Asymmetrical Warfare

“You’re Liiriani, yes?” The recruiter eyed the tattered uniforms on those crowding into his prefab. “Ex-military. Wait… you’re Temple Guard? The ones left behind after the fall of Mantaniir?”

“Yeah. I was at Mantaniir. We all were.” The scarred veteran’s lip curled, and he spat. “Proud Mantaniir. Glorious Mantaniir. Mantaniir the Unfallen, Guardian of the Holies, all of that. Well, it didn’t fall, or we’d be dead. It was swept aside like it was nothing.”

“The first day could have been the last day. We –“

…were prepared, we were ready, we were the last line of defense for Iliir itself, and we knew they were coming at dawn. They’d told us that much. But we heard nothing. Saw nothing. Not until dawn.

We’d never fought a space war before. No-one understood what it meant that we’d lost the high orbitals. Not until the k-rods started falling, and then it was too late to help us. The minefields down-valley went in the first wave – to give us time to see what was killing us. The flak towers went in the next, along with communications and sensors. Then they started drunkwalking their shots around the valley, blasting walls, barracks, everything left of the fortress flat. What was left of us had run for the bunkers by then, and down through them into the deep tunnels. Couldn’t so much as get a shot off. We were down there for days – any time someone made a run for it, or poked so much as a nose-tip above ground, they dropped a k-rod on them. We had no power – if any generators started up, that bunker got a k-rod within minutes. Just hiding in the dark.

And then the machines hit us, wolves and spiders. From both sides – we heard later that their stormtroopers bypassed us and dropped on Iliir directly. Wolves, the little ones, ‘bots that run in packs, wall, ceiling, or floor, see in the dark, spit bullets or tear a man’s leg off themselves. And then the spiders, big eight-legged bastards with fire and cutting torches and rockets. All howling to each other like the gods below. And they wouldn’t die! Enough explosive might stop one, but if it wasn’t torn apart, it’d fix itself – or the rest of them would – and come after you again.

So we surrendered. The spiders herded us outside again, up among the craters, and fenced us in with electrowire. A couple of us tried to make a break for it. They didn’t get past the perimeter. Spiders didn’t care – they just sat there watching us, day and night. A couple of days later, one of their armor boys came by to look us over, and left us a crate of rat-bars and a medkit. Then he left us there with just the spiders to watch us. That was the only enemy we saw in the entire battle.

Two weeks later, we got word that the war was over, the Council had been captured, surrendered, were killed, one of those. The spiders all marched back into a shuttle and left us alone, then, so we scavenged what we could, tried to stay alive. A week after that, the new Council had all of us who’d let Iliir fall through our ‘heretical incompetence’ shoved aboard an old ore freighter and dumped us on this craphole planet.

“- are what’s left of the Liirian Temple Guard, yeah. Seventh Fist Ileer, commanding. And me an’ the boys’ll fight for you. Nothing else left for us now. But only if we’re fighting men. Nothing that don’t bleed and won’t die.”

– Sagivv’s Company recruitment interview, Márch, eight months after the Liir Conflict


A Particularly Rotten Haystack (2)

If I ever again have to figure out how to program a cornucopia to produce pre-damaged goods, at least I won’t be starting from scratch.

I ventured outside Sanctuary today in pursuit of what records there were of the landing points of the refugee shipments that might have included my client’s family.  As I said, there’s no data connectivity out there, and most have no use for currency, so I took goods for barter – ration bars, medicines, batteries, ammunition.  Bad move.  My disguise might have held up, but these people can spot new goods from a mile away.

Half the govgang I tried trading for information with wanted to grab me for ransom; the other half just wanted the cornucopia.  I got a head start while they were debating the issue, but – well, fortunately the prefabs they were using still recognized the default configuration codes.  No reason to change them without a local ‘net, I suppose.  I only had to kill half a dozen to get away clean.

I’ll try the next target tomorrow – with appropriately resealed, used, and battered goods, to the eye, anyway.  With luck, I won’t have to go back to that sector to find them.

– log of <trill-trill click-warble-whistle>, inquisitive, on Márch (Innia Rise)

A Particularly Rotten Haystack (1)

Grounded at Sanctuary on Márch (Innia Rise).

Just for future reference, let me quote the description of this world from the Directory:

“Márch — while not the oldest or largest of the freesoil worlds, Márch is certainly the most notorious.  After the Accord on Refuge-Seeking Sophonts was firmly rejected by the Conclave (on the Presidium, the Photonic Network was unwilling to build special facilities to accommodate meat intelligences, and the Empire declared that it had standards; meanwhile, powers such as the Rim Free Zone that were willing to accommodate refugees were, by and large, unwilling or unable to pay for them), the Conclave Commission on Refuge-Seeking Sophonts obtained title to this marginal oxygen-breather’s garden world, and chartered it as a special colony to house refugees unable to return, or not permitted to return, to their homelands – funded and governed in condominium by the Commission powers.”

“While the colony operated for a while in accordance with this idealistic beginning, before long conflicts arose between different refugee populations rehomed on Márch, due to existing disputes or competition for the limited resources made available by the Commission powers to the Márch Authority, and the Authority also encountered difficulties policing insurgent groups operating within the Márchian volume.  Meanwhile, the population of Márch ballooned as various authoritarian polities discovered that a convenient way to rid themselves of dissidents or unwanted minority groups was to ship them to Márch, often using old automated freighters with just enough canned life support to get their passengers to Márch orbit.”

“Under these pressures, such stable governance as Márch enjoyed broke down.  Today, the Márch Authority retains control only over the planet’s primary starport and the attached administrative city of Sanctuary.  While they continue to distribute supplies and occasionally intervene in severe cases of mass violence, in practice the remainder of the planet and its approximately 1 billion sophonts are divided into a large number of mutually hostile ethnic and political enclaves.  With the exception of a few large and unusually cohesive enclaves whose quasi-official governments are able to exert meaningful sovereign control, these enclaves operate as an unmutual semi-tribal anarchy under red market conditions.  Very little of the planet outside Sanctuary is supplied with even basic utilities.  Large-scale communications or other data functions are nonexistent.  Poverty, squalor, and disease abound.”

Which amounts to this – while I remain confident of finding my client’s missing family, it’s going to take rather more time and money than I initially estimated.  And certainly rather more violence.

– log of <trill-trill click-warble-whistle>, inquisitive