Part 24: And your enemies closer
It's been quiet, for a while. We've set up several bases on Zakharov's territory, to defend against further Gaian incursions. Security has been beefed up, and we are no longer allowed to leave the base environs without the highest authorisation.
A strategic map now hangs above our canteen - bases are large squares, troop concentrations are small squares.
And each day, crate after crate of these arrive.
A technician explained it to me - with the broadening availability of AA weaponry, we need proper bunker busters to knock out fortifications. Thankfully, the engineers back at the Hive have finally cracked rocketry.
So, stationing these at key positions will give us the advantage in future wars. There will be two main bases - one in the north at Falling Water, and one in the south here at Discovery.
But, Elena asked, how would these bases be an effective defence against the Gaians? Only the Otkrietia-Discovery missiles can even reach Elysium, and even then can only strike at a few bases.
I countered: "Obviously these aren't the only missiles - merely the ones they can talk about. Maybe they have missile submarines as well, hidden where the Gaians can't find them."
"Maybe you're right, Han," she said. "But I don't have the same faith in Yang you do."
Otkrietia-Discovery is on full alert. The place is full of people running to battle stations, last minute checks on weapons, and so on.
A rumour is going around that the Gaians are attacking again. A few planes probed our positions last week, but were fought off by our fighters. This rumour was soon quashed however.
There's been a security breach at one of our bases, the info-screens told us. A probe team had infiltrated our nano-tech research facilities, and stolen vital material. Conclusive evidence has been left - the probe team was of University origin.
What's more, what was taken points to one thing: a joint project between the University and the hated Gaians, a study of the fungus that would be a full betrayal of the mission, of the Hive and of mankind.
The conclusion of Hive command is that the probe team was not directly ordered by Zakharov, but by rogue elements in the University military. Nevertheless, the Hive-University pact has been dissolved with immediate effect.
The talk on the base is of a plan to purge the 'negative elements' of University society that Zakharov is unwilling or unable to remove. The official Hive channels seem to be ignoring the current crisis, though, with a firm regime of classical music.
I can't get in touch in Elena any more. She had made some sort of backdoor that even the security lockdown couldn't crack - I suspected for some time that our communications were not being intercepted like everything else - but she's not answering my attempts at contact.
At 1:05 AM precisely, the music from the Hive radio went silent. Now that everything is quiet, and indeed everyone has gone quiet, you can hear a commotion in the city. They can't still be celebrating victory, can they? Someone managed to hack the vidscreen to show local channels. Nothing on it so far.
News report on University TV: "A series of explosions have rocked many major cities today, spreading panic. Eyewitnesses report seeing something like a 'shooting star' speeding in just before each explosion. University authorities have not bee..."
"Wait, we have new reports coming in that each explosion has been focused precisely on local anti-air defence headquarters! The attacks came with no warning, because on each of the affected cities, the external radar systems have been sabotaged just before..."
"I repeat, ladies and gentlemen, a state of war has erupted between the University and the Hi-"
With a flash, the newscaster's face was replaced with the Hive emblem. An altogether different voice began to read out a statement. "Ladies and gentlemen, students and staff of the University of Planet. As you may be aware, a state of emergency has arisen. Remain calm, remain indoors, and it will shortly be over. There may be further instructions on this channel. But for now, for the good of all, remain calm, remain indoors. Remain safe..."
We had a full briefing. We needed it, our commissar said, so that we understand what needs now to be done.
Shortly following the probe attack's discovery, he said, Yang himself sent a high priority transmission to Zakharov, asking for an explanation. He received nothing but direct insults.
Further probing brought this. Interpreting this puzzling statement (for in the Hive there were *no* private citizens) led to the only conclusion, that a rogue anti-Hive group had taking the Provost captive, and were coercing him to harm the Hive.
The only way to find out where the Provost is kept is via the University networks. However, the Hunter Seeker Algorithm prevents all access from those outside the University. The only option was for an armed special forces team to seize control of the Algorithm servers. The team had hoped to be aided by loyal University troops, but were fired upon as they made their landing at Climactic Research - clearly, such garrisons were part of the conspiracy. In hindsight, environmentalist infiltration of such a base should be obvious.
With the port conquered, rapid progress was made, leading to the seizure of the primary target moments later.
Most intriguingly, he said, it turned out that the widespread usage of thought-enhancing peripherals, forming the suite of cybernetic implants the University termed Homo Superior, allowed us broad access into the innermost thoughts of many University personnel. What we found was shocking. The University was rotten to the core. The Gaians have planted deep seeds of irrationalism into these people, ranging from ridiculous cultism over the neutralised Miriam to fervent beliefs in technological salvation, from disrespect for proper authority to sympathy with the Gaian cause. This society is cancerous with dangerous beliefs, and was on the edge of treason. In the name of the Chairman, it must be purged, lest weapons kept hidden in storage be unleashed to cause massive destruction.
One hour after the seizure of the HSA, the signal was sent out to begin the necessary regime change. The HS Deep Lurker opened its missile bay doors, and together with ground bases, launched a devastating attack aimed at paralysing resistance forces. With this, a direct assault on the University central military command at Zoloto-Gold was completed with negligible losses.
Most significant was the conquest of the headquarters of the University CDF, which allowed our forces to send out a signal triggering door locks on all CDF armouries, dramatically weakening the defences of all University cities.
Next to fall was the administrative centre of the University, University Base itself. With the heavy cruise missile bombardment, this was also easily accomplished.
Total University collapse was imminent, according to the commissar.
The only major resistance lay to the east, with the UniSec forces near Nadezjda-Hope, as well as opportunistic Gaian forces. A continuous barrage of missiles are being launched from the Clapton mainland to suppress them.
Rogue covert units continue to attack our networks, but the HSA, under new loyalty coding, is proving adept at foiling their attacks and disclosing their locations.
However, he explained, these things are not our concern. The task of our group is to enforce order. Unexpectedly, University civilians have refused to obey orders to stand down and stay off the streets, and are instead rioting and protesting. They must be neutralised, lest they do harm to us, the infrastructure or themselves. In the following police action, he said, we must be prepared for anything. There is good evidence that the University is planning suicide bombers hidden in crowds, or agents to incite a riot. All civilians must be kept away from Hive military resources. At all cost.
He told us that we are authorised to use live ammunition for self defence. Finally, he wished us good luck.
Still no word from Elena.
[To Be Continued]
What are we going to do with Zak? We are switching back to Gaia after the next update!