"Men must have the right of choice, even to choose wrong, if he shall ever learn to choose right." ~ Josiah Wedgwood
Minerva, Chapter 15
'Armor unit one-three has been marked,' the radio operator announced. A thirteenth red icon appeared on the large monitor.
Peckard nodded. As he had hoped, the Lotosian commander had deployed his tanks to move out and 'secure' the neighborhood around the harbor. Now the last one had finally passed over one of the modified manhole covers.
'[There's no one here,]' Lieutenant Dikan reported into his radio. He had been dreading the landing for weeks. But now, despite all of the pessimistic talk of guerrilla warfare, it seemed the capitalists weren't going to put up a fight.
Dikan had been driving up and down the streets for ten minutes, and hadn't seen a single person. The city looked deserted. The windows on every building were covered, making it impossible to see inside.
Dikan heard nothing when his tank passed slowly over the manhole cover. He felt nothing when the cover slid aside, and a telescoping arm attached a small device to the underbelly of his tank.
General Rygar nodded as the reports came in from his men in the tanks and jeeps. He had no aerial reconnaissance, and the skyscrapers offered incredible cover for the defenders. In many respects, Rygar didn't understand the strange society of the island. But he did know that these people could be very crafty. Rygar had needed to run a quick sweep of the theater to know what to expect.
And now, apparently, he should expect no open resistance. Perhaps, as Lugar claimed in his speeches to the troops, the capitalists running the island would sell their stocks and run back to Wall Street. After all, what do capitalists know about running an army?
Nonetheless, caution was still in order. Before marching tens of thousands of his men into the line of fire, Rygar wanted to first . . . prod the capitalists.
'Affirmative, armor unit four just rolled over a motorcycle at Fourth and Broadway.' Mike Reynolds panned the scene with his binoculars and shook his head. What idiot leaves his bike out during an invasion?
'Armor unit six is firing on a TV store on Third and Ocean,' the voice on the radio reported.
Mike Reynolds focused his binoculars on the tank below, just in time to see it explode.
It was clear from the excited voices on the radio that the other teams had seen similar things.
Rygar considered the possible explanations for the sudden radio silence. He thought it most likely that the capitalists were somehow jamming the radios. If they had attacked with rockets, surely one of the units would have had time to report this. But instead of a gradual loss, Rygar had lost contact with every single unit at the exact same time.
'[How long for the guns?]' Rygar asked. Now that the capitalists were being openly hostile, the general felt justified in beginning a proper attack. He just hoped the imbeciles sighting the artillery didn't fall short and land the shells on the tanks.
Here we go, Tom Flanagan thought, his helicopter screaming over the buildings. The vehicle wasn't nearly as sexy as the Apache he had mastered in his U.S. service. But, if all you needed to do was take out a few pieces that had no air defense, his current workplace machinery was more than adequate.
Flanagan dreamed of the future. With every heavy gun he took out, he'd be paid a cool five hundred grand. He certainly had no qualms about his mode of employment. The only dilemma Tom Flanagan currently faced was whether to spend his life in the casinos here'where the rich could basically live as royalty, complete with harems'or whether to return to the United States.
Rygar watched helplessly as his last artillery piece exploded into flame. His men could have done nothing; the helicopters had been extremely distant when firing their missiles.
Rygar waited for the connection with General Lugar. This was of course a formality; Rygar knew full well that he would be ordered to carry on with the invasion.
Already he was working on an inspirational speech for the men. It would definitely need to include revenge for their fallen comrades.
* * *
'[Nothing,]' Lieutenant Kymun said into the microphone. He consulted his map to make sure this was indeed the objective.
'[Then open it up,]' Rygar's voice ordered out of the radio speaker.
Kymun gave the signal to the engineer, who detonated the explosives covering the front door to Granite Trust's main vaults.
As soldiers cleared away the rubble from the blast, an unexpected sound boomed through the quiet streets: The Lotosians could all hear, quite distinctly, the unmistakable and enticing noises of a quite vocal woman engaged in aggressive intercourse.
It only took a moment for each of the thousands of Lotosian infantry to spot a billboard screen featuring the visual footage of the theatrical performance. Kymun himself was still fixated on the nearest screen when the blinding flash occurred and the horrible siren began to wail.
'Got 'im!' Mike Reynolds grunted as the soldier's left knee exploded. At precisely the same moment, five hundred ninety-nine other Lotosians also lost a shin and foot.
Reynolds waited for his next order. So long as the scoring system registered it properly, that single shot had just earned him more than he'd made in the previous year.
He looked with interest as the soldiers burst into the storefronts. Many Lotosians had fired blindly at the skyscrapers surrounding them, and a few even tried to drag their fallen men into the alleys. But by far the majority had piled into buildings wherever their protective fa'ade had been breached.
'[We know exactly where you are,]' boomed the voice in perfect dialect. '[If the lights go red, you are in one of our buildings.]' The lights in the deli turned red, then switched back. They did this quickly four times in a row.
'[We have not killed your comrades. Do not interfere with us as we transport them to a hospital.]'
The men all looked at Kymun. They did not want to leave the store and lose their legs as the dozens lying in the street.
Kymun watched as the armored vans raced down the street, picking up the wounded. Within minutes, the street was once again deserted.
'[Very good,]' the voice boomed. '[Now, when your location is selected, the red lights will flicker in your building. When this happens, you are to leave your weapons and quickly exit the building. Anyone leaving a building before it is selected will soon visit our excellent hospitals. And if anyone does not leave a building within five minutes of the signal . . . .]'
The room rumbled as one of the smaller buildings to the east of the bank slowly crumbled to the ground.