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Old 2nd February 2012, 14:15
Imagine A Cool Name Imagine A Cool Name is offline
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February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude

(SMAC) Gaians call Spartans war-mongers, but Spartans call mindworm use a crime against humanity. What will waging war do to the soul of the peaceful Gaian people?

We return to the world of 2010 GotM War Crimes, with the Gaian side of the conflict, featuring the finest story to come out of the GotM team in a very long time, included in the scenario .zip attached, and to be serialized here.



DIRECTIONS
1) Download the zip file (From the AC2 site click here) and place it into your main game directory. usually this is: C: \Program Files\Firaxis Games\Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
2) Unzip it there.
3) Start up SMAC (not the expansion), then select "Scenario", "Play Scenario", and then go to the subdirectory "1202 Warcrimes Reverse" and choose the scenario Warcrimes reverse.SC.
4) Choose the difficulty level and the game will automatically load with the Spartans.
(The file with the complete story extracts to the 1202 Warcrimes Reverse folder.)

.................................

War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude


By Rymdolov

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.


......................................
Keep checking this thread throughout the month for the next five parts of the story.
......................................


OBJECTIVES
For GotM 1202, any base on the map counts as an objective.
As Governor of the Eastern region of Gaian Territory, you will have to conquer all Spartan bases at the East of the Freshwater Sea.
You will be eligible for the GotM even if you don't achieve all your objectives. The minimum requirement is 1 (one) conquered/subverted base.

&

WARNING!
You cannot build additional bases in this scenario. The Gaian people are afraid to relocate closer to the Spartan border because of the recent warcrimes. You will have to 'clean' the shores of the Freshwater Sea before the colonists will arrive.
You won't be able to direct the research capabilities of the Gaian Territory or trade techs with the other factions. Remember you are 'only' a Governor! (Of course, you can always steal the precious techs available to the Spartan forces).
There's no Planetary Council in this scenario. This stuff is only available for the 'guys in the big league' (faction leaders). However you will be able to contact the Spartans using the commlink.


CHANGELOG
Habitat Complex available from the begining of the scenario.

The Game can be found here
http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?topic=1217.0

Good luck!

Last edited by Imagine A Cool Name; 6th March 2012 at 20:14.
  #2  
Old 5th February 2012, 15:43
Imagine A Cool Name Imagine A Cool Name is offline
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Re: February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude




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.
  #3  
Old 12th February 2012, 02:32
Imagine A Cool Name Imagine A Cool Name is offline
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Re: February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude

...


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."
  #4  
Old 6th March 2012, 20:15
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Re: February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude




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.
  #5  
Old 9th March 2012, 09:45
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Re: February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude

This scenario has become part of the 2012 Game of the Month Competition. Details bellow:

STANDINGS FOR THE FEBRUARY 2012 GotM COMPETITION:
The standings will be calculated using the following criteria (in this exact order):
1. Difficulting level (transcendent submission beat any lower level submission)
2. number of objectives reached;
3. number of turns needed to reach the objectives;
4. Alpha Centauri score.

meaning:
- the games played on lesser difficulty level won't be able to beat a superior level;
- if we have more players on the same difficulty level, the player with most objectives will be placed higher;
- on the same number of objectives, the scenario completed in less turns will outweigh the others;
- if there will be more than one submission still tied, the Alpha Centauri score will decide the winner.

2012 GotM COMPETITION
The three best results will receive points for the 2012 GotM Competition:
The best result will bring you a 'Gold victory' and 4 points in the 2012 Game of the Month Competition as well as a special badge visible in your profile and your post bits.
The second best result will bring you a 'Silver victory' and 2 points in the 2012 Game of the Month Competition.
The third best result will bring you a 'Bronze victory' and 1 point in the 2012 Game of the Month Competition.

PRIZES:
The winners of the 2012 GotM Competition will receive prizes consisting of downloadable games from gog.com.

All gog.com prizes are courtesy of alphacentauri2.info.

IMPORTANT: for everything concerning submissions, AARs, prizes please use this thread: http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?topic=1217 or use this email address: submissions [ @ ] alphacentauri2 [.] info


Provisional standings for February 2012 GotM:

Submissions for Transcend difficulty level:
1.Earthmichael @ ac2 1st submission: MY2230

2.lorddragonhat by email 1st submission: MY2247
  #6  
Old 23rd March 2012, 20:15
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Re: February GotM - War Crimes II: Operation Vicissitude




The uniformed man was walking faster and angrier than one would think possible among the lush trees, rolling lawns and cheery brooks of the recreation commons at Gaia's Landing. He got more hurried, but also happier, when he saw the striking woman waiting for him under a huge birch tree. She made a mock salute and shouted "Welcome, officer, sir!".

"Oh, quit it, Annika", Dieter answered and embraced her, politician's outfit meeting that of a military man.

"Seriously, look what they make me wear", Dieter said. "But that's beside the point. The thing that bothers me is that I suddenly need a military rank to read 'highly classified documents'. I need permission from the military people to read my own reports!"

"You're so handsome in a uniform", Annika laughed. "Just seeing you makes me want to volunteer."

Dieter laughed too.

"It's good to see you, mad woman", he said warmly. "We're lucky to be able to see each other as professionals."

"Of course", Annika said, suddenly looking very serious.

"Mix work with pleasure, so to speak."

"You're not fooling anyone, you know."

"I know. I told some people at the complex that I was going to see you to brief you today and they have been making crude jokes about it ever since. 'Hey, Jack, come to my office and I'll brief you.' 'Sorry, John, I'm straight.' That sort of thing. Anyway, one thing I've actually been wanting to ask you as a professional is if you know what the Lady really thinks of all this."

"The war?", Annika asked. "Well, the original orders came straight from her. Nobody was consulted."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. I remember her message word by word: 'The Spartans are obviously terrified. Conquer their bases southeast of Freshwater Sea. That should scare them into submission. The governor has free hands as to how it's done. Lady Deirdre Skye.'"

"That's... short."

"Very short, indeed, and very unlike Deirdre. And it arrived almost immediately after that brood trainer had been reported dead."

"That Lindly person? Do you think this could be personal? Would the Lady let her feelings influence the decision to go to war."

"To be honest, I don't know. It doesn't fit her usual behavior, but it's always hard to tell with her. She's very... distant."

"Distant, that's exactly the word for it! She called me in the other day. Wanted to know if her generals are lying to her to keep her calm."

"She did?! Has she given them reason not to trust her?"

"Not that I know of. But if this war is personal, she might have. Was she close to Lindly?"

"I know that Lindly worked closely to Deirdre, what with the brood training and all."

A thought struck Dieter.

"Were they lovers?"

"No. Not that I know of. In fact, if they were, it's the best kept secret in all Gaia. People like you would have known, for example."

"Probably. But Deirdre is the one person who might be able to keep a secret like that from me. Anyway, I've been thinking that both me and Michel have been focusing too much on the peripheral parts of Gaia, neglecting the centre."

"That's a shame. I know how fond you are of palace conspiracies..."

"Yeah", Dieter mumbled, lost in thought. Then he shrugged and said "Look at us! We've hardly seen each other since the war began and here we are talking about work!"

"That's who we are. What do normal people talk about these days?"

"Well, mostly the war."

"We're perfectly normal, then."

"I am normal, you are perfect."

"Oooh, that's smooth talk, Mr. Propagandist."

"I mean it", Dieter smiled.

And he did. He remembered when he was a young, promising executive arriving at Gaia's Landing for the first time and meeting the slightly older Talent who'd been given the task of showing him around and teaching him some of the workings of Gaian administration. Since the Talent Location Program was still new, Annika was the first confirmed Talent Dieter had ever spoken to, that he knew of. He was overwhelmed with the impact she made on him and had started to think that Talents really might be the next step in human evolution. She always seemed to be able to stay in tune with his thoughts (and a little ahead of them), getting positive feedback from her made him feel high with pride - and just spending time with her made him feel as if some unknown god had performed a miracle just for him. It wasn't until she met him at a social gathering and, somewhat nervously, confessed that she had similar feelings towards him that he understood that it wasn't a matter of Talents or non-Talents, but a different miracle altogether: Love.

His memories mingled with his feelings in the present and made him look at the Rec Commons with fresh eyes: at the students helping each other out with their work, the children playing, the loving couples and all this taking place among the trees, in a small bubble of perfectly tuned Earth, with state of the art technology invisibly maintaining an environment that the human race had been tuned to by tens of thousands of years of evolution.

"This is what we are for", Dieter said, extending his arm to take in the surroundings. "We always talk about what we are against, but this is what we are for. We are not at war with nature, but we bend it slightly to fit us, to make us happy, to give the monkey what it needs to be happy through nature and the angel what it needs to be stimulated by technology and in between we find ourselves being humans. That's what being Gaian is all about, not being against pollution, but being for humanity, including the environment human beings need to stay happy! We should be telling this to the other factions! They would have to listen to that!"

"They would listen, but what would they hear?", Annika said. "The Morganites poison yet another river to be able to drown themselves in useless gadgets and they call this 'creativity', even 'freedom'. In the Hive people dressed in coveralls work their hands bloody for the sake of their leader, and they call this 'equality'. And the Welcoming Ceremony is both the most dignified and the most well-documented ritual on Planet and still the other factions call it 'dancing naked through the trees'."

"I guess you're right. The Morganites only come to the ceremony because they want to sell pictures of naked skin, the Peacekeepers just want a chance to say 'look at the Gaians, they are just like us only stark crazy' and I don't want to know what the Believers make of it."

"I didn't mean to be cynical, love. When the war is over perhaps we should shift the focus of our communication. Somewhat less threats, somewhat more promises, maybe."

Dieter sighed. "If the war ever ends."

"The war is going well. The eastern governor is doing a great job. It will end in victory for us. I'm more worried about what the war will have done to us by then. Have you noticed people getting more aggressive? Not just towards Spartans, I mean, but towards each other."

"I have seen signs of it. Theoretically, though, being hateful of our enemies should be almost as bad to a Good Gaian."

"Yes, of course." It was Annika's time to sigh. "We know so little about war. To the Spartans it's a fact of life, something their society is always preparing for. We, on the other hand, are constantly trying to avoid it, to suppress anything that we feel resemble it, and that's why we are moving in the dark now. What is war to a society? What does it do to it? What is war, really? We don't know. Do you think we'll ever really learn what war is?"

"Well, it's been my job to make us stay Gaian through the war. Frankly, I'm more worried that it will never end. And have you thought about what will happen to those Spartan bases? Once the war is over we'll have what amounts to a huge ethnic minority in Gaian territory."

"They will love their freedom! They will learn to be Gaians."

"Yes, and guess who'll be enrolled as their teacher? No time for us, just more work, even after the war's ended."

Annika smiled again. "Oh, quit your whining, soldier. You know you love your job. And there will be time. We don't have to rush through short lives like our ancestors on Earth. There is plenty of time, Dieter."

Dieter smiled back, but it was her smile, not her words, that convinced him.

"And now", Annika continued, taking his hand and leading towards one of the privacy areas, "I don't think I've been adequately briefed lately."

For a while they managed to forget the war.
 


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