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[2006: MAR-APR] Bitter Fruit

Ryan Horn

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The pounding on the door was growing louder. They didn't dare risk a stray shot, hitting something in here, so there was no weapons fire. But even with the reinforced door, it was simply a matter of time. He looked back down at the paper in front of him. Perhaps, the low tech solution would allow him to put a stop to them. Or at least explain his actions. Once again, he scanned the paper, then began writing, desperately trying to ignore the ever growing intensity of the pounding.

“If you are reading this, then I am dead. Corny I know, but far too true. I have managed to win the war, only to discover it was simply a battle and in doing so have lost a far greater war. As with many things of this sort, it all started very simply, and with the very best of intentions.”

“You see, we were fighting a war. More to the point, we were losing...”

He looked at the reports in front of him. They were losing. Perhaps not dramatically, and not without losses on their opponents' sides, but losing none the less. They needed an edge, something to shift the balance back. And based on the newest round of testing, they had it. He just had to convince everyone to use it. He looked up at the rest of the council in the room. He was the only person there without the formal ranking scheme used by the military, although his position gave him a status approximating many there. As the current speaker ended this description of their situation, he cleared his throat to get their attention.

“Ah, excuse me Sirs, if I may address the council?”

The graying leader of the council nodded. “You may.”

He stood up, passing documents out to the council members. “What you see before you is my proposal to the council. As the previous speaker made abundantly clear, we are losing. I provide a way to not only match our opponents, but to surpass them.” He paused, allowing them to read the first page. As the heads of the council members raised up to look at him, he continued. “One of our major problems has been lack of coordination in a fight. Our opponent's ability to scramble communications has allowed them to avoid our traps, and spring their own. Thus, I suggest we no longer use external, and easily jammed communication methods. Instead, we will have a communication network, where even those jammed provide data.”

The balding man on his right, his uniform announcing him to be part of the Marines, spoke. “Excuse me, but how will they do that if they are jammed? I thought you were offering a method of communication that couldn not be jammed.”

He looked over at the leader of the Marines. “If I could provide that, it would make things easier. However, with this process, there is an immediate notice when someone is jammed. And, with a living “net” of people moving in on a position, we can triangulate the center of the jamming field. Allowing us to either move to engage it, or to avoid it.”

“But is it truly necessary to implant it into their bodies?” Came the question from the head of the table.

“Unfortunately, yes. For us to provide the updated link, and the firing benefits listed in my proposal, we need to use the soldiers own brain to act as a processor.” He held up his hands, forestalling the mass of questions headed his way. “The process uses the 80% of the brain not fully utilized. There will be no 'bleed through' or brainwashing.”

The head of the council scanned the room, receiving nods from all those present. “Well professor, you have a go. Let us hope this works as well as you believe it will.”

Initially, it did work just as well as he'd thought it would. Their forces, now formed into "Battle Organizations", were able to stall, and eventually begin turning back the assault. Their soldiers working in an organized and coordinated manner overwhelming the forces arrayed against them. However, as the weeks passed, the enemy became more organized, and if anything, more fanatical. Finally capturing one of the enemy revealed the problem. They had adopted the same process that he had generated, and included an implanted device to auto-inject medicines or painkillers. Working feverishly, he was able to adapt that to the previously implanted device, as well as a new targeting system.

Weeks later, the enemy came up with the next round of improvements, the most devastating yet. Their soldiers carried an injected substance that numbed the will, allowing those affected to be turned completely. Suddenly all the captured prisoners were being used against those they used to serve. Weeks passed without him, or his team being able to find any way to counter, or to duplicate that technology. Working late one night, his team used the devices on themselves, suddenly combining their thoughts and intelligences into a mental network. While he wasn't certain this was the best idea, it did allow them to recreate the substance, letting them use it on their captured people. Unfortunately, even what became known as the “brain trust” was unable to find a way to return affected people to their pre-injected state. They were able to turn the situation around once again by linking the “trust” with the men on the field. Strategic decisions were being made all the way down to the tactical level, and implemented with a nearly instant response.

He began hearing rumors of disappearances, but thought nothing of them. The members of the “trust” also began speaking in plurals. “We” or “us” instead of “I” or “me” became the pronouns. As all of this was happening, the war ended.

A final strike by their opponent, sending a foul smelling gas over much of the population, enraged the populace enough to justify a massive strike. In a matter of days, the battle was over. The Trust, now consisting of the entire military council among others, announced the discovery of the anti-toxin for the plague that had been discovered in the attack. Millions lined up to receive the injection.

It was during a standard checkout of one of the captured opponent's men that he made a shocking discovery. He was tied to the Trust's communication network, and had been for a week prior to the launch of the gas attack. Extracting the information, he was able to determine an even greater shock, the gas was simply foul smelling, the “cure” was a means to inject people with the will numbing serum, making them into more people controlled.

“It's for the best you know”

Startled by the voice, he turned around. The head of the council stood there looking at him in that distant, not quite fully present way. “You will join us, adding your collective skills and knowledges, then we can guarantee our safety.”

“NO! I won't be part of some...some Collective!” As he spoke, the body under him reached for his arm, but missed as he yanked it back in fear. Turning, he ran to his lab, and barricaded the door. The pounding started soon after.

“Which is where I am now, making this possibly very final entry into my logs.

There is hope, for I have found the weakness to them. There is a signal designed to prevent the accessing of higher brain functions. I should be able to send it like a virus through their network. That should force everyone to drop out of the network. However, if this doesn't work, I have included my notes so you can...”

As he wrote down those words the door caved in from the repeated attacks. Stepping through the destroyed doorway, the head of the council smiled disarmingly.

“Come with us, you are needed to join your knowledge and abilities. We will finally have peace, and be able to explore the stars.”

Grabbing the device he'd been working on, he replied. “No, we may have peace, but it won't be your way.” Stabbing his finger onto the button, he watched as those in the room swayed as if an invisible wave had struck them. “Councilor? Are you ok?”

Where before a distant look had been in the councilor's eyes, now there was nothing recognizable. “You will join us, you will add your technology and knowledge to our own. Do not resist, it is futile.”

Shocked, he simply stood there as one injected him in the arm. Suddenly he felt himself drowning in the rush of thoughts, the cacophony of mental voices. Worse, he felt the effects of the virus that he'd just sent. However, even operating at the speed of thought, he had as much ability to stop it as a cup of water onto a firestorm. His last thoughts were to wonder where he had gone wrong.

The units standing in the room filed out. The newly acquired unit, member of Battle ORG 323, bent over to add the Collective's message to the log.

“We are Borg, your technology and knowledges will be added to our Collective, resistance is futile.”

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