The end justifies the means (Niccolo Machavelli).
For over fifty Earth years, Betelgeuse VII has been the paradise for transgender people and rare sexual minorities. But now, the colony is endangered. The star will go supernova. For now, nobody knows this, except Caligula XIII, the reigning dictator, with a few close friends. Is there any way to save the population? Is there any chance to do something while there still is time?
The reigning dictator is elected for a period of five Earth years and has nearly absolute power. Then, it is judged. In case of money laundry, all its fortunes are confiscated. If it did anything against the constitution, the punishment is death. Caligula XIII knows well that it can do anything while in power, but after this, it will pay for anything. Each day comes with a program of seven hours, with many auditions that all are public. Any decision made by the dictator is public. There is nothing that can be done behind closed doors. Still, the meetings about the future of the star are held in the forbidden building, which should be now opened to public.
When the dictator found out that Betelgeuse has less then 30 Earth years left, it decided that the only solution is to terraform another planet around another star. The person designated with this task is Etna, a female transgender, an immigrant from the Pleiades Empire. finding that planet was not hard. At ten light years away, there is a red dwarf star. It holds a planet that can be terraformed fast. Still, there will be needed a huge amount of money for this. The new planet is dry. Water can be sent there by diverting comets and icy asteroids, but there is not enough time to make an ocean. It will be more a desert planet.
After a hard day, the dictator returns to its home, which is not larger then other houses in the capital town. Night comes. Betelgeuse vanishes behind the horizon. The sky is illuminated by the huge, never ending auroras, that dance between the clouds. It is a cold night. The dictator puts down the heavy iron crown. Then takes down the long yellow dress it likes to wear on the throne. Born as a woman, it decided to become a hermaphrodite transgender, like many people of its age. This is the trend on Betelgeuse VII, after many transgender people looked for a reversal to their initial genders. At the age when body transformations are allowed, many chose to become a hermaphrodite.
It has become something common to see hermaphrodite people. They use to wear knee-long tight pants and a short, tight blouse. When it's cold, they add an elastic and demi opaque body suit, with a texture similar to pantyhose, that cover all their bodies except for the face and the hands. This way, anyone can see the bulges made by their male genitals and the presence of smaller, female breasts. Some people argued that this fashion is provocative, even erotic, violating the law of decency, but still, many people like to dress this way.
Dressing like this might sound acceptable for an average citizen of Betelgeuse VII, but not for the ruling dictator. Still, Caligula XIII, when is alone at home, uses to dress like that.
"What am I? A man or a woman?" it whispers, looking itself in a mirror and watching the bulge between its feet. "I was a woman. But now? I am both. And I love to be like this. But still, I look more like a woman. At least with this hair".
Should it be called a he or a she? Since it is hard to know the gender of a person, people like to call each other with it here.
It lights a cigarette in the dim light inside the house. As it blows a small trail of smoke, it looks on the sky. There are clouds, dark spots between the auroras. Behind them, there are other, dark red clouds, matter ejected by the dying star. Smoking is something so common on Betelgeuse VII, that it is impossible for those born there to remember the first time they ever started.
The dictator touches its body-pantyhose, that covers all its body with a fine-textured layer, but is thinking about the fate of the planet. It could just lie and hide the truth to anyone. But, if that's the case, everyone will die. Well, it will be after its five years of rule. But, can you stay put, when a bomb is ticking? If anyone finds out that the star will explode soon, panic will follow. The economy is still growing, as people keep coming here. New towns are built everywhere.
Caligula XIII thinks about this. If people find out... People will try to move away. But where should they go? Nobody is willing to receive transgender people and rare sexual minorities. Nobody. In other places around the galaxy, people like us are discriminated, considered to have a mental illness and rejected by anyone. Even worse, in some places, they are killed or imprisoned. Still, by far, not everyone will be able to flee. The economy will collapse. Chaos will follow. Nobody knows how far this would go. There is a high chance there will be no funds to finance terraforming. Those left behind will have no chance. Nobody will come to rescue them. They will just sit here and wait for death to strike. Nothing and nobody will come, except maybe for some savages, bounty hunters from UV Ceti.
"People must not find out about this..." it whispers.
Indeed. People must not find out. As for now, new settlers are still coming. The best solution is to divert money somehow, to finance the terraforming of the new planet. The savior planet. Isn't it a better name? Betelgeuse Savior? More simple, Betelgeuse S. That's it! Finally, the dictator comes with a new name for the planet that promises to be the new home for transgender people and rare sexual minorities. Betelgeuse S.
"But still... How to do this?" it whispers again, taking a new inhale from its cigarette.
There must be a solution. A lot of resources exist here. For anything that exists here, the local currency, Betelgeuse Credits or BC, should do the trick. But, for things that need to be imported, ISA credits or CC are needed. That interstellar currency is limited. You need to export something in order to import that sort of money. But how? The CC are in a limited stock. Interstellar trade is very low, because of the huge distances between stars. How would that be possible?
Caligula XIII takes another drag and whispers: "That will be my death", literally chewing the smoke as it speaks.
Diverting funds is very hard, since anything is made public. External politics are forbidden by the constitution. If anyone finds out that its brother, Delta, made a visit to the Pleiades, the punishment will be death. The costs of terraforming a new planet are too high. It will be impossible to hide them. There is no way this can go unnoticed. The circuit of state money is public. Anyone will find out and very soon. It is only a matter of time... but still, all that money is not enough.
The dictator thinks about the end of its five year reign. The public trial. People will judge it for what it done. Nobody has done the money laundry it already has done. It diverted 1% of state money for asteroid mining, a project under the rule of the former dictator, Caligula XII. Then, it diverted additional money. As for now, the quota is getting close to 10%, so very high. People are expecting results. The asteroids around re rich in many ores, that should replace the mines on the planet, which are also a source of pollution. The dictator is trying anything to divert more money for the project, but with careful, not to catch too much attention.
This is also a violation of the constitution. Already, Delta is sent to the Pleiades to buy some equipment for terraforming. If people will find out that Delta is working on the advice of Etna, which just arrived from the Pleiades... and if they will find out that the idea of terraforming a planet came from a professor that lives in the Pleiades, the dictator will face death sentence.
All the night, Caligula XIII cannot sleep, thinking about the death sentence. A public execution. All who supported it to win the elections, watching the execution. So painful. So humiliating.
The next day, the dictator is on its iron throne, solving the many problems in the state. It is a very hard job, since problems are very different and challenging. Most of them are solved as auditions. Someone comes with an environmental problem. Another person wants to build a factory. Then, someone else wants to increase funds for upgrading a railway.
The dictator has absolute power when it comes to justice. On the audition list, there is a pedophile. A transgender pedophile which took refuge on Betelgeuse VII. The law condemns obscene actions and puts high punishments for sexual abuse. This person, which clearly looks like a woman but once was a man, kneels and cries for mercy. However, there is an online petition, signed by over a thousand sfenists, which require for it the highest civilian punishment: departure on an island. The dictator choses this punishment without even listening much. The words are exactly these:
"The prison island will be the home for this creature. Throw it there, while the sun still burns... Dismissed!"
While the sun still burns carbon, was what Caligula XIII wanted to say. In its mind, all other problems are too small. All day and all night, it is thinking about this, that the sun will soon explode. Well, nobody notices what it meant.
After all auditions, the dictator returns to its lonely home. Loneliness is very painful. Delta is on its mission to the Pleiades. Caligula XII and Etna are working on terraforming Betelgeuse S. They divert comets to bring some water to the new planet. Atmosphere melioration will start once there will exist some oceans. There are huge costs.
It all goes according to plan for about a hundred Earth days. Then, during one audition, someone comes and says:
"Your highness, I am here for the asteroid mining project. It looks like a lot of funds have been diverted for that project, but as for now, we have seen nothing. The mining division has not made public the way it spends money. I want more details of what is going on".
These words shock the dictator. So, people found out, finally. Unable to give a fast answer, it looks to the online displays in the room. But it is too late. People can see. The next day, the press will start saying that the dictator had scared eyes.
"Thank you for telling me", answers the dictator.
"Public spending must be made public".
"I know. But before taking any action, I want to personally talk with Caligula XII".
"Shouldn't that be made public?"
"Well, I do have a great respect for our former dictator. Maybe, it forgot to make things public. For any state employee, things would be different, but for a former leader of our planet and mainly one that did nothing bad during its reign, we must have some respect. But don't worry, I will use force if needed".
"Why don't you contact it online?"
"Because, outside the magnetosphere, communications don't work well. This is why we don't have an online link outside the planet".
"Your highness, it appears that a huge amount of money was diverted for the asteroid mining project".
"That's my understanding too. I will check out. Dismissed!"
After two more days, Caligula XIII meets with Caligula XII at the forbidden building. There, the neutrino telescope sits in the middle, hidden from other people's eyes. From time to time, the ruling dictator comes and scans the sun with it. A few days ago, it showed a small flare inside the core. Neon fusion did not start. Most probably, there are a few lighter elements, like nitrogen or fluorine. As pressure and temperature increase, these elements go photodisintegration. They lose a few protons or neutrons and transform into carbon, or capture free protons and neutrons, to become oxygen. New carbon instantly fuses, producing little energy, too little to prevent the core from collapsing and initiating neon fusion.
And this, only if neon fusion will occur. There is a small chance that neon fusion will not happen. As temperature and pressure increase in the core, so do neutrino production. Neutrinos are the real killers of a star. They take more and more energy from the core. Carbon fusion would keep the star alive for a thousand years, but because of energy lost through neutrinos, it cannot last more then 600. Neon fusion could power a star for over ten Earth years, but because of neutrino losses, it will last for about an year. But, if fusion occurs later, when pressure and temperature are too high, it will not be able even to produce enough energy to oppose the contraction. In that case, Betelgeuse is doomed far earlier.
Death is banging at our doors.
What the two dictators discussed in the forbidden building remains a secret. Caligula XIII exits the building saying:
"If I have to die so that some will live, so be it! The end justifies the means".
It is time to make some extreme politic decisions.
TO BE CONTINUED
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