Part 25: School's out forever
This was no war. This was a massacre. I can see this now. Curse our commanders! Curse them not just for starting this war, curse them for hiding it so poorly, for letting us see the enormity of their evil!
Hive propagandists are extolling the virtues of the conflict. How the 'Union' not just saved Zakharov from his own extremists, but also helped save lives - the medicine taken from Discovery proved effective against new Centurian plagues. But I know what we did.
This is what was left of Lomonosov Park. The soldiers surrounded the town, so that none could leave, and then the engineers collapsed the hills nearby, burying everyone in rocks and debris.
And the remaining UniSec soldiers? Against this industrial warfare, what could they do? Those caught in the open were run down by rovers.
Those who ran to the cover of bunkers were rocketed or bombarded into dust.
Those infrastructure monorail lines that seemed so generous as gifts before now pumped a steady stream of men, like poison being pumped in along blood vessels.
But my own part in what transpired, that so-called accident, is much, much worse. I need a drink, I'll continue later. Alcohol is plentiful here. The authority of the Hive has not properly clamped down yet on looting. A small mercy.
The magtube carriage we went in had no windows. Or rather, it had, in a past life as a passenger carriage, but solid armoured plates were bolted on. So, within, the only light was our helmet-mounted torches. It was impossible to gauge where we were going or how fast. It was a surprise when the doors slid open, and we found ourselves in the familiar surroundings of Nadezjda-Hope.
The city had seen better days. Every other building had been holed by a cruise missile, every other window was blown out. Fires were raging - and it seemed that no effort had been made to put them out. But there was a crowd in the street alright, shuffling dejectedly. We unpacked our weapons, put on our armour - with the big thick helmets that filtered external sound, supposedly to protect from psionic attack - and lined the road leading to the rail station.
They approached, and we fired a warning shot above them, and that put the fear into them, so they stayed back. So far, so easy.
I was too close to the radio shack, and perhaps my audio muffler was malfunctioning. I could hear, quietly but definitely, a conversation between Yang and Zakharov. Zakharov was asking for a truce. Yang demanded nothing less than surrender.
Zakharov offered surrender.
And then Yang rejected it. I could not believe my ears.
"Why should I trust that you, Zakharov the unethical, would agree to a humiliating surrender, for the sakes of your people? I would never surrender in your position. Do not insult me with your lies. I will show you what it means to insult me. Commence the operation!"
At once, the loudspeaker came on.
"Return home! You are breaking curfew. Return home, or we will be forced to resort to extreme actions!"
And a different voice come on in our intercoms.
"Troops, there has been an update! We have confirmed intelligence that a terrorist group has infiltrated the demonstration. Prepare to disperse the crowd. Shoot to kill authorised."
There was a collective click as our rifles cocked. The gathered crowd started to shuffle back. I heard a mumbling as some complained that they were only there because their homes had been destroyed, and that they had been ordered to be there by Hive officials.
And then, from the back, the screams rose.
For the truth was, there was no way back. The probability field barricade that filled the other end of the street was invisible, but was more solid than the strongest steel. As the unknowing front row moved backwards, the rear ranks were being slowly crushed to death.
I started screaming too, screaming for the other soldiers to stop. But I wasn't heard. Our intercom connected us only to our commissars, and he now walked up to me, puzzled. Cowardice held me back, cowardice and the knowledge that I alone could do nothing.
From the radio, shouting. Zakharov, his facade broken, shouting at Yang to stop, and Yang only sneering. "The wisdom of crowds, eh?"
By now, the front rows had finally realised what was going on, and had stopped their retreat. But to the soldiers, it was but simple disobedience. And we were scared too, scared that this unintelligible change in the mood of the crowd was something sinister. And so the rifles were raised, and a loud bang rang out as shots were fired, again as a warning. The civilians steeled themselves. Our aim lowered. Kill shots.
"Stop this, Yang! I'll do what you want! There is no need for this slaughter! It achieves nothing!"
"No, no. You don't understand. This is not a threat, my dear Provost. This is a lesson. The people of this backwards town are worthless to me. This far from the Hive, ineffeciency will eat away all the useful research, all the useful production they do. The only use for these people is for a simple demonstration. Can't a good scientist stomach an interesting experiment?"
They were going to rush the line, I knew it. This might work, if our rifles were normal ones. But these were mini plasma shard launchers we held. We could incinerate them dozens at a time, vaporise them before they got close. We had enough ammo.
"What is this madness!?"
"Understand me well, Zakharov, I will allow only the fittest and the most useful to survive on my utopia on Planet. Too long has man being weighed down by the excess of the weak. At last, we have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Know this, and know your role in this new world."
"You are to provide me with tools to this end. Fail in this, and I can and will kill you at any time. Your single remaining base can be annihilated in the blink of an eye. And I can and would do to each and every one of your towns what I am doing today in the town called 'Hope'."
"Why, you... you..."
"Enjoy the show, Provost. It isn't so easy when you aren't just reading reports in an office, no?"
I could still smell that smell of roasted flesh today, those flashes of faces lit up just before the shards hit, the occasional figures, like an occasional child, in the light of an explosion. To hear my comrades talk, they were all terrorists, all trying to kill us. We tell ourselves that, so that we don't go mad.
In but a few short decades, the Hive has risen from last to first. Though Yang's jealousy had claimed the life of the Coordinator many thought to be responsible, his ambition remains and will not be sated until all the other factions are under his heel.
There is only one last bastion of resistance to the Hive - the Gaians. I don't know much of them, but they can hardly be worse. At every juncture, the Gaians stand in Yang's way. Like in the recent Council governorship elections, for example.
Or the short tussle in the air as Gaian planes tried to shield fleeing University refugees.
I've decided to sent this diary to you, so that you have some idea what Yang intends. Maybe you already know, maybe I'm wasting my time, or even yours. But somehow, I have to speak out.
Please, help us. Save us.
Show us there is still hope.
-Intercepted Comms, Gaian Central Intelligence
Note: Further attempts to contact individual not recommended. Data was sent on unencrypted channels, so individual has been almost certainly compromised. Advise against leaking to the press - source credibility low, high risk of backlash. FILED TO ARCHIVES
Next time: We go back to Gaia... Hmm, we still need a name for the University continent...