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PBEM 15: A Strange New World

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  • #31
    University Base, MY 2199

    Prokhor Zakharov was quite pleased with himself. He was now looking over his data from the infiltration of the Cult, as and he had suspected they were terribly backward. Not only was their research rate an order of magnitude less than the University but they had no armor technology – none! And their best conventional technology was missiles. Soon the University would be coming out with their new plasma laser projectors. The poor sods of the Cult didn’t have a chance.

    But there was still cause to be careful. For one, they had an abnormal amount of foil and defensive probes. Without adequate defenses it was highly likely that a based taken by conventional means would simply be subverted back, and that was not acceptable. Fortunately the University had an abundance of espionage teams. The primary problem would be getting them in sufficient numbers to do the job.

    Another possible problem were their mind worms, which were both more formidable on defense than their unarmored scouts and could be used very effectively on the attack. After looking over the data it appeared that the Cult had a number of mindworms, but not many. They also had a number of isle so the deep.

    Yes, it would take at least two and likely three isles of the deep full of troops to gain a foothold and then ensure there were no reversals when the Cult was finally brought to its knees. That would not be a big problem, they already had three isles of the deep after all, but that one was now taking colony pods to the Jungle. Other production had been diverted to support the Supercollider Project. Delays, delays…

    Still, unless they somehow got armor or weaponry technology from someone it was only a matter of time.

    He made a note to gift the Gaians the technology Industrial Base and also see if the Consciousness would be interested in purchasing some technology. He suspected they would.


    HIVE 2199, NEXUS command center

    “We have multiple reports of worm activity Chairman.”

    “Show me.”

    Yang bent over the holo-table and waited as the duty officer quickly brought up the image.

    “We have sightings next to HIVE -10. In fact, several sightings of worms.” The duty officer reported respectfully.

    Yang waited a minute and then stood up.

    “Order all Firemen into this area. Burn it clean of the infestation, purge it.” Yang finished as he turned and left the room.

    Zho waited for him outside of the NEXUS along with several of Yang’s bodyguards.

    “Trouble?” Zho asked politely.

    “Nothing that can not be dealt with. Until we scourge this land clean of the infestation of worms and fungus we will never be truly safe.” Yang said as he began to walk down the hallway back to his quarters deep within HIVE – Prime.

    “The new trance protection modules are under construction as fast as we can build them Chairman. As soon as they are all operational and each unit is equipped with them our defensive capabilities are poor to say the least.” Zho said as he walked along with Yang.

    “Poor, perhaps but growing. If I do anything in my lifetime it will be to build a new human and rid this planet of fungus.”


    Library of Planet, MY 2200

    Zakharov looked over at Amy Constance. “So they decided to use the Gaian’s name for Chiron. Interesting.”

    Amy looked over at him. “Saying ‘Planet’ is just as valid as the equally arbitrary ‘Chiron’. By convention the colonists of a new base can decide on whatever name they think is appropriate, subject to Council approval. Do you disapprove?” She shot him a challenging glare.

    “No, no, not at all,” he said. “It just shows how much our Pact has altered our belief system.”

    “And ours, theirs,” Amy retorted. “That is part of a Pact, isn’t it?”

    “Well, yes. I was must making an observation,” he said weakly.

    Amy smirked to herself. She rarely won these pointless little arguments so easily. She would definitely savor the moment.

    “Now, explain to me again how we can have a higher research rate when our population has been reduced by the production of colony pods? I mean, in the last few years fully four colony pods have been produced, and during this time our research rate has increased by three percent. I was under the understanding that outside of infrastructure that we needed staff and energy to conduct research. Have I missed something?”

    Amy now smiled openly. “Yes, you have. It is called ‘inspiration’. When our population dropped in the four bases they had more talents than drones. That results in a heightened productivity in almost everything, including research. It won’t stay that way as their populations grow, but in the meantime we will have four new bases, and that should increase our research rate all by itself.”

    Zakharov grimaced. “Maybe not. Constance thinks that the added bases are going to strain our bureaucracy, which will increase discontent. I hope we can keep a lid on it. Rioting bases are inefficient, and destructive.”

    “Agreed. But if we want to colonize the Jungle we have no choice. Our efficiency will always be a problem, but we can build to offset the concerns, I think. Just wait. I think it will be worth it.”

    “That is a moot point. The colonies start landing in the coming year, with support arriving shortly thereafter. Not leaving anything to chance, eh?”

    Amy shook her head. “Not with the nasty Cultists and Believers roaming around. Did you see how the Cultists have stopped the Gaians cold? And how there are Believer probe teams at the edge of Consciousness territory?”

    Zakharov nodded grimly. “We may have to give them a hand.”

    “Yes. The Believers will be after the Gaians next, you know. I will trust the Believers to be relentless, just like on Unity.”

    “Like on Unity,” he repeated as he sipped his Chiron Gin. It really wasn’t that bad after you got over the pink spoors in your tongue. He just hoped they didn’t sprout this time.


    HIVE 2200, Birthing warrens of HIVE – PRIME

    “Is this report correct Zho?”

    “Yes, I do believe it is.”

    Yang stopped as watched another mother gave birth to a small baby that was quickly whisked away by a group of drones. Then another group of drone technicians quickly began the process of post-delivery needs.

    “It’s amazing when you think of it Zho” Yang said as he looked through the one way glass at the large room filled with mothers, all in the process of giving birth in one state or another. “The changes we have brought about are astounding to even me sometimes. Soon the population of half of the HIVE cities will reach five thousand souls. That will be more than thirty thousand people!”

    “Yes, truly.” Zho added politely.

    “So the Spartan capital city is no more than a hovel.” Yang commented as he watched another women give birth.

    “Yes, it would seem so. I double checked reports from our agents on board the PRIME and they all agree. The Spartan capital is less than two thousand souls and for all intents and purposes has next to nothing in infra-structure. Their cities seem to be spread out over a vast area, perhaps equal to ours. They did not adopt the compact expansion design that we have taken and it seems many of their cities are placed randomly and very, very far apart. Supporting a city under attack would be a great challenge to the Spartans.”

    “Their arrogance will insure their defeat then.” Yang began. “I am pleased the map information we have obtained has been corroborated by the crew of the PRIME.”

    “Yes, just so.” Zho added. “I have reports from HIVE – 10 that they did launched an attack on a mass of worms near their city, all the worms were destroyed. HIVE – 4 reported an attack by sea from a single, serpent like creature.”

    “A sea serpent?” Yang quickly turned towards Zho his face a mask of concern. “Not a mass of worms then but a single sea serpent creature?”

    “Correct, it seems the creature swam into the dockyards of HIVE – 4 and began to attack the drones but the garrison quickly responded and destroyed it.”

    “Good.” Yang said in a relieved tone. “Will we ever see the end of these creatures! I want them exterminated from Chiron as quickly as possible. This is my world now, not theirs.”

    “Yes, just so.”


    University Base, MY 2201

    “Our growth will be both vertical and, with our third wave of expansion, horizontal,” Councilor Amy Constance stated. “Our current social model is not well disposed to vertical expansion through population growth, but this can be mitigated through aggressive use of supply crawlers to harvest food. Moreover, the supply crawlers to some degree make population less important since resource collection is automated – willing hands that don’t riot or require resources. The benefits to our industrial output have been substantial.”

    He pointed to the new and proposed bases. “In addition to the vertical growth and enhanced industrial production we are embarking on horizontal growth. Our great northern fungus fields have proved to be an obstacle to establishing additional bases since the fungus is so wide spread and the complete lack of territory our people can establish upon. But, the exploration of two anomalies produced both a hydroponics farm and a nutrient lode, which is where Library of Planet was established a few years ago. The second and more important locations are the Monsoon Jungle. This is an area of unknown size but large potential and, as far as we know, it is unclaimed by any other faction. Up to three colonies will be established in the next few years, and with a little luck we’ll have a few mindworms to explore the rest of the territory. This area is by all reports extraordinarily productive and should give large growth regardless of our social models. The primary problem will be bureaucracy and social stability, but we should be able to deal with these problems, also, with the proper application of resources.

    “We also may be on the verge of ending our energy restrictions. This, if nothing else, will unleash our considerable potential. Until the last few decades we have focused our research on the basic understanding of Chiron, and the benefits have been significant. However, to further our progress and get our scientific rate to be better than our historic rate of a breakthrough every seven years than we must increase our energy output. Our neighbors have been useless for technology trades for the last 50 years due to their relatively slow scientific progress so there is no use exploring those avenues, except for the occasional sale or gift of technology to the Gaians and Cybernetic Consciousness.

    “In conclusion, population and bases are merely a means to an end, which is scientific progress and resource extraction. We have the basic tools, and now we must use them to the best advantage.”


    HIVE 2201, Central manufacturing warren of HIVE – PRIME

    “Here are the plans Chairman.”

    “I studied them before the meeting Zho but what I want to know is will it work?”

    Zho looked over at the lead scientist who quickly stepped forward.

    “It will, I assure you Chairman it will.” The scientist began. “The science is very simple, in fact, we could have accomplished the same thing on Earth if we had wanted to but all the land was either protected by environmental laws or the effects could have impacted other nations borders.”

    “I see.” Yang said flatly.

    “The technology, as I said is simple. We simply deploy a series of fission bombs in to key tectonic faults in a given are and detonate them. The resulting shift in the plates cause magma and earthquakes and plate uplifting to occur. In the end, we create land where there was no land.” The scientist concluded.

    “What if we used such a device where an established infrastructure of buildings, farms and mines existed?” Yang asked probingly.

    “It would replace them in favor of the new matrix.” The scientist replied quickly.

    “The new matrix.” Yang said softly. “The new matrix.” He repeated yet again.

    “Yes, the new matrix. Perhaps some cities might survive the shifts but in a much reduced capacity. I doubt we could utterly extinguish the previous matrix but it would be close.” The scientist finsished.

    “Zho if we begin this project, could we shift resources if needed?” Yang asked questingly.

    “Of course Chairman.”

    Yang sat quietly for a while then looked over a Zho.

    “Begin the missile construction at once.”


    University Base, MY 2202

    Getz Hoeppe looked over the statistics and whistled. “Impressive. Very impressive. The growth rates of Buran Prospect and Nauk Science Center will far outstrip anything we have to date in the University.” He looked over at the other members of the Council. “We will have to invest significantly to ensure the new bases can maintain stability. At a minimum they will need recreation commons as soon as possible.”

    Zakharov nodded. “Agreed. In the meantime we will need to finish the terraformers and get them to work, get basic defenders at the base, and deliver the mindworms to explore the area.” He turned to the left. “Mr. Kline, did I hear correctly that there is another colon pod that was inadvertently constructed? Upon whose orders?”

    He shifted uncomfortably. “Ours. It seems that we neglected to rescind our order for colony pod construction for the third expansion. We now have an extra colony pod at Lomonosov Park. We can either decommission it, integrate the colonists back into the base, or have it board the isle of the deep in the coming year for transport to the Jungle. Of these transport may make more sense. Then we would have four bases in the Jungle and the unknown surrounding area. There could be advantage.”

    Zakharov paused. “Yes. It seems we lose little. Unless there is objection have the colonists transported to the Jungle. Will there be room for worms?”

    “Yes, two worms. The can be put ashore with the colonists. In good news the empath foil has almost finished repairs and it will be able to escort the isle to the north.”

    “Very good. And with the completion of these bases how many will we have?

    “Seventeen, sir. All but the newest will have basic infrastructure, terraforming, and defenders. I recommend that we start the construction of new probe teams and a few mobile defenders for the new bases in the Jungle. They will be growing so quickly that we will need to divert resources to infrastructure, and our mainland bases are much better suited to constructing necessary support.”

    Zakharov nodded. “Agreed. Divert construction accordingly.” He turned toward Amy Constance. “And how progresses the Superconducting Super Collider?”

    “Very good. We have eight years left to completion and four supply crawlers on the way, which will be more than enough to complete the project in approximately two years. In fact, I estimate that two crawlers will be surplus, and I suggest that they be devoted toward energy harvesting. That will augment our increasing research ability. As my report advised, energy is the key to our continued progress. Most of our bases have already maximized industrial production to the limits of what the local ecology can take, so we would be well served focusing on energy at this point.”

    Gregory interjected, “Unless we need support units for new bases.”

    Amy nodded. “Point taken.”


    HIVE 2202, NEXUS Command Center

    “The attack was a success?”

    “It seems so Chairman. The worms penetrated into the warrens and the Firemen were forced to fight in small groups rather than in a team. They were able to repulse the attack but in doing so they were either killed or so badly wounded they are out of action.”

    Yang balled up his fists and pressed them on the holo-table so hard that they began to damage the plas-screen projector.

    “They base just finished equipping and training a trance laser equipped Fireman brigade but it wont be deployed until next turn. I think they should be able to handle the remaining worm mass.” Yazov said shakily.

    “You think or do you know.” Yang said coldly.

    “I know they can.” Yazov quickly replied.

    “And this spore launcher to the northeast of the base?” Yang pointed at the creature displayed on the map. “What of it?”

    “We will dispatch a tanker regiment to destroy it. I have already sent orders. It will be dealt with as well, fear not Chairman.” Yazov said as he tried to muster more courage.

    “See that they do.” Yang said bitterly as he looked up at Zho. “How soon will the missiles be ready?’

    “We start next turn on construction. They are simple to build and we should be able to complete a missile contingent every few turns.” Zho replied confidently. He looked over at Yazov who was still irked at the idea that precious resources had been diverted from Firemen towards ‘dumb’ weapons as he put it.

    “Good, very good.” Yang breathed easier. “I want them up and running as soon as possible. When not fitted with warheads they are to be equipped with the reconnaince package so we can explore more territory. I don’t like the fact we send our tankers out so far to the north to explore territory that a drone could do. Should the drones find something of importance then we can send tankers to investigate.”

    Zho and Yazov nodded in agreement. The decision had been made, now it was their job to make it happen or else.


    • #32
      Southern Seas, MY 2203

      The pair of isles of the deep slid through the fungus infested water between the Consciousness and the Cult. All along the area there were multiple Cult artillery to bombard the isles and the troops they were carrying, and a very large number of foil-based probe teams lurking in bases and roaming the seas. In short, it was a dangerous place to be.

      Fortunately there were no Cultish foils, so as long as the isles stayed away from Cult mainlands and traveled in pairs it was unlikely that they would be able to prevent them from landing in Gaian lands and assisting in weakening the Cult position there.

      On board there was an impact rover, ECM defensive rover, and mindworms. This was a mission not of conquest but of pure destruction. The impact rover would be upgraded to amphibious status, would cruise up to the Cult base on Gaian territory, blast away at the armorless garrisons, and land the mindworms and support troops at the nearest Gaian base. The next turn the impact rover would repeat the process and the mindworm assault forces would move in.

      At last report there were nine military and civilian units at the base including a few missile artillery and missile rovers. The Gaians had been having a hard time and, and last report, had all their forces eliminated. It was entirely possible that the Cult could counter attack, and before that happened they would have to be eliminated. The combined operation would take several years, but it would be well worth it. If properly organized there was minimal chance of losses.

      And, what would happen to the base when it was captured? That had been decided long ago: it would be gifted to the Gaians. They only had four bases and could well due with another, and it would round out the bases on their island. Moreover, that meant that the University wouldn’t have yet another far flung colony to defend, and the Gaians would likely be thankful that the threat was removed – and that they got a base within their home territory.

      It would be up to the Gaians to defend it. Every effort would be made to keep some University forces there – likely the rovers and probe teams. The mindworms would be taken to other opportunities of interest.


      HIVE 2203, Operations Center for HIVE – 10

      “You will hold.”

      “We will die in the attempt if need be.”

      Yang had no reply for several minutes as he studied his Seneschal in charge of HIVE – 10.

      “I did not say anything about dieing. I said hold the city. Reinforcements are in route to you now. More can be sent if needs require. Your defenses are strong and can withstand the spore bombardments.” Yang said coldly. “If I require your death to defend the city I will inform you of the time and place I want it done, is that clear.”

      It was no question and Montgomery Smythe-Blair knew it so. Yang had been furious that his cities Firemen had perished under the assault by the worms but there was nothing he could have done. The new troops, once equipped had rushed to the tunnels and purged the worms but the worms had done their job.

      “I understand Chairman. We will hold, we will loose no more Firemen.” Smythe-Blair fought to say bravely.

      “See that you do. HIVE – 12 will be operational next turn followed by HIVE – 13 and then HIVE -14 in two turns after that. Resources are scarce right now and the strain to feed so many people at HIVE – PRIME is becoming difficult. What I do not need now is an incompetent fool running one of my new cities into destruction!” Yang boomed angriliy.

      Smythe-Blair swallowed with great difficulty and then nodded his head in agreement.

      The line went dead.

      Yang looked up at Zho and nodded to him at which Zho handed him the e-pad which Yang studied.

      “They can hold?” Yang asked as he looked back up.

      “Yes, provided no more native vectors attack the city which we don’t think we will happen. Native life form activity is up but still acceptable.” Zho replied.

      “Is this construction of a recreational center warranted Zho?” Yang asked as he slowly stood up.

      “I think so Chairman.” Zho began to explain. “We have reached five thousand new humans at HIVE – Prime and the demand on resources, especially medical is significant. We still lack the resources and technology to increase our harvest of food so we need more drones to work and work longer hours. The end result is more injuries to our drones. By adding a recreation center and rehabilitation unit our drones can recover quicker and return to work. Suffice it to say the place will not be a luxurious, immoral den of evils but rather a place for our drones to recover from wounds, receive re-education and therapy.”

      “I agree, it is important and the date supports the expansion. You have my approval.”


      University Base, MY 2204

      “The advent of Zero Point Energy is a true breakthrough for the University,” Amy Constance stated. “Not only have we finally unlocked a key to energy production, but almost as a side note we now are able to use that energy harvesting ability to structure a new political model for our society.”

      She paused and pointed to a schematic, rotated it up and then sideways, and then highlighted a key portion. “This is the key. Being able to harvest energy without restriction has led to greater integration of our cities. In short, information flows faster. This means that we can either elect for greater control via a Federal Police State or for greater but decentralized integration through a Federal Democracy. Both have their advantages. A police state has the same crippling limitations to research as a normal police state, but it is much more efficient and allows greater support of military units. Moreover, police units are much more useful – their effects are magnified by the increased data flow. In short, if you don’t care about research and need social control and an aggressive military footprint than a Federal Police State is optimal.

      “By comparison, we could migrate from our Unitary Democracy to a Federal Democracy. In doing so we retain our Talents this more enlightened governmental form gives us, but suffer under greater support restrictions for our military. Likewise, any espionage actions will be more difficult. On the plus side the efficiency is much greater, and we will need that desperately as we expand to our 17th base shortly.

      “We have long since decided that we would need to be desperate indeed to suffer a 30 percent research penalty by switching to a police state. The main question is whether we want to stay in a Unitary or Federal Democracy. Opinions?”

      “There is no question that we should change,” Zakharov said. All heads swiveled. Zakharov rarely ventured his opinion first. Therefore he must think this obvious, or he felt strongly. Either way he had everyone’s attention. “We desparately need the greater efficiency. That will be key to decreasing our energy losses and the bureaucracy that tends to cripple us. But, not now. I noticed that the support penalty will mean that new bases are starkly affected. We need to get our last two new bases up and running before we change. If I am not mistaken our two newest bases will be established within three years. They have been delayed while carefully moving through fungus in the Jungle, correct?”

      Gregory Kline nodded.

      “Then, once they are established we can reconsider the motion. Until then, might you enlighten us on how much additional energy production we have?”

      “With Zero Point Energy our energy production increased by 14 percent,” Amy replied.

      Zakharov smiled. “Good. Very good. And our breakthrough rate?”

      “Improved by a similar amount. It will improve again as we use supply crawlers to harvest energy for University Base, and complete the Supercollider in the coming year.”

      Zakharov’s smile widened. “Exactly.


      HIVE 2204, Main shipyards at HIVE – 4

      “A beauty, a true beauty.”

      “I agree, we couldn’t have designed her better.”

      Both men stood at the end of the massive dry-dock/shipyard and watched as water began to pump in.

      “Are your sure the cradle will hold?” Asked the chief naval technician.

      “It will hold, I designed it to hold ships four times the size of our foils.” The dock yard technician replied proudly. “We had no choice due to the fact that the designs for the sea colony pods are nearly double the size of a exploration foil.”

      “Yes.” The naval technician replied. “We will start that project as soon as we can float this foil out the dry dock doors and berth it for final fit out. Then we drain the dry dock and lay down the new keel.”

      “A sea colony foil, who would have ever thought, frightening if you ask me, stuck out there hundreds of miles from land on a platform anchored to the sea floor.” The dockyard technician gave a slight shudder.

      The naval architect looked at him but said nothing. The man was a fool but he did know how to build a good dry dock construction yard. Yang had ordered him to build not only the exploration foil and sea colony pod but also a warship and a sea terraformer unit. It was an ambitious building schedule since only HIVE – 4 had a dockyard, all other HIVE cities were landlocked. He knew that was about to change with the establishment of HIVE – 13 and HIVE – 14 but those cities would have their production capabilities dedicated for some time building infra-structure and Firemen units. It would be a decade or more before they even began to consider building naval units of any type.


      University Base, MY 2205

      Zakharov couldn’t stop smiling. Today was the inauguration of the first true scientific Project on all of Planet: the Supercollider. Other Projects were useful – even necessary – but none advanced or had the promise of this Project. It offered pure scientific advancement, and insights into some of the basic building blocks of matter itself. Moreover, if the researchers into native life were to be believed it could even start tearing apart the strange energy patterns that suffused the xenofungus and its symbiots. The applications were breathtaking.

      What was even better is that it complemented existing scientific research at University Base. Yes, there were network nodes and research hospitals, but now the work done at these facilities could be cross fertilized, so to speak. The effects were multiplicative, and wonderful.

      With this one Project and with reorienting resource harvesting from mining to energy the research output of University Base alone was greater than all the other known factions on Chiron! The very thought of this made him feel slightly giddy, and it wasn’t because of the Fungal Gin Fanny Bangers a young intern has foisted on him. In fact, the scientific output of the University was now ten times that of the backward Cult of Planet. Each advance and improvement further cemented in the technological superiority of the University – as it should be.

      Of course technology would be given or sold to friends. The Cyborgs and Gaians were true friends, and were aligned with the University in many ways. They would share in a certain portion of the University’s progress if for no other reason than they worked against the blighted Believers and Cult. Both were also research oriented, after their own fashion, too.

      Soon the Cult would be brought to its knees. Within the year the first of their cities would fall to the University, and as more amphibious rovers were constructed the fall would become a cascade. With the eradication of the Cult all the nasty Cultish probe foils that lurked in the dozens would be ended once and for all, and the threat they proved toward the Gaians and Cyborgs. The Cult simply had to be eliminated.

      Zakharov took a stiff slurp of the Fanny Banger and then grimaced. It was potent, but not very smooth. But right now it suited his mood.


      HIVE 2205, Hall of the Operatives

      “Chairman unrest among the workers is climbing.

      “Tell me something I don’t know, like why are the drones revolting more and more even though we have more Fireman to keep them in line.”

      El’Bandar waited patiently for his response. He would wait until the hint of panic left the discussion and Chairman Yang.

      Yang looked even more troubled for a second and then quickly collected his thoughts and then bowed to El’Bandar with a slight smile on his face.

      “Thank you Chairman.” El’Bandar began. “The issue is even with the increased troop levels the workers, our drones are still finding ways to make trouble with their idle time. We need to find outlets for approved HIVE behavior which will reduce tensions in the Hive and promote solidarity.”

      “Well, yes of course.” Yang began. “What I want to see is more discipline and less riots. We need HIVE – 5 and other bases to be more productive and I can not, we can not achieve that while workers are being coddled by health and safety technicians.”

      “You say coddled and they would say treatment.” El’Bandar began. “Our citizens are working around the clock in many occupations that support our society. Without additional relaxing outlets we will lose our vision.”

      Yang pondered this for some time and then nodded to El’bandar.

      “Draw me up a report on your suggestions so I can discuss them with Zho.” Yang said as he slowly stood up and left the small cramped room with its cramped furniture.

      El’Bandar shut the plas-steel door and reached over to open the secret panel to the headquarters fo the operatives for the word of truth. Here was the heart and brain of the Operatives for the Hive, the word of truth as some called it. Here buried below him in four levels was the advanced drone recruitment and training center.

      As El’Bandar walked down the long stone corridor to the main security checkpoint for his organization he wondered if Yang really knew of this facility or chooses to ignore it. Either way, it allowed El’Bandar and his team to work unhindered of rules and oversight a major advantage to his work and his team.


      University Base, MY 2206

      The reports were in and Zakharov was seething. Somehow the Cult probe had attacked and destroyed one of the mindworms on the isles of the deep. How was this possible? Did the Cultists have some strange affinity with Chiron that allowed them to select their targets? Or maybe their soil foil probe teams were all the more skilled?

      Regardless the attacks must continue. The amphibious foil was doing a stupendous job in eliminating the defenders – four total so far – but now the Cultists were building Kevlar Defenders. That would make the task somewhat more difficult. If all went reasonably well the amphibious rover would eliminate the last defenders and then the University would take the base.

      There was the prospect that the Cult would bribe the base away. They had those bloody foil probe teams all over the place, and at last count there were seven. And those were the units that could be easily seen! The Gaians and Consciousness had as many all over the place, too.

      The only answer was to take the base and immediately gift it to the Gaians. Hopefully that would solve many problems. Then the isles could retreat to safe waters, get more rovers, and then start the serious business of bringing the Cult to its knees.

      Zakharov smiled at that prospect. The thought of seeing that smug little fanatical whelp on his knees begging for forgiveness gave him a sense of deep satisfaction. If he were in good mood he’d grant it, but then again – maybe not.


      HIVE 2206, Colony pod #14

      “Seneschal we have arrived at the colony site.”

      “Very well, inform the foreman to begin unloading as soon as you have stopped the transport and anchored it.”

      Jackson Tweet, Seneschal for the future HIVE -14 colony was a happy man to say the least. The worm infestation that had plagued their arrival had been defeated so nothing could stop them now.

      The colony site was not his first choice but it had been Chairman Yang’s and that is all that mattered. The site was located along the massive river valley that flowed from east to west along the northern edge of the great mesa. Several colonies had been built to the east but his was the first to be built to the west. In time, another colony would be built further west to provide a seaport to the western sea areas.

      Tweet stood up and looked out his small porthole to the lush river valley and smiled. Perhaps Yang had been right to pick this spot after all. Regardless if it was or not it made no difference since it was Yang’s decision and no one else’s.


      Gaian Territory, MY 2207

      Waylan snorted, “****. Now what’s wrong?”

      Salar’l looked over at the young woman. “Orders. We’re to disembark at the monolith, repair, and then move toward Cult territory.”

      She adjusted her pulse rifle across her chest in what she thought was an impressive manner. “They’re just f*cking fanatics. Someone gone soft?”

      “Mind your tone,” Salar’l said. “The new Cult defender has ECM, so our amphibious rover is much less effective. We have the largest known army on Chiron, and our combined strength will allow us to crush the Cultist base. All they have is a Kevlar ECM defender and a critically damaged missile rover. We advance over land with the mindworms and the amphibious rover is by sea. Our job is to soften them up. Should be easy. Get it?”

      Waylan frowned. “Yah. But I don’t like it.”

      That was the first civil thing she’d said all day. “Good. It is only a delay. You’ll get your shot.”

      She grinned at that, adjusted her rifle again, and then turned and left. Salar’l watched her go. What he didn’t tell her is that their assault was likely to be fatal, and that their group was a measured sacrifice to preserve the rover. It was not quite a death sentence, but it was pretty close.

      Salar’l tried to think happy thoughts as his mindworm saddled up to him, coiled around his torso, and started tickling him. He had to smile – Far-el always knew what made him feel better.


      • #33
        HIVE 2207, NEXUS communications command node

        “That went well Chairman.”

        “It was a steep price to pay for that technology that the Spartans had but if they were willing to sell it to us and thus allow us to reach parity with them all the better.”

        Yang stood slowly and adjusted a few dials on his chest plate and then quickly pulled his robes closed to conceal it then looked up at Zho.

        “Do you think we paid too much?” Yang asked questioningly.

        “I don’t think so Chairman.” Zho responded politely. “We know our basic research lags behind the Spartans due to the fact we were at sea for so long searching for this rich land. Any price should be paid to reach equality in technology.”

        “I agree Zho.” Yang began. “We continue to expand at a good pace and each new city adds more resources to our collective. We will soon establish HIVE – 15 and Sea HIVE – 1. With the building of these two cities we will certainly gain an advantage in sheer production capacity to utilize the new technology in our favor.”

        Yang finished and began to walk towards Zho and the door and then paused.

        “Will our first scout foil reach land soon?” Yang asked.

        “No Chairman not for some time. We have it vectoring towards the PRIME due south and moving southeast away from the Spartans and possibly new lands.” Zho quickly reported.

        “Good.” Yang said quietly and continued to the door which ‘whooshed’ open at his approach. Outside Yang’s detachment of security operatives and firemen stood at the ready.

        Yang turned yet again to Zho.

        “This pact the Spartans want us to sign so badly, what are your thoughts?” Yang asked probingly.

        “I agree with you Chairman, no, we should not sign. What advantage is it to us?” Zho said as he waited for a reply or comment from Yang but none came but the stern look as always so Zho continued. “We know nothing else right now of the true intentions of Santiago. I see no reason why the collective should enter into a pact that has no clear advantage to the collective. In time, should we need to secure an ally for some reason the certainly something could be arranged but our only real enemy is this planet and the native life forms.”

        “Life forms that we will extinguish in time Zho, give me and my Firemen time and they will be purged from our lands and the scourge of that fungus will be only a memory.” Yang finished the conversation and began walking back towards his quarters.


        University Base, MY 2208

        “Fellow Councilors, it is time,” Zakharov said. “With the establishment of our seventeenth base we can now afford to consider other forms of social organization. Specifically, we can consider migrating from a Unitary Democracy to a full Federal Democracy. What are your thoughts?”

        Gregor Kline leaned forward. “I am not sure, Prokor. If I understand the dynamics of a Federated system its primary benefit is the more efficient allocation and distribution of resources. As our society expands this is certainly an advantage, but the disadvantages are significant. Each of our cities will be less able so support troops. Keep in mind that our support ability is already compromised by our Private/Protectionist economic model. We will not be able to found more cities and have them construct new units at a reduced cost. That cannot be ignored.”

        Zakharov smiled. “Yes, you are quite correct. But at this time we do not have any colony pods in construction, nor are there any plans to do so. We could reconsider, of course, as our mindworms continue to explore the Jungle, but for now we are well established. I feel that seventeen bases gives us a significant production advantage, and guards against disaster. Do you think we should engage another phase of expansion?”

        Gregor straightened, and then said. “No, Prokhor. Not at this time.”

        Zakharov nodded. “The reduced support rating does not materially limit our current support capacity, which is admittedly limited.” He noticed Mr. Korath looking up at him. “Yes, Richard?”

        “The Federated system is also a very open system, and thus prone to infiltration. We know all too well the number of probe foils and probe teams all the other factions have deployed. If we undertake a Federated political model we will have to redouble our defensive probes, and offensive action will be out of the question.”

        “A very good point. However, our primary objective is infiltrating the other factions so we can know what they are doing. We have done so with all but the Believers, who are a long way away. Their time will come, however. None of the other factions have any research we care about, and we’ve already downloaded the Cult world map. Your point is well taken. All of our bases have defensive probes, and now building more will have to be done under a Federal Democracy. Any other concerns?”

        No one said anything, so Zakharov continued. “We will not lose anything from our non-existent Police ability, and we will still enjoy the Talents we gain from a Democracy. Overall I see no real penalty now that all of our bases are completed. There are several more advantages, though. Ms. Constance, if you please?”

        Amy squirted data to each of the Councilors. “Look at projection two. As you can see, the real benefit of the Federal Democracy is the efficiency increase. Fully a quarter of our bases will be in Golden Age, with all the energy and growth benefits that yields. Moreover, many of our smaller bases will no longer be in near riot conditions, which will allow us to have increased resource harvesting – and allow us to complete recreation commons to ensure social control…”

        “Yes, yes,” Zakharov interrupted. “Get to the point.”

        She looked up with more than a little annoyance. “To the point, then. The extra efficiency will reduce research waste, and the extra energy from the golden ages and allocation of populous to productive purposes will result in a 13 percent increase in research and energy production. Our breakthrough rate will be four years.”

        There were gasps around the table. Zakharov’s smile increased. “Is there any further discussion?” His voice was smug.

        There was none, and the motion migrate to a Federal Democracy passed nine to zero.


        HIVE 2208, The great northeast frontier

        “What do you think NEXUS will say?”

        “They will give us all medals for sure.”

        Both leaders looked at each other for a few minutes and realized what wishful thinking that was.

        “Finding this massive fresh water lake in our backyard practically will give us unprecedented access to fresh water that can be used to help the collective. These lakes are larger than all of the old Earth lakes put together.” Fireman 87TANGO said as he reached down and picked a rock up and threw it into the lake as far as he could. “It’s been days and we still have not seen the far side of the lake yet.”

        “Agreed but until we put more colonies out here it only is something to look at.” Captain 92BAKER said wearily.

        “I know from what I heard that NEXUS plans on building more colonies each turn, never stopping I hear. HIVE – 14 and Sea HIVE – 1 will be built soon with four more colony pods on the books to build and even with those I don’t think we will fill this area up, do you?” 87 TANGO said as he grabbed another rock and threw it.

        “I don’t know where you get your information when I have not heard of any of this yet but even if you are right it does not effect our mission which is to scout and report. Now.” 92BAKER said as he slowly re-adjusted his equipment and then turned to face the three tanker regiments lined up along the bluff overlooking the lake. “Get our people moving out right now and deploy them in the scout pattern I told you.”

        87TANGO bowed quickly and then scampered up the loose rock and dirt bluff to reach the crews.

        92BAKER quickly began to ascend as well, there was fungus to kill somewhere and he was going to get some burning done today.


        University Base, MY 2209

        Yes, it had been a good year, Zakharov thought.

        The assault on the Cult had gone relatively well. The base had been taken with the loss of a single mindworm, and all the other defenders had been summarily dispatched. His rover team had secured 68 megacredits from the Cult treasury, which felt very good and made up for the loss of the mindworm.

        With great ceremony he had personally renamed the Cult base from Chiron Stigmata to Planet Dream and during the transfer to the Gaians. He had even gifted the Gaians the ECM Kevlar rover that had assisted in securing the base as a goodwill gesture to Deirdre and his Gaian allies. Deirdre had been all smiles, and even the Cultists seemed less sullen since they would not be administered by the hated University. Even better, now the Gaians had their fifth base and 3000 new citizens. Not bad. Not bad at all.

        Cultish forces had landed near Korolev Center and a Cultish probe foil had taken out their espionage team, but that was of no matter. The counter attack had been devastating, with their high morale artillery eliminating theirs and the extra probe team, too. A reserve probe team was rushed to fill the void, and all is well.

        After that Head Looney Cha Dawn had called begging for peace. He remembered just smiling, and offering to accept his surrender. The line went dead, and he had a good laugh. More laughs were sure to come in the future, of that he was sure. More impact amphibious rovers were in production, and by the time the isles returned there would be a fresh assault force ready to take on the Cult homeland.

        There were also reports of a botched Unity pod exploration, and there were three worms likely to attack Razvita-Progress Base. No matter – a trance defender was already in place, and the local mindworms would block and then destroy the nasty native creatures. It would likely net a hundred megacredits by the time it was all done.

        Another botched pod opening by Edinstva Unity was more serious. Ground had catapulted upward like had happened at New Azamas and some of the Monsoon Jungle had been destroyed, but the base was still viable. There was not much to be done there, and the situation seems to be under control.

        A sea pod opening had yielded a Unity Transport. It was slow, but it would be useful to ferry troops and supplies – and perhaps explore Unity pods. Sadly, it reduced the support at Nauk Science Center, but that was not to be helped.

        Lastly, they’d had another scientific breakthrough – Nanotube Mass Production. Now they could build Tube Mail armor that was 50 percent more effective than Kevlar! That in combination with perimeter defense, ECM, and base defender meant that home defense would be able to resist all but the most determined attack, and those from the pathetic Cult almost wouldn’t count! HA!

        With all that scientific production was increasing. Supply crawlers were now harvesting energy for University Base, and citizens switched such that the base would be in a perpetual Golden Age – with all the production and energy benefits that would entail.

        Yes, this had been a good year.


        HIVE 2209, On board the HIVE transport ship PRIME

        “Do you have it!”

        “Yes Captain!”

        The chorus of ‘Yes Captain’ echoed up towards the starboard side ‘flying bridge’ and Captain Gregor breathed a sigh of relief.

        “Okay, stow it in the first cargo hold and set a guard on it.” Gregor yelled back and then turned and re-entered the bridge through the airlock.

        “Do we have it Captain?” Gregor’s helmsman asked hopefully.

        “We do Dimitri, we do.” Gregor said as he slowly walked over to his bridge chair and sat in it. “Open a channel to HIVE – PRIME.”

        “Yes Captain.” The communications officer snapped back.

        Within moments the face of Zho, Yang’s assistant could be seen on his chair’s flatscreen command console.

        “Yes Captain Gregor?” Zho asked politely.

        “We found an artifact.” Gregor said slowly letting the words sink in and watching the expression on Zho change immediately.

        “Bring it back immediately to HIVE, is that clear?” Zho said commandingly.

        “Very clear Zho. I will make course for home at full speed. Gregor out.”

        The line went dead.

        “How soon will it take us to get back?” Gregor asked as he turned towards the navigator and his plot table.

        “If we turn due north we could make it in eight turns provided we don’t have to detour around much fungus.” The navigator replied happily.

        “Good, make it so.” Gregor ordered as he turned to watch the crew lower the massive alien artifact into the ships hold. It had been a one in a million chance that the bow observer noticed the signs of a city beneath the waves and then the unmistakable signs of an artifact in a shallow area just off of the bow of the ship. It had taken days to fish it up but they had done it and it was now their ticket home.

        “Take us home helm!”

        “Aye-Aye Captain!”


        Nadezjda-Hope, MY 2210

        The technicians glanced over their shoulders as they carted the crated object to the center of the room. Gravity assist made the process easy, but it was somewhat unnerving to have Prokhor Zakharov himself observing. He was standing with a clutch of people from the Council. Zakharov had been on the holos and vids for a hundred hears and he was easy to identify – white fly-away hair, odd glasses, expensive blue and gray suit that looked rumpled even at a distance.

        Finally the trio got the crate to the center of the room and placed the crate down – gently. Without a word they started decoupling the magnetic strips and removing each of the security seals, documenting each as they went. They were scrupulous on the detail since there were so many people observing, all of whom would have their heads if anything went wrong.

        At last the last seals were removed and they unbuckled the pre-formed sidewalls and carefully lifted them aside. They paced away and the object within was now visible. It was about a meter and a half tall, a meter wide, and roughly cone shaped. There were what appeared to be several ports scattered randomly across the surface. The color was indistinct, but it might have been an iridescent blue-green under the thick patina of age and tarnish.

        Another pair of technicians paced forward with an official looking woman in a long white lab coat following. The pair took a series of readings, checked their data pads, and then nodded to the woman.

        “Prokhor and Council members, the artifact is intact. With your approval we will attach it to the city’s network node system.”

        Amy Constance, who was the official scientific liaison to the Council, said, “Proceed.”

        The two technicians attached a series cup-shaped ceramic nodes to the object, placed a micro fission generator at the base, and then connected the generator to the two nodes. A third node with a long optical cable was linked to both the ceramic nodes and to two additional nodes on the artifact. After an additional check and verification by the supervisor they switched on the nodes and the power source.

        At once there was a sharp humming, and the artifact appeared to vibrate and waver as if it was being observed through heat rising from a desert.

        “Link active, full power achieved,” the supervisor said. “Initialization of the data stream starting…now.”

        For the next three hours the vibration changed its intensity, and at times the artifact seems to pulse with colors that varied from red to black. During the entire process the artifact became more and more indistinct.

        “Stage two. It is pulling data from the network. 100 terraquads. 200 terraquads. Peak estimated in 10 minutes.”

        The vibration changed, although the observers would be hard pressed to say how.

        “Stage three. Data being received. 20 terraquads. 40 terraquads. Pattern destabilizing.”

        Then, abruptly, the vibrations stopped and the artifact seemed to slip back into the vision of all those who were watching.

        “Stage four. Data transfer complete. 500 terraquads received.”

        Everyone looked at the supervisor to tapped the datapad with her stylus. “It appears the data is of a military nature.” She smiled. “Specifications for a Supercollider, it appears. Data integrity – 100 percent. Verification of riders – negative. Mal systematics – negative. Verification complete. Shunting data to the main network node.”

        Zakharov turned to Amy Constance and raised an eyebrow. “Supercollider?”

        “Apparently. We anticipated that our next military discovery would be an augmentation of our impact weapons, and the artifact has completed our work for us it seems. Very useful.”

        “I should say,” Zakharov said happily. “Have one of our bases start prototyping the new weaponry immediately on a rover chassis. Also, have a foil outfitted with this and the latest Tube Armor. I Our defenses are 50 percent better than their best weapon, and our offense three times more powerful than their best defense. I would say the Cult is in for a nasty surprise.”


        HIVE 2210, NEXUS central briefing hall

        “The technology was costly but useful Fire Marshall?”

        “Very much so Chairman!” Yazov beamed with pleasure. “The new designs are already in production and it will give our Firemen the much needed physical armor protection that they have always needed and the special weave of materials insulates them from the mind blasts of the worms on Chiron.”

        “Very good indeed, at least our Fireman will have the defensive capabilities they will need to stand toe to toe with the vermin on this planet.” Yang said with tones of anger lacing his voice.

        “Chairman the establishment of Sea Hive – 15 is also complete and it is now operational. HIVE – 4 will continue to build a sea former and new naval vessels to support that sea city and one more to be built on the eastern shores of the great mesa.” Zho added as he handed an e-pad to Yang with all the details.

        Yang looked the pad over quickly and handed it back to Zho and then looked up at Yazov and El’Bandar and gave them both hard looks.

        “What of the reports of more unrest?” Yang began as he continued to nail each of them with hard cold eyes. “Why are my drones unhappy?”

        El’Bander took a step forward and bowed to Yang.

        “Chairman.” He began quickly. “Simply put the drones are becoming too numerous even for our operatives to track all of their movements and the Firemen can not be at every place. We simply can not support the needed numbers of operatives and Firemen to do so.”

        Yang looked at Yazov and he quickly bobbed his head in agreement.

        “What of this procedure my scientists developed, nerve stapling?” Yang said quietly.

        Both Yazov and El’Bander said nothing at first then Yazov took a step forward.

        “I will explore the use of the device with my scientists and Firemen Chairman. If the technology really holds true we can quell all of the riots at any base by eliminating the drive for unrest in one fell swoop.” Yazov replied and then waited expectantly for Yang to say something.

        “Proceed with the testing.”


        • #34
          University Base, MY 2211

          Commander Yang,

          The crew of your transport vessel was kind enough to give me your communication frequency. The crew seemed quite concerned that they were talking to the officers of the UNS Zakharov, and please rest assured that they behaved appropriately and that I in no way took offense at their reticent demeanor.

          I am pleased that you survived the Unity Disaster! You know as well as any that the people on Chiron are likely the last humans in the universe as Earth is likely a radioactive cinder due to the unmitigated stupidity of the various national and super-national leaders. Fortunately we have a second chance to achieve what they did not.

          The people of the University of Chiron look forward to peaceful and productive relationship with your people! As you might guess, I am most curious on how you have faired during the last hundred years since the Disaster. Hopefully you and those of your pod are prospering and are learning – as we all are – how to best meet the challenges on Chiron.

          Warm regards,
          Prokhor Zakharov
          Council Chair
          University of Chiron

          P.S. – good luck with the artifact in the hold of your transport! I guess the SETI people were right after all – we are not alone in the universe.


          HIVE 2211, NEXUS command operations center

          “What do you think Zho?”

          “Chairman this communiqué from Zakharov seems to be an open attempt at trust and friendship.”

          Yang glanced down at the communiqué again and then looked up.

          “Did you and El’Bander review the security feed on the PRIME to see what information Gregor might have let slip?” Yang asked pointedly.

          “We did Chairman and it was clear that Gregor and his crew did not let slip any vital information about the HIVE our or social experiments. It is clear to both of us and our team of operatives that nothing was discussed that would betray us.” Zho concluded.

          “Good, very good, for once Gregor kept his mouth shut. I still want his crew and Gregor sent through re-education upon their return and a new crew put aboard the PRIME, is that clear.” Yang said as he slowly stood up and walked over to the holo projector station. “I want our ship clear of that University warship as soon as possible. I want our information networks sealed and the transmissions coded so nothing could be picked up.”

          Zho nodded that he understood.

          “Now, I will send this lunatic Zakharov a reply and hopefully persuade him to release some technology to us that we need desperately. I will warn him of the Spartan threat and perhaps frighten him into thinking he is joining me and my camp for protection.” Yang said as he adjusted his robes to conceal as much of his life vest as possible.

          “A very good plan my Chairman.”

          Scientist Zakharov,

          I greet you in turn with a warm welcome! I am glad Captain Gregor and his men tried to treat your crew warmly but alas I suspect the many years at sea have made them insular and reticent to converse with strangers.

          I am so glad we found other survivors who could be of help to my children. I call my people my children since I weep over their misfortune and struggles since the wicked day of the UNITY disaster. My UNITY pod landed on a small island with only a few supplies and few trained people to help us survive. Within days we were forced to leave the island in search of a new home that could support us. After nearly a decade at sea we found a new home and have beaten back the terrible fungus and native life forms to build our new land. We were forced to leave nearly half of our colonists on the island which then was attacked by mindworms and all were killed. Only those faithful to my vision who trusted me were saved from death. To this day I weep for those we were forced to leave behind to their deaths all for the want of transportation, a ship.

          It has been a terrible struggle to maintain morale and the courage of my children under the relentless attacks from this planet but we have survived. I do wish to warn you that your ship is traveling towards the despotic ruler and our former security officer, Corazon Santiago. She has set-up a military society ruled by thugs bent on world domination and cruelty. Her military might is strong and she is bent on taking what she wants at all costs! Be warned her gang of rapists and murders have powerful weapon technology equal to yours!

          In hopes of establishing our trust with you I am offering this warning, so your ship can steer clear of the witch and her barbarian horde. In addition, I could offer you her communication frequency so you could contact her before your ship arrives, if they ( your ship ) plans on continuing on their present course and by doing so, avoid any possible bloodshed, by alerting her of your approach. All I would ask in return is the means to improve our food production. I am sure, that the talented people of the University would have such information at hand that could aid my hungry children and improve our sad lot in life. Currently, we have only the ability to scratch a mere two metric tons of foodstuffs from each sector of farmland even though many of our farm sectors have rich soil and plentiful water supplies.

          I also offer you a truce in turn so that you know me as a friend to you and too peace loving people on this misbegotten planet.

          I hope you and your leaders take pity on my children and help us in our time of need. Such technology, if you should have it should be open to all people on Chiron so we can sustain our very lives on this hell hole of an accursed planet.

          I hope you find our offer both fair and that you will comply with our request to help my children so they can have a few more mouthfuls of food at each meal.

          My most warmest regards,

          Chairman Yang
          First Protector of the Collective for the new Humanity
          Chairman of the Consul of Deputies


          University Base, MY 2212

          “The first order of business is our communication with Coronal Santiago. It appears she was trailing the Hive transport, and when our foil passed by we got their communication frequency. She was noncommittal but not hostile, although she refused our offer or technology trading and a friendship treaty. She did warn us of the Hive, and if she is stalking the Hive the transport will not get far. The weapons are formidable, and their armor had some strange resonance we haven’t seen before – much like the fields the native life forms seem to have. This means we now are in contact with six factions, which is equal to the number of pods from Unity – and considering the circumstances it is amazing they all survived. Unless there are splinter factions we are unlikely to find any more factions,” Zakharov said.

          “We also got some good news from Razvita-Progress Base. They opened a Unity pod and found materials that allowed them to complete their research hospital. This is an advanced facility for such a small base, but it will be useful since they will grow very quickly due to the food resources of the Jungle. The hospital will also help their stability, which is always a good thing. They also report that the two worms were destroyed, so we no longer need to be concerned that the small bases will be threatened by roving worms. Any observations?” Zakharov looked around the table. Everyone shook their heads.

          “Then on to our last but certainly not least order of business: ‘Chairman’ Yang’s missive. Before I offer my opinions I’d like to solicit those from the Council. Richard?”

          “I found the message to be overly emotional. My recollection of Commander Yang is that he was very controlled and not prone to talking about children, or mentioning weeping. I have a hard time imaging Commander Yang ever weeping.”

          Zakharov nodded. “Amy?”

          “I second Richard’s observation. I never had much direct interaction with the Commander, but his reputation was for cold efficiency, and a harsh discipline. I imagine him making hard choices with ease, so that part of his story rings true.”

          Zakharov made a few brief notes in his datapad. “Immanuel?”

          “He seems overly interested in technology. We have the ability to grant him technology, but I think we should use this to our advantage – you scratch our back, we scratch yours. I think his offer is weak since we already have Santiago’s communication frequency. Considering what we know of him I’m not inclined to gift any technology. That should be reserved for our friends and allies. We should be very careful about selling technology, too, and should only consider this if we have a friendship treaty.”

          “Good, good. Getz?”

          “He clearly doesn’t want us to proceed further east. I’d guess that is where his homeland is. I think our foil should shadow his transport. We move much faster and with a little luck we will be able to explore the area. Finding the Hivean home territory would be highly useful.”

          “Yes. My thoughts exactly. Zhu?”

          “We need allies. Our war with the Cult is proceeding slowly, and we have made no inroads against the Believers. The Hive could be a valuable tool, or eventually more. This is especially true since our overture to the Spartans was rejected.”

          Zakharov nodded again. “Fienman?”

          “Forming blocks and alliances is only advantageous if we don’t make more enemies. We need to understand more about the Hive and Spartans before we engage in any Pact, although I see no danger in a friendship treaty. Our trade with the Consciousness and Gaians is beneficial, and helps strengthen our relationships.”

          “All excellent observations, and in line with my thinking,” Zakharov said. “Here is what I propose for our response…”


          Chairman Zakharov,

          The University of Chiron readily accepts your offer of a Truce. However, be advised that a Spartan foil is two sectors south of your transport. The University made contact with Coronal Santiago, so although your communication frequency is appreciated it is not necessary.

          In the interests of friendship the University offers your people a Friendship Treaty. This will demonstrate our level of cooperation and the general alignment of our goals. With time it is our hope that this can grow to a greater level of alignment of our peoples.

          We are willing to trade technology. Please look over what you have available and it may be possible to come to an agreement. Of course we would like to ensure the continued prosperity of your people and all those that are friendly to the University. Some factions do not value peaceful human intercourse. The University Council views this as one of the key flaws that lead to the destruction on Earth, and we will do what we can to ensure this does not happen again.

          Your warning of Coronal Santiago’s intentions is appreciated. Our conversation was helpful to understand each other’s positions, and she made no overt hostile actions against us.

          Prokhor Zakharo
          Council Chair
          University of Chiron


          HIVE 2212, NEXUS Central Communications Chamber

          Scientist Zakharov,

          I am somewhat displeased at the denial of my request for humanitarian assistance. I find it difficult to ‘trust’ a government that would deny humanitarian relief when asked when we, have done nothing to threaten you and we even warned you of the dire Spartan threat!

          At this time I would be willing to discuss the exchange of our missile technology which we have used to destroy the heinous native life forms on Chiron with. By having a small battery of these missiles on standby in key locations you can protect your population from any attack. I would be willing to exchange this technology with you for some other technology you might have to offer.

          I am willing to offer you a truce at this time in exchange for the technology to improve our farms. Colonel Santiago has repeatedly pleaded with me to joint her junta of thugs to form some sort of pack that will allow us to bring order to this planet. At this time I am able to fend off such offers but should riots break out as a result of famine and topple my government there might be someone else then more inclined to Santiago’s offer. Please keep this in mind that trust has to be earned first rather than expected. I openly warned you of the Spartan threat and their superior weapons.

          My hand of friendship and a truce for your improved farming/nutrient technology

          My missile technology for another technology of your choice ( pending my approval )

          The end result will be the foundation of a friendship.

          Chairman Yang
          First Protector of the Collective for the new Humanity
          Chairman of the Consul of Deputies

          “Do you think they will agree Chairman?”

          “I suspect they will now. The threat of a possible counter alliance of the HIVE and the Spartans should motivate them to seek our friendship first and foremost and in their best interest.” Yang replied as he stepped down from the holo-projector.

          “Their reply was short giving some indication of their wariness. Surely they will still suspect us.” Zho added.

          “Perhaps and perhaps not, and I neither care. I would prefer to milk this University for it’s secrets if possible and El’Bander has targeted their networks for infiltration if possible, two teams in sea foils are approaching their coast line as we speak. Once we know the true secrets of the University we will crush them with our powerful army.” Yang said as he walked slowly towards Zho.

          “A cunning plan Chairman.” Zho began. “Should it fail?”

          “Then we align ourselves with the Spartans and crush the weaker factions and then turn on the Spartans and crush them, very simple.” Yang said with a slight smile. “I am eternal while the University democracy is a sailing ship without a rudder. In time, their leadership changes and weakness saps their resolve and leaves them open for exploitation. In time, I will win and they will loose, it is the order of things in the universe.”

          “Quite so Chairman.”


          University Base, MY 2213

          “The Cult base fell easily to our amphibious forces,” Admiral Conrads said. “Only one unit took some damage, but that was repaired by the spoils when they secured the base. The leading forces were reinforced by a mindworm, another rover, and two probe teams. A total of five enemy units were destroyed. A Cult mindworm and missile rover are two sectors to the south, and their capital is four sectors to the west. A very lightly defended sea base is located three sectors to the east within the striking distance of the isles. The two isles are in an adjacent sector awaiting orders. I recommend eliminating the forces to the south and then eliminating the sea base. After that is secured we can move west to take their capital”

          Zakharov was smiling. Yes, he actually enjoyed putting the nasty fanatics in their place. “Very good, Admiral. Consider sending one of the isles north for reinforcements. There are surplus defensive and offensive units at University Base that are at your disposal. What is your estimated time to secure all core Cult bases?”

          “In purely military terms, four to five years. The one weakness is that we only have two probe teams, and that cannot defend against the numerous land and sea Cult probe teams. It is too great a risk to allow a Cult espionage team to subvert a newly captured base or steal technology. If time is critical we should consider gifting the non-critical bases to the Gaians or Consciousness.”

          “Agreed. The Gaians could use more bases, and we do not need them. Any other news?”

          “We have lost the Hivean foil, although the Spartan foil remains within view. We will spend additional efforts locating the foil in the coming year.”

          “Do your best, Admiral. We need to find the Hivean home territory. It can’t be too far. Likewise for the Spartans.”

          “Acknowledged,” she said. “Signing off.” And the line went dead.

          Zakharov turned to the Council. “It has begun. Our forces are light, but we have a good chance of defeating the Cult while our technological superiority is assured.

          “Now, to the Hive. I am a little confused by Yang’s offer, but we need to be clear that we will not trade technology with those who are not our friends. Therefore, our trade of Gene Splicing for the Hivean Long Range Missile technology will be contingent on a friendship treaty. Agreed?”

          There were nods all around.

          “I have been advised that we have made a breakthrough in Field Modulation. The new resonance armor has already been incorporated into our new military designs – very useful. Our research rate is still growing somewhat, but the breakthrough rate is now down to every five years. We will have to work on that.”

          “Good. Now let’s have lunch.”


          Chairman Yang,

          If you are looking for societal stability then you need to reduce your growth rate and you do not need Gene Splicing, which unlocks the nutrient limits we have found on Chiron. But it is not my place to lecture you since I am sure you already know the subtleties of social dynamics. Indeed, as I recall that is your specialty.

          The University is willing to trade technology with our friends, so a condition of a technology exchange is that we enter into a Friendship Treaty. This is not onerous since we will both benefit from increased trade, which will enhance the levels of prosperity of both of our peoples. Moreover, this will build trust – and hopefully a stronger and growing friendship.

          Therefore, we are offering the Hive the technology Gene Splicing for your technology Long Range Missiles. The benefits to your people will be immediate in terms of increased growth rate, and the benefit we will enjoy is a greater level of technologic understanding. That is always our goal.

          I am somewhat confused with your offer of a truce since we currently enjoy that status. And as to the Spartans, rest assured that the University has weapons that are as good as or better than those of Santiago’s Junta. We will be ready to defend our selves and, if attacked, we will respond vigorously in kind. Be advised that another faction that declared war on the University without provocation and that attacked us repeatedly is currently feeling our wrath. They have already lost two bases to our advance, and more will follow in short order. By way of contrast, our friends have enjoyed gifts and unsolicited assistance, and I earnestly hope that we can count on the Hive as one of our friends.

          Warm regards,
          Prokhor Zakharov


          • #35
            HIVE 2213, Chairman Yang’s private quarters

            “Do you plan on responding to the University counter offer Chairman?”


            Zho said quietly waiting for Yang to say more but he did not.

            “Our seaformer is ready at last and will leave drydock on the morrow. Our new battery of mobile artillery is moving quickly to bombard the nest of fungal towers to the north which should net us a massive treasury increase in planetpearls.” Zho decided to report since Yang was not in a pleasant mode it would seem.

            Yang sat quietly for some time not commenting again and then he looked up at Zho.

            “This scientist Zakharov is a stubborn man but so am I. His true character leaks through his guise of friendship. His like have always worked to undermine the work of visionaries. When I contact Santiago again I will make the pact and we will then combine our forces if need be. It seems these enlightened factions do not understand the full impact of their decisions.” Yang said softly.

            “It is regrettable that Zakharov did not agree to our terms.” Zho added in supportative tones.

            “Yes most regrettable for the scientist. We still lack sufficient sea ports to build an effective invasion force at this time, correct Zho?” Yang asked.

            “We could support a small task force, nothing more.” Zho quickly replied. We have only the three sea ports and two of the three still lack sufficient capacity to build ships.”

            “I see.” Yang said slowly. “Patience Zho, we must be patient it would seem. I need to consider this issue in more depth it would seem. Even with the might of Sparta behind us it would be a uphill battle at this time. Soon they scientists will discover our lands and begin probing our shores. We will not allow them to dock and learn our secrets. Let us see what time and patience brings us in the future and what boon will peril will befall both factions. In the meanwhile, continue our efforts to upgrade armor and equipment for our Fireman.”

            Zho quickly jotted down all of what Yang said and then looked up.

            “Yes Chairman.”


            University Base, MY 2214

            “The best laid plans, Provost. Or Murphy’s Law. Whichever you prefer,” Immanuel Florence said with no particular relish.

            Zakharov didn’t respond. He just stared at the maps of Gaian, Consciousness, and Cult territory. It looked like a stormcloud was hanging over his head, and he had a scowl on his face.

            Seeing no response, Immanuel pushed on. “None of us could guess the Cult would Pact with the Consciousness, and then demand they declare vendetta on us. It is a brilliant coup for the Cult, of course. We can’t take on both the Cult and the Consciousness – not with the forces available.”

            “Really?” Richard said. “We took a Consciousness and a Cult base in the last year. That speaks well for our technology.”

            Immanuel turned toward him. “But we have no way to hold them, and there are a dozen probe foils and espionage teams in the area. The Cult destroyed one of the probe teams we brought with us, so we have one to defend three bases. The situation is untenable.”

            “Gentlemen, it is clear what we have to do,” Amy said. “You just don’t want to say it. We have to agree to a truce. Both the Consciousness and the Cult are willing to agree to one. The Consciousness demands a steep price, be we have no choice but to take it. Then we need to pull back, gift two of the two sea bases to the Gaians, and consolidate in the former Cultish base University Insight. In the meantime we step up our isle’s return to our homeland for probe teams, rapidly build defenses, and then hold on tight. We have no other real options. If it works we will have weakened the Cult and Consciousness, strengthened the Gaians, gained a foothold to punish both if they act against us, and reinforce our position.”

            She looked around the table and got grudging nods from everyone. Then they looked at Zakharov, who refused to acknowledge their silent inquiry.

            Amy almost sighed. The mighty Zakharov was sulking. “Call for a vote on the proposition of agreeing to a truce with the Cult and Consciousness, with a bribe per Aki Zeta’s demand. All in agreement?”

            A clear majority agreed with two abstentions, including Zakharov – who didn’t say a word.


            HIVE 2214, NEXUS Central Communications Center

            “It is agreed then Chairman, a pact?”

            “Yes, a pact is agreeable to the Collective Colonel Santiago.”

            Santiago smiled for the briefest of seconds then resumed.

            “The strong will survive on Chiron and the weak will perish that is the way of things in life.”

            Yang studied the response for a minute or two before he responded. What an obvious think to say Yang thought as if it had not occurred to him. Of course, all through the long negotiations the Spartans constantly stated the obvious which revealed more of their true character then they would likely understand.

            “Yes, it is the way of all things in the universe.” Yang said quietly.

            “Your Collective is a powerful force Chairman.” Santiago replied. “Your military is vast compared to ours. You have over 30 infantry regiments at your command along with 6 rover attack companies as well. Your military is a very impressive force indeed as is your Collective itself! Every city positioned within 2 sectors of each other to provide interlocking defensive support for the other cities, compact and impregnable when coupled with your premiiter defensive systems. Then add the fact of your NEXUS command center system which makes your military a powerful force indeed.”

            Yang listened intently but he could not help thinking once again, the Spartans stupidity for stating the obvious. Yang understood how powerful his military was and she knew that he knew and yet she still told him! Should he respond, in kind, and babble like a young school boy about the fact that the Spartans continent was three times the size of the Collective’s continent. With the vast size he now understand why they had bases so far apart, more like outposts than a city complex like the HIVE.

            “Thank you Colonel, now if you will excuse me, I have pressing issues that must be dealt with.”

            Santiago nodded and the link was terminated.

            Scientist Zakharov,

            It has been brought to my intention through the Operatives of Collective that a faction calling themselves the Cult have tried to falsely blame the Collective for acts of espionage and sabotage that we did not commit. We have no knowledge of this Cult but you might and we would request information on them so they can be dealt with.

            As you can see, it is our experience that trust put into the hands of factions we do not even hardly know is trust misplaced. This is why the Collective can not agree to a treaty with you at this time since you have done nothing to show us that you are friends that can be trusted. We have asked repeatedly for humanitarian assistance and you refuse. The only technology we might be able to offer you in exchange would be our cruise missile technology which is a weapon based technology not humanitarian based. I would be willing to exchange our missile technology for some other technology you might have but not this gene splicing technology that will allow our crops to thrive on Chiron. I see the withholding of such technology as criminal and not in keeping with the spirit of the UNITY mission nor it’s charter. The Collective has warned you of the Spartan threat out of genuine need to demonstrate our good faith and yet you have done nothing, in kind to show a like commitment to friendship so I hope you can see how incredulous we are that you require a treaty first before we can trust you.

            There is an old Earth fable in which a scorpion asks a frog for a ride across the river. The frog is afraid that the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion responds that if he did they would both die. The frog thought about that and then agreed to transport the scorpion across the river. Halfway across the scorpion stung the frog and began to die and sink into the river which would also kill the scorpion. The frog, with his last breath, asked the scorpion why. The scorpion responded, it was in my nature to do so and I can not fight nature.

            Scientist Zakharov we do no know your nature and until we know your nature we will not make a treaty with you or let you ride on our backs.

            Chairman Yang
            First Protector of the Collective for the new Humanity
            Chairman of the Consul of Deputies


            University Base, MY 2215

            “An unmitigated disaster,” Zakharov muttered.

            “Prokhor, we did what had to be done. In gifting the two bases to the Gaians we eliminated the chance that the Cult could subvert another base, and in doing so gain access to our datalinks. The Gaian bases will still be usable for actions against the Cult now that they have declared war again. It is a shame that the former Consciousness base was subverted, but we knew the risks and decided not to gift it to the Gaians. That was our mistake. We have learned a valuable lesson: war on the cheap will costly. The next time we act we will have to go in with overwhelming force.” Amy Constance was calm, clear, and direct.

            “There are advantages,” she continued. “The Gaians now have three more bases, the Cult has lost a net of two of theirs, and the Consciousness has lost one base – a net gain for our allies the Gaians. We have lost some military units and nothing more. They can be replaced rather easily. All in all this has been a useful if painful lesson, but one that we can easily recover from.”

            Zakharov looked at Ms. Constance with a flash in his eyes. “And what about their technology!? The damned Consciousness has gifted them nearly everything they have, and how we are militarily equivalent!”

            Amy looked at him steadily. “For a short while, perhaps. We maintain a huge technological lead and a significant military lead, Prokhor, and even if they combine their research we still have six times their total. Moreover, our production is vastly superior, as is our population. Time is on our side. All we must do is learn our lessons and not repeat them.”

            Zakharov subsided into silence.

            Amy looked over and realized he was not going to be helpful. He took setbacks personally and his veneer of logic was slipping.

            “We also have the new communication with Chairman Yang. We need to determine how to respond.”

            “Do what you want. I’m sick of him, I’m sick of parables, and his f*cking innuendo.”

            “Very well,” she said.


            Chairman Yang,

            Prokhor Zakharov is indisposed and I have been directed by the University Council to respond to your communication.

            We are very familiar with the Cult of Planet. They are a group of religious fanatics where Planet is their Godhead instead of the typical paternalistic mysticism common on Earth. In our experience they are aggressive and decidedly non-rational. It is the policy of the University to keep them isolated to the greatest extent possible.

            It is unfortunate that you do not wish to join with us in friendship since such a treaty is a start, not and end – it is a declaration of intent. Without such a declaration we can not be reasonably sure that a technology we would exchange would be used against us. We have already experience betrayal, Chairman, so we are cautious.

            By way of gestures, you did warn us of the Spartans, but our experience is that Coronal Santiago has been distant but not hostile. The warning, therefore, sounded somewhat hollow, especially since you asked for technology in exchange for her communication frequency and a truce. Perhaps the Spartans have been hostile to your people? If so that would be of immediate interest to us.

            University Council is unsure what sort of gesture of goodwill you require in return for your warning. But, we do have a warning and gesture of good will in exchange for yours: while exploring a Unity pod a hostile Isle of the Deep was released. Our foil speed away, but the release was proximate to the last sighting of your foil. We earnestly hope that your foil is not near the isle and that your crew can escape.

            Your parable is highly interesting and rife with multiple meanings. You were well known before Unity to be a man of deep thinking who used metaphor to explain complex issues and illustrate concepts. Are you the scorpion, Chairman Yang? And do you see the University as the frog? After all, you are interested in gifts of technology – much like the frog was asked to gift the scorpion a ride across the pond. We certainly hope that neither of us is the scorpion in your parable, Chairman, since if that is true then Chiron will suffer the same fate as Earth.

            Amy Constance
            University of Chiron Council


            HIVE 2215, NEXUS Central Communications Center

            Scientist Constance

            It is now clear to me that the UNIVERSITY is ruled by megalomaniacs motivated by pure greed and a ruthless need to see those around them suffer. We have asked as a sign of your good intentions towards the Collective that you release agriculture technology to improve our health and prosperity of the Collective. You seek to impose your morals and self seeking ambitions upon us by forcing us to take drastic steps with my citizens by imposing draconian rules by denying them the right to procreate and live in some quality of life that you have!

            What right do you have to hold such technology for a price that would only serve the greater good of Chiron! You are like the greedy corporations on Earth that withheld vital medicines to those poor countries in need for the sake of their profits! While thousands, tens of thousands died the United States and their corporations argued over patent rights! Now my people struggle to feed themselves while your free and democratic leaders haggle over a price!

            I offer for the last time my hand in friendship. I want the gene splicing technology for my people and all of the people on Chiron! I will exchange with you our missile technology for another technology we do not have. In the end you might have exchanged two technologies for one but you have earned the beginnings of my trust rather than my enmity.

            Your cavalier disregard for safety has also strained our poor relationship yet again by exploring possible UNITY pods with an armed civilian ship nearby! What wanton regard for safety! I am surprised you did not want to force me to pay for the warning you have me by exchanging our missile technology for it!

            Should you deny my request for the third and final time I am informing you in clear terms that I will seek a pact of friendship with Colonel Santiago to extract those files by force! No one faction on Chiron should make children suffer for the sake of a few credits or information! FOR SHAME!

            Chairman Yang
            First Protector of the Collective for the new Humanity
            Chairman of the Consul of Deputies

            “Do you think they will respond with the technology this time Chairman?”

            Yang stepped down from the holo-projector for what he hoped would be the last time today. Talks with Santiago seemed to take forever and in the end he realized they were more backward than he had thought. They were clueless to the outside world and workings there and perhaps had no reason to even care if they knew in the first place.

            “I think so Zho.” Yang began. “I have been slowly building the rhetoric and now I have hit them where all weak and feeble democracies live and that is their conscience. They can whine all they want about fair exchanges but when faced with the reality of their greed, their immoral position of withholding non-military technology for the sake of a few credits it will burn out their resolve, trust me on this Zho.”

            “As always Chairman.” Zho said as he quickly fell into place as both he and Yang left the secure room flanked now by Yang’s security detail.

            “Riots have broken out in several key cities Chairman.” Zho began. “The lack of Firemen to keep order has allowed some elements to formulate dissent among the drones. Yazov and El’Bander have taken steps to squash them but it does tie up resources.”

            “With forty fire brigades you would think that revolt would be impossible” Yang barked in one of his few moments of visible anger. “Has HIVE-17 been built?”

            Yang quickly changed topics which forced Zho to do the same.

            “Yes Chairman.” Zho reported quickly. “HIVE – 17 is operational with HIVE – 18, 19, 20 and 21 soon to be completed. We will have Sea HIVE – 22 complete in a decade or close to.”

            “Good.” Yang said more calmly. “Yazov’s plan to rid the land of the last of the fungal towers?

            Zho once again changed gears quickly.

            “Bombardment will begin next turn by several artillery brigades.” Zho said almost cheerfully. “My office estimates a net gain of nearly 500 megacredits when the operation is all said and done. A very good investment of our resources Chairman by you.”

            “Yes, it was.” Yang said as he began to cross a catwalk that overlooked a production/living quarters warren of drones. Far below Yang stretched a vast room filled with drones building devices and equipment while others fed their children nutrient broth and slept, ate, talked and had sex, all of this going on in plain view of each and every other drone. There were no walls, no privacy in warren. Another of Yang’s social engineering tools to break down the human being into a more pliable and workable tool.

            Yang walked across the catwalk overseeing his mini-empire below knowing that in each of the seventeen HIVE cities scenes like this were going on in each and every one of them and in time, in time, Yang’s vision would become true.


            University Base, MY 2216

            Chairman Yang,

            Your offer is acceptable. We will accept Long Range Missiles in exchange for Gene Splicing. As part of this exchange we have included our offer of a Treaty, per our previous discussions. It is our earnest hope that this can be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship.

            Please note that our foil has destroyed the rogue isle of the deep. Our crew undertook this at considerable risk to themselves and, being far from home, will have little chance for repair. Now your transport with the artifact can safely proceed to your home territory.

            As to your other rhetoric, I am not sure how to respond. We offered Gene Splicing to your people five years ago in a one-for-one trade, and you refused. To the University it seems that your decisions are withholding this key technology from your own people. The technology has been offered freely. Regardless, our offer stands and we hope you will accept it.

            Also, the Council is unclear as to how we have imposed our morals upon the Hive. We have asked to work toward a peaceful relationship through a friendship treaty, although I don’t quite understand how that could be interpreted as imposing morals.

            Amy Constance
            University of Chiron Council


            • #36
              HIVE 2216, Communiqué from HIVE COLLECTIVE


              TO: UNIVERSITY
              FROM: The HIVE Collective

              SUBJECT: Agreement reached on exchange of treaty for technology

              The Hive accepts your offer of the gene splicing technology for our treaty of friendship. Once your data files have been downloaded into our database a planet wide announcement will be made indicating our acceptance of a treaty of friendship with the University.

              END TRANSMISSION

              “What effect did it have?”

              “Our spotters guess that our first bombardment only had a 10% reduction at best to the structural integrity of the tower.”

              DAMN! 101TANGO cursed to himself as he also kicked some rocks clear of his foot. This accursed planet gave nothing up easily and the native life forms just would not die. A quick calculation of the time it would take at this rate and he nearly vomited his lunch up. Brigade HQ would be calling him soon demanding answers as to why the tower did not fall under the first barrage.

              “Okay, set up another salvo and then another and another until that thing dies!”

              The young Fireman quickly saluted by bowing and then raced back to the team of tankers and their Firemen who served as crews for the massive impact artillery cannons mounted on them.

              101TANGO had to make a dent by next turn or face the consequences and he was going to avoid that whatever the costs.

              “Okay you Firemen get back at it now!”

              The crews began to fire again and again and again into the massive tower mass but even from here he could see hits tearing up the mass but just as quickly as the shells hit the mass would grow back, not as fast but it did grow back.

              He would not give up, never!


              University Base, MY 2217

              “What do you mean the Cult established a base on our landmass! Our HOME TERRITORY!” Zakharov fumed.

              Richard Korath said, “Just that. They were able to land a colony pod, establish the base, and how the Consciousness colony pod and the transport are there. It is three sectors from University Base.”

              “So we can’t attack it without declaring Vendetta against the Consciousness,” he asked.

              Richard replied, “No.”

              “And their expanded territory takes prime solar panels from University Base,” Zakharov continued.

              “Yes,” Richard said.

              “Then subvert it. We have plenty of probe teams. We’ll get a useful base in underutilized area, a transport, and maybe a colony pod or two. What is the estimated cost?”

              “Likely a hundred megacredits,” Richard replied.

              “Do it. And reinforce the base with probe teams as soon as possible. This could work to our advantage since we do need more ports. And what of the Cult’s new Pact with the Believers?”

              “It seems they are doing an excellent job of forming a coalition. The Believers only have 6000 citizens so they are a threat to no-one. But it is disturbing. Perhaps we should send a transport, take out their capital, and see if we can force a surrender.” Richard looked over at Zakharov.

              “No. We tried that against the Cult and it ended poorly. The Believers are largely irrelevant. We’re building up our forces to take on the Cult, take their bases, gift them immediately to the Gaians – a kind of rolling thunder. We still have a number of amphibious rovers, which are useful against almost all defenses, including those with ECM. I want a squad of four isles fully outfitted. We’re not messing around this time.”

              Zakharov voice had lost its edge and Richard Korath was relieved. “Right. Now to Yang’s latest message.”

              “Let Amy handle it. She seems to have more patience than I do with the Good Chairman.”

              Richard nodded.


              Chairman Yang,

              The University welcomes your Friendship treaty and hopes this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. We are willing to trade or sell technology with our friends, and will entertain any mutually beneficial offers you may have. In this way we can build trust and a greater understanding.

              Amy Constance
              University of Chiron Council.


              HIVE 2217, NEXUS command & control center


              TO: UNIVERSITY
              FROM: The HIVE collective

              SUBJECT: Release of gene splicing technology immediately

              Invoking the 23 article of the UNITY charter I am demanding you release the files on gene splicing to the HIVE collective on the grounds of humanitarian assistance and aid. It is clearly stated that such requests can not be ignored or aid denied to an applicant. This technology belongs to all people on Chiron and as such we demand and require you release it immediately to us.

              We understand the cost of research to develop this technology is costly to you but on the other hand we will not suffer extortion by your hand nor anyone else. We offer the sum of 50 mega credits as a far and reasonable price for the technology you should freely give us.

              Once completed, we can then discuss other agenda items such as treaty of friendship or the exchange of more technology. The release of the technology for our energy credits will be the first step in building a trust that then can lead us to the formulation of treaty. A treaty does not come first then the trust.

              END TRANSMISSION

              “I sense the University is pre-occupied with other issues or they would deal with us more freely.”

              “I am sure that is it Chairman.” El’Bander began as he crossed his legs and adjusted his black coat. “My sources from the Spartans inform me that the Cult and this cybernetic conscience faction are giving them fits. The Spartans want us to assist them in attacking the cult but why should we when they are doing such a marvelous job thwarting the University.”

              “My sentiments exactly El’Bander.” Yang said as he took a minute to adjust his life support vest. “Our expansion continues at an acceptable pace but without more nutrients we will soon have to restrict growth in some form. I see no reason to go to the effort in breeding drones just to let them die of starvation.”

              “Quite so Chairman.”

              “Now El’Bander.” Yang continued. “Will the artifact arrive soon? When do you expect our operatives to breach University and the Cult data files.”

              “The PRIME will be here in two turns and my men are already in position to remove the crew to separate cities for re-education. The artifact will be linked to HIVE -2.” El’Bander then paused. “The mission and targets for the operatives, what will that be my Chairman?”

              “I don’t care if we learn about their maps or how many workers they have or how many mega credits they have what I need is technology, just technology. Take whatever they can obtain and send a coded uplink with that information back to NEXUS. Is that clear El’Bander.” Yang said as he adjusted once again his life support vest.

              “Very clear Chairman.”


              University Base, MY 2218

              Chairman Yang,

              To the best of our knowledge there is no article that requires technology transfer between factions, only that humanitarian assistance will be offered when the need has been observed. To that end we have done this in saving your foil crew from the rogue isle of the deep. Also, your people are not starving; it is merely a matter of ensuring the Hive has a greater population growth rate. While we understand your desire for this technology, but it is clear to us that our offer is fair: a Treaty to demonstrate good will that will also benefit both of our peoples, and a one-for-one trade of technology. This is hardly a one-sided deal. Indeed, it would seem that the Hive would benefit most since Gene Splicing will lift nutrient restrictions while the University would gain a useful but hardly critical missile technology. Moreover, if Gene Splicing was so utterly necessary to the Hive than it is clear to us that this trade would have been affected long ago. You could have had this technology a half decade ago but for squabbling over terms and what the University sees as rhetorical legalisms. Chairman, the ball is in your court.

              After signing a Treaty of Friendship we will be more than willing to discuss the sale of technology or future technology exchanges. Your offer of 50 megacredits for technology is worth consideration, but only after the basic terms of our relationship have been established.

              Amy Constance
              University of Chiron Council


              HIVE 2218, Communiqué to the UNIVERSITY


              TO: UNIVERSITY

              FROM: The HIVE Collective


              Our offer is simple, 50 mega-credits for the gene splicing technology. Once completed, we will then know that you are sincere and that you want peace and we will THEN sign a treaty of friendship, not before! This is how we determined that our new PACT allies, the SPARTANS, gave us certain technology and as a result, we know have an alliance.

              Your actions in ‘warning’ us of the rogue isle of the deep is a farce! You were responsible for disturbing it in the FIRST PLACE! If you had observed a nominal safety distance from our civilian transport it would not have been in danger in the first place! Why should I consider THAT a sign of your trustworthiness when you nearly caused the destruction of my and the death of the crew!

              I have informed you of our need for the gene splicing technology, we have offered 50 mega-credits for the technology to compensate you for what should be given freely when we have clearly asked and demonstrated our need for it for humanitarian needs. Your reluctance to exchange the technology, in effect, forces us to take drastic actions that will impose suffering on our people. We will not suffer our sovereignty to be reduced so that you can dictate terms on how we should conduct population control! You have neither the right nor the moral high ground to do so when it is clear your scientists had an unfair advantage in developing it in the first place. My people wandered the seas for over a decade before we could find a home, suffering untold dangers and starvation and now I need to make them do so again because, you feel we are not in desperate need of it!

              FOR SHAME!

              Exchange the gene splicing technology for our 50-megacredits and we will then sign a treaty of friendship. We can then discuss an exchange of our missile technology for any similar technology you might have to offer us.

              Lastly, we will show you HOW effective our cruise missile technology are if your espionage units try to penetrate our SEA HIVE data links. It disgusts us that you would use those filthy creatures as a mode of transportation rather than slaying them outright and feasting on their energy nodules. We will destroy the creature and your espionage units if they do not withdraw immediately beyond our territorial lines of control!

              We in turn will withdraw our scout foil as well beyond your territorial waters AS YOU SHOULD! Any act of espionage will be treated as an act of WAR!

              Step carefully!

              END TRANSMISSION


              University Base, MY 2219

              “Is the invasion force ready?” Zakharov asked.

              “Yes. We have four transports ready to go. Unfortunately our escort foil was destroyed by Cult foils and isles, but we destroyed two Cult foils and an isle in the exchange so we came out ahead. Our best intelligence is that there is one Sea Lurk and a few Cult isles remaining, so we will have to proceed with caution. What are the priority targets?” Richard Korath asked.

              “The Cultish remaining home territory, with the sea base first, I think. Our amphibious forces should have no trouble taking the bases, retreating, and then gifting the bases to the Gaians. The question is, do we want to do this?” Zakharov looked around the room. “This is a significant investment of production. It is possible that the Cult could surprise us again.”

              “Prokhor, we need to take them out,” Richard continued. “They are the core of the alliance they have built with the Consciousness and Believers. As long as they are viable they will be a threat, if for no other purpose than political. We have a chance to rebuild our relationship with the Consciousness once they are gone or pacified, but not before. A submissive Cult would be just as satisfactory as a defeated Cult, although with two allies that might be difficult.”

              “But the Cult asks us frequently for a truce,” Immanuel said. “The last one was broken almost immediately, but it does indicate they are willing to talk.”

              Zakharov was silent for a moment. “Inform the Joint Command to deploy the transports as they see fit. Mr. Korath is correct, and our concentration of forces is significant – and likely the largest on Chiron.”

              Amy stated, “It is the largest on Chiron, barring what the Spartans and Believers can field. But, are we sure this is the correct course of action? The Hive has been increasingly belligerent, and frankly the Cult is not a significant military threat. And don’t forget the Hive sea probe we sighted off of Cosmograd. We are very fortunate that it was defended by defensive probes, and it is possible that our datalinks have been infiltrated.”

              At that Zakharov became somewhat agitated. “Indeed. We need to redouble our defensive probe production, and ensure there are at least two at each base. Sensors and pickets are highly useful too.”

              “That would put a significant demand on even our production, Prokhor,” Richard said.

              “Just do it,” he replied, his voice raised. “Now, we’ve found two artifacts and I want those taken to our territory as soon as possible. The Hive and Spartans may not be much of a technological threat, but the damned Consciousness and Cult are. That is another reason for taking them out. Too many enemies.”

              “We could just accept a truce, with the Cult relegated to a decidedly second tier status. Prokhor, the true threats will not come from the Cult but from factions with significant production bases – the Consciousness, Hive an Spartans,” Amy stated. Looking around the room she saw she was a minority opinion.

              “For right now the Hive is underdeveloped, and they’ll need all their troops just to keep their restive populations in line. If they take the troops to fight a war their populations will riot. Such are the joys of a police state, along with a crippled research rate. Still, their research rate is noticeable at one sixth ours – the best among our competitors. They are a growing power, yes. But not a threat now,” Zakharov finished.

              Amy leaned back and said nothing. It was clear to her the matter was decided.

              “Ms. Constance, please reply to the Good Chairman. His demands are ever changing and you have greater patience than I.”


              Chairman Yang,

              It is regrettable that you have yet again rejected our offer of a Treaty and a direct technology trade. Perhaps in the future you will be interested, but be advised that our research rate is such that your technology may be produced from our own labs – and that would be regrettable. Your ever changing demands and requests only damage your own society by denying them technology that could help them develop.

              And as to espionage teams, please save your righteous indignation. The Hivean sea probe was sighted off of Cosmograd. What, pray tell, is their mission? That said, our isle will withdraw in the interests of peace. Our isle and probe teams have had considerable luck investigating Unity pods. You may consider doing the same.

              Congratulations on your alliance with the Spartans. It is interesting that a few years ago you were berating them as warmongers and a dire threat. We will keep this under advisement.

              Amy Constance
              University of Chiron Council



              TO: UNIVERSITY
              FROM: The HIVE Collective

              SUBJECT: THEFT!

              It now is clear that the University CAN NOT BE TRUSTED as we have always suspected. How many times have we heard, “Make a treaty of friendship with us Chairman and all will be well, we are you friends.” Yet your actions speak the truth over your verbal lies.

              You were instructed to leave our territorial waters without delay. But you decided to land an espionage unit on our soil and not only that you stole an artifact that rightfully belonged to the Collective! Suffice it to say we could have suffered and perhaps understood your curiosity of exploration but when we caught you in the act of thievery both the artifact and your espionage team was destroyed by a cruise missile attack. We have constant air patrols of cruise missiles which have great endurance and range that nothing on Chiron can match. Once again, you have under-estimated the HIVE ability. ALL lands north and east and west of your isles’s position are currently colonized by the HIVE. Leave this area immediately!

              You are ordered to leave our territorial waters IMMEDIATELY! You are ordered to offer compensation in the form and manner of our choosing which will be the transfer of the gene splicing files. If your isle of the deep does not leave immediately we will blow it to bits and watch the flaming worm mass slip below the waves with joy in our hearts! You will transfer the technology immediately or see your isle of the deep blown from the water and any other invasion force you send against us. Be warned we will not suffer these indignities lightly and I will have my pound of flesh for the thievery you have committed upon my people!

              We in turn, have moved our exploration foil clear of your city and into open and international water, a threat to no one!

              Once again, the wisdom of Chairman Yang is clear for all to see. If we would have entered into a treaty with you it would have been a false one to be sure. You have shown us no clear sign of your friendship other than causing the direct endangerment of our peaceful civilian transport!

              As to the Spartans, once again, deeds are stronger than words. The Spartans gave us technology and helped our people which in time, helped us to learn that they were not all together the barbarians we thought them to be. While you, on the other hand, might come from a society of scientists but in reality or nothing more than petty thieves and liars.

              You have one last chance to redeem your false actions. Next turn, gift us the gene splicing technology or face the consequences.

              END TRANSMISSION


              • #37
                University Base, MY 2220


                Your idea of ‘theft’ is highly original since the Unity pods were are not for any one faction but for all of humanity on Chiron. Is not that exactly what you were arguing when you demanded Gene Splicing technology from the University of Chiron? Moreover, this was an alien artifact and not Hive property, and if anything it belongs to long departed aliens. The University has stolen nothing from the Hive, so your accusations are groundless. Moreover, the espionage team you destroyed was no where near your bases and was, as we freely admitted, exploring Unity pods. We did not dissimulate nor mislead, and no thievery was committed.

                Our isle is currently making its way west and out of your territory per your request. Attacking it will be an act of war, Chairman, so think very carefully before you let your rhetoric overtake reason. We accept the loss of the espionage team and, regrettably, the artifact, but any further attacks on University property will also be considered an act of war.

                As to endangerment by the rogue isle, we gave you immediate notice of the rogue isle of the deep and then destroyed it. What more would you want? A guarantee of absolute safety on all of Chiron? Your forces are also exploring and investigating anomalies and know they may be infested with native life, so to accuse us of any ill intent is groundless. You know as any other the dangers of this world, and in our view this claim is a red herring.

                The Hive seems very interested in the Gene Splicing technology, and we have offered fair terms – a one-for-one technology trade. You have declined this direct offer, and then offered threats, dubious claims of harm, and most interestingly appeals to humanitarian aid. In short, these arguments are not persuasive, and you will find the University more amenable to technology trading than threats. If this technology were truly so critical then you would have agreed to the equitable terms one-for-one trade long ago. As it stands it appears you are gaming us for advantage. Regardless of the above, our offer still stands: Gene Splicing for Long Range Missiles.

                Finally, the University has not harmed you or your people, regardless of your rhetoric. The offer of technology and a Friendship Treaty has always been on the table and the Hive has declined. It seems the Hive is the intransient entity in this situation.

                Amy Constance
                University of Chiron Council



                TO: UNIVERSITY
                FROM: The HIVE Collective

                SUBJECT: FRAUD!

                The lies you spin to justify your positions are beyond imagination! To think when I commanded your filthy isle to leave our seas you thought that meant, “It’s only Chairman Yang, we can take our time leaving his territorial waters but while we are here, lets take the time to land some troops on his soil and explore the riches he has there!”. DO YOU TAKE ME FOR A FOOL!

                We have found that investigating any of those UNITY pods are dangerous due to the age and condition they are in. What would have happened if the one you explored would have had a faulty power core, burned itself down to through the mantle and then released a volcanic explosion! The risks you take at our costs are beyond imagination to me! We have a core of three major HIVE bases all within four sectors of that UNITY pod you opened, all of them were threatened by your acts of thievery! No one expects that safety is assured while living on Chiron and the HIVE have taken upon themselves to destroy as much of the native life forms as possible to rid Chiron of the cursed stain that corrupts it. However, when a civilian transport is within a sector of your operations common sense would dictate waiting until that transport is clear and safe rather than risking danger that they can not defend themselves against! Your blatant disregard for our safety, the lives of my collective, the sanctity of the HIVE territory clearly demonstrates you are not to be trusted! We will never exchange technology with you at all.

                I should warn you that we have now aligned our fortunes with a faction you might have come to know, the Cybernetic Conscience. They were more than willing to gift us, technology files on industrial automation which will help solve our food crisis. In addition, we made several additional exchanges that have now given us the ability to build attack helicopters! I should warn you that our first units will be coming on line soon and if any UNIVERSITY ship is found within our 3-sector territorial waters we will destroy it! You have been warned UNIVERSITY that we will no longer tolerate your filthy lies or theivery.

                The UNITY pod are for everyone but if that is the case YOU should freely give us the gene splicing technology since that artifact could have unlocked those secrets for us but since you attempted to steal it from us we will never know now, will we. I would rather destroy it rather than having to pay for what should be rightfully mine in the first place!

                You are on notice as of this moment that the HIVE will no longer suffer your subjugation of technology nor your thievery of property that rightfully belongs to the HIVE people. Let me remind you once again, the untold suffering my people faced for over a decade since we landed on a small, puny atoll in the middle of an ocean. Our suffering has made us hard and only through true friendship and humanitarian assistance will we even consider any form of friendship with you.

                Our offer, as always, 50 mega credits for the gene splicing technology.

                END TRANSMISSION


                University Base, MY 2221

                “And this, Prokhor, is what the Virtual World will seem like once completed,” Amy Constance explained. Scientific equations morphed into spheroids and conic sections, and then started to change back into equations – but with subtle differences. In Zakharov’s mind’s eye he reached out and gently touched the images and then one of the equations.

                “Beautiful,” he said in awe.

                “That is what you see. Others will see an environment of pleasure, relive family, see loved ones long passed – almost anything. You can see the utility, Prokhor. Our advance in Optical Computers has allowed us to construct this Project. In combination with our Network Nodes this will not only save us considerable energy but also grant us astonishing social stability. If we can manage a higher growth rate and get a fabled population boom our production ability will skyrocket.”

                Zakharov disengaged the simulation. “That will be difficult. We will need to migrate to an Anthropomorphic society and Planned economics, which will have grave impacts on our culture. How many bases would benefit?”

                “Likely, five – only those with hatchery improvements and sufficient nutrients.”

                “Not likely to be enough. But, keep me apprised. Now, you tell me the invasion of the Cult is delayed?”

                “Yes. A Consciousness foil is blocking our route. We’ve backed off sufficiently to allow them egress, if they so desire. Regardless, every year increases risk. At some point we’ll have to pull back.” Amy motioned toward the front door of her lab.

                “Right. The other problem: the Empath Guild. The Consciousness is working on it?” Amy nodded. “Any chance we can acquire the technology and complete it before them?”

                “Only if we secure the data from the Cult, and then switch the Projects. The Planetary Energy Grid will be complete in a few years. The Spartans are several decades away from completion so that isn’t a worry. We have numerous supply crawlers to jump Project completion, but we’ll have to defer the Virtual World, I’m afraid, if that is a priority.”

                “I see. Tough decisions.” Zakharov looked slightly distressed.

                “Yes. And they’re only going to get tougher.”


                Chairman Yang,

                Congratulations on your successful technology acquisition from the Consciousness. It would seem you no longer need to demand technology from the University now that you have a faction that is willing to meet your terms. It is regrettable that we couldn’t come to terms earlier, but that was your choice.

                The University wishes you peace and prosperity.

                Amy Constance
                University of Chiron Council


                HIVE 2221, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                “We have found the University isle of the deep Chairman.”

                “Show me.”

                Yazov made a shallow bow and then motioned for Yang to move towards the massive holo-tank in the center of the room.

                As both men approached a drone technician quickly activated the device and a map of the island chain due south of HIVE -4 could be seen. An University isle of the deep was just north of the landing spot where the PRIME had deposited an exploration team.

                “Your orders?” Yazov said as he looked at Yang for instructions.

                “What does the isle carry?” Yang asked.

                “The second espionage team and another artifact it would seem. Most likely the one we knew of buried just off our southwestern coastline along this.” Yazov pointed at the spot. “chain of islands.”

                “Correct me if I am wrong Fire Marshall but is not that island connected to our territory by Sea HIVE -15?” Yang asked.

                “The base’s sphere of territory does touch those islands Chairman.”

                “Then destroy the isle Fire Marshall.” Yang said slowly. “Issue orders for our missiles to engage and sink the isle.”

                “As you command Chairman.” Yazov began. “However, I did direct our missiles to the west and they are currently based northwest of HIVE – PRIME. I think if I recall them with the 14 sector range, we should be able to hit the University’s isle of the deep. We have two missiles on ready alert with a third missile on standby. I doubt the slimly creature could withstand three missile attacks”

                “Then do so.”

                BEGIN TRANSMISSION

                TO: UNIVERSITY
                FROM: The HIVE Collective

                SUBJECT: WAR

                You were warned against thievery once and yet persist in these actions! I have ordered a missile strike on your isle of the deep unless you turn over the artifact to us at once. Deposit it on the island chain just to the west of your current position and my Firemen will collect it. Failure to deposit the device will result in the sinking of your isle of the deep.

                The land mass at which your thieves stole it from us was clearly part and attached to the borders of our sea HIVE city. That device belongs to HIVE, we want it back! You have no right to pilfer our lands for your profit then only to charge it back to use.

                Your isle can not outrun our missile attacks. NOTHING will dissuade us from this action unless you leave the device on the island! Consider this re-payment for the one you stole from us and we had to destroy from keeping it out of your fiendish grasp! Consider this compensation for your act of treachery for trying to steal the other device!

                Be warned! Your isle is already forfeit unless you turn over the device to us immediately! We will unlock it’s secrets and not you! Should you do so we make the promise that the technology will be available to you in exchange for gene splicing. I will not hesitate in the least to destroy your filthy creature if we don’t get that artifact back now!

                Chairman Yang

                END TRANSMISSION

                ************************************************** ****************************


                University Base, MY 2222

                “A Cult sealurk you say?” Zakharov asked.

                “Yes. The Cult is running a green society, and that in combination with their affinity with Chiron made the attack on our isle easy. Fortunately we only lost the isle since the other transports could handle the troops. The Consciousness is still blocking the way south, so I suggest we retreat and get our forces to an area of safety.” The admiral was matter of fact.

                “Agreed. Whether through bad luck or genius on the part of the Cult and Consciousness our attack is too risky - pull back to near University Base. Destroy the Cult probe foil if you can. Artillery should do the trick, I think.

                Zakharov turned to Amy. “Yang is having kittens again. I swear, his rants are getting more unhinged by the year. Amy, you deal with it.”


                Chairman Yang,

                The Unity pod we explored was NOT in your territory, which is clearly defined. Look at your maps and you will see that your territory does not extent to the small island. For your information, sea bases do not control territory on land – they control sea sectors only. Our team explored an artifact that was clearly outside of your lands, although our isle was on its way outside of your lands – per your demand. In fact, our isle could not have taken a more direct route out of your territory because the small island was in the way.

                And even if we wanted to turn the artifact over to you we couldn’t – because it isn’t in your territory.

                University Council


                HIVE 2222, NEXUS Command & Control Center

                TO: UNIVERSTIY

                FROM: The HIVE Collective

                SUBJECT: TRUCE

                As promised, so that you KNOW our word is iron, your filthy sea worm was destroyed. The artifact was ours by territorial rights, just as the first artifact that you liberated was also part of our territory. Consider this just punishment for your wanton greed and avarice. As far as the HIVE is concerned we now consider our pound of flesh paid for in full. You lost two artifacts and your isle of the deep and two probes, let this serve as your punishment for the arrogance you have. I will not let your ranting turn me from what I know is justice. The first artifact was stolen from us and we were forced to destroy it. You were ordered to leave immediately, not wander about and pick up more treasures on our front door and yet again RISK MY PEOPLE to further danger by reckless exploration of these devices! Now, perhaps, you fully understand how dangerous these things can be!

                I would suggest you consider our truce, carefully. Your erstwhile ally, this freak Lady Skye contacted me to denounce my actions and THEN informed me that she would have to condemn my actions yet, she exchanged vital technology with me, after the fact I had destroyed your isle. Can you believe it! For myself, it only shows us that your government is corrupt and full of weasels and everyone on Chiron will turn against you in a heart beat, even your supposed pact mate! She actually exchanged, what I consider, low tech technology for her advanced files on growing the same beasts that you have, these isles of the deep! As if we would ever demean our new humanity to wallow in the filth and mud of Chiron.

                I have included a transcript of our conversation with this Lady Skye, you might find it illuminating.

                Also, I wish to inform you that I made contact with a Cha-Dawn. A very interesting fellow all in all, it seems he is at war with you. Imagine that. Well, you can be certain I have given him my full support; in fact, I gave him designs on our new cruise missile weapons. I am sure you will soon get to know them much better, perhaps see them, face to face shall we say. What did I get for this technology you might ask? Well, Cha-Dawn gave us gene splicing! Gene splicing coupled with the maps Cha was kind enough to sell has given me a very clear and detailed picture of your holdings.

                So let me conclude this transmission. I don’t and will not except any further negotiations with your underlings Zakharov. I offer a truce since I am reasonable man and my anger has been sated. Justice has been served and suffice it to say so long as your naval units and those filthy beasts come no further north than the spot your beast died I see no reason we can not live in harmony, once again. Should you move north, you will find a storm of missiles rain down on you with no mercy.

                It takes only a turn or two to build a missile and I have over 20 cities now. Imagine, if I but lift my finger and in flick they all switched over to build them. The rain of destruction could prove crippling to anyone who would threaten the HIVE. But, we both now that will not be the case, because we are reasonable men and as reasonable men you understand the situation clearly when I mean, no more ships in our territory. No more stealing what rightfully belongs to my people. Justice has been served on the criminals, your filthy beast has been put down, as all Chiron life forms should be. Now, we can turn the page… Perhaps, we could even exchange technology?

                Your newest friend…

                Chairman Yang

                END TRANSMISSION


                • #38
                  Planetary Archives, MY 2223

                  “Thank you Coronal. Your price is more than fair, and I thank you. Long Range Missiles will be very useful. Please call again if you have any further needs.”

                  Zakharov didn’t mind the interruption at all, and for once this would be a good day. Imagine, getting a call from Santiago wanting to sell technology? And that she was in a good mood? That would surely frost Yang’s balls, and there was no way he would gloat like Yang does.

                  Yes, this was surely a good day. The Planetary Energy Grid was up and running, and now this grid linked all the University bases with some strange form of resonance, if he understood what looked like flaky physics to him. This efficiency resulted in a fifty percent increase in energy at all bases, which was considerable. In the end he was willing to overlook the dodgy science since the results were undeniable.

                  The other bit of good news is that the stupid Cult had destroyed the useless old Unity transport with their sealurk, which their artillery had promptly found and pounded. He saw a clip of the creature being torn to pieces and he loved every minute of it. There was only on Cult sealurk and now it was dead. Good riddance.

                  There were reports of significant growth and two bases had disturbances, but that was OK. A little reorienting of their industrial position would be needed, to be sure, and a few cruise missiles, artillery, and rovers to defend the realm. The Jungle would not be neglected, oh, no. Most growth was concentrated there, and growth was strong.

                  Amy was working her way through the reception crowd for the dedication of the Planetary Energy Grid. Zakharov realized that he had seen her too late and couldn’t escape. Damn but she was persistent!

                  “Prokhor, we have to talk.”

                  “Hmmm?” he said.

                  “Yang needs an answer. From you.”

                  “You answer it and put my name on it. We discussed this in Council.”

                  “Yes, we did, and you’ve done nothing.” She was clearly irritated.

                  “You do it. I’m done with pointless legalisms and his Machiavellian tactics. No more.”

                  Amy sighed. She hated this.


                  Human Hive,

                  The University of Planet acknowledges your declaration of war.

                  Prokhor Zakharov (official data-coded signature)


                  HIVE 2223, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                  “That was all he sent?”

                  “I am afraid so Chairman.”

                  Yang looked around at his top advisors and smiled at them. Yang’s face was illuminated by the holo-tank they were all standing around and the light from the tank turned his smile into something evil.

                  “You see.” Yang began. “The weakness of these so called democracies is clear now for all to see. They don’t even have the courage to respond to me personally. Now Fire Marshall what are the plans you have worked on.”

                  “Simply put my Chairman we will drone attack him to death should he come within 6 sectors of our continent. At your command each city is to construct a full battery of cruise missiles every other turn so we will, in a matter of decade have an awesome arsenal of weapons we can use for defensive or offensive operations. I have plans before you that we build an airbase in forward positions to stage our missiles to bombard the University from a safe distance. Or we could build a sea base at 14 sectors due south of HIVE – 4 and that would give us an effective range of 28 sectors at which we can strike at the University. We will soon have 20 bases at which we can assemble missiles effectively giving us a 3 possible 4 batteries of missiles each turn. In time, we will simply wear them down and they will sue for peace. Their northern borders will become a waste land. In addition we will secure our sea approaches by deploying our new attack helicopters and upgrade our Firemen with better defensive armor.” Yazov finished as the holo-tank finished displaying the visual representations of what he had described including missiles destroying University cities.

                  “Very good Fire Marshal.” Yang said coldly. “El’Bander what of your work?”

                  “Very good news my Chairman.” El’Bander began. “The Cult gave us their map of the University and all territories they have explored so as you can see now.” El’Bander activated the new display of the Chiron map showing all the known areas. “We know exactly the size and location of each University city. They exist on a small continent, only a quarter of our continent but we are told their cities are highly evolved. We nearly match them in populations and will soon out surpass them with the new population expansion programs you ordered. We have five times the growth rate of any known faction on Chiron and coupled with our gene splicing technology and crawlers we can support that new population. I am now coordinating the deployment of several operative foil exploration ships and we will make an attempt to penetrate their computer systems within the next 2 to 3 turns. I understand their ‘probe’ teams as they call them are weak and ineffectual and we should easily defeat them with our superior skills and training.”

                  “Very good El’Bander.” Yang almost purred with content. “And now you Zho.”

                  “There is nothing but good news my Chairman.” Zho almost crowed with delight. “Our extermination program of native life forms is well ahead of schedule and the estimate of 500 mega credits in planet pearls now seems to be low, perhaps a thousand! We have four new colony pods about to depart or are in route to their destinations and they will give us 21 cities in all with even more on the boards to be built. I have plans in front of you to develop the fresh water lake area by building several key cities to act as lock and dam access points so we can open up the lakes to the sea and thus build naval vessels in the safety of our own backyard. I have teams now deployed with the assistance of the Fire Marshall to explore nine possible UNITY pod sites that we have left untouched until now. Since the University might not be the only faction that might try to steal from us as you have directed it is better to find them out themselves, no matter the risk than leave them to someone else.”

                  Yang smiled.

                  “Good.” Yang began. “I see no reason to fear the University at this time nor ever. They are embroiled in the conflict with the Cult and the Conscience and this cult has a massive number of bases spread out over a vast territory. We have only to contact Miriam Godwinson and it seems we will have all the factions on Chiron under our sway in one form or another. El’Bander the Believers base is far to the south, this New Jerusalem, dispatch a probe foil and make contact with them.”

                  El’Bander nodded in agreement.

                  “Let us not become too overconfident. I am sure the University is smarting from their humiliating defeat by our missile attack and well they should. However, if they should accept my open offer of a truce, then so be it. We might not have the technology they do but we do have the might to compete with them and they know it. They had their chance to seek an accommodation with us but their foolish pride and arrogance got in their way. We will not make that mistake I can assure you. They had no appreciation of our struggles in the early years and not understanding the emotions and history that drives a foe is the first sign that you will loose that war. I understand the University. They are driven by their relentless curiosity and left to their own devices would be happy to be left alone in their labs. So we will prepare. We will prepare our resources for the bombardment of their lands. In the meanwhile, if we make no move against them and protect our homeland they will begin to weaken in their resolve. The people will understand how fruitless it is to waste resources on war when they could have peace. They University will capitulate. They will accept our truce. I know this. They have no other choice unless they want to fight a two front war. In the meanwhile.” Yang reached out and deactivated the holo-tank. “Prepare your resource and troops as we have discussed.”


                  University Base, MY 2224

                  “Prokhor, we have five bases that can, under the correct circumstances, have a population boom. This will require us to migrate to a Planned economy and Anthropomorphic society. We will lose a good amount of energy, but will gain it back in growth and industrial production,” Richard Korath said.

                  Zakharov said nothing.

                  “Some of our bases have maximum population, but only two. A few bases can use supply crawlers to augment nutrients but that isn’t really necessary,” he continued, and Zakharov was still impassive.

                  “If we migrate to an Anthropomorphic society first we’ll suffer from a negative Planet rating, as the Gaians call it, so we’ll have to be very careful when working in fungus. That way we can keep a more lucrative Private/Protectionist economics in place – and our full scientific output. As I said, it will only be for a few years.”

                  “Aren’t you worried about instability?” Zakharov asked at last.

                  “Yes, and no. In not too long we’ll be able to finish the Virtual World, and then many of our stability problems will be alleviated. Plus, there is no harm in growing and then building our facilities to enhance stability later.”

                  Zakharov continued to scowl.

                  “May I remind you that the Hive is growing rapidly? Population is the key to enhancing our productive ability, or enhancing what we have. I’ll say it again, it will only be for a few years. And we can finish the Virtual World early.”

                  “Fine. Do it. Migrate to Anthropomorphic first, and then Planned. One that is in Golden Age will start booming right away, I understand. But wait until the coming year. We have a breakthrough coming, and I do NOT want our breakthrough rate to be less than five years. And finish the Virtual World while we’re using Planned, if you don’t mind. It should be easy enough. Do you understand?”

                  Richard restrained a smile. He knew Zakharov’s weak spot. “Yes, I do.”


                  HIVE 2224, Chairman Yang’s private transit tube – HIVE PRIME

                  “Have you had a chance to read the report from the Chief Operative?”

                  “Yes amusing to say the least.” Yang began. “To believe the University allowed these robots to build a base on their front doorstep! I wonder how scientist Zakharov will take that.”

                  Zho did not respond but said quietly.

                  “Did the Fire Marshall report any activity to the south with our recon missiles?” Yang said as he looked out the window at the rock walls. The private transit tube was a new creation and one that suited Yang perfectly. From this tube he could move quickly and privately to any location within HIVE PRIME, unnoticed.

                  “No, nothing.” Zho said as he quickly reviewed the latest intelligence from Yazov. “The Fire Marshall says he wants more drones to cover more area to insure we don’t let anything through.”

                  “He will have them soon enough.” Yang said as he exhaled slowly. “The Fire Marshall has to learn patience. Twenty drones is a tall order and we have a small battery to begin with. We don’t need to waste them anymore on worms since the artillery regiments have been so efficient in dealing with the native life forms. All our Firemen have to do is come in and scrap the goo from the floor and collect the planet pearls.”

                  Zho nodded in agreement.

                  “This new weapon technology that Santiago traded to us for our crawler designs, this resonance laser, it is more powerful, yes?” Yang asked probingly.

                  “Yes, more powerful but we also got files based on the resonance field on how to build deep radar stations. We should be able to look out to two sectors now giving us warning of approaching ships or native life forms.” Zho said flatly. “Our scientists report that we will soon make a breakthrough in another weapon design of some sorts. Several prototypes are under construction it is just a matter of determining which one will be the most effective and easiest to build at this point.”

                  “Good.” Yang said cheerfully almost. “I had read that one scientist was working on a point defense system, that could be very useful since I assume the University will develop missile weapons as well. I would like to have that defensive capacity.”

                  The tube transit came to a slow stop.

                  “Now Zho lets see how our new mating program is working. With all the food the drones could want now and my orders removing the policy of monogamous relationships our growth rate has been astounding. We should easily catch the University in population within two to three turns and then we will just keep expanding and expanding and expanding.” Yang said as he slowly stood up and moved to the door.

                  “Yes my Chairman.”


                  Boran Prospect, MY 2225

                  “And what is the budget for military upgrades?” Simon asked.

                  S’hal toggled through a list. “150 megacredits. It says here to be prioritized based on the Admiralty, unit moral, and type. It looks like armor is getting first crack, then rovers. Makes sense.”

                  “Boy, after the near miss at Razy I think we could use an upgrade, too. The fungus is just plain nasty.”

                  “In not too long it won’t matter. Our formers are making short work of the Jungle. The only question is if they’ll be able to keep up. I bet they won’t.” She graced him with a slight smile.

                  “Yeh, any word on the colony pod we got from the Cult? Shouldn’t it be arriving soon?” he asked.

                  “Delays. That old transport found an artifact, so that has priority over 2000 people in the colony group. Science over people, that’s the word. Don’t worry. They’ll be by soon, likely with more probes, formers, and the like. What, don’t you like me for company? There’s lots of room here, you know.”

                  He looked at her sideways. “No comment.”

                  HIVE 2225, Great lakes region

                  “Fire Marshall the attack was unexpected but we were able to defeat the worm mass.”

                  “Did you collect the planet pearls!”

                  The captain of the 1st heavy artillery regiment grimaced because he knew the question was coming.

                  “I am afraid not Fire Marshall. Our defense was so intense that the pearls were destroyed in our counter attack.” The Captain quickly explained.

                  There was a pause for several minutes and then the com-line became active again.

                  “Proceed to HIVE – PRIME. We have made a breakthrough in a new heavy weapon called the graviton cannon. It is three times more powerful than anything we have currently and the Chairman wants all units to began upgrades to the new weapons immediately.” Yazov closed the com-line.

                  “New weapons?” The captain looked at his bedraggled and beaten down survivors of his command. Nearly half the team was destroyed and their artillery carriers were equally beat up or damaged and now the Fire Marshall wanted him to race back for upgrades.

                  Captain 2ABLE45TANGO stood up and looked over the Chiron landscape and silently cursed this planet to hell.


                  University Base, MY2226

                  Zakharov looked over the array of military hardware. To his left was the newest chopper, which had limited range but impressive firepower. Three new conventional missiles were primed and waiting, and their effectiveness had been demonstrated by the Hive. Previously they had been dismissed as a waste of construction time, but not any more. They had their place just like everything else. Squadrons of new defensive and attack rovers were situated on the hill just off University Base. Espionage teams were now common, not that they had ever been rare. Granted, not all of the University bases were building military units but a good number were. For their fleet there were a few odd foils and a dozen isle of the deep which were oh, so good at plying the fungus to harvest ever more artifacts.

                  Still, there was a lot of territory to defend and the Admiralty had proposed many options. Council was still debating most of them. Blast it, but many of them had advantages. A good number wanted to take out the Cult once and for all, and it was a tempting option. With a number of missiles that would be relatively easy, especially now that most of their forces were horded over by Spartan territory. The past setbacks in the wars against the Cult were painful, but the fact remains that they had lost three bases – a net win in his book. It was just too bad that they’d been unable to push their advantage before the Consciousness had surprised everyone by allying with the Cult and declaring war on the University.

                  A good number of advisors favored turtling, developing, conserving resources, and daring anyone to get close – under pain of complete and utter destruction. That is what the Hive seemed to be doing: warning off any interlopers. If they did that they could pursue an extremely lucrative cybernetic society which would improve both industry and research – at the cost of crippling all efforts to project force due to crippling Police ratings. That would yield a research rate, if the projections were to be believed, of almost 400 units a turn – and that was oh, so tempting!

                  There were a vocal and small minority that favored an outright war against the Hive. They’d presented stratagems for countering their turtle and some seemed to be effective, but all were risky. Yang was more than a tad paranoid and such would only prove his suspicions right, not that that outcome was a completely bad idea.

                  Still others said take out the Spartans and indirectly cripple the Hive. Others said subjugate the Believers, who were small and very vulnerable with two bases and a tiny population. There had even been a proposal to initiate a first strike against the Consciousness and cripple them – and then take them out. Once they were gone the Cult would be largely defenseless, and their ally base vastly diminished. Zakharov knew he still had a soft spot for his former colleague, even if she had betrayed him and allied with the fanatical Cult. Then the Consciousness were close, oh so close!

                  So many options and so much hardware to do it with.

                  Maybe waiting was the best plan, and let population growth and science make the lead the University had insurmountable.


                  HIVE 2226, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                  “Do you intend to send a message to Zakharov?”


                  Yang sat quietly for some time pondering the idea. Zho and Yazov watched him carefully but knew better to say anything.

                  Then Yang looked up at them and smiled.

                  BEGIN TRANSMISSION

                  FROM: The HIVE Collective

                  TO: Scientist Zakharov

                  SUBJECT: A warning!

                  We detected your isle of the deep in an area claimed by the HIVE. In hopes of re-building our trust I only wounded the creature. If it remains in the same sector next turn, I will destroy it.

                  I hope you see this shows the kind spirit of Chairman Yang and his deep understanding of the need for peace. Just recently peace was negotiated between the Spartans and the Cult and the Cult and Cyborgs and that peace was achieved by the hard work of Chairman Yang.

                  Let this serve as a warning and a symbol of our willingness to come to terms of mutual understanding.

                  END TRANSMISSION


                  • #39
                    University Base, MY 2227

                    “What to you mean, they ‘forgot’ to move,” Zakharov demanded.

                    “Just that. The isle captain decided to repair in the fungus. It is likely inside the range of the Hive missile batteries.”

                    “Damn,” Zakharov said. “Inform the Admiralty that the isle Captain Bloop is to be relieved of command. Now I’ll have to talk to Yang.”


                    To: Chairman Yang
                    Subject: Errant isle

                    The University will be removing our isle from the range of your missiles. However, note that the captain ‘forgot’ to remove themselves, claiming they needed to repair in the fungus. I have personally informed him of his error and he has been relieved of command. . The University of Chiron would take it as a personal favor if the Hive spared them. They will depart in the coming year. Perhaps this can be a new beginning of a frayed relationship.

                    Prokhor Zakharov


                    HIVE 2227 – NEXUS Command and Control Center

                    BEGIN TRANSMISSION

                    TO: The Scientist Zakharov

                    FROM: The HIVE Collective

                    SUBJECT: WARNING!

                    Out of more curiosity than anything else I have withheld the doom that should have befallen that filthy creature. However, I have just been handed a flash report from an advanced scout informing me a vast flotilla of espionage ships approaching our shores.

                    If these crafts below to you they will be destroyed out of hand. They have passed the limit I have set for the access of your ships to enter my territorial waters. IF they are yours, remove them at once or face the consequences of so many deaths at your hand!

                    END TRANSMISSION

                    “Do we have any positive ID on those ships?”

                    “Not yet my Chairman but we are working on it. We counted at least nine espionage crafts in total.” Yazov reported coldly and with an edge of worry to his voice.

                    “See they are destroyed before they reach our shores Fire Marshall.” Yang said as he continued to peer into the depths of the holo-tank. “What of this report of a unit disappearing?”

                    “Yes, my Chairman.” Yazov began. “Our 8th tanker brigade explored an alien ruin along the shoreline of the great lake and something happened to them and in a flash of an eye they were transported nearly 18 sectors northeast of our territory. From what they reported they look to be on an island.”

                    “Dispatch the PRIME at once to secure them and return back in all haste.”

                    “Yes my Chairman.”


                    • #40
                      University Base, MY 2228

                      Zakharov heard a faint chirp and then blinked twice to activate the data stream. This was about as unobtrusive as he could get, and he had finally dispensed with that damned datapad. Now it was all subcutaneous and built in to his very body. He was oddly pleased to be a Cyborg, although the Consciousness had beaten him to that particular distinction. After activating the flagged datastream he knew that Amy Constance needed to talk to him. Business all the time! And just when he was beginning to enjoy the new Virtual World of University Base, too! It was now shunted all over the University so he would not be denied the pleasures or sheer intellectual stimulation this amazing process enabled.

                      With a mere thought he flicked to review the latest developments in the University. He hated it when Amy caught him with his pants down – figuratively and literally. He saw that they’d taken the Cult base with ease, but that they’d been unable to secure the Psionics technology. Damn! Taking the base should have enabled them to pierce their datalinks. Digging down a bit further he saw that they were retaking a University base. Now, that sounded strange to him but that is what the self-styled experts said. He just hoped that they’d be able to keep it. The Cult was very good with probe teams and they only had one defender. Now it was a very good espionage team, but that might not count for much against three or four probe foil teams. Peering down a bit more he saw the revised plan: put the team ashore, penetrate the Cult’s capital, and rip all the data they could out of it. Good. Then they could gift the base to Dee and be done with it. As it stood the base was simply a liability.

                      Accessing another link he saw that the effects of the Virtual World were already being felt. All bases were experienced unprecedented stability, and several were experienced prolonged Golden Ages and population booms. Good! The Golden Ages were likely long lasting, but the population boom weren’t. There were city restrictions that pegged that, as well as food supplies. Forest were wonderful but they did not enable large populations.

                      Amy was pacing toward him. He grinned to himself. She wouldn’t surprise him now!

                      “Prokhor, we have an interesting message from the Hive,” she said without preamble.

                      She did it again! he raged, and then saw that he’d turned off the foreign policy datastream fro the Hive. He activated it.

                      He nodded for her to continue. “They spared the isle. Perhaps this is a conciliatory measure? But regardless there is a larger matter. They state there are a flotilla of espionage craft, and he demands to know if they are ours. He doesn’t specify a location. Rather cagey, really – just an open ended veiled accusation we are plotting against him again.”

                      “Oh,” he said as he parsed the message. “Rather paranoid, isn’t he?”

                      “We are too,” Amy said. “There are dozens of probe foils over Chiron, and most are near our territory. This raises a bigger question: how does he know? There aren’t any Spartan craft in the area that we know of. He could have a foil probe of his own lurking about. We saw one a decade or two ago.”

                      “Yes, we did. Amy, this may be an opportunity. Here is what we might do…”


                      To: Chairman Yang
                      Subject: Espionage Units

                      We have also been following the progress of the vast fleets of Cult and Consciousness espionage ships with great interest. There have been multiple attacks on our bases and the seas in our area of Chiron are rather dangerous. Both the Cult and Consciousness have been very aggressive.

                      It is not clear which group of espionage ships you have noticed but rest assured there are several fleets of them. The group that that the University knows of that is closest to your territory is at coordinates 20, 78 and consists of three Consciousness probe teams. They appear to be heading in your direction. A second group of eight or so is southeast of University territory and they seem to be heading northeast, which is generally toward Spartan lands. You may wish to warn Coronal Santiago of the threat. Of some note is a rather large land-based military force staged in Cult sea bases by Spartan territory. I trust Santiago is aware of that threat, too. If not I am sure she would be interested.

                      The University would have happily destroyed the entire armada but, unfortunately, that would violate the Truce we have maintained with the Consciousness. It is rather clever of Cha Dawn to group their forces with those of the Consciousness, which limits our options. Cult forces are, of course, fair game and we have destroyed dozens of Cult craft – military and espionage – in the past decades. In fact, actions against the Cult have become somewhat routine.

                      The University appreciates your restraint regarding the Isle. Perhaps we could consider other actions that could improve mutual trust and lead to a truce?

                      Prokhor Zakharov
                      University of Chiron


                      HIVE 2228, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                      TO: UNIVERSITY

                      FROM: The Hive Collective

                      SUBJECT: Acceptance of information

                      Our drone reconnaissance missions have revealed that the flotilla of seven espionage ships are of Cybernetic origins.

                      ACTION ITEM: Should the units enter our territorial waters we will request they remove them. If not, we will destroy them.

                      ACTION ITEM: Agreement that all territorial waters, three sectors from the shore line of claimed territory will be the agreed upon territorial waters for that faction.

                      ACTION ITEM: Non-interference with actions taken by a sovereign power to defend these waters will not constitute an attack on aligned partners of said invading force.

                      SUMMARY: The HIVE is currently undergoing a massive colonization effort to settle another four colony pods to create a total of 24 cities for the HIVE. It is crucial that this process not be deterred by the actions of hostile factions on Chiron ad we will take action to secure our future.

                      END TRANSMISSION


                      University Base, MY2229

                      Zakharov and the rest of the Council looked over the data on Psionics. It was very interesting in an academic sort of way. It allowed a sort of psionic armor, similar to what the natives used – some sort of resonance wave. That would have interesting if limited applications. It also allowed nerve stapling, which was highly unlikely in their Federal Democracy, although the more repressive factions on Chiron would likely enjoy the prospect of drone control through more…direct…methods. But, most importantly, it allowed a faction’s empaths to form an association – an Empath Guild – to enhance their diplomacy and significant information gathering functions.

                      Indeed, gaining this technology was the reason for taking the Cult’s base Reverie, which had been turned over to the Gaian’s grateful hands. Within the year a University base would finish the Empath Guild a few mere years ahead of the Cyborgs.

                      As Zakharov reviewed the data his attitude hardened against the Cyborgs. They’d been given every change to be a friend of the University and instead had chosen illogically to align themselves with the Believers – a pathetically weak factions – and the Cult. It was beyond comprehension.

                      Of course the Cult would have to be subdued or eliminated. That was clear. The Believers would soon follow. And what then? Then they’d have to see if the Cyborgs would regain their status of a logical faction. The alternative would be that they would be subdued, forcibly.

                      Zakharov regretted the thought. Aki Zeta-5 was his colleague, maybe even a friend at one time. But no more, or at least their actions belied their attitude.


                      To: Human Hive
                      From: University of Chiron
                      Subject: Terms of Mutual Recognition

                      The University of Chiron accepts your terms of mutual territorial recognition and non-interference.


                      HIVE 2229 – NEXUS Command and Control Center

                      INCOMING HOLO TRANSMISSION

                      Chairman Yang walked up onto the holo-transmitter platform and began to speak.

                      “Scientist Zakharov I am informing you that all seven Cyborg espionage ships have been destroyed.”

                      Yang paused for a brief few seconds then continued.

                      “As a result of this disciplinary action the Cult of the Plant and the Cyborgs have declared vendetta against the HIVE Collective. We did not seek this confrontation nor wish it but it has come all the same. The sanctity of our home waters and lands, as you well know are paramount to us and as such we will defend them against any threat and we will take pre-emptive action if required.”

                      Yang gave the briefest of smiles.

                      “Our misunderstandings have resulted in the loss of lives and the destruction of property. Due to my forbearance I only chastised your isle of the deep rather than destroying it. Since that and the unfortunate incidents prior to that the University has shown itself to be a somewhat reasonable faction. Though we still do not trust you and in our opinion you still owe us compensation for the theft of two artifacts I still feel it is time to seek at a bare minimum an accommodation with the University. With that in mind I offer you a truce, a cease fire so to speak, and all military units will respect the lands and seas of each other.”

                      Yang’s cold blue eyes glittered for a few seconds as he re-adjusted his stance on the platform and then continued.

                      “I know that there is much we can still learn from each other but for now, my networks and direct communication with my people is forbidden. The great social experiment I have begun must be conducted in the most controlled methods and scientific methods. I know fully that you understand my position and as such will respect my request. Contamination by outside influences can only bring unfavorable results to my goal of re-shaping humanity into a more powerful force.”

                      Yang stepped down from the holo-platform.

                      END TRANSMISSION


                      University Base, MY 2230

                      Zakharov nodded and the Virtual World-based full sensory imagery was activated.

                      “Chairman Yang and the citizens of the Hive, the University of Chiron acknowledges the incidents of the past as the result of misunderstandings. Regardless of the previous conflict, we have both grown to have a better understanding of our different cultures.

                      “Recent events have shown that there is common ground for both of our peoples to cooperate on key issues that relate to both of our security. As has been demonstrated by recent events, the Cult of Planet and to a lesser degree the Cybernetic Consciousness has been overly aggressive in their relations to their neighbors. This has led to conflict between these Pacted factions and the University of Chiron and recently also with the Hive. While unfortunate this is a part of a larger trend that the University can no longer tolerate.

                      “Therefore, the University of Chiron will formally propose a Truce with the Hive in the coming year. Between now and that time there will be additional efforts at improving our relationship, discussions on how to increase trust, and an evaluation of the ways in which further cooperation can be effected.

                      “It is our sincere wish that there be peace on Chiron, and perhaps this new agreement between the University of Chiron and the Hive will usher in a period of greater prosperity.”

                      The virtual environment unraveled and Zakharov was standing in his office again. He checked that the datastream had been sent to Chairman Yang through the appropriate diplomatic channels – the Hive was quite particular about that.

                      Then he reviewed the latest issues for the University. New military units had been created all over the University’s home territory, there had been a few military upgrades that cost an unfortunately large amount of energy, more missiles were now available, and most importantly the Empath Guild was complete. The Cyborgs were now denied this key Project, which would have caused untold havoc.

                      There were an uncomfortable number of risks all over the waters by the Cult and Cyborgs. It was possible that a few isles would be captured by probe teams or destroyed by Cult actions and new forces were being sent into the fray. Better use of missiles would have to be engaged, which was a key lesson from the Hive.

                      On a good note, the need for a population boom was over and they could go back to a Private/Protectionist economy. Research increased by a full fifty percent and 14 percent above pre-population boom levels. Growth certainly had its advantages. Their energy surplus was growing fast, which was good since their treasury was depleted due to recent military upgrades.

                      But there were enormous risks. They would have to be managed.


                      HIVE 2230 – Primary bio-chemical research complex at HIVE – PRIME

                      “The potential is amazing!”

                      “Tell me.”

                      The chief bio-chemist looked taken a back for a second and then collected himself. This was not another mere scientist by Chairman Yang himself. He had spent the last 42 minutes explaining in detail the wondrous aspects of the new technology they had uncovered in the artifact and now his Chairman was telling him he had not understood.

                      “Simply put my Chairman.” The scientist began. “The vaccine will prolong life and make humans more intelligent and capable. It will allow them to understand more than they do now.”

                      Yang was silent as he continued to ponder the scientist as if he were a side of beef or an interesting oddity.

                      “When should we do this?” Yang said thoughtfully.

                      “Well my Chairman I would say we need to do it because it will improve the quality of drones we use. They will live longer, work harder and perhaps even enjoy their lot in life better since they know so long as they perform, they will continue to get the treatments that will expand their lifespan to five times its current limit.”

                      The scientist concluded and took a long breath. Did he, Chairman Yang finally understand.

                      “You may proceed.” Yang said as he stood up and left the room.

                      Outside Yang turned to Zho and whispered. “When the man gives us this vaccine, have him eliminated.”

                      “Yes my Chairman.”


                      University Base, MY 2231

                      “Frankly, I’m surprised the Gaians didn’t come up with this,” Amy Constance said. “Environmental Economics will be a boon for all of our bases, but particularly for those that are land-locked or that rely mainly on forests for their resources. They are fairly expensive – about the same cost as a research hospital – but they will allow much more growth, and they should pay for themselves fairly quickly.”

                      Amy switched to a schematic that had red icons over it. “We’ve experienced an increasing number of blooms near our biggest cities, and it is well known that this is due to harvesting resources. Chiron’s ecology is, frankly, somewhat mystifying and the best analogy is that it acts as if we are a foreign microorganism. The blooms themselves are destructive as they obliterate hard won terraforming. Fortunately this has not caused mass starvation or other privation.

                      “What is exciting is that the Tree Farm city improvements will mitigate some of this damage, allowing us to ratchets up our industrial production. This nicely coincides with the higher populations that bases can maintain, so to a greater degree they city improvement, higher growth and industrial and scientific output work in parallel.

                      “The strategy we should affect is where we build tree farms at key interior cities near forests, preferably those that already have a high manufacturing ability. This will allow them to grow. Other cities like University Base that are at their habitation limit will have to build Hab Complex. Indeed, University Base would have grown long ago if we had built a Hab Complex. When a sufficient number have been built we should then institute another population boom, but we need to be careful to target these episodes carefully since switching our social engineering is costly and disruptive.

                      “I am also happy to report that our scientific rate has been maintained at a breakthrough every five years. This still seems like a long time, but it is significantly higher than any other faction by almost an order of magnitude. Recent improvements at University Base will augment this rate, and it goes without saying that selective use of Tree Farms will allow us to increase our rate even more.

                      “Lastly, there have been two more Consciousness attacks on our defensive espionage teams. Fortunately we have won, but this is getting tiresome. I have been advised that we have warned off the Consciousness, but they are not responsive. It appears they do not want to be our friend.”


                      HIVE 2231, Far western frontier

                      “Fire Marshal you have to see this for your self, switching to direct feed now.”

                      The young captain quickly motioned for the cam-com to pan the area.

                      “Do you see sir!”

                      Yazov’s craggy face came on the line.

                      “Destroy them as soon as possible. No more towers on HIVE soil, Chairman’s orders.”

                      The line went dead.

                      Captain 101ROMEO11 looked perplexed and a little mad.

                      “How in the hell do they expect two rover brigades to take out four fungal towers without artillery!”

                      None of the other Firemen said a word. 101ROMEO11 looked around at his ‘men’ and knew immediately there would be none. These were the newest generation of Yang’s Firemen and questioning orders was not even a possibility with them.

                      “Okay men.” 101ROBEO11 began. “Saddle up and lets die for the Chairman.”


                      • #41
                        University Base, MY 2232

                        “In short, it was a massive waste of resources. We hit one Cult foil with a missile and damaged it to 60 percent, and then hit a second with two missiles and damaged it a total of 30 percent. This effectively shows the limitations of conventional missiles, even when equipped with fusion reactors.” Admiral Conrads paused to let the Council react.

                        Amy spoke up first. “Did our isle and foil probe escape?”

                        “Yes, and that is the good news. The damaged foils will be unable to keep up with our foil and isle, who are 40 percent faster than they are when they are undamaged. They are heading back toward our mainland.”

                        Amy nodded. “And what do you recommend?”

                        “Frankly, we need a navy,” the Admiral replied. “We’ve relied on the isles for decades, and slowly but surely they are being destroyed by the Cult or in the past to Hive missiles. We are down to four, and that is not enough. If we are to control the seas we need conventional ships. Our fusion augmented armor and weaponry will make short work of any Cultish foil that comes nearby. Plus, if the Council elects to build the new cruiser hulls then we will be almost twice as fast as any Cult foil. Their defenses will be better than any Cult impact weapon, and their firepower three times as deadly as their armor. We need to press our technological advantage.”

                        Richard Korath shifted in his seat. “The cost might be prohibitive.”

                        The Admiral smiled sadly. “For the cost of the three missiles that proved so ineffective against the Cult you could have two cruisers armed with resonance lasers, tube mail, and deep radar. Those would be much more formidable than the missiles.”

                        Richard’s eyebrows shot up.

                        She continued. “Right now we have three known Cult foils lurking and a few isles, although we destroyed one a few years ago. Frankly, if we put our mind to it we should be able to crush the Cult, but the bases are now scattered all over the seas – which makes concentration of small forces perilous. Air cover isn’t much of an option.

                        “There is also another problem. The sunspot activity we’re experiencing means we can’t contact Lady Skye to gift her any bases we capture. This means we have to defend them against persistent probe attacks. Our fusion probes are durable, and copters are good at eliminating hostiles nearby, but we do not want fusion power to fall into the Cult’s hands. If we take a base we will have to take it hard, eliminate all resistance, and then either burn it to the ground or install a significant garrison – and by that I mean at least two fusion probes, artillery, and two defenders, and a copter. Anything less is asking for trouble.”

                        Richard nodded again. “Can we get that sort of force to the staging area?”

                        “With two isles, minimally – and we’ll have to make sure they stay clear of the Cult foils that will undoubtedly frail us back to their capital once they know what we’re doing. What the Joint Command recommends is that the isle to the southeast take on two foils, put one amphib rover ashore, be escorted by the foil probe and a copter with missiles, and then make their way to the Cult capital. Our existing isle is currently healing up its troops and they will be repaired by the time the second isle is able to make it to the staging area. This is an absolute minimum, and I’d feel much better if there were a naval escort.”

                        “Proceed, Admiral,” Zakharov said. “Your forces will be able to stay ahead of the Cult foils and by the time they arrive it will be far too late for them to do anything. Take the Cult capital and keep it. If you can, take the other Cult base and if you can’t keep it burn it to the ground. Is that understood?”

                        The Admiral was still. “Yes, Prokhor.”


                        HIVE 2232, NEXUS Command and Control Center


                        “I am afraid so Chairman. The sunspot activity is not dangerous to humans but it is playing havoc with our communications systems.”

                        Yang said nothing for sometime has he pondered the newest information Zho had given him then he looked up again.

                        “Is there any link to the sudden upswing in attacks by the native lifeform scum?” Yang asked questioningly.

                        “In part my Chairman but also our rampant industrial growth is adding to the ecological damage on Chiron. Many of our cities are expelling a gross waste tonnage in excess of 8 times what the recycling systems can handle. A team of native lifeform systems have submitted a paper to me indicating they research they have done supports the hypothesis that the native life forms respond to this damage, perhaps even consider it a threat to their eco-system and as such focus their efforts on destroying the infection.” Zho concluded as he quickly handed Yang an e-pad with the full report on it.

                        Yang did not even study it.

                        “These flying insects that look like locusts, this is linked to the eco-damage as well?” Yang continued to probe.

                        “I don’t think so Chairman. I suspect that we are just seeing yet another manifestation of a life form native to Chiron.” Zho added.

                        “The crew and equipment of terraformer #14 have been reported missing by terraformer #13, they suspect the crew died by an attack from a native mind worm. We need to protect our terraformers better.” Yang fumed his comments seemed not to be directed at Zho but in general.

                        “I agree my Chairman but Fire Marshall Yazov has the greater bulk of his forces out destroying fungal towers to harvest their planet pearls. We could recall a portion of them to protect our formers on the frontier.” Zho suggested as he quickly picked up his e-pad to confirm the order.

                        “No, no need.” Yang began. “We need more energy and Yazov is getting it for us in truck loads, the loss of one or even two terraformers is acceptable. This does not mean I am happy about it just that the greater good outweighs the losses.”

                        “Of course my Chairman, always the long term perspective is best.” Zho humbly replied.

                        “Order the destruction of those espionage foils that have entered our seas. I want no chance that any cyborg scum steal our secrets, is that clear!” Yang almost barked the command.

                        “Of course my Chairman.”


                        Nauk Science Center, MY 2233

                        Zakharov’s image was crystal clear. “And the artifact yielded a breakthrough in Mental Harmonics? Could you explain?”

                        Alan Goodman nodded. “Of course, Prokhor. Using our knowledge of Psionics and Centauri Empathy we have pushed our ability to interact with the native life – and ecosystem – of Chiron to the next level. The artifact was the key, and once it was linked to our network node the data stream congealed – if that is the best word – on the answer: keying the electrical energy of the brain, and using it to amplify what passes through it every day. That is the mental harmonics. It wouldn’t work on Earth, and every test proved that anything like it was pseudo science to outright fraud. Chiron is different, and it has to be the ecology that lets us interact with our environment like this.”

                        Zakharov looked a little skeptical. “Mmm. Well. That’s all very interesting, but why should I care?”

                        Mr. Goodman was ready. Amy Constance had coached him for just such a question. “There are many advantages. First, some of our people will be able to be even more adept than what we’ve already seen, a kind of natural empath. This could be of use to all of our citizens. Second we’ll be able to devote our society toward Empaths if we so desire, resulting in even more Talents than we already have as well as an empathy with Chiron’s life form. We’d have to give up our technocratic base and there would be a growth penalty, but that’s the trade off. Lastly we’d be able to devote resources to an Ascetic Guild, resulting in greater social harmony – vertical growth of our cities and tolerance of police. The investment would be significant.”

                        The Prokhor was silent and then said. “Well done. All technology is of use, and this may be of use to us in the future.”

                        The line winked out and Alan was relieved. His grilling was less than some, and at least he hadn’t been reduced to a blubbering idiot.


                        HIVE 2233, Far southern seas

                        The captain of Operatives vessel #4 was becoming desperate. It was beginning to look like the entire southern sea was foul with Cyborg espionage teams.

                        “Captain!” The radar operator roared. “I have multiple contacts bearing 278 and 174 approaching at top speed.”

                        “Evasive!” Captain 912INDIGO roared as he quickly buckled himself into his command chair.

                        Within minutes a Cyborg espionage ship moved in and began to fire on them by his crew was better and they quickly dealt the vessel a crippling blow and sent it down.

                        Then suddenly another Cyborg vessel began to fire and it was not an espionage ship but a full blown naval unit with armor plates and heavy armaments. The crew of Operatives vessel #4 did their best as the scrambled to return fire with their small arms but it was useless. In a matter of minutes the ship was blow apart by high energy weapons from the Cyborgs.

                        Yang watched the tape end and hatred began to fill him which he quickly tried to purge. Damn those cyborgs! They were like some sort of plague on Chiron sneaking this way and that. Just minutes ago Yazov reported that yet another small flotilla of Cyborg espionage ships had been destroyed by their missile defense systems.

                        It was only a matter of time before on of those damn shipped landed a team and broke into Yang’s networks and revealed the secrets of the Hive. That could never happen, never!


                        University Base, MY 2234

                        Prokhor Zakharov mulled over recent losses. The old Unity foil had been destroyed by a Cult isle up by Baikonur. It was defenseless, and having an unarmored foil was a calculated risk – one that they had lost. A missile had destroyed the isles, and that was the only time the missiles had done anything useful.

                        Down by Cult territory a copter should have won against another Cult isle carrying a full lode of troops. The isle had even been damaged and the copter had resonance lasers, but they died anyway. Again a missile took out the isle.

                        Damn! Why was this so hard? Wasn’t military and technological supremacy supposed to make enforcing your will easy? Zakharov glowered.

                        There was better news down by the Cultish base Invictus. The artillery and amphibious rover had done a fine job removing the Cult defenders. They’d keep up the work and repair as needed. The artillery would be helpful to pound the base and anything nearby to a pulp.

                        The good news was that the new prototype cruiser was finally done, and that more were on the way. With a move rate of nine sectors per year they were truly the fastest units on Chiron. They’d have to have some air support to scout the area. It wouldn’t do to have some sneaky Cult foil or isle sneak up on them. He’d have to snoop at the Cult bases to see how many of each unit they had left. The Admiralty knew of three foils, and maybe they had no more isles after losing two in the last year.

                        Finally there would also be a cruiser transport. It would be able to hold 10 military units, and that made it extremely vulnerable. It would have to be escorted and have a screen of missiles to look around.

                        Overall there were too many demands on their production facilities. Most were producing military units, which was a shame since it diverted attention from development. But with the Cult lurking no sea unit was safe! Development wasn’t completely neglected, however. The twenty first University base had been established, and that was a long term investment. It remained to be seen if the Cult and a resurgent Hive would let them keep it.


                        HIVE 2234, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                        “What is it you wished to speak with me about Fire Marshall?”

                        Yazov bowed deeply and then walked quickly to stand in front of the large desk/control station that Yang now normally used for his military meetings.

                        “I have several issues my Chairman.” Yazov began slowly. “First issue is another flotilla of Cyborg espionage ships are in our territorial waters, what are your orders?”

                        “How many?” Yang asked quickly.

                        “Three.” Yazov answered succulently.

                        “We fired off one missile barrage last turn and destroyed four of them, correct?” Yang began. “We should have at least another missile battery to deal with this threat as well. Have them destroyed.”

                        “Yes my Chairman.” Yazov said quickly. “We actually have three batteries of missile weapons in the area. One will be more than sufficient to deal with the incursion. I will use the remainder as reconnaissance.”

                        Yang nodded in agreement.

                        “The second thing I would like to address is the overall general abilities of our Firemen.” Yazov began as he quickly laid a mini-holo projector on the floor and it flashed up a presentation that showed the breakdown of all HIVE forces. “As you will see my Chairman the overall state of our military is good. Each city is protected by at least three Fire regiments, two operative detachments and for most at least one tanker brigade. However, once you start looking in detail you will see that the composition of these forces are not as we would like to have them. All of them are highly trained but lack advanced weapons or armor. Some have advanced weapons and no armor while others are the reverse. What I would like to propose is a city by city upgrade of all military forces. We would start with armor upgrades then move to weapons. Our cities have ample defensive capabilities to enhance our armor upgrades and many of the troops have the advanced pulse detection equipment that allows them to track fast incoming targets. Add in our sensor network and the interlocking support system you devised for all of our cities and it makes us a formidable enemy for any invader. Within a turn any HIVE city can have at a minimum two additional HIVE cities support them with more troops.”

                        Yang sat thoughtfully for some time then nodded in agreement.

                        Yazov bowed deeply, scooped up his projector and quickly backed out of the room.


                        University Base, MY 2235

                        Zakharov was almost beside himself with glee, which was a rare thing. “And how did the pods pack so much material into such a small package?”

                        “Prokhor, we could have built just about anything. What was in the Unity pods were a combination of a strange nano, energy resources, and just plain raw materials good for general construction. The pods by both Baikonur and Edinstva Unity Relativity School were both so equipped and so now both have Tree Farms,” the harried base commander Wallis said. He was just in his late 20s and put in charge of a small base out the outskirts of University territory, and now he was talking to the Grand Old Man himself. During extraordinary circumstances, no less.

                        “Excellent. Excellent,” Zakharov said. He turned to Gregor Kline, “And how long will it take before Zvedny Gorodock is finished with their Tree Farm?”

                        “Approximately 11 years, Prokor,” he said with an even voice. He knew full well that the Prokhor knew exactly how long it would take, but was not so subtly rubbing it in. Tree Farms were significant investments, and here two almost new bases had them.

                        Zakharov allowed himself a smug smile. “And what of our intrepid isle. Mr. Constance?”

                        “They found another artifact and are taking it to the nearest base to link with a node. They should be to Svobadny Free Base within the year, although that node is linked. There will be a delay while they find an unliked node further inland.”

                        “Good. Very good. And what of our breakthrough?” he asked.

                        “Applied Quantum Mechanics, a very high order energy breakthrough. We will be able to upgrade our resonance lasers to quantum lasers, with an increase in firepower of 40 percent. Frankly, it is overkill since none of our enemies have defenses that can match our current weaponry, especially when linked with fusion reactors.”

                        Zakharov waved her off. “Have one of our bases start prototyping immediately. We have to press our advantage. Now, Admiral Conrands, what is the state of the Cult navy?”

                        The admiral appeared in one of the seats at the Council table. Her image turned toward Zakharov. “All but eliminated. Our infiltration shows that they have one foil and it is repairing at one of their sea bases along with their entire force of five copters. The only uncertainty is the once base we haven’t found yet, and that is likely to be small. Their second foil was taken out by our copter at Pavlov Biolab. The copter will is at the end of its fuel range and is overheating but is expected to make it home. They saved our prototype cruiser from the Cult foil, Prokhor. I’ve recommended them for a commendation.”

                        “And they shall all have it,” he replied, his voice large. “I will grant it to them myself. And what of our new transport?”

                        “Complete and it will set sail within the year. A support foil is at the ready and can leave immediately, if that is your order.”

                        “It is. Have them take probe teams and whatever else they need to eliminate the Cult capital. Secure it with at least one probe each. Will it be difficult to then reach the Cult sea bases?”

                        “No, Prokhor. We will need more probe teams and I recommend more be put into production or old teams upgraded.”

                        “Understood,” he said. “This is a good day, Council members and honored guests,” he said as he nodded toward the admiral and Base Administrator Wallis. “I predict it is a turning point.”

                        Amy watched him as he puffed up even further. She didn’t bother to reply. She’d heard it all before.


                        HIVE 2235, Private quarters of Chairman Yang

                        Yang’s hands were gripping the e-pad so hard he could almost hear the plastic casing begin to crack. With that sudden realization he quickly released the device and laid in gently on his desk.

                        Damn Chiron! Damn Chiron all to hell!

                        The report Zho had dropped off earlier in the day had waited as Yang had returned from HIVE – 21 after his inspection tour. The base was up and running and HIVE – 22 and 23 were not far behind it. The new military upgrade was going as expected and starting to show improvements, in fact, everything was positive except Chiron itself.

                        The worms kept attacking and attacking and attacking with no end in site. The only positive he could think of was the fact that the treasury was getting fatter by the hour but the loss of equipment and troops was not a comfortable thought.

                        Yang looked up at his weeping wall and allowed his mind to concentrate on the far wall to his office. Zho had installed a water fall that flowed over the rough hewn stone that lined his far wall and it made a most pleasant sound. His mind fixed on the tones and he made himself relex.

                        Time was all the HIVE needed now and they would burn the last of the fungus clear from the main city complexes. Soon more artifacts would arrive with even more knowledge to unlock so time was on their side.


                        • #42
                          Svobodny-Free Base, MY 2236

                          “And the artifact yielded further insight into the ecology of Chiron, Centauri Genetics. As best as we understand, we will now be able to fully link Earth and Chiron-based DNA into other structures. For instance, we’ll be able tie the nitrogen fixation ability of the fungus into Earth-based plants or Earth-based chlorophyll into Chiron fungus. The implications for our bases are significant since this new managed Earth-Chiron ecology can be more or less harmonious, with the proper investment. We’ve called these hybridized and managed areas ‘Hybrid Forests’, and with them the yield in food and energy of a forest will increase significantly. Of course the cost is similar to that of a Project and there are many other demands on our resources, so the Council will have to decide what is appropriate.” Amy was quiet for a moment to let the other Council members respond.

                          “Do the other factions have this sort of technology?” Immanuel Florence asked.

                          “No. We are maintaining our technological lead, and that lead is accelerating. Even if we hadn’t linked two artifacts recently our lead would still be significant. Our breakthrough rate is still every five years with the completion of the Fusion Lab at University Base, but we will be hard pressed to maintain this rate in the future without significant growth in population, infrastructure, or energy. Currently much of our production is military or basic infrastructure.”

                          Immanuel shifted in his seat a bit. “What sort of advantage can we get, then? Is this science for science’s sake?”

                          Amy smiled. “Perhaps. With more understanding comes more capabilities, and perhaps wisdom. Wouldn’t you agree?”

                          Immanuel replied, “Of course.”


                          HIVE 2237, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                          “We are under full scale attack!”

                          The men clustered around the massive holo-tank looked up in surprise but then quickly collected themselves.

                          Yang watched each of them with clear frustration on his face.

                          “This planet’s native life forms are coordinating a massive attack against us and what are we doing to stop it!” Yang nearly bellowed.

                          “Native life form activity is certainly up my Chairman but my Firemen seem to be handling it.” Yazov replied quickly, offended that Yang’s comments cut the heart of his domain.

                          “Yes, yes.” Yang began in an annoyed manner. “I know but it is clear that our forces have been failing in some respects. We have lost several tanker regiments and some are so damaged and under-manned it will take half a decade to rebuild them to full fighting strength again.”

                          “It seems clear, that the native life forms increased activity is linked to the sunspots. My scientists theorize that the increased solar radiation stimulates them in some ways and makes them more energized.” Zho added quickly.

                          “I grant you that Zho.” Yang snapped back. “But the level of coordination clearly speaks to a higher intelligence.”

                          No one said anything for awhile waiting for Yang to say something else.

                          “This incursion by the Cyborgs again can not be tolerated. Yazov inform your aerial fire squadrons to close in and destroy all Cyborg ships off of our coast. Lets give our newest weapons a chance to deal with this interlopers once and for all. I also want a full missile barrage directed at these advancing worms. Destroy them all Yazov!”


                          University Base, MY 2237

                          “So Dee took a Believer base?” Zakharov asked rhetorically. He pointed at a map with scarcely disguised glee. “Pretty decisive, too. The Believers have two bases, now – their capital and a new base. Strongly held, but the Believers are even more useless than normal, too. Too bad I can’t call to congratulate her.”

                          “And it keeps her busy,” Richard Korath observed.

                          Zakharov looked over at him. “Yes, it does. In a way it’s a shame since that means she stays as a regressive police state and functionally paralyzed. At least she has access to the large continent, and hopefully will do more with it than the ignorant religious savages.”

                          Amy had had enough. “You could broker a truce. Yang did that between Santiago and the Consciousness and I believe the Cult, although he probably regrets it now.”

                          “Yes, I could. I could also get Miriam to surrender to us. Now, that would be satisfying, although Dee would be irritated. But in a way its better to have her engaged with the Believers. Ever since the Consciousness raised the land by their territory and connected Cult land to theirs there has been a great chance for friction, and I don’t want that. At least not yet.”

                          No one responded, so he continued. “We also want to send Yang a hardcopy message. We can’t have official communications, but I imaging we can convince a merchant to ply the waters to send an old fashioned letter.”


                          University Communiqué

                          To: Chairman Yang of the Hive

                          Subject: Seagoing vessels near Hive waters


                          During the sunspots I have directed a courier to send this official encrypted datacrystal to the Hive. The purpose of this message is two fold. First, we have sighted one Consciousness probe foils heading roughly north. We do not know if they are headed toward your territory, but in the interests of good will we are giving you advanced warning.

                          Second, the University has an isle that is well south of your territory and in between your lands and the Spartans. Although this is well outside of your claimed waters be advised that this isle is exploring and nothing more. The captain has been informed that she is to make every effort to stay clear of your territory. We also have no ill intent toward the Spartans. Indeed, if we did there would be far easier means of access.

                          Prokhor Zakharov


                          HIVE 2237, Southern seas several sectors due south of the HIVE mainland.

                          “Red group this is Red one, you may begin your attack runs now!”

                          From out of the setting suns of Chiron twenty four sleek and terrible looking attack helicopters swooped down upon the Cyborg espionage vessels.

                          In less than five minutes the first high energy graviton pulse charges started to slam into the armorless hull of the Cyborgs flotilla of spy ships.

                          In less than a minute the high energy pulse rounds ripped the three ships in half and any humans or even Cyborgs sill on deck were vaporized from the fireballs and energy bursts.

                          The last of the ships quickly sank under the darkening seas of Chiron as the attack helicopters began to bank back towards the mainland. Their range was not considerable to say the least but they packed a powerful punch that was delivered by well trained aeronautical pilots who had attended both the NEXUS command schools and flight training schools.

                          “Red one to NEXUS, this is Red one to NEXUS, do you copy?”

                          The line quickly came alive but filled with static. Long range communication was out of the question but short range comms did work but were iffy at best.

                          “Red one this is NEXUS, is mission a go or zero? Copy?”

                          “Copy NEXUS, mission is a go. All ships destroyed. Will return for more fuel and ammo cells and search for Cyborg attack foil next.”

                          “Copy that Red one. Confirmed mission, proceed as planned.”

                          The commander of Red One activated the recall and homing signal and all of the helicopters made for home.


                          University Base, MY 2237

                          “When will the Cyborgs finish the Ascetic Guild?” Zakharov asked.

                          “Approximately nine years. Although their production and scientific ability are small their relative industrial advantage is substantial. In order for us to compete we will need to apply a good number of supply crawlers. In addition we may have to switch to a Planned economy for a short while.”

                          “Yes,” Zakharov said as he paced around the table. “And perhaps this is an opportunity to undergo another population boom. If we combine this with an Anthropomorphic societal goal we should be able to undergo significant growth.” He turned to Gregor Kline. “Approximately how many bases will likely experience the high rates of population growth?”

                          “Our best guess is that we will have at least nine bases grow at a vastly accelerated growth rate, and most of the bases in the Jungle will grow much faster – likely at rates close to those on the mainland.” Gregor’s voice was flat.

                          “Will this interfere with our scientific output?” he turned toward Amy Constance.

                          ”Of course. Our breakthrough rate will decline from five to eight years. We may be able to speed the construction of several tree farms to further enhance growth in some of our interior bases, but most are not building tree farms. University Base will likely grow to 10,000 people, or perhaps more.”

                          Zakharov grinned. “Excellent. Unless there is extreme dissent then we will attempt another population boom within two years. Mr. Kline, prepare projections on which bases will need further improvements, and everyone else will need to find where we will get more energy to fund rushed improvements, should they be needed.”


                          HIVE 2238, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                          “My I ask you something Zho?”

                          “You can Fire Marshall.”

                          Yazov stood silent for a minute and then turned to face Zho.

                          “I need more help from you in getting faster military upgrades completed. We simply are not keeping up with the upgrades when we are building more and more cities. We will have 25 cities in a matter of a few more turns and it is daunting to say the least. We have upgrades on military units that have been stalled for a long time due to the fact we have had to equip new units.” Yazov said quietly but with great intensity.

                          Zho looked around the control room and then back at Yazov.

                          “I have studied the problem myself and I agree but the treasury simply can not afford to re-equip your troops with the latest weapons and armor. I would suggest you build new units rather than equipping all ones. We have the resources to do that.” Zho said thoughtfully.

                          “I agree with what you say but many, if not all of those older units are highly trained veterans. I would hate to loose their expertise.” Yazov said in pained tones.

                          Zho said nothing. There was nothing else to say.

                          Yazov bowed and walked back to some of his aides who were coordinating the latest assaults on Cyborg espionage ships.

                          Zho watched the man work and wondered if he fully understood the underlying problems the HIVE had. The HIVE had a massive military but many units were under-equipped or lacked advanced electronic tracking and anti-aircraft systems.

                          If the HIVE were really pressed by an enemy the first line of defense would be a wall of bodies to slow the attackers down until more highly skilled and equipped units could be deployed to aid them.

                          Zho looked over at Yazov and wondered if the man had the courage to sacrifice thousands of Firemen in Yang’s master plan.


                          University Base, MY 2239

                          Zakharov looked on as the transport departed with a good number of the First Expeditionary Force. The value of the transport, the two cruiser escorts, and the foil probe made the group the most valuable asset of the University save the investment in University Base.

                          It was somewhat disconcerting. Previous expeditions had done acceptably or had experienced full scale disaster. Forces currently at the Cult staging area were busy pounding the Cult forces and were, by degrees, eliminating resistance. They had been given orders not to proceed until probe teams arrived to guard the new University possessions, and that would be a few years. The new transport held 10 units, but it was mired in fungus. That was the advantage of the isles, of course, and why the University had invested in them so early.

                          News from the exploration teams was alarming. A probe team and a separate Unity rover had unleashed an earthquake, destroying an isle and an upgraded transport. They were now stranded far from home and could not conduct meaningful exploration. The rover would be upgraded to have empath abilities, but that was the extent of their abilities. A second isle had been attacked by a rogue sealurk and was heavily damaged, and was now repairing in fungus. Considering its damage the repair would take a very long time.

                          So the good news is that more data would be ripped from the Cult, two of their cities – including their capital – taken, and the main part of their infestation of lands by the University would be eliminated. If all went according to plan, that is.


                          HIVE 2239, Central research facility HIVE – PRIME

                          “We need to move along more quickly on this project Chief Scientist.”

                          “We are working as hard as we can my Chairman, I promise!”

                          Yang stood looking at the group of assembled researchers and lab assistants and his eyes bored into each and every one of them.

                          “Not good enough!” Yang’s voice cracked liked a whip and everyone of them reacted as if it had been the real thing. “I intend to focus vast sums of additional research and resources into this project. I want it done in three turns, is that clear!”

                          All of the bowed in agreement and mumbled ‘yes, yes’ and ‘of course’.

                          “Good.” Yang said as he turned to leave the area.

                          Zho and the security team waited outside.

                          “Will they be able to complete it?” Zho asked hopefully.

                          “They will once we shift a number of our crawlers here to provide exclusive resources for the project. I want at least three crawlers here asap.” Yang said as he turned and walked quickly down the corridor.

                          Zho watched him leave and knew the real reason for his sudden demand for increased productivity. Yang was dieing. His heart machine had been replaced so many times it was not even practical to do so anymore. Without the vaccine, he would die.


                          University Base, MY 2240

                          Admiral Conrads said it simply. “At 0815 this morning the Cybernetic Consciousness launched a surprise attack and destroyed the Expeditionary Fleet. All hands were lost, including the transport, all attack and defense military units inside the transport, two escorting cruisers, and probe foil. A small fleet of Cyborg impact copters were deployed and are currently in our sights, as is a Consciousness isle that is south of University Port.”

                          Amy Constance looked over at Zakharov with alarm: he was quite. Normally he would be raging, yelling about betrayal yet again by the Consciousness in collusion with the deluded Cult of Planet. His silence was more frightening than his rages.

                          “What forces do we have in theatre,” he said. His voice was quiet.

                          “Two cruisers are approaching, and our small force of amphibious rovers with artillery with cruiser support are near the Cult capital. A copter is at a Gaian base repairing.”

                          “Admiral, I want you to take every Consciousness and Cult base that you can.”

                          Sarah Conrads pause and then said. “We will be open to probe attack, Prokhor. One of the Consciousness foils we sighted has fusion, and it is likely the one that was lost near Spartan territory. There are many sea and land probes in the area.”

                          “I understand that, Admiral. After you capture the base, strip it of all assets and then burn it to the ground. We are done playing around. If the Consciousness and Cult want war then we will give it to them. They will be exterminated. Am I quite clear?”

                          “Yes,” she said, and then looked around at the rest of the Council as if for an appeal. There was none.

                          “Then do it,” Zakharov said and then terminated the holo link. Then he turned to the rest of the Council.

                          “We are done f*cking around. I want all base’s output changed to quasar copters, cruisers, and appropriate war material. We are going to blast every single Consciousness and Cult base, and if we can’t hold them we will burn them. The threat to the University of Planet will end, and we will end it.”

                          Amy said, “What about the repercussions? Slaughtering tens of thousands of people is an atrocity.”

                          “So it is,” Zakharov said. “And in my mind so was an unprovoked attack – the second, I’ll remind you. My friend Aki Zeta-5 has crossed the line for the last time.”

                          “What will the Gaians say?” Immanuel Florence asked. He looked pale.

                          “I don’t know. We can’t talk to her, remember? And if we could we’d gift the base to her and not have to slaughter civilians. Such is war, Councilor. If you can’t handle it then I suggest you resign.”

                          Immanuel was silent.


                          Resonance bolts pulsed through the air, and the impacts shook the sea base Eta Ridge to its core. Great black slashes erupted with black smoke, and flame poured through the second level and out into the open blue sky. The University isle housing seemed to pulse with every shot from the resonance lasers.

                          A resonance cruiser pulled up, blasted through the undefended sea port doors, and sheered its way into the interior of the base. More smoke billowed out of the port bay along with flashes of light.

                          Forty minutes later the cruiser re-emerged. A series of massive explosions rocked Eta Ridge. It slowly cantered to the east, bulkhead buckling and struts shredding themselves. The west side pealed open like an onion and the great structure issues a final unearthly groan and toppled over into the sea. It took only ten minutes for the entire structure to sink into the waves.


                          The isle pulled up to the capital of the Cult – Dawn of Planet. Amphibious rovers blasted the single defender, scoring huge gashes in the slightly pink-hued structure. The battle was short, and then another rover left the isle and entered the base. Over the next half hour the single plume of gray smoke turned to dozens: the entire city was engulfed in flame.

                          An hour later the rover returned to the isle. The funeral pyre of Dawn of Planet reached to the heavens like a broken finger.


                          HIVE 2240, Private quarters of Chairman Yang

                          “This will not hurt at all Chairman.”

                          “Are you sure it will work!”

                          The doctor stood still for a few seconds then looked up into the cold, blue eyes of Chairman Yang. “We have tested it on over a hundred subjects my Chairman. After 16 turns none of them showed any signs of regression. Internal organs were repaired, cell degeneration was halted and in nearly every subject reversed. Oh yes, my Chairman, it will work.”

                          Yang then nodded and looked at the spot on his arm that the doctor quickly injected the longevity serum into.

                          Yang felt nothing at first, what would he feel? He had no idea. His heart, or what remained of the human heart still in his chest continued to pump under the supervision of the heart device.

                          “It will take time my Chairman, time. Organs don’t repair themselves over night. At the earliest you should begin to feel something in a week. Then the magic begins!” The doctor said gleefully. We will have to monitor you closely and perhaps move you into a room that has round the clock care. We will need to monitor you heart pump to make sure the new cells, when ready can be allowed to do their job.”

                          Yang only nodded. He knew it would be close to an entire turn before he returned to work and when he did the world will face a new Chairman Yang!


                          • #43
                            University Base, MY 2241

                            Prokhor Zakharov had given up his usual blue and gray suit in favor of a more austere jumper. It was still tailored, but it seemed to fit the times. The Joint Command war room was a mass of holo images, military officers pacing around or deep in an interface with the Virtual World imagery, and conferences – live and ‘in the tank’, as virtual discussions were called.

                            “I don’t want to take much of your time, but I’d like an update,” Zakharov said to the officer in charge.

                            A young man nodded once. “We lost a cruiser to a Consciousness fusion foil, but its mate destroyed them. That was the last of the foils the Consciousness stole from us that we are aware of. Another cruiser in the theatre is currently attacking Delta Trench in preparation of a copter attack in the coming year. More cruisers will come on line to clean up the seas near our territory of Consciousness sea bases, per plan. There was one copter attack at New Azamas that destroyed a former, but that will likely be the last one before our copters come on line and remove the lot.”

                            He activated an interactive image to show the locations of the engagements. “We lost a damaged isle in the seas between us and the Hive. A Cyborg foil did the work and we have not been able to track it. If there are attacks in that area we have little air power to respond.”

                            “Build a copter at one of the bases in the Jungle. They seem to offer good flexibility even if their range is limited,” Zakharov replied. The officer tabbed it and shunted the instructions to Command.

                            “Our forces have also taken Node Runner on the Cyborg main landmass. Strategically this allowed us to procure Retroviral Engineering from the Cyborgs and base a copter for future work. The Admiral was not able to pull the probe team or land forces and ordered the isle away for reinforcements. A second isle is based at the new Gaian base and should be able to return to the front in the coming turn with two military units. Our best information indicates that there are no enemy land probes and only one land military unit that can try to recapture the base. If they hold out they will continue attacking bases to and including the Cyborg capital.”

                            Zakharov nodded grimly. Those bases were the core of the Cyborg holdings and including two bases that were working on Project and one completed Project – the Echelon Mirror. It would be a shame to destroy it, but if that was required then so be it.

                            “Our resonance cruiser eliminated a Cyborg isle carrying troops near Pi Squared. They have been tasked with providing artillery support if needed. Our rover artillery eliminated a Cyborg foil probe before taking Node Runner.”

                            Zakharov looked over the standing and was satisfied. “What forces will be have available for attacks in the coming year?”

                            “Three quasar copters, two resonance copters, three cruisers, two isles, and the land forces at Node Runner,” he replied.

                            That was formidable, but it was a pale imitation of the force that had been lost – the cream of the University military had gone down in the Cyborg surprise attack. In a way it was brilliant: an opportunistic attack that pulled a good number of their teeth, and preserved the Cult from certain destruction. The reality was that it awoke a rage that pulsed through the entire University, with the Consciousness at its vortex.

                            War was a dirty and nasty business, and this time the University was playing to win.


                            HIVE 2241, Chairman Yang’s private office

                            “I certify you fully fit Chairman.”

                            Yang nodded to the doctor who then quickly bowed, hand over his eyes, the proper HIVE salute to the Chairman and then quickly walked backwards from the room and through the door.

                            “This is good news my Chairman.” Zho began in what could almost be called a happy tone. “Your heart has nearly repaired itself and you only require the heart monitor and pacemaker. Your body has nearly regenerated completely, a man of 30.”

                            “Yes, I am better and the new treatments for the drones have made them also all the more dependent upon future treatments to maintain their vitality. It is yet another tool to re-shape humanity into a super human. While for me, I received the un-altered treatment that should last for nearly 200 hundred years before I will need another one. I will be able to see my dream come to frutrition, a new humanity molded by me.” Yang said almost in the same happy tone that Zho had used.

                            “Chairman, our attack helicopters destroyed a Cyborg attack foil off our coast. What is suprising about this ship was that it’s power core was not a fission reactor but a fusion reactor. The sensors from the electronic warfare helicopter that accompanies the main attack squadron scanned the ship and discovered that information. It fundamentally changes the scope of our military situation if other factions have power plants twice as powerful as our own. We need to procure that technology at all costs.” Zho concluded and looked up at Yang.

                            “I agree.” Yang said as he stood up and gracefully walked around the desk. He no longer had to wear the bulky chest device that kept his heart pumping anymore, though he continued to wear it in public he wanted to continue the pretense he was feeble still and that might make any enemy over confident. “Order El’Bander to launch an expedition of two operative exploration foils to secure this technology from the Cyborgs. We must have it at all costs.”

                            “At once my Chairman.” Zho said as he jotted down notes on his new holo-data pad.

                            “Zho I also approve your proposal to build a city at the northern edge of the great fresh water sea. Once we have that city built we can cut nearly 10 turns off transit time when having to travel from our southern seas to northern. I am also disturbed by the fact that the mind worm scum still advance against our main cities. A spore thrower actually tracked a tanker regiment back to our core cities and is attacking it now, make sure that think is destroyed, instruct Yazov to make it so.” Yang said as he walked over to the large bank of holo-screens and watched more than a dozen screens as they secretly monitored parts of the HIVE.

                            “I do have more good news my Chairman.” Zho said in an uplifting tone. “We have uncovered two more artifacts along our northern territory and we still have four more possible sites to explore!”

                            “Bring those devices back at once and link them to the network. With the addition of that technology we will average a breakthrough every seven years. I still want that improved but for now we have to deal with what we can do. The training of more engineers is vital to expanding our scientific capabilities.” Yang said almost cheerfully.

                            “Yes my Chairman.”

                            “Zho.” Yang said almost wistfully. “That scientist who made the breakthrough in longevity vaccine?”

                            The statement, more a question seemed to hang there for a second or two.

                            “As you directed my Chairman, recycled, we could not risk him falling into the wrong hands.” Zho said flatly.

                            “Yes, most prudent.”


                            University Base, MY 2242

                            “Status?” Zakharov asked.

                            “The Cyborg chopper and defenders at Iota Point have been eliminated. The base was secured, stripped, and sunk. Approximately 60,000 Cyborg citizens were killed. A Cult foil destroyed our cruiser near Pi Squared, and our chopper destroyed them in return. Five Cyborg military units near Node Runner were destroyed without loss, and the garrison there was upgraded. With some luck an isle will be able to deliver two espionage units, and we can continue capturing the Cyborg bases. Or we can capture and burn them down.” The admiral quickly got the details out of the way. It was unpleasant business.

                            “And what of the fungal bloom near New Azamas?”

                            “Partially controlled. We’ve killed one worm, damaged another with an old artillery unit, and three empath or resonance rovers are now in position to attack in the coming year. The only base that is threatened Tsiolovski Institute, and they have a trance and backup defender in case of emergency. Part of the worm advance is blocked by one of our worms. We may take losses, but none should be debilitating.”

                            “Very good. Keep the Council informed.”


                            HIVE 2242, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                            “This is what I wanted to show you Chairman.”

                            “Let me see.”

                            The holo-tank rippled and then quickly re-formed showing a very static filled scene. It showed what looked like University helicopters and ground forces destroying a Cyborg city. The images continued to unfold and for nearly a half and hour then the display returned to the normal map layout of HIVE territory.

                            “What did I see?” Yang asked questioningly at Yazov.

                            “A major assault by University forces on Cyborg territory. I apologize for the quality of the display but the continued solar flares make any data transmissions a fluke at best. Those 25 minutes of footage is all of what our data links were able to piece together over the past turn!” Yazov replied quickly. “25 minutes out of an entire turns worth of events. What it does tell us is that the Cyborgs did something to the University that really made them mad beyond measure and have taken it to a new level of hostility. Our data reports do tell us that the University has destroyed whole cities in their slaughter of the Cyborgs.”

                            “So the Scientist is not such a pansy after all.” Yang mused. “All the better. Will the Cyborgs be able to defend themselves? Surely with their fusion reactors they should be an equal or better to the Scientists.”

                            “One would think so but it is clear now from the data images that the University also posses fusion power. The battle, if anything should be equal. The strategic advantage would go to the University since they have nearly five times the population as the Cyborgs.” Yazov replied quickly not wanting Yang to think him ignorant of University capabilities.

                            “We need to obtain that fusion technology Fire Marshall. I have ordered El’Bander to make it his first priority. I will not let that technology be used to brow beat us into submission, is that clear?” Yang almost barked at Yazov, his face stern with determination to have that important piece of technology.

                            “Very clear my Chairman.” Yazov hastiliy responded. “The two artifacts are on their way back to HIVE territory my Chairman with eight more sites now on map to investigate for possible more artifacts.”

                            “Very good Yazov, very good indeed.”


                            University Base, MY 2243

                            “Report,” Zakharov said. The rest of the Council turned toward the Admiral, who had been appointed by the Joint Command as liaison to the Council.

                            “We have captured and destroyed Iota Point, and the cruiser is proceeding west. With the help of two copters it will be able to eliminate two more Cyborg sea bases in the coming year. I anticipate no real resistance.

                            “On the Cyborg mainland I am happy to report the capture of Pi Complex and the Echelon Mirror Complex. This was one of the early Projects, and it appears we will have no trouble holding the city. Each city now has two or more probe teams to defend, and they are formidable with their fusion reactors. We took no losses.

                            “A copter engaged forces at Alpha Basin, which was one of the first and largest Cyborg sea bases. The Cyborg foil based there destroyed one of our cruisers and it had to be eliminated. The copter is low on fuel but will be able to assist in the capture of the base in the coming year. One of the damaged isles will be able to assist unless they are destroyed by enemy action. We plan on sinking the base since we have no probe teams to defend and cannot let it fall into enemy hands.

                            “We located and engaged a Cyborg foil that destroyed the isle that was repairing between us and the Hive. The chopper made quick work of it and was able to return to base. I recommend that this chopper be based there as a quick response force.

                            “I am happy to report that all the mindworms infesting the area near Tsiolovski Institute have been destroyed and that the trance garrison there survived a mindworm attack. We took no losses, although some of the units were damaged.

                            “Our latest projection is that we will take at least Pi Squared and perhaps also the Cyborg capital Alpha Prime in the coming year. These plus the three sea bases we anticipate destroying will mean that the Cyborgs will be down to about a half dozen bases, and although they can still hurt us that they will not be a meaningful threat. The Joint Command recommends building more probe teams, getting them to the bases we intend to keep, and then work from the west to the east and eliminate or capture all Cyborg or Cult bases. This will prune the threat in a systematic manner.

                            “As a side note, as we destroy the bases we are crippling the industrial potential of the remaining bases. Apparently they draw support from other bases, and the smaller bases can’t support the additional units. Having their industry bogged down is to our advantage and, if we are able to strike quickly, we will be able to capture the bases before they can respond.

                            “I am now open to questions,” she said.

                            Zakharov had a broad smile on his face. “Excellent Admiral. Please convey my pleasure to the Joint Command and the valiant men and women of our armed forces. They are doing an outstanding job.” He gave her a short bow, which she acknowledged with a nod and then ended the link.


                            HIVE 2243, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                            “What do you mean, a mountain just appeared!”

                            “My Chairman, yes, a mountain just appeared due south of HIVE Prime just along the edges of our sea territory.”

                            Yang quickly walked over the immense holo-tank and watched the information unfold.

                            It was clear that just a dozen sectors south of the HIVE mainland a massive volcanic mountain now existed when just a turn before all there was sea and some small atolls.

                            “Your hypothsis?” Yang asked Zho and Yazov.

                            “It can only be one of two things.” Zho began. “A natural phenomena or someone inadvertently activated a mantle boring unit and cracked the tectonic plates which released a massive magma event.”

                            “A volcano you mean.” Yang interrupted.

                            “Yes just so.”

                            “Who did it?” Yang glared at Yazov, his eyes boring into his Fire Marshall.

                            “Unknown my Chairman.” Yazov quickly replied. “Our drone reconnaissance missions were not covering that area. It could be natural or anyone of the other factions.”

                            “Well, we had best take advantage of this and claim that area quickly. It is too close to HIVE – PRIME for my liking to just leave it to anyone else. Establish four HIVE enclaves on the island immediately. Secure it in the name of the HIVE!”


                            University Base, MY 2244

                            “We have captured and destroyed the three Cyborg sea bases Theta Barrier, Kappa Kelpfarms, and the large base Alpha Basin. Approximately 100,000 Cyborg citizens were killed during the fighting or the scuttling of the bases,” Admiral Conners said as she activated the schematics with live holo overlay. The images showed the two small sea bases being attacked by copters and then a cruiser swooping in, securing the base, and then rending its struts and sea supports. It took only minutes for the bases implode and sink into the fungus-strewn sea. Alpha Basin was a large base – one of the largest in the Consciousness – and the images showed a damaged that was station keeping remove the two defenders and quickly head south toward Pi Complex. An isle then flowed into and all through the base. Explosions racked the base, and pinkish tendrils of wormlets pulsed into the open as they enveloped the panicked citizens. After three hours the isle re-emerged – undamaged and much larger – as the last of the explosions ripped the southern half of the base apart and it settled into the sea. There were no humans left to attempt an escape.

                            Zakharov smiled grimly. “Very good, Admiral – just as you anticipated. And I understand there were advances on the Consciousness mainland.”

                            “Yes. Rovers and copters converged on Pi Square, eliminated military units that were either retreating to Cyborg bases or moving into position, and then took Pi Squared. The base is now defended by a fusion defender, a copter, and a probe team. It is highly unlikely that any Cyborg land assault can take the base from us. Next year we will be able to take their capital.” The image showed a choreographed sequence of artillery, rovers, and copters destroying supply crawlers, rovers, probe teams, military units near the Cyborg capital Alpha Prime, and then the defenders at Pi Square. Thin plumes of smoke rose into the air after the base was captured, but it was mostly intact.

                            “We do have an upcoming threat,” she continued as she changed the graphic to sho the Cyborg sea base Epsilon Reef. “The combined fleet of Cyborg and Cult air force of choppers has converged on this base. Five copters are currently staging there, and as we discovered and are demonstrating to the Cyborgs that they are a considerable danger. As of right now we have only one asset – a new cruiser – that is in danger. However, I have directed further copters to stage near the area and then take them out in a coordinated assault. The timing of the assault depends on what the air force does. They have a limited range of 5 sectors and were damaged when moving from the eastern Cult sea bases. It is likely they will repair, but it is anyone’s guess. We will have at least two copters in range, and our extended range due to the fusion reactors will be useful to get at first strike. The Joint Command will keep you apprised.

                            “At this time there are seven remaining Consciousness bases. Three of these – Alpha Prime, Iota Station, and the sea base Beta Mudflats – are the current priority. If we take the two land bases then the vast majority of the Cyborg population base will be secured. The sea base will simply be eliminated. When the west is secured we will move south and take the last remaining Cult bases Invictus and a base they newly founded at the site of their old capital. With new probe support we should be able to hold the bases instead of burning them to the ground. Then the forces move west to mop up the last of the resistance. I anticipated the actions will take 10 years”

                            The Council members squirmed at that announcement. Ten years was a long time.

                            “Thank you for the update, Admiral. If you will excuse us the Council needs to discuss the continuing stresses of our population boom.”


                            • #44
                              HIVE 2244, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                              “The Cyborgs are nearly finished.”

                              “That is a correct assessment my Chairman.”

                              Yang said nothing and then looked up at his three top aides.

                              “What have we done to procure the needed fusion power plant designs?” Yang asked probingly.

                              “We are building more foil Operative ships but by the time we build them and then they sail all that distance by the time they get there the last of the Cyborg cities will have fallen.” Yazov quickly explained.

                              Yang seemed to agree and continued to study the large holo-tank.

                              “HIVE – 25 is established?” He looked up at Zho who then nodded in agreement.

                              “We have three more colony pods in construction my Chairman.” Zho began. “One of them is a sea colony to be established just to the east of the great mesa.”

                              “The volcano area?” Yang asked as he looked up at El’Bander.

                              “We have an operatives team preparing to be deployed to that area. They should arrive in two turns and begin searching the area. I have talked with Zho and he says at least one colony pod will be sent to the island for colonization efforts.” El’Bander replied quickly.

                              Yang nodded in agreement. The HIVE was prospering and soon they would have three artifacts for research and development. They had six full squadrons of attack helicopters and nearly double that number slated for construction. The HIVE mainland was free of all fungal towers so the security of the Collective was assured. Things were going very well for the HIVE.


                              Alpha Prime, MY 2245

                              “Word of your atrocities against the Consciousness and the Cult of Planet will be known all over Chiron, Zakharov,” Aki Zeta Five said. Her voice was cold with barely controlled fury.

                              “You can’t prove anything, Aki Zeta. Nothing. The sunspots rendered all such electronic monitoring useless and severely corrupted. Everything could just as easily be ascribed to the fortunes of war, which you so blatantly initiated twice. Did your logic dictate that you had to support the venal and backward Cult by attacking us? Once might be an error, but two is a trend.

                              “Quiet, Aki Zeta? You should be. Your capital Alpha Prime is now in University control and has been renamed University Prime. All your bases have been renamed. And know this: you can win a battle but you will lose the war. You have six bases left, and soon that will be four. And then two. And then none. Your allies the Cult are next.

                              “Oh, and in case you get any grand ideas on your massive buildup of your combined copter fleet, we are ware of it and the two copters at Upsilon Depot and Lambda Farms and all other defenders have been destroyed. More copters are on the way. Imagine waves of copters, Aki Zeta – waves of them, and then think of how hour copters destroyed a fleet of University warships that had no designs on you or your holdings. You have initiated your own fate.”

                              The line abruptly went blank. Zakharov had misgivings, of course. The Cyborgs were as much his creation as any other, and it might even be his fault that they will end as they were fated to. Could he have reached out more? Offered more inducements?

                              No, not really. He’d offered technology and support and they’d consistently chosen the Cult.

                              Now, there were more pressing issues to consider.


                              University Communiqué

                              To: Chairman Yang, Hive
                              From: University of Chiron
                              Subject: Truce

                              Upon review of our diplomatic status I was informed that there is a state of Vendetta between our factions. I am aware of no action on either side that could have resulted in this circumstance and, as such, have concluded that it is an error.

                              Therefore we are offering a truce.

                              Prokhor Zakharov


                              HIVE 2245, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                              BEGIN TRANSMISSION:

                              TO: UNIVERSITY – Chief Scientist Zakharov

                              FROM: The HIVE Collective

                              SUJBECT: Acceptance of truce

                              We agree at this time to the cessation of hostilities between our two factions. I am still researching the possibility that University forces might be involved with the creation of a large volcano directly south of HIVE territory. That island is now the property of the HIVE and all land and sea territory adjacent to it by right of colonization is ours as well.

                              If it is determined that University forces activated a ‘crust cracker’ near our territory we will either demand restitution or a state of war will be created between us.

                              I am not pleased to hear of the massive numbers of causalities that the Cyborgs have sustained. It seems clear even to me, Chairman Yang that military targets are one thing, defenseless women and children are another. Since the solar blackouts have denied us the ability to collect first hand intelligence we will withhold judgment for now pending more information.

                              I would encourage the UNIVESITY to re-consider their situation and those of their neighbors. It is clear you have emasculated the Cyborgs, do you need to drive them to extinction?

                              Chairman Yang

                              The HIVE Collective


                              University Base, MY 2246

                              “And the artifact gave us the key insights in Neural Grafting?” Zakharov asked.

                              “Yes. We’d been making some progress but we’d missed a key element – the still only generally understood resonance fields that propagate throughout Chiron’s ecology. This advance will allow us to enhance our military and civilian units, and also will allow us to build Bioenhancement Centers. Simply put, the biomechanics of neural grafting will be implemented at all units constructed at a base, which will improve their performance considerably.”

                              Zakharov’s eyes lit up. “Just what we need. And the cost?””

                              Amy shunted an analysis to him. “Prohibitive, but not out of the question. Fortunately Tsiolovski Institute is working on the Planetary Datalinks and is a few years away from completion. The Gattica Project – as it is known – will a third more.”

                              Zakharov waved his hand dismissively. “We’ll assign a few supply crawlers to it and that won’t be a problem. We also need to make sure the Planetary Datalinks doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.”

                              “Such as any other faction,” Amy said with a note of irony in her voice.

                              “Exactly,” he replied, missing the nuance entirely. “Assign a few bases to construct supply crawlers, or see if there are surplus crawlers. More territory is needed for population expansion. We’ll be in that situation at University Base, won’t we?”

                              “Yes. Currently we have 140,000 citizens at University Base and we could grow by a few more tens of thousands in the next few years. This is putting a severe strain on our infrastructure. Social stability is starting to break down.” Amy consulted a few charts, and then nodded to confirm her statement.

                              “Yes, yes. We can deal with that. What we need to do is keep growing and then get rid of the d*amend Anthropogenic Society. It gives us fits when fighting the Cult’s natives and rogue natives. When can we migrate?”

                              “Likely a few more years. Most bases have topped out, although with a few more hatcheries coming on line we may have a few more years of expansion. At some point there will be diminishing returns.”

                              Zak nodded. “There always are. Oh, Deirdre accepted the Cult base Beta Mudflats. She was quite happy to hear from me and is expanding nicely. She has a good number of sea probes, transports with probes in them, and a good number of foils. I wonder who she’s gunning for?”

                              “Simple exploration. Or maybe she’d gunning for the Hive,” Amy replied.

                              “Fah. The Hive would eat her for lunch. I hope she doesn’t provoke the Spartans. They have two foils lurking in our territory. If they decide to attack can we respond?”

                              “We have copters on all fronts along with upgraded defensive garrisons. The energy spoils from the Cyborgs has been put to good use. We’ll have to make ourselves an unpleasantly dangerous target.”

                              Zakhrov was grim. “That didn’t stop Aki Zeta. Speaking of such, did the attacks go as planned?”

                              “All known enemy copters have been destroyed, although a few are unaccounted for and more are being built. We can deal with those, however. As Winston Churchill said, it is now simply a matter of the application of overwhelming firepower.

                              “We also procured a copy of the Cyborg world maps,” Amy continued. “Apparently they traded maps with the Spartans, so we have maps of their territory and that of their ally the Hive. It is very interesting,” she said as she shunted over the images.

                              Zakharov cycled through them fairly quickly. “A broad and tight expansion for the Hive and a chaotic and far flung expansion for the Spartans. Big continents, too. That is a new volcano. Interesting – that must be what Yang was concerned about. Well, time to reply.”



                              To: Chairman Yang, Hive

                              Subject: Truce accepted

                              The University of Chiron accepts the truce between the University of Chiron and the Hive.

                              As to the volcano, we just noted it on our world map. Our understanding is that volcanoes can be completely natural or it is possible that they are a result of ecological pollution. The University currently has no ecological pollution, and any we had in the past has long since been ameliorated. Other factions have not been so fastidious. Pollution from the Hive could explain why the volcano is near your territory. But again, it could have a completely natural explanation. Regardless, it is an interesting feature and I hope it does not cause any ecological disruption.

                              The University has no objection to the Hive claiming the volcano for your territory. We will strongly object if colonization or your self-proclaimed territorial waters starts to infringe on territory already controlled by the University. To be perfectly clear, the Hive and University bases need to be 28 sectors apart – the range of missiles from both of our territories. Considering how concerned the Hive is with territorial integrity and our previous violent conflict this distance will help prevent additional misunderstandings. Moreover, we have had very bad conflicts with our neighbors the Cult and Consciousness so you can understand why close neighbors cause us grave concern. Chiron is a very big place Chairman and there is no reason to encroach on other’s territories and interests.

                              Our conflict with the Consciousness is extremely unfortunate. As you are well aware, Aki Zeta is one of my proudest creations – a prototype of cybernetic and algorithmic enhancement that was far ahead of her time. Unfortunately she has chosen to ally herself with the odious Cult of Planet, and together they have both declared unprovoked war on the University four times. A truce after the first declarations of war lasted merely a year with the Cult, and Aki Zeta broke her truce after the first war to assist the Cult. Therefore, they are not to be trusted, have caused the University considerable loss, and are prime examples of bad neighbors.

                              Any loss of life is regrettable since civilians do not make the decisions; they are caught in the middle. Most of the bases we capture will be gifted to the Gaians since Deirdre Skye has proved to be an enlightened steward that is friendly toward all of her neighbors. Hopefully this will ease any distress on the part of the Cyborg civilians.

                              But, to answer your question: the University will press its war until the Cult and Consciousness agree to surrender to the University of Chiron. With their history of egregious breaking of treaties that is the only solution we can now accept.

                              Prokhor Zakharov


                              HIVE 2246, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                              TO: University – CHIEF SCIENTIST

                              FROM: The HIVE Collective

                              SUBJECT: INVESTIGATION

                              For now, we will ‘accept’ your position you had nothing to do with the resulting volcano that erupted along our southern frontier. We are still investigating the affair and we recently had to destroy several Cultist foils who dared to enter our sea lanes.

                              In hopes of improving our understanding and furthering our investigation on the volcano we would require the communication frequency for the Cultists. We will exchange 50 mega-credits for this information.

                              As to the 28 sector border requirement, if it is possible, we will accept such guidelines for now, subject to further clarifications of the world map. I as of yet, do not have a full ‘picture’ of the southwestern sea area and it might be possible that we already have cities within that boundary area. If that is the case, then there is nothing we can do for now. I for one will not press the issue further in this regard.
                              I for one can not accept the fact that your military forces practiced a policy of ‘scorched earth’ in order to preserve the integrity of your territory. Those Cyborg cities could have been brought into the fold of your community rather than the full scale destruction of the cities just to eliminate the possibility of integration of the Cyborg people along your coastline. War is war but the fragile human condition here on this savage planet should teach us one thing, that every life is precious and to destroy over a 100,000 souls for the sake of military needs strikes even myself as beyond reason.

                              I look forward to more chats with the most ruthless and cold-blooded people of the University.

                              My warmest regards as always.

                              Chairman Yang


                              University Base, MY 2247

                              University of Chiron Communiqué

                              To: Chairman Yang, Hive

                              Upon checking the world map it appears the new volcano is quite near existing University bases. In fact, it seem to be within 14 sectors of territory that has been already colonized by our people. Therefore I am glad you are not going to press the issue. Perhaps you can understand that the University is as protective of its territory as is the Hive, and it is in neither of our interests to allow needless conflict. There is more than enough conflict on Chiron already, I’m sure you will agree. .

                              The University is going to respectfully decline giving you the Cultist communication frequency. Our policy is to isolate the Cult as much as possible due to their warlike nature and tendency to cause extreme trouble. At this time they are still a noticeable threat to the University and recently destroyed a sea former, attacked a cruiser, initiated multiple espionage attacks, and have sent a small wave of copters into University territory. Once they are no longer a threat we will be pleased to reconsider the option.

                              It appears you have been misinformed on the nature of the war between the Cyborgs and the University. Unfortunately may have died, but that is a sad byproduct of an attack on any fortified location. Indeed, in almost every case at least 20,000 people die during the attack and subsequent occupation, and this can increase markedly if the battle is pitched and multiple attacks are made. For instance, during the last year the University attacked the Cult city of Upsilon Depot, which was a staging ground for copter attacks on our forces. Our copter attack eliminated the last defender and the subsequent occupation resulted in the total destruction of the city. Larger cities also suffer, but are less likely to be totally destroyed. You will note that most of the bases that no longer exist were small bases, although the back-and-forth battles at the beginning of our offense were admittedly less effective and resulted in more damage and casualties.

                              To date Aki Zeta has refused to come to terms even though she only has three cities left. We will take one in the coming year, and the last two sea bases will fall when we are able to get forces in the theatre. We will also have to deal with the Cult bases, too, although that will be difficult since they are spread all over the seas.

                              It is my earnest hope that the Aki Zeta Five and Cha Dawn will see reason and allow us to end the war on terms the University can accept. Until that point we will be forced to press our war. To promote grater harmony and minimize the loss of life we will gift most of the bases to the Gaians, per our previous communication.

                              Prokhor Zakharov


                              HIVE 2247, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                              TO: UNIVERSITY – CHIEF SCIENTIST

                              FROM: The HIVE Collective

                              SUBJECT: The volcano island

                              Unfortunately, we have already established a city on that island and as such claim it for part of the Collective. From our intelligence our city is 19 sectors from the University city called Baikonour. We do plan on establishing three more cities on that island for the express purpose of providing a base of mutual support and defense. These additional cities will be close the 14 sectors distance. It us unfortunate for you that we only had map files given to us from third parties that we could never trust completely. Even the city we have mentioned, Baikonour could be a non-entity for all we truly know. So you will have to understand my misgivings and not trust your information completely.

                              Suffice it to say, we will have to remain, good neighbors and you will have to work harder to gain our trust!

                              I find it unfortunate that you failed to honor a simple request for information. We had hopes of continuing our investigation into the causes of the volcano’s appearance since my scientists now conclude that the tectonic plates do not shift along that line. Which also leads us to believe your reluctance to provide that information is all together more suspicious in this matter.

                              Just so that we are clear on one issue. My intelligence people clearly established a link to the Cyborgs information network some time ago. We saw with real time intelligence your troops sinking sea cities with no effort made to help women and children from drowning to death. How you were able to keep these heinous crimes against humanity a secret and from your own people still astounds me. I truly give your secret intelligence service credit for an exceptional job in white noise control. Yet, do not believe I don’t understand what you did during that interval when most, if not nearly all communication systems were out of commission. I have the evidence to prove your forces sunk many Cyborg cities with no effort made to assist drowning civilians. I also understand your motives since, in the same token, we watched your naval forces, your military naval forces fall beneath the onslaught of the Cyborgs. This was all part of the greater war effort between your two parties but let us be clear between each other. The fact that democracy such as yours tolerated the wholesale destruction of non-military men, women and children surely puts you into the same category of the Spartans military junta.

                              I doubt that the Cyborgs and Cultists really pose any creditable threat to your people anymore but when your blood lust is up, surely, you most explore that desire to it’s fullest. Good luck with that! Perhaps when you have the last Cyborg and Cultist lined up along a wall for execution you will at last have your pound of flesh.

                              In these difficult times I am always well pleased to know I have the full measure of my friends.

                              Be at peace, your secret, is well safe with us.


                              Chairman Yang


                              • #45
                                University Base, MY 2248

                                “We’ve taken Invictus from the Cult and Lambda Farms from the Cyborgs. We weren’t quite able to take Hermitage due to unexpected Cult units the chopper found on the way in and had to eliminate. Hermitage should fall in the coming year.”

                                Admiral Conrads paused. “There is a problem. Our choppers crews are all exhausted and almost all have significant damage. We either need reinforcements or a respite to repair. We lost a chopper when combat went badly, which was a calculated risk in its damaged condition. That will only get more pressing as we have to span longer distances to eliminate the Cult bases to the east.”

                                Zakharov nodded. “Use your discretion, Admiral. There are three new chopper crews on the way, but moving seven sectors per year is slow. I’d rather have a secure movement than a risky one. I do not want to jeopardize our gains in foolhardy moves. Now, what is this I hear of developments near University Port?”

                                The Admiral continued. “It seems the Gaians are raising land near their new base. If they raise terrain one more time it will completely seal off the sea lanes in that area, and University Port will be landlocked. For land-based units this isn’t a problem, but any sea units will be trapped. Currently we have two cruisers making their way to repair. I’d hate to lose them inadvertently.”

                                “Can you have them go to University Base?” he asked.

                                “Yes, but that doesn’t answer the issue of the blocked access. I recommend that they base at University Port to repair and then immediately move east. It is a calculated risk.”

                                “Very well. Thank you Admiral.” The admiral’s image winked out.

                                “Now, to the proposal: shall we call for planetary elections? With the Empath Guild and our recent population expansion we are assured of victory. Thoughts?” Zakharov asked.

                                “Not a good idea,” Immanuel said. “As soon as we have elections all factions will have the communication frequency of all the others. That would give isolated factions like the Hive the ability to contact the Cult and Believers, and who know what sort of issues that will initiate. At least we should wait until the Cyborgs are eliminated, which won’t take too long.”

                                Richard Korath interjected, “We need to consider the economic benefits. We will get more trade with the Gaians.”

                                Immanuel responded. “Trivial. If we had more trading partners that might make a difference, but not right now. Considering the attitudes of the Hive and Spartans and our vendetta with the rest an improvement in our diplomatic standing isn’t likely.”

                                Zakharov nodded. “Agreed. We’ll postpone for now. And what of our latest breakthrough in Probability Mechanics. I hear this will give us an armor factor 8, and an espionage project Hunter Seeker Algorithm. I have to say that I like the idea of being mostly immune from espionage attacks.”

                                Amy Constance said, “We have too many Projects and now enough military production, Prokhor. This is the same trap we fell into initially with our war on the Cult – we tried to do two things at once. It didn’t work. We need to keep at least two thirds of our primary bases producing military hardware if we are going to bring the conflict to a close. Remember that the Projects we can complete vary from 300 and 500 industrial units, which is significant. That is projection that isn’t being used for other purposes.”

                                She looked around and saw skeptical glances. “If we have to choose we should work on the Hunter Seeker Algorithm. That will speed up our advances, and give us some defense against the Hive and Spartans.”

                                “Very well,” Zakharov said grudgingly. “Unless there is dissent we will keep our focus on the war. And switching from a Planned economy to a Private/Protectionist?”

                                “It will take our breakthrough rate from eight to five years and our surplus from 30 to almost 150 megacredits a year. We can consider upping spending on science, which will improve our scientific output. The penalty will be reduced industrial production, which may not be a good idea for the time being.”

                                “Yes. There is that. Any other issues?” There was no response. “Good. Let’s get some dinner.”


                                University of Chiron Communiqué

                                To: Chairman Yang of the Hive

                                It appears we have a few issues to resolve. If the Human Hive colonizes the volcanic island that will place your forces within striking distance of bases and units on official and long-standing University territory. Likewise, your bases will be within striking distance of University missiles. We remember all too well the extreme measures that were taken by the Hive against University units that wandered into your self-proclaimed sphere of influence . Further, there will be additional University bases established within current University territory, and these bases will be relatively near the volcano. If we are not very careful there will be further hostilities if the Hive insists on colonizing this landmass and keeps it policy of blasting any unit that is within missile range. There are plenty of unoccupied lands and seas on Chiron, Chairman, and establishing bases that can strike University lands is a provocation. This would be a grave error since, as has been demonstrated against by our actions against the Cyborgs and Cult, the University is fully prepared to go to total war if sufficiently provoked.

                                If the Human Hive has data that implicates the University of any atrocity then please send it to all factions. The Cult and Cyborgs have, I am sure, sent whatever data they have to support their groundless accusations to all other factions, and to my knowledge the Gaians, Spartans, and even the Believers have found it to be unconvincing. Your data will be no better. I would caution you to be careful that your datalinks have not been corrupted by Cyborg algorithms. They are quite adept in such actions due to their very nature as cyborgs and affinity to data networks, and they are quite motivated to draw in others into a war they initiated and are losing badly.

                                Your position that the Cult and Cyborgs present 'no credible threat' to the University is perplexing since the Hive has the stated policy of destroying or at least bombing any foreign military unit that comes within 14 sectors of your ever-expanding territory. By your definition the University should have reduced all Cult, Cyborg, Gaian, and Believer cities to ash long ago. Indeed, I would venture to guess that you would take great umbrage with any foreign unit that attacks or destroys Hive property - as the Cult and Cyborgs have done regularly and without provocation to the University. Please clarify your positions since, at face value, it appears to be inherently contradictory.

                                Prokhor Zakharov


                                HIVE 2248, NEXUS Command and Control Center

                                “What does it mean?”

                                “My Chairman, it means that the scientists will have an ambassador based here at HIVE Prime who will have access to our level 3 informational database.”

                                Yang said nothing for some time as he continued to glower at the voting results still displayed in the holo-tank. The HIVE’s ally, the Spartans had supported Yang’s bid for power but the University had nearly twice that number in citizens and when combined with the votes from the Gaians it was even more.

                                “How did they get so many citizens!” Yang demanded. “Surely our systems has the highest growth rate on all of Chiron!”

                                “It would seem that the University knows a trick or two to entice their citizens to somehow have twins or tripliets at each birthing. None of the other factions on Chiron have utilized this method or technology to crash expand their population bases. It is clear it is something they alone know.” Zho quickly added.

                                “So they will know what we have at each city, what our troop dispositions are?” Yang asked in an almost wail.

                                ”For those areas they have a map of that lists one of our cities they will. New cities or cities they do not know are there I doubt the information will be correct. I have instructed the NEXUS command staff not to supply map information to the scientist even if he demands it.” Yazov added as nearly as fast as Zho had.

                                “Good!” Yang began. “We have no choice until we either elect a new governor or something else might happen. Inform the scientist that his chief scientist will just have to deal with the fact that our cities are on the volcano along with our troops. They will have to trust us NOT to bomb them. It has been the HIVE that has been more truthful to them than they to us. Zho,” Yang turned to his most trusted aide. “I will not meet with this ambassador. See to it.”

                                “Of course my Chairman. What of the response to the University reply?” Zho said quickly as Yang swept quickly out the room.

                                “Only what I have already instructed you to communicate to their ambassador, nothing else.”


                                University Base, MY 2249

                                The Hive had called an election for Planetary Governor. Apparently they’d finally gotten the communication links for the Cult and Believers from the Spartans, or maybe the Cult gave the Believer’s communication frequency. Regardless, the result was the same: a resounding victory for the University of Chiron. When all the votes were tallied the University-Gaian alliance had twice the votes of the Hive-Spartans axis. The Believers, Cult, and Consciousness had abstained. Apparently they didn’t have any friends except for the Spartans.

                                The University was in the same boat with only the Gaians as allies. This irritated Zakharov, and then he had an idea.


                                “Sister Godwinson,” Zakharov said in a neutral voice.

                                “Wretched heathen. You have only caused us grief since we made first contact. But regardless of your foul deeds you will do penance by gifting us your technology Mechanical Probability. Consider it a small down payment to be right with God.”

                                Zak cocked his head slightly to one side. “Sister, you know I can’t do that. I’m calling to see if we can come to an agreement. The Gaians are pressing you…”

                                “Witches, all,” she interjected.

                                The Prokhor ignored the comment. “…and you only have two bases. Your allies the Cyborgs are almost destroyed, and you know the Cult is next. Other than declaring war on us you have done us no wrong. Consider your options.”

                                Miriam was silent for a moment. “A truce then. I will agree to a truce.”

                                Zakharov shook his head. “I’m afraid it has gone beyond that. I will make you a pledge, Sister. You can run your society in any way you wish with no interference from the University. I will arrange for you and the Gaians to be at peace, which will remove a severe threat against your people and your faith. In return you will join with the Gaians and University in our alliance. We will do what we can to protect you, provide gifts of technology, and even bases. We have done so frequently for the Gaians, which demonstrates that the University can live with differences and that we do what we can for our friends. What do you say?”

                                Her face seemed to twist between a sneer and despair. “We can discuss it. Just keep those witches away from us!”

                                Zakharov gave her a sympathetic smile. “Agreed. Within the hour you will have a peace treaty with the Gaians, and if it goes well a friendship treaty. The enemies of the University will be your enemies.”

                                “Yes,” she said and then terminated the holo link.

                                Amy Constance and the rest of the Council came into the room.

                                “Who would have believed it?” she said. “Now we can use the Gaian and Believer bases to finish off the last of the Cult’s far flung bases,” Richard Korath said.

                                “Trade from the Believers and from the Planetary Governorship has increased our research rate by 15 percent, Prokhor – much greater than we expected,” Amy Constance commented.

                                Zakharov nodded. Privately he was relieved. He had no wish to pulverize the Believers who, as he said, had done the University no harm. In fact, they were rather pathetic. It would take a long, long time to build them up. But in the end it would be worth it. If the Gaians for whatever reason didn’t want a Cult or Consciousness base now he could gift them to the Believers, who would be grateful.

                                Options. There were always options.


                                HIVE 2249, Nexus Command and Control Center

                                “The nerve of that thing!”

                                “Whatever Miriam has become we do know that stability is not one of them.”

                                The group of advisors grouped around Yang mumbled in agreement as their Chairman slowly stepped down from the projection dais.

                                “Inform the Colonel that the zealot Godwinson has decided to launch an attack against us. They will want to be prepared to pounce on the few Believer bases in their area.” Yang said as he briskly stepped down to level ground.

                                “Chairman I have good news. Both of the artifacts we found are nearly to the cities that can link them to the network. We will soon have access to even more alien technology.” Zho reported happily.

                                “Tell me what we find out before you tell me where they artifacts are going,” The rebuke by Yang was harsh, in particular that Yang did it in front of his entire leadership team.

                                “Our goals are as follows; first, obtain fusion technology and secondly build bases well within range of the University homeland we can launch massive waves of drones. With fusion powered drones we could, if pressed bury the scientist in waves of attack drones and lastly, further colonization. HIVE cities # 28 and #29 and lastly #30 need to be constructed within the next three turns or face ruin with the alliance of the Believers and Scientists.!”


                                University Base, MY 2250

                                The Planetary Council was assembled. Miriam Godwinson looked generally irritated, and Zakharov noticed that the Cult and Consciousness were glancing at him with undisguised loathing. What was amusing to him was that they were also glancing at teach other with hatred. If his contacts were correct the Cult and Consciousness were now at war and were tearing each other’s guts out. That was fine by him, but it was truly unfortunate that the Cult had to drag the Consciousness down with him. Although soon – within the year – he and Aki Zeta would have a long, long time to discuss her failings. All of her bases would be conquered by then. The choppers were repairing, so the long strikes against the Cult would come soon enough. His fate was sealed, too. And with that distraction gone there would be other matters to attend to.

                                Now, to the issue at hand: The Hive had called to have the restriction on atrocities repealed! Zakharov smiled to himself. After all the lecturing Yang had subjected the University to on the rights of man, humanitarian assistance in dire need, and general finger wagging that old opportunist wanted to do to everyone on Chiron what he was doing to his own people: brutalization and subjugation.

                                The vote came down quickly. One by one everyone voted NO, except for Yang. Then as Planetary Governor all eyes came to him.

                                “Chairman Yang, now we see you for what you truly are. The entirety of humanity on Chiron is against you, and I utterly reject your repeal of the Charter of Human Rights. I will happily veto the measure to ensure that it fails.”

                                Cha Dawn and the Consciousness were muttering to themselves. They had few friends and many enemies now. Few would listen to them.

                                There was a nod from Santiago, a curt glance from Miriam, a small wave and a smile from Deirdre and they all winked out. Cha Dawn and Aki Zeta left just as he’d finished speaking.

                                Zakharov glanced at Chairman Yang. “Nice try.” Then he severed his connection.


                                HIVE 2250, Private quarters of Chairman Yang

                                “Your plan worked perfectly Chairman.”

                                “As I knew it would.”

                                Yang eased himself into his chair and quickly activated the massive holo-security system that blanketed the entire wall of his office. Quickly images formed that displayed drones, workers, scientists and Firemen all working and living in their various cities.

                                “Should the good scientist try another one of his mass slaughters as he did before he will be on the record as opposing such acts. It is now on the record, documented in front of his own people, something he can never run away from.” Yang finished as he steepled his fingers in front of him.

                                “The map we got from the Spartans is very impressive. We nearly have all of Chiron mapped out now including this very interesting area to our east that has the massive deposits of uranium.” Zho reported as he handed Yang an e-pad which he then waved away.

                                “I agree Zho, I saw that when it came in while I was talking with the good Colonel. Our terraformers are even now making a road to that area to claim it as HIVE, correct?”

                                Yang looked at Zho who nodded in agreement.

                                “Then good. We will have the volcano to the south, the flats to the east and the small continent to our west, very good buffer areas in all.” Yang finished but his tone did not sound pleased.

                                “Is something amiss my Chairman?”

                                “I do wish the Cult and the Cyborgs would allow us to help them against the University but anything we would do now for them would not in all probability help them. The Cult still has a chance in a way, we shall see.”

                                “The Believers have at least sued for a truce, that is something to be positive about.” Zho quickly added.

                                “Yes, it is in a way but we shall see. They are in a remote area and from the condition of their cities, the small handful they have leave them in no position to be a force on Chiron.” Yang said almost mournfully. He could almost imagine throngs of devote Believers running amok the University cities smashing all of the Godless technology, well, it just would not be.