Prologue

10th of May, 2058

GDSS Global Command Station 1 – Linden

The room was a round, plush space, lacquered oak panels disguising the smooth steel of the space station. Everything in it, from the grey-blue carpet on the floor, to the curved wood table that arched along above it, was perfectly measured and weighed to give the impression that the chamber was just like any other conference room that would have existed back on Earth.

This chamber was not, however, just like its historical counterparts.

The figures that sat around the table, obscured in the shadows cast by the bright, clinical pale blue light in the centre of the ceiling, were among the most powerful people on, or above, the planet.

The door to the chamber swung smoothly and silently inward, and a man in a dark blue business suit strolled in, briskly but calmly making his way to the empty seat opposite the door. His hair was dark and straight, closely cropped, and he had the sort of face that seemed neither young nor old, wrinkle free yet aged somehow, with piercing, cold blue eyes.

'Mister Director,' a dark man with a head of thinning silver hair muttered.

The Director nodded his acknowledgement as he settled into his chair.

'Meeting is now open,' announced the pale, thin man to the director's right. 'Treasurer, would you please summarise the monthly financial report?'

'Thank you, Secretary.' The Treasurer, a balding man with substantial paunch, heaved himself forward in his chair.

'There have been some temporary fluctuations in value, due to continuing raids by subversive elements in the local populations on harvesting operations in Eastern Europe, but the mark is currently steady at a value of 0.49 to a kilo. Our global harvesting operations this month have drawn in over three million tonnes of raw materials. That equates to one point four seven million marks in the Treasury this month. Relevant regional allocation figures are attached to your copies of the report.' He thumbed the corner of a digital page on the tablet screen that lay in front of him. 'I won't go through them now, but suffice it to say that the budget is thoroughly in surplus, due to a reduction in unnecessary spending in areas deemed... lost causes.'

'That's wonderful.' a voice spoke out from the gloom. 'So what do you suggest we do with these additional resources, then?'

The Secretary cleared his throat.

The man who had spoken was swallowed back up by the shadows.

'Thank you, Treasurer. General Whitley; would you please give us a summary of the military report.'

'Certainly, Mister Secretary.'

General Whitley was a broad shouldered man, with closely cropped black hair, greying slightly at the temples, a clean shaven face, and an immaculately ironed and crisp dark blue uniform. His breast was covered with medals and ribbons, and hawk eyes watched from beneath dark crags of eyebrows, daring anyone to question his right to those honours.

'Executive board,' he nodded, clipping each syllable as if he had only a limited number of words available, and didn't wish to waste a single one of them. 'On average recruitment has gone down three percent across the board. I suggest additional promotional campaigns to encourage applications from the population. Martial law has been imposed in zones four, nine, ten and eleven in response to rioting and suspected Nod terrorist cells. Counter-insurgency task-forces have been set up in multiple sectors and are investigating several civilian trading networks with suspected ties to the Brotherhood.'

'Thank you, General Whitely,' the Secretary said. 'Would Professor Renald like to begin?'

'Thank you, Secretary.' Professor Renald, a tall, softly spoken, sprightly English man, with light brown, shaggy hair and glasses that sat askew on his prominent nose, stood up from his seat with a lurch, picking up a pile of black plastic dossiers that sat beside him.

He placed one in front of each member of the executive board, who looked at the nondescript folders with disinterest.

'Thank you, Secretary,' he said again. 'Now, as you know, our planet is in grave danger. This is hardly news to any of you, I'm sure; however, we may all be in much greater danger than we think. We stand on the edge of a precipice, and we need to take action now, or we may very well tumble into the abyss.'

'I am talking, of course, about Tiberium. It has shown major adaptive capabilities in the past, going through several evolutionary changes, most notably in response to our reclamation programs after the Firestorm Crisis, shifting from a runner based, material-leeching, form to its current assimilative proton lattice form, and rendering our atmospheric cleanup program ineffective. This new form proved resistant to traditional reclamation methods as it propagated not through mutation of native flora and the release of preparative gases but through direct absorption and assimilation of matter. We soon discovered and exploited this new strain's weakness to sonic technology. However, I have been observing several sites with extreme levels of Tiberium concentration and it appears that the leeching process is not proceeding at a steady rate, as it has previously been suggested, but is in fact accelerating.'

Something in the atmosphere of the room shifted. Not a person had moved, and yet tension suddenly filled the conference chamber.

Professor Renald stroked an icon on his tablet screen, and a holographic globe appeared in the centre of the room, continents and landmasses outlined in blue.

'This is our Earth in 2049, after the end of the Third Tiberium War.' Professor Renald touched another icon, and bright green marks appeared on the sphere, covering the centres of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America like great bruises on the Earth.

'This map shows the spread of Tiberium since then.'

The green marks shifted, smearing across the map, filling whole continents, and spreading across several oceans.

'This is our Earth today,' Professor Renald muttered. 'As you can see, there are several Tiberium "hotspots", where Tiberium poisoning has reached critical levels, in central Europe, Australia, central North America and Africa.' Circles appeared on the map, highlighting these areas. Renald touched another icon, and a close-up appeared next to the globe, showing a cracked and broken expanse of dark green crystal, lit by an unearthly emerald light. The dark and tortured sky was lit by flashes of blue and white as ion-fuelled lightning arced across the grim scene. Dominating the scene was a gigantic monolith of Tiberium, imposing and ominous. A scale to the side of the image marked it as being over a kilometre high.

'Is… is this some kind of forecast, or prediction or something?' asked a man with an American accent from somewhere in the shadows.

'This video was taken in Central-Western America three days ago. While the border zones still bear a marked resemblance to the glacier dominated landscapes of ten years ago, at the heart of these "hotspots" Tiberium structures have formed that are over three kilometres high, and all over the planet these structures are becoming more and more regular as lances of Tiberium proliferate under the crust, spreading through our few remaining Blue Zones, similar to the runners that characterised the original strains of Tiberium, but on a much larger scale.

'It appears obvious that Tiberium has entered another rapid evolutionary period, and it is my belief that unless immediate action is taken it will render our planet uninhabitable in a matter of years.'

A staggered silence filled the room.

Somebody cleared their throat.

'How… how long do you predict we have before this happens?' a woman's voice spoke.

'At the moment we're unsure, but projections place an absolute final date at around 2068, possibly much sooner.'

'What do you suggest we do about this acceleration in Tiberium growth?'

'This is, molecularly at least, a very similar strain to the current form, so sonics should still have an effect. However, even if the entire annual GDI budget was reassigned to reclamation, the rate of Tiberium growth would still overtake the rate of clearing, by about 23% each year.'

'So do you have any solution, or are you just here to make alarmist declarations?' the dark man spoke up finally.

'As you can see on the map Antarctica is still relatively Tiberium free, as is the 'Blue Circle' around the North Atlantic Ocean. I believe that full scale redistribution of population from all threatened areas to these zones is the only way to ensure the immediate survival of the human race. Beyond that…' Professor Renald shrugged. 'Secure underground bunkers? A widespread sonic projector network? Space colonisation? But I see no clear way forward. Tiberium is about to claim the Earth and it seems that there is no way to stop it.'

A sudden explosion of noise filled the room as the previously reserved councilors leaped out of their seats and began shouting at the top of their lungs.

'This is unprecedented!'

'This is all fear mongering!'

'What the hell would you know?'

'We must persevere!'

'Evacuation is completely out of the question!'

'It's our only hope!'

'Isn't there some way to reverse the spread of Tiberium? You're the scientist here!'

'Didn't you listen to the Professor?'

'We need the Tacitus.'

Deafening silence filled the room.

The Director cleared his throat.

'Ladies, gentlemen.' He said in his smooth, New Jersey accent. 'The Tacitus is the key to this whole debacle. We need the Tacitus.'

'And how do you propose to acquire it?' piped up a man with slate grey hair and a salt and pepper beard. 'Nod insurgents captured it from us six years ago.'

'Kane captured it,' interjected an aging woman with a mass of curly white hair, earning her a glare from the man.

'Again; how do you propose to acquire it?'

The Director leaned back in his black leather chair and a sly grin split his thin mouth.