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The Spartan Chronicles

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  • #46
    To: CinC Santiago
    From: PsychOps (The Dread)

    One of my probe units has recently exposed Lal in an attempt to compromise our data systems and steal our technology. Unfortunately, there were no survivors left for interrogation.

    With all due respect, I feel that this heinous act shows the true face of Pravin Lal, and that he must not be trusted from henceforth. Obviously diplomacy is left entirely in your hands, but my suggestion is that we maintain our treaty but refuse any pacts with our 'beloved' friend. I for my part will be using Lal as one of my chief suppliers in my upcoming campaign against Chairman Yang. I am certain that Lal will not object to my 'borrowing' some of his resources so long as I promise to keep his dirty laundry packed away.

    I may be incommunicado for some time, as the entire Dread force is going deep undergound. I apologize for any inconvenience, but this means no new orders. I will of course keep you updated, however.

    Good bye.

    Victory goes not to the strongest, nor the quickest, but rather the guy who shoots straightest.
    <p style="font-size:1024px">HTML is disabled in signatures </p>


    • #47
      18:39 hours SMT
      16:39 MFN (Morgan Financial Time)

      "Dammit!" whispered Twain.

      Adam always hated having to install energy taps. The little pieces of sensetive equipment were meant to draw off energy bit by bit, but were a pain in the ass due to the periodic discharge by the capacitor. But once it was installed onto an energy feed, it was hard to detect and sucked out a amazing amount of energy.

      Adam continued to fumble with the energy feed. Damn Morgans always secured these things well with poly-geometric algorithems.

      "Just a few more minutes..." he muttered.

      Adam gazed out the glass panel to the side of him. It was a perfect vantage point of the First Morgan Bank lobby. The architecture was truly something different than the dungeon-like atmosphere of Assassin's Redoubt and it's seceret probe-team training school. The giant columns of cut marble sparkled under the ambient light and the pulsating glow of the energy artierials. The walls were decorated sparsely with various replicated artifacts of old Earth. The various clients bustled among themselves, all congregating in this forum. The long, red carpet spread out along the center of the bank, leading to a solitary exit to the rainy, dank exterior of the bank.

      A soft computerized voice suddenly pierced the silence:
      "Security codes broken. Beginning tap init sequence."

      "Thank god..." sighed Twain.

      "Tap initalized..." the computer voice chimed.

      Twain decided to sit down. He pulled a cigarette out of the pocket of his stolen repair crew uniform. Nasty habit, these things. But addictive, nonetheless.

      He pulled the package of cigarettes out of his jumpsuit breast pocket. He looked at it.

      "CEO Morgan brand Cigarettes"
      "What every CEO smokes"

      and in fine print:

      "CEO Morgan, Morgan Entertainment Products (C), Morgan Enterprises (C), or any other
      division or subsidiary of Morgan Industries (C) or it's employees or owners are not responsible
      for medical problems caused by the use of these, up to and including:
      "Cancer, birth defects, respiratory illness, psychosis, planetflu, blindness, and any other illness"

      Adam took one more puff and said, "Damn capitalistic bastards. The sooner we we cripple them, the better."

      [This message has been edited by Timexwatch (edited July 16, 1999).]
      [This message has been edited by Timexwatch (edited July 16, 1999).]
      [This message has been edited by Timexwatch (edited July 16, 1999).]
      [This message has been edited by Timexwatch (edited July 17, 1999).]
      If you look around and think everyone else is an *******, you're the *******.


      • #48
        To Colonel Corazón Santiago
        Sparta Command

        Honored Commander,

        Thank you for your kind letter welcoming me as temporary Governor of Hawk of Chiron base, for the duration of the Hive vendetta. Even though Governor for such a short time, I feel it incumbent on me to ask your attention for a matter that is of grave concern to me.

        My concern stems chiefly from my experience as second in command of 1st Wing, and has been confirmed in the brief period since my commissioning as Governor. It is my opinion that the efficiency of the war effort against the Hive is being compromised by a lack of coherence in the Spartan command structure. The junta command system has, I feel, brought with it a possibly fatal reliance on the effectiveness of what must be termed an old boys network of veteran commanders. Cracks, I am afraid, have been beginning to show in this system.

        Allow me to elaborate. The alarming developments I am referring to are well exemplified by the unfortunate fate of Commander Allardyce and pilot Santiago, and the subsequent attempts at rescueing them. Actions in said matter can be defendably characterized as ramrod, haphazard and downright foolish.
        Another example is the way in which base Governors are being pressurized by all and sundry to comply with wildly diverging demands for war matériel. The pile on this Governor's desk is enormous, and bewildering.

        I have already come to regard your recent communiqué on the war effort as a beacon of clarity, and have relied on it to direct the productive effort of Hawk of Chiron base to a Chaos Chopper with interceptor capacity. I believe that in regard of the Hive's penchant to send in wave after wave of attack units blindly, this rotor interceptor will indeed prove a shield for the many once the Hive air force is up to strength.

        Perhaps my experience as 1st Wing XO is leading me as I make my concluding suggestion to you: to appoint a trusted and effective overall second in command to yourself, in the field. I am well aware of the potential drawbacks to such a structure - history teaches hard lessons. But I believe that the commissioning of such a functionary is warranted in a situation in which an eminently suitable candidate, acceptable to all parties, is available. I am of the opinion that we are in such a situation. The candidate I am referring to, is Field Marshal Gavin Burge.

        I leave it to your judgement to decide the manner in which to deal with the conceptions of a newly appointed Governor of a base of intermediate size, but express the hope and expectation that you will consider their merit as well as their lowly origins.

        Finally, I wish to address the likely question as to the awareness of my - still - commanding officer, CO Salvador St James of 1st Wing, of this matter. He has authorized me to affirm his adherence to these notions. On a personal note, he admits to his own shortcomings in the previously described situation, mainly stemming from his involvement in project 'Signature', but nevertheless. He respectfully informs you that the Lycurgus under admiral McMillan has taken project 'Signature' under her charge, and is now moving South.

        With the utmost respect and allegiance,

        Governor Eugene Levavassier,
        Hawk of Chiron base.


        Numquam turbae misceri
        Numquam turbae misceri


        • #49
          S.F.S. Warhawk, South Fleet

          The marine's eyes swept the room, his optical implant looking for the telltale red heat signatures of the enemy troops he knew were on the ship. With the room obscured by a nerve gas fog, every sense was on edge.
          Without warning, a hand reached up from behind and ripped off the marine's gas mask. The marine rolled forward and dove for cover, his hands reaching for his auxiliary mask. He struggled against the adrenaline that coursed through his system, trying to take short, shallow breaths as he had been trained. Done correctly, the breathing exercise would give him five minutes of oxygen in the poisonous atmosphere. After that time, the gas would destroy the protective polymer that coated his lungs.
          Seeing no sign of his attacker, the marine brought the mask to his face. He had breathed scarcely a milliliter of the precious air when his entire field of vision was filled with a crimson mass. A gun barrel whipped across his temple, and the mask went skittering across the floor. The marine staggered back. His bioenhacements struggled to keep his breathing shallow and even, but failed when his assailant's knee slammed into his diaphragm. The burst of neural impulses overwhelmed the electronic implants, and the marine fell to the floor. His lungs gasped, sucking in death six liters at a time.
          "Enough," yelled a female voice. The fans whirred on, clearing the room of the training gas.
          The woman removed the gas mask from her mouth and nostrils and stared down. She wore regulation camo pants and black Amphibious Corp boots, and a tight black top that revealed her wiry muscles as well as her curves. Her dark hair was cropped close. Her hands cradled a short-barreled carbine.
          Lieutenant Nadia Dimitrinov looked down at the private on the floor with a mix of pity and disgust. She knew from experience that, though it did no permanent damage, the training gas burned like hell. She knelt down by the still-collapsed private. "An enemy can hide anywhere. You neglected to check your immediate surroundings when you entered the room. It was a foolish mistake, but you are not the first to make it."
          "FNG," Nadia muttered as she strode out of the room.
          Freakin' New Guy. It seemed like half her company were freakin' new guys. Training them was like teaching mindworms to fetch. Add to that the fact that the 66th Amphibious Infantry Battalion was currently attached to the South Fleet, and was limited to the training facilities and equipment it could scrounge on the fleet's two cruisers. And yet some how Major Harper expected her to turn the misfits of Zulu Company- "Dimi's Demons" as they had taken to calling themselves- into an elite Non-Conventional Methods brigade.
          But at least Sparta Command was finally recognizing that NCM troops might become necessary. The balance of power on the council was fragile, and the U.N. Charter did not seem as sacred as it once had.
          And at least the training was better than the usual monotony of sea duty.
          Oh, yeah, Nadia remembered as she marched down the cruiser's corridor. She tapped her comlink. "Sickbay, I need a medic in Training Room 4."


          • #50
            Lieutenant Rynn sat stunned.

            She could not believe it. Relieved of her command.

            All because she had let that bunch of women pilots talk her into this hairbrained scheme of Miles going in search of Googlie.

            Why not Brewster? He was the acting Chief of Staff, Spartan Air Command. It should have been his neck on the line, not hers.

            Santiago had shown no mercy. Curt. Abrupt.

            The commlink had chimed. She activated it. The face was stern, the tone stiff.

            “Lieutenant Rynn. Corazon Santiago here. You have disappointed me, Rynn, in fact you have failed me. This ill thought out rescue mission which you approved involving one of the men under your command, and that man a crucial member of your team structure, is unacceptable.

            “As you are so obviously incapable of leading the Empath Squad I will find another more worthy leader.

            “You are as of this moment relieved of your command, and will report back to your old unit, the 47th Infantry, first thing in the morning.

            “Do not disappoint me a second time.

            “Santiago out.”

            Ann sat stunned. No chance to say a word in her own defense. No chance to explain. Just this.

            Wiping back the tears she reached for her shoulders and tore off the epaulettes bearing the squad symbol, and prepared herself for her new duties in the 47th.

            ‘At least she left me my rank’, she thought ruefully. ‘I hope Burge has something for me to do that warrants it’.


            • #51
              MorganNews © 3Dvision Special Report

              Brought to you by Morgan Solarcorp - “You don’t need three suns when you have your own.”

              “Good evening. I’m Paula Forbes and as hostilities heat up between The Spartan Federation and The Hive, we at MorganNews bring you this special report on disquietening events from the front.

              “It appears that a long dormant organization within the Hive’s military apparatus has been recently reactivated. This organization is thought to have been responsible for terror tactics and assassinations of key scientists and military leaders during the last Spartan-Hive war.

              “I refer of course to the covert operation known as Ashaandi’s Circle. No conclusive proof has ever been verified, but this group is believed responsible for the deaths of Professors Shields and Shtelnikov, the two scientists now honored by The Spartan Federation as their Fathers of Aviation. The assassination of these two key scientists set back the Spartan development of flight by some 12 years, but in the end was not sufficient to change the tide of the war.

              “Even after Chairman Yang sued for peace, the disappearances of key officers and scientists continued.

              “A particularly notorious member goes by the codename ‘Sand’. He is believed to have been one of the original Landers with Chairman Yang, and is reliably reported to be the Hive secret operative who captured and tortured Sister Miriam Godwinson following the short and unwise fight she and her Believer faction picked with the Hive.

              “Several unexplained disappearances of key Morgan Industries scientific personnel are also thought in high circles to be his handiwork, although again there is no proof, only suspicion.

              “He is reputed to be particularly ruthless, and is now rumored to have resurfaced and been spotted in Spartan territory south of Fort Superiority, Territory of the Spartan Federation.

              “The coincidence cannot be discounted that this man, Sand, of the Ashaandi’s Circle, is out for revenge. As he is reported to be south of Fort Superiority, so also is the missing Chief of Staff of Spartan Air Command, Wing Commander Scott Allardyce and the commander of the Spartan 47th Division, Field Marshal Gavin Burge as well as the commander of the Spartan 1st Wing, Salvador St James. These were the three Spartan soldiers, much younger then, who in a violent shoot-out with members of the Circle left Sand for dead after their battle had ended.

              “Apparently he is very much alive, and to be feared.

              “Some may say that fate has brought all four back into proximity. Others will say that it is no coincidence, that this will be Sand’s revenge. Only time will tell.

              “Keep tuned to MorganNews where we report events when they happen, where they happen.

              “For Morgan Solarcorp this is Paula Forbes saying goodnight.”

              [This message has been edited by Rynn (edited July 17, 1999).]


              • #52
                Miles walked along the line of the trees, with the assault rifle slung over the crook of his arm. He felt confident that with his emerging psi-power, and the weapon he carried, that he was in no danger.

                It would only be a matter of time before he came across Googlie Allardyce wherever he had dragged his sorry carcass.

                He projected out his awareness, but met only blankness. Puzzled somewhat, as he neared the tees again, he picked at his nose and tried to activate his trance enhancer, but found that he couldn’t conjure up the image of that night of sex with Lisa. He forced himself to remember the surroundings, the flashing neon light outside the bedroom window of the sleazy motel where they’d taken a room for the night.

                He heard snippets of conversation entering the corner of his mind.

                He tried to push the probe further, but needed more amplification.

                He focussed on the mental image of her straddling him, the sweat glistening on her breasts, and looked up at her eager face to see her sharing his passion.

                As he recognized the face he said joyously “Oh, Julia” and screamed in agony as something inside his head exploded. The neural amplifier short circuited with the empath overload as he wrestled with conflicting images of the two women in his life and he collapsed to the ground moaning and clutching his head as the blood poured from his nostrils relieving the pressure from the collapsed synapse.

                He stanched the bleeding and lay dazed on the ground, not understanding what was happening, and muttering gibberish continuously.


                “Well lookee here”, said the trooper. “Bert, it’s his nibs, the freaking headache giver.”

                Bert went over, the Hive sergeant following.

                “Yeah, Alvin. He’s the one all right. Doesn’t look so menacing now, does he”, said Bert, giving Miles a kick in the testicles. As Miles grunted in pain and rolled into a ball, Alvin kicked him in the kidneys. “That’s for nothing” he said maliciously.

                “That’s enough”, the sergeant said. “Intelligence will be pleased to see this one. Let’s truss him up and get him behind our lines where they can make him squeal.”

                Miles found his hands tied behind his back, and his feet hobbled, and he was marched at gunpoint by the platoon deep into the trees towards the rear of the Hive lines.


                After four fruitless hours of searching, Julia returned to the rockface where they had hidden the Rover and sat down to wait for Miles as arranged.

                [This message has been edited by Rynn (edited July 16, 1999).]


                • #53
                  As Julia waited out the night for Miles’ return she reflected on the events of the past few days.

                  She thought them at the same time strange and revealing. In order, she pondered:

                   She had a nascent ability to mindread, albeit significantly strengthened when around Miles with his neural enhancement;

                   She could bond almost telepathically with the mindworms of Planet;

                   She hated her aunt and all that she stood for;

                   She hated Googlie and the predicament he had landed them in;

                   She had joined the Spartan Air Force to get off the ground and away from the pollution and eco damage being perpetrated on this eerily beautiful alien landscape;

                  Having mentally set out the strange ‘self revelations’ in bullet form, she revisited them one by one.

                  As a child she had been a strange kid, a loner, often bullied at the children’s creche just for who she was – the niece of Corazon Santiago. This had led her into solitary pursuits, so that she excelled in the ‘loner’ disciplines, but had no appetite for, nor succeeded in, a team environment.

                  This had led to her interest in aviation. The early needlejets, from the first prototype to the model just before the Thrasher series, had been single seaters, either basic short range bombers or interceptors. This had drawn her like a magnet, and with her engineering, computational and mathematical skills, and her incredible reflexes honed through many hours of lone computer gaming at the rec commons, she sailed through all the preliminary qualifying tests straight to Aviation Academy at Survival Base. While she was graduating, the SAC moved to two person Interceptor teams and three person Penetrator teams. The choice at graduation would have been wasy anyway, if it had not been made for her. If teams were a necessary evil, better a two person than three. But in any event her skills were better suited to Interceptor duties, so she was assigned to Interceptors. Fortuitously her assigned crewmate, Alan Watt, was also something of a loner, preferring to immerse himself in his radar screens and threat detection and neutralization equipment than to initiate or even hold conversations with her.

                  She had tried to seduce him early on in their teaming, believing that this might enable them to bond better as a crew. She let him know that this was not going to be a permanent liaison, but more for convenience and as an experiment. It had been disastrous. She was clumsy, and so was he. She found him to be impotent, and was totally unable to arouse him. She asked him if he preferred other men or boys, but he said he didn’t. This left her feeling woefully inadequate, and made her all the more withdrawn and introverted. She blamed herself, her upbringing and her relationship to their leader, as the niece of Corazon Santiago.

                  But she remembered one strange feature of their abortive lovemaking session that didn’t strike her at the time with the clarity she saw it now.

                  When they had been preparing for sex she had suddenly detected a sense of panic on Alan’s part, and she had had a mental image of herself as a predatory mindworm of the ‘black widow’ variety, rumored to devour its mate after coupling. She had put that down to an over vivid imagination on her part caused by the stress of the moment, but now she was not so sure. Had she really been, then, inside the mind of Alan and seeing herself as he was seeing her?

                  The other, more recent time had been when she was in the Thrasher with Googlie. Shed known that he was going to drop the remote sensor even before he announced his intention. She had known that we wanted to continue the run even as she was recommending pulling out. And it was a knowledge based on certainty, not on a hunch. She had physically felt the adrenalin rush that Googlie himself was feeling as he diced with death to outwit the enemy.

                  Closely allied to this was the affair with the mindworm. She had lain hiding in the fungal patch with a mindworm at her finger tips, actually communicating with her in its own primitive way. Ant the mindworms at the rock fissure that had attacked Googlie had paid her no attention whatsoever. And as she pondered this she remembered an incident as a pre-teenager, when the bullying and taunting at school had become too much to bear, and she had run away. She had made for a wall of fungus outside the base, and was missing for two days. The search party found her asleep in a mindworm nest, empty, but with a mature boil nearby. It had attacked the search party, killing one of them before it itself had been destroyed, but now she thought that perhaps it had been standing guard over her.

                  “Maybe that’s why I get so distressed at the rape of Planet”, she thought. “Maybe I do secretly empathiz with the native life. Maybe that’s why I got so upset as a child when I learned that the Gaian faction had been destroyed and only Lady Deirdre Skye and a handful of her followers had apparently escaped. Maybe at heart I am a Gaian”.

                  Which brought her back to the present. Googlie was missing. Miles Cavenagh had not returned as arranged. Had he found Googlie and exited the area, or been picked up by rescue – or hostile – forces?
                  Whatever the case, there was no point in waiting idly where she was.

                  She consulted the rudimentary map in the Rover.

                  She was about 16 clicks south of Fort Soup. To the south, about 80 clicks away, was Admiralty Base. Too far through the fungus and trees. To the north and west, and straggling back to the coast, was the Hive expeditionary force, effectively cutting off her retreat that way or her return to fort Soup directly. To the east was the skirmish site where Wells’ men had been trapped. She'd already reconnoitered about 4 clicks that way within the 2-hour limit the'd agreed. She would make good progress retracing her steps so she determined that that was the direction she would head. If Wells was further east, she would hook up with him. If not, she would veer south-east. If he has been joined by other Spartan units, then she was safe. If he had already been airlifted out, then she was no worse off then before.

                  She composed a message in code to the SAC advising them of the situation, Googlie’s and now Miles disappearance, and of her intention.

                  Stripping the rough camoflage from the rover, she fired it up, activated the commmlink and sent a burst message to the north.

                  Then she headed east

                  [This message has been edited by Googlie (edited July 17, 1999).]


                  • #54
                    “And this is Paula Forbes saying goodnight”

                    INSERT COMMERCIAL 2225/77/4/33.525 (Original) (1:12:37)
                    INSERT COMMERCIAL 2225/77/6/31.211 ((Repeat) (1:42:33)

                    “Good Evening.

                    “This is Russell Theakston with the weather forecast for the next five days.

                    A major storm is brewing up over the western ocean in the Northern Hemisphere that promises to bring exceptionally high winds and tides for PeaceKeeper and Spartan coastal areas, and severe hail and thunderstorms at higher elevations throughout the hemisphere for the next three days.

                    “Hurricane force winds are expected within the next day and will last for over one Chiron day. All commercial flights have been suspended for the next three days between UN Headquarters and Sparta command.

                    “A small craft warning has been issued for all coastal craft and taking shelter is advised.

                    “Blowing sand will be a problem in exposed desert areas.

                    “The Southern hemisphere will remain benign with record temperatures being set on the south coastal plain of the Hive Territory. The two closest Morgan bases, Morgan Biochemical and Morgan Dstribution will also be enjoying record temperatures for this time of year.

                    “We will give you an update of the storm’s progress following the early morning news tomorrow.

                    “This is Russell Theakston saying goodnight.”

                    [This message has been edited by Rynn (edited July 17, 1999).]


                    • #55
                      Orlando Lopez struggled to keep his eyes closed. "Just a few more minutes..." His brain pleaded to his body. He had been dreaming about that Air Corp girl he had met on the beach at Admiralty Base during his last leave. But his trained soldiers body refused to let him ignore the sirens blaring around him. With a sigh, he jumped from his bunk and pulled on the boots and gas mask from his locker.
                      Gunnery Sergeant Royce Armstrong stepped into the room.
                      "Attention!" The big man shouted, his gravelly voice sounding like a fusion engine. Royce Armstrong was the senior enlisted man in the battalion, and was something of a hero to the enlisted men and women of the 66th. He had been heavily decorated in the wars with the University and the Hive, and all the grunts (and most of the officers, for that matter) thought of him as the model for what an Amphibious Corp soldier should be.
                      "Good morning, grunts. We have a gas training exercise in ten minutes, followed by some physical and mental toughness exercises devised by Lieutenant Dimitriov. After that, at 0500 hours, we will assemble on the deck with the rest of the crew for the flag ceremony. You will receive new orders then. Understood?"
                      "Sir, yes, sir!" The room replied in unison.
                      "The gas exercise will be live fire, so keep the masks tight and the muzzles up. Understood?"
                      "Sir, yes, sir!"
                      "Good. Get to the armory and strap up."
                      "Aye, aye, sir!"
                      The fifth platoon marched down the corridors of the Warhawk toward the armory and the now-infamous Training Room Four.

                      * * *

                      "Did you get a good night's sleep, Lando?" asked Serena Reed.
                      "Yeah," grinned Orlando, "All forty five minutes of it." By Orlando's count, Zulu Copany had had four hours of sleep in the last four days.
                      "I think this sleep depravation is starting to make me delirious," said Serena, "Did I tell you I started seeing faces in the gas yesterday?"
                      "No," said Lando, "You didn't shoot at them, did you?"
                      "They were on our side," laughed Serena, "They kind of looked like the ‘Spartan Fungus Commandos' on the Morgan 3D Kid's Net."
                      Serena was a petite blond, one of the newer marines in Zulu Company. She and Lopez had felt a connection upon meeting, and it was a constant struggle to keep their relationship platonic.
                      "Fifth Platoon!" Shouted Sergeant Armstrong.
                      "Looks like we're up," said Orlando.
                      The had just watched Fourth Platoon fail the exercise on the Holovid. Fourth Platoon was now enjoying a brisk run around the ship. Which wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't been carrying a section of the cruiser's spare anchor chain.
                      At the platoon leader's signal, the exercise began. A small charge blew open the training room door and two of the platoon's riflemen stepped in. The quickly took out the blue-uniformed holoprojections.
                      "Left side clear!"
                      "Right side clear!" came the shouts.
                      Orlando and Serena, the platoon's two "smokers", stepped into the room, rapid-firing their gas guns. The four centimeter slugs vaporized on impact, quickly filling the room with nerve gas. The final two riflemen stepped in, covering the door, while the first two advanced to another door on the far end of the room.
                      "Move! Move! You're too slow!" Came Sergeant Armstrong's voice through their aural implants.
                      Watching the holovid with Lieutenant Dimitirov, though, he couldn't help grinning.

                      * * *

                      Royce Armstrong stood at attention on the deck of the Warhawk, watching as the flag was raised. The speakers pumped out a recorded version of "Battle Hymn of Sparta." It was the same recording used throughout the Spartan armed forces, performed by the Sparta Command Drum and Brass and recorded years ago on the day Spartan soldiers had first set foot in Nauk Science Center. The capture of the last University stronghold had put an end to the long war with Zhakarov. Royce Armstrong had been among those soldiers, and though he had heard the "Battle Hymn of Sparta" performed many times, this version would always be his favorite.
                      The speakers blew the song's final notes, and the Warhawk's Captain dismissed the soldiers and sailors. Royce and Nadia walked together back toward training room four.
                      "I must admit, they troops are looking better than I had first anticipated," said Nadia.
                      "They're starting to move by instinct, without having to think so much," said Royce.
                      "Once the brigade is ready, I would like you to join me in the command squad," said Nadia, "The troops respect you, and your combat experience would be invaluable."
                      "Of course," replied Royce.
                      It was strange, he thought, the loyalty this woman could inspire. There was something about her that brought an almost religious devotion. Royce had met Santiago, once, and had felt the same aura in her presence.
                      "I have also requested the unit be moved nearer to combat," said Nadia. "I would like the troops to get battle experience. You can only sharpen a knife so much before you begin to dull the blade."


                      • #56
                        Having meandred upon this earth for the fifteen years that I have, I know I have yet much to learn about the art of writing. If you will but pardon this child fancy as he explores the world of thought...

                        Chapter the First

                        In silent meditation, Atreus extended his awareness to the teeming life around him. He would often come here, to his private garden, whenever his mind was troubled. Today, however, the practice did not provide him with the warmth of catharsis that he had hoped for and anticipated.

                        The stars were shining bright through the dim haze of Planet’s atmosphere. To the north could be seen the luminescence of the grim metropolis of Sparta Command. Alpha Proxima cast a soft, red glow that permeated through the night sky. There was a slight breeze, and the air was rich in oxygen, the product of vigorous terraforming in the countryside around the Laconic Capital. Abandon Focus. Abandon Specialisation. Trance...Focus. No! Damn you Santiago! His mind kept returning to the transmission that had been sent to his keep that morning. The first peculiarity he had noticed before establishing contact was the mark of the Spartan government and the great measures that the sender had apparently taken to keep the conversation private.

                        Lord Atreus was in the Command Centre of Thera, his personal keep, when an
                        audience had been requested--the actual word that the lieutenant had used was
                        ‘demanded’--of him over the Spartan Networks. Atreus put the message through his
                        personal office. Immediately, the impassionate face of Corazon Santiago appeared through his private view screen:

                        ‘Your services are needed in the Psi Corps, Lord Atreus.’

                        (Not even a ‘Hello.’)

                        ‘So, Santiago, you finally need my help again?’ Atreus responded.

                        ‘I do not
                        need anything. I demand that you once more lend your services to this country,’ she said firmly.

                        (She’s changed so much since I knew her.)
                        ‘So, what is it that is
                        demanded of me?’

                        Santiago: ‘You are to become the new head of the Psi Corps. You have been
                        gathering dust in retirement far too long. Surely,
                        Lord, your aristocratic life has not made you forget that you are a General?’

                        (Oh, but how could I forget, my dear Santiago? The Spartan Council kicked me
                        out of service. They slapped an honourary title before my name and had done with me.)
                        ‘I am and always will be a warrior. But what of Rynn?’ Atreus asked.

                        Santiago: ‘Of no more consequence...’
                        A familiar handsignal was quickly flashed by Santiago, and the image ringed
                        through Atreus’s mind. (Danger. I guess this channel is not as secure as either of us
                        prefer. So, there is more to this assignment than upon first inspection.)

                        ‘I have full confidence in your abilities, General. Santiago out.’

                        The light of Alpha Proxima slowly faded, and Thera’s garden was plunged into the full Centauri night. She did not even bother to come to me personally. Am I that miscellaneous? The night seemed to become colder and impassionate. The garden
                        became quieter, but, all around, Atreus knew, life teemed just beyond the reach of human sentiency.

                        Atreus heard the slight hum of ghostly voices in his mind. Images of morbid fancy filled his half-waking consciousness. It was always like this for him. None could understand the full curse of the Empath--of being perpetually connected to the ubiquitous consciousness that permeated the Planet itself. The non-latent Empaths were lucky, for they could turn the voice of the expanded consciousness on and off like a washing-machine language. The latent Empaths did not have such luxury. It was frightening, in the early years, to listen to the thrumming of the Planet itself as a child,locked up in the cold vaults of the Children’s Creches. Sleep led only to nightmares,haunted by the terrifying images that the Voice created.

                        As an early child, the Creche Masters had picked him out to develop separately from the other children. He was taught personally by the Creche Weaponsmaster and a vast conglomerate of other, specialised teachers. He learned of Plato, Dante,Shakespeare, Poe, and the other architects of human culture. And then, there were always the other people. Through most of his life, they remained entirely anonymous to him. They would come from time to time to check upon his progress, and they would take notes in their log. They were especially interested in his mental development. He had been taught Zen, Taoism, Yoga, and various other philosophies that incorporated mental practices. He would meditate for hours at a time with the others watching him and taking observations with various instruments.

                        One day, they brought an adolescent Atreus into a dome room, surrounded by
                        white walls on all sides. They placed him on one side of the room and told him to stay
                        there. Everyone left the room. He waited there for many minutes. Nought happened ‘til,on the other side of the room, a spherical object was projected forth from under the floor and slowly came to a hover five feet from the ground. Curious, Atreus approached the dark blue sphere. Lights suddenly flashed and focused on the sphere, and, startled, Atreus stepped back. Through the sphere, he could see slim objects bunched together tightly in a rough, circular shape. They were evidently frozen in the blue sphere.

                        Atreus had come across such things when he was browsing the datalinks one day.
                        He had heard of ferocious animals on Chiron that were called ‘Mind Worms.’ He had
                        approached Dr. Alina with the topic and she was loathe to discuss it. ‘Not things for you to know,’ she had said. So, that was the last that Atreus had thought about ‘Mind Worms.’

                        ‘Til that day. As Atreus gathered the courage to approach the sphere once more,
                        it decrystalised and shattered into a million pieces. He fell to the floor and grabbed his head in wrenching pain. Voice was raging in his head. He heard screams, but he could not tell whence they came. Time seemed to slow as the mind worms crawled towards his exposed cranium. He remembered his life as it flashed before him. He could imagine those others standing behind those white walls, shaking their head at another failure. The mind worms were crawling over his face now (What was it that they did? Burrow into the brain?). As Atreus quieted himself and accepted the fate that cruel life
                        had delegated to him, he could hear the silent hum of something. Confused, at first, he listened more intently and found himself listening to what he could only call singing. Nought else could describe it. Placing himself in a quasi-meditative stance, he sang back through the broad spectrum of his mind. The mind worms stopped their ravenous advance and backed away. Atreus slowly stood up and watched the would-be killers stayed in an
                        opiate trance. Flames burst forth from the walls and incinerated the boil.

                        Lord Atreus remembered that day spitefully. Apparently, the scientists had
                        deemed him too erratic--too powerful--to be admitted into the then-infant Psi Corps. He
                        was admitted into the Spartan Regulars and eventually became the General of his own
                        expeditionary force. The scientists visited him frequently, of course, to check on his

                        And now, he was to lead the entirety of the Psi Corps. He was still angered
                        towards the Spartan government for having kicked him into early retirement. With the
                        longevity techniques that they used on most top government officials, he could live
                        forever. But why they needed him now, Atreus did not know. The government always
                        had secret machinations of its own. I must be wary if I am to dance in the hornet’s nest.

                        Atreus feared his own Empath powers. Over the years, he had learned to control them, to an extent, but they were still wild and unpredictable. As a General in the first Hive War, he had once been ordered to capture a city. The city was situated in the middle of a fungal bloom that had grown around the city upon its colonisation. As his legion approached the city, the voices in his head became louder. Driven mad, he had screamed back a counterpoint melody in response. ‘Kill Kill Kill!’ he had shouted hysterically. Suddenly, from
                        all around, huge Mature Boil mind worms descended upon the unwary city. Atreus could
                        hear piercing cries as the mind worms slaughtered his own men. No No! It was not enough. His legion was equipped with the standard flame guns. They managed to fight the mind worms off with limited casualties. The city, however, did not fare as well. Atreus could still here the vivid screams of its inhabitants as they brutally devoured the inhabitants to satiate their unfathomable hunger...

                        It was a cold night indeed. Lord Atreus shivered before entering the protective womb of his keep.

                        [This message has been edited by Veracitas (edited July 18, 1999).]
                        [This message has been edited by Veracitas (edited July 19, 1999).]
                        [This message has been edited by Veracitas (edited August 08, 1999).]
                        No Information Provided


                        • #57
                          Are you sure we’ve got them all?” Slats Miller asked Bearcat Brewster. “better go over the list one more time.”

                          “Oh, all right”, said Bearcat. Here’s the list:

                          “Colonel Corazon Santiago, CinC Spartan Armed Forces
                          Field Marshal Gavin Burge, 47th Infantry
                          General Tucker, Second Infantry Division
                          General Lockhart, 469th Airborne Division
                          General Salvador St. James, 1st Wing”

                          “What about the Rolling Thunder?” asked Slats.

                          “Dunno”, was the reply. “Don’t think they’re in action yet.”

                          “Okay, let’s transmit.”

                          Transmission Burst.

                          Spartan Air command reporting that due to the imminence of hurricane weather we are dispersing needlejets to home bases. Fort Superiority cannot safely accommodate more than one Penetrator and one Interceptor under secure cover.

                          Air support will be suspended for three days

                          Transmission ends

                          As the winds rose the big lumbering Penetrators roared into the sunsset, Brewster back to Sparta Commans and Evans over to Hawk of Chiron, leaving Dusty Rhodes at Fort Soup.

                          Hot on their tails came the Dexter Fusion Interceptor, bound for Admiralty Base, and the two girls heading northeast to Militia Station, leaving Lisa to stand guard at Fort Soup.

                          [This message has been edited by Googlie (edited July 18, 1999).]


                          • #58
                            MorganNews © 3DVision

                            Tape 2225/17/47/233.12

                            “Good evening. This is Paula Forbes bringing you the midnight news on MorganNews, courtesey of Morgan Transportation, the only safe way to go about your business.

                            “There is little news to report on the increasing tension between The Hive and The Spartan Federation, although it expected that this severe weather pattern now socking in the northern hemisphere will put a temporary halt to hostilities.

                            “Our sources in Laborers Throng report that the Hive are amassing a modest invasion force, destination unknown. Three large transport vessels have been sighted entering the harbor there, and two AAA cruisers are circling outside. Missile infantry and fusion rover tanks have been observed recalled from military exercises, and their departure seems imminent.

                            “I am joined by our MorganNews military advisor, retired General Wilfred Hawkes. Good evening Freddy, if I may call you Freddy?”

                            “Certainly, Paula, if I may return the intimacy”

                            “You may. Freddy, what are we to make of this military build up in Laborers Throng?”

                            “Well, Paula, although it must have been in the works for over a week, it seems that the timing could not be more fortuitous. Under cover of this weather the invasion force – if we may call it that – I think it more likely to be just reinforcements for the expeditionary force already on Spartan soil – can sail relatively unmolested to their docking point on the western shores of the Northern Continent, half way between the Spartan base of Fort Superiority and their Admiralty Base on the south tip of the continent.”

                            “Does this portend an escalation of the conflict?”

                            “Almost certainly, Paula.”

                            “Why would they not just try to take Admiralty Base, and gain a foothold on the continent?”

                            “That might just be their objective, Paula. The two Cruisers would give them a strong naval bombardment capability and the combination of fusion tanks and missile infantry would give them not only a powerful invasion force but a capable garrison and anti aircraft capability as well. If nothing else, they could probably cut off all land and sea communications links with Admiralty Base, leaving it to the vagaries of air links only.”

                            “Thank you Freddy. That was retired General Wilfred Hawkes giving us his insights into the escalating skirmishes between The Hive and The Spartan Federation.

                            “And now for our other news.

                            “A report from……..”


                            Later that evening.


                            “What the hell..”

                            Yates, CEO Nwabudike Morgan’s executive assistant woke groggily and looked over to the console where it indicated the Boardroom commlink was activated. The pinging was noisy and insistent. He looked at his Morgan Precision Chronometer. Shoot, it was the middle of the night.

                            It was insistent.

                            He got up and walked through to the Boardroom and pinged it on.

                            And woke up in a hurry and instinctively straightened himself up.

                            “Ch-chairman Y-yang” he stuttered. “What can I do for you?”

                            “Get me Morgan” was the terse command.

                            “He’s asleep,” said Yates. “Can I take a message?”

                            Yang glowered at him. “The only message you’ll take is to annoint your successor if you don’t get me CEO Morgan right away.”

                            Yates got Morgan.

                            “Sheng”, he boomed, what on earth are you doing calling me at this hour?”

                            “Cut the crap, Morgan. You know why. I want that news station off the air.”

                            “Now you know I can’t do that,” said the CEO. “Morgan News is an independent organization with its own Board of Control. I can no more censor them as tell them what to put on the air.”

                            “Well, you’d better do it, or we’ll quieten it for you”. Said Yang. “That broadcast tonight, revealing my military plans, just took away the element of surprise. You have Spartan sympathizers at that station, Morgan, and I want them rooted out. Do you hear? Either you put the heat on the station to at least withhold sensitive information or I'll stop them releasing any information at all.”

                            With that Yang disconnected the commlink.

                            CEO Nwabudike Morgan sat for a long moment staring at the blank screen.

                            ‘So that’s it’, he thought. ‘First the odd kidnapping or assassination to hamper our research efforts, then censor the news, next thing he’ll be demanding I join him in a vendetta against the Spartans. I need to tread carefully. We are land neighbors with The Hive, militarily inferior but much richer, and our scientific research is their equal, albeit not geared to military applications.

                            ‘We can’t afford a war with him. We’d lose for sure. But can we afford a war against The Spartans? Their scientific research is ahead of both ourselves and The Hive, thanks to their acquisition of the University’s research scientists. But Yang is more than a match militarily.

                            ‘I think I’ll place a call to Lal in the morning.’

                            With that Morgan dismissed his assistant and went back to bed.


                            • #59
                              CinC Santiago:

                              As my previous reports have stated, The Dread has caught a Peacekeeper spy incursion in the act and has disposed of the enemy probe team. I have cautioned you to tread carefully around Lal, but I do not think that you need fear him any longer.

                              My agents have convinced Lal to sign a Pact with Sparta. This will allow The Dread to safely and peacefully look into Lal's activities so as to insure Sparta's continued safety. This treaty upgrade will also produce additional income for the Spartan Federation through improved trade relations with Lal. I have taken the liberty of diverting this trade surplus directly into the energy depository for The Dread. We will be needing the extra energy credits in the conflict to come, and the Spartan people need not suffer a heavier tax burden on our behalf.

                              Lal has also assisted The Spartan Federation with a gift of several military supplies. I regret that The Dread must also claim these supplies as its own, as we require military assistance and would not like to burden the regular army with our requests for support.

                              I trust that these arrangements are to your satisfaction. I regret that I shall continue to be incommunicado for a some time to come, but if you have any objections to air with me I assure you that I shall be at your disposal at some future date. Until then, however, this present set of arrangements shall stand.

                              Ever faithful--

                              Victory goes not to the strongest, nor the quickest, but rather the guy who shoots straightest.
                              <p style="font-size:1024px">HTML is disabled in signatures </p>


                              • #60
                                2nd Armor Division 'Rolling Thunder', Spartan Faction, Rover 21 'Lightning'


                                "But I don't wanna be the fungrunner!" Markie whined. He looked at each of the Other Kids in his new creche. They looked back at him with a united front, arrayed in a semicircle around him. Each wore the same red and brown waistwrap made of fungusfibre and terracotton. Markie wore one, too.

                                "The new kid is the fungrunner. That's the rule," the Big Girl said. She was a good 10 centimeters taller than Markie, and was a lot bigger, too. She crossed her sun-bronzed arms across her chest to emphasize the point. The other kids just looked at Markie.

                                "But the fungrunner always loses. I wanna be a worm," Markie continued lamely.

                                "That's the rule. You wanna to play or not?" the Big Girl asked.

                                This always happed to Markie at each new creche. He hated being the new kid.

                                "Oh, OK. How do I find my way around?" Markie asked.

                                "New kids are so DUMB," the Big Girl exclaimed, "Just like babies." The Other Kids nodded their heads knowingly. She pointed to the edge of the creche building where it melded into the fungus. "You follow the base of the Creche. You can go anywhere you want. Even into the fungus. But you have to go around the building and come back here."

                                Markie looked, and it was hard to tell where the creche ended and the fungus began. It was all pink, and looked like fungus to him. Markie looked up and to the right and noticed that the creche door was in the base of the mound. The door had pretty red roses and rose vines on it. Markie liked roses, and his mommy and daddy thought they were important. Finally Markie got it - the creche was the fungus mound. He would follow that around. It was an awfully long way, though.

                                "Uh, OK, how far do I count?" Markie asked.

                                The Big Girl grinned. "You have to count to a Hundred!" she announced. The Other Kids giggled.

                                "I don't think I can count that far, yet," Markie said in a small voice, "but I'll try."

                                "Good. Now turn around and start counting," the Big Girl ordered.

                                Markie turned away from the creche door and started counting, "One, two, three, four,…"

                                He felt something rubbing against his bare leg. Markie looked down. It was Fluffy! Markie reached down to scratch him, and Fluffy purred, kind of, anyway. Then Markie realized he had stopped counting, and continued, "five, six, seven, ….."

                                The Other Kids were laughing, and Markie could hear them running around. They probably knew all the good hiding places, he thought glumly. He continued counting, "twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-uh-nine, thirty, thirty-three, thirty-four…"

                                Fluffy rubbed against his leg again. Markie crouched down so he could pet Fluffy as he counted. Counting to a hundred took SO LONG.

                                "… fifty-five, fifty-six, uh, sixty, sixty-six, sixty-four, hmm, seventy," Markie continued. He started to pet Fluffy's sides, and his 'purring' increased. At least Fluffy loved him!

                                "…eighty-eight, ninety-one, ONE HUNDRED. I'M A FUNGRUNNER, AND YOU CAN'T GET ME!!" Markie cried. He turned around and looked, there were no Other Kids in sight. He dashed to the left side of the creche, running as fast as he could.

                                As he passed the creche door one of the Littler Boys dashed at him from the doorway. The Littler Boy shouted, "CHHTTCH, CHHTTCH" as he ran after Markie. Markie veered away and continued to run. He noticed Fluffy following him.

                                Then the Big Girl jumped up from a depression in the fungus and came at him from the side, shouting, "CHHTCH, CHHTTCH" as she ran. 'She is really fast!' Markie thought. Markie ran harder.

                                As Markie rounded what he thought was the back of the creche two of the Big Boys came at him. They hadn't even bothered to hide. 'Not fair!' Markie thought to himself. His only way through was to go in between the Big Girl and the two Big Boys. He ran for it.

                                All the Other Kids were shouting, "CHHTCH, CHHTCH," as loud as they could and Markie started to get a little scared. They were all after him! He couldn't get through!

                                Something hit Markie from behind, and he fell hard into the fungus. The Other Kid landed on top of him. When he hit he lost his breath. The Other Kids were yelling, "MINDWORMS GOT YOU! YOU ARE WORM FOOD! PLANET DOESN'T LOVE YOU! PLANET DOESN'T LOVE YOU!" at the top of their lungs, then they all collapsed to the ground laughing.

                                'I can't breath!! I can't breath!' Markie thought in panic.

                                Markie felt something wet against his bare left thigh, rolled over and looked down. His eyes opened wide. He had landed on Fluffy! He was flat! Grey pulpy mass! His only friend, his mindworm, was squished! Dead!

                                Markie finally was able to draw a breath, and let loose with a wail of anguish and loss.


                                Mary heard a cry and a sob from Markus' bunk. 'More Worm Terrors,' she thought as she quietly pulled off her thermocover and climbed down the ladder of the rover sleep cubby. Her left arm still hurt from the clubbing Lou had given her when she had tried to help him. He had been completely irrational and violent when she had reached the chaos turret during the worm attack, and she might have been killed if Rao hadn't arrived.

                                'Lou was much better at unarmed combat than I am', Mary thought, 'which wasn't saying much since I am 70% of Lou's mass and barely met unarmed combat spec in the first place.'

                                Mary had tended Markus for the last day, and the Worm Terrors still hadn't worn off. She was concerned. Most people recovered pretty quickly, but a few slipped into a coma and usually died from the permanent mindworm-induced nightmares. Mary approached his cubby and found him face up, still sobbing softly. She gently reached out, found his shoulder and felt down to his hand. She grasped his hand.

                                He grasped back!

                                "Markus?" Mary said hopefully.

                                "Fluffy…" Markus choked.

                                'Fluffy?' Mary thought.

                                "Markus, it's Mary. I'm here. You're OK now," she soothed.

                                "He's dead, Fluffy's dead," a distraught Markus continued. He turned his head toward Mary.

                                "Oh, Markus," Mary soothed, still not knowing what Fluffy was, but feeling the pain in his voice. She used her right hand to stroke the left side of his head. "You'll be OK now, just sleep."

                                Mary let go of his hand and padded over the autokitchen. She filled a glass of water, and brought it back and gave it to Markus. He drank it greedily, and his sobbing subsided.

                                Mary held his hand until she was sure he was asleep. She climbed back into the cubby she shared in shifts with one to two other crewmembers, and activated her datapad. She had less than three hours until her duty cycle. Better get some sleep while she could. She could check on Markus in the morning.