Necessary Evil

"Sometimes, the best ideas can come from the unlikeliest of sources. Most of the time, though, they come from the likeliest of sources."

-Captain Jassul, Live Interview

Chapter VI: Blind Faith

Beppo Zyklon watched the Fuhrerhedrin publicly masturbate some more. The fellow was watching another microwave execution. For all his wealth and status, the Fuhrerhedrin was basically a dirty old man. All the old pervert could do was barely grunt a few words, masturbate, a few simple gestures, swallow pills, wet his pants, stare, and drool. Unlike the millions of poor elderly in the PYR, only the Fuhrerhedrin was allowed to have the luxury of medical attention. Every non-nobility member had mandatory euthanasia once they reached the Fuhrerhedrin's age. If they lived that long. Which was rare.

It was almost Beppo's time to shine. He would do in the Fuhrerhedrin with an "accidental" switch in pills. Instead of his nutrition pills, a cyanide pill would find its way into the Fuhrerhedrin's mouth. However, there still was a problem. Joachim Abendroth had not died yet. That ship turned out to be loaded with Brood eggs, courtesy of DSHI. Strangely, Abendroth had survived thus far, despite his older equipment. Beppo regretted transferring a few of the Fuhrerhedrin's ships to Abendroth's fleet.

Greetings, Beppo.

What? Am I hearing voices in my head?

No. I am merely a friend who can communicate directly with your thoughts.

A telepath?

Of sorts. There's no such thing as "true telepathy." I am merely manipulating electromagnetic radiation to carry my messages.

Then what are you?

An ally. I have a gift for you.

Huh? First I hear a strange voice in my head, and now it has a gift for me?

Yes. I have a super weapon for you to construct. It will allow you to crush DSHI.

I'm interested. How do I know you're on my side, though?

How about I give you some schematics for small arms as a give?

Sure.

I'll download them to your personal computer now.

With that, Beppo checked his computer. There was a schematic for an antimatter scattergun.

Hey! We already have these!

Not anymore. You haven't produced any in the last few years.

Agents of unknown origin simply appeared and destroyed a lot of our high-tech industries and research.

Those are Cov-Techs, agents from the TUL.

When we try to reverse engineer existing models, same thing happens.

Yes, but with this schematic, you might start production again.

Still, I'm interested in this gift, but not now.

Ah, you have good reason to be. This gift is a super weapon. You want to wait until the Fuhrerhedrin and Abendroth are out of the way.

Yes. They could foil my plans.

Some agents of mine will take care of Abendroth. You can take care of the Fuhrerhedrin.

Fine. Just make it fast.

Beppo, though, was curious. He had gotten an offer of help from a strange source. Perhaps it was an angel. If that was the case, the PYR was indeed God's chosen race.

Major Joachim Abendroth checked his Severer-18. It was fully recharged, and ready for another round with those Brood monsters. The ship Merkava was crawling with the buggers. The automated defenses were haywire, and the Brood had suddenly started to coordinate their attacks.

Abendroth had saw the ship's computers were not in any usable state. Biological tissues had began to grow all over consoles, and they could not be removed without critically damaging the computers. The invasive biological tissue had merged with the ship's computer systems. Something was hijacking control of this ship.

The ship's reactor was now showing signs of life. While Zyklon had said it was depleted of power before, something in the reactor room was modifying it to a larger state. Given the intelligence the Brood was showing lately, it would not surprise him if the buggers where figuring out how to use human technology. The fact they were merging with computers could be a testament to that fact. Just then, he heard a voice in his head.

Greetings, Major Abendroth.

What? Who's there?

I am in your head.

Am I going crazy?

No. I am merely a digital intelligence, unencumbered by material bounds.

What do you want from me?

I have come to tell you that no matter what happens to you, you and your unit will die.

What kind of sick joke is this?

All of my estimations show you will die. However, your death will not be in vain. You are a bump in the road to my ascendance to godhood.

Then why tell me?

Simple. If you and your unit kill yourselves here, you die quickly and painlessly. If not, you will all be tortured to death, dismembered, and mutilated in very agonizing ways.

How will our deaths effect your "ascent to godhood," or whatever you call it?

Hey! Jackass! Out of this guy's head!

Another voice in my head?

This fellow is going to die, dear brother, and you cannot do anything to stop it.

Joachim, do not listen to the other voice. He and Beppo have plotted against you and your unit. The creatures on this vessel reproduce exponentially. You will be outnumbered if you wait here any longer.

Then what do I do? You come to tell me I'm going to die?

No. You will die if you remain here much longer. I recommend you leave, and use any loyal forces to open fire on this vessel from a safe distance.

Yes, but my orders were to download files from the computers.

As you saw, those files cannot be retrieved. The Brood has infested this vessel's computers. Beppo sent you hear to distract you and kill you.

You mentioned Zyklon's out to get me. Not surprising. Whether I complete the mission or not won't have any effect on how he'll treat me.

Yes, but you have an advantage. Remember how Zyklon transferred a few ships from the Fuhrerhedrin's fleet to your control?

Yes?

Commanding officers loyal to you were placed on board them during the transfer. You need by give the order, and they will turn on the Fuhrerhedrin and Beppo. Since his ships are still in their docks, you can take them by surprise.

Wouldn't Zyklon have arrested them by now?

He's waiting for you to come back to arrest you and all your forces.

Yes, but there's reinforcements that will eventually arrive to New Jericho if I pull something like that.

That's why you hightail it out of there before they arrive.

A bold move. So, what do I do?

Fight your way out of here, for one.

Then what?

Get a safe enough distance, and open fire on this ship. Make it fast, though.

Then I make my escape?

Exactly.

Then I go to the TUL, and I'm never heard from again?

Not by anyone outside the TUL, of course.

What do you mean?

I'm from the TUL, and I'm here to help. I'll explain later. Just do what you have to.

Right. You know of any shortcuts off this ship?

Yes. Leave the closest door to you and follow that hall. That should bring you back to the airlock. The rest of your "support team" is holed up there. You went in here with a small group, but your teammates were withdrawn to barricade the airlock around the time you entered this room.

Tell me. How equipped are my ships away for a deep space chase?

Very well equipped. They also have enough supplies for longer voyages. You have prefabricated structure kits that can build colonies. You have genetic medicine. You have some manufactories built right into your ships. You have enough male and female crew members to start a good-sized outpost. You have enough conventional weapons to level a planet. Not to mention, you have enough cloning devices and cybernetic mental dominator chips in your medical bay to create an impromptu army fanatically loyal to you. And that's just on your flagship.

How many Brood creatures stand between me and my way out?

I don't know for sure.

You seem to know a lot, but how can you not know many Brood creatures there?

Simple. Brood creatures have so many different breeds, they alter their numbers randomly. For example, a large creature might mutate into two smaller ones. Two or more smaller creatures can become a larger one. This can be done within seconds, so it's hard to tell which ways they will mutate.

Right. You know of any shortcuts off this ship?

Oh, one more question. How did the Brood get so damn smart?

Remember the voice in your head that said you were going to die?

Yes.

That voice had one of its lackeys telepathically control the Brood.

Damn. How adept is this lackey at tactics?

This lackey is extremely adept at single combat. However, his mind was recently absorbed by his master. His master is a genius at conventional tactics by your standards.

Then what hope do I have?

Turn on your vibroblade. Many of the Brood creatures are stunned by the waves it emits.

Can't they just grow an immunity of some sort?

The wavelength interferes with their control of their individual bodies. Just walking down a hall with your vibroblade on should ward off most of the creatures.

What do you mean by "most," rather than "all," voice?

Some creatures have a different biochemistry than the rest of the Brood. That prevents them from being effected by the stunning effect your vibroblade has on the majority of them.

But what if all the creatures immune to it start to divide into more creatures?

Then you'd best run fast.

Fine. I'm going.

With that, Joachim activated his vibroblade. The barely audible whirr from the blade filled the air, and he approached the room's exit. The door automatically opened, and he stepped through. Looking down, he saw several wolf-like Brood creatures, all whimpering and cowering. He almost felt sorry for the pitiful creatures."Almost" being a key word, Abendroth thought to himself.

He aimed the Severer-18 at the nearest creature, and pulled the trigger. The beam rifle within the weapon fired, and a burn mark appeared on the creature's head, and it fell down dead. He fired again and again, until everything visible in the hallway was dead. Just then, he head something behind him.

Run! Brood creatures immune to your weapon's stunning effect are behind you.

Thanks, who or whatever you are!

Just thank me when you get off of this ship!

Then consider it a preemptive "thanks," then!

Joachim ran down the hallway, not turning to look behind him. He heard the pounding of several feet behind him. Looking ahead of him, he saw a ventilation grate fall from the ceiling. He dove forward, narrowly dodging it. He heard a slap rather than the grate clatter when it hit the floor.

It just squashed some of the buggers closest to you.

Good. Perhaps I can slow down?

No! Don't do that! With the ventilation grate gone, the creatures coming through the vents now have an easier time getting in here.

Then I'll run faster!

Joachim did just that. Reaching his top speed, he could feel the hot breath of the creatures chasing him on the back of his exomesh suit. His lungs felt like ticking time bombs, ready to explode. He was not putting enough distance as he hoped between himself and the pursuing creatures.

Ahead of him, he saw the way out. He saw the door to the airlock. It was an automatic door, and it would open when he got closer. However, Joachim did not have enough stamina to maintain his sprint. So, he dove down and rolled under the door, just as it was opening. Once he stopped tumbling, he saw his unit behind a makeshift barricade, pointing Gauss rifles at him.

"Troops! Aim at the damn door, not me!" he ordered as he thrust himself to his feet.

One soldier saluted. "Sorry, sir, we just thought-"

"At ease, kid. I understand your reaction, but we've got to get out of here," Joachim said as the first of the creatures came through the door.

The soldiers opened fire at the small army of Brood creatures coming out of the hallway Joachim just exited. Joachim ran to the shuttle that was docked in the airlock, and ordered his soldiers to retreat. His soldiers fired as they stepped backwards, before darting to the spacecraft. The creatures were now flooding into the airlock, running into the shuttle's now open door.

The soldiers got in just as the door shut on one of the creatures, cutting it in half. The airlock opened to the vacuum of space, and the shuttle took off. The creatures in the airlock chamber soon exploded, as even they could not withstand the cold, airless vacuum of space.

Back in the shuttle, Joachim sent an order. His troops were to abandon Nu Jericho, and destroy any of the Fuhrerhedrin's ships that prevented their escape. Many of Joachim's soldiers were ecstatic to follow his orders. Within minutes, many ships had left the colony's docks, with the Fuhrerhedrin's fleet crippled before it could react.

Joachim's ships gathered around the derelict vessel, and prepared to fire. They charged up their ship mounted energy weapons to full power, enough to destroy a city when fired from orbit. Each of the vessels opened fire at once. However, nothing happened. The weapons of each ship fired, but not one of the laser barrage hit the Merkava for any noticeable effect. In fact, from Joachim's fleet's scanners, there was no effect at all.

In the TUL, Thomas, Jassul, Iwan, and GOTWON were all watching the events unfolding through Viewers.

A lot has happened, GOTWON, Jassul thought.Well, I just violated your platform of noninterference under your orders. Joachim's following the orders I passed on to him.

Jassul thought.

Jackknife needs to be stopped, or we're all going down. Joachim was the closest available agent we could employ. It's a matter of factional security for the TUL.

Jackknife once said the exact same thing. Isn't funny how we become like that we despise, especially in politics?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Jackknife manufactured Bressian as a threat to the TUL, then tried to cover it up. However, he failed, and we've got to clean him up.

Yes, but what about using conventional force? I thought you didn't like using forces other than Cov-Techs.

That is a reference to my position on TUL conventional forces. I am merely manipulating a non-TUL force to accomplish that which would maximize the TUL's chances of survival.

Yes, but why blow up the ship? Wouldn't that create the big black hole we're afraid will engulf us?

The reactor is still only partially completed. If we blew it up from the outside, it would be just a normal blast. Also, remember how I told you about creating enough power to contain the black hole or cancel it out?

Yes, but that project would take too long to complete, and exhaust several mineral resources.

Thomas came up with an idea on how to achieve it with attotech.

What does he intend to do?

First, destroy the vessel if possible with conventional force. Case closed if that happened.

Yes, but it didn't. He have a backup plan?

For one, create the black hole. Then, deflect it into space around where Jackknife is. This takes it away from us, and gets rid of the nastier threat. Two birds with one stone, as the old saying goes.

Yes, but you know that we will not be able to do that until the project is completed.

We will. The Dyson sphere will be created once Thomas perfects the technical methods in his idea.

What is his idea, in a nutshell?

You're a Stray-I with telepathic capabilities. See for yourself.

Thomas wants to wait until the black hole approaches the TUL.

Continue.

He intends to use attotech to create matter.

Yes. You know how you told him about the Cov-Tech force field that generates an infinite air when he first awoke here?

Yes. We separate combined antiparticles and particles around black holes and singularities. Thomas was interested.

He thanks you, as he sees you as influencing him.

Yes. I'm reading his mind now.

What do you see?

Thomas wants us to use the proximity of the black hole to create the materials we need for the Dyson sphere. It will certainly be large enough to draw a lot of particle pairs from, provided we don't get sucked in, first.

Yes. Thomas' plan is a bit of a gambit. Since lots of smaller singularity reactors working in unison won't work efficiently at creating the matter needed, he's thinking of one big black hole.

This is quite a gambit, you know, and Thomas does realize this.

Thomas does. His gambit could be the doom or salvation of the TUL, though.

What if Jackknife somehow interrupts drawing particles from the black hole, preventing us from getting to finish the Dyson sphere?

Then we're all doomed.

Thomas' first plan failed. Why pursue such a risky backup plan, then? You suddenly believe in miracles?

No. While it's a gambit at this stage, Thomas still has plans for his attotech.

What's he plan to do?

You know strings, right?

Of course I do! Stop treating me like some recently revived Remnant!

Fine. I'm just a little excited.

You're normally unemotional, collected, and calm. What's with the change?

Thomas is using his delightful creativity to think of a new system of conventional weapons involving attotech, probably ones that will be the pinnacle of conventional weapons.

Ah, Thomas's sick creativity strikes again.

Thomas calls the weapon a string shaker. It creates a disruption in local strings, which rends apart anything in its path at a one-dimensional level. Through that disruption, crushing super gravity emerges. Eventually, the disruption shrinks, and the strings go back to normal. However, the damage wrought by the rampant strings and gravity remains.The Gravgun and the GAR do the same thing, but they use gravitons rather than strings.

Don't you think it's overkill?

It is, but it has an advantage to it.

What?

Rending the strings apart can displace the particle clusters that Stray-Is use for thought. We want to use them against Jackknife.

Finally! A conventional weapon that can kill us Stray-Is! The problem is the entire social structure of the TUL is based on us!

Yes, but only two are going to be manufactured, both for Thomas. They cannot be created by anyone else, unless the person has access to picotech, femtotech, and lots of attotech.

Thanks to our policy of open information, how to make picotech, femtotech, and attotech will also be out there.

Not necessarily. Only Thomas has the actual plans for this weapon in his head. For some reason, no one can read Thomas' mind unless he wills it.

He claims it's his future self helping him.

There is not much evidence for or against it. I am taking a neutral position on Thomas' mental protection, whatever is causing it.

Well, speaking of the causes of strange phenomena, it appears that Jackknife has thrown a money wrench into our plans.

Yes. He has created an energy shield around the target ship, and has shrugged off all the weapons Joachim has thrown at it.

Joachim is using several types of lasers, each with a slightly different wavelength. Normal shields against energy weapons just generate a single opposing wavelength that will cancel the beam out.

Jackknife can adapt to several wavelengths thrown at him.

How, exactly, is he able to project a shield that prevents against all those wavelengths?

Look closer.

Oh, right. Femtotech. Jackknife has a few types of femtotech he set up onboard. He uses an "adaptive wavelength generator."

See the wonders that await you when you look?

That is, Jackknife determines what wavelength the laser beam will be. Then, it broadcasts the counter wavelength required, canceling out the beam.

Joachim's fleet has only lasers and missiles for ship-to-ship combat. Jackknife has something nastier to prevent missiles from hitting.

I notice the Brood has infested every corridor, structural maintenance compartment, and ventilation shaft on the vessel.

Yes. They have started growing a type of "nervous network" around the ship. Cells are growing outward from that network, turning the ship into a combination of biological tissue and digital circuitry.

I just saw it. Each of these cells has a Teilhard apparatus inside! It's not just a spaceship turned biomechanical aberration. It's a spaceship turned biomechanical aberration with the ability to manipulate space-time in its local vicinity!

Jackknife originally got the genetic design of a Teilhard apparatus from Bressian.

The more you mention Bressian, the more I hate him.

Jackknife is using the biological network to temporarily nullify the physical laws that the missiles require to work.

So, is there any way Joachim can take down that shield? Can't he just have a ship do a kamikaze run?

No. Jackknife can just nullify the laws of physics that keep a spaceship moving forward. Imagine a ship sucked into a small black hole.

Can't we just send a Cov-Tech in?

Look at the field around the ship. It's not just a way to counter conventional weapons.

Even though it's only partially completed, Jackknife is drawing a small amount of power from it. He's bending space and time around the vessel defensively.

You know how we teleport Cov-Techs in?

We use picotech generated wormholes.

Jackknife is using femtotech to shield his vessel from unwanted teleportation in.

Right. Femtotech is smaller than picotech. It'd be easy to close a picotech-generated wormhole.

As he folds space around the vessel, he's enveloping himself in space-time. It's like a defensive version of an N-Space Vault.

Any ideas as to how to bring down Jackknife's defenses, at all?

Yes. Thomas will elaborate.

GOTWON left Jassul, and began to talk with Thomas.

Thomas, how do you plan to take down Jackknife's defenses?

Simple. His hubris. He got overconfident.

What are you talking about?

You know that gravity bending device, one of the first of two planned?

Yeah. The one that he had DSHI build?

Yes. I have a plan.

Fire that thing at the vessel, as it can penetrate space-time defenses?

That's part of the plan. However, the target is floating in the void of space. The gravity amplifying machine is in the Alpha Centauri system.

So we've got to hijack it and teleport it to within range? Won't that be hard with Jackknife preventing us from teleporting in?

He prevents teleporting on the ship, not the area around it. We move the device outside the immediate area, then fire.

What if the PYR sends troops to investigate?

Most of their military's still reeling from Joachim's little sneak attack. That's where Joachim is going to help us again.

How about hijacking the device from DSHI in the first place?

The Merry Men will help us there.

There is one thing I find quite ironic about all of this.

What's that?

Jackknife was the one that alerted us to the situation of many of our assets. We are going to be using those same people to thwart him.

He was arrogant. Like overconfident villains in countless stories, he unknowingly sowed the seeds of his own destruction.

Well, Jackknife's becoming more like a comic book super villain with each new plot.

Yes, but he is still dangerous. He must be stopped. If his goal is reached, the Godseed will not grow. Jackknife's trying to make a Godforge. A device he can use to set himself up as a deity. That would not be a pleasant event.

So, still thinking of yourself as a future deity?

I'm not sure, but I'm leaning towards it now. I feel déjà vu, as this already happened before somewhere.

If that's the case, we would have had his talk before.

Ah, well, it's interesting. Anyway, let's get back to business. Jackknife and Bressian are a pair of sick bastards. Nu Antioch's been wiped out thanks to them. Now, they're poised to take godhood. Unless we want every sentient being in the universe killed and a deranged deity ruling over everything, we have to stop the nutcases.

We have to use everything around us to stop them.

For now, let's look at the Merry Men. They'll help in the next part of our plan.

With that, Thomas prepared another Viewer.