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FLIRTING WITH NAPOLEON

Dreamed 1995/1/21 by Wayan


MY SPACE HABITAT

I'm a woman of the 22nd Century, living in space. Millions, perhaps billions of us live off Earth now, system-wide. Home for me is a huge habitat between Mars and the inner asteroid belt.

An ambitious man from a moon of Jupiter or Saturn threatens to invade our station. He wants to be a new Napoleon. He may make it: he's smart, magnetic, bold, honest, dislikes corruption, has a sense of humor, and appreciates people, even his enemies. But why's he attacking the most democratic part of the Solar System? We'd have cheered if he'd invaded one of the backward dictatorships on Earth--he'd reform it. We wouldn't mind allying with him if he'd leave basic rights alone. But he doesn't really seem to understand how important freedom of speech and data and travel are to us.

Some of us set out to teach him.

THE EMPRESS

One woman I know, a middle-aged perfectly normal person, sneaks out of our occupied democracy to one of those Earth dictatorships. And through sheer force of character, she muscles into the junta and declares herself an Empress--not out of personal ambition, just to provoke our Napoleon! She hopes to lure him away from the democracies, focus him on conquering and then reforming a society that needs it. Her ploy may work. He likes challenges, royalty, drama.

FLIRTING?

I decide to do my bit: join the democratic resistance. Keep sabotaging things, sending him challenges and insults--accusing him of destroying human rights he doesn't even understand. By all reports, this gets under his skin.

And under mine. I find I'm having fun provoking this guy. Kind of a thrill that New Napoleon finds me important!

Is politics my way of flirting?

OPEN TO SPACE

His guard raids us. Swift little delta-winged robot craft, firing their distinctive green lasers, damage our part of the station. We're pinned in a corridor between two habitat spheres. Viewports all round. Several panes are missing! Shot out? Open to vacuum, yet we have air. Force fields are holding the pressure in, but I feel terribly vulnerable. Wait, helpless... then decide I can't stand for this. It's one thing to upset the political games that are part of any society. He got me angry by going beyond that to the second level, where everyday life's affected. But this! This is ECOLOGY! You don't damage life support for ANY reason!

I take outrageous risks and get into the main habitat bubble--Napoleon's, now. I storm right through all his security shells--I'll show him! This is my HOME! I break into his "throneroom" and half hold him hostage. Force human rights concessions--and tacitly admit I kind of like him. Seems mutual. He's lonely for players on his level. It's a big game to him. To me too, I have to face that. The only difference between us is that I play for others too.

I see now that part of my wanting his attention is so that when he captures me, as he will eventually, I'll be liked and respected enough so I can be more of an advisor than a prisoner. I think I should play just one more outrageous trick on him and then show up at his gate and brazenly demand a job as advisor!

NEPTUNIANS

But he catches me before I can. Not that it matters much; I'm a student of history, and I can see what's coming. Whatever happens to me, I have to warn him and all the other reformers of the real invasion to come. For now that this semi-humane Napoleon has proven the vulnerability of the rich inner System to high-tech invaders, the harsh, mutant, isolated people of Triton and other outer moons and stations will move in, just as successive waves of barbarians destroyed Rome.

If New Napoleon wants to keep his title, he'd better listen... We haven't got long to reform and unite the Inner System...

And I wake.

NOTES IN THE MORNING

I see where all the elements came from. It's a warning, all right--but of what?



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