Few people of the Verge actually want war. Yet war is an ever-present threat.
The Verge Republic and the Zox Hierate are at loggerheads, facing off across a hostile and fortified border, with the Zox threatening annihilation and the political hawks of the Republic agitating for a pre-emptive strike. Meanwhile, all the polities of the Verge – the Republic, the Hierate, and the loose association characterizing Gummi space – are menaced by the mysterious but genocidal Squirm.
Not every adventure in the Verge features war. Many stories will revolve around investigating crimes and catching criminals, fighting corruption, solving mysteries, exploring lost Antecessor ruins and recovering valuable artifacts, or heading off to strange new alien worlds.
However, when war does come, this section covers some of the details of what can be expected, and how the war is likely to be fought.
The main organization of the Verge Republic for fighting wars is the Republican Army, or RA for short.
Despite the name, the army handles not only land combat but air, sea, and space as well, with different departments within the army responsible for the navy, space force, and strategic air force.
The RA keeps many bases on worlds around the Republic, ready for rapid deployment wherever trouble may pop up.
Although it has its share of war-mongers, the main overarching strategy of the Republic is defensive. They mean to protect their citizens.
To this end, each Republic world maintains a number of defensive fortifications.
A world will have a number of planetary defense lasers. These are heavily protected, buried deep underground beneath armed bases. A planetary defense laser relies on a system of orbiting wormhole satellites for aiming. When needed, the laser will be routed to the groundside wormhole mouth connected to the satellite in the proper position. The satellite wormhole expands to accommodate the wide beam at the focal aperture needed to hold tight focus on the ground. Looking through the satellite, the ground crew obtains a firing solution, locks on target, and fires the laser. These high powered lasers can raster-scan across swaths of terrain, blasting unarmored adversaries in their path, or focus on specific armored targets for point destruction.
A system of monitor wormholes are set up across major Republic worlds. Not large enough to handle the heavy traffic of a transit wormhole, these monitors scan for causality fluctuations of unauthorized wormholes. If wormholes not connected to the planetary wormhole network are detected, the monitors get a rough idea of the enemy wormhole locations – generally accurate to within 25 km.
Note that a single wormhole mouth connecting off-world cannot be detected, but any time you have wormhole connections within the monitored world (even if legs of the wormhole connections lead off-world), the monitors can pick up the fluctuations.
This includes wormhole coms and E-wormholes – if an enemy force on the planet is using wormholes to communicate among itself or to power equipment, their location can be determined.
The monitor wormholes also allow an uninflated rapid response wormhole to pass through in order to start as close as possible before approach and inflation for the creation of the RA's main base.
Human technology produces wormholes that are strong but large, brittle, and inflexible.
The monitor wormholes can attempt to provide causality denial coverage for the RA's operations, preventing the enemy from using wormholes against them.
However, in this respect the RA is at a disadvantage compared to the more flexible wormholes of the Zox and Squirm, and Army doctrine is not to rely on causality protection but to, as much as possible, use the monitors for intelligence gathering.
Each world of the Republic also has a system of picket wormholes launched into space, and traveling out into the galaxy. These are designed to pick up the causality fluctuations of enemy wormholes approaching the planet. A picket wormhole that detects an enemy will probably break – they are designed to be cheap, fast, and lightweight, not strong – but the signal they produce will alert the world to incoming danger and give an idea of when and from which direction the approaching wormhole will come.
The Republic does not have a high population.
However, its automated robot factories allow a high level of production.
Most of the Republic's war fighters are robots.
Robots are good at carrying out narrow, well-defined tasks.
They require sapient guidance in order to set objectives and priorities, and to react with good judgement to unplanned events.
A sapient soldier usually controls a combat squad of between 5 and 20 robots (or several hundred swarmbots).
A sapient infantry soldier will be equipped with a longarm and battle armor; one expected to encounter heavy fighting on the front lines may have power armor and light cannons.
However, their main job is to command the robots assigned to them rather than shoot at the enemy themselves.
Republic fighting forces tend to be highly stealthed against visual, radar, thermographic, and audial detection. However, Humans lack the technology to defeat affector-based scanners. The aedar sensors of the Republic's adversaries can reliably locate stealthed objects in the open, requiring the RA to use terrain and cover for concealment.
However, while the armored fighting vehicles of the Republic's enemies may use aedar targeting, most of the troops will rely on vision so that stealth can still be effective.
A common tactic is to use immobile robots concealed among natural structure in order to spring ambushes, somewhat blurring the line between mines and military forces.
The Republic has purchased aedar cloaking devices from the Gummis. While not common, robots using these aedar cloaks will be deployed to strike high value targets undetected.
The flip side of this is that the Republic's enemies have no experience with radar, electromagnetic coms, or ECM. Republic forces are free to scan with high power radar without revealing their location, need not worry about com jamming, and generally control the airwaves.
The RA has to protect entire worlds which are still mostly wilderness.
All too often, a Squirm wormhole lands out in the middle of nowhere on a continent with only a few small outposts.
Because they cannot always rely on wormhole transport, the RS makes extensive use of mechanized and air-mobile units to get where they need to go.
Direct-fire warfighting machines usually mount a combination of needle weapons for piercing material armor and lasers for shooting through deflectors. The lasers also serve a defensive role in shooting down incoming lightly armored projectiles and aircraft. Some of the battle robots will switch out the needle gun for a rocket launcher, in order to provide additional capabilities for the squad.
Others will ditch the needle gun for an upgraded laser and sensors to provide area defense for the squad.
When the Republic cannot causally deny the enemy the use of wormholes, these laser bots can be vital for shooting down incoming causality munitions.
Indirect-fire artillery is a combination of induction warhead-flingers and hypersonic needle artillery. The warheads give superior area of effect, while needler long-rods penetrate heavy armor. Both varieties of projectile are likely to be self-guided, capable of autonomously selecting targets as they approach the attack zone and then homing in for the kill.
When faced with massed opponents, the RA will use bombardment with area attack weapons from artillery, airstrikes, or raster-scans from laser satellites.
This may include collapse weaponry if the Republic forces have causal superiority.
Enemy troops using deflectors will be highly resistant to explosives, but lasers and the radiant flash from a collapse detonation will pass right through the deflector screens. Heavy armor will be directly targeted with lasers (for deflectors) or heavy projectile weapons (for material armor).
Against wormhole capable opponents, like the Zox or the Squirm, the first priority will be to take out the wormholes in the enemy forward operating bases, preventing re-supply of the troops operating out of that base. Because the Republic's wormhole technology tends to be a step behind that of the societies using Antecessor tech, the RA does not count on being able to execute a causality attack against these wormholes, nor to be able to use collapse weaponry in their vicinity.
A stealth attack might be executed, either with cloaked artillery rounds, missiles, or explosive-laden robots.
However, if this fails or suitably aedar-cloaked weaponry is not available, the RA will need to resort to other methods.
This can include sabotage by special forces or a direct assault to capture the base.
An ideal situation would be the capture of the wormhole, allowing a direct attack on the supply base and the main wormhole connecting the enemy to the Republic world.
However, most enemies will purposely destroy any wormhole about to be overrun to prevent just this occurrence.
The RA does have a limited number of wormhole clamps purchased from the Gummis or scavenged from recovered Zox or Squirm equipment that it can use to prevent a wormhole being closed, although even this cannot prevent collapse from massive damage to the frame, causality loops, or mass imbalance.
During one of the campaigns against a Squirm infestation on Zhǎngshān, the RA used primitive fission weapons against Squirm wormholes in a causality denied environment.
While effective, the fallout – both physical and political – make these a weapon of last resort.
While the RA is used to fight Squirm on the battlefield, the war against the Squirm is as much a public health and counter-intelligence effort as it is military.
The Federal Emergency Response Agency (FERA) has the job of screening for Squirm infections among the populace, coordinating the development of cures and vaccines, administering treatments, declaring quarantines, and preventing infections from spreading. Transit Law coordinates with local law enforcement agencies to identify likely infected Squirm agents based on suspicious behavior, sudden changes in behavior, and tip-offs from concerned citizens.
Transit Law's mass surveillance of social media and online traffic using dedicated AI has raised numerous civil liberty concerns. So far, however, they generally have had public support and their actions have been approved by the courts due to the clear and present threat to society.
Even after the Squirm have been crushed militarily and all the infection victims cured, the fight against the Squirm is still not over.
Former blight areas remain biohazard zones, with spores that could potentially infect anyone who doesn't take appropriate precautions when entering and exiting.These areas require extensive environmental remediation, usually by fleets of robot sterilizers that tear down infrastructure, raze the area of vegetation for incineration, and scoop up and cook the soil.
After this, sapient life forms can safely enter, and will help to rebuild or re-seed the area with more hospitable life.
Purely mechanical means of blight suppression cannot always be relied on to eradicate a Squirm infestation, particularly if the blighted region has had time to grow large. With each new infestation and each new blight strain uncovered, the Republic R&D will go into overdrive, engineering new parasites and pathogens tailored to that strain, as well as vaccines and cures for the infected. A combination of biological control and dedicated bio-remediation can, with considerable effort, lead to local Squirm extinction once they have been discovered, militarily conquered, and cut off from off-world Squirm resources, and when sufficient public health practices are put into place.
Zox Imperial Army
The main fighting force of the Zox Hierate is the Zox Imperial Army (ZIA).
Zox doctrine calls for opening an assault on a new world by first securing the wormhole, prepping it for mass transport, and then moving through large numbers of troops, armored vehicles, and equipment.
The main wormhole terminus is then fortified, scouting expeditions are sent out to determine any immediate threats in the area, and the main base is used as a staging area to deploy wormhole links to forward operating bases.
Bases are likely to be set up as soon as possible in widely scattered parts of the world, in order to make the planet a causality-denied environment so that collapse- or causality-based attacks cannot be used against them.
The ZIA relies on large numbers of lightly-equipped conscript troops, for scouting large areas for enemy activity as well as massed units of cannon fodder.
When serious opposition is encountered, the ZIA attempts to destroy it through overwhelming firepower, supporting its massed light infantry with units of professional heavy infantry and repulsorlift armored vehicles (serving a role similar to that of tanks, gunships, and fighter aircraft), while attempting to encircle and then pulverize the enemy.
The goal is to completely overwhelm the enemy and destroy all its offensive capability, including the massacre of its soldiers and the civilians who support them.
The ZIA is not particularly concerned with heavy casualties of its own troops, except insofar as it depletes its resources needed for a sustained campaign, as long as it meets its objectives.
After losing twice to the Humans, the normally hidebound ZIA has begun to adopt some solid armor.
While more comfortable using deflectors, they realize that in order to confront the Humans and their lasers, they need a different armor loadout.
Republic intelligence reports that the ZIA is training with armored personnel transports.
These are believed to be repulsorlift vehicles, possibly capable of flight, with deflectors providing all-around protection against explosions and projectiles and heavy frontal armor to stop laser pulses.
The RIA believes these will be used to deliver masses of troops to the front line, where they will dismount to fight.
Until the Squirm invaded their homeland, the ZIA has never had to worry about fighting a defensive campaign.
If Zox territory is attacked, the ZIA is likely to fall back on their offensive tactics, directly attacking the enemy formations and positions with everything they've got.
However, Republic intelligence suggests that at least some ZIA generals have been studying Human military theory in the wake of the disaster than cost them Mantheim, and might apply these theories to use defensive fortifications and fighting techniques.
One of the biggest threats to the ZIA might be considered to be the Zox Hierate itself.
The Zox Hierate relies heavily on doctrine, and the army is no exception.
Although there are nuances, it mostly boils down to "throw more troops at the problem until it goes away."
Clever tactics are generally not encouraged.
When a competent commander does emerge, he becomes a threat.
Charismatic, successful military heroes who have the loyalty of their troops have the potential of deciding that maybe they could run things better than those who are currently in charge, and realize that they have the means to replace the current leaders.
Anyone general who seems a bit too successful is likely to be recalled, or ordered into increasingly dangerous fights with fewer and fewer resources to support them until they are defeated.
The RA is hoping that military commanders who find themselves in these situations would be ripe for defection.
When Gummis or their allies are under threat, they can call a muster.
The Gummis organize around the existing civil defense militias, with volunteers swelling the number of troops. The main militia organization committee for Gummi Space ultimately coordinates the muster to fight off the threat.
The Gummis are considered the top experts in causality warfare. Nearly any area controlled by the Gummis will be under causality denial to enemy wormholes.
This prevents not only wormhole transportation within this region but also wormhole communication, energy transmission, and collapse weaponry. The wormholes of Gummis and their allies will, of course, work fine. As usual, causality denial only prevents wormhole connections from within the controlled region, wormholes with one end outside that region can still work. Thus, a primary objective will be to establish wormhole control stations at geographically separated areas on a planet in order to extend causal protection to the entire world.
Because of Gummi wormhole warfare expertise, it is unlikely that enemy causality exclusion zones will last long.
Once Gummis have wormhole superiority, they will proceed to use their superior mobility through their own wormholes to systematically dismantle the enemy forces. The enemy's own wormholes will be used to locate their positions. A specific target will be chosen, the enemy wormholes in that location will be disabled, and the Gummis will concentrate their forces on the now isolated enemy. This procedure is repeated until no enemy remains.
In the direct attack, actual Gummi soldiers might better be considered cavalry rather than infantry – to enhance their mobility, they ride armored hover pods like miniature tanks. They also use armored hover tanks and gunships when heavier-hitting firepower is needed.
However, their Pirang troops have strength, speed, and keen eyesight on their side, making them excellent infantry. Similarly, Tweechi have the mobility to be excellent scouts. Although Tweechi are too small to carry significant weaponry, they can still harass poorly armored enemy targets, using their flight to strike and fade.
The disruptor bolts of the Gummis are uniquely capable of battering down deflector screens, and Gummis are trained to concentrate their fire on high value targets to collapse their screens.
It is generally thought that after The Bump in the Night, the Squirm of the Milky Way galaxy were fragmented and disorganized.
Although they seem to remain dedicated to their genocidal campaign, attacks against Republic and Gummi worlds have been piecemeal, without the concentration of force seen in the attack on Triangulum or the Indian bough.
The Squirm attacks that have occurred since then have varied considerably in overall strategy.
Some have employed direct assaults on a planet with large armies.
Others rely on infiltration to infect and suborn a population.
There are even nuances within these overall strategies.
Some blights prefer to field a small number of elite units, others massive swarms of cheap mobiles to overwhelm through sheer numbers.
Some integrate more machines or cyborgs into their armies, while others rely more on pure biologicals.
Those who go for subversion and infection might specifically target the most influential members of a society or might instead focus on infecting the entire population of a given town or settlement before moving on to adjoining population centers.
In direct attacks, Squirm disintegrator rays have proven frighteningly effective at penetrating carboplast armor and destroying shatterplate.
In combat with the Republic, this leads to tactical situations where armor provides little protection on either side.
In these battles, mobility, maneuver, and stealth become paramount.
The visual cloaking of Republic front-line fighters gives them a significant edge against biological-only Squirm.
Perhaps learning from this, more recent Squirm attacks have typically involved mobiles that have been cybernetically augmented with, at least, aedar to detect Republic troops.
A Squirm infestation will attempt to keep a wormhole back to their off-world Squirm industrial base, in order to supply the growing blights with the technological tools they need for conquest.
Once established on a world, the Squirm will begin building up their own local industry.
If cut off from the rest of the Squirm, undetected blights have been known to infect and subvert locals to take over their industry.
A direct take-over of a remote settlement may give the blight access to several garage facs.
A more insidious blight concentrating on subverting a more established area may use mind control, corruption, and blackmail to discretely divert resources – a few fabs here and there will be written off as faulty when they leave the production line and diverted to Squirm agents, containers of feedstock will be shipped to shell companies, and so on.
In this way, a growing blight can use its enemy's own tools against it.
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