Author Topic: War Crimes: Gaians at War  (Read 1666 times)

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Offline Rymdolov

War Crimes: Gaians at War
« on: November 03, 2012, 08:40:09 PM »
Hi, everyone! This story was first published as War Crimes 2: Operation Vicissitude as the background story for an old GotM. I've taken the liberty of changing the title when posting it as a fanfic piece in this section. There is also some chapter headings that are new to this version. I wrote the story and BUncle did proof-reading and some editing (English is not my native language). Enjoy!

War Crimes: Gaians at War

By Rymdolov

Chapter 1: The Declaration

The broadcasting equipment had a strangely mongrel look to it, the mics, cameras and cables being Earth-age technology with glued-on adjustments to make it work on Chiron. The people hurrying to get the last preparations in order before the live show made up a similarly strange mix. Tech-geeks and artists mingled with business-clad boss types, a brew like any television team since the medium's infancy. Dieter's eyes were set on the star of the evening, Annika Gronblad, his long-time partner and love.

Annika looked like a complete mess, small beads of sweat starting to appear along her hairline, her eyes darting nervously between the cameras and the marked spot where she would stand to deliver the most important speech made to Gaians since Planetfall, her mouth silently muttering through key phrases. The over-all effect was that of a mental patient trapped in a sauna.

Yet Dieter knew that in (glance at his watch) 1:32 minutes she would turn into the calm, composed woman of state that the citizens of the Gaian faction knew her to be. Dieter wondered what Churchill had looked like before delivering his speeches.

Ten seconds left. An assistant dabbed Annika's forehead with a napkin, the closest camera rolled in place and the worried face of the mental patient visibly smoothed out as the public speaker persona took over.

Three, two, one.

"Sisters and brothers, members of Gaia's Stepdaughters; I have a message of grave importance to all of you, to all of us", Annika began.

"On a recent routine assignment patrolling the disputed border south of Freshwater Sea, one of the new mind worm units was brutally attacked by Spartan soldiers. As far as we can tell, the trainer, sister Lindly, was torched to death by the Spartan aggressors, after her boil had been defended itself against the Spartans' attack."

Annika made a pause, letting this sink in. Her grave face was beautifully framed by the ivy leaves on a trellis that Dieter had placed behind her. The leaves worked perfectly, transmitting Gaian sentiments to the audience in a more subtle way than, for example, the Gaian insignia could. Blatant factional symbols would have made the speech seem too much like a rally for the Gaian public's tastes. Gaian leaders couldn't afford to give the impression of appealing to raw, tribalist feelings to gain support. Especially since that was exactly what they were doing. The ivy worked perfectly, though. As Head Executive of Official Communications (or Propaganda Minister, should honesty take precedence over rhetoric) it was Dieter's job to see to these things.

"This act is horrible in itself. However, now is the time to stop and think about the deeper implications of the Spartan deed. As far as we can tell the original attack was directed at the mind worm boil, only later extending to the deceased sister Lindly. This means that the Spartans, who have been very careful not to provoke us, other than verbally, most likely thought that the boil was a wild specimen. Was the attack nothing but a tragic mistake, then? Well, tragic it was indeed, but could it truly be called a mistake? Had the Spartans bothered to learn anything about their surrounding environment they would at least have made an attempt to capture the mind worm before attacking it. This points to a major flaw of the Spartan system.

"The Spartans think of themselves as the future of humankind. They view themselves as humanity's hope, as pioneers abstaining from luxuries to safeguard survival on an often hostile planet. They make it sound like common sense, until you realize that the "luxuries" of which they have rid themselves are the freedom of their citizens, virtually all non-military research and the chance to work with native life as a resource and a possibility, rather than an obstacle and a threat. All this to achieve "strength", which at closer inspection turns out to be a euphemism for a stack of guns and a fleet  of rovers.

"Are you familiar with the Spartans' doctrine of 'superior weaponry and superior training' as the means of building a successful society? Well, our intelligence has learned that they consider the use of mind worms in battle a 'war crime'. Yes, the Spartans speak of superior weaponry, but when such is found in Gaian hands, they call it a crime! They speak of superior training, but refuse to adapt to their environment! Perhaps, if Colonel Santiago took the time to look beyond the study of military doctrines she might consider the Neanderthals. These sturdy fellows had superior strength indeed. Homo sapiens, on the other hand, domesticated one of the most frightening creatures around them, the wolf, and worked with their environment to increase food production, eventually becoming the dominating species on Earth. The Neanderthals are gone, but if they were here today, would they call the domestication of the wolf a war crime?

"The Spartans have learned nothing from the history of Earth, the planet we doomed and had to leave. Their agenda, if any, is a blind, aggressive repeating of the mistakes made during humanity's sad past. We Gaians cherish peace, but when crime shows its ugly face we are not afraid to call for police action. The Spartans have shown their inability to comply with the laws of nature and human evolution, yes, even their own crude doctrines! Therefore, we will not accept them as neighbors anymore. The Grand Council of Gaia's Stepdaughter's, on whose behalf I speak today, has decided to annex thirteen Spartan bases east of the disputed border. We will, of course, heed to the laws regulating war and the fair and humane use of all types of military units, including domesticated mind worm boils.

"Brothers and sisters, may this encounter between the old and the new, the modern and the obsolete be a brief one. May the Spartans see sense and surrender. We, the true survivalists of Chiron, have already seen sense and we will never surrender!

"Walk with Planet."

Perfect, Dieter thought as the camera's lights turned off and the camera operator gave a grinning thumbs up to Annika.

What shall we do today my love? Do you want to take a stroll among the pines? Shall we stay in bed all day, perhaps go to the new hologram theatre that we lobbied for but have never had the time to visit? Or do you feel like convincing a faction full of pacifist, nature-loving idealists to start what is basically a war over territory against a faction full of maniacs to whom war is state ideology and favorite pastime? Can we do that?

I think we just did. I'm afraid we just did.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 09:15:29 PM by sisko »

Offline Rymdolov

War Crimes: Gaians at War - Ch. 2
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2012, 08:45:59 PM »

Chapter 2: Gaian Minds

It really looks as if they're doing nothing, Dieter reflected, looking at the students sitting in groups discussing or just lying down reading on the Commons lawn behind the university building. Then again, Dieter thought, that's what most people would think about me when I'm at my most busy.
Most of his work consisted of making plans - plans for speeches, for public appearances - always planning meticulously, just to make it all look spontaneous. The "inspirational speech" he had just given to the students had been a carefully memorized and rehearsed performance, from the initial musings on his own days as a student of political science, via an attempt to connect it to the work he did at the present to the apparent drift into telling amusing anecdotes on the behavior of war council members. The image was that of a careerist taking a day off to joke around with people half his age and the message conveyed was look, I'm just like you, we are all Gaians, take a look at these silly military types, so single-minded that they're almost Spartans. And nothing is more stupid than a Spartan.
In the end, Dieter managed to make the war seem like just another grunt job that had to be done; a career opportunity for those who had few other options; something you did for a while before going back to more important business, studying, growing, learning, loving, playing. Being Gaian. Hopefully, these young people would spread this message to their families and friends.
Now it was time to show that he was a man of the people, enjoying the sunshine like everyone else.
A tap on his shoulder.

"Hey, brother Dieter!"

Now for some improvisation! But the man standing in front of him wasn't an inquisitive student, but a man his own age, showing a round, kind and very familiar face.
"Alexander! I had no idea you were around!"
"Just popped in to meet the family."
"That's right; I'd forgotten you're from Resplendent Oak, originally. It's been ages! I'll leave tomorrow, but we should catch up! Are you available this evening? Say yes!"
"Sorry mate, I'm off to the front in less than two hours and there's loads to do."
"The front?!" Dieter couldn't have been more surprised if Alexander had said he would take a trip to Earth.
"Yep, I'm a brood trainer now, didn't you know?"
"Well, that only makes sense. Your mind was always in the fungus when we tried to study interfactional relations..."
"And now my mind is literally wrapped around native life. Actually, it's a bit of a dream come true. I have my hobby for a job!"
"Well, so do I, telling people how much more I know about everything. But - you know... What's it like? It's hard to imagine, being a brood trainer." Dieter was a good Gaian, of course, but having grown up in a newly built base at the frontier, going on perimeter patrol duty at thirteen, flame-gun in sweaty, still childishly soft, hands, he wasn't too happy at the thought of being around mind worms, Talent-controlled or not.
"It's just as hard to describe. Imagine having an extra brain, no, imagine having a part of your brain enhanced. A new part of your body, like an extra limb, that contains a brain. A tiny brain. Hmm, doesn't sound that nice does it? But it is."
"So, you can actually read the minds of the worms?"
"Nah, most communication goes the other way. I can get a reading of their, well, feelings, though. It's a very sensual experience."
"Sensual?!", Dieter said, not bothering to hide his horror. Alexander laughed, though.
"Well, sensual as in 'to do with senses'. Imagine being able to see a new color, no, a group of colors, that no-one has ever seen before."
"And now you're off to the front...", Dieter said cautiously, wondering how a brood trainer would feel about using his pets as a weapon.
"Yes", Alexander said, slightly embarrassed, but still smiling. "It feels like my boil will finally come into its own. I can feel the worms longing for it. It is, after all, how they breed."
Dieter managed to hide his disgust this time.
"It's a formidable weapon", he said, neutrally.
"It'll win us this vendetta. Don't worry, Dieter."
"I don't, Al. I don't have the time."
"Busy as always! Speaking of which, I must be going. I'm not kidding about the extra limb part. Don't think I've been away from my worms for this long since I started out as a trainer. See you later, Dieter! We'll catch up!"
"See you, Al!"
Dieter felt another tap on his shoulder and this time it was a student, and a cute one, too.
"Excuse me, I was wondering, do you know where I should go to do some war volunteering?" she said.
"Sparta Command", Dieter said automatically, to release the tension. He went into propaganda mode, convincing the student that she had to persuade him that war volunteering was a good idea.
Only later did he think of the fact that he couldn't be sure about ever seeing Alexander again.

Offline Rymdolov

Re: War Crimes: Gaians at War
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2012, 08:48:11 PM »

Chapter 3: The Lady

In spite of himself, Dieter was a little nervous. Unlike what most people thought it wasn't that often that he found himself in this part of the factional HQ at Gaia's Landing. People who were not in politics seemed to think that he fraternized with Lady Deirdre on a daily basis, but the Gaian leader was excellent at delegating, and the part of government that Dieter worked at, Internal Communications, was the one she usually took the least interest in. But now Dieter had been summoned to a personal meeting. He sighed. Going all the way here from the eastern parts of the faction cost him lots of time away from the war cabinet and his propaganda (he had long since stopped shunning away from that word) efforts. But, like people who were not in politics, Deirdre probably had only vague ideas of what his job was about.

The doors bearing the Gaian emblem slid open and Dieter walked in, acting more casual than he felt.

Deirdre's office had a lousy view. Dieter wondered if this was on purpose, to show visitors that the Gaians were not ones to hand their leader too much privilegies. If so, Dieter would have approved.

"Dieter Schulz," Lady Dierdre said, matter-of-factually, and Dieter reflected nervously that they had the same initials.

"Head Executive of Official Communications", she went on, looking at a screen embedded in her desk. "I have been following your movements lately and you seem to have been busy all over central and eastern Gaian territory. Is there any base east of here where you haven't held at least two speeches since the war began?"

"No", Dieter said. "Only did three at Dreams of Green, though. People must think I have too little to do at the office."

Deirdre looked him straight in the eyes, which was very unusual for the Lady. She really is stunning, Dieter thought, not meaning her looks.

"When I was doing some of my most important research, the crowning af my achievements as a xenobiologist, in fact, the work that allowed me to leave the Unity and form Gaia's Stepdaughters, I once talked to a person who told me how nice it must be to 'look at flowers' all day."

Dieter was stunned with surprise at this unexpected understanding of what he was doing. But why had she called him?

"You wonder why I've called you here", Deirdre went on, still matter-of-factly. "To be frank as well as brief, I want to know the state of the faction. Imagine Spartan warriors marching into one of the eastern bases, say, Velvetgrass Point. What would the Gaians there do? The civilians, I mean."

"There would be resistance", Dieter answered, without hesitating. "The 'information centres' we've set up is full of people learning to plant traps, sabotaging equipment, etc. If one of our bases fall, there will be riots. The more militarily minded civilians will try to take out officers and figure heads. The Spartans form a strict hierarchy: take out the leaders and the who-"

"Yes, I know the details", Deirdre interrupted. "General Rodriguez informed me on them this morning. What I want to know is, how much of the resistance will be directed at us?"

Dieter was surprised. "Why should-"

"We do have a drone problem", Deirdre said.

"Well, that's to be expected. No Gaian likes war. But those who protest the war will be the same people who start disorganised resistance, should the Spartans march in. And others are learning organized resistance. Didn't Rodriguez tell you?"

"He did. But he only watches people. He doesn't know their hearts. That's your area of expertise. Also, this vendetta is having unexpected consequences for our society. I'm afraid that some people from the military might be trying to keep me off their backs by averting my eyes from problems."

"There are no serious problems, that I know of, regarding resistance."

"Good. Let me ask you this: How many Gaians would you trust with the information we have shared here just now?"

"Including you?"

"Including me and you."

Dieter thought of Annika, a woman of high rank within the state, whom he would also trust with his life for personal reasons. Then he thought of Michel Vander, Junior Executive of Official Communications, who was technically Dieter's subordinate, but in reality was his counterpart in the western parts of Gaian land.

"Four people", he said.

Deirdre looked at him blankly.

"That's twice my number", she said. "Any other problems that you have noticed?"

Dieter thought of Alexander, of nice, amicable Al Jones getting mildly turned on at the thought of digging into Spartan brains.

"The brood trainers might need some rehabilitation after they return from the front", he said.

Deirdre raised her eyebrows.

"This war is fought over our right to use brood trainers in war. Do you think there's a problem related to that?"

For the first time in his life, Dieter felt a little afraid of one of his superiors.

"They are warriors. Warriors with predators for weapons. They might need some readjustment when the war is over, I think."

"We all will. But I will look into it. Thank you for coming, brother Dieter. Walk with Planet."

"Walk with Planet, Lady Deirdre."

Offline Rymdolov

War Crimes: Gaians at War- Chapter 4
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2012, 08:50:36 PM »

Chapter 4: Casualties

The Gaian soldier came to among the fungus. He rolled over from his back to his side to hide his eyes from the sun, as the dimming function of his helmet visor seemed to be out of order. This movement revealed the stylized picture of a mind worm boil on the chest of his suit, revealing him as a brood trainer.

He wasn't in much pain, he realized, but as his consciousness took another step into the light, he remembered that something much worse than pain had struck him. The boil was gone, his best limb severed. Images transmitted to him during the mind worms' last seconds alive came back, the primitive horror of an semi-sentient animal unable to escape unbearable, mortal pain.

At least I'm alive, he thought. I have to get back to the others.

He set his comm to search for transmissions, hoping to pick up voices of nearby friends. He started to get up while he did so, slowly, painfully, but just as the comm transmitter picked something up, a boot entered his line of vision. A Spartan boot.

"Seems the largest worm is still alive", a voice said and the boot kicked him in the chest, not too hard, almost absentmindedly, but hard enough to put him flat on his back.

Prisoner of war, he thought. Well, I knew it might happen. I hope there's a prisoner exchange soon. He shivered at the thought of Spartan prisons.

"So, you wanted to feed us to your little maggots, eh?" the voice said. "I know you can hear me. Wanted to commit a nice little warcrime?"

Another voice broke in. "I think we should have a little fun with this one. Make him pay for his crimes."

"Shoot him?" the first voice said. "Isn't that a waste of ammo?"

"Nah, I was thinking of something else. You know, there are so many things you can put in a suit like that."

"I'm going back to the main group", a third voice broke in. "Report to me when you've made sure that this enemy soldier is dead."

"Yes, sir!" the first voice said. "Uhm, sure you don't want to stay, sir?"

The officer's voice sighed. "If I was to witness any obvious warcrimes, such as torture of an enemy soldier, I would have to report them, even if it meant that one of my best damn soldiers would go to court, even if it was a soldier I desperately need to turn this war around! I'll be with the main group. Come back when you're finished!"

"Yes, sir!"

A moment of silence, while the Gaian thought about his parents, what fear really means and what throwing up inside a helmet might feel like.

"Look, he's shaking", one of the voices, one of the devils, said. "I wonder what scares him the most: That he's gonna die, or the pain he'll feel before he dies."

"Probably death", the other voice said. "But we'll change that soon enough. See this chem I've got? Burns like hell, you know."

Later, as they were piling up the remains, preparing to flame it, one of them picked up a small piece of metal from the body and read the text engraved on it.

"Look, the stupid bastards have name tags on them. Should I keep this as a trophy?"

"Throw it on the pile, it's evidence. Looks like it would melt alright."

"Ok", the Spartan said, throwing away the name tag bearing the name of Alexander Jones, brood trainer.

Offline Rymdolov

War Crimes: Gaians at War - Ch. 5
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2012, 08:53:37 PM »

Chapter 5: Conclusions

Dieter had shouted, but now he was laughing. To get the flowers he was holding he had been forced to shout at one of his subordinates and to several of those who were, in theory, equal in rank to him. But they were one of his best ideas ever. Having them flown in had been worth the shouting.

In the bunker-like, roofed streets of the last conquered Spartan base he had found some looting Gaian soldiers, as had been expected. Cowering locals were visible only by the tiny movements one could almost sense rather than see, a fluttering of a curtain, some piece of industrial debris clanging out on the street from stairs leading to the places where the subdued population supposedly lived out their lives.

"Hey, take this instead!", Dieter had hollered cheerfully, waving a tulip at the nearest soldier.

"Yes, sir", the soldier had said, somewhat confused, putting down the box of goodies he'd been carrying. He had stood there, looking stupidly at the tulip.

"No need to 'sir' me, brother", Dieter answered, ripping off the military insignia from his uniform and putting them in his pockets. "You won us the war and I'm not a soldier anymore! And you're off duty, right?" He put a flower in the muzzle of the gun of one of another soldier.

"Right", the soldiers murmured like embarrassed school children, more ashamed than they would have been if Dieter had threatened to report them.

"See these flowers? Think any other faction has the greenhouses to grow these?", Dieter asked. "And you won us the right to keep them! You did it! The war's over! Now, let's show these Spartans that we Gaians know how to throw a street party!"

He started off down the street, shouting back at them to come to the central square, the former parade ground where, hopefully, the music he’d ordered had already started. "Walk with planets, sisters and brothers!"

And now he was in the square, handing out more flowers, laughing, dancing, working. I have the strangest job on Planet, he thought. An astonishing number of local Spartans had joined the party. Many of them were opportunists, of course, the kind that always cheer when new rulers march in. Others, perhaps the largest group, were people who just wanted to party, but it seemed to Dieter that many of them were genuinely happy about how things had turned out; that their own base had just barely become part of Gaia before the war had ended.

The flowers were great! Dieter had picked up the guns-stuffed-with-flower symbol from Datalinks files on 20th century social unrest. It was a brilliant symbol: Impossible to misunderstand and almost quintessentially Gaian by its looks.

"Schulz", He heard an awkward voice behind him. It was Derek Lahtinen, whom Dieter knew as one of the more stiff and dutiful soldiers he had met during the war. He was surprised to hear that even Lahti had dropped the "sir".

"I think you should come with me, sir", Lahtinen said, both looking and sounding strange, like a bad actor playing an unusually unfitting role. "There's something you should see."

"What is it?", Dieter asked, but Lahtinen didn't answer or even meet Dieter's eyes, but took the remaining flowers and gave them to the nearest Gaian, signing for her to keep handing them out. Then he started walking without turning around.

"This way, Schulz."

Down a street, through a door up an elevator, into what looked like the office spaces of some government branch, to find Lahtinen pointing at a shape on the floor.

It was logical, of course. He would have done the same thing; had, in fact, ordered people to do it. Go for a figurehead, someone just flown in to be seen among the conquered.

He was crying now, cradling the body, his ears on auto, taking in Lahtinen's embarrassed litany.

"They did it by remote, sir, from the other side of the street. Couple of soldiers left behind for resistance and, and, well, assassination. Area's secured now, they're all dead, sir, the perpetrators. All dead, Schulz."

Trying to comfort me, Dieter thought, as if having my love killed would suddenly make me happy about people dying.

My love, you said there would be time. You promised that there would be time for us.

You asked me if we would ever learn what war really is.

I think I just did.


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