"So, who are we at war with today?" Asked George, the least senior member of the squad.
" Well, we are now allied with the Peacekeepers, launched a surprise attack on the Hive, we are still fighting off the fanatics, the Spartans have turned on us, and the good Provost has been kind enough to inform us that the Morganites are starting to act suspiciously, and that any drone seen outside of regulated areas after curfew is to be shot on sight. He has also seen fit to remind us that Lady Deidre is captive in Spartan hands, and that any person claiming to be Gaian is an imposter, to be executed at the earliest convenience. Oh, and, of course, keep an eye out for those God-damned worms." Came back the reply from Yuriy, the sergeant and C/O of the squad. They were currently stationed in The Coming of the Lord, which had been bought from Miriam a number of centuries ago, back when the Academician had still been trying to curry her favour.

"Hold on, we just annihilated two waves of Peacekeepers and a Hive assault yesterday, didn't we?"

"Yep, that's how fast Provost can talk. Lal has agreed to forget about the armies of his that we have eradicated, and we have promised to forget about all those probe teams he keeps sending to us. I heard Provost even agreed to give back the most recent ones with only a small amount of experimentation. And didn't you hear? The Hive allied with us yesterday for about two hours, which was long enough for Provost to send in a couple dozen of our own probe teams."

"Okay, but what are we doing with the Morgans, and the Spartan squad we are sharing the barracks with?"

"The barracks? You shared more than the barracks with them last night, judging from the noise. But orders is orders, and they've been dealt with already. And the Morgans, well, there's a rumour going around that we are maintaining a cordon around Morgan Island. A cordon which consists of dozens of submerged probe ships, and dozens more submerged transports full to the brim with probe speeders. If Morgan so much as breathes the wrong way, we will steal all his money, research and bases so fast he'll be ordering University troops to man the defence perimeters."

"Thanks, Yuriy. I...I think I'll go man the comms station for a while."

"Sure, George. Oh, and don't worry, the way things are going, you'll probably be making it up to her sister by tonight."

George smiled wanly, and headed off to the comms centre. On his way there, he looked about and noticed the strange interplay of technology and religion in the city's architecture. Solar panels on the side of a building were generally coloured green, but, usually, in the midst of a sea of green, were black-backed panels arranged into the shape of a cross. In other buildings, their minarets had telescopes pointing out of them, and, on the more lavish churches, atop the steeple sat a tachyon field generator. Finally, he ducked inside a doorway, and sat down at the comms table. Here, all he would have to do would be to note down whatever messages came through, and, if they were urgent, relay them through the headsets of other troops attached to the city.

"Notification: Spartan Navy has been mobilised. Attend to your ocean defences."
That was easy enough. TCotL had many things, but ocean access was not one of them. Ignored.

"Notification. The Believing Air Armada is now operating out of Great Zion. All Central and Northern University units are advised to deploy extra aerial countermeasures."
Simple one that. Just radio the guards to keep one eye on the sky.

"Notice from University Base. Great Zion has been added as an approved BC target. All forces with ballistic capabilities are requested to launch immediately. Ground troops located near Great Zion are advised to retreat to the fallback point and prepare for combat in a BC contaminated area."
Lucky day, it seemed. No major notices seemed to be coming out across the airwaves. TCotL had no military assets near to Great Zion, and the ballistic capabilities of the city were limited to throwing stones.

"Diplomatic relations update: The Spartans have signed a Pact with the Hive."
That got sent over to the troops. They probably didn't need to know, but it was classed as a major military development, so everyone had to know.

"Urgent notification: Spartan invasion force has landed near The Ruins. They appear to be operating from the off-shore Hive city of Deep Community. Ruins Research centre Academgorodok has requested reinforcements."
That got George's attention. "Okay, boys and girls, we have a situation up north. If y'all would kindly make your way up to Academgorodok, they are preparing to receive the brunt of a Spartan invasion force."

"Urgent notification: Spartan communiqué has informed us of the loss of Academgorodok. All non-garrison units are to report to The Coming of the Lord to halt the Spartan advance."
Quiet day at the comm. Yeah, right. "Sorry, people, field trip cancelled. Instead, everyone is to come home and hold out. Prepare to receive extra garrison units, too."

"Diplomatic relations update: The Believers have signed a Pact with the Spartans."
'Hoh boy.' Thought George. 'I can see what the next message is gonna be.' He promptly sent a copy of that message to all troops on the frequency.

"Urgent notification: Believing land forces spotted headed from Great Zion to The Coming of the Lord. Believing Air Armada headed to same. Governor of The Coming of the Lord is advised to activate the Citizens Defence Force."
'Yep. Totally saw that one coming.' He thought to himself, over the radio, though, he stated;
"All units, Believing aerial assault inbound, repeat Believing aerial assault inbound. Joint Spartan and Believing ground assault also heading our way. Citizens Defence force has been activated. All members report to nearest guard station for briefing. All non-combatants please report to your nearest bunker immediately. This is for your own safety. Thank you."

"This is a message from your glorious leader, the Provost Dar'El.
For many centuries now, I have led you, the people of the University of Planet, seeking only to be left in peace to pursue a life of unfettered research. Unfortunately, the political machinations of both the fanatical Miriam Godwinson, and of the power mad Corazon Santiago, have led us into war after vendetta after bloody conflict. Only CEO Morgan has been our ally for all time, and, despite his energy banks forcing new mathematical methods to be devised just to count his joules, even he does not have enough credits to buy an end to the turmoil that has gripped this Planet. Fortunately, I have been preparing for a time when our land is invaded. For many years now, great portions of our manufatctoria have been dedicated to something codenamed Operation Tartarus. This has now been activated."
George checked the transmission monitor. Provost was broadcasting to every receiver within the University! Obviously, whatever this Operation Tartarus was, it was a very important event for all those involved. It also couldn't be anything of strategic value, as every receiver even pointed towards University territory would be picking this up.
"I will now tell you what Operation Tartarus is. We have built enough Planet Busters to destroy every Spartan and Believing city and Defence Satellite. They have just been launched. Obviously, the other factions will not be best pleased with this turn of events. So, I am ordering all citizens to report to their local guard centre for defence enrolment. Units attached to our southern bases are to patrol our border with the Peacekeepers effective immediately, and Operation Pink Panther is to commence, also immediately. For tactical reasons, Great Zion must be taken with conventional weapons, so, any units not already directed elsewhere are to converge on Great Zion. Citizens of the University, THIS is our moment. THIS is why we shall go down in history as the greatest faction on Planet. We have run the gauntlet, and now our opponents find the tables have turned. Know this, my people. We have not won yet. But, and this is a certainty, we WILL win, and that victory shall be soon!'
That was a live broadcast from our illustrious leader. Thank you for listening."

George threw down his headset and ran outside. Looking at the sky, there was starburst after starburst as each of the enemy satellites were blasted into dust. "Hello? Hello! This is Academgorodok resistance group thirteen. We have received the transmission from provost, and want to ......" Static. Then there was a sound of rolling thunder, and an immense light lit up the sky. Then, it faded into the north. 'Oh, crap. THAT was purely a computer error, I know. I can see exactly how that happened, too: Confirmation, received. Academgorodok captured by Spartans.... Targeting all Spartan bases for ballistic assault. Pity those Ruins would have been vaporised as well.'

Suddenly, there was the sound of rolling thunder again, followed by another bright flash of light, this time from the east. As the thunder started to fade, another growl started up, and a flash of light, and another. And another. Soon they merged into one continuous rumble, and the light pulsed with each new flash. After a good ten minutes, George noticed that the noise had stopped coming from the east, and was now coming from the west. Some small part of his brain realised that that meant the Believing bases were all gone, and now the Spartans were getting nuked. But the rest of his mind froze in numb horror as he listened to the sound of tens of millions of people dying. After fifteen minutes, the light faded away, and the thunder stopped. For another few minutes, George stood frozen, as he tried to comprehend what had just happened. Then he broke into a run, back to the comms room. The reports would be coming in soon, and he HAD to hear them.

"Report from Morgan Island. Operation Pink Panther complete success. All Morgan research, energy credits, bases and units have been captured. CEO Morgan is under house arrest in his penthouse flat in Morgan Tower. We have also taken control of all Morganic Secret Projects, which, incidentally, is all of them. Congratulations, University, we have eradicated the Morganites."
George's eyebrows shot to the roof. Granted, all the Secret Projects would boost University research speed a hundred-fold. But were they worth the loss of the University's only ally? How would they deal with the backlash from the remnants of the nuked factions? Or the repercussions from the living faction leaders?

"Report from Spysat 13; Believing Observation. Believing territory has been reduced to a series of radioactive lakes and small islets of scorched earth. All cities destroyed. Believing military response capabilities depend entirely on the Great Zion outpost."

"Report from Spysat 6; Hive observation. Prior to Operation Tartarus, Hive forces occupied a single off-shore city, the greatest in a knot of cities which had been captured by the Believers. It was severely damaged by shockwave from close range detonation of nuclear devices. Possibility for survivors does exist. Recommendation: Deep Community investigated for signs of life at earliest opportunity."

"Report from Spysat 27; Spartan observation. All population centres have been obliterated. The landmass itself has been reduced to a series of scorched islands. Spartan military response capabilities are limited to the initial invasion force."

"Report from Spysat 2; Northern University Continental Observation. Academgorodok has been destroyed. The Ruins have been vaporised. However, the resulting lakebed does show some interesting formations. Further scientific study is definitely needed."

"Report from University Continental Theatre; Field Command. Regarding situation at Great Zion. Defenders appeared to be in a state of shock. Opposition was minimal. We now occupy the central Cathedral, and are expecting minor dissent when the state of shock dissipates. Congratulations, University, we have eradicated the Believers."

"Report from High Atmospheric Surveillance Team. Spartan advance has halted. Forces appear to be in disarray..... Update; Spartan forces have been destroyed by large numbers of mind worms classified as Demon Boil. Sensors indicate Locusts inbound from the dead conti....No...NO! OH GOD...." *Signal Lost*

"Notification: Use of Planet Busters may cause increased response from native life-forms. All units are to report to nearest Bio-Enhancement centre for cybernetic download of Morale Training, Empath Song and Hypnotic Trance."

George watched in horror as the feed from the Spysat system showed an increasing number of Mind Worms wriggling out of the fungus, and fungal beds growing at record speeds. Out to sea, he noticed that the spysats couldn't actually see the planet below, so thick was the clouds of Locusts, and, doubtless, Isles of the Deep were surfacing and heading to unload their deadly cargos at the nearest port. He then saw a light blinking on the console. Normally, this wouldn't cause too much fuss. But this light had been bolted onto the console illegally. It told George that the diplomatic channel was in use. And, thanks to the skills his brother Frank had taught him (after Frank had joined the Probe Team Corps) it was a simple matter to hack into the feed.

Lal: "What the hell do you think you are doing, Dar'El? You just destroyed four entire factions! Killing millions of people in the process! And you even turned on your only longstanding ally and stole his faction right out from under him! I should declare Vendetta upon you now just on principle! As it is I have to attend to my defences and hope the Planet cleanses you and your people itself!"

Morgan: "If I may interject, Commissioner, I must inform you that, whilst I did not wish to give Provost my faction, I do understand that what just happened was merely an exaggerated form of a corporate hostile takeover. As I have been pensioned off quite nicely, and assured a position as Chief Minister of Finance, should I wish it, I can tell you that I harbour Dar'El no ill will. Indeed, I can now instigate some of my financial schemes with only minimal possible backlash."

Dar'El: "Yes, thank you Morgan, although we will have to discuss your fiscal plans, now is not the time. Lal, I shall enlighten you as to the situation prior to the commencement of my operation. I found myself a pawn of the other factions, sent forth to distract or weaken them whilst my ersatz allies attempted to dominate them, and myself. My constant state of motion between haegemonies provoked feelings of hatred and mistrust towards myself and my modest faction. That the University somehow found a method of exiting each conflict enhanced, instead of diminished, further caused our colleagues to view me as a potential threat. I therefore devised a method of extracting my faction from the constant political machinations of my enemies. That they then chose to conspire against me and launch a collaborative offensive against me merely caused to accelerate my plan. Had they not violated my territory and laid claim to one of my demesnes, I would, of course, have informed them of my collective arsenal of atomic, biological, and chemical weaponry, and simply left them with the request that my faction and I be considered a neutral party in all of their petty disputes. As it is, I was forced to conclude that the only course of action was to launch a decisive strike against them before they could besiege University Base itself, which would have resulted in their disrupting my communications and leaving me incapable of enacting my plan. Therefore, whilst it is deplorable that I terminated the cognisance of such a large number of sentient beings, some of which I had become accustomed to receiving sensory input from, it was the most acceptable course of action."

Lal:".... Dar'El, have you had an MMI?"

Dar'El: "Indeed."

Lal: "And does that include a dictionary package?"

Dar'El: "That is correct."

Lal: "....I see. Well then, Provost, I regret to inform you that our two factions can no longer be considered friends. I must also inform you that I now consider you p'tok. Lal out.

Morgan: "Pity, that. Our commercial revenue forecast for next year just dipped. Oh and what was that he called you?"

Dar'El: "I was not aware that Commissioner Lal spoke Klingon. Albeit with an accent. I will meet you later, Morgan, if Planet does not terminate me prior to our encounter."

Again, George faced a horrible prospect. It now seemed that the University was turning into some sort of well spoken Borg Collective. And he no longer had any real choice about where to run away to.

"Urgent notification: Mind Worms have overrun several sectors. Mind Worms have broken out of research labs and Centauri Preserves in Lab Three. Lab Three has been destroyed. All city Governors are instructed to begin production of anti-psych units."
Oh well, back to the job at hand....

Well, that went on a bit longer than it was supposed to. It was meant to be a short account of what happened to me when I cranked up the difficulty to Transcendent. But, I suppose, so long as it was a good read.... Also, my Klingon has never been all that good, so if that is not, in fact, a variation of a Klingon insult, or even a Klingon insult that does not quite fit, please review and tell me.
Oh, and I am rather pleased that I managed to write this entire story without referring to a dictionary once. Yay me.