Part 7: Democracy sucks
: 'In a landslide win, the EXPLORE party has seized power. We now switch to the new prime minister, Tony Korenchkin as he gives his acceptance speech.'
: ' Today is a historic day. Today we see the glory of the Planet... it has so many miracles to share, so much knowledge to give. I am thankful that the people of Gaia see as we do that this place is a womb, where we grow our future.
Together with Korenchkin was another man, a certain Colonel Richards. He gave a little talk about loyalty and trust in one's nation, and the need to accept stronger measures for public safety.
We switched off as PM Korenchkin led his followers in a rousing rendition of the party anthem. 'Glory to the flesh. Glory to the mass.'
Rogan wasn't too happy with the result. He had favoured the DISCOVER party, and moaned about not being allowed to try out some new tricks. The unnamed agent, though seemed pleased. After dinner, we settled down for a game of the new VR simulation.
It wasn't very interesting. An empty field stretch out before me, and the colour balance was totally off.
I don't think I should have selected the 'naked man in a mask' character class.
Virtual World trailer / Backup
I logged off after an hour, and went to sleep.
He grabbed me in the darkness. For a moment, I thought it was a dream, and then he dragged me out of the door into the cold.
"A Spartan patrol just crossed into our territory. What do you know about that?"
I shook my head. He punched me, and I roll to the ground to get away from him. He was on top of me even as I fell, shouting practically into my ears. "We know all your tricks. We know all your secrets. Don't think that we don't have ways of finding out!"
I pulled myself up, hearing a click as he cocked his pistol. "I'm just a journalist," I protested. "I've got no contacts with the Spartan government. I don't know anything!"
But I knew then that it was useless, that he knew only what he believed, and that he would only believe in what he wanted to be true. I caught a look at his gun. An unsilenced automatic, small and compact and terrifying in his hand. If he fired it, everyone would hear. Besides, he was shouting so loud - surely someone else would already have heard? Why aren't people coming out?
He half-sat, half-squatted a short distance away from me, drew a cigarette from a pocket and lit it awkwardly, juggling the gun as he did so. Then he started talking.
"I wish we were at war."
"I wish we weren't in this quiet not-war. I wish I could just shoot you."
I shot a look at his face. He was talking to himself more than to me, eyes vaguely unfocused. Did he drink, earlier? I couldn't remember.
"Do you know what they call us? Probe teams. Because we probe at the tiger with little twigs between the cages' bars."
"We dress up like scientists, working in the fungus, inching our way past the border, and then make a dash for the cities. We bribe a few disaffected workers, sneaking into government facilities at night, and copy what we can."
"We hijack a radio antenna, and send what we stole. That's all that the bosses care about. Whether our mission succeeds or not. Barely whether we get away or not. Our importance to them is purely a matter of whether or not we can carry out another mission. And another."
"Sometimes we succeed."
"Sometimes..." A tremor shook through him, and the burning end of his cigarette traced little red lines in the shadows.
He stood up, and advanced on me, boots trudging through the genetically modified grass.
"Officially the mission was a success," he said, calmly. "But they killed her. You killed her."
"I'm sorry," I said automatically. He raised the gun to my face. "Not enough."
"They told me the team made it when they gave me this babysitting mission. Now I know they wanted to keep me away from anything important."
Another tremor went through him.
"You see, what they meant was that most of the team made it. They said she volunteered, volunteered to stay behind. So that the rest of the team could get away, could continue to do missions for Gaia."
He took one more step, and I felt the cold of the gun against my forehead.
"WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE DO THAT?" He screamed.
"Well, now we know all your nooks and crannies. We know all of Sparta's hiding places. And soon, very soon, the flames will come to cleanse the place. Nothing you do will stop Gaia's wrath. And each and every one of you bastards WILL DIE."
Abruptly, it was over. He sagged as though some demon had left him, holstered his gun and turned away. I caught a last bit of murmuring from him as he reentered the cabin.
"Don't worry. You already know too much. Now, they'll never let you leave Gaia alive."
We woke early the next day, and walked up the dirt path to the meeting area. Mindworms had been sighted nearby, and we were to join part of a patrol, to reinforce another heading up from Gaia's Deliverance. I volunteered, since I had some experience with guns - more, it seems, than most, and while the intel man was reluctant, he eventually agreed. I think he saw it as a way of keeping me away from the more sensitive terraforming operations, or to put me in some situation where I can accidentally get killed. Rogan politely declined to come with us.
Apparently, there was a big project going on - a whole battalion of formers were restructuring the local hillsides, to provide more shelter to farmlands downwind. If the mindworms got past us, they could cause total devastation. So the worms had to be stopped, by any means necessary. The first squad was sent ahead to intercept them. We were meant to clean up the mess.
The only problem was that by the time we got there, everyone was already dead.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
I messed up with my research priorities before, (we kept missing Centauri Empathy because I didn't get a prerequisite, which was DISCOVER), but we'll definitely be getting mindworms next update. A second tier of secret projects and social engineering options have appeared, so take your pick...
-Citizens' Defense Force: Gives every base a free perimeter defense.
-Empathy Guild: Bonus in council votes, and radio frequencies to every faction.
-Other: If you can think of something reasonably close on the tech ladder....
- Democracy: Peaceful growth, good for research
- Police State: Police and support bonus - good for keeping big armies around
- Fundamentalism: Morale (DOES *NOT* AFFECT MIND WORMS!) and spying bonus, research penalty