant technical shortcomings ... and costs were continuing to spiral.
‘Despite all these issues, at our last full meeting it was unanimously agreed that the launch of the five Initial Missions should proceed immediately, to the originally proposed schedule.
‘Pragmatic analysis of this situation had concluded, in any case, that the outstanding technical shortcomings could only be properly resolved “in the field”. Most significantly, however, the abandonment of the launch schedule would have precipitated huge delays for reasons of expected unfavourable atmospheric conditions, and might well have encouraged further, more stringent financial reviews by the Independent Treasurer.
‘This, then,’ the President pondered, ‘was the position at the time of the five Mission Launches.
‘However, the newly-wealthy Utor Party has recently achieved a significant increase in its voting power, as a result of its peremptory negotiations with the Council on other matters, which relate principally to the continued security of the Ovanavo Region.
‘This increased power has enabled that Party to exercise its constitutional right to force this extraordinary debate on the Imperatives of the Initial Missions, so soon after the departure of the first five craft.
‘As a result, and after due deliberation, I recognise that the latest Consensus is that the three Observation Aims should now be adapted and explicitly prioritised, as follows:
The Mapping and Modelling Aim should be modified and extended, to include a full study of the sites of all mineral resources on each New World, and this Aim should be given a higher priority than the other two Aims.
The Fact Gathering Aim should be sustained, and be given a higher priority than the Insight Gaining Aim. Special attention should be given to the actual and forecast usage of all natural resources on each New World, with a focus on those of greatest abundance and those of which there appear to be particular shortages.
- The Insight Gaining Aim should be continued, but at a lower priority. This should not present any serious exposures to our objectives, since the benefit of understanding the political integrity of New World populations is now judged by a Council majority to be considerably lower than originally conceived; and by the time each Initial Mission receives its revised orders, a sufficiently large sample of insights should have already been achieved. Any shortfall in results can either be made up in background mode, or can simply be considered as statistically insignificant. In addition, the focus of Insight Gaining will be changed. The true thoughts and views of a New World’s principal geophysicists, rather than their leaders and thinkers, should now be actively pursued within this Aim.’
Having thought all of this through very clearly, and recognising that every delegate was fully understanding that thinking; being acutely aware that the 70% vote required for a change in Initial Mission priorities had now been over-achieved; appreciating that this position could not be overridden despite the weighting of the rarely-needed casting vote; and knowing that every delegate perfectly understood all of this too, the President then definitively concluded that the motion proposed by the Utor Party had been carried.
Full financial analysis of the effects of these changes would proceed in post-facto mode, and the results would be presented to the Council at the next timetabled plenary session, along with the already scheduled and far more contentious latest proposals for the future addition of a limited Exploitation Imperative.
With the debate at its end, the President of the Council of the Regions issued the formal order for new Mission Instructions to be prepared at once.