Sunday, 22 March 2015

Resurrection Protocol - Eden's Endgame

At one point I studied military logistics - don't ask me why - but I learned two things. First, maintaining a battle front is very complicated, and requires a lot of organization and a whole supply chain feeding weapons, vehicles and resources (soldiers) to the front along with all the fuel, food, medical and communications support, in a constant two-way stream. Second, break that logistics supply chain, and the front becomes fragile, cut off.

I thought aliens might do it smarter.

Because in space, in a galactic war, the distances - strictly speaking, temporal distances - are huge. And it often comes down to ships that have to be self-sustaining, fleets with all the support they need right there, a self-contained army. So it becomes about the number of ships and the superiority of their weapons and defences. Take out enough ships, and you break the enemy. I was reminded of Star Trek's Deep Space Nine, where one of the turning points of the ongoing war with the Dominion was the raid on enemy shipyards that were producing ships at an alarming rate.

Again, I thought, aliens would be smarter.

I was always fascinated by the idea of terraforming, transforming barren planets into habitable ones, seeding them with life. But what if you could use terraforming for another purpose, a military one?

In Eden's Endgame, one of the races (the Nchkani) is effectively wiped out during a major all-or-nothing battle. But they left something behind, an awful legacy, and a human is about to unleash it...

Extract from Eden's Endgame
Aboard her vessel, Louise stared first at the harmless-looking doughnut-shaped object in the holding bay, the gift sent to her by Qorall himself, then at the holo of the dwarf planet below, originally an asteroid enlarged by the Q’Roth, who had used a process of accretion over decades, building a planet from a former asteroid belt; easier to mine that way. Six thousand Q’Roth, more or less, worked on this factory-planet rich in ores and complex alloys. The Queen hadn’t warned them or given them time to evacuate, knowing that the resurrection process would require organic material. Louise had scanned the entire system prior to arrival, and this one had a 97% fit for the re-genesis requirements. She touched a control and the doughnut dropped from her ship down towards the planet.
            The doughnut exploded at low orbit, sending a shimmering aurora around the planet. Rain the colour of rust fell all the way to ground level, nano-harvesters that broke down everything they touched, the Q’Roth included. She’d never seen Q’Roth warriors overwhelmed before, and wondered if they screamed in bewilderment as the bio-mechanised acids dissolved their flesh. Many raced to their ships but were unable to break through the aurora locking the planet down, their frantic calls for help unanswered. There was a time when Louise might have been impressed by the Queen’s ruthlessness, her commitment to purpose, but not today.
She quit the bridge and headed to her quarters, and took a long shower to wash the three Alicians’ blood from her feet. She sat naked on the floor, cold water drizzling over her, as she pondered her next move. She thought about the place she’d mentioned to Astara and the others: Ustraxia, the battlefield five hundred years earlier on Earth where Alessia herself had been overcome. It had been a ploy to make the Sentinels complacent, and fifty years later the Alicians had risen up and gained the upper hand, crushing all but a few of the Sentinels. Louise had invoked this name to persuade Astara and the two women that this was a worthy sacrifice, that their deaths would help Louise turn things around later. Now she wasn't so sure.

When she returned to the Bridge, the entire planet was coated in thick metallic mush that quivered as shapes swirled beneath the surface. Precisely two hours before the Queen’s deadline, the first ship emerged, looking like a mechanical fish rising from a swamp. At first she couldn’t see the trademark Nchkani spines, but as the ship climbed into orbit, slipping unhindered through the aurora, the black and white spines flexed outwards from its hull.
A Q’Roth Battlestar approached to intercept the Nchkani vessel. Louise let the vessel fire its full arsenal of weapons, none of which had any effect. She thought about instructing the commander to abandon ship, but knew it would do no good. Q’Roth tested everything through blood.
She instructed the Nchkani vessel to attack. A light-sphere riddled with electric blue arcs spat out from one of the spines and chased after the Battlestar, which tried to evade and fire at it, to no avail. The sphere engulfed the Q’Roth warship as the arcs dissected it into small chunks, as if the ship had been squeezed through a sieve. Individual Q’Roth warriors flailing in space were boiled alive inside the sphere. Eventually the sphere collapsed to a small ball, and returned to the Nchkani vessel, nourishing it.
The Nchkani had been brilliant. At Level Sixteen, they were few in number, but long ago had moved away from having dockyards to build ships, and had developed the re-genesis process, able to manufacture a fleet in a less than a day. And when they fought in battle and won, they recycled the enemy’s energy and raw materials, rather than allowing their own resources to become depleted. From a war logistics point of view, it was pure genius.
And yet they were dead, gone, after who-knew-how many million years of existence.
The Queen contacted Louise. “How many more ships will we have, and when?”
“One hundred and eighty. By tomorrow. I will transmit command codes for all the others except this one, which I will command. They each need only one commander, no other crew are necessary. We should proceed straightaway to Hell’s End. Qorall is waiting, and Hellera is on her way.”
The Queen didn’t acknowledge.
Louise watched the second ship emerge, then another. She wondered where Ash and the Alician refugees were by now, not missing the cruel irony of events, now that Alician society had suffered the same fate they had inflicted on humanity.

The fleet was ready to leave. A Q’Roth High Commander was in charge, Louise was to be at the rear. The Nchkani bridge was smaller than she expected, but then everything was done by neural interface. She was about to cut connection with her own ship when it informed her of an inbound vessel in Transpace. She had been given some of Qorall’s tech to monitor Transpace, and had asked for notification of two signatures, the first the Alician flotilla led by Ash, the second, Shiva. It was the latter.
            The Q’Roth/Nchkani fleet powered up.
Louise made up her mind, her adrenaline spiking as she did so, remembering the words of her dead lover. 

It only matters what you do next.

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