Part 26: Dreams of Planet
Deidre Skye: Personal log
The Elysium of today is a verdant forest. To the north, even the lands once covered in fungus are green and overgrown, and only on the extremities are the roots of our adapted trees clogged with red xenofungus. The north is still mostly rural, the land of scientists and adventurers, and those who wish to stare at the markings on the ruins, and wonder who or what made them.
The centre of our lands is more urbanised. Magtubes interlink townlets with more major hubs, adorned with solar power stations like faceted jewels. The major cities tower upward, sometimes shearing into the clouds.
And to the South, our land grows into a patchwork complex of green and black, our towns intermixed with those that under Spartan influence. The Spartans have adapted well under our rule. Many consider themselves Gaia's protectors, priding themselves upon the starkness of their territory compared to the heavily worked and controlled Gaian central lands.
Perhaps they are right, I think, as I walk among the trees. I would have wished to see the great forests that Zakharov kept for his ecological studies, but here, I must make do with woodland broken up by criss-crossing tracks. The keeper of this patch greets me, but I don't recall his name.
"Lady Deirdre! What a surprise! It's been so long since I've seen you here!"
"I'm sorry. But it's hard for me to be everywhere. Even though most of my duties have been delegated to subordinates now, running things keeps me constantly busy."
Indeed, at times I feel regret and frustration over my loss of power. Not that I've ever wanted to rule the world, but that, now and then, I get the uncomfortable feeling that somewhere on the peripheries, things aren't working as we had intended. It's not strong enough to pin down, but somewhere, there's a feeling of a certain fraying around the edges.
The environment ministry I have stuck closest to. New reports land on my desk now and then, such as their plan to retrofit all old formers to a new design, as well as a swords to ploughshares scheme to introduce new formers based on Hive hovertank concepts.
The military now run themselves, more or less. The first step, of course, was that early war with Sparta, which gave the army a sudden prestige. One would have thought that the recent disaster with the Hive and the University would weaken their hand, but the reverse occured. Now, when the army wants a new toy, they need only point to the latest threat from Yang.
So, under General Joaquim, that old hero of the Sparta-Gaia war, our army now slowly starts to change again, and I'm not sure what it's becoming. Military interest in mindworms is fading, and instead air defences are coming in - the talk is of a fortress continent. When Hive planes regularly raid our former crews, it's hard to argue that point.
More contentious is the suggestion by some that we develop nuclear weapons. A small scale prototype has been constructed, but none have been tested. While some insist that nuclear arms will help keep the peace, I can't but fear that Yang might call our bluff, and use it to unite all the others against us.
"Any chats with Planet recently?"
I broke out of my reverie, and tried to gauge the level of condescension the man was showing. Belief in my so-called visions was polarised. Some thought it a sign of senility. Some, in the so-called Planet Cult, took things too seriously, to the level of fanatical faith.
But too me, it was just a reality. All since that time so long ago.
That momentary lapse in judgement cost many, many lives.
At the speed of thought, the impulse to reject the voice triggered a transformation of the fungus near our capital. Parts of it grew longer, acquired ambulatory abilities. Genes switched on and were rearranged. In but moments, a cluster of mind worms erupted from the ground, and headed straight for Gaia's Landing.
The nearest guards were recently demobilised troops. Hundreds died before they could regain the focus to bring the worms under control.
Worse was the diplomatic effect. The council was deciding on the Supreme Leadership proposition, and my behaviour was enough to let Yang swing his bloc against me. Zakharov, whose past as a colleague made him a hoped for friend, turned against me.
Zakharov always seemed so smart, but he was a fool to the end. Now, all but a slave of Yang, all we can do is slip him aid money when Yang isn't looking.
And sneak away research data.
All whilst the Hunter-Seeker picks away any operatives that accidentally stumbles upon Hive material. Our infiltration of the Hive now comes exclusively from the Empath's Guild.
Hence, my everyday life is filled with fear. For, at any moment, I may be called upon to represent humanity, and failure would be lethal. The Planet has already expressed suspicion towards us.
Biology labs studies of closed environments have also produced the Locusts of Chiron, a form of mind worm as yet unseen in the wild. The theory is that the Planet is mimicking the air force Yang has developed, just as the mind worms mimic our troops, and the Isles of the Deep mimic our ships.
"You are the children of a dead planet, earthdeirdre, and this death we do not comprehend. We shall take you in, but may we ask this question--will we too catch the planetdeath disease?"
The voice, no, Voice, was not the keeper's. The moment has come. I summoned in my mind the redesign plans. It was an extension of our existing hybridisation experiments to produce a symbiotic environment of Earth and Xeno life together. The reason I had come here was to inform the keeper of the decision to adapt his patch for the pilot scheme. It would be difficult, the man clearly loved to tend this place, but there was little choice.
"Wait, a minute!" I shouted, but the Voice had fallen silent.
The keeper was looking at me as though I was crazy. And so I probably looked. Thoughts of notifying him left me. No, no, that could be left for later, left for someone else. For now, something else must be done. They must all be warned.
While Lady Skye continues to be incapacitated and so unable to attend these meetings, we'll have to conduct these budgetary decisions in her absence.
The decision we have to make today is on the so-called black budget, for our secret projects. Our economy at this moment is geared primarily towards research and development, and we have succeeded in awakening the public imagination in this regard. But this limits our industrial capacity.
Now, our options are:
Note though in the appendix, some unlisted options are added: our Planet Buster program, aimed at mimicking Morgan's devices, and the Network Backbone project.
As a result of an industrial shortfall, we can go ahead on exactly four of these projects.
I'm playing the Gaians pretty defensively at the moment, but now we should start catching up with Yang in the tech stakes - despite the lower population, Gaia has the advantage in efficiency (currently at +6 instead of Hive's 0), as well as the ability to get the +1 energy every square if I use Wealth + get gold ages. (This is a huge disadvantage for the Hive)
Choices (Pick 4 out of)
1. Pholus mutagen (lifecycle bonus for alien lifeforms, defence bonuses in fungus, less pollution)
2. Dream twister (makes our mind worms 50% more powerful)
3. Universal translator (free techs)
4. Nano factory (repairs in the field, half price upgrades)
5. Cloning vats (population grows by 1 each turn, if there's food. Huge pop, though possible law and order problems.)
7. Network backbone (research, improves Cybernetic societies)
Also, names for units? Most important would be helicopter interceptors, ground based shard SAMs, shard battleships, nukes (do we want to rename our nukes?)