"So, Deirdre's dead? It's really true?" the colonel said.
He cast a glance around the command tent in which he was seated. There was little room for luxuries, but it offered some privacy, the damping fields and web filters augmenting its defences. An empath, blindfolded and earplugged, and wearing the uniform of the Empath's Guild, provided psychic security. She fidgeted as though in a bad dream.
"Some claim she's still alive. The Cult of Planet is proclaiming her rebirth as some sort of messiah. Others claim sightings of her in the fungus, invariably at night. It's likely just wishful thinking. Joacquim wouldn't take the risk of announcing her death if there's any uncertainty."
"So, it's just us, then."
There were three people in the room, apart from the Empath. The two leaders of the Gaian expeditionary force, and the local intel branch leader, who sat back, eyes flicking across the display on his eyeglass HUD.
"Most of the transcends will aid us. But Joacquim will be shutting down or filtering consoles, so they will mostly be voiceless and impotent. The intel agency apart from the agents we checked out is totally compromised. The HSA will work for us, and not for them, but the director is on the general's side. The environment ministry is basically gutted, everything of value being sold off to the Morganites. Most of our allies on the mainland have been arrested, or are in hiding. The Spartans are still 'wait and see' -ing.
"But we are strong. The expeditionary force is still loyal, and more than a match for Joacquim's garrison. If anyone sees the satellite footage of the 'incident', they would join us in an instant. Plus, Joacquim has shown little interest in caring for the people. The once bountiful inland sea has become saline and polluted, and the government does nothing to help those affected.
"Plus, it's predicted that fungal growth will soon occupy the minds of the people more than whatever terror threat that bastard dreams up.
"Then there's his horrific and indeed unnecessary actions against the citizens of Woodholm. The patience of the people should quickly run out, and his hold on power grows rapidly weaker."
"So, we are agreed then. We will return to Elysium, and deal with the general and his cohorts. Pull back all of our mindworm units, and seize the cities back from him."
"What you are saying is civil war."
"Civil war. We have no choice. What about you? You haven't said anything."
The intel man opened his mouth. "I think we might be making a big mistake. We are all assuming that Joacquim is motivated by ambition, an ambition to take power. But I don't think that's consistent with his psychology."
"This coup seems pretty ambitious to me."
"No! Look at it this way, Joacquim could have easily taken over back in the Sparta war. The enabling laws had already been passed. But he handed back the reins of power to the democratic government. And he must have pretty badly thought out his plans, if he left us with the power to remove him. Someone who can mastermind something like Operation Inconvenient Truth, someone who has hundreds of years to think and plan does not make that sort of mistake. And that his first act was the Memory of Earth incident means something. He could have picked any other city, any other opportunity for an assassination. He's working to some higher principle."
"I agree." The Empath said. The other three turned to her. A pad of paper was in her hands, and she was drawing vigorously on it, an unnatural jerkiness in her motion.
"How can she hear us?"
"She's a telepath, you dumbass. Told you the earplugs wouldn't work." The third man laughed, and then turned back to the woman. "Who are you in contact with?"
The scratching of the ballpoint on the pad didn't cease. A picture began to take shape.
"What are you drawing? A map?"
"Points, places. Places points. Landing, in the dark. The beetle like shells crawl in silence, and unseal. Burrowing in the fungus, waiting for signal. Beacons. Seeds. About to sprout?"
One of the army men snatched the sheet from her hands, and rushed out of the tent. The Empath blinked wildly in his direction, and then directed her gaze back to the other two.
She continued, pausing only to breathe. "She says, stop him stop him stop him. He has killed me, stop him from killing me."
"Who is 'she'?"
"She says, the new song has begun, the song has begun, stop it stop it stop it."
"Who is she? What's going on? Eric! Is there still no alerts from the trannies of singularity missile activity?"
The Empath climbed to her feet, her blindfold falling loose from her head. Her eyes rolled up to look at the ceiling. Her voice took on a new tone.
"earthmen are rising to the stars, brave earthman unafraid? earthdeirdre afraid? Rising, rising..."
"Get a message to the transcends right now..."
"Should we warn the Hive?"
"Warn everyone! Warn everyone!"
No more choices...
Though if anyone can make a logo for Joacq's faction, and/or a logo for the rebels, it might be neat.