[Encrypted where needed for the war prep discussions]
There are sentients suffering and dying during this war, and I can do nothing to help. Instead, I go from Bayside hospital to the outlying outposts and the Fisher King nest to Aurora and then its outlying outposts, to a short stint in orbit, and back again. Two weeks with Cailean and the kids out of every six. I’m tired, a bit saddle-sore, but hustling about keeps my mind off the war I can’t intervene in. It is somewhat a blessing that we hear the news by “telephone” from Scorpion Bane. It is not like Aute where there would have been pictures and interviews on every news link. And it must be far worse to be in the midst of battle in a city of telepaths, even if their data networks are down. The Tikket have not gone to war in two centuries – since Desert Bloom took control – I don’t know how they’ll maintain morale on any of the sides. Most of what we hear is about fighting in Radiant – a key city near the central mega-hives. When it falls, it cuts Desert Bloom off from a line of allies.
There are new people. We’ve been waking Freedom’s refugees from nano-status. There’ a mixed-lot – those desperate enough to be willing to try an untested technology in hopes of an uncertain refuge. And, like all the newly awakened, they’re stumbling into Terra Nueva’s many natural hazards and having to adapt to our air and pollens.
Food is a bit tight – more fungus, less real meat and plants. Housing is tight. We’ve had fights over space. The Belters have their own psychological and health issues. They are two to four generations from the Shattered World – we slept enroute.
When I’m in orbit, I hear the hopeful discussions of the new station on the big asteroid we flung in. With the Freedom’s tech, it’ll have gravity plating – no need to spin it. The techs chatter and gossip about the new factory, space doc, and adapting Janus 3 into the new station. Then I look through a window down at Terra Nueva and at Adams’ rocks hanging in orbit waiting.
And I’ve got a side project. Coral Bloom has agreed to send us one of her Echoes and an elderly Tikket who no longer has echos to help work on the nanite project. This is mostly one for the engineers, but I’m consulting as best I can.
AUD1 remains obsessed with trying to talk to the planet. He’s right. It is cool. But it has waited five years, it can wait more if needed. Adams, on the other hand, is obsessed with using the Freedom’s tech to make a new business suit. AUD1, Adams, Marak, and Vicinius hole up working on this for weeks at a stretch – they make progress, then hit a wall where they need to develop new software to proceed.
Things come to a head. Radiant falls to Scorpion Bane for the second time. Two of the Blossoms on Understanding Island ask for diplomatic protection. Marcus flys in an extraction team and evacuates everyone to Aurora. Watching the data centers, we see struggles beginning between the giant telekenetic bugshrooms and Desert Bloom’s fire ants, with the bio-tanks as weapons on one side or the other. Marcus flies a strike team down. I watch, too late to go. (And suspect my brother intended that.) A second Pegasus drops a team at a different grove. We watch the fighting. Freedom’s fighters make strafing runs on the tanks controlled by ants. The ants fight to the last – they don’t give up; neither do the bugshrooms in the groves where they loose. We send the Freedom’s fighters to aid at other groves. When the dust settles, a quarter of the Tikket data groves are burned. No casualties among our people – minor injuries. The Blossom refugees were watching with us at the Aurora command center. They’re shocked and unhappy. This attack was not an acceptable thing. Desert Bloom falls. We’re told she’s dead. Vicinius suggests we offer humanitarian aid. I send Madame President the plan I’ve been working on for weeks.
I’ve spent more time in Fisher King groves than nearly anyone else. The one Marcus dropped his team at was weird – the trees were in a spiral pattern and much closer together than I’ve seen before. I need to talk to the Bayside nest shaman, and probably suggest a team go look.
Marak asks about the fate of Adams’ rocks. They’re obvious to anyone in orbit, and anyone on the ground who thinks to look. The program will be transferred from Adams to ISP.
Since I have Madame President’s ear and she’s in a planning-for-the future mood, I ask her again about the Senate’s plans for advising parents about the gene-modifying-prion and the potential to vaccinate against it. I’m frustrated that I can’t tell my patients what I know and let them make their own decisions. She agrees to put it to the Senate with a recommendation to tell the people what we know and let them know their options.