Foreword: I've been going back over this story, revising and rewriting it chapter by chapter. You'll see some annotations at the end of each author's notes, which themselves are going to be chopped down to reduce the amount of angry ranting I've done while writing this story.
Have fun reading!
Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars
"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."
-Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
Corporal Stephen Edwards squinted behind his visor and stepped forward, raising his left hand as the truck approached his Zone Security checkpoint. He could see the logo on the side, belonging to a transport company that delivered barley and soy products from the western farms in Tennessee.
"Good morning," he called as the truck stopped, and gave the driver a friendly smile. He was equal parts custom agent, military police, and chemical weapons specialist, and unlike frontline infantry, he wore an open-faced helmet and lighter armor of interlocking ceramic plates. His GD2 rifle hung over his shoulder by its strap, where he could still get to it quickly if need arose. Automated gun towers and guard towers with GDM-12 machineguns flanked the checkpoint, which lead to a massive set of doors that were built into the wall looming overhead to separate the Blue and Yellow Zones. Two six-man squads of Zone Security troopers stood around the checkpoint, one on watch and the second manning the checkpoint itself.
"Morning," replied the truck driver, what looked like a kid barely out of his teens. The driver held out a datapad, which showed his credentials, cargo, and destination, which Edwards took, surprised that the man hadn't waited until he'd been asked.
"In a hurry today?" he asked, still smiling as he read the information. Miles Benson, truck driver for Tanner Foods Inc, based out of Knoxville. Cargo, about ten tons of soy patties.
Private First Class Barnes circled around the side of the truck, carrying a small handheld scanner that was designed to check for tiberium infestation. The food was supposed to be processed and sealed, but the nasty green crystal had a tendency to slip into the most unexpected of places. There could have been fragments of tib-rock sprouting on the vehicle at that very moment, and that would be a disaster waiting to happen.
That was the risk of bringing anything from a Yellow Zone to a Blue Zone.
"Yeah," Miles said, chuckling. "I'm running a bit late today. Boss is gonna chew me out if I don't get there on time." Edwards nodded as he scanned the security pass. It looked like it checked out.
"We'll get you through quick, then," he assured the kid, and Miles relaxed. Probably new to the job, judging by his anxiety.
As Barnes continued his inspection, Edwards glanced back behind him, at the tunnel that passed through the immensely high wall that blocked off the eastern half of Carolina from the western half. On this side of the wall was rough land, with thick but scraggly grass rising out of yellow-brown soil, amidst weathered buildings that had seen better days . . . and this was right outside the wall.
On the other side, beyond the sonic emitters that fended off the deadly green infestation ravaging the planet, was a comparative paradise of tall buildings and thick, verdant plant life. The Blue Zones were the last refuges against the sickness that was tiberium, but they were small and scattered across the globe. For that reason, GDI defended them with a ferocity that could generously be called paranoia.
"How's it looking?" Edwards called as Barnes circled around the truck. The tech specialist shrugged as he came about on the other side.
"It looks clean, no green rot from what I can see-" he stopped as his scanner suddenly started wailing, and he looked up, then down at the device, his jaw agape.
"Tib-rock!" he shouted, bringing up his rifle. "At least half a ton of the shit in the back!"
"Tib-smuggler!" Edwards shouted, whirling toward Benson, his GD2 shooting up.
Corporal Edwards found himself looking down the barrel of a handgun, Benson's anxious demeanor replaced by an icy calm.
"Peace through power!" the kid shouted, and Edwards dove to the ground as the handgun went off. Pain exploded from his left shoulder as the round slipped through his body armor, and he swung his rifle up, depressing the trigger. A burst scythed through the driver's side door, the flimsy metal no match for a GD2 assault rifle's 6.5mm rounds, but if he hit the smuggler Edwards couldn't tell.
More gunfire erupted from the window, and Edwards scrambled backward amidst the wild spray of desperate shots. He scrambled for behind one of the concrete barriers, and could hear the deep, cracking reports of other Zone Security rifles as they fired on the truck.
The scream of the truck driver echoed in his ears, a motto he has never heard personally but recognized instantly.
Nod. The smuggler was a Nod agent.
A moment later heat and force washed over where Edwards lay behind the concrete divider, shrapnel careening through the air and stabbing into the concrete wall. Edwards waited for the shrapnel to stop raining down, and then peeked over the barrier. The truck burned, intense heat rolling off it, and tiberium alarms were sounding. There wasn't much left of the truck, pieces of it lying around the checkpoint.
Suicide bomber, he realized, pushing himself up. He'd killed himself to protect his cargo.
Crazy Nod bastards.
Gray uniforms choked the entrance to the airport terminal as men and women went about their business, talking back and forth, syncing up personal computers, presenting identification to security personnel, and running errands. In the blue-white light of the room their skin tended to take on pallid hues, even the ones with darker skin tones, and combined with the gray dress uniforms it made everything seem antiseptic and unusually clean.
Battle Commander Alexander Karrde walked across the terminal, his duffel bag slung over his shoulder as he weaved through the dozens of Global Defense Initiative soldiers milling around in the terminal. Andrews Airbase had grown to be one of the largest airfields in the world, servicing one of the most populated Blue Zones on the planet, and as such it was a hub of transit for GDI's military personnel. Karrde himself had just gotten off of a V-35 Ox that had been ferrying a pair of fresh companies of newly minted soldiers that were being deployed to Washington D.C. from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. As with a lot of single passengers being ferried around by the military, Karrde was rolled onto an Ox already bound for the area rather than using a civilian passenger plane.
His left wrist buzzed, barely audible through the terminal's din, and Karrde looked down at the flatscreen mounted on his left forearm as he walked. The screen was part of his Combat Computer ("Comcom" for short), a device issued to all Battle Commanders as part of their mobile command and control duties, synced to computers built into the utility belt around his waist and the implants in his skull, including his artificial left eye - a relic of one of the police actions that had helped get him his current rank. The screen lit up, indicating the information he was about to receive wasn't sensitive - the built-in sensors would have transmitted the data directly to his retinas via laser otherwise.
It was a map of the terminal, and a single marked point just outside the building, which read "Sergeant Kinsley." With a nod, Karrde turned the screen off and passed through security, handing the fully-armed and armored guards his identification and holding out his hand for a DNA sample, followed by a retinal and vocal scan. The guards also ran a diagnostic on his Comcom to ensure it was safe. The security procedures were tight, but they were understandable considering the sophistication of the Brotherhood of Nod's infiltration and disguise techniques. Nod agents had reportedly impersonated even high-ranking officers and in one instance they had managed to almost perfectly fake the Director of Energy.
Once his identity was confirmed, the guards sent Karrde on his way, and he stepped out of the terminal and into the open, warm spring air. The roar of an Orca's engines greeted him as a wedge of the sleek VTOL craft shot through the sky overhead, wheeling about over the landing pads to the east. Their turbofans whirled and oriented themselves with the ground, the air swirling with waves of intense thermal energy as they settled into place in precise formation, descending to the landing pads in perfect unison. Karrde strode across the road toward the location marked by the blinking light on his Comcom, where a Pitbull all-terrain recon vehicle sat. A woman with close-cropped brown hair and clad in gray garrison fatigues was waiting by the vehicle, and saluted smartly as Karrde approached.
"Sergeant Kinsley, I presume?" he asked with a smile and a return salute, and she nodded, shaking his offered hand. He noticed her grip was strong, an even match for his, and knew that despite her slight size that she was as much a soldier as he.
"Yes sir," she replied. "I've been told you were needing a lift to the Pentagon?"
"It would be nice," he responded as she circled around the Pitbull. "They gave me an office there and everything, I suppose I should pay a visit."
He opened the passenger side door of the stubby, almost comical-looking vehicle. With its raised body elevated above a rugged suspension, the Pitbull resembled a child's radio-controlled car. That illusion was challenged by the quartet of twin-linked 180mm rocket launchers that were mounted on the back, the weapons guided by the advanced, miniaturized sensor suite built into the vehicle. It was designed as a recon and missile platform, to seek out hidden enemies and support armor and infantry in the field. But outside of combat operations, many officers preferred to use its speed and mobility for other, non-combat duties.
Kinsley settled into the driver's seat, while Karrde sat in the gunner's position next to her. He tapped a couple keys on the sophisticated computer system set in the dashboard front of him, and extended a cable from the side of his Comcom to link up with the Pitbull's communications suite. The Comcom's screen flashed, and then dimmed, lasers lancing out and tracking his retinas as the Pitbull pulled out of Andrews. Words appeared in front of his eyes and his vision darkened as he linked directly to the GDI global military network. One of the dozens of local Electronic Video Agents greeted him as he logged in, and began the handshaking routine that would let him connect with the orbiting GSS Philadelphia.
Login Authentication Successful.
Philadelphia Uplink Successful.
Welcome back, Commander.
"Peace Through Power."
The greeting was simple, quick, and automatic, a motto of the righteous, and he responded immediately.
"One Vision, One Purpose," Commander Logan Rawne replied with a smile as he extended his hand. The figure before him, clad in a black uniform with a thick, ceremonial red cape flowing out behind him, shook his offered hand.
"Brother-Captain Alvarez," he said, happy to see his old friend once again. "It has been a while."
"Time means nothing in the service of the Brotherhood, Commander Rawne," replied Alvarez. He turned and gestured behind him, down the hallway, wreathed in blood-red light, mist rising past their ankles. "Come, Commander. The meeting room is this way."
Rawne nodded as they walked down the passageway, flanked by his friend. Captain Jose Alvarez loomed over him in his black powered armor, his head shaved and his solid, blocky features wrinkled by a smile. By comparison, Rawne was a slender, dark-haired man clad in the simple black uniform of Nod officer, his hair longer and swept back, with a thick but trimmed goatee and mustache.
"You are still only a Captain? I would have expected you to have become a Major or higher after these years," he asked as he walked, and the looming Alvarez shrugged.
"In the service of the Black Hand of Kane, rank is of little importance," he replied. "We are each awarded according to our skills and each given a station in accordance with the grand vision of Kane."
Rawne nodded at his Brother's dogmatic devotion to the One Vision; ever since they had been Zone Runners a decade and a half ago, Jose Alvarez had always been exceptionally pious and devoted to the Brotherhood's mission and the One Purpose. Rawne was also a devoted servant, but he didn't allow his faith to interfere with his duties; it was that reason that he had pursued his advancement into the ranks of officers, while his old war comrade had taken the path of a warrior priest.
"I have not been told of why I was summoned here," Rawne remarked. The semi-formal speech patterns bothered him a bit. He never liked having to talk like this, but one didn't speak informally in public while in a temple of any kind. Tradition and all. But he'd be glad to be outside a holy place as soon as he could be.
Alvarez shrugged again, his cape rippling. They passed by a prayer room, dozens of acolytes seated around a holographic projector that was displaying General Kilian Qatar, giving her famous "Origins of Nod" speech.
"You have seen it yourself, have you not?" Alvarez asked. "The preparations are well underway, and doubtless your summons have been made as part of the greater plan."
"I will admit that I managed to notice the troops massing here," Rawne said.
"You only noticed there were many more Sisters present than normal," Alvarez shot back, and Rawne grinned.
"A lady, particularly a devotee of the Brotherhood, never escapes my notice, old friend," he explained. "But I would like to know what my purpose is in this plan."
"You will learn in a moment, brother," Alvarez replied, for they had paused before a large doorway. The Black Hand took off his left gauntlet and extended his hand, the glittering, green tattoo of inert Tiberium that engulfed his fingers shining in the red light. Laser scanners played over the complex weave of crystalline filaments carefully woven into his flesh, and the door slid open.
The room beyond was a chapel, and the ankle-high mist in the corridor outside rose to waist-height, and glowed pink in the red lighting. Rawne stepped forward, and noticed that Alvarez had stayed behind, his head lowered slightly as he stayed in the doorway. Frowning, Rawne stepped deeper into the room.
To his left were long rows of pews and seats, enough for hundreds of Nod worshippers, but no one was seated in the metal chairs. To his right, before high red and white stained glass windows, were a trio of data screens, rising out of the ground in man-height obelisk-shaped mounts, projecting lines of holy Nod texts in the archaic script of the Brotherhood.
The chamber was empty, and Rawne walked toward the center of the room, wondering why he had been summoned to the chapel.
"And he cried in a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth!"
The sound shook Rawne, and he stood stock still, not believing what he was hearing. The words, the voice echoed in his ears, a familiar tone he had heard countless times, but always recorded and artificial. This voice was real, and it was here, in this room.
There was movement to his right, behind the obelisks, and Rawne looked up, shock and awe filling his body as he laid eyes on the figure who emerged, framed by the brilliant light streaming from the stained glass.
"And Lazarus did arise from the grave."
His smile sent shivers of devotion flowing through the Commander, and Rawne dropped to his knees, lowering his head as he saw the father of the Brotherhood of Nod, his Messiah and the one who was destined to lead the world into the golden age of Tiberium.
Rawne was speechless for the first few moments. He had heard rumors, and knew that GDI claimed to have actually killed Kane in the Second Tiberium War, but had no corpse to prove it. The faith had been kept throughout the Brotherhood for the last two decades, and Rawne had dreamed one day of seeing Kane's prophetic return, just as he had when the glorious General Slavik had slain the traitor Hassan . . . .
This was . . . far too incredible to ask for. He was being spoken to, personally, in the flesh itself, by Kane himself.
"Rise, my son, and look upon me," Kane spoke, and Rawne slowly turned his gaze up toward the messiah, who regarded him with a gentle, understanding smile. He was bald, his head completely shaven, and his mouth wreathed with a close but thick mustache and goatee, perfectly trimmed and immaculate. Kane's dark eyes glittered with unfathomable intelligence and unshakable faith and generosity, and his voice echoed of knowledge, mercy, and benevolence that knew no bounds.
Kane raised his hands slightly, and Rawne understood his intention. Slowly, he rose to his feet, to face the messiah as an equal.
"I have always believed that faith was measured in deeds, not words," Kane explained as he stepped closer, "and while many of my children worshipped my name, their deeds betrayed them."
Rawne nodded, Kane's words striking a chord within his own faith, as if he knew the Commander down to his heart and soul. It was chilling and yet liberating at the same time.
"In my absence, they strayed from the path, but you, my son, your faith never wavered," Kane continued, his smile growing. "Not in Honduras or Jericho, or in the great Rio Insurrection. You risked your life countless times to topple GDI, to perpetuate our cause . . . to honor my name."
Rawne nearly choked, for at that moment Kane bowed his head to him, for only an instant, his gratitude nearly making the soldier's legs go weak. That Kane himself would acknowledge his actions as such was an honor he could scarcely believe, and Rawne honestly felt he didn't deserve, and yet it had been placed upon him by their messiah.
"Now, my son," he said, raising his eyes to meet Rawne's once more. "I must ask you to once more bring glory to the Brotherhood. I have seen that GDI has grown vulnerable, bloated by arrogance and complacency. Now is the time to strike! While they congratulate themselves on Tiberium advancements Nod made decades ago, we will expose their weaknesses for all the world to see!"
As Kane spoke, his words came faster, with fury and passion and conviction, and Rawne felt himself being lifted up and carried by the messiah's emotions. The anger and contempt rang in his voice as he spoke of casting down the fascist Global Defense Initiative, the heathens and infidels that fought against the glory of Nod and the truth that was Tiberium.
"What do you ask of me?" Rawne asked, and Kane's anger faded, replaced by a sudden, understanding smile.
"You will go to one of our forward bases on the North American East Coast: a small camp we've established about a mile out from Goddard Space Center," Kane explained. "One of my intelligence agents, Ajay, will brief you. Like you, his faith is unquestioned."
Rawne bowed again, and Kane gestured toward the entrance of the chapel.
"Go now, my son," he commanded, and Rawne straightened. "More glory than you can possibly imagine awaits us, but only if you succeed in the mission I have laid out for you."
"What is this mission?" Rawne asked, curious as to what his leader would have tasked him with.
"The first shots of the Third Tiberium War, my son," Kane replied, his smile wide and genuine.
Author's Notes: Tiberium Wars was originally written as a counterpoint to the, let's be honest, turd-tastic official novelization. However, as time passed and I grew more in skill, I realized that it was taking on it's own life, becoming my personal interpretation of the setting and even moreso, my first true, serious foray into military sci-fi, which I approached with gusto. As I became less angry and more eager to write, I actually had a lot more fun growing and developing these characters.
Even so, I recognized plenty of flaws, many only visible in hindsight. Poor or overly lengthy descriptions, characters spouting exposition, and substantial inconsistencies in characterization were among a few. In addition, there were the inevitable issues with writing what was essentially an off-the-cuff, anger-inspired treatise. As is usual, I cringed a little as I read earlier chapters. So I resolved to begin rewriting my work, as well as adding annotations and notes at the end of each chapter to show my writing process. As I begin rewriting this story, I'll add annotations to the end, both explaining my changes and my thoughts while writing.
Annotations: This chapter was straightforward. I wanted to introduce both sides, and the passing remark Granger makes in the GDI intro sequence about a truck blowing itself makes for perfect fodder to explore and expand. We get an intro to the Blue Zones and Yellow Zones, as well as a good look at each of our viewpoint Commanders, as well as the portents of things to come. It was fun to write originally, and even more fun to mend and improve this time around.
When I originally wrote this chapter, I still had this idea in my head of the Nod characters speaking is a formal, religious tone to one another. This clashes with later works, especially with someone like Rawne, and while the formal dialogue works for a society bound by religious doctrine and gunpoint tradition, it felt a bit too stiff for me. Then I hit on the idea that the Nod characters are in a formal setting within a temple, so it would make sense for them to speak like that.
Until next chapter . . . .