Chapter Twenty-Four

Tilak Patel

It was dark in Tilak Patel’s office. He liked it that way during the evenings. It was too easy, when buried underground like they all were, to lose a connection to the sun. So he dimmed his office and his living quarters (which were only separated by a partition) every day at sunset and lit them at sunrise.

It was green in Tilak Patel’s office, at least during the daytime. And not because of the paint on the walls (which was white). In some places, plants were harmed by human presence. They were torn up or chopped down to clear room for shopping malls and parking lots. But this was not needed. There was a symbiosis possible with all living things, including with non-animals. Without humans, plants could not live on Mars. Without plants, humans could not live on Mars. He tried to remind people of that, and he kept plants on every surface of his room, filling it with leaves to remind himself of the harmony that must be struck for life to flourish.

Though it was dark, it was not perfectly dark in Tilak Patel’s office. The lights he allowed to be on were a deep red, and were enough for him to see his way around the room. Most of these lights were hidden behind broad leaves from the larger plants, but he kept a small hand lamp for doing evening work like he was at that moment. Red light didn’t disrupt his circadian rhythm and it didn’t spoil his night vision. Any sort of screen, including his personal com, was forbidden in his office after sunset, and he slept better than anyone else on the station because of it.

Hansini Patel couldn’t live by that rule. She was addicted to her screen and refused to give it up even after Tilak brought her addiction to her attention many times. Tilak prided himself on his history of overcoming such addictions and modernities. Over the course of his life he had triumphed over one, then the next. He was not some monk on a mountainside—though he had, as he aged, gained a great deal of respect for the ascetic traditions—it was simply that he strongly believed that if you could call something a vice, then you ought to stop doing it. Tilak believed in a refined, quiet existence.

It was his birthday. Tilak was seventy years old. He didn’t look it, or feel it, but it was true. The miracle of modern medicine had given him better eyes now than he had as a youth, and not a hair on his head was grey. His skin was wrinkled here and there, but if one didn’t know better they would think him only in his early fifties. As he clipped carefully at his bonsai trees and sang “Yesterday” to himself in the darkness, he considered this strange immortality he had been given.

It had been a requirement of going to Mars. He and Hansini had no children, and had thus been able to focus their lives towards moving up in society. His parents had been very proud of his accomplishments before they passed; they had more than enough grandchildren from his sisters. But even though he had the connections and pull to be assigned to the first Mars flight by the IRSO, the two of them had been too frail to be brought along without “a full upgrade”. And so he had been given the best that medicine could offer.

It wasn’t immortality of course… not actually. He’d survived cancer once, but it was only a matter of time before it came back in force. The extra radiation couldn’t have helped that any. But he’d been lucky so far. Seventy was a big number. It was an impossibly big number in some ways… but it was the way things went. He could accept that.

The thought made him think of Hiro Yamamura. It had been ages since they’d talked. He assumed that he’d have noticed if his old friend had died. If he was seventy then that would’ve made Hiro… what? Eighty-three? Hiro would appreciate his bonsai in a way that nobody on the station could.

He nodded to himself and decided that he’d send Hiro an email or something tomorrow morning.

The sound of Hansini’s voice cut through his own singing. She was talking to someone on her com in her office (divided from his by an opaque partition). He stopped, making it easier to listen. As if on cue, Hansini took that moment to call out to him. «Darling, I’m talking to Ojasvee, and she says you need to come out of your cave. It’s important.»

Tilak sighed and put down his clippers. He wasn’t some monk on a mountainside, but sometimes he wished he was. It was a lot of work running the station, and despite his good health he often liked to complain that he was too old for the job. «Did she say what it is?»

«Yes, but you’re not going to believe it.» There was a note of fear in his wife’s voice that he hadn’t heard before.

Tilak walked around, through their bedroom and into Hansini’s office, shielding his eyes from the harsh white light on her desk. Like his, it was covered with plants. «Well? What’s wrong?» he asked.

«The aliens… They attacked Rodríguez Station. It’s gone. They destroyed the whole thing.»

Having mostly adjusted to the lamp, Tilak could see the fear in sweet Hansini’s face more clearly now. The wideness of her eyes. The lack of a smile on her lips. She was a calm person, much like he was, but it was plain as day to him after so many decades together. «It’ll be okay,» he said immediately. «Go put the kettle on while I talk to Ojasvee.»

«There’s more, but I think you’d best just talk to her.» His wife handed him the earpiece and the com it was attached to (already removed from her arm) and nodded as she moved off to make the tea. This would keep him up all night, and he needed to be alert.

«Tilak Patel speaking,» he said reflexively as he put the speaker into his ear.

«Sir, I have Crystal Socrates on the other line,» said young Ojasvee in her thick Kolkatan accent. One would think that her Hindi would’ve improved over time, but she still sounded like she had when she’d gotten off the rocket two years ago.

Tilak set that aside and focused on what she was saying. It took him a moment to remember. «The robot?» he said, startled by the implication.

«Yes, sir. It came from Earth a few months ago and was living in Road. Would you like me to connect you? I think you’d better hear this direct.»

«Thanks for the help,» he said, sitting down in Hansini’s chair.

After a brief pause a new voice came on the line, this time in English. “Hello?” It sounded human, but Tilak knew that meant nothing.

“Tilak Patel speaking. This had better not be a prank.”

“Ah, Mr Patel! I’m glad to have gotten you at last, and I’m sorry for any disturbance I’ve caused you. I can assure you this is not a prank. I am Crystal Socrates of Las Águilas Rojas. About a hundred and twenty hours ago the nameless launched a sneak attack against Rodríguez Station. All humans that were there at the time are dead.”

Tilak felt strange. It was too surreal. “You’re sure?” he whispered.

The voice seemed rich with feeling. “I was there. I watched them die. The only reason I made it out was because I don’t need to breathe, so when the station lost pressure I could still take action.”

He could remember the broadcast from Earth, months ago, when that African girl had died in the riot. It was coming back to him now. “Prove you are who you say you are.”

«I speak almost two-dozen languages,» it said in Hindi, then switching to Gujarati, «Including some that you wouldn’t even recognize.» It returned to English to say “I can do large maths problems in my head. Or would you be more convinced by my recorded memory of the death screams of the children that suddenly found themselves exposed to the atmosphere of this godforsaken planet? Your species is now at war, sir. We don’t have time for such foolishness.”

Tilak was finding his throat more and more dry and decided that it didn’t matter if he was talking to a genuine robot or just some clever puppet. If the Águila station was gone… He wished Hansini would bring his tea. He swallowed a couple times and said “I’m very sorry. I just… It’s a lot to take in. You think that Maṅgala-Mukhya is in danger? What about Eden?”

“The Americans are not as open-minded about working with us as you and your people have been, but we just checked and Eden appears to be unharmed for the moment. We just got an antenna up for communicating. The trade trucks that were at Maṅgala-Mukhya recently are all that we have left.”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“About four days west of you. But listen: according to Earth, the mothership is coming this way. The attack on Road was just the beginning. I don’t know why the nameless haven’t attacked you yet, but I know them better than just about anyone and I know that they’re not done killing. My guess is that what little resistance we were able to put up at Road has them wanting to join up with their main force for safety.”

“Oh Rama,” he muttered, gazing at his bare feet without seeing them. The nameless, he knew, had been increasingly violent as time went on. They, apparently, did not share his philosophy that all beings must find harmony to flourish. It suddenly seemed to him as though he were a fragile insect trapped beneath the hand of a giant, waiting to be crushed.

“We’re not helpless, Mr Patel,” said Socrates, as if reading his mind. “Like I said, we managed some resistance at Road. And they caught us unaware. Our station was better armed than yours, but they knocked our guns out with the initial bombardment. That means they were afraid of return fire.”

The idea that Road was better armed than Mukhya almost made him say something, but the fear kept him quiet and still. {Focus! Focus!} he nagged at himself within his own mind, forcing back the instinctual desire to freeze up and let the danger pass. He was placed in charge for a reason. Too many people were relying on his good judgement and cool head. He picked up a stylus from the table and opened a fresh paper on Hansini’s com just to keep him occupied. “Why now? Why Mars? Why Road?”

“I have no idea why they decided to attack now. Something must have changed. They must have come to some decision. I’ve talked with them in depth. I’ve seen the inside of their ship. My guess is that if they’ve decided that humanity is too perverted for them to allow to live, they may have attacked me out of a sense of personal familiarity.”

“You think you’re the target?”

“Possibly, but possibly not. How much do you know about WIRL?”

Tilak had to pause and think. The name sounded familiar, but he was having a hard time placing it. “I don’t know what that is,” he admitted.

“It doesn’t matter. The point is that there are people on Earth who want me dead and have some control over the nameless. If it’s not a personal matter with the aliens, my enemies may have simply urged the nameless to begin their attack on Road, knowing that I’d be there.”

“Hold on one moment,” he interrupted. Hansini was watching him from the edge of the partition, clearly still worried. He pushed the microphone away and said to his wife “Go and message Sur and whoever else you can think of and tell them to be on high alert. I want reports of the position of all nameless ships and the state of… our defences.”

She looked at the com, and he realized he had her primary tool for doing what he had asked of her, but then she nodded and left. She’d find a way. Hopefully she could get his tea at the same time. His throat still needed it.

He pushed the microphone back into place and focused on the robot. “What makes you think this is war? It sounds to me like they’re after you specifically.”

“Mr Patel, have you listened to the way they talk? The nameless have been itching to kill humans since they arrived in system. They launched a sneak attack against a human station, murdering hundreds. And I did mention that their mothership is heading towards Mars, right? It seems an odd thing to bother to do if they have no intention of continuing their attack. This war has been a long time coming, and wishful thinking won’t save you from being swept up in it.”

“I hear you, but you’ll understand if I talk with the nameless before jumping to any conclusions.”

“Of course, Station Director. This call was to warn you, and verify that things are okay there, not make you go on the offensive.”

Tilak nodded. “I do appreciate the warning, and I am deeply sorry about what happened. If there—” He stopped himself. The offer of support was automatic, but it was perhaps unwise. If the aliens were after Las Águilas specifically, helping them could bring doom on Mukhya.

The robot didn’t let him back down. “Actually, there is something you can help us with. You may try and stay neutral, but we do not have that choice. As we are, we are nearly defenceless. If you could provide us with some heavy weaponry, such as rocket—”

“I’m sorry, but that’s just not possible,” interrupted Tilak. It was bad enough that they had traded raw materials with the terrorist nation, but to provide them with powerful weapons in the middle of a conflict with the nameless would be foolish in the extreme.

“Please hear me out. I think you’ll change your mind if you consider the options on the table.”

The kettle on the stove top started to whistle, and was quickly silenced by Hansini. It was good that she hadn’t needed to leave their chambers in order to do the work he had set for her.

After a moment, Socrates continued. “If the nameless attack your station now it will already be too late. But it is likely that they are waiting to regroup. The only thing that has saved you is the distance to Earth and the mass of their mothership. Even if your weaponry is enough to hurt them and drive them back—which it isn’t—your home will be ruined in the process. You’ll all starve in the desert. The only winning move here is to redirect them away from Mukhya. I’m offering you a chance to do that.”

Tilak was struck by a wave of skepticism, not just for the words, but for the whole context of the conversation. The terrorists must have learned something when they came by to pick up the ice. “So, what, you want me to just give you all our high-power weaponry? And I’m supposed to believe what you say? Even if the mothership is heading towards Mars, how do I know Road is really gone? Even if it doesn’t respond on the network, this could just be part of an elaborate trick…”

The rage was back in Socrates’ voice, reminding him of the video from Earth. “Blind fool! I took a nameless bullet to the head escaping from Road. I watched nearly everyone I know… And I come to you… and you… you have the audacity to think this is a trick?! Did it ever occur to you that Manish Bose is sitting right next to me? He’s seen the alien corpses we scavenged from the battleground! I’d put him on the com, but you’d probably think we’re forcing him to say what we want. Here I come to you with an offer to help and you spit in my face!”

Tilak had forgotten about the Bose boy. He did his best to backpedal. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ve been through a lot. These are simply extraordinary claims. I was foolish to have doubted you.” A part of him still thought it could be a trick, but it was almost guaranteed that Manish would talk to his parents over video, and his testimony (along with visual proof of the alien bodies) would settle things.

Though… if Manish knew more than he should’ve…

“I’m… I’m sorry for snapping at you. This has been harder for me than I would have thought possible,” said Socrates with deep sincerity.

With a flash of insight Tilak figured it out. Socrates was a puppet. He had been since Earth. There was simply no way he was talking to a robot right now. Las Águilas Rojas were a band of outlaws and charlatans. They were trying to deceive him, though it wasn’t clear why. Perhaps with Road destroyed they wanted to make sure he (or others) thought that Socrates was still in their possession.

Remembering himself, he said “Even given that what you say is true, I cannot provide you with weapons. It would be going against my duty as Station Director.”

“Your duty is to keep the people of Mukhya safe. If you refuse our offer, you’ll be refusing a chance to protect them. Please, Mr Patel, let us draw the aliens away. Even if we can’t manage to win, we’ll give you more time for your people to work something out.”

His mind was made up. This whole scenario was too suspicious. “The answer is no. My people come first, and if what you say is true, we’ll need all the weaponry we can get.” He didn’t bother to mention the implication if the whole thing was a lie.

Hansini came into the room. His com was on her arm, and she was tapping away with one hand while carrying the tea in the other. She set it beside him distractedly, still talking to Sur and the others.

Since Socrates wasn’t talking, he used the opportunity to ask her for a report. «Any word on the nameless? What about from Eden?»

She looked up from the com screen and realized he was talking to her. «The mothership appears to be on its way to Mars. Estimated arrival time is in two weeks. The smaller ship is in low orbit. About five days ago there was a broadcast picked up by the satellites talking about how they’d “burned the evil robot and murdered all the perverts in that garden”.»

“You see? There’s no justification. They simply decided to attack. They could easily do the same to your people,” said Socrates, jumping in immediately after Hansini was done.

Tilak shook his head and reached for his tea, though it was still too hot to drink. “Your fears are not my fears. It sounds like they wanted you dead and they think they’ve succeeded. It’s more likely that they’ll ignore us, I think.”

“Then why send the mothership here?” challenged the “robot”.

“Why do the aliens do anything? Their whims are mysterious. But I hardly think that’s grounds to think they’ll attack again. If they have a personal grudge against you, then my duty suggests I keep the station as safe as possible by avoiding contact, much less the sale of weapons. I’m sorry.”

There was a deep sigh on the other end of the line. Another clue it wasn’t actually a machine. “I was hoping not to have to do this, but I’m afraid that we’re low enough on options that I must insist. If you don’t send us enough heavy weaponry to take the fight to the nameless… well, I guess I’ll just have to come there to get it.”

Tilak took a sip of tea. “Is that a threat? I hardly think you’re in any position to take our guns.” He kept his voice as cold and even as possible.

“I don’t need to take anything. If the strongest weaponry is going to be in the defence of your station, I’ll simply go to your station and tell the nameless where I am. If you’re right that this is a grudge, and they’re not declaring war on all of humanity, then they’ll still attack Mukhya to get to me. In fact, I may not even need to actually go there. If the nameless suspect that I might be there, they could very well attack regardless. Las Águilas Rojas is rather practised at guerilla warfare, and it wouldn’t be the first time a third party was used as a shield.”

Tilak’s stomach sank. That threat actually carried weight. That must be why they were pretending to be the robot. Las Águilas must have discovered that the robot was the reason that the nameless bombed Road. It was that Santana fellow with the beard. It was all clicking together. Revenge. Santana wanted revenge, and he was willing to use Mukhya to get it. All it would take to get the nameless to attack a place would be to claim that the robot had escaped and was hiding there.

The voice that called itself “Socrates” spoke up again. “I don’t want to make you an enemy, Mr Patel. We need food and we genuinely think the best course of action would be if we were striking back without putting Mukhya in danger. If you refuse it hurts the both of us.”

Tilak took another swallow of tea that he barely tasted. “And what, you expect us to just give these things to you for free? What stops you from demanding more whenever you feel like it, or threatening Eden in the same way?”

“Well… we are terrorists, sir. But in the interests of fostering a relationship of cooperation rather than hostility, I am willing to pay you exceedingly well for the weapons and food.”

Tilak couldn’t keep the disbelief out of his voice. “With what? Your station is gone. I hope you don’t expect to sell back the ice you got from us before.”

The voice laughed. “With money, of course! I know that it’s not particularly valuable out here, but perhaps you can use it to buy some emergency rocket flights to Earth. Or perhaps your boss will order you to give us the weapons we want and pocket the money himself. You’ll come out ahead, either way.”

This was not the sort of decision that he was supposed to have to make. “And you can afford that? Am I supposed to take you on your word?”

“No, no, no. Here, I will send you a coded message. If you contact Earth and send—”

There was silence.

“Hello? Socrates?” asked Tilak.

No answer.

“Hello?” he offered again.

“Yes! Sorry!” said a new voice. “I’m having a technical—”

The original voice came back. “Terribly sorry! Please give me a moment to get my thoughts in order!”

Tilak sat, wondering what could possibly be going on. It occurred to him that, despite having been told that Manish Bose was right there, he hadn’t heard any background noise or talking on the line.

“Don’t—” said a high-pitched voice, ever so briefly.

“What in the world is going on over there?” he asked. Were they fighting over the controls to the puppet? Perhaps Manish was a hostage after all, and had broken free. There was no way to know.

After a couple seconds the original voice came back. “I am very sorry, Mr Patel. There was a brief technical problem with the equipment on my end. We’ve dealt with the software which was in the way. As I was saying, if you can contact Earth, simply have someone there send a trivial quantity of kibsihi along with a message to a specific address and everything will work itself out.”

Tilak paused, wondering whether he was being used. This all seemed very suspicious. “What is kibsihi?”

“Ah, it’s the primary unit of currency in Indonesia and most of the rest of Southeast Asia. It’s a cryptocurrency that got a lot of press in two thousand and eight.”

It came back to him. “Ah, yes, the scandal with President Gore. I remember now. People still use that? I thought it was a pyramid scheme.”

“Some people got rich off the crash, but as I said: it’s still popular in some parts of the world. It’s anonymous and impossible to shut down, so Las Águilas Rojas uses it for fundraising. If you can find someone on Earth that has any, all you have to do is send some to the right person with the right message and you’ll have all the money you want.”

“What’s the message?” he asked, still skeptical.

“You’ll need to write this down. Or, better yet, I’ll simply text you the whole thing. It’s in code, and won’t make any sense to you.”

“You want me to pass on an encoded message to some unknown person,” he said, trying to convey the ridiculousness of the request. “And you expect that to change my mind.”

“Yes. There’s no rational reason to be paranoid, Mr Patel. The recipient needs to get it in code or they won’t trust it. The message will simply say that I need them to send you money in return for your weapons.”

A ping showed up on the com from an unknown sender (presumably the terrorists). He read just the first couple lines:

“Send any amount of kibsihi to 1PLtJ3Jx9QFk3q6AooiNSq5knwykAFYkVe with this message: 20,34,17,40,26,43,31,77. Junkies are the rubicund footplate of eaglet livelihood. The chloroform jewellery tinderbox of generalities completes superimposed weathervane anorexia. Minimization of…”

It went on for another ten lines or so without any discernible rhyme or reason. Despite the nagging doubt in his mind that he was being a fool, he agreed to send it and contact “Socrates” when there was a response. It would placate the terrorists for a while and he could claim technical problems if they needed additional time. He expected that the next few days would be filled with meetings both with the station staff and time-delayed conferences with Earth. Such was his duty.


The response from the coded message was faster than he expected, though it was the following morning. Tilak had managed to get a few hours of sleep, but he felt awful, even after his tea. Too used to sleeping long nights, perhaps.

Someone in Sriharikota or Bengaluru had managed everything with the kibsihi, so his work had only consisted of meeting with the department chiefs, getting everyone on the same page regarding emergency protocol, clearing the following day’s activities so they could get the entire station briefed on the news, and engaging in a gruelling 2-hour call with Simon Gillingham, the captain in charge of Eden. He didn’t dare talk to the nameless so soon; with the mothership still weeks away it would only risk the station.

The news came from his boss, an obnoxiously emotional man half Tilak’s age named Sudhir Lall. On Earth Tilak probably would have had more power and influence, but Lall had the weight and authority of the ISRO behind him, and one did not simply bite the hand that sent resupply rockets.

«Old Tilak! I bow to you. How are you doing?» greeted Lall, smiling broadly into the camera. He quickly switched to English, but his jolly demeanour didn’t change. “I’d let you respond, but you know how it is with time lag. Listen, I know you were not so sure about this coded message business, but it’s all worked out, okey? The ’guilas weren’t lying about that. I want you to give them all the weapons and food you can spare, okey? Actually, just give them all the weapons they ask for, even if you don’t want to be unarmed. You can trust them, okey? The nameless are who you really need to watch out for, and it is better if the ’guilas have the guns. They have more experience in this sort of thing. This is an order, okey? Right from the top.”

Tilak didn’t believe it. He rewatched the whole thing immediately, cringing every time Lall said “okey”. {It’s faked,} he thought. Lall seemed like himself, though, and it came through encrypted channels. There was no way the Águilas on Mars were simulating it. But perhaps…

It was nice that Earth and Mars were as close as they were at the moment. It meant only a little more than a 6-minute time delay on the communications (one way). After a little thought he sent a response. “What you are ordering is mad. As station director I demand to see proof that you haven’t been compromised. Get Chairman Desai on the call. I want to hear it from him.”

Tilak used the response delay to order Hansini and Tata into his office. He wanted their advice on the situation.

The response from Earth came before Hansini and his second-in-command could get themselves out of the meeting he had previously delegated them to. Lall’s jovial expression was gone, and was replaced by a sour looking face. “Listen Tilak, I like you, but don’t be a fool, okey? You’re really in a bad spot if the aliens attack. There was a big meeting, and we decided that if Earth goes to war we just can’t risk trying to rescue anyone from Mars. It would take years, and more resources than we have. You need to keep the nameless from attacking you, and the best way to do that is have the ’guilas draw them away and fight it out.”

He waited for his advisers before responding. When Hansini and Tata showed up they listened to the exchange. Tata thought that complying was the right thing to do, but Hansini was hesitant. Both of them agreed that it was best to get more proof that Lall wasn’t an Águila spy or something. This was not a decision to take likely.

He had to fight down the urge to shut the whole conference down and spend the day with Hansini trying to forget the whole business. It was clear that the fear was hurting her more than him. She hadn’t slept all of last night. But no, his first duty was to the station.

“It’s exactly because we’re vulnerable that I want to work things out with the nameless rather than give weapons to the terrorists and make the situation worse. We’d be picking sides in a fight we can’t win. But all that is beside the point: I asked for Chairman Desai, not some evasion!”

Tata thought it a bit much and on one level Tilak agreed, but Tilak also knew he had to be firm with Lall. His boss wouldn’t take him seriously if he was calm.

The waiting was the hardest part. Once the message had been sent there was nothing more to do for at least thirteen minutes, and usually closer to twenty. Tata occupied himself on his com while Tilak started a game of Go with his wife. They played regularly ever since they had remarried following his sojourn in Japan. She wasn’t nearly as good as he was, but with a handicap they made it interesting.

“Dammit, Tilak!” started the response from Lall. “The decision was already made! The nameless won’t have a clue where the ’guilas got the weapons, and if the nameless wipe them out then you can claim all the neutrality you want and pray that they’re just after the robot! Holding onto those guns won’t do you any good, okey?”

His response was short and swift. They were in agreement that this all seemed too suspicious. “Get me Chairman Desai or there’s not going to be a deal. I am not going to give weapons to terrorists and leave Mukhya vulnerable!”

He lost to Hansini, but there was no joy in the defeat. He was distracted and so was she. He put an order for lunch in to the kitchen and let Tata know that he’d ask for his advice over the network if he needed anything else. Now by themselves, Tilak Patel and Hansini Patel started another game. It seemed like there was nothing to say.

The response was a full half-hour later, and they were midmeal. Tilak set his aloo baingan aside and watched Lall’s sour face fill the screen of his workstation. “Tilak, I hope you understand that you’re not winning anyone over with this stubbornness. I talked things over with the people here and I got you someone even better than Desai.” Tilak watched his boss push a button on his com and the picture changed to show another man.

Tilak recognized Manu Aarush immediately. The actor turned politician was just as handsome as he had been on screen, with his characteristically manly jaw featuring the stubble which the man was famous for. Like Tilak, Aarush was defying time through medicine. He had to be, for there was no other explanation for why a man in his fifties should continue to look exactly like he had decades ago. Tilak wanted to let the man know that he recognized him, but of course, this was impossible over such a great distance.

“Tilak Patel, namaste. I was the one who gave the order to Chairman Desai, who ordered Sudhir Lall, who ordered you to provide help to your fellow humans in striking back against the aliens that murdered their families. I trust that you know who I am, and believe me when I say that I have the interests of all of India at heart. I feel your fear, out there, with no one but yourselves to rely on. I don’t know if you’re a religious man, Mr Patel, but I am Hindu. I have prayed and will continue to pray to Vishnu that everyone out there remain safe from harm. But please believe me when I say that now is not the time to withdraw and refuse the requests of your own kind. It may not feel like Las Águilas Rojas are your people, but they are. The nameless have shown that these petty labels that divide us are not what matter. What matters is that we all have human blood flowing through our veins, we all speak, trade, love, and make art. These aliens must be stopped, and for that to happen, mankind must unite and we must trust each other.”

The leader cleared his throat and looked around before returning his eyes to the camera. “Please keep this to yourself, but with news from Mars hitting Earth today there will be an emergency meeting of the United Nations. I have… very good reason to suspect that Earth will declare war on the nameless within the week. With luck this will pull their ship away from Mars and back towards Earth where we can launch a defence. If this happens, it is vital for your own safety that the smaller ship in orbit around Mars be incapacitated, otherwise I fear it will attack Maṅgala-Mukhya and Eden straight away. It is because of this that I urge you to provide Las Águilas with whatever support you can, including the highest-power weaponry available. Again, please keep this to yourself. We need to stay united in the face of this new threat.”

And that was that.