Now, such a long time after first contact, it was hard to remember the times, so much earlier, when the elders had established the borders, such as they were, of the terrain, such as it was. The elders, The Elders, were no longer around, or visible even. But their influence certainly was felt.
Yes, their Designees, in uniforms and head gear, were always around, and apparently in control. But really, they rarely meddled in these small disputes. Or was it a small dispute? Would it turn into something ugly to be retold over and over as plans were made for the future?
First contact, in fact, had happened quietly, so quietly, it would have been easy to miss it. Or did it even happen? The problem lay in the system, or Method, that the Elders had established, but more of that later.
The first hint of a possible incursion came when, sightless, the outposts at the extreme edge of the border detected some movement. Now thinking back, you have to admit that calling it a border is misleading. Each Corpus in turn would test and nudge to see the resistance that would be met, and the risk that could be taken. Neither party wanted to escalate, and this is usually the way detente was maintained.
But in this case, first contact occurred, quietly, while mostly no one was really paying attention, and while one side was arming and preparing for confrontation, the other, attending to other matters was unaware until, suddenly they were. Alarms were sent up the chain of command, and also across. The diplomatic corps immediately brought into the decision – what was the recent history of the relationship? The Intelligence (we called it that, but really it was more like a Defence) branch activated the tactical response machinery, manned the situation room, and raised, sharply raised, the sensor scanning across all parts and all borders. And the Legal unit was called up.
Under the rules and traditions, the original intent of the elders, who as you recall were no longer around, what were our rights under law? Certainly we, the innocents, would never want to be the ones to have overreacted to an accidental probe across, lets face it, a vaguely defined border area. More than vaguely defined, it was disputed.
The elders. Those who came before us, had been confronted with a problem — far too little land for far too many communities. Yes the communities, each quite small, were vying for this space. Without a legal framework, anyone could see there would have been trouble, lots of trouble. The Communities, for they were not families (sometimes they were,) certainly were loyal to each other. And they did share with the others a tradition – a sense of higher purpose and direction.
But other than that they were all over the map when it came to raw force and power, and the willingness to enter battle, even over seemingly tiny issues. The Elders saw this and devised a plan which was simple in its concept and fit well with the physical geography.
As it came to pass, each member of each community would be assigned a minimal rectangular space: the world became a checkerboard of tiny private plots, and communities located in different areas with a plot per inhabitant. Orderly, which was the mindset of the elders, and manageable by Designees, long after the elders had turned their attention to other matters, other universes, other planes.
Now, the battle was becoming ugly. First contact had been in the distant past, and what started as an apparently minor, perhaps even accidental contact, was threatening to turn into an out and out tug of war. Each side seemed to be ready to dig in. The Mids (the good guys) were feeling pressure to brace for a major incursion, a multi-point attack, but in an area that was so remote that it had been detected late. The Iles (the bad guys) had cleverly used a distraction caused by the Designees patrolling up and down (as they were wont to do) to move a major arm of their forces directly into the airspace of their neighbor.
The three teams, assembled in the situation room, came together in emergency session. A decision had to be made, in minutes, about how to respond. If Intelligence, Diplomacy and Legal could not decide, and respond, quickly, the borders would be redrawn perhaps permanently.