Hello all, I'm back from a long absence in which I've been far too busy to really sit down and write anything.
This little piece is actually a story I wrote for a creative fiction class. I've wanted to write some fanfiction in the Planetside universe for ages, and since the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance. It's just a one-off, and not meant to go anywhere, so don't go expecting any future chapters on this arc.
I am, however, working on a bit of a crossover piece also in the Planetside universe that's going to be much longer than this. Stay tuned...
A One-Man Empire
"The Only Thing We Have To Fear, is Fear Itself"
~Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 4th, 1933
Interview with Commissar Jonathan Archer, Indar Southern Warpgate, 14th week, T.A 3091; Initiated by Medical Director Reginald Breen following Commissar Archer's firing upon 35 allied troops in the 9th week of T.A 3091.
Terran Ministry of Communications approval number 817061-44
FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY: PUBLIC TRANSMISSION WILL BE CONSIDERED TREASON AGAINST THE TERRAN REPUBLIC AND PUNISHED ACCORDINGLY
You get used to it after a while.
The continuous whine of the nanite grids, the growling of the transport aircraft taking off, the rumble of far-off artillery endlessly, fruitlessly pounding against a NS localized energy shield. It all sort of blends into the background, just like ubiquitous ventilators, or road traffic on Cyssor.
[Interviewer's Note: Interview was conducted in Medical Bay 13, Indar Southern Warpgate. Commissar Archer was stripped of all garments and suspended in a biocompatible reconstruction gel via a chest sling, connected to standard-issue genetic sequencers and life support systems. The medical bay housed approximately 40 other soldiers undergoing the same procedure.]
You can't hear much at the warpgate. Not usually anyway- we've got the Vanu pushed back a solid twenty kilometers so it's fairly quiet back here. Everyone's operating out of the forward construct bases. Me, I'm on break, so don't mind the bazillion machines I'm hooked up to. A hundred respawns in a row is about all they'll let you do anymore before pulling you out of rotation to correct genetic material drift. And boy, do I get bored staring at these blank gray duranium walls all day.
Of course there's always a few whimpering Battle Rank 4's in a corner someplace, in every base, fresh out of training with respawn counters not even in the double digits. Like those two over there, hiding behind those back-breaking cots. They've gotta refresh the gene pools somehow… Ahh, the low-ranks. I was one of those once. Innocent and fragile and so desperately wanting to run back to Koltyr to jump back into a VR machine.
The first battle is always the hardest. VR doesn't even get fucking close.
Without warning, your battle HUD springs to life with a welcoming string of beeps, giving you instantaneous readouts of vitals, ammunition, a near-field battle radar, and subvocal communication systems. The field map automatically plots you a course to either the nearest ground vehicle, where you're stuck in a cramped, nasty hellhole of a cabin for the next two hours, or an aircraft dock, where you get a 50/50 chance of either having a competent pilot that gets you there or a BR10 who thinks he's hot shit and plants the nose of his Galaxy into a mountainside the second he gets a single Scythe on his tail.
Maybe it's obvious, but I really hate the fact that Upper Command saw fit to let the cannon fodder into the pilot's seat. All the computer-assisted flight stabilizers in the world can't change the fact that low-rank noobs can't tell the sky from the dark end of a Conglomerate AA cannon.
…I'm rambling again, aren't I? Yeah, once you make it to the 10k respawn club, your short-term memory starts to get a little wonky. And by "a little", I mean I don't remember the last battle I even fought in. Can you remind me?
….No? You don't know which one it was either? Okay then, whatever, probably wasn't an important one.
So, there you are, sitting in the back of a Galaxy-class with 8 other degenerate infantrymen, sitting on the pad waiting for the moron in the Liberator hovering 30 meters above you to clear the fuck out. The pilot's yelling into his comm so loud that the feedback is making into the aircraft PA, there's fifty other randos standing around grumbling on the proximity channels and you're practically melting because it's the fucking sun-scorched Indar Desert and the heavy assault suits weren't designed to keep you cool.
[Editor's Note: Average daytime surface temperature on Indar is 44 degrees Celsius; Relative Humidity 4%; sustained windspeeds of up to 90KPH; see archive MT-09182 for further meteorological information.]
This is usually when the jitters really start to hit.
You think to yourself, "Am I really gonna get sent out there?" You run through your first-cycle training checks: HeX grid connection, nanite controller, HUD readouts, ammo pack, weapon functions, close-range comms, long-range comms.
Still waiting to even get off the ground, you run the checks again. HeX connection, nanites, HUD, ammo pack…
Then you come around again. HeX connection, nanites…
Next thing you know, you're in the air, flying above the godforsaken desert at 240 kilometers an hour, reduced to obsessively checking, rechecking and re-rechecking your HeX connection.
And if there's one thing they drilled into your thick-as-Cortium skull on Koltyr, it's that you never, EVER, EVER lose your HeX world-grid connection. This kills the soldier.
The airfoils clunk into landing position. One last look; HeX connection active. You're safe.
Y'know how I said you get used to it after a while?
Well, I might have lied a little bit.
The initial burst of natural adrenaline, that fades over time. After the hundredth cellular reconstruction, there's not that much left of your natural functions.
But the artificially acute mental state driven by pseudo-adrenal injections… Hooh. That's a high that never gets old. And neither does the fear.
Yes, you heard me right. Me, a BR85 with twelve-thousand respawns under my belt, gets scared. Real goddamn scared. Hell, I almost get scared of being scared.
See, the HeX grid is our lifeline. THE lifeline. You lose your connection to the nearest rebirthing system, you die... forever. That shit scares me. We have entire platoons out there that are a single wide-band subspace link away from getting wiped off the face of the planet, permanently. I'm not sure what they're feeding the new recruits in basic these days, but how they get these kids who are practically pissing in their suits to even leave the respawn tube is beyond me. Even makes me wonder how anyone ever fought a war without a respawn tube nearby.
So like any self-respecting soldier of the Terran Republic, I deal with it by cracking jokes. Jokes about the pilot being a moron (which is usually true), jokes about myself tripping and falling face first into an energy shield (also true!), jokes about the T9-CARV users "overcompensating", jokes about how the Infiltrator ranks are ninety percent female because High Command has a hard-on for spandex covered tits. Y'know, the typical barracks talk. It takes a few operations for the noobs to get in the groove, but by the time they've hit BR10 or so they usually have a pretty decent understanding.
-Of the humor, I mean. Nobody ever really understands the Great War. Maybe that's what makes the fear so... constant. We're fighting against something we can't even understand, but we've been doing it too long to have half a chance of ever understanding something else.
I definitely couldn't go back now- not with the half a million credits' worth of implants that have been poured into me just to keep my body functioning.
Yeah, like I said. Past the 10k respawn club, your body sort of starts to shit itself. Both figuratively and literally. The standard-issue protein packs aren't really forgiving on what's left of my digestive tract.
So, you might see why I can't fucking understand all the propaganda back on Cyssor that paints us infantry as the "great heroes of Auraxis", when we're all just the same scared, mechanically-enhanced machines that shoot, die, respawn and repeat. Makes me wonder why we're even using human beings anymore, what with the crazy number of nanite augments they pump us full of nowadays. They could just make MAX suits remotely operated and practically make the era of regular infantry obsolete.
[Interviewer's Note: Commissar Archer was suddenly quiet and ignored all further lines of questioning for approximately 2 to 3 minutes.]
Hrm, maybe, just maybe… I have it figured out now.
Without the regular infantry, High Command doesn't have anything to wave in the faces of that tiny civilian population left on Cyssor. They don't have those big shiny armor columns to parade down Thomas Connery Avenue just for the benefit of the factory workers and the NC infiltrators lurking in the crowds. Just for show…. Just for show… It's all just for show, isn't it? Who really gets anything out of this? We sure as hell don't. About the only ones who get anything out of this are the goddamn… weapons… manufacturers…
Fuck me, we're goddamn pawns!
[Editor's Note: Intervening 10 minutes of recording was unintelligible and noise-ridden. On-site reports state Commissar Archer forcibly removed his medical equipment and attacked the guard stationed at the room's entrance.]
…You blind, ignorant motherfuckers! We're all being led around like fucking mining droids! Can't you see that Nanite Systems has our fucking [censored] clamped down in their fucking teeth?! WE ARE NEVER GOING TO GET OFF THIS GODFORSAKEN PLANET! WE ARE SLAVES TO THEIR FUCKING REBIRTH TECHNOLOGY!
THE TERRAN REPUBLIC IS A FUCKING LIE! IT'S ALL A GODDAMN LIE!
[Interviewer's Note: Commissar Archer became incoherent and was subsequently sedated by no fewer than four guards and three medical personnel.]
Post Record (see personnel archive MI-591601861):
Commissar Jonathan Archer was medically decommissioned by the Ministry of Warfare in the 16th week of 3091, for reasons of insanity.
Record 817061-44 stricken from the Cyssor cold archives 21st week of 3094.
Commissar Jonathan Archer was discharged to a civilian holding facility for further evaluation in the 24th week of 3094. Archer's current status is unknown to the Ministry of Warfare.
The man watched as the transparent screen of the computer terminal calmly indicated the file had been sent, then dimmed down to its idle state. He leaned back in the standard-issue office chair, rubbed his eyes absently with one hand, and turned around to gaze through his window upon the rumbling, endless machinations of Cyssor's military-industrial complex, glowing agonizingly bright under the dark Auraxian sky.
Had he been doing this too long?
He'd interviewed thousands of the Republic's finest soldiers, from first-week recruits who had a bad brain implant right up to the legendary Mason Goddard himself. Why was this Archer guy starting to get to him?
He stood up and brushed the wrinkles out his standard dark-red office uniform, and poured himself a shot of brandy from the bottle that rested in its rack made of some bright orange native wood.
The tales of onset regeneration insanity had once just been tales to him, distant warnings that would have once been called common-sense. Surely a human body couldn't be blown apart, collected, and reassembled thousands of times without at least a little bit of damage?
Yet Henry Briggs and his crazy Vanu scientists had done it, all those centuries ago, and the Great Auraxian War had raged ever since.
So why is this Archer guy getting to me?
As he lifted the clear acrylic glass to his lips, he mulled over all the men and women whose files had passed over his desk. So many lives, shattered and discarded for the pursuit of… what? A few million square kilometers of mediocre land on a foreign world, separated from the rest of humanity that they had forgotten centuries ago? The pursuit of higher technology, if only to try and kill the New Conglomerate soldiers faster than their respawn tubes could keep up?
He rubbed his eyes again as the comforting burn of the synthesized alcohol worked its way down his throat, and subconsciously asked the computer to make the window opaque. It complied obediently, obscuring the cityscape with a blank white slate.
Another shot of brandy. And another. And another.
Suddenly, he stopped before pouring yet another glass, and slowly turned to face the obscured window again.
What if Archer was right? What if this entire war - No, the entire REPUBLIC – was just a lie?
He asked the computer to unblock the window. The glaring light of the factories below flooded the room once again, and his eyes flitted between the buildings with rapidly increasing concern. After countless decades of looking upon the same view every night before leaving for the barracks, he suddenly realized the curious absence of the Republic's red-and-black triangular logo, finding only a menacing dark gray in its place.
NS… NS… Everything's branded with NS…
The empty glass slipped from his fingers, landing on the thin fiber carpet with a muffled thump.
Archer was right. Nanite Systems… they own us all.