Chapter 14: Intelligence about the Clones

Copyright© 2017 by Hunter Johnson

“Are we ready to begin the planning process,” Jason asked, “and do we have everybody here that we need for that planning?”

Three more people rushed into the room and the meeting was convened.

“Can someone summarize the current situation and what we are facing next? I’m quite keen to know what’s happening with this ship, our other ships, our casualties, and the situation on the planet and any plans to date,” Jason asked of the gathered group.

“Connie, might I suggest that your group takes the floor and updates us on where we are going and what we are doing as Jason has requested,” Janet instructed.

“Two of our pilots died, and we have eight who were injured severely who are going to require up to a week in the pods. Another sixteen had minor injuries. Three marines died during the first stage of boarding the first two cruisers, and one in the next two. We have twenty-four in medical pods, eight of whom are seriously injured.

“Half of our fighters have sustained severe damage that will require up to a week for repairs. Six of them must be rebuilt.

It’s faster to build new ones and use the others for spares. We have sixteen spare fighters but if we do go into action we’ll have no reserve pilots for another three days.

“Two of our gunships sustained a moderate level of damage protecting the boarding shuttles. We estimate two days to complete repairs. Our ships will require only two days to be ready for action while we repair the ships and mine the asteroids. For the level of encounters that we have had, this is surprisingly little damage. We are still assessing the enemy ships in detail but the last two cruisers were severely damaged and need a shipyard if repairs are to be completed within the next few months. The mines worked extremely well as did the cyber warfare technology. We have done a post contact analysis of our weapons fire, which is of considerable concern.

“Our AI aiming has still been severely hindered. Had we faced the worst-case level of missile fire we would have been much more severely damaged. The fighters made the critical difference. Sheer volume of fire made up the rest. All of our long-range targeting was off and we had an unexpected level of defective missiles. We recovered two and found they had been actively disabled. This indicates persisting internal sabotage. The mines saved us. We now have guards in critical areas. They managed to fool our internal surveillance. Now that we know how they did it, we won’t be fooled again.

“The engineers are correcting the sensors and the cyber warfare and engineers are going over the software controls of firing systems. We don’t detect problems with Patton or any problems with Ship AI any longer, but we found the linking and aiming software at the weapons level is again defective in the long, medium, and short-range cannon. The point defense systems were inefficient. The missile aiming software is also defective.

“We are lucky that the interference routines were not difficult to find. We are looking for other interference at a deeper level. We have located the original software, and we’ll check it. If it’s satisfactory, we’ll load it into the missiles. We are also searching for the original software for all the other systems.

“We have intensified our ship wide search for the other groups of saboteurs. We have all the Marines searching the ship looking for the characteristic patterns of the priest interfaces. We have interrogated the priests group that we found in more detail. They are aware that there are others on the ship but for security reasons no one told them where they were or how many other groups there are.

“So, we do know there are others. We don’t know if it’s one or two groups. We are guarding all vulnerable areas. Computer access to Ship’s systems is blocked in all non-critical areas. We are intensively monitoring all computer traffic and will pick up any programming activity and track it to its source. We have attacked the saboteurs electronically on two occasions. We are sure that it was two different groups. There’s no doubt that they’re alerted to us, but our concern is they’re very sophisticated operators. We were not able to find their locations, but do believe that we have done some damage to their systems, though not as much as we would like to have done. We couldn’t fully infiltrate their systems before they switched them off. We’ll catch them, I hope sooner rather than later. We are densely blocking all communications bands to and from the ship except our own which we watch.

“On arrival and long before the encounter with the cruisers, we sent several groups to reconnoiter the surface. The priests did what we predicted. They have started the process of activating the clones. They first woke the most senior officers, and these officers are planning for the staging of the awakening of the clones and their final training, collection of weapons, shuttles, tanks, and gunships and their subsequent embarkation. They are all clustered with a group of senior priests in a large dormitory/conference facility. We established video and auditory surveillance in both public and private spaces.

“I have holograms of the facility including maps of the areas that we have been able to observe. We have sent in insect sized micro-drones to penetrate all areas of the facility, and in particular to try and establish if there’s an underground connection to other facilities,” she then proceeded to show pictures of the facility as well as the maps.

“There are approximately two hundred in the facility. Seventy-five of them are senior priests, of whom a third are political, one-third is responsible for the education of the clones, and the final third are senior technicians. The medical techs are responsible for the growth and education of the clones. The remainder of the group consist of general officer clones: senior military personnel both admirals and generals beginning with five-star generals and admirals along with their most senior staff. The lowest ranked people there are majors. They are the top management of a major military force. They are a very interesting group of clones. They are frighteningly intelligent, and are impressive individuals.

“The priests did a poor job on the propaganda aspects of the clone training. They borrowed all the training from the top military institutes but had to make up their own propaganda to persuade the clones to be loyal to them. It’s poor quality propaganda, and hardly convincing. Listening to the clones we can see they’re not loyal to the priests and they were not convinced by the propaganda they received. We know historically that clone loyalty is always an issue with the best of programs. This is one example of a failed loyalty program.

“The senior group of clones was activated five months ago. They have been very busy during that five months working on their own agendas while doing enough to be seen as doing the priests’ bidding.

“The more we listen to them, the more impressed we are with their abilities and how much they have learned so quickly. They don’t take anything at face value and have questioned everything they have been told.

“They have penetrated all the priests’ communications, and the connections to the information systems both to Nirvana and the Empire. They penetrated all the priests’ local systems and have been using them for their own purposes,” said Maj. Connie Ross.

“They do seem like a special group of people from what you describe, Connie. Do you’ve any ideas what they have found out about the priests?” Jason asked.

“They didn’t find anything to reassure them of the integrity of their future masters, and they dislike them personally.

“The clones researched their own backgrounds, and established from photographs exactly who they were. They are bitter and angry about the priests creating clones and automatically making them non-citizens, and second-class people with a short lifespan.

“They are replicas of some of the most outstanding soldiers and space crews of the Empire. That explains their outstanding intelligence and rapid grasp of the situation.”

“They have educated themselves on the history of the Empire and what has happened with clones previously. They pretend to be pleasant cooperative flunkies with the priests, and have maintained the pretense that they’re loyal soldiers of Papa Zora.

“Many of the clones, if not most or all of them, have strongly identified with their original selves. They were loyal and devoted citizens of the Empire. Their impression is that the priests are disloyal and immoral.

“The clones talk of planning to take over the arriving fleet. Their plans are well advanced. The priests have spun them a yarn about how terrible the Empire is and how important it’s to stick it to the Empire and they and the fleet will do it. That idea has gone over with them very badly. I’ve found it very interesting in that not only are the clones of such outstanding people, but at the same time they have accepted the values of those people who they were cloned from and identify with them and their families. From what I gather, none of the originals are alive. They have laboriously researched their histories and have tracked down family members and have read extensively about them.

“Their problem is that they don’t know what they want to do, once they have taken the fleet. They know that they want to frustrate the priests’ purposes and don’t want to be under their control, but are stuck trying to decide on a purpose for their existence, and what to do if they get away from the priests. They know that they’re non-people. They have come to regard their ancestors as their family. They are desperate to, at the very least, meet with their remaining families. They are like orphans determined to know about their origins and their history. They are angry, bitter, and resentful that they have such a short lifespan. They don’t want to be at the mercy of the priests, they don’t want to be trapped on the planet with few options. They have not linked the priests to the Mob. They also don’t know to whom this fleet belongs. They have explored possible occupational activities that they could undertake such as mercenaries or fighting pirates, but most of them feel that they want to be a part of the Empire, and they pine for a full normal life.

“If we contact them we’ll have to be careful and ideally give them a meaningful purpose beyond capturing the fleet. I can’t see that purpose yet, but I’ve some growing ideas. I’ll ask Captain George Brown to present our findings on the planetary defenses.”

Maj. Connie Ross waved Capt. George Brown to the front of the room.

Brown was a tall thin man with his hair cropped close to his head. He was very good-looking but like all the men he had seen so far, he looked pasty and frail.

“There are multiple levels of defense in the system which we can bypass with some effort. There are defensive missile stations in space above the planet. On the planet, there’s a second layer of missiles. The moon has a variety of plasma-based and missile defensive systems. There are local short-range missile and cannon defenses on the planet. We assume there are fighter defenses in hardened underground facilities.

“There’s a massive proliferation of stored vehicles, tanks, transport shuttles, artillery, and armories full of weapons in depots spread around the planet ready for use. There’s a lot of equipment needed for twenty-million mixed Army, Marine and Navy personnel. Fortunately, most of the clones have not been activated. The possible reasons for this are in two separate parts. They have ample supplies to be able to deal with the clones while their metabolic activity is low, but strangely enough they don’t have sufficient food stored to feed an army of twenty million for a period of longer than two weeks.

They would have to activate the clones in stages, give them a few days to get orientated, have them collect their equipment, give them a week to adapt and train and then ship them off. There are two visible significant garrisons with priests and their soldiers. They patrol the clone growing areas. They have twelve thousand troops. If they’re fanatical hardened troops they will be a challenge. In any attack, we’ll need to knock out as many of these troops as we can. We don’t know how many fighters and gunships they have for their own use. From an armament point of view, we have seen armored vehicles, some anti-shuttle small missiles and anti-air batteries and a few light tanks.

“From what we know historically, even though they propagandized and educated clones within their development system, they still need considerable orientation once they waken. Usually this was done over many months of intensive training and education. Many difficulties arose when this was not done properly and poor preparation produced a higher rate of rogue clones that became highly sensitive when they knew that they were created for war and had a short shelf life. Many of the rogue clones considered that they shouldn’t expend their life for their masters and ran amok killing all and sundry. I’m not sure how this operation has been managed but if one looks at what has happened with the top group it’s not looking good for the priests.

“In summary: there are many levels of defenses. It’ll take careful planning to bypass the defenses. It’s necessary to be very careful as there are likely to be hidden facilities on the surface and even cloaked facilities. We have all been mindful of the approaches taken by Jason and do consider that there’s an opportunity to take over the clones without destroying all twenty million of them and their aspirant priest controllers.

“I do believe that they need a purpose and a meaning if anyone is going to work with them. You do have an armed priest cadre in every clone generative facility. They are there to protect the scientists growing the clones. They are not the sophisticated fanatical and dangerous group of priest soldiers as are the political ones in the facility with the high ranked clones. There are three thousands of them, scattered in and around the facilities. Most of them stay in their smaller garrisons and very few of them patrol. Their garrisons are very vulnerable to space and air attack.” George Brown sat down.

Connie Ross stood to continue the discussion further.

“That ladies and gentlemen is the situation on the planet. I think we need to consider our options. I’ll hand over to Jason who has something to say.”

“From what I can see we have a number of choices. If I look at it the simplest level, there’s no impediment or direct risk to us if we simply continue with our task. I feel a sense of obligation to return to the Empire as soon as possible to try and help my great-grandfather. We have to ask the question of ourselves as to whether this is our fight. There’s no reason for us to get involved unless we choose to and we need to have very good reasons.

“We had no choice but to fight the Pirates and we would have exposed ourselves to risk, had we not taken out our opposition. Even so we have done a lot more than we were obliged to do or were compelled to do.

“Could we not simply send the information to the Emperor? I could easily try to communicate with him and discuss the issues. Similarly, Janet, you could communicate with your superiors in the Marines. With regard to this matter and the seriousness of the potential risks, and I’m sure that you could speak to whoever the supreme admiral may be. We have enough information to communicate very clearly to them what the issues may be. The military would have good reason to act and we have enough information to provide them to act against the Patriarch.

“On the other hand, we could undertake a first step which would be to capture the senior priest and officer group. If we do that we potentially expose ourselves to potentially an unwarranted level of risk.

“I’m concerned about us overextending your original brief which was to fetch me on behalf of the Empress and my great-grandfather. We have had to fight to get to this point. What are we trying to do now? Do we need to do more in this situation?”

“Connie, could you provide an intelligence perspective of the political situation with regard to the priests and any potential interventions that the Emperor and Empress might attempt to initiate?” Janet asked.

“Let me begin with what I think is likely. The Empress and Emperor are probably very concerned about the behavior of the Patriarch over time. We know that intelligence efforts to penetrate the inner circle have failed, which has not allowed action to be taken. The public would be highly sensitive to any action taken against the Patriarch as they see him and the priests as being independent from the royalty and the nobles. Most people respect the priests and the doctors. The history books are full of the great deeds that were done by the priests during wartime. Their public relations activities have been outstanding.

“The Emperor and the military would be very reserved about taking any action against a planet that’s not part of the Empire. We don’t know to whom the fleet belongs that’s en route here. We have looked at the status of reserve fleets and as far as we can tell they’re all in place, but we know from our own experience that information isn’t correct.

“We don’t have any proof about the origins of the clones. We know what we have heard.

“We are not at war with The Mob and the planet may in fact be a Mob planet. It would take some time for the Empire to establish the facts to their satisfaction and by then on balance of probabilities we would have twenty-million clones in charge of a substantial fleet. That could present a major threat. Even worse that fleet could be under the control of the priests.

“Both the military and the Emperor would have to act with extreme caution in dealing with the situation. They would have to verify what we are telling them before anything would be done. Let’s also assume that our favorite Patriarch has ensured that his intelligence services have infiltrated the military and perhaps even the palace, and can gather information with ease. As soon as we alert the Empire, whichever way we do it, the Patriarch will know and may act very much more quickly to set his plans in motion. I’m sure that the planet below us will be alerted and any opportunity that we would have for a sneaky ‘Jason special’ would disappear. What do you think, Janet and Phoebe?”

“If we contacted our superiors it would take a day or two to get through the system to speak to the first level of admiral,” said Phoebe. “By then I guarantee you that a lot of people will know what is going on. There’s a risk that the wrong intelligence service will hear about it and there’s a reasonable chance that the information will be leaked to the public.

“There’s less of a risk if you spoke to your uncle, Jason, but he has to act through others; and as soon as that happens, the advantage of surprise disappears out of the window.

“From what we know, Papa Zora has allied himself with The Mob. If they’re planning an attack on the Empire using the clones, which is the most likely scenario, informing the Empire now would have the highest chance of ensuring that the attack would occur before the Empire could react. I believe that the Empire in time will be grateful to us if we do the necessary clandestine cutting one of the heads off the snake. What do you think, Janet?”

“Phoebe, I agree with you about the most likely way the situation will evolve if we contact our superiors. Jason has very valid point. I’m sure that if I was in his position I’d be very concerned about my great grandfather. We are all responsible for the ship, we have fetched Jason, and now we are to take him to the Emperor and Empress.

“We know that the Empress deliberately provoked the Patriarch by taking away this ship, and alerting him to its mission. She set up a trap of some sort. Many of our superiors were involved in making sure that we were on board this ship.

“My thought is that the Patriarch is our target and the Patriarch has well and truly fallen into our trap. But I doubt that the Empire knows about the size and the scope of what Papa Zora was planning, nor of his alliance with The Mob.

“The Empire will come to appreciate the facts very much as we have. There’s a cost to the Empire, that’s as yet unquantified, of the delay that would occur if we would notify them. Twenty-million clones and a supporting fleet could do enormous damage to any planet that they would attack.

“It might be possible for us to act on behalf of the Empire, and save the Empire significant trouble. I think at the very least we should take a step in that direction,” Janet said as she thought about the options carefully. She then continued to speak.

“We can take the first facility with the senior military group and senior priests. We persuade the generals and the admirals to join us and give them a goal. What is the goal and what are we aiming at? We can’t take them to the Empire. What problem does it solve if we give them autonomy and is it our place or within our scope of action to give them autonomy? Does anyone have an idea?” She asked shrugging her shoulders and looking around the room. There was an uncomfortable silence. They looked at each other until finally after they all looked restless Jason spoke.

Jason stood up and said, “I do have a clear idea about what can be done. For all the reasons that I’ve expressed previously I’m reluctant to pursue it, but I’ve heard what you all have said. You all know the Empire’s systems well and I don’t doubt your word of how it would all go down. I desperately want to get to my grandfather to find out what the situation is, but I fear we have other work to do.

“We ... and when I say we, I mean that the clones and ourselves ... have a common foe: Papa Zora. We have come to learn and appreciate his innate corruption, and his crimes against the Empire. The clones don’t want to be part of his machinations. They still retain loyalty to the Empire. I’d like to tell them what I’ve discovered. I want to let them know about these priests and the extent of their dirty deeds. Then we’ll decide what we do. We have some clones with fine minds, we give them what we know and then decide if we can find an approach to deal with the Patriarch himself or if they want to go their own way.

“We can provide them with the options that we perceive in the current situation and we can offer them an opportunity to plan to do some serious damage to the Guild that has created them and the whole problem. They may decide that they don’t need us, but I suspect that they may well decide to work with us.

“I do think that we should attempt to capture the top echelon of clones and priests, and let’s bring the priests back here for interrogation and the clones for some discussions. Let’s destroy the planetary defenses including the garrisons. Let’s assume that this is a trap. Please make sure of the defenses around the central facility. Could they have detected our presence and are simply providing us the information that we’d like to hear?”

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