Forest

As was so common these days, the morning started with the roof shaking.

It was a small thing comparatively speaking, not enough to seriously damage the structure they were living in. It wasn’t like the old days either where even something as minor as this could cause a cave in. Since then the walls and roof had been reinforced with steel, even if if one of the tunnels collapsed enough food had been stockpiled for several days until help would get them out. They were no longer on starvation rations, as at this point they were getting supplies from on world and off.

At this point all they got were specks of dust however, enough to make some people shift uncomfortably in their beds. Paurol Defort blinked her bright green eyes and brushed back her hair, sitting up with a start. The panic lasted only for a moment though as she took in her surroundings. A few others were getting up, but many of them hadn’t even gotten out of bed. After a moment she slipped down and went to her footlocker, reaching for her black uniform at the bottom next to a small collection of personal items.

The container didn’t even have a lock on it, but the leader of this particular cell had been decisive in action, anyone caught trying to take advantage of other members of the unit for any reason were to be ‘dealt with’ by the Vanguard Parties elite. The common fiction with groups like this was that if you stepped out of line you would simply disappear, or alternatively that a gruesome example would be made of you. She found that neither was true, not entirely. People were publicly imprisoned, and in some cases shot, but with few words and little ceremony. When their leaders were pressed on why the executions took place they were sometimes met with fiery zeal if the crimes were great, but often with a certain somber tone. As though, treacherous or not, the fallen comrade would be sorely missed.

The command center had come a long way from where it used to be. Once upon a time it was a small room with a few wooden beams. No metal reinforcement, few weapons, and certainly no computers. When you were down here you were blind to the world outside, now agents and cameras provided a window into the outside world. People sat at radio transmitters and coordinated with units on the outside with far more accuracy then back then. Of course the most prominent part was the black and red banner that hung in the center of the room.

The symbol of Intriguerre.

Every planet, if not every cell, had it’s own little styalization added to it of course. They were not a single unified group with one ideology, just a shared goal against the Empire. The Gallente influence manifested in the form of a half black and half green eagle at the triangles heart, showing both their point of origin as well as subtly hinting their association to Clade Veles which had by and large provided most of their support. There were a few Jin-Mei here and there but by and large most of the people in the room were ethnic Gallente or occasionally Intaki. Fewer in number, they nevertheless came because the Kybernaut funding their organization was apparently an Intaki themselves. Once there they had a tendency to establish themselves higher up the food chain as Diplomats and political officers, it had bred some level of resentment and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t somewhat suspicious of their motives herself.

It helped that times weren’t as hard as they used to be anymore. Tensions were always higher when people who were otherwise living comfortable life transferred to barely being able to eat every couple days, now that the surrounding region had been secured they were closer to standard. Among the homeless who flocked to the cause in droves they were, in many ways, living better then how they had before.

Her gaze turned to Antorcus Kaapson. He wasn’t homeless, he wasn’t a combatant either, far too old for that. He was pushing his seventies and weighing one hundred and ten pounds, making the already short man look like little more then a small sack of bones. He had no uniform to speak of, and instead simply wore a basic tanned robe that complimented his long greying white hair. His face was wrinkled and scarred, though she didn’t know from what. While he had no rank to speak of, he rose in esteem among the other members of the Triglavian Revolution for his almost grandfather like attitude and soft but articulate words. For all intents and purposes Kaapson was an ‘honorary officer’, with most of his work revolving around him helping to organize propaganda and keep an ear to the ground.

He caught sight of her almost as soon as she approached him. “Almost used to it at this point.” he said, gesturing to the roof, dust still falling down on them. She smiled and shook her head, arms folding over her chest. “I don’t think I ever will, honestly. Any word from the surface? status of the nearby towns?” for a moment Kaapson looked distant, as if he hadn’t quite understood her question before he replied. “Nothing much, the last bits of resistance fell apart yesterday. The moment they heard a Leshak was anywhere near here they immediately dispersed. I heard one group turned their uniforms inside out and tried to sneak past a checkpoint, they were of course captured immediately.”

“Are they dead?”

“Maybe.”

There was a pause at that, and for a moment a silence hung in the room. After a few seconds she breathed in, recomposing herself and continued. “Any word from up the chain?” at that, he shook his head and turned to face her fully. “Only enough to tell us to wait another day. But we’ve been fighting for so long that I don’t think the revolution will die from one day more. That said, you should go above and tell the others they’ll be waiting a little longer.” he was moving past her even as he said this, as he often tended to do. Old age apparently hadn’t taught him any manners, or perhaps he just wasn’t all there at times like these, it was genuinely hard to tell.

Paurol Deforts hand tightened around a rifle in her hand. She was always a little anxious leaving the safety here, but she had a job to do. Doubtlessly a few others were already gathering to head up above by this point, she figured the old man was right and they could use an extra set of hands.

Back to the battlefield.

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“You know, it is at times like this I wish the Feds were just a little bit more open about their oppressiveness.”

Paurol squinted her eyes a little in the harsh red light of the personnel carriers interior. At some point they captured it from the planetary defense force, it was certainly a step up from sitting in the back of a truck at the very least. At the same time it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, with most of them packed into a small space like a can of sardines. They weren’t sitting on the benches to either side and instead standing, one hand on their rifle and the other on a brace above them. They might need to jump out at any moment, and none of them wanted to be caught with their pants down.

Defort couldn’t see the outside world and that always made her a bit uneasy, only the driver out in front had any real vision and all they had was a pair of very narrow slits to either side and out in the back. She did know that they were being flanked by a pair of technicals however, Gallente hover cars that had a gun mounted on their back and capable of moving quickly from place to place, they were relatively cheap to fit and instrumental during the early stages of the war. She had even driven one for awhile when the fighting first broke out, at one point having to man the gun despite the fact she was never the best shot. When push came to shove, she often just sprayed and prayed, hoping she didn’t hit anything she didn’t mean to hit.

The Gurrelia in front of her looked over his shoulder, face largely hidden by a black mask. He was new though, she could tell, maybe even from off world. At one point she had heard rumors of Kybers bringing in reinforcements from other planets. “Would certainly make our job easier, wouldn’t it? making people disappear scares folks, but it doesn’t always motivate them. When you’re relatively free, the little tyrannies become tolerable, and you hardly notice as the empires whittle your rights away.”

“Heard there was a bloodless revolution halfway across the cluster.” Paurol replied, her eyes just a little distant then. She hardly believed it herself, was almost certain it was at least partially propaganda. But it was a nice thought, especially after being so emotionally and physically exhausted. Out here battle was unrelenting, you could never hold still. First the Triglavians would flip a couple cities and push the Feds back, then vanish into the trees with their supplies while the Feds rapidly regained ground. They couldn’t occupy any space outside the towns deep in their territory like this, to do otherwise was just asking to be shelled, or worse blasted from orbit. So they made a game of flipping towns back and forth, hoping that Edencom would give up before they did, that they would just want to win more then the Feds did.

“A bunch of old dynasties.” she continued, snapping back into reality. “Fell one by one over night, claiming nearly an entire continent. Families that ruled for over a hundred years, all that stability collapsed when a scouting fleet entered orbit and Edencom wasn’t there to stop them. They higher ups wanted the people to fight to death and the people just wouldn’t. Quiet murmurs of protests turned to a roar, people gathered in squares with our flag behind them and listed out demands. A lot of them were soldiers even, turns out people don’t find Bioadaption so scary when their bodies already belong to someone else.”

He just grunted and shook his head, the eye strain of the red lights was getting to him too. “Could they have picked a less…glaring…color scheme though? A little bit more green might make us look less ‘obviously evil’ to the city slickers.” Defort cracked a grin at that, though it couldn’t be seen under her mask. “I don’t know about you, but i’v always been fond of red. I figure it means something much different to them then it does us, who kn-”

The vehicle suddenly screeched to a halt.

They heard a heavy thumping outside and the sound of shouts. The plating around them hadn’t been penetrated but the same couldn’t be said of the underside, soon enough she could hear the driver calling from up front. “Something blew up under us, she can’t move and we’re stuck in the middle of the street. Get out and cover the others!” Defort growled under her breath as the ramp behind them unclamped. As the doors opened she could hear the growing cacophony outside, an exchange of small arms fire and calls for a medic near one of the technicals. Stormy winds were billowing outside and the city streets were alive with movement, she was already moving on instinct.

“A soldiers work is never done.” she could hear someone say beside her as he dropped down off the ramp and into the cover of a dumpster beside them, taking aim.

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No world in New Eden was a stranger to conflict. Wars erupted over the smallest infractions, with the only stabilizing factor being the sheer vastness of space and the aegis of entities far too large for lone groups to pick apart, even isolated communities like Solitude who went out of their way to avoid conflict had once upon a time been rife with crime before the Federation gave it some semblance of order.

Even so, revolutions were an entirely different type of fighting altogether. Few nations in New Eden had not seen battle, but openly violent rebellions against nations that could blast you apart from orbit took a style of combat that conventional warfare simply couldn’t work for. A new doctrine had to be assembled, improvisation was the order of the day. Thankfully, living in Gallente space gave the intrigurre close ties to something that was perfect for their purposes.

The Minmatar market.

Defort brought her submachine gun up in one fluid motion and pointed it in the general direction of the nearest threat. This thing had saved her life more times then she could count, and it would here too as she unloaded a lethal volley of suppressing fire. She didn’t bother to wait to see if she hit or not, that wasn’t the point. The point was to make them duck their head just long enough to dive behind one of the technicals. Cheap, efficient, repairable with almost any materials on hand, and stupidly simple to reproduce en mass. Best of all it was ideal for the tight corridors and streetside fights of urban warfare, making it the weapon of choice both for the Voso cell as well as other cells they were in contact with across Arraron.

She couldn’t help but wince when she managed to look above and get a good look at what they were fighting: These were neither Concord soldiers or Fed goons, both of them had been driven back. They were locals, barely protected and armed with scavenged weapons in a way that was eerily similar to what it was like when they first started out. She unloaded another spray of fire and forced two of them back, making another dash to the nearby dumpster. Hit, move, hit, move, always try and connect to the rest of the group if you are by yourself. It had been drilled into her head at this point and it was almost reflex.

She hadn’t been certain before, but the Gurrelia fighter she had just spoken to was almost a thousand percent a Caldari. As soon as the suppressing fire had been laid down he was moving further up. Two enemies popped out, and two enemies hit the floor as his combat rifle barked out it’s reply. She had noticed more and more of them had been mixed into their forces since the creation of Pochven. Veterans of Sakenta apparently, and she couldn’t help but notice that they appeared right around when the Intaki started taking control of the operation. Part of her was uneasy in the way all Gallente were around them, another found a strangely perverse delight in the idea that the Collectives cause might wind up uniting the galaxy better then the Empires ever could.

Their guns were primitive compared to more modern firearms, but they weren’t crude. Sheer volume of fire made up for killing power and a bunch of unarmored targets would be ripped to shreds. She called for ammo and a clip landed in her hand, she loaded it in one motion and moved to join her comrade at the front.

Their enemies scattered in short order, but from up above one could see more battles just like this emerging both inside the city and those nearby.

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It was hard to tell how long this theater had been abandoned. Was it days, weeks, months, longer? for them, the concept of time had ceased to have any meaningful impact. They had been born, they had fought, they had been wounded, and they had been fixed far more times then they could count. Often those battles took place on the shore outside the flow, back when the comforting void had promised them endless experience. Now they were bound to the ground, somehow they found this place to be something like home regardless.

Part of them longed to return to the shore, to take flight and go back to the place of their birth. But even though they were still capable of reaching the void the shore was lost to them, they simply did not have the technology to go back on their own. Maybe they would one day though and they could return whenever the longing returned, it was a pleasant thought to have as their eyes flickered open.

Red light flooded into the room, illuminating the seats in an ominous crimson glow. Their gaze turned to the wall and the light followed with it, there they could see a number of old posters that had long since fallen into decay. They advertised no small number of films to come out of the insatiable Gallentean entertainment industry. One of them showcased a few ships coated in a striking white paint, this made them hum in something like pleasure as it reminded them of themselves. Their skin was coated the same, perhaps as a form of humor.

Once they had been small, but that was no longer the case. It’s brothers had not grown nearly so much as it, and with some effort it was able to push itself off the ground on it’s numerous legs. It’s red vision panned around and saw that it’s younger kin were still at rest, though some of them seemed to have wandered off. Perhaps they were woken by the same call as it? it was hard to tell. It took a moment to run a diagnostics check to make sure everything was functioning correctly. Guns were operational, scanning equipment functional, ventilation system was online and it’s heartbeat was still strong.

It had always prided itself on maintaining a sense of good health and wellbeing, it could only hope it’s companions were so cautious as well. It’s mechanical legs moved one after anther as it’s eyes passed the old wreckage, a trail of mechanical cabling following behind it like some kind of cloak. Of course to carbon based lifeforms they might seem abominable, but to it? it was the very picture of perfection.

A feed opened over one of it’s many eyes and Antorcus Kaapson’s reports started to flood in from his contacts around the city. Fights had erupted all around it’s hive and were only growing in intensity. They weren’t necessarily threatening the city as their opposition seemed hopelessly outgunned even with their numbers, but a pair of patrols nearby had lost contact and that filled it with concern. Something had slipped past several of their checkpoints and seemed to be closing in on the theater it was now in.

Foreign Narodnya attempting to capture Sobornost Automata. Narodnya will conform or suffer mortification. This will not extend to the Narodnya sub-division designated SARO. Disparu will not be offered a chance at glorification or mortification, only extirpation is acceptable.

It’s thoughts were instantly broadcast to any nearby who could listen, and with that it’s eyes finally turned to the crumbling theater wall and the city beyond.

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Their early memory of existence was, at best, foggy. Images blurred and melted together with one another, but they could pick out specifics with some focus. The ship they born in was unmistakable: A Dragoon that had been set down in some obscure world where the sun was always a deep red, coloring the trees and overgrowth outside in an eerie light. The inside of the ship looked like an Amarrian church in many respects, but many of the finer details were subtly off or slightly askew. The most obvious change was the fact that black and red had replaced what was once shining gold, giving the structure an almost perverse feeling. Or at least, what it assumed the Amarrians would view as perverse.

Hands sifted through mechanical components in that little ‘church’ out in the middle of nowhere, examining bits and pieces with curiosity. Some of them were Triglavian, others were from the Empires, a few were even from the Council of Tyrants though to it’s knowledge none of those components had been used in it’s construction. A Gallentean frame served as it’s base with Minmatar weapons added to it’s systems capabilities a great deal. It was crude compared to something the Triglavians could produce, but it was good enough given the limited technology on hand.

It remembered the golden scepter in particular, a curious item that had been placed near an ‘alter’ in the rooms center. Analysis of it indicated that modifications to it had turned it from an Amarrian cultural symbol into a lethal weapon, though not one that would be of any use to a being with built in lasers. For some reason the object seemed important and it’s creator was grafted onto the stark white armor plating that made up it’s shell. For some reason this filled it with a sense of pride, but it wasn’t quite sure why.

It snapped back to the present as it finished analyzing the burnt and cratered streets of the city in front of it, heavy rain running down battered buildings and pooling along the ground. It analyzed the bits of biomass that were around it and found that there were no survivors among the wreckage. None of that was immediately useful to it at this stage of it’s life, it wasn’t damaged and it had long since grown past the point it would absolutely require biological components in any save the most dire situations.

Still, it needed to analyze who, or what, the biomass belonged to in order to hunt it’s would be hunters. It clambered down from one of the nearby windows and approached a body, checking it’s identification. The majority of these were Intriguerre, they put up a fight but their opponents seemed to be far stronger. The stench of singed flesh wafted through it’s ventilation systems and from it’s brief analysis it recognized that their opposition had been armed with laser rifles, a significant upgrade in technology compared to what was available to the people on this planet. At least, the people who weren’t the Triglavians themselves.

However it appeared that their hunter was not invincible. It didn’t need to scan the last few bodies, as the striking black combat suits told it all it needed to know. It appeared that in a final charge the guerrillas had gotten under SARO’s optimal range and dumped sheer volume of fire on them, shields and armor could only take so much before they were ripped apart. However it didn’t think for a moment that this was their whole force, or that even this group had been wiped out. But now it had a trail to follow, and it planned to stop CONCORD from making a large enough breach in their defenses to uncover the Intriguerres operations in the region.

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“It’d take me the better part of an hour to fix this.”

That was not what Defort was hoping to hear as she sat down just behind one of the technicals, gun resting comfortably in her lap. Being out in the open like this made her very uneasy, and it seemed like she’d be out here for awhile longer while the tech crew worked on the underside of their APC. Casualties had been minimal, but the militia had certainly succeeded in slowing them down. She had reports coming in of fighting breaking out across the city as it was, and while none of what she had heard indicated heavy resistance quite yet, the frequency of the attacks told her that something was up.

Worse still, other members of their little fighting force had started to notice the same thing she had. It was difficult to tell under the masks, but as the medics went around treating the wounded the distinctive markings of Caldari revolutionaries became apparent. She suspected at least two of them were Achura based on their facial features, though if she was honest with herself she had trouble telling the exact difference between an Achura and Jin Mei at times. Likewise while she couldn’t see enough of her companions face to tell if he was from the state or not, the sort of efficiency he exhibited on the battlefield indicated he’d been fighting for a bit longer then the average Federation citizen even before all this.

It could of been the Voso cells more senior membership but she somehow doubted it. She had heard most of them were busy in other parts of the planet, with some rumors even saying a few had been called in to offer their expertise in other farther flung parts of the Cluster. EDENCOM had been backing counter revolutionary operations in numerous planets, even planets in Pochven, but if there was one thing the Gallente were good at it was propaganda. Their leaders might be able to turn the masses on the empires yet.

No one had said anything about it yet, but there was a noticeable sense of unease between them now. That tension was born of the simple fact that most of them had been raised learning the atrocities of the Caldari throughout the greater half of the war, especially among the younger generation Gallenteans who had been around for Mentas Blaques educational ‘reforms’ in schools across Federation space. It couldn’t of been much easier for the Caldari who were much the same, likely many of them had supported Tibus Heth at some point. She half wondered if any of them were Provists, or even members of the Templis Dragonaurs.

She distracted herself by turning her attention to various bits of wall graffiti. Revolutionaries expressed themselves in countless different ways and few were more common then art, or some would say vandalism. She had witnessed some truly stunning pieces taken from across Amarran and Minmatar space at one point, with it’s own rather striking visuals. It tended to be a lot more abstract then what she was used to, with figures that only vaguely resembled humans. Their faces warped into odd geometrical shames, features flatted, often with their eyes blacked or crossed out. Wings and skulls were common as were penitents and banners, fire and blood were a prevailing theme often mixed with the realities of urban warfare. Often angelic figures were wrapped in barbed wire or thorny vines while among city ruins or the wreckage of battles past. This was unsettling enough on it’s own, but when combined with the Triglavian aesthetic it created an eerie occult feeling she wouldn’t be surprised to see in Blood Raider cults, indeed she had even heard a few rumors of Sani Sabik rituals mixing into Gallentean, Minmatar, and Amarrian cells at certain points during the invasion. EDENCOM propaganda, probably, hopefully.

What she was looking at now was much different in design. Generally speaking the art turned from the morbid and dark thoughts so common in the Amarr empire to the hopeful and inspiring, stressing the solidarity of the movement and the yearning for freedom. The eye catching red paint was the most varied part and took prominence over their black coloration to further stress their status as a new light for Cluster, especially when that red light consumed a tightly bound fist or the stern face of a rebellion leader. But there was a darker side to it too, one that hailed from the Grognard Commonwealth. The stark white and red was rumored to have been adopted by a number of Kybernauts and had a long history of rebellion as well as revolution within the Federation. The starkly contrasting colors often led to paintings that depicted more abstract and unnerving concepts, sometimes as subtly as highlighting a particularly inhuman look on someones face, a glint of blood, or the shine in someones eyes. Somehow that seemed to disturb her more then more blunt depictions of death and gore.

She smiled a little as she noticed that her new friend had taken a spot next to her. How long had he been there? she couldn’t quite be sure. Part of her wanted to be upset at the idea of being so close to an outsider, but she pushed it down. If the revolution was to spread it would have to accept all kinds, whether or not they happened to be people she liked. If her suspicions were true she doubted he’d be over eager to share, but that was alright she supposed. Plenty of people around here kept their identities secret, for any number of reasons.

Slowly a frown spread across her features however as he seemed to look up from his weapon. He blinked, turning to Defort with a look of concern.

“…Did you hear something?”

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