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The Spartan Chronicles

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  • "Your picking up something?" Asked a confused Baldwin. "Yes" Replided Jeneba..Santiago...Stantiago is alive. "What?!" Screamed Baldwin. "Despite what the spartan propoganda ministers would like us to believe she is not a god...she was at the center of a nuclear one can survive that." "Baldwin" replided Paula "has she led you wrong before?" "If not for her we would have both been there..I'm content to hear what she has to say"

    "I'm picking up her thought patterns..not only is she alive, but she's gloating"
    "Gloating, are you saying she planned this?!"

    "No...there are several other minds near her. They are Hive! Santiago has been taken prizoner!" Then Jeneba broke out into laughter. Both paula and baldwin looked at her in utter amazement. "Sorry" she said. "You weren't supposed to show up. At least not in person. The hive thought they had killed everyone, but they were all holograms. That's why Santiago was gloating"

    "So the command staff is alive?" Asked Baldwin" "Yes" replided Jeneba "and they probably don't know Santiago is captured"

    "Good" Said Baldwin "Let's keep it that way. If the other command staff don't know Santiago is captured than they will contiue keeping the hive busy"

    "Wait" said Paula "If we don't tell anyone than who is going to save Santiago"

    "We are" replided a grinning Baldwin as he ran off toward the dock.

    [This message has been edited by Dcole78 (edited August 09, 1999).]


    • The intercontinental shuttle landed at the Aerospace Center at Sparta Command and Paula and Jeneba disembarked. They submitted to the usual retina scan that identified them as being who their passoprts said they were, and to the curious stares of the passersby (at Jeneba’s neural enhancement circuitry) they left the terminal building.

      Jeneba paused, lifted her head as if sniffing the wind, and said;

      “Something’s not right, Paula. There’s an overwhelming distortion in the mindforce fluctuations – gee, can’t you sense it yourself? It’s almost overpowering.”

      “Come to think of it, I do have a splitting headache” said Paula, rubbing her temples.

      “Evil” said Jeneba simply. “I sense great evil”.

      “Oh, don’t be melodramatic”, said Julia. “Wherever great people gather there is evil. Hasn’t history taught you that. And we are in one of the great metropolis capitals of this Planet. There will be evil about.”

      “No. not that”, interjected Jeneba.

      “It’s the same force that neural bombed me. The Circle. I can sense it. I think Googlie is in great danger.”

      Paula paused. It was for this very reason that she’d brought Jeneba to Sparta Command. After she’d talked to Morgan himself of the importance of the mission, he’d agreed, and promised to commlink Santiago herself on their ultra secure frequency (was anything ultra secure in this day and age) to explain their presense.

      “We’ve got to intercept Googlie”, Jeneba said. “He mustn’t attend that meeting this evening”.

      Where would he be?

      Paula knew.


      “So I need to warn her”, said Miles, earnestly talking to Sarah. Her life is in danger from her own Generals.”

      Sarah still was dubious. Oh, the story was plausible enough, and Alphonse, after he’d been persuaded to disengage his attack on Miles at the perimeter fence, seemed content enough to let Miles play with his tendrils. But Sarah had this gnawing suspicion at the back of her mind, to do with the other voices – presences – she’d detected in Miles head. They seemed not to be there now, or if they were, they were in the deep background.

      Alphonse was the key.

      If Alphonse thought that Miles was OK, then that was all right with her.

      “I’ll do it”, she said. “Here’s my clearance.”

      She put her thumb to Miles’ and searched her neural implants for the right command. Finding it, she activated, and the molecular badge unscrambled , leaving her thumb as it was, and reformed itself on Miles thumb. The transfer of the neural code was instantaneous.

      Miles was now authorized for sentinel duty at the Command Center.

      Bert sagged back, with perspiration dripping from his forehead.

      “Bingo”, he said.

      He toggled the commlink frequency.

      “The Larvae has hatched” he said and snapped it shut.


      Paula and Jeneba found him at the Paradise Garden.

      It was the Spartan monument to Planet. An ecology arcade with representation of every Planet native life form living in harmony with mature samples of every imported earth variety, in a controlled environment.

      Googlie loved spending time here, alone with his thoughts, especially in the shade of the giant firs that reminded him so poignantly of the years he had spent as a child in northern Scotland, and as an adult in the North American Pacific Northwest.

      True to form, Paula found him there, contemplating the scenery.

      “Googlie”, she yelled.

      He stood up languorously. “Paula, darling” he said, arms outstretched to embrace her.

      She folded into his arms, their lips meeting in a too-long-since-we-last-did-this kiss.

      As they lingered in each others’ embrace, her hand crept to the back of his neck, ruffling his graying hair. He squirmed with delight.

      She positioned the small nozzle against his skin, and activated.


      As the nervegas entered his bloodstream Googlie collapsed in her arms.

      “Help me, Jeneba” she said. “He’s heavy. He’ll be out cold for 24 hours.”

      They positioned the body against the tree as if in slumber, then left the garden


      • 2435 Hours
        In the escape trunck of the El Paso

        Adam muttered silently. The waters would be cold of this time of year. Maybe 20 degrees centigrade. Thank god he brought his insulated suit.

        It was 5 miles to the docks of Great Collective. Five long miles. It wouldn't be like the old days when he was a younger man. Back then he could swim for dozens of miles with 50 pounds of equipment and not even work up a sweat. But that was then. Now he was the equivelent of 45 years on Earth, although he was much older. He thought that this mission could be his swansong, a way to go out on top. Maybe he could leave the service. Maybe.

        "Mr. Twain" the captain barked into the intercom.

        "Yes, Commander?"

        "Sonar is picking up increased screw noise coming out of the naval facility in Great Collective harbor. I suggest you huury and get out soon before we meet the business end of a hive torpedo.".

        "Of course. Give me one moment. When I am ready I will signal. Flood the trunck, give me a minute to get clear and then get out of here.". He affixed his mask, breathing aparatus and his pack. He mumbled through the mouthpiece, "Once more into the breach". He then pressed a button on the panel beside him. Water began to then fill the chamber and engulf him. He felt the biting, icy sensation within a minute. After the chamber had filled, the hatch lifted open, and Adam then swam into the icy deep...........

        0256 Hours
        2 miles off Great Collective

        Twain stooped his breaststroke and aligned his body upright. He looked at his MFD display attatched to his pack. 2.12 miles. Great. He touched a button on the side of his pack, causing several air bladders to inflate. He then grabbed a pair of long-range binoculars and leaned slowly back. He peered slowly into them.

        "My, what have we here. The boys down in the docks here have been busy."

        Through the binoculars he spotted several naval ships. 1 destroyer. 2 cruisers. A couple of transport foils. Several local patrol craft. 3 torpedo boats. All lined up in a row. Must be a new rotation is coming on. New crews, new fuel, more supplies. Telling by the sparse activity, some wouldn't be out for hours, others days. But some were being retrofitted.

        Strangely the destroyer had several strange pieces of equipment in the process of being lowered onto it's rear deck.

        "Now why would these guys be doing this late at night." he mused.

        Adam pressed a button the binoculars to peek a little closer. He saw print on the side, but he couldn't read it. It was all in pinyin. Adam had a terrible time trying to learn anything remotely associated with the Hive. He barely spoke any Mandarin and didn't know much pinyin either. He could pick out sounds and important military terms.

        He zeroed in further on the new missle battery. 4 launch points, about half a meter in diamater. It wasn't a conventional missle battery..........

        [This message has been edited by Timexwatch (edited August 09, 1999).]
        If you look around and think everyone else is an *******, you're the *******.


        • Sparta Command, Temporary Office of Field Marshal Hui Wang, 2nd Armor


          Beldam reigned in the streets of Sparta Command after the explosion of the tactical nuclear device. Workers rioted through the streets while civilian and military authorities worked to pick up the pieces and tried to restore order. Although the damage was minimal and the loss of life small, the impact on the psyche of Spartan citizens was immense: they were no longer secure. Some reacted with renewed fervor and patriotism, others used the event as justification for airing their grievances in the streets. Regardless, the result was chaos. It was the first riot in Sparta Command in over 50 years.

          With a portion of the Spartan headquarters destroyed or contaminated with radiation, the branches of command were forced to take up residence elsewhere. Field Marshal Hui Wang, commander of the Spartan 2nd Armor, and his staff immediately commandeered a portion of the office complex of U.S. Army, Incorporated, the primary suppliers of rovers for the Spartan military. Due to the emergency, the contractors did not offer a word of protest. In fact, the Vice President and office manager graciously offered any of his staff during the crisis. A bill would be proffered at an appropriate time, of course.

          Field Marshal Wang settled into the Senior Vice President's office as his staff secured the facility and installed the adapters for the military communication system.

          Hui Wang was a small, wizened old man, barely 1.5 meters tall. He was one of the few remaining original Unity settlers, and was known as one of Coronal Santiago's strongest supporters. Quiet and thoughtful, he was far from the stereotype Spartan military officer. Whereas his compatriots were full of bluster and ego, Hui Wang relied on analysis and understated but decisive action. Originally, Wang and been an attaché in Yang's security forces while on Unity, but had quickly sided with Santiago during the final, chaotic moments prior to the landing. For 125 years he had served Santiago diligently in a variety of posts, ranging from Military Governor of Centurion Cave and Survival Base to Chief Intelligence Officer. He had been appointed Field Marshal of 2nd Armor for the last 6 years, after being reactivated from retirement for the fourth time. Wang's physical condition was worsening steadily since he had started refusing longevity treatments in MY 2184.

          Field Marshal's aid approached and snapped to attention. "2nd Leutenent Fergeson reporting, SIR! Complex secure and communications operative, SIR!"

          Wang turned toward the eager young officer. "Acknowledged. Return to Captain Ericksen and assist her in setting up open channels to the other command staff. Dismissed," Hui finished. His voice saw small and quiet like his stature, but his voice had the ability to penetrate even the most raucous discussion. Some said it was a whisper that roared.

          Fergeson saluted smartly, turned on his heal, and left the office, closing the door behind him. Wang strode toward his new desk, a rather opulent synth-cherry reproduction of an early 21st Century French design, and activated his datapad and toggled it to voice dictation:

          * Urgent Communiqué to 2nd Armor 'Rolling Thunder' Division Commander Rao Kosarau
          * Date - M.Y. 2225 9.17:1456
          * Ref ID - 29890-A-XXX
          * Authorization - 2nd Armor Field Marshal Hui Wang
          * R.E. - New Orders
          * Captain Kosarau, your previous orders to refit rovers in your command are rescinded. You are to take your 6 rover brigades and support the 469th Airborne in the assault on the Hive base Plex Anthill. Coordinate your actions with General Lockhart. This assault has the highest priority. Maximum force authorized.

          Field Marshal Wang ended dictation. He closed his eyelids, forcing a tissue culture contact lense in place over his left eye.

          "Verify, Field Marshal Hui Wang," he said, and presented his left eye for retinal and DNA scan.

          "Identity Hui Wang confirmed, send message?" the datapad prompted.

          "Affirmative," Wang replied.

          Wang reflected on the events on the last 8 hours. The partial destruction of the Spartan Headquarters meant that some element wanted the Spartan leadership decapitated. Any of the factions were potentially responsible, or even a faction within the Spartan Federation. More importantly, this faction or factions were motivated enough to commit an atrocity to accomplish their goals. Most disturbing.

          'Regardless of who was responsible', Wang thought, 'it is irritating that my plans were disrupted. My order to refit Rolling Thunder with nerve gas had to be rescinded. Santiago, wherever she is, had specifically ordered the immediate attack on Plex Anthill. Delay could only bring suspicion.'

          Wang's die had been cast long ago.

          'Yang will not be pleased,' Wang thought unhappily.


          • "I wish I were going with you" Stephen said. "You will take care, won't you?" he added, giving Julia's hand a friendly squeeze.

            She looked down at him.

            "We both know the rules Deirdre laid down" she said. "Both of us don't fly in the same aircraft, ever. We're the only two qualified pilots in the Gaian Air Force until we train some more, so we can't risk losing both of us."

            Stephen nodded, and stepped to the ground off the wing. Julia snapped shut her visor, and slid the canopy shut, giving Stephen the thumbs up.

            The fission engines had been fitted, the wings assembled, and the aircraft made ready for its test flight.

            Stephen nodded to Walther, the newly assigned mechanic, whe engaged the starter motor.

            The engines hummed to life, and Stephen pulled aside the blocks, giving Julia the okay sign with thumb and forefinger.

            She opened the throttle and slowly the sleek needlejet began to move. She built up the speed to a fast taxi speed, then slowed for the turn around on to the runway. This was going to be a bump and run test at first, just getting the wheels up, then coming down again.

            It went without incident.

            Next came the circuit of the airfield.

            Julia took this slowly, never retracting the undercarriage, and was pleased with the slow speed handling.

            Then came the real test.

            The small crowd was gathered around Stephen. The engineers, the retrotechs, the administrators, even the building maintenance staff, all were out to see the real maiden test flight.

            Julia gunned the engines, and by mid runway was wheels up. She retracted the undercarriage almost immediately, and climbing steeply, rocketed into the evening sky. She disappeared into the waning light of the setting suns, still too bright to gaze at with the naked eye.

            The crowd waited.

            Then one of the sharper eyed children yelled and pointed "There it is".

            Julia came in low and fast from the east, over the river that bisected Velvetgrass Point and that flanked the airbase. At just below the speed of sound she roared over, executing a perfect barrel roll along the length of the runway before standing it on its tail and bleeding speed quickly in a vertical climb.

            At the apex of the climb she inverted then finished the loop gracefully returning back down the runway heading east. She made a lazy circly and came in for a low, slow flyby with undercarriage and flaps extended. She waggled her wings over the crown, circled and then brought then plane in to a smooth landing. The crowd applauded and cheered. Stephen felt just a little bit envious, as he waited for her to taxi up to them.

            Julia unhitched the canopy and leapt down, taking off her helmet and shaking her hair free as she did so.

            "God, for one so talented she's mighty attractive", Stephen thought as he parted from the crowd to greet her.
            "Well?" he asked.

            "Handles beautifully", Julia said. "Quite taut, and instantly responsive. Maybe a tad less maneuverable, and a smidgeon slower than my Thrasher, but probably a more stable platform. Would make a better Bomber than Interceptor, I think."

            Stephen was quick on the uptake.

            "It's decided then, I'm Bomber Command and you're Fighter Command. We can change the needlejets' call signs afterwards. We're not changing aircraft."

            Julia laughed. "Oh, okay, have it your way. My old Thrasher fits like a shoe anyway. When we take off some of the tac pods that'll tweak its performance even more, so I won't complain. Three in the c0ckpit would be a squeeze anyway - there's more room in yours, being newer, the instrumentation doesn't take up so much room. Let's go have a java and look at who's graduating as whose crew"

            They linked arms and went to the messhall, leaving the plane in the capable hands of Walther.


            • I woke up shivering. Looking around, I saw that I was in my familiar spot in the garden, leaning my back against the giant fir and gazing out over the stretch of river that meandered through the garden.

              How had I gotten here?

              And more importantly, what was behind the cacophany of noise that was coming from the center of the Base?

              I eased myself to a standing position. My head felt woozy, like I had really hung one on.

              Had I? Was it my retirement bash? Had I drunk so much that I had stumbled here and passed out?

              I remembered meeting Paula - the kiss - then nothing. WOW, I made a mental note to remind myself next time I saw her to comment on her knockout sexuality.

              Had there been a party? Did I get so drunk that I now couldn't remember?

              I began walking to the crest of the hill, to the garden entrance.

              I stopped aghast.

              Looking down over the Base facilities, I saw the devastation caused by the explosion. the Command Center was no longer. A smoldering mass of rubble and twisted girders was all that remained, with people scurrying around.

              I peered more closely. Yellow suited figures, all wearing suits and masks.

              Radiation suits, I noted immediately. What the heck was going on?

              I walked the few blocks to my habitation complex.

              I keyed the 6 digit entrycode sequence into the lock, and waited till the elctronic door swung open. Entering, I climbed the two flights of stairs to my apartment. I keyed in the ten digit entrycode, and held my palm to the reader to confirm identity. My unit was one of the older ones, before optical computers had been discovered, so the retinal scan entrysysts had not been available when the habunit had been constructed.

              i walked over ot the couch, and sank into it, flipping on the telereceiver as i did so.

              The local news was on. Not a patch on MorganNews, somewhat amateurish in comparison, but more immediate and often more relevant.

              I caught the closing remarks of the newscaster:

              "And there you have it.

              "Contrary to the MorganNews report of late last evening none of the Spartan War Cabinet were injured in the attack.

              "Missing, presumed dead are only Colonel Santiago and her aide, Ayola Ramamurthy, the two Holoconferencing technicians who were co-ordinating the Virtual Meeting, and the ousted commander of the Empath Squad, Lieutenent Ann Rynn.

              "Lieutenant Rynn was abducted early last evening from the hospital where she was undergoing treatment. It is believed that the operative responsible for the attack was indeed Lieutenant Rynn's abductor.

              "This is the first known incident of nuclear explosives being used on Planet."

              I gazed at the screen. It was like watching an old 2D flick. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Santiago dead? Nuclear explosion? My first thought was "Paula's involved".

              Then I thought, "Maybe not. Maybe she knew something, and stopped me from attending.

              Then I remembered the newscaster - Virtual Meeting he'd said. So it was a holograph meeting.

              I flicked on my commlink, and dialled Slats number.

              "Air Marshall Miller is not receiving calls right now."



              "Field Marhsall Burge is not receiving calls right now."

              There was one person whom I could trust, one person whose idealism wouldn't have been perverted by the Hive, as they answered to a higher calling.

              I dialled.

              "Empath squad barracks, please identify yourself."

              "Retired Wing Commander Scott Allardyce", I harrumphed "looking for Sarah - the mindworm trainer - I can't recall her last name."

              "One moment please........SARAH, IT"S FOR YOU.." i heard the yell half way across the room.

              'Yeah?, Sarah here"

              "Sarah, its Scott Allardyce - Googlie. I need to see you. I'll come to the perimeter gate in half an hour. I need to ask you some questions. Bring Alphonse."

              Much to my consternation she burst into tears.

              "Alphonse has gone," she said.

              [This message has been edited by Googlie (edited August 08, 1999).]


              • Mechfarm northwest of Assassin's Redoubt


                Markus pulled his rented civilian rover into the farm complex where his parents, Sarah and Mickael, lived. There was a flurry of activity all around the complex, with crates and containers of personal belonging being loaded into ground transports. Mark drove the rover as close to his parent's apartment as he could to minimize Mary's discomfort. She was still in an aircast due to her broken legs from when their rover overturn during the Hive assault. The damage was not permanent, and, in fact, she would be almost fully healed in a couple of days.

                "Are you doing OK? Was the ride a little rough on you?" Markus inquired as he helped Mary out of the rover.

                "For the hundredth time, I'm fine. A little bump here and there is not going to kill me," Mary replied irritably. "Well, I am a bit tired. Maybe Sarah or Mickael could let me make something to eat, and maybe a cat nap," she continued, softening.

                "I'm sure they wouldn't mind," Markus said, pointedly not noticing her snap at him.

                <…humphf…> "Boy, you could still lose some weight. Maybe you should skip the lunch," Markus said lightly as helped her to the door. She responded by smacking him lightly on the back of the head.

                Markus grinned. She was getting better.

                Markus entered his entry code and the door opened. There was a clattering in the kitchen, and the common room was torn apart. Everything was displaced and in boxes, or in a pile for recycling.

                "Mom, Dad, it's me Mark," Markus yelled as they walked in.

                "Markus?! Markus! You should have called! We could have clean up, and gotten something prepared, or, oh, Markus, I was so worried!" Sarah said, making a B-line for them. "Mary! You came, too! Give me a hug!"

                Sarah gave them both a hug, her spare frame feeling frail against these two fit young people. She was smiling beatifically, with a hint of tears forming in her eyes. She gave each a quick peck.

                "You can't know how worried I was, because of the Hive attack. I knew you were in the rover brigade, I was so worried," she repeated. She clasped them tightly again, not wanting to let go.

                "Mom, you know I couldn't call. Protocol and all," Markus reminded her gently.

                "Yes, I know. I just couldn't stop thinking about my precious Markie, and you, too Mary," Sarah added. "Now, come and let me fix you something. We are moving. Did you know? No? Well, when they finished the Tree Farm the mechfarm became redundant. So they are moving us to a new facility in the Ponderosas! We are so excited! Have you been there? Oh, of course you have, on our family vacations. Well, now come and sit, so I can get you something to eat. I have fresh cantaloupe and home-baked whole grain bread! If I had known you were coming I could have made you your favorite goulash…" Sarah prattled.

                "Mom, where's Dad?" Markus interrupted, "We don't have much time, since we have to leave in less than three hours. Is he here?"

                "Only a couple of hours? No longer? Well, Mick is helping load the commissary, and can't be back until dark. He will be so disappointed! Are you sure you can't stay," Sarah asked wistfully.

                "No, we have new orders. We will probably be away for a while," Mark explained. He didn't have to say that he could not say what his orders were, and Sarah didn't ask.

                Sarah lead them into the kitchen and sat them down, and started fussing with the bread, getting them some ice water, and cutting and cleaning the cantaloupe.

                "Mom, this is important. Before we go I have to know something. I just had some memories when I was on my last assignment. It has to do with my rose tattoo," Markus stated.

                Sarah stopped, and seemed to sag slightly. "What did you remember," she asked quietly.

                Markus looked at Mary for support. "Well, I remembered living in the fungus, and having a mindworm Fluffy for a pet, and some tall and thin man and woman that were my parents," Mark stated hesitantly. "And that they gave me to you and Dad," Markus continued with a little pain in his voice. Mary held his hand, and squeezed it slightly.

                "I knew this day would come, someday," Sarah said. She turned, pulled a chair from the table, and sat down by Mary and Markus. She was obviously distressed. "What do you want to know? You have a right to know," Sarah added, her resolve strengthening.

                "Are you my parents? I mean, my biological parents? And, am I Gaian? I found that in the datalinks, the meaning of my rose tattoo. Why didn't you tell me all these years? How did you know my bioparents? And where are they?" Markus' questions just poured out.

                Sarah nodded. "Yes, your parents came to us when you were five and a half. We had been giving them food for years. They were such good people, too proud to ask for food, so we bartered what they could spare and always gave them more than they asked. They never explained why they lived in the fungus, but I suspected that they were Gaian. They had a crisis of some kind and hundred came out of the fungus, hungry and desperate. We took them in, all but a few, including your parents, who wouldn't stay. We are so remote out here on the mechfarm here that nobody notices. We agreed as a community to help. Kind of a Good Samaritan conspiracy, " Sarah said with a tired grin.

                Sarah reached out and took Markus' other hand and looked directly into his eyes. "You have to understand. We didn't have any children, and no one could help us. Spartan society does not really value people who aren't warriors, and neither your Dad nor I were deemed fit to be in the military. If we told you, it might have gotten out, and then you and your Dad and I would have gotten in a lot to trouble. They might have taken you from us, and done horrible things to all those innocent people now living here on the farm and at Assassin's Redoubt. Do you understand?" Sarah asked, beseechingly.

                Markus thought for a while, and looked at the two hands holding his. Then he looked at Mary, who nodded approvingly, then at his Mother.

                "Yes, I understand. I will always love you and Dad, no matter what. But, do you know where my biological parents are?" Markus responded.

                "No. We never saw them again, and no one else ever came out of the fungus. The rest of the Gaians grieved as if they were dead, but I don't know." Sarah finished sadly.

                They were quiet for a while.

                Then Mark broke the silence. "OK, so how about that bread, and cantaloupe?"

                Sarah was obviously glad to be finished. "I'll have it right away! Just sit tight! Oh, and call your Dad on the datalinks. At least say hello!"

                Sarah happily puttered and fussed and served them huge portions of bread with real honey, and perfectly sweet cantaloupe.

                Everything was delicious.


                • Kurt watched the debate with interest.

                  There were about eighty in the clearing in the fungus, ostensibly on a beautification walk - at least that was what they had posted with the authorities. It had been taken at face value. "A bunch of concerned citizens going to clean out the dead and decaying fungus near the forest's edge to prevent further encroaching on the forest itself.

                  The younger people - about a third of them - were voting in favor. The older group, about one tenth, were vociferously in favor. The middle group, about half of the attendees, were sitting on the fence.

                  The debate was whether their disobedience should escalate from the mildly passive, bible reading and whispering to neighbors and passersby and clandestine meetings to a more aggressive anti-authoritarian overt disobedience. Whether loss of life was ever justified. Whether sabotage was condoned by scripture.

                  Kurt had contacted the stallkeeper right after the Sparta Command explosion. Notwithstanding that Miles Cavenagh was a renegade Spartan - people there would assume that it was some wild revenge against having his mind tampered with in the neural grafting process - and indeed Hive operatives were already planting that story - Kurt knew the truth.

                  He'd gone to the stallkeeper and said:

                  "I need to meet your leaders. The nuclear explosion in Sparta Command wasn't a dissident Spartan. It was planed by one of our Hive operatives."

                  The meeting had been convened, and Kurt had addressed the group.

                  "I'm not as religious as you - in fact I have been brought up as an atheist ever since I was separated from my parents. I gather some of you older folks remember my parents - and even me as a snotty nosed kid playing around your feet.

                  "But I have become increasingly disenchanted with living under a repressive regime in a Police state, where individual expression isn't tolerated, and the right to assemble and worship is forbidden. And I am privy - as you are not - to some of the excesses of our rulers, and the lengths they will go to to remain in power and to wage this war against our neighbors.

                  "So my motives in coming here to address you are not driven by a desire to worship openly, without fear of retribution, or to re-establish the old Believer ways. Nor are they driven by any desire on my part to set up a government or to work in politics to change the government we have.

                  "They are less pure, my friends.

                  "I am an empath. That's right. I can read some thoughts, and anticipate certain of your actions by being in your minds.

                  "I was in the mind of that young man that was sent on a suicide mission to Sparta Command. Oh, I was not controlling him - a colleague was. I was a sort of sentry, there to ensure that if things got difficult I could help subdue him from a distance.

                  "But I was in his mind. He had a girlfriend - a beautiful woman. A pilot in the Spartan Air Force. He had friends and colleagues. Parents who loved him. He had dreams and aspirations. He has befriending Planet, and learning to tame mindworms. And we sent him to a horrible death; - death that brought with it the death of almost the entire Spartan war cabinet, including their leader, Colonel Santiago.

                  "Some of you may rejoice, and say 'good riddance' but their deaths were brought about through the detonation of a nuclear device.

                  "We planted this device on his body - no, in his body.

                  "We neurally wired his brain so that at the right command from my colleague he would speak the word that would trigger the detonator.

                  "In effect, we exploded that nuke on our enemy.

                  "I cannot serve this regime any longer under these circumstances. So I have defected. Not to the Spartans - I don't think that they are any better.

                  "I have defected to the faction of my parents and grandparents, to your faction, to the Nascent Believers.

                  "I intend to harass and sabotage the Hive war effort, its leaders and its government. It is the least I can do to expiate my guilt in complicity of this atrocity. And I am starting tonight.

                  "If any are willing to join me, I will train you.

                  "If none want to join me, I will do alone what I can do to bring this government down.

                  "If the Spartans invade, although whether they will have the capability with their leadership assassinated, I shall meet them with open arms and embrace them as friends and liberators.

                  "For I am no longer a soldier of the Human Hive. I am a Believer.

                  "Are you?"

                  Then the debate had begun.

                  When it had ended, about 50 had lined up behind Kurt to enlist in "The Army of The Lord" as active recruits. The balance agreed to act as runners, liaisons, missionaries, financiers and recruiters. Plans were made to open links with other underground believer networks in other Bases, and Kurt agreed to go to Great Clustering, where the largest network was, to address the group there.

                  The meeting ended with a bonfire, as they had to prove to the authorities that they had indeed tidied up the forest fringes.

                  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +

                  Kurt had never tried this before.

                  He stood at the door, and concentrated on the lock.

                  He mentally dialed up his empath enhancer, his'gland', as he called it. Rarely used, as he was latently strong enough to do without most of the time, but occasionally useful.

                  Untried on inanimate objects, though.

                  He hadn't needed much effort on the street door to the habitation complex.

                  He'd waited until a likely victim came along to the door, then flashed his army ID badge, and said gruffly "Apartment 2212 - military police. Unforewarned search". The US gambit worked every time on an unsuspecting public used to dead of the night searches and removals of neighbors. The man had let Kurt in without a squeak.

                  The apartment door was different, though.

                  He focussed on the array of buttons on the digital pad.

                  Then sent his awareness into the room, and encountered the mind, jumbled, occupied, incoherent, but the number was there.

                  He entered the code, and the apartment door swung noiselessly open.. He padded in.

                  In the lounge, Bert was lounging naked with his back to the entranceway, with vidcom glasses on. On the giant screen on one wall was the blonde pilot straddling Miles. Sweat was running down Bert's temples as he strove himself to keep to the rhythm the girl was maintaining.

                  His hoarse voice was saying, in time with miles, "Oh Lisa, wait for me, wait for me."

                  Kurt drew his riotcontrol nerveprod stick he'd requisitioned from the armory that afternoon, and dialed it to max. he padded up behind Bert, reached out, and touched him on the side of the neck, toggling the switch as he did so.

                  Bert froze in shock as the paralysis was instantaneous.

                  Kurt moved round in front of him.

                  His wide eyes showed the recognition - and wonder. His vocal chords were paralyzed, so he could not utter a word.

                  Kurt took his backpack from his shoulders, and opened it. He pulled out the contents piece by piece, and showed them to Bert as he arrayed them on the floor beside him.

                  Bert's eyes were wide with horror as he recognized the items.

                  Kurt found the power source, and plugged in the base unit. He connected the nodes to their receptacles, then placed the plasteel cap on Bert's head. He connected the sensor filaments, and moistened the pads and placed them on Bert's temples and at the base of his skull.

                  He connected the filament probes, then looked at the set up. Satisfied, he turned a dial and the equipment hummed to life.

                  The filaments snaked out and met the sensor pads, penetrating the neural cortex rapidly and easily. They searched for the interstices where the synapses joined and separated, and each time they encountered the join the current surged and the synapse fused. After a few seconds it was done.

                  Kurt removed the apparatus, and stowed the equipment back into his backpack.

                  He drew his shredder pistol, set to flame, and turned to the Vidtrance equipment. One burst was enough to incinerate the tape that Bert had somehow manufactured from the dream sequence. The image of Lisa faded from the screen. "I hope you find another man worthy of you" he whispered to the blank screen.

                  He turned to Bert.

                  "You've no idea what I'm saying to you, but in case there are recorders operating, note this:

                  "The nerveprod will weaken in about one hour.

                  "This attack was not random. It is in revenge for the Hive nuking of the Spartan Command Center through this operative

                  "I am a Believer"

                  He padded out and closed the door on the nervestapled Bert.


                  • Googlie met Sarah at the perimeter gate of the Empath squad barracks.

                    "I'm ravenous" said Googlie. "I haven't eaten in what seems like 20 hours. Can I buy you dinner and you tell me what's been happening?"

                    "Sure" was Sarah's reply. "The mess food isn't the best in the world."

                    They went down the alleyway between the Rec Commons and the Biology Lab, to the Medici Taverna, which specialized in reconstituteds. Kelp was their basic building block, from the offshore kelp farm, but their imaginative chef could have you believing that you were eating rack of lamb or pacific salmon, instead of just kelp.

                    They got a corner table, and after ordering Googlie said "Suppose you start at the beginning."

                    Sarah did.

                    At the end Googlie whistled softly.

                    "Well, MorganNews reported them all as killed, except you and Lord Atreus" Sarah said sniffling, but through Alphonse Planet told me only four had died."

                    "Planet told you this? How?" Googlie asked.

                    Sarah explained.

                    "Then that means that Santiago isn't dead, that she wasn't at that meeting in person. It must have been her holo as well" said Googlie, half to himself.

                    "But where's Alphonse?" he added.

                    That set Sarah sniffling again.

                    "I dunno" she said. "After the voices in my head I went off to find an officer to report all this to - there's just nobody around the squad these days. When I came back, he was gone. I tried empathetically, but couldn't detect anything, even with the enhancement."

                    "That's strange", said Googlie. "He's never wandered off by himself before."

                    "Well, " Sarah said, the tears beginning to well up again, "it might have been something I said."

                    "Said?" inquired Googlie.

                    "Yeah. When the Voices stopped, just before I left, I said to him 'I ought to turn you loose to see if there are any more'. And I heard him - you know, when the thought comes right into your head as though he were actually speaking, in that disjointed way.." Googlie nodded.. "saying 'loose - not understanding we EarthSarah.' I said 'you know, free. On your own. Without me holding you back. So that you can communicate with your brothers and not have to explain to me. Free' - or words to that effect. He said 'free - understand we free' and when I came back from the guardhouse he was gone."

                    "Interesting" said Googlie. "I wonder if he interpreted that as setting him free - sort of sending him back to the wilds."

                    "If he did," said Sarah, "I wonder where he'd go?"

                    "Yes", said Googlie. "I wonder?"


                    • Assassin's Redoubt and Plex Anthill, Emerald Isle


                      Maria Martinez, pilot of Aardvark 1, approached her beloved but obsolete fission needlejet. Her flight crew already had checked it over and it was fully fueled, but Maria insisted on a final check. Her life depended on it.

                      In 25 minutes she was scheduled to scout the forces stationed at Plex Anthill in preparation for the mass assault lead by the 469th Airborne and supported by Rolling Thunder. In having to pilot an old Thrasher, other pilots considered her to be the bottom of the pilot barrel, but she was happy to provide support for her friends in the Rolling Thunder rover brigades and the 469th.

                      The information she would gather would save countless Spartan lives. If that wasn't the definition of duty and bravery, than Maria didn't know what was


                      ~~ Pilot Martinez to Assassin's Redoubt, reporting in. Just finished crossing the Great Fungal wall and passing over the Hive base Plex Anthill. The Hive-constructed Great Fungal Highway from Plex Anthill to Assassin's Redoubt is intact. In the fields on the eastern and northern areas of Plex Anthill are destroyed farms and considerable Hive wreckage, courtesy of the 469th. Good job, guys! No sensors are in view.

                      ~~ Approaching the base now. Hive perimeter defense is intact, with only minimal surface installations visible. Based on the surface signature, it looks pretty big and might contain up to 40,000 citizens.

                      ~~ Within 1000 meters, and I can make out numerous military units. I am squirting my visual to you now. There are at least 3 defensive garrisons, looks like plasma armor. One obviously has antiaircraft ability. Wow! There are 2 rover brigades, unknown weapons but they look unarmored. At least 5 assault infantry with huge missile launchers and plasma armor. Their equipment looks pretty new, might be recent recruits. That's good news for our side.

                      ~~ Coming back around to view the other side of the base. There are two transports in an underground harbor. No wonder there are so many Hive here. I see a landing strip, and 3 planes. Must be the 32nd Hive bomber group.

                      ~~ Wait! One of them is lifting off! On an attack vector! Pulling off!

                      ~~ Can't shake him! Banking left.

                      ~~ Still can't shake him!

                      ~~ Can't get away! I'm too low! Squirting all video!

                      <… sounds of missile impacts, and the crackling of fire, and a muffled scream…>



                      The nine companies that made up 469th Airborne's Discipline, Sacrifice, and Victory Battalions were traveling southwest along the Great Fungal Highway back toward Plex Anthill. Their best weapon, airdrop and surprise, was useless since they had no air transport. They needed to be in a city for that. So, they were back to being infantry grunts and rover pukes again.

                      But, they were very good infantry grunts and rover pukes.

                      A collective cheer rose from the ranks as a single Spartan needlejet was seen streaking over their position toward Plex Anthill, which was just over the horizon. The needlejet receded toward the underground city. It looked like a little black speck that buzzed the Hive colony, and looped around and dived low. Then a vaguely bluish speck rose to meet it. The little speck pulled northeast, trying go get away. Soon a tiny flash appeared on the retreating speck. It tumbled and fell from the sky.

                      The cheering stopped abruptly.

                      Lt. Colonel Thomas "Squelch" Reich of Discipline Battalion called Lt. Colonel Eiton "Tweak" Farley of Sacrifice Battalion and Lt. Colonel Richard "Rico" Gomez of Victory Battalion, "Damn shame, brave gal. Did you get her transmission?"

                      "Yah, it'll be a good fight," Tweek replied.

                      "Rico here. Tell those candy ass Rolling Thunder dandies to get their pasty white butts down here. We'll need 'em."


                      Nans Andersen, pilot of Aardvark 2, was abnormally calm. He had just heard that Maria had been shot down. She had drawn out their interceptor, and paid with her life. Now Nans would pin the bastards and prevent any counterattack until the infantry and rovers were in position.

                      Fusion chaos verses fission plasma armor, even with a perimeter defense and base advantage, meant that the 469th and Rolling Thunder would toast them. The attackers would have over a 2:1 attack verses defense advantage, but they have to get into position first.

                      'That is my job,' Nans thought to himself, 'let them get into position.'

                      "This is for you, Maria," Nans intoned somberly as he pulled up and toward Plex Anthill.


                      Three Rolling Thunder rover brigades that had just finished ambushing four Hive rover brigades in the Great Fungal Wall were about ready to join up with the 469th, who were traveling at half their speed down the Great Fungal Highway. The 469th only moves as fast as it's slowest unit, which if the infantry. This was fine, since it would allow the rovers to catch up.

                      "Rolling Thunder detachment reporting for duty. By order of Field Marshal Hui Wang and agreement by General Lockhart, I hereby place us at your disposal. Commander Rao is following. They were a little, shall we say, indisposed due to the Hive cleansing they did at Assassin's Redoubt," Lieutenant Sid Meyers joked.

                      "Glad you finally got here. Almost missed all the fun. Pull in behind Captain Gerald "J.R." Molina's rovers of Lambda Company. You, plus Raptor and Omega Companies, make six rover brigades. If Rao's other 3 brigades get here we'll have nine. That, plus our 6 infantry, should cook 'em," Lt. Colonel Thomas "Squelch" Reich confidently predicted.

                      A low rumble was heard overhead.

                      Lar's needlejet was streaking overhead, and strafing and running just outside the Hive base. He was keeping outside of weapons range, but threatening any Hive unit that might try to come at them. The Hive interceptor was still returning from flaming Maria's needlejet, and could be seen approaching at maximum speed. But it wasn't going to make it.

                      "Attention all units, dive for the protection of that needlejet! Maximum speed!" Squelch ordered.

                      The infantry and armor were traveling downhill, and were within spitting distance of Plex Anthill.


                      "Heads up! Here comes the Hive 32nd Bombers!" Squelch yelled.

                      Safely under the air canopy of Nans' needlejet, Squelch watched helplessly as the bombers rode down upon the Rolling Thunder detachment, which were still trailing the main group of the 469th.

                      Bomber bays opened, and it rained missiles. These immediately acquired the rovers from two brigades and homed in.

                      The ground shook with the concussive impacts. And with exploding rovers.

                      When the earth stopped trembling, rovers from only one of the three brigades emerged.

                      The bombers stood in between the 469th and the rest of the Rolling Thunder rovers.

                      There would be no reinforcements.

                      "Boys, were on our own," Squelch announced, "Fire up the chaos guns. It's shootin' time."


                      Commander Rao just exited the Great Fungal wall, just in time to watch in horror as the Hive bombers descended and ripped apart two of his brigades. The explosions rippled through his command, and his friends.

                      The Hive was doing to him what Nans was doing to the Hive. Being cut off, they wouldn't be able to help. Their rovers were moderately to severely damaged, but in the end any help could be vital. Rao cursed to himself, and wished the 469th luck.


                      "Fire!" Captain Chris "Deuce" Duesing of Alpha Company screamed to his infantry. Their giant siege chaos gun let rip, along with small arm fire from Siphon Chaos Assault Rifles. The chaos guns pumped huge amount of energy into the air and ground, causing it to explode outward and inward. Coalescing shock waves built up energy fronts that intermingled, creating sympathetic explosions. The nearest Hive fission plasma garrison was either incinerated, ripped apart, or buried alive. A trivial amount of backwash energy damaged Alpha Company, injuring some of the solders.

                      Captain Ivan "the terrible" Lincowski' men and women of Delta Company was so experienced that as soon as Alpha Company was done, his men started firing as if on queue. A second Hive plasma garrison vanished in a sheet of energy and stone. By the time of this firing, great rents were becoming visible in the ant-like exterior of the base.

                      The rubble hadn't even settled yet before Captain Nathan Gatesly of Caffeine Company gave his order to fire. Thee last Hive plasma garrison was torched. But with an almost 3:1 attack advantage, very little damage was done in return.

                      Captain Yancy "Oz" Alsbrook of Ozone Company, Captain Tobey McClusky of Tau Company, and Captain Muhammad "Dingo" Javed of Omega Company all fired more or less simultaneously. Three huge rents were created, along with an enormous amount of small craters from their Spitfire chaos rifles. This time, rumbles from deep within the Hive base Plex Anthill showed the missiles from their plasma missile infantry were hit. Their ammunition was going off, creating huge billows of dust, debris, metal, and body parts to shoot out of the base into the air around the 469th from the chasms ripped by the chaos guns. Some joked it was raining Hive. The joking stopped when boulders the size of roves started landing in the lines, killing men and destroying equipment.

                      The infantry was exhausted, and was hunkering down to recharge and regroup. Now it was the turn of the chaos rovers. Captain Gerald "J.R." Molina of Lambda Company poked their noses over their cover, all 10 rovers that made up the company discharged their chaos guns in unison. Their combined firepower was not quite as effective as the infantry siege guns, but they still had over a 2:1 advantage. A satisfying rumble from deep underground indicated a direct hit. Another Hive missile infantry had been hit.

                      Rovers from Captain Terance "Grover" Grove's Raptor Company finished off the last missile infantry unit.

                      After 12 hours of continuous fire, the last serious resistance had been eliminated. Now all that remained were unarmored rover brigades and transports. Lt. Colonel Thomas "Squelch" Reich yelled gleefully, "OK, FIRE AT WILL. LET'S FINISH IT."

                      The remaining rovers, including the single rover brigade from Rolling Thunder to make it, fired a sheet of chaos death. Finally, sympathetic explosions stopped and the last defenders had been eliminated. Holes the size of houses had been opened up at least a dozen locations, each of which poured out smoke.

                      Victory Battalion Commander Lt. Colonel Richard "Rico" Gomez called up Captain Clintworth "Eastwood" Forbes of Seta Company, "East, take your rovers in and secure the city! For the Glory of Sparta!"

                      Rovers from Seta, followed by rovers from Raptor and Lambda Companies entered Plex Anthill.


                      Rao, Markus, and Mary of rover Lightning Brigade watched the destruction from the edge of the Great Fungal Wall. The first hits by the infantry's siege guns were truly impressive, as they tore great chunks of earth and stone out of the Hive's natural perimeter defense. Heaven help defenders without such defenses. Gradually, the smoke and debris obscured the battlefield, so that after 6 hours no one could clearly see what was going on. Even the skyeyes were blinded. The couple that ventured into the fray were quickly destroyed by the waves of energy and flying debris.

                      After 18 hours it was clearly over. Three Spartan rover companies of the 469th entered and secured the city. The single Rolling Thunder rover brigade had taken out the two transports. Still, Rao didn't begrudge the 469th their victory. They deserved every bit of credit they got.

                      In Rao's mind the true heros were Maria Martinez and Nans Andersen. Without their sacrifices the infantry would have been chewed up by the defenders, or possibly destroyed. Almost out of fuel, Nans did a barrel roll as he landed his needlejet on the newly occupied airstrip.


                      The Hive 32nd Bomber group no longer had a base to return to. So, they aimed for the defending Spartan infantry in a suicide attack. The two bombers' missiles did serious damage to Alpha and managed to destroy Delta Company in a massive carpet-bombing effort before ditching into the Chiron ocean. The interceptor tried to recalibrate its guns for ground targets, but failed. It decided to finish what the bombers had started, and did a kamikaze run on Alpha squadron. As the plane discharged its weapons it impacted in the center of the infantry, exploding in a massive fireball. Alpha company was gone.


                      The wreckage of Maria Martinez's needlejet was found six hours after the assault ended, along with her twisted and burned remains. It looked like she had automatically ejected from her needlejet, but had later died alone and in agony from burns and trauma in the fungus after a particularly hard landing.

                      She, along with Captain Chris "Deuce" Duesing of Alpha Company and Captain Ivan "the terrible" Lincowski of Delta Company, were hailed as the Heros of Plex Anthill.

                      The Spartan victory at Plex Anthill was the first decisive victory of the Hive-Spartan war.

                      [This message has been edited by Hydro (edited August 08, 1999).]


                      • Chapter the Fourth

                        The rumbling sounds of the Isle of the Deep as it slithered through the water was nothing compared to the psionic power that Atreus could feel emanating from the thousand-fold consciousness that it consisted of. He was glad that his men were not here. They would have been held in stark terror by this Mature Boil's "greeting." Well, not a "greeting," really. The Isle sounded rogue, vicious, and angry. Atreus had felt uneasy about the whole deal from the start, and the emotions of the Isle did not comfort him at all.

                        He had just been settling into the position of Director of the Psionic Forces--headquartered in Sparta Command--when he had received these new instructions. They had come from the Commander in Chief herself. She had told him of a deal that they had made with the Gaians--"our greatest psionic acquisition yet," she had called it. The details were ambiguous, but the orders had been clear: Go to Byzantium and oversee the acquisition of our first Isle of the Deep.

                        Atreus had never seen an Isle of the Deep and had sometimes doubted that they were real. Scientists gave flimsy arguments for their existence, at best. The sovereign difficulty had been that they had based all their theories on reports from naval crew members who had survived the trauma of an Isle of the Deep attack. It was not the most sound foundation to establish a hypothesis upon.

                        A transport had taken him from Ironholm to the secret military base of Byzantium. He was pleased to see that a good portion of his escort consisted of men that he had commanded and fought with during the First Hive War. The time passed away with the recounting of old war tales and the like. As they approached their destination, Atreus was informed in full of this secret base called Byzantium.

                        Much of the information pertaining to Byzantium was shrouded in mystery. Only those very high in the ranks had access to information about it. It was located on the southwest coast of the Monsoon Jungles, near the great fungal blooms of the Pholus Ridge. This continent--loosely referred to as the "Dark Continent"--was strategically located between the Spartan, Morgan, Hive, and Gaian factions. In the pending invasion, the Dark Continent would be a useful waypoint for the transport of the various military forces.

                        Byzantium had been established on the Dark Continent for three purposes: to provide a central base from which development of the fertile Dark Continent could commence; to act as a training ground and research facility for the Psi Corps; and to be a refueling station for the impending invasion. Upon arrival, Atreus had been surprised at the high level of development that Byzantium had already reached. Though not a bustling port town like Ironholm, it was fairly well developed.

                        The buildings still reflected the austere architecture and reserve present in all Spartan buildings. However, the designer took more liberties in designing something more original. The buildings were still dark (nay, darker!), and it was apparent that the designer had been heavily influenced by the Gothic period. The streets were lined up in perfect order, like that of the other Spartan cities. And, like other Spartan cities, it was depressing.

                        Lord Vladimir Atreus descended from his rocky perch to the cove that the Isle had entered. There was a slithering sound as the colony rearranged itself to form a bridge from the edge of the shoreline to the Isle. Atreus peered into the vast labyrinth of the Isle and was astounded by its complexity. From a pocket in the Isle arose the Gaian ambassador. He gestured to Atreus to cross the bridge. Keeping his mind attuned to the Isle--and to the Gaian--he crossed the bridge.

                        Upon crossing the bridge, the Gaian greeted him. "Greetings from Deirdre, Lord Atreus. I have heard much of your feats. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Li Win of the Gaian Planetwalkers."

                        This fellow has a potent latent power. Planetwalkers, Atreus thought, is that what these Gaians call their Psi Corps? "Good morrow, Li Wihn. Welcome to Spartan Lands. I trust your voyage was without incident?"

                        "Indeed it was, your excellency," Li responded, "we managed to outmanoeuvre Hive forces. They have been busy with their war preparations to keep up with their sentinal posts. Even if we were to run afoul of them, this Isle would have sufficient power to fight off a good number of their most advanced ships."

                        "I have no doubt that it would have. I can sense its great power." Atreus sensed pride in the Gaian. He could tell that Li had raised this Isle from its very beginnings. But there was also something else: This one holds great hate and anger within him. The Hive's many atrocities have reached far and permeated throughout Planet. Atreus thoughts lingered on his wife. Opening that lock of memory released a fountain of emotions: love, joy, fear, anguish, and...hate.

                        "Indeed. It takes an adept handler to manage a worm of such great power and vigour, though I doubt that one of your abilities would have any problem with it" replied the Gaian, purposely breaking Atreus out of his reverie.

                        "But our Psionic Corps is young. There are none other than myself in the Spartan Psi Corps that reach your level of disclarity," replied Atreus, trying to concentrate on matters at hand.

                        "That will not pose so great a problem," responded Li, "a number of lesser Empaths may join together to control a worm. It is actually recommended that there be, at the minimum, three handlers for one worm, especially at this level of development. One that is raised from an early stage is easier to control than one that is caught from the wild. This Isle, as you have already guessed, was mine to train since its larvæ stage. Thus, I am easily able to control it by myself. It is now quite a behemoth. Numerous battles with the Hive have spurred its great growth."

                        The dark sky rumbled, and grey clouds rolled on the horizon. Thunder could be heard in the distance. The Isle of the Deep groaned in dissatisfaction.

                        "Planet is aroused," Li said, his face darkening at the sky, " A storm is headed this way, and, from the looks of it, a big one. As I understand it, your excellency, you have a legion to be transported. They must hurry, if they are to escape the savagery of Chiron."

                        "I will contact them," Atreus said as he turned to walk back to the shore.

                        "But of course, your excellency," came Li's haunting response juxtaposed over the rumble of thunder. Atreus turned around to see Li's eyes, dark and sinister--much like the presence of the Isle. Atreus turned to go.

                        Atreus reached the shore and went farther to escape Li's telepathic presence. This meeting did nothing to assuage his troubled thoughts. If anything, he was even more uneasy about the entire deal.

                        From his rocky perch, Atreus contacted his men.

                        James Drake was in a panic. He had been so careful in eluding the Hive detection systems, and yet he had still failed to deactivate a number of sensors. Ever since his last audacious break-in, they had stepped up security. Now, the Hive forces were after him. No telling what things would happen to him if they caught him with the crucial Hive data paks that he had stolen--even he dreaded the infamous Ashaandi's Circle.

                        There were not that many places to hide in the simple Hive Command Centres. The Morgan Command Centres--James knew from personal experience--were far more elaborate. He had memorised the layout of the building by heart, but that did little use if every corridor was filled with Hive troops. James tried to calm himself and remember where he was, precisely.

                        He was in an air duct between the first and basement levels. He had to reach the basement level where his personal Isle of the Deep lay hidden in the vast Hive network of sewers, ensuring his path to sure freedom. Above him, he could feel the emotions of countless anxious souls, fearing the punishment that they would face if they failed to catch this saboteur.

                        James continued to slither through the air duct. He reached a grate that would allow him access to the basement floor. James extended his awareness outward and found nought that would trouble him. He opened the grate and stepped onto the synthemetal floor.

                        He walked through the corridors, carefully keeping an eye out for Hive guards. He had managed to disable all basement detectors, so they would be hard-pressed to find his location. He reached the sewer ducts without incident and was ready to call out to his Isle when he heard a movement from behind.

                        "Stop right there!" shouted a Hive guard. James slowly turned around to see two Hive guards pointing their laser rifles at him.

                        "Put your hands in the air!" one of them shouted.

                        As James started to raise his hands, he called towards the Isle of the Deep. In response, the larvæ Isle raised out of the water and "sang" to the guards.

                        Immediately, the two Hive guards fell to the floor, screaming. James psionically "grabbed" the two rifles and crushed them in the air. He took the two ruined piles of synthemetal and smashed them into the guards' faces. They fell back, flailing in pain as their blood splattered on the floor. Good, they're still alive, thought James. He called forth the larvæ mind worm on the Isle, and they ravenously sped towards the guards. James lifted the two guards into the air, just out of reach of the mind worms. Let them see the face of death. As they hung suspended in the air, the guards begged for mercy. In scarce recognisable voices, they pleaded for their lives. James smashed their frenzied thoughts and forcibly imposed his own haunting image in their minds: Know this, you pathetic drones: We are the Planet Sedition, and we will smash your corrupt and hypocritical "Human Hive" into oblivion. We will destroy your self-proclaimed God, that tyrant Yang, and establish that one order that is absolute: namely, the utter absence of order.

                        James let the guards drop into the ravenous mind worm pit. He laughed with glee as terrible screams echoed throughout the twisted cavern.
                        [This message has been edited by Atreus (edited August 08, 1999).]


                        • The news came through as Jill was eating supper.

                          "Slats here. We've taken Plex Anthill. Think about redeployment. I've already ordered Evans and Singh there. They'll need Indigos. Probably two. A vet and a rookie. Use Wilma with the rookie - I've already talked to her about that. She's onside."

                          "Right sir. I'll get on to it," she replied.

                          What assets did she have, and where?

                          Rudi, Dexter and Lisa were at Fort Soup, having flown CAPs and recon for the 47th engagement there.

                          That left Pedro Martinez. Fortuitously he and his crew were at Admiralty Base which was within range of Plex Anthill for a one way trip. She could send Amanda Gerling over with Lisa's old Thrasher now that her Indigo series replacement had arrived. After the next Indigo became available for Amanda, the Thrasher could be given to the Rolling Thunder for conversion to an Aardvark.

                          Amanda had just received her pilot's wings, the short ceremony of the evening before being interrupted by the newsflash announcing Santiago's death. Miller had advised her that he thought that Santiago had not been there in person either, but no communique had been received to the contrary so the Junta was ruling under the collective signature of Field Marshall Burge until the situation had been cleared up.

                          And as Burge was esconsed in some Monolith somewhere with the imnvasion plans and map spread out, it meant that Slats himself, as the only Junta member based in Sparta Command, was effectively running the Federation until Googlie, already the ranking Diplomat without having been a day in office, could be found.

                          So Slats was just issuing non controversial order mainly regarding cleanup.

                          He had suggested that Wilma Statham could crew for Amanda Gerling, and that made sense.

                          Jill issued the orders.


                          The two lumbering Penetrators came in low to avoid detection. They'd flown at about 100 meters across the ocean from Admiralty base where they'd refuelled, figuring that the slightly longer route was safer than going via Assassins Redoubt. A direct flight from Fort Soup was just beyond their capabilities.

                          Sheila Sawyer, pinwheel Three's Ops Officer, had finally breached commlink silence as they were nearing Plex Anthill, partly to alert any trigger happy Spartans that the incomings were friendly, and partly to get directions and weather info for the airfield.

                          The landing strip jutted into the ocean immediately south of the perimeter defense system of the Base, and the two pens rolled in from the sea.

                          Bob Rzonca, head of the engineering detatchment from the Rolling Thunder Brigade was waiting with some of his men to camouflage the Pens - they were expecting an imminent attack from Yang's air force and without Interceptors didn't want to park the Pens in hangers.

                          Evans was saddened to learn of Maria's death. He'd been one of her instructors when she'd gone through flying school on secondment from the Division. They chatted as they unloaded the ordnance from the Pens, and as the two mechanics who'd flown in the jump seats fussed over the needlejets to bed them down until deployment orders came.

                          Rzonca perked up when Sing told him that an Indigo and a Thrasher were on their way and that the Thrasher would be theirs to modify as soon as a new Indigo rolled off the production line.

                          As they talked and busied themselves with the Pens there was an earsplitting roar as two jets came in fast and low from the north. One peeled off over the ocean in a turn that brought it around to its landing path. The other came in low over Plex Anthill to the airbase then stood on its tail and accelerated through the sound barrier in a vertical climb that sent it rapidly out of sight above them.

                          The other, an older Thrasher model, rolled up to them on the completion of their landing.

                          "Must be the new pilot, Evans said. They always start out with the crap needlejets."

                          "Hey, wash your mouth out." Rzonca interjected. "That's about to be our newest and most beautiful addition in a few weeks."

                          To their surprise it was Pedro and Paul Sturgeon who revealed themselves when the canopy was pulled back.

                          "Who's the hotshot, then?" asked Evans. "In Indigo four?"

                          "Oh, that's Amanda Gerling" was Pedro's response. "She wanted to fly the Fusion Jet over and I agreed - she'll need to get used to one and put in the hours when she can - it'll be tough when the flak flies."

                          "What's with the stunt?" asked Rzonca.

                          "Oh, just a show of force to intimidate the natives a bit - show off our air superiority, and a morale booster for our troops. We talked about that, and agreed it was a good idea."

                          They looked out over the Base.

                          The Indigo series needlejet was approaching again, this time at a slower speed. As she down the road from the Northeast, past the line of farms that showed the severity of the battle for the base she executed a perfect eight point roll, then began the lazy loop out to sea to commence the landing approach.

                          Bringing in the plane gently to a touchdown, Amanda rolled it along the taxi strip to the dispersal area where the group were talking and brought it to a stop.

                          The canopy opened, and the two women emerged, then their mechanic uncurled himself from his cramped quarters.

                          Wilma Statham was all business like, jumping down and then hudling with the mechanic to go over some malfunctioning piece of equipment.

                          Amanda Gerling straightened up and took off her flying helmet, shaking out her hair in the light breeze.

                          She walked over to where pedro was chatting with Rzonca and Evans. Rzonca stared speechless. Amanda was just under six feet tall, with a stunning figure - at least as much as he could tell under her jump suit, and had a full head of shoulder length red hair.

                          She walked up to Pedro and stooped down to plant a kiss on his cheek.

                          "Thank you Wing Commander" she said huskily. "That was quite something."

                          She turned and walked over to the larger group of aircrew and engineers who were discussing the camouflage techniques.

                          Rzonca stared after her.

                          He was in love.

                          [This message has been edited by Slats (edited August 09, 1999).]

                          What lies ahead of us & what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.


                          • 0329 Hours
                            Bridge of the SS El Paso

                            A small red light flashed on the captain's MFD.

                            It was the ELF flashtraffic. Must be important.

                            "Message coming through. Coded top-secret." an ensign said.

                            A small hard-copy printed on stationary slid out of the comm port.

                            "Authithenticate captain?" the ensign queried.


                            The meesage was handed over to the XO and then the officer of the watch quickly hustled over to a small safe in the wall of the bridge. He touched his finger to a pad, put his eye up to a retinal scanner and then inputed a combonation. After several seconds the security interlocks deactivated and the safe opened slightly. The ensin then removed a small plastic case, cracked it open and slid out the authenticate code.

                            "Proceeding to authenticate. Alpha, delta, beta, gamma, gamma, tao, zeta."

                            The executive officer read outloud the authenticate code on top of the message.

                            "Alpha, delta, beta, gamma, gamma, tao, zeta. The message is authentic.".

                            The ensign concurred. The captain concurred. The communique was then handed over. Captain Angles stepped to the side a moment, then immediately ordered the XO and the weapons officer to the Captain's ready room.

                            0338 Hours
                            Captain's ready room, SS El Paso

                            Captain Angeles sat perturbed in the padded chair at the head of the ready room. The XO sat to her right. The weapons officer entered and took his seat to her left.

                            After going over the comminique several times, she put it face down on the polished wood metal conference table and slipped it toward the two. The XO picked it up. Sanning it, his face grew more and more from a blank, cynical look to a look of disbelief.

                            From: ComSubSpar (Spartan Admirality)
                            To: Commander Martina Angeles, SS El Paso
                            Executive Officer Clark Lee, SS El Paso
                            Chief Thomas Alberto, SS El Paso
                            Subj: Alert Upgrade

                            --------------------Top Secret- For Level 6 naval security or higher

                            SS El Paso is ordered to Alert Status 2. All non-essential activities are to cease and the ship will be rigged for silent running. El Paso is to enter the outer fungal banks of Great Collective and await further orders.


                            SS El Paso is to enter three minute readiness status for cruise missle launch. Commander Angeles, Executive Officer Lee and Chief Alberto are ordered personally to enter the auxillary missle launch room, unlock the chemical warheads and ready them for operational status. Coded instructions via flashtraffic will be conveyed upon the order to launch missles


                            After reading the message, the weapons officer looked up saw the Captain and the XO staring at eachother. They all knew this day might come. Potential armageddon on planet. They all thought they were warriors reading for a battle that would never come. They were wrong. Right now other subs in the fleet were recieving similar messages. The fate of thousands, unaware of the terror aboard these war machines, rested on them, the outcasts, the unfit, the reluctant, the dregs of Spartan society. To Captain Angeles it was terrifying and yet strangely satisfying.

                            If you look around and think everyone else is an *******, you're the *******.


                            • The ransom note thudded on Slat's desk that evening.

                              It was in childishly printed handwriting

                              To tHe SpaRtAN JUNtA

                              WE aRe HoLDinG ColoNeL saNtIAgO hOStaGE

                              WE dEMAnD tHe reTUrN oF oUr Lab thReE IN exCHanGe fOr hEr frEEdOm

                              YOu wiLL bE coNtaCteD LaTeR

                              UoP ReSiStAnCe

                              He stared at it for a long time, then sent out a code blue secure transmission burst to all junta members


                              Colonel Santiago is being held captive by UoP Resistance movement. Their condition for her safe release is the return to their control of Fort Superiority, formerly known as Lab Three.

                              Please advise my reply if asked.

                              Ben Miller

                              What lies ahead of us & what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.


                              • I was stopped in the alley by a stranger whom I didn't recognize.

                                "Wing Commander Allardyce", the voice hissed. I turned. She was standing in the shadows, a slight built fair haired young woman. That much I could see.

                                'What if I am" I replied.

                                '"We need your help, urgently. Someone's life is in danger."

                                "So what else is new," I jocularly responded. "When have all our lives not been in danger recently?"

                                "Sand is here. In Sparta Command."

                                That sure got my attention.

                                "Why?" I asked.

                                "A joint venture gone horribly wrong. The University resistance captured Santiago and are hiding her. They pacted with the Hive to have her assemble the war cabinet and then Sand's assassin would kamikazi on them. With Santiago missing and the whole war cabinet destroyed the Hive would demand their surrender and give the UoP back their five bases captured in the last war. In exchange the UoP would give Santiago over to Yang"

                                "So what happened," I asked her.

                                "Well at the last minute someone from the resistance spilled the beans to Corazon, and she pleaded for her General's lives. So they concocted the Holograph meeting. The Hive complied with their assassin kamikazi, but all he destroyed was himself and two or three inconsequential people. The Hive are coming tonight to remove Colonel Santiago to their territory. But they are in for a surprise."

                                "Do tell me" I said laconically.

                                "Corazon isn't where they think. They think that she's in a cave a few kilometers north of the base, but in reality she's being held in a Monolith somewhere."

                                "So what's the problem," I asked.

                                "The UoP who told Santiago is in the cave, with one of our old talents - a chameleon actress - who is impersonating Santiago. Sand will not be fooled the way the Hive agents are fooled . We must rescue them before the Hive get to them."

                                "Why?" I asked. "Why should we lift a finger to help UoP operatives." Do I know your contact in the cave?"

                                "Yes," she replied. "It's Ayola. Ayola Ramamurthy. Santiago's aide. Except her real name's not Ramamurthy."

                                I waited. I had a feeling I was not going to like what was coming next. I didn't.

                                "It's Zakharov. She's Prokhor's granddaughter. The Hive cannot be allowed to capture her - she knows too much. On a more personal note, she is my sister. I'm a Zakharov too"

                                I saw the implications immediately.

                                "I'll do what I can" I replied.

                                [This message has been edited by Googlie (edited August 13, 1999).]