(BNS Shinokage, Lupas Sanctuarii Orbit)
I was standing in the secondary command center when Premier Fukuya and General Akagi arrived. Nodding to the two women, I said, “Welcome, ladies, to the Shinokage. She may not be as grand as the Nightforge, but she is the flagship of the Black Star Navy, and I thought you might want to be here when we conduct the strikes that will neutralize the Amazonian threat to Nuevo Edo.”
The Premier smiled, and nodded. “Thank you, Commodore. And it is fine, I assure you. I might be the Premier, but I have spent enough time around military installations to know that they are built with functionality first and comfort somewhere much further down the line. Your ships are the deadliest things I’ve ever seen, though admittedly until your arrival the only warships I’d seen were the Amazons.”
Akagi chuckled, and said, “They certainly have made an impression on the people, I can assure you. When we left to join you on this expedition, there were already people calling the Black Star ships the ‘Kurai Tenshi’, or ‘Dark Angels’. Seeing your ships tearing through the ‘Demon’ forces was akin to a religious experience for some of them, let me tell you.”
I smiled. “Yes, I guess if your enemy is set up as Demons, and another group comes through like the shadow of death and destroys them, then those comparisons are easy to draw. That wasn’t the kind of effect I had initially intended for the Black Stars when I chose their all black appearance, but it works just the same.”
Fukuya raised an eyebrow. Jokingly, she asked, “Oh, if you did not intend to become saviors of lost colonies, then what did you build such a fleet for, in the beginning?”
I chuckled, and said, “Well, my first ship, the Starlight Raven, which you saw when I landed at the quarry, was something I won from a man in a poker game. Unfortunately for him, his ability to hold his liquor was about on par as his ability to keep a person with psychic abilities from reading his mind. When I took possession of the Raven, I saw that she’d be perfect for a smuggler ship. When I picked up the Shadowdancer during the Jagloth incident, I knew I had the beginning of a bounty hunting and anti-piracy fleet. More than a few pirates got suckered into trying to attack a helpless freighter, only for an Assassin to strike from the shadows, wiping them out.”
Akagi nodded. “And you discovered that the ships were just as good in the civil war within the Terran Empire, and expanded into other types of vessels.”
“Exactly. I’ll admit that the psychological impact of ships exploding out of nowhere was quite high during the war. I believe the Usurper forces were calling us the ‘Ghost Fleet’, since all our ships and fighters at the time were stealth models. And it was one of the discoveries we made during the Civil War which is going to allow us to end your conflict with the Amazons without resorting to… unpleasant concepts like genocide.”
Fukuya nodded her head appreciatively. “While I doubt few on Nuevo Edo would complain much if the planet were scoured of all human life, I do not believe it would be the best course for our colony in terms of keeping our souls, for lack of a better term, intact. So, if not genocide, how do you plan to ‘neutralize’ the Amazons? I doubt you intend to create a perpetual blockade, correct?”
“Oh goodness, no. Long term blockades are horribly ineffective in the long run. You spend too much maintaining them, and the people either adapt or you start getting smugglers. Same as with any occupying force in history. If the people are against you, and you’re not willing to kill them until they are cowed, then you cannot hold occupied territory.”
“While we were making final preparations, my forces began a bombardment of the planet with kinetic strikes, taking out their spaceports and surface to space capability. Computer simulations say that, left as they are, it should take them six months to two years for them to regain space capabilities. Naturally, this is unacceptable for the long-term goals, but there are limits to what we can do with orbital bombardment unless we wish to go back to the whole ‘wiping out all life’ concept.”
“Since we’re not going to go killing off the entire population, we had to find an alternative means of keeping them planetbound and removing the indoctrination the nanites they’ve been using for generations has given them. We’ve run preliminary tests on captured Amazons and their pet males. These tests included before-and-after mental and physical screenings, and had a limited control group. Unfortunately, the number of prisoners captured from the enemy vessels was quite small, but computer projections are promising that this is the best choice for keeping the Amazonians from being a problem without killing them all.”
Fukuya frowned. “Well, that is not ominous in the slightest, Commodore. Is it truly necessary to explain what is about to happen in such a way?”
I nodded to the Premier. “Very well, we shall begin the operation.” I looked away from the two Edoans, and focused on the screens in front of me. “Highlight target areas on screen.” Twelve targets on the planet below lit up. “You are looking at the twelve largest industrial nodes, military bases, and population centers on the planet. Status of Inferno Squadron?”
Raven spoke up next to me. “Inferno Squadron is ready and waiting. All bombers have been armed and are prepared for launch. Ghost and Blue Eagle Squadrons prepared for launch as well.”
“Launch the squadrons, and have them gather in the modified groups.”
The three squadrons launched from the Smerti and the Return, and arranged themselves into the new groups, each Dragon bomber flying with an honor guard of a Raptor and a Thunderbolt.
“Give me fleet-wide.”
“Fleet-wide now open.”
“Ladies, Gentlemen, and Others of the Black Star Fleet, I salute you. You have stood in the face of the enemy and shown them that no longer would their barbarous ways be tolerated so long as they were a spacefaring civilization. But as you all know, this enemy is not one that can be reasoned with, it is not one that can be brought to the negotiating table. They have been poisoned by the propaganda and brainwashing of the nanites that have flooded their civilization for generations.”
“We have been tasked with protecting our newfound friends, and with eliminating the long-standing threat of these ‘Amazons’. We are mighty, but we are too few for a prolonged occupation and campaign of pacification. We are vicious to our enemies, but we will not become monsters and engage in the genocide of an entire people. We are firm in our resolve, but we will not see Amazonia become another Jagloth, burnt to the bedrock so that nothing will ever live there again.”
“It is not misplaced pity for our enemies that stays us from that course. Nor are we so coldly calculating that the loss of potential resources is what keeps us from wiping the planet clean. No, we act as we do this day because we are not monsters. We will punish our enemy, and ensure that it shall be a thousand years before they can ever again reach up and touch the stars, and we shall hope that, when they do, they have changed their ways, for we know where they are now, and they can no longer rely on staying hidden and striking from the shadows against an unprepared foe.”
“Commodore Mollen to Inferno Leader. Execute Operation Sagaris.”
I motioned for Raven to cut the channel, and then turned my attention to the screen. The assembled fighters broke into twelve groups, each bomber at the tip of a wedge formation including my two other fighter types. As one, the twelve flights maneuvered, taking up positions around the globe. As one, the twelve flights turned, and dove down into the atmosphere, heading for their twelve targets. As one, twelve bombers released twelve packages, and all twelve flights broke for the skies again. As one, all twelve packages detonated over their targets.
There was no explosion, no nuclear fire or shock wave of kinetic strikes. For a few minutes, it looked as though nothing had happened. For a few minutes, it looked as though the world below would survive the wrath of the Black Star Navy unscathed.
And then the first buildings began to fall. Then the first frenzied communications rang out across the planet, with panicked voiced calling out, screaming in pain and terror. Sometimes they were silenced with a roar, as the world collapsed around them. Sometimes they simply went quiet, with no clue as to what stopped their transmissions.
Soon, the only transmissions were from those outside the target areas, as they tried desperately to figure out what was going on. As they tried, and failed, to outrun whatever misfortune had struck down upon them like the wrath of an angry god.
“By the kamis, what was that?”
I turned to look at Premier Fukuya, and saw that both she and the General had rather stunned and horrified looks on their faces. Good, the kind of people who would enjoy seeing things like this weren’t the kind I wanted to be involved with. There were some horrible necessities that came up in war sometimes, but that necessity did not make it any less horrible.
“We captured a nanoweapon from an Imperial Research Laboratory during the Civil War. It had several other names, but my people have begun calling it Greenwave. The twelve packages that were delivered to the surface of that world each had twenty kilograms of microscopic nanites, programmed to seek out and destroy any technology that is more advanced than the steam engine, using those materials to self-replicate until they cover the entire globe, wiping out all technology past the age of steam. We call it Greenwave because, by the time the nanites have finished, the planet will be primed for a rebirth of natural flora and fauna, restoring it to a more primordial state.”
Akagi nodded slowly, and said, “The tests you conducted, you tested this nanoweapon upon the prisoners?”
“Yes. When the nanoweapon was initially used against Earth at the climax of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, died as a result of the nanites attacking the implants in their brains or other parts of their bodies. At that time, it was a choice between killing them or having them forcibly enslaved by a mad AI intent on galactic conquest. If it had not been Greenwave, it would have been a different method which would have stripped Earth of all life, leaving it a lifeless husk.”
“We did not wish to commit genocide, so I ordered testing to be done, to see what kind of reaction these people would have to the weapon. They do not have implants, like many people in Known Space do, but their bodies, including their brains, have been extensively modified by nanites, which remain in their systems and provide maintenance on their bodies, and are there to destroy the corpses when they are killed.”
“Since you just used this weapon, I can assume that it did not kill the prisoners?”
“Of the forty females and five males captured from the enemy fleet, we lost one male and one female due to nanite self-destruction. Analysis suggests that their internal nanites detected the intrusion in time to send the kill codes and cause the body to self-destruct. Most subjects suffered symptoms from mild discomfort to intense pain, but their nanites did not have time to destroy them before the nanites were destroyed.”
“Based on mental and physical tests conducted before and after exposure, we believe that females will suffer a roughly 8.74% drop in cognitive ability and a 35% reduction in physical prowess over the next six months as cerebral enhancers and physical maintenance nanites won’t be present to continue their functions. Males will have no change to their physical capabilities, but may see as much as a 30-50% increase in their mental capabilities due to the removal of nanites actively interfering with cerebral processes. The numbers for the males in particular are in line with the records for those women who have been rescued from Hundeherstellar owners in the past.”
“However, while the growth in the male’s mental capacity is encouraging, it should be noted that the men will still be largely uneducated, and the removal of nanites will have no immediate effect on the long-term psychological effects of the conditioning and mental rewriting they’ve been through. Though that conditioning will no longer be reinforced by the nanites, it will take time to fade enough for men to break conditioning, and they will still be as uneducated as they were before.”
Fukuya sighed, and said, “It is not instant death, but I cannot believe that the people on the surface will have an easy time of things in the coming years.”
I shook my head. “No, they will not. But they will be alive, and have the chance to become a better society without the forced programming they had been inflicting on themselves for generations. That is the best outcome we could have hoped for, in my opinion.”
In a section of space remarkable only for how empty it was, a small black form sat with its black wings outstretched, taking in everything that it could about what had just transpired.