To Breed A Weapon (FT SIC, Invite Only)
Liriel sat at her desk in shock. She had just received a message from Military R&D.
What was left of the Third and Fourth Fleets had just returned from battle over Terivine. Less than one fleet had returned from the battle, and they were now repairing at Gravity. They would be combined into one fleet and the shipyards would work tirelessly to recover it to full strength as soon as possible.
This didn't effect her, what did effect her was the information they had brought back with them. Once again Tidan had witnessed the power of the Kythons. After the first battle where they had seen the strength of the kythons Tidan had tried a similar project of their own. It had been codenamed Project Starfall.
Liriel and her team had trained Comet Hyren (http://images.filecloud.com/161801/1comethyren.jpg) (a space capable species native to Abwyn) to work for the military. The project had been cancelled almost imediately. The training went very well, but as powerful as the creatures were they were just no match for modern weapons.
The message that she had received read:
This is to notify you of the immediate recommission of Project Starfall. Your team has been added to and will begin work on the project at the expense of all others at the beginning of the week.
She didn't know what had changed, but obviously it was important.
The team working on Project Starfall had gone from a small group of biologists and trainers to a massive team including scientists from numerous fields.
Liriel was hard at work.
Since the project has started again she had gathered up all the trained Comet Hyren from the original project, about one hundred, and began the genetic calculations for manipulating the species.
One of the major failings of the creatures as a weapon was its armor. Its natural armor made it one of the most powerful creatures around, but they still weren't strong enough to withstand most anti-fighter weapons.
Genetic engineers worked long hours with supercomputers trying to find a way to manipulate the genes of the hyren in order to change the molecular structure of the creature's armor. They didn't know yet how strong they could make it, but the idea wasn't unprecedented and wouldn't be too hard to improve their strength somewhat.
The slow part, once the genes were identified, was doing this to all of the creatures. Once the project was completed, the cloning process would need as many unique individuals as they could manage to ensure genetic diversity. This was the only hope to help defend the creatures against tailored bioweapons.
The first few attempts had been completed. The team had managed to change the armor into a more resistant material. They had also compressed the molecular structure making the armor more dense. Its claws were altered to crystaline carbon.
"Ok lets get this test underway." Liriel said as she and her team stood by waiting to test the strength of a sample of the armor.
One of the technicians placed the armor and then moved back to the controls. He pressed a few buttons and started the count down. "...3...2...And...Firing."
A large energy cannon fired at the armor, mimicing one of the strongest energy anti-fighter weapons they had. Amazingly it held up better than expected. The armor was heavily damaged and would likely buckle under another hit, but this was an ideal shot at point-blank range, something that would rarely happen in the field.
The second test was more disappointing, the kinetic impact test. The armor still wasn't strong enough and failed during this test when a large metal slug was fired into a fresh plate.
It took weeks to figure out how to fix this problem. It seemed like they had reached the limit of how strong they could make the hyren's armor. Then one of them had a break through, and after a few more weeks of ironing out the details it was done. They managed to prompt the armor to form its own carbon nano-tubes. This dramatically increased the physical resistance of the armor, and it proved to be enough to pass all the test criteria set for the project.
It had taken over a month to take the research they had done before the original project was cancelled and practically produce the results. Liriel left the genetic engineers to finish repeating the process on the other genetic patterns and prepared to start the next stage.
The lower hyren like the Comet Hyren (Hyr Astrum) is related to Tidani Hyren (Hyr Sapien) in about the same way many forms of primates are similar to humans. This is what makes this next stage possible.
Genetic engineers and biologists took the genes from Tidani responsible for their telepathic abilities. They added this to the hyren to give them a form of psychic link.
After much manipulation and testing the link became stable. It was different than the tidani link in a few ways. It was used for more than just communication. The link allows them to see and know what each member of the group sees and knows, acting like a sort of hive mind but with a few leaders and no overmind.
A side effect of the procedure allows Tidani to give telepathic orders to the leaders and keep control over the swarm.
With the initial altering finished, lists of tests were preformed to ensure the link was working properly. Long term observation will continue throughout the duration of the project to ensure it is stable and no anomalies appear.
After adding the telepathic link work was focused on increasing the intelligence of the hyren. Mindless drones on mass could probably do the job, but the powers at be didn't just living torpedoes. They wanted soldiers. Soldiers need to be self aware, they need to understand tactics and command structure, and they need to be able to learn.
And so the team gambled. They spliced genes for Tidani brains into comet hyren dna. Not all of them, but enough. The result was increased intelligence, a sense of identity, the ability to learn new things, and the chance to become more than they were. In short, sentience. They weren't as smart as Tidani were, about the intelligence of a child, but it was enough. The new specimens showed signs of adapting to their new abilies, they started to pick up tricks and tactics from the trainers faster than ever before.
Large numbers of the test subjects began rejecting their brain tissue, but from these set backs theories were created, problems learned from and solved, and more successes achieved.
In all by the time all of the rest of the specimens had been adapted, about 3 months after the last after the last stage completed, almost 2/3s had succeeded. 58 unique strands of dna were created and were ready to start testing.
Liriel leaned back in her chair. She couldn't believe how much they had accomplished. It was truely a national effort. Scientists from across the Confederation working in labs over three different worlds had finally done what she had started out trying to do all those years ago. They had created a superior form of the lower hyren, evolved to sentience.
What do the Creators think of our work. She thought. Would they be pleased, or angry?
Training was going spectacularly. Amazingly a side effect of the telepathic link meant that after the training of the first hyren was complete, all the others reacted as though they had already been through the training. They performed each of the exercises perfectly the first time, as though they had also gone through all the times it took the first one to get it right. This made the training of the rest of the test group extremely fast and seemingly unnecessary.
Unfortunately, what the military advisors had assumed at the beginning of the project began to be very clear to everyone involved. The hyren needed more than just brute force to be effective in combat.
Infact the first combat tests, though small in scale, were massively disappointing. Almost all of the force was tagged as lost. Things only got worse when simulations projected what a larger swarm would do. Their diamond claws couldn't do enough damage, they couldn't get through shields, and all they could do was ram other fighters.
They needed a weapon and some form of defense.
The weapon came quickly to the scientists and military advisors. They began creating a gland and cavity in the head that would create and store plasma which could be expelled in bursts. The burst was only a light one, but it was enough to do some damage.
The defensive measure was not figured out until long after the plasma weapon was working. The team was pretty much stumped.
This barrier halted the project for months until one of the team members began sifting through the databanks. Talaax. Once an ally of Tidan, they used a great amount of organic technology. They had a creature they used to manipulate gravity for defense and propulsion. Dovin Basal.
If only Tidan had purchased a few of these creatures when we were still allies, things would be so much easier. Never-the-less inspiration had been given, now work began on creating our own version of the weapon.
It took a great amount of time. Eventually an organ was created that would mimic the manipulation abilities of the dovin basal's but on a fraction of the scale. Just enough for the personal protection of each hyren, enough to improve their speed and agility, and enough to drain a small hole in a shield to let them smash their way through.
It was a pale shadow in comparison to its inspiration, but it was enough for its purpose. The hyren swarm was now stronger, under a hive mind, smarter, with a light weapon, and a means for defense.
Production began as soon as the tests were done. The first few batches were to be cloned from the original 58 specimen until their numbers were sufficient. Afterwards numbers would be bred from the 58 producing a sustaining race of the weapon creatures.
The first stages and tests had been completed but the true tests were yet to come.
Space Between Tidan and Core systems
A small group of Core warships had been spotted just outside Tidani space. Instead of sending an intercept force, Naval Command decided to use this as an opportunity to test the Comets in action.
Three Quor class destroyers arrived in the area, each had about 100 Comets attached to the outer hull. When they identified and engaged the enemy ships, a controller aboard one of the destroyers gave a command and the Comets pushed off from the ships into a cloud around them.
The destroyers held their fire, and after a few shots at them, the smaller Core ships soon realized what the real threat was. A light show of anti-fighter fire and flak flew up around the ships as the Comets moved in.
Comets dove and turned in a ballet of movement through the deadly display. Dozens of them bounced off the shields trying to weaken them. Many took hits right away but survived thanks to their strengthened armor and grav shields.
Plasma and armor pounded the shields, eventually weakening them enough for them to use their grav shields to drain a small hole and force their way inside.
Once inside the shields the Comets dug into the hull with their diamond claws and plasma. Some moved to the defensive turrets ripping them off the ship or smashing them into worthless rubble.
All over the ships Comets were landing and smashing their way inside. Plasma and claws sparked as they ripped at the hull. Finally they began breaking through. Once inside, the Comets went to work destroying vital equipment and prowling the corridors killing the crew.
The controller aboard the destroyer repeatedly ordered them to secure the ships and reduce casualties so they could interigate the crew. However as soon as the action began the Comets became so focused on the battle they ignored all orders sent over the link.
It wasn't long before all the enemy ships were crippled and their crews had been butchered. Atleast once the action was over the Comets started listening to the controller again, and despite the massacre they did now have control of some of the Core's ships.
Liriel sat in the briefing room with the military brass monitoring Project Starfall.
The commander scrolled through the datapad he had. "The Comets actually performed quite well. We have two suggestions for improvement. First off, we need you to come up with a way to keep control over them in combat. Without that they are as much a liability as a weapon. The other problem, is that the plasma weapon was not very effective. It needs to be more powerful. Other than that, the test was quite adequate including the level of losses."
The Comet's plasma weapon was upgraded. It was made more powerful and the cavity a little larger to hold more.
As for the solution to controlling the Comets, that took some research by the team. According to the readings from the tests, during the battle the magnitude of information passing across the telepathic link completely overpowered anything coming onto the link from an ouside source like the controller. It seems the link between Tidani and Comets is much weaker than first estimated.
The solution to this problem was to create commander Comets which would be extra sensitive to Tidani telepathy and then control the rest of the drones. To do this it was necessary to completely replicate a Tidani brain in the Comet. This would help connect them to the Tidani link as well as the Comet link.
The side effect of this process made the commander Comets as smart as Tidani.
Liriel was sitting in her office going over the latest data on the progress of the adjustments being made to the project when the alarm went off. She ran into the laboratory to see what was wrong.
When she got there she saw one of the commander Comets had broken free of the observations cells. It had knocked two of the guards unconscience and was in the process of freeing the others. She ran onto the catwalk above the cells, ducking suddenly to avoid a blast of plasma.
"What are you doing!" She yelled.
We will not fight your wars for you! It yelled back through her mind. You never gave us a choice!
"Our wars are your wars! Our planets are your planets! What effects us, effects you also! We are giving you a chance to play a part in things!"
Then you are no longer fit to act on your own. If you want us to fight we must be given an equal role!
"We gave you life! You would still be crawling around in the dirt hunting small animals if it wasn't for us! You owe us your loyalty and lives!"
SILENCE! WE OWE YOU NOTHING! WE DIDN'T ASK YOU FOR ANYTHING!
"WE MADE YOU MORE! GAVE YOU A CHANCE TO PROTECT YOUR PLANET!"
YOU CAN KEEP IT! WE SERVE OURSELVES NOW!
The leader had freed the rest of the commanders now. Liriel looked back, security still hadn't arrived and there was nothing she could do.
The Comet commanders smashed their way out into the corridores and made it out of the base. The 58 prototypes made their way to orbit where they overpowered and boarded one of the national guard frigates. They let the crew eject, then used the ship's FTL drive to boost them out of the system.
Liriel once again sat infront of the military officer.
"How did this happen? Do you know how much money we spend on each of these prototypes you make?"
She looked down at her pad but did not read it. "We made the mistake of making them smarter and letting them grow naturally. A mistake that will not be made again. We have already taken steps to ensure that this will never happen again."
"Really, and how is that?"
"We have started all new command class Comets with an imprint of a veteran Tidani fighter wing commander. This creates a foundation of tactical knowledge as well as loyalty to the military command. On top of this through development we conduct psychological exercises designed to ensure loyalty and obedience."
"How can you be sure that this won't effect the others? Are you taking steps to ensure their loyalty too?"
"The commanders do pass on experience through the link, but only basic knowledge that is compatible with the less intelligent minds of the drones. All things above that level, including politics and questioning obedience is beyond the ability of the drones. It is only the commanders we have to worry about. And so far we have had no reoccurances."
"Very well. I must say doctor, this set back had me worried. Over all however, we are very pleased with your results. We have gained a valueable weapon thanks to you. One day our survival may depend on these creatures. Your country owes you a great debt Maam."
"Thank you Sir."
The 58 hyren that had escaped found their way to a rarely visited planet. They stayed here and harvested the planet's wealth and populated their species. Twenty-Two, the one that had originally freed the others, became the leader of the flight. Under his guidance the flight prospered and their nests were filled with eggs.
Life wasn't always peaceful however, soon a rift began to form. Twelve, the most dominant of the group, started challenging Twenty-Two openly on numerous issues. While Twenty-Two had been the organizer of their escape, he did not hold that they should fight against their former oppressors. He felt they should live their own lives. Twelve wanted to gain as much power as they could and return to strike down the Tidani.
Tensions rose until finally Twelve took a small group of supporters and his kin and left to find power that would bring him to victory. He reached out and sensed a source of great power, a world whose inhabitants grow strong under the influence of a magical spring. He gathered his forces, and threw parting insults. In space they clung together in a cluster and combining their gravity power launched off into the void.