[Encrypted as heck for discussion about war preparations and hints of our diplomatic backchannel]
One injection and uncounted tiny robots swim into my body, it’s odd. I can tell they are there, but it’s ignorable. Like getting a new filling – it feels weird at first, then in a couple of weeks you can’t remember it being different. They’re hard wired for this one task and will someday have to be replaced. I’ll study them. Take notes. See how they feel and work. Adapting them to the Tikket is going to take a long time – the biology is very different and we don’t know much about their aging. But I’m starting on feasibility research.
The Janus Three is headed out to the Belt to be the Belters’ base. I’ve got a psychiatrist trained to help Venus 3 on site, but I’ll still be in touch for sessions.
Meanwhile AUD1 and most of the Contact Team are trying to talk to the planet. It’s slow going. I swing by the lab when I’m on Aurora rotations to see what’s up and whether they are getting enough rest, but I’m not a mathematician.
We’ve got a team back on the Island of Understanding. Desert Bloom sent three Blossoms (black, red, and purple). The black one does all the talking, the others are “yes” bugs. No sign of Scorpion Bane or the Sands.
There are rumors of war. Coral Bloom reports that Scorpion Bane and the Sands have gotten very quiet on the psi-nets and dream web. From other sources, we hear that the rebels are preparing to starve out Desert Bloom. Our source says this has been planned for a while, but after we arrived. It’s our fault. This is new, unprecedented in Tikket warfare.
We meet with Madame President and tell her what we’ve heard. Do we intervene? With much reluctance no – we’re treaty bound to let things play out on the desert continent. We watch the bugaloo herds from space.
They begin to move. Nine hives have gone silent and left the fungal network. Coral Bloom isolates herself. Our contact is through Ozone and his echoes in Coral Bloom’s hive, but we’ll send a radio to her. Desert Bloom has vastly reduced psi power available to her.
The Tikket on Understanding Island suddenly suspend negotiations and go to their dome, their ants are on alert and a bio-tank has come above ground in a defensive position. Two diplomats meet on open ground – it’s not clear they are in contact with Desert Bloom anymore. We hunker down and watch.
With some effort, we create a telephone tree of primes and echoes to reach from us to Coral Bloom to Scorpion Bane. Things are going well for the rebels. Casualties but less than expected. New tactics from the rebels are helping. Desert Bloom responds with traditional Tikket tactics. Some of her allies have been removed and replaced with Scorpion Bane’s ally queens. The big mega-hive is cut off.
Do we take advantage of this to strike. No. We need to be sentients of our word. Instead, we watch, we wait, we prepare in case we are attacked. I start preparing for a humanitarian aid if we’re asked and can go. I don’t like sitting on my hands, but it’s not our fight.
Madame President has concerns that Desert Bloom might make a last-gasp attack on the data groves. They’re guarded by fire ants, who are loyal to her, one per grove. Marcus gets the job of planning a raid to defend the two oldest groves. He wants to fly it and probably will. I want to go – there’s no one better at getting field casualties back into the fight. It’s a risk, but it would be doing something.
For now, I need to be at Bayside and Aurora, working on the nanite project to see if it could be adapted in time to tempt some of the loyalists away. Eventually, we reach the end of what I can do with what we know. It’s feasible. We need to talk to Coral Bloom for more information on Tikket biology to see how to make it work.