Chapter 10 – Ramstaad
I now had not a thing to lose, and the Prime was still out there. With so much time to train and improve, I did not rightly know the limits of his abilities. Maybe he could possess a hundred creatures at once, maybe he could control technology - although he seemed to freeze at the sight of my Rancorian Belt. He single-handedly took all of my plans in this world off track. My future with Linna, and with a movement for the betterment of our society. On Ramstaad, I was going to use the Aurean AI around my waist to boost my telepathic signal across the globe. Then, in honor of 10639’s request to be careful, I was going to speak to every Dactilon, every Orongan on this planet. I was going to poll everyone to ask for a vote. Attack? Or don’t attack? The decision should be for everyone. We would have batted around an answer and I would have respected the results of that vote.
But now I saw the calculus had fully changed. I’d been foolish. The new Prime Dactilon would be a reincarnation of the old one in a younger person’s body. I was lucky not to have been chosen as an Elder; the body he would have snatched might have been my own. And if people’s reactions so far were any indication, an honest, accurate vote would have overwhelmingly been “nay” to freedom. My people did not want to rise up, didn’t ever want to rise up. The long game was too slow for me, but I would not go against their wishes.
After spending two weeks underground burying friends and repairing aged tech while mourning, I decided that I would leave the planet. I would do the best good I could think of. My people ate and drank and tasted the closest thing to liberty their cooled embers would ever know.
The feast day had just passed, and the imperial reinforcements from Rhea had already traveled back. Legionnaire numbers were now the lowest they would be in a long while. The skeleton crew of oppressors was missing a few bones. The AI that I learned to get along with stuck by my decision and assessed it to be fair. Cloaked in stealth and invisibility, I rose up to the sky, battery dangerously low at nine percent. I saw my target as it passed overhead and approached with caution.
The asteroid held the greatest density of soldiers in the star system, each of whom was highly trained. I decided that in a fight I would probably win, but why fight? The element of surprise was a greater weapon than kinetic lasers, and far less messy. Space patrol suits were far stronger than the run of the mill kind used to shepherd students in lyceum. They had a visored helmet with 360 degree tactical awareness, triple reinforced alloys, and antimatter rocket boosters and...kinetic laser blasters. Yet in a square plot of eight miles, there were still only three hundred of them, and I still could whup them. If I had to, thanks to the tech on Planet Rancor.
I landed on the grainy, loose ground, which thankfully possessed artificial gravity. Before I did anything else it was important to test my cloaking and stealth, since the Rheans’ helmets worked not only in visible light but also infrared, X-Ray, UV and gamma. In order to maintain the ability to ambush them, they had to not see me, hear me or otherwise detect my presence. I loaded a topological map made upon my initial approach and saw the entire mining facility in my mind’s eye. I was currently on the border of the sprawling grounds, which was patrolled by two guards who had holstered their weapons and who had been discussing nonsense.
“The match between the Thangors and Lothrans was epic last night. Betmann scored four loogies and six rebounds.”
I inched up close to the one who was talking. My boots made no impression on the ground, nor did anything come up on the guard’s visor. Stealth test complete, all passed. So I moved on, heading to where I knew the communication tower to be. The first step was to disable this base’s comms so they couldn’t send out any maydays. I did not want to alert anyone on the ground about anything being amiss. The tower was tall with several cupped dishes surrounding it. That part of the facility doubled as a (totally unnecessary) spy station which 303 had masterfully been able to evade with the help of the glass fields. The Spoofer Cave was not only underground and away from prying eyes, it had also been shielded against infrared, electromagnetic, photonic and protonic detection. Now, like so many other things Dactil-related, it simply did not matter any longer.
The loss of every dream I had for my own future was unbearable. And to think that 303, Margol, Targen and especially Linna would not even have a future at all brought a cynicism to my soul, which I’d never previously possessed. The tower was powered by an interesting high-metal fusion core reactor which used mined alloys as fuel. This was to be the source of my charge. I headed to the unmanned comm acre directly planted above the power grid. The tower loomed above me, relatively shiny and draped in a dark green glow from the core. The tower’s control panel was in the south entrance, so I had to walk around to the other side.
I turned around and unexpectedly bumped into...a robotic drone guard. As a habit, Rheans didn’t prefer to use any robots for Legionnaire purposes. Robots were household helpers on Rhea proper and they were vital to the manufacture of goods. But guard drones? It was done elsewhere, including in some Commonwealth planets that thoroughly aligned with their overlords. I assumed that I found at least one on this asteroid because some Legionnaires in the machinery of leadership were being lazy.
I thought quickly and fried the thing’s protonics, rendering it inoperative. I couldn’t pick up on the robot’s mind, nor could the belt sense it from any of the other whizzing, buzzing machines in the background so it was difficult to tell how many there would be. I would need to keep my eyes peeled. The robot was not able to send any message before being short circuited, but someone would be expecting a patrol report from the box on wheels, and would be coming to do a diagnostic check soon. This didn’t jive well with my plans; I didn’t want an audience.
Finding the southern door and discerning where security cameras were located, I fried those too. Then I over-rode the electronic locking mechanism and walked through the door. I found it fascinating that this ancient piece of technology from wherever Rancor was, could still outdo the best that the Rhean Empire currently had. There was a very small control console with a screen and several oddly shaped ports inside the small room I’d entered. My belt, which was thicker than it looked, opened a small chamber on the side, and two thin cables came out. They whirled, twirled and inserted themselves into the odd ports and I could see that in a few seconds, we were online.
The belt hacked away to jam all outgoing messages and it succeeded quickly, The only problem was that one got through before the firewall came in effect. It was a request to base in Rangor for a shift substitution. It would be responded to within minutes and it would also expect a response. I awaited receipt of the answer back so I could reply instead of the original sender. When it came, I just wrote, “Base - Please disregard; previous message was sent accidentally while drafting from a template.” While the belt was connected to the console, it drew power from the grid but in short gulps that wouldn’t be noticed until later. Metal fusion enhanced plasma reactions and so generated an immense amount of power. The door behind me was closed and the cramped room I was in was also closed and locked.
In this state, while the belt was charging, there were things I could not do, such as fly, make force fields, shoot energy blasts or view a heads-up display which was something I started to get comfortable with. I was however, connected to the entire communications sector of the mining facility across the whole asteroid. I was queued into all messaging networks as well as schedules and security feeds. My current perch allowed access to not just the power apparatus, but also to navigation networks and calibration booster rockets that accounted for small variations in orbit so the satellite remained in an optimal revolution. Basically I had system administrator access to every single aspect of the sprawling facility.
So far, no internal communications showed any alarm. Everyone was asleep at the wheel, as I’d expected. They hadn’t needed to be on guard in ten thousand years. After that long, one certainly forgets. However, Rhea would often rotate soldiers on differing tours of duty so they wouldn’t get complacent. Many reserves on-asteroid had previously been in more-contested regions of space, on the front lines of rebellions. Still, Dactil had a singular reputation. I was sure it was difficult not to let one’s guard down when it became easy to.
Minutes passed. Then an hour. Then two. I underestimated just how complacent the military base was. I had been able to charge up to 55% of full, which was more than enough to “port” to the Laniakaea Corps’ home in Aurea. But one hundred was better than fifty-five, so I would keep at it as long as I could. However, I noticed a comm that diverted my attention. The area sergeant hadn’t gotten a report from the patrol drone in the communication quadrant during her last check-in so she dispatched a pair of fleshy bones to the task.
They would be here in under two minutes, whereupon they would summon operational engineers to evaluate the robot. They might come to the conclusion that foul play was involved.
So I decided that I would take my action. The former Prime Dactilon, whose one of many bodies had gone missing but whose essence was most likely still in Rangor occupying some janitor, was going to pay one way or another. Whether it was today, tomorrow or in a thousand years. I found that I could play the long game too.
Still hooked up to the vast interconnected networks, I aligned the calibrator jets just so and for a moment, the change in acceleration was not noticed. I continued adjusting the rockets, pivoting them in one direction, then another, expelling the exhaust mainly in one cardinal direction - down. Towards the planet, and Rangor City specifically. Once I’d made the exact number of corrections needed for gravity to fully take over, I disconnected from the system.
I opened the door to find two guards walking towards the drone. Though they couldn’t see me, they could see the door swing open.
“What the hell?” one exclaimed, reaching for his wrist. I blasted them both with sufficient energy to stun them. Then I took my leave, rising up out of the falling chunk of rock just as crews began to sound the alarm internally and finding they could not reach the base on Dactil for an SOS. They organized a quick evacuation but I did not stay to witness how that went. There was no stopping the several billion ton missile from striking Rangor City. Once the object became visible to the base down there, their only recourse would be to move underground. A laser cannon sufficient to strike the asteroid would need at least forty-five minutes to charge, and there was simply not enough time. Even so, it would create a debris storm that would almost be worse than an intact impact.
The missile was specifically pointed at the military storage complex behind the city. I wanted to kill as few people as possible while committing to this first strike. My people had plausible deniability; in fact, they could be blamed for none of it. For all Rhea knew, a computer system could have gone haywire or a group of stressed soldiers could have gone rogue. I didn’t care what story future forensic investigators came up with.
My act today was many things - a diversion, a distraction, a stalling technique, and the destruction of an entire class of top secret weapons cached in the heart of the largest city on Dactil. It was bound to recall Legionnaire efforts and to delay the upcoming war they’d planned.
My people had made their beds. Maybe someday they would come around to striving for their own sakes. Maybe they needed convincing that it was possible. But now, I personally had a new focus: to make sure that Lila did not suffer the same fate that Orongo did. I headed straight for the circular port station ahead of me, knowing full well I’d be coming back to take care of unfinished business.
In the distance behind me, there was a brilliant flash of light. The first phase of my plan was complete.
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