Chapter 1906 Counterintelligence
No matter how many alarms were ringing, the surgery had to proceed. Halting at this moment would not only hamper the functioning of the implant, but also lead to massive complications that would certainly cripple the patient!
"Assist me!" Dr. Ranya shouted at the Ylvainan surgeons. "Take over from the late Dr. Lupo and make sure to maintain the right rhythm! This interruption and stall has already led to adverse effects!"
While the damage wasn't significant, it was very difficult to remedy the minor flaws that occurred when the integration process of some of the bioconnectors proceeded without direction.
Not did they have to prolong the surgery to undo some of the damage, but Ranya also feared that her patient required much more time to recover from the operation!
Waking up after a week of slumber was out of the question!
While Ranya and the Ylvainan surgeons desperately sought to get the operation back on track as best as possible, the guards all became a lot more alert. They no longer showed any signs of remaining as unobtrusive as possible and loomed closer with their weapons on a hair trigger.
The corpse of Dr. Lupo disappeared through the floor which folded apart upon someone's command.
As Calabast swiftly swept the chamber one last time, she exited the operation room and entered the adjacent observation room.
"Calabast!" Gloriana turned around and shouted while her comm was active. "What is going on?! Why are we under attack?! What is the Ylvainan government doing?!"
"We've been betrayed." Calabast responded.
Though she didn't activate her own comm, her eyes flitted about as if she was manipulating an internal interface with her mind!
For some reason, Calabast managed to circumvent the jamming and receive crucial information!
"The reports I'm receiving are sporadic, but.. the agents I've installed in the Protectorate's government are being cleaned up at a rapid pace. This makes no sense!"
"The Ylvainans shouldn't be able to identify more than a handful of them! I've been exceedingly thorough in inserting them to turn them into my informants. The only way they could have swept so many of my assets is if they had help from the Friday Coalition, and not yesterday. I fear that at least some portions of the Ylvainan government has been collaborating with the Fridaymen for months or years!"
Gloriana furiously marched up to Calabast and pointed an accusatory finger at her! "You were supposed to be on guard against these kinds of schemes! Ves always complained that you weren't pulling your weight, and he's right! Some spy you are. A true DIVA agent would never allow herself to be blindsided by some lowly Ylvainans! What have you even done for us lately?!"
"I've been guarding against your Wodins." Calabast hit back. "In addition, I have done more than inserting my agents in the Ylvainan government. You'll see the results soon enough."
"That doesn't address the fact that we are under attack! What is even going on outside?"
"Numerous mercenary corps that have been hiding in various places in orbit and on the surface are bearing down on our people and assets. Commander Magdalena and Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson have taken temporary charge over our military and non-military personnel. Fortunately, due to the extreme preparations and precautions that Ves insisted upon, none of our people have wandered off and most of our critical assets are already secured aboard our ships."
The LMC and the Larkinson Clan had already been planning to leave Kesseling VIII, but Ves insisted on moving the schedule ahead in case something awful happened during the operation.
Even though most Larkinsons objected to the hasty and disruptive schedule, it worked out quite well in the end as no one was caught outside!
Gloriana gritted her teeth as she felt as if everything around her was falling apart. She couldn't stand unexpected surprises!
"We've managed to make limited contact with the Glory Battalion through the backup hardline communication channels." Melody suddenly announced. "Your brother Brutus reports that he is preparing to go into action! An unknown and indeterminate amount of third-class mechs and second-class mechs are approaching our location from various hidden locations strewn throughout Krent!"
"What is he doing?! Tell my brother to shoot them down before they get close! The Star Dancer's effective range should be long enough to cover the entire city!"
"The unknown hostiles are using civilian houses and structures as cover."
"Shoot. Them. Down." Gloriana repeated. " Why is he showing concern to our lessers when our lives are at stake? Since the Ylvainans are in collusion with the Fridaymmen or whoever is targeting us, then they might as well reap their rewards! Brutus should be trying to save our lives, not the lives of some strangers!"
"I.. will convey your instructions to Brutus."
A few moments after Melody silently corresponded with the expert pilot, she turned back to Gloriana. "It's done. Brutus is sniping the initial wave of hostile mercenary mechs."
"Good." The female Wodin smirked, but widened her eyes yet again immediately afterwards. "Wait! Don't we employ a huge amount of Ylvainans these days?! They're practically in complete control over our fleet!"
"Ahem." Calabast coughed. "About that, you don't have to be concerned about the loyalty of Fleet Coordinator Ophelia Kronon and the other Ylvainans we've employed."
Gloriana turned back to the spy. "Explain!"
"One of my other major preoccupations in the last couple of months has been to screen our new recruits and determine their loyalty and dedication to the 'Bright Martyr'. After a lot of investigation, I've discovered that they are all genuinely devoted to Ves. There is no doubt that they will fight and die on his behalf!"
"How can that be when their very own government has stabbed us in the back!? Shouldn't the entire Protectorate be up in arms about this betrayal? The Ylvainans are acting against their very own Martyred Follower!"
This did not conform to their existing priorities! Calabast had genuinely been caught off-guard by their government's sudden turnaround!
As sporadic information kept transmitting into her own cranial implant, she gradually reconstructed the events that led to this disastrous situation!
"The Ylvaine Protectorate is the only Hexer-aligned state in an ocean of Coalition-aligned states." Calabast reminded Gloriana. "During the centuries of peace, this situation persisted without much friction because the Fridaymen never showed much interest in this little stain on their maps."
"The Komodo War changed all of this, I take it." Gloriana guessed.
Calabast nodded. "The Ylvaine Protectorate took on another meaning to the Fridaymen after the war broke out. Even though it is an inconsequential third-rate state, its inconvenient placement poses a considerable threat against its dominion over the Coalition-aligned states! It is a liability that has to be removed!"
"If you could figure that out, then why didn't you guard against this possible betrayal?"
"I did!" Calabast defended herself! "As I've mentioned before, I built up an extensive information network in the Ylvainan government in order to be on the lookout for any overtures to the Fridaymen. What I didn't take sufficiently into account was the possibility that the government forged ties with them in advance! I fear that most of my clandestine actions have been exposed because the Fridaymen have placed their own spies in the Ylvainan government to work on counterintelligence!"
In other words, Calabast entered a spider web weaved by the Fridaymen without knowing it! She had been caught in the web while being none the wiser!
Gloriana frowned and rubbed her chin. "Okay, I understand why the Coalition would target the Protectorate, but why did the Protectorate play along? The will of the Ylvainan people is highly in favor of Ves! The government should never be able to get away with their actions!"
"The three leading dynasties have a responsibility to protect the Ylvainan people and preserve the Ylvainan Faith." The spy explained. "While the Ylvainans can come across as dogmatic, do you really think the leaders of the Protectorate are ready to doom their entire state, people and fate in order to stand up to their own beliefs? Between total annihilation and selling out their Bright Martyr, the latter sounds a lot more attractive!"
"What about their people?! A huge proportion of the Ylvainan population would definitely be in up arms against this betrayal!"
"The leaders know that." Calabast shook her head. "It appears they have implemented two separate measures. First, they instituted martial law and locked down communications throughout all Protectorate space! While it is impossible to impose a complete and total communications blackout, their attempts are working out quite well so far, meaning that the events on Kesseling VIII are unlikely to spread to the rest of the Protectorate!"
"What about their soldiers? There is a considerable garrison of Protectors of the Flock in the Kesseling System! Are they really going to stand by while the Bright Martyr himself is in danger?"
"The Kronon Dynasty are obliged to protect the flock. Just like their leaders, the soldiers will choose to protect their own friends, family and people! You should also remember that the Kronons have always been trained to obey orders. They can never bring themselves to break the rules and regulations that have been drilled into their minds since they underwent military training."
"It's called realpolitik, Gloriana. The Ylvainan government and military may be based around the Ylvainan Faith, but it is their people they truly care about. The Friday Coalition forced them to make a very painful choice. Either they must choose to give up their state, beliefs and way of life, or they must stand aside while the Bright Martyr dies or loses his freedom."
If Gloriana was in their position, she would definitely choose to save Ves, but the problem was that she was not in charge!
She looked glum. "Then.. is the entire Protectorate against us? Will they stop us from leaving?"
"I wouldn't be so sure about that." Calabast smirked. "First, just because their superiors ordered the Kronons to blockade us doesn't necessarily mean they will obey these orders to the letter. Second, not every Ylvainan has betrayed us or decided to stand aside. The folk who joined the LMC or joined the crew of our expanding fleet are all on our side!"
"How do you know that?!"
"Because.. they all belong to a faction called the New Ylvaine Dynasty."
"What?! You mean the terrorist cult led by a clone of the Great Prophet?!"
"I'll let the so-called Living Prophet explain the situation to you himself."
Calabast snapped her fingers, causing a projection of a young man in a piloting suit to appear in the observation room.
"Miss Wodin, Miss Arnlend, I am pleased to meet you both." He bowed.
"Are you supposed to be Ylvaine?" Gloriana frowned. "You look younger than I thought."
"No matter what form I take, I will always be the Great Prophet that has founded our faith!" The handsome man fervently claimed before composing himself again. "You can call me James if that makes you feel more comfortable. Mr. Larkinson knows my current incarnation better by this name."
Gloriana did not look amused. She ignored the projection of 'James' and turned to Calabast. "Why did you befriend this clone?"
"Please don't call me a clone." The projection insisted and spread his arms while tilting his head in the air. "I AM YLVAINE REBORN! I AM THE PROPHET WHO ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS BUT CHOSE TO DESCEND TO LEAD MY PEOPLE TO THE PROPER PATH! THE STATE THAT MY FLOCK HAS FOUNDED UNDER MY NAME HAS GONE ASTRAY! I SHALL—"
Calabast pinched her fingers, muting the projection! "Okay, that was a bad idea. Regardless of what you may think of James, his True Believers are rife within our organizations! For better or worse, we need to keep the New Ylvaine Dynasty as our allies. Without their help, the majority of our ships won't fly. Now that I think of it, it seems that the Living Prophet may have anticipated this crisis!"
Inwardly, she felt ashamed of herself! A crackpot clone managed to predict and prepare for this calamity while she herself had failed to detect any clues!
The suspected Fridaymen counterintelligence agents stationed in the Protectorate may have been able to hinder her attempts at gathering information, but they weren't capable of stopping the supposed prophetic powers of a delusional terrorist leader!