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Granted Wishes

December 24, 2014

Once upon a time a new continent suddenly rose off the east coast of a great empire After due consideration, the empire responded as it always did to anything new and strange which it could not be absolutely sure was not a threat. It invaded.

The invaders found an unpopulated jungle, teeming with wildlife. Without a labor force to exploit, without valuable minerals, without even large trees or any other natural resources worth exporting, the empire did not really know what to do next. So its soldiers wandered aimlessly through the vast jungle, occasionally capturing and torturing spider monkeys, and sending drones in to destroy herds of wildebeests. There were no insurgents to provoke by these actions, so the invaders found themselves in the unfamiliar situation of not being locked into an escalating cycle of violence.

Occasionally, though, a soldier or contractor would die or be injured through some accident. Then the empire’s Air Force could firebomb a few acres of jungle around the accident site into desert. Oil companies would then, more or less in a reflexive reaction to sand, move into the newly created patch of desert and drill exploratory wells, though there was no particular reason to think any part of this conquest held fossil fuel reserves.

The animals were not quite like those of other lands; they observed and learned. In the face of the very real streak of timidity that lay behind the invaders’ belligerence they tried silence. The lions no longer roared. The elephants no longer trumpeted. They even began to pass wind quietly, lest the sudden explosion of a fart startle a news anchor or government official into launching a new war.

The empire began looking for ways to make the invasion pay for itself. If there were no mineral or fossil resources, perhaps the land itself was suitable for agriculture. But for some reason, no cutting or seed from outside the new continent could grow there. Well perhaps the native plants themselves would have some value? But it turned out that everything that grew in the new land was slightly toxic.

The empire decided that the biomass itself could be valuable – harvested and converted into fuel. By a strange coincidence, a new fungus arose. This fungus was harmless to living plants, but turned disconnected or dead parts of them to compost in a matter of minutes. (And that compost was, of course, toxic to any plants from outside the land.)

The next thought was that the great rivers of the new continent could provide power for the empire’s great industries, even if raw material had to be imported from outside. But something subtle in the water supply corroded turbines, and even the concrete in dams.

Then, almost as if the continent was striking back at attempts to exploit it, the formerly pure water of the new land developed a strange toxicity. Now all potable water had to be imported. Drinking the water, cooking with it, or bathing in it would make people and animals from the outside sicken and eventually die. Again, this only affected outsiders. Native species continued to thrive, immune to whatever the toxin was that lab tests failed to detect, and the most through distillation and treatment processes failed to remove.

The great sums spent occupying this new continent gained the empire quite literally nothing. But for some odd reason the empire could not leave the new land alone. Part of the lure, no doubt, was the big profits large military contractors made, from which they donated a percent or two to various reelection and campaign funds. More important was something the empire sensed rather than knew.

Ever since defeating its greatest adversary decades ago, the empire had gone out of its way to make new enemies. But none of them provided the large, visible sustained long term threat that old defeated adversary had. In the new continent, the empire sensed a potential for an enemy even more powerful than the defeated one. And great empires need great enemies to define themselves against. If the empire could just sufficiently provoke this new power it sensed…

Well….

The Land was patient…

But The Land was not endlessly patient….

In time the empire might see its wish granted….

And more… far more…

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