The Compulsion of Venus

CB Droege

April 1, 2023

In the heart of the Venusberg Capitol Complex, Chairman Lee of the Sol Council stared, half-lidded, across a table of polished Venusian obsidian. He'd lost his posture over the last hour of conversation, and was nearly sliding out of the armchair. He maintained this pose for a full minute of silence, then abruptly drew in a breath, drummed his fingers noiselessly on the table. “Are you telling me that after more than two centuries of enjoying the benefits of the Rampion Accord, your people intend to not keep their end of the deal?”

“No,” Governor Boris Journo sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling as though he’d explained this enough already. “I’m saying that the terms don’t apply.”

“The language is very clear,” the chairman said, abruptly regaining his posture. “In the event of a military need, The Venusian government will supply a military force equal to five percent of their adult population. There is not much ambiguity.”

Boris took a deep breath and raised his eyes to look at the chairman, who emanated an intimidating aura, all calm confidence and resolve. “The Rampion accords were signed in a very different time.” He tried to keep his voice steady. “Two centuries ago, humans still thought they were alone in the universe, and they certainly had no concept of The Menace or the threat they present.”

“You admit then, that The Menace represents a threat to humanity that cannot be ignored?” the chairman asked.

Boris ignored the question. “Further, Venus’ population at that time only consisted of a few thousand people, mostly soldiers and scientists, on one poorly maintained orbital and a tiny surface colony. The dozens of aerostat colonies and millions of free residents of Venus weren’t even a dream to those men. They were still rebuilding from the ATaPH attack and the Battle for Sovereignty. Sam Rampion Jr. may have written the accords, and signed them on our behalf, but there was no way for any of those men to know what would become of Venus over the years.”

The chairman slid down a bit into the chair again, resting one elbow on the smooth dark red stone. He spoke as if explaining to a grade school classroom. “If every contract and treaty could be broken just because circumstances change, then there would be no need to ever make such agreements. The point is that you must hold up your end, even if it is unpleasant for you.”

“Unpleasant?” Boris tried to sound indignant, but felt like he probably just sounded shrill. “Chairman, our military forces currently only equal two percent of our adult population, which is already twice the rate of the rest of the Human Alliance. If we were to fulfill this demand, we’d have to conscript over a hundred thousand men and women. It’s impossible. It’s unfair. Conscription hasn’t been practiced in any human culture since before Terran Unification. Venus is willing to turn its entire military force over to Sol command for the duration of the threat. That must be enough!”

It was the chairman’s turn to sigh. He stood and walked casually over to the large window behind his chair, looking out over the Capitol Gardens. “It’s too bad,” he said, voice so low that Boris had to strain to hear, “that Sam Rampion Jr. and his compatriots didn’t just join the new Sol Council all those years ago. Things would be much simpler now, wouldn’t they?”

“Perhaps,” Boris said slowly, “but the past is in the past, chairman.”

“You know”—Chairman Lee turned back to face the governor, as if he’d had a sudden idea; it was an obvious contrivance—“It’s not too late to correct their mistake.”

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“What do you mean?” Boris narrowed his eyes. He did not like where this was going. 

“Bring Venus fully into the Sol Council now,” the chairman said, “then Venus and its citizens would be protected by all the same rights and provisions that protect every other human in the galaxy, and they would no longer be bound by the Rampion Accord.”

None of the previous officials to visit regarding this issue had taken it in this direction. “That option is not on the table,” Boris said. “The Venusian people value their independence from the Sol Council. Even if I considered it an option, they would never stand for it.”

The chairman gave his best, well-practiced frown. “That’s too bad. So much unpleasantness could be avoided.”

“Is that what all of this has been about?” Boris asked. “Have you been pushing this issue for so long so that you can use it as a threat against us, an attempt to get us to capitulate to the rule of the Sol Council?”

“Of course not,” the chairman said. “It was just a suggestion.” There was a long pause between the men before Chairman Lee continued. “The Council would be happy to help with conscription efforts. We’ve got ships and soldiers standing by near Venusberg and each of the aerostat cities. On my word they will set up registration and recruitment centers, and begin a conscription lottery. It would only take a few months to help you get to the numbers required, and the Council is even willing to take up all incurred expenses for the process.”

As the chairman spoke, Boris boiled. By the time the chairman was done, Boris’ anger had settled into a cold hatred. He was starting to understand how Rampion and his followers must have felt two hundred and six years earlier, when the Sol Council brought their full weight down upon Venusberg. Suddenly, he understood why men went to war.

“The people will resist you,” Boris said. “They will not volunteer, and they will not come when called. They will fight you in the corridors before they allow themselves to be forced into service.”

“For everyone’s sake, Governor Journo,” the chairman said, coolly, “I hope you are wrong.” Then he stood for a quiet few minutes. Boris got the impression that the chairman was waiting for something, but whatever it was, it never came, and the leader of the Sol Council swept from the room without another word.

Boris stared out the window for a long moment, wondering if this was the end of something, or the beginning of something. Then he put the thought out of his mind and called a special session of his cabinet and military advisors. They would need to begin preparations for whatever was to come.

CB Droege is an author and voice actor from the Queen City living in the Millionendorf. His writing influences include Philip K. Dick, Bill Bryson, Isaac Asimov, David Sedaris, and Roger Zelazny. He loves wizards and time-travel, but has an irrational distaste for time-traveling wizards. His latest books are Ichabod Crane and the Magic Lamp and Other Stories and Quantum Age Adventures. Short fiction publications include work in Nature Futures, Science Fiction Daily and dozens of other magazines and anthologies. He also produces a weekly podcast, in which he reads other people’s stories: Manawaker Studio's Flash Fiction Podcast.

“The Compulsion of Venus” is original to Bullet Points.