In The Eyes Of God

Chapter 16: Technosphere

"The Instigators have always been an anomaly of sorts to Moabite science. Individually, there are obviously nonliving. However, when taken as a whole, these machines might very well be considered alive. Perhaps it is not much of a stretch to say not only does Moab have a biosphere, but also a technosphere." -Consul Sato Eukara, Nonliving Life

Sophia looked back at Joel, and waved back.

"I have a proposition for you," she asked.

"What's that?"

"Since you undoubtedly would like to get out of here," Sophia explained. "I have a deal from the Consul on providing you with a suitable permanent residence."

"You mean another prison, perhaps?" Alecto added. "Or perhaps somewhere where you'll torture information out of us!"

"Ignore her," Joel commented. "Now, what were you saying?"

"The Consul is willing to provide you with a middle-class home within a well-to-do suburb of Origin City," Sophia explained. "From there, you would be near Origin City's government buildings, as well as the shipwreck."

"How far from the shipwreck?"

"Just a few blocks from where you were captured."

"If I may ask, why were we captured like that?" Joel asked. "Unless tranquilizing suspects is standard procedure in this nation."

"The shipwreck is a historical site placed under intense guard," Sophia explained. "Normally, orders would be to shoot intruders on sight, but you surrendered before they opened fire."

"How about the fact we had come from inside the ship rather than outside?"

"According to the official report, the guards nearby saw an ancient door explode outward, then two suspicious figures emerge," Sophia explained. "And that would be you."

"So they decided to detain us for questioning?" Joel asked. "Wouldn't that shock them enough to open fire."

"Yes. They were shocked, but training kept them ready for some non-lethal tactics," Sophia continued. "Luckily for you, though, even if they did open fire, they had rubber bullets and normally fire at the kneecaps."

"Speaking of ballistics, I noticed you were using ballistic assault rifles," Joel continued. "They had a shell-ejection port, so I assume you have some form of cartridge-encased ammunition."

"Yes, but we're gradually converting to caseless ammunition," Sophia explained. "We still have weapons that use brass casings, but we're phasing them out."

"What size round do you use?" Joel asked. "Do you use large or small caliber rounds?"

"Small caliber," Sophia explained. "Designed to wound rather than to kill, since it takes two other people to drag a wounded person off the battlefield."

"If you'd like a demonstration of some weapons of ours," Alecto interrupted. "I can arrange something."

"The Unified Provinces would very much appreciate any help you can provide in allowing us to understand Wanderer technology," Sophia replied.

"So, you're giving us lodgings only if we give you technology?" Joel asked. "Figured there'd be some fine print."

A perplexed look appeared on Sophia's face. "If you don't want to, you're still welcome to that house."

"Do we get our stuff back?" Joel asked.

"If you show us how each item works, and provide schematics and proper usage, we shall return it," Sophia replied.

"So, there's another catch," Alecto rolled her eyes. "What do you think, Joel?"

You can trust them.

"Sophia, we'll show you any device you'd like," Joel added.

A look of shock crossed Alecto's face. "What?! You're just going to give away our only bargaining chip like that?"

Joel, not wanting to annoy his comrade further, tried to reason with her. "Calm down, Alecto. Even if we do give them schematics, it will take a while before they can retool their infrastructure and industry to handle it. Not to mention, if we don't, you don't have any means to gain additional ammunition for your flechette gun."

Alecto nodded and grumbled, signifying Joel had won that round of verbal sparring. Joel turned back to Sophia. "Alright, we'll start with some of the implants."

---

Admiral Benover was in his office replying to a letter from the Consul. It always gave him pleasure to advise Eukara. The recent terror attacks had been horrible, but Benover was quite certain there was more to it than met the eye. Especially with Farwin creating some imaginary group to blame it on.

The suicide attack seemed more akin to the Reubenist suicide variety than Boil Region nationalism. Of course, the fact there was no real sense of national unity anywhere in the Boil Region was also saying something. Exposing her lies was important, especially since she was likely being manipulated by the Malefactor.

It was then an officer barged in. From the look on the officer's face, it was quite obvious the manner was urgent. "Speak, Ensign," the Admiral ordered.

"Sir, we believe we've found a hive-hulk," the Ensign saluted.

"Deploy standard Instigator contact measures," the Admiral commanded. "Deploy some helios with sonar buoys, launch some fighters with anti-shipping missiles, and ready crew to repel boarders. Equip armor-piercing weapons. That includes sabot rounds, gyroks, grenades, and so forth."

The Ensign saluted and left the room. The Admiral went to the Corbalis-class carrier's command post, and activated the command console. To an untrained individual, it resembled a complicated computer game of some sort. To the officers of the UPN, however, it was an effective means for an Admiral to control an entire carrier battlegroup.

Data would be feed into the simulation from countless sensors in the other ships in the fleet, as well as data provided by sonar buoys, satellites, and was updated in real-time. Other than the friendly ships, a new ship appeared on the sensors. With the push of a few buttons, the Admiral could redirect any ship he would need.

Sure enough, a red shape appeared near just under the carrier. Nearby was the suspected hive-hulk. The Admiral called up the registry information on the ship. The vessel was called the Zebulon, an Asherite freighter that vanished just off the coast of the Boil Region under mysterious circumstances. Instigator activity was suspected in the loss, and no wreck was ever found. Classic signs of a vessel turned into a hive-hulk by Instigators.

The UAV scans of the vessel showed some sort of mechanical activity below decks, no signs of human activity on deck, and a deck filled with signs of a struggle. Coupled with the identification of the red shape under the Corbalis as a hostile Instigator, the Admiral was pressed to go into full alert.

"Battle stations!" he ordered over the ship's radio. "Instigator presence confirmed! All crew members report to battle stations!"

He ordered the Ash-class command cruiser to send out a radio warning that Instigators had been spotted. He commanded the Catharsis submarine and the Elm to destroy the submerged Instigator, and scan for more lurking nearby. The Fighting Eagle jets already in the air had some dual purpose anti-shipping and anti-submarine munitions. He ordered them to send the ship to the bottom as fast as possible.

With a simulated blast of munitions, the Zebulon was blasted under the sea. Instigators began to emerge from the dying ship, but were easy prey for the fighters in the air. The submerged Instigator nearby was also reported destroyed. Just then, another red object appeared on the monitor.

The Admiral, however, ordered his units to cease fire. It did not have the readings of an Instigator. From the hydrophones and sonar buoys he deployed, it was obvious it was an Asherite submarine. Whoever was inside was trying desperately to avoid being noticed, and get away from the carrier battlegroup fast.

Of course, its presence would be recorded and sent to the Consul with the Admiral's on thoughts on the agents responsible. Countless years of experience had taught the Admiral that events like this are no mere coincidences.