Unity

Xenonion Interviews: John Reko, famed general from the Commonwealth-Arthropod conflict

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It is approaching 100 years since the Commonwealth of Man (CoM) secured victory in the Commonwealth-Arthropod conflict, colloquially known by humans as ‘The War on Bugs.’

Very little is known about the conflict as the Commonwealth tightly controls all information on the subject. The unnamed Arthropods were completely annihilated in the war, with no trace of their civilization, or indeed their appearance, remaining.

The victory is regarded as one of the most important events in Commonwealth history, one that cemented neighboring powers such as the United Nations of Earth (UNE) taking its military prowess seriously.

General John Reko is one of the Commonwealth’s most decorated military leaders. He rose to prominence during the conflict.

With the 100-year anniversary of the conflict coming up, the Commonwealth has granted Xenonion an exclusive interview with General Reko, to retell one of the galaxy’s most dramatic stories.


General Reko, thank you for taking the time to meet with us today.

It's my pleasure.

It’s fast approaching the 100 year anniversary of the Commonwealth-Arthropod conflict. Most information about the war comes from government-mandated textbooks and press releases. Today is the first time anyone official has spoken to media about the conflict in more detail. Has something happened to cause the Commonwealth’s stance to change?

That’s a good question. I think as memories fade, the Commonwealth government wants to remind the galaxy about what happened, and that while we might be a relatively small space-nation, we can still punch well above our weight.

You’ve had an illustrious career serving in the Commonwealth military, working your way up from the Hypermobile Infantry to becoming a general. Indeed, your career started just as the Commonwealth-Arthropod conflict broke out. Can you talk us through how the war with the Arthropods started, and what you were doing at the time?

Now this is taking me back.

The first thing I really remember is not war, but rather the escalation in tensions that happened just before war broke out.

I must have been about eighteen, and had just graduated from high school in Buenos Nachos, a newly built city district on Unity.

I remember around that time my science teacher, Mr. Ironside, was constantly trying to drum into my classmates and I about the failure of the democracy and the United Nations of Earth.

Back then we had sent countless science ships into space. The Commonwealth has always prioritized science. Anyway. One of our science ships found a Determined Exterminator.

The so-called ‘bugs’?

The crew’s last transmission was played on CommNet - it was a panicked one, filled with vulgar language, screams and explosive decompression. Our Science Division eventually picked up enough metaphorical crumbs for us to contact them. They were indeed arthropods…. bugs…

Do you know that the bugs’ species name was?

I don’t, no. We never cared to learn it. We just called them ‘bugs.’

You didn’t know what their names were but you could diplomatically interact with them? That’s quite unprecedented for galactic diplomacy…

Perhaps the higher-ups knew their name. But I didn’t.

Anyway. Grand Sky Marshal Beauclair sent a clear message to them - the only good bug is a dead bug! The Diplomacy Corps was hastily rearranged into the Insult Corps, every few months we'd send that message over and over to their homeworld of Dlenkathu.

And that's when you signed up to the Commonwealth military?

Across the Commonwealth, we have this saying… "service guarantees citizenship." It's basically about service being our civic duty. No matter where you are, to be a citizen is to be a soldier and vice versa.

That saying sounds familiar.

I’m sure you’ve heard it across Commonwealth space.

I can’t quite place it, but perhaps you’re right.

Anyway. I was angry we had been provoked by space bugs. I wanted to do more. Would you like to know more?

Would I like to know more?

Yes, would you?

Well… yes. This is an interview.

Good.

Ok, this is a little strange, is it ok if I go back to asking the questions?

Sure.

Ok… So.. service guarantees citizenship. Then you enrolled?

Yes. I packed my bags, left Buenos Nachos, and moved in to the Defence Fortress. Entire pops flocked to serve. What impressed me most was the unisex showers. Truly a wonderful marvel of engineering. I’ll bet they don’t have anything like that in the UNE.

Sorry… what?

You’ve clearly never been in a unisex shower, have you?

No…

Thought so. Anyway. My unit was being trained by Sergeant Drill, a so-called “renegade”, “loose cannon.” They were partly right, but he worked us hard and made sure we were up to scratch.

Your time in training wasn’t so easy though?

No… on the training field I had a bit of an accident when I led the squad. They didn’t tell us we were using living rounds. One of my soldiers, Private Fodder, removed his helmet and… well, my body armor got a bit more red that day.

Drill was so angry. I was about to quit. But then everything changed…

The asteroid?

We received a priority transmission from CommNet. “Asteroid - direct hit - Buenos Nachos.”

The holoTVs showed scenes of utter destruction, fire, tangled metal, billions of dead pops.

The damn bugs, they got Buenos Nachos! The tortilla paradise. Apparently they had some bug plasma that could fling asteroids towards Deneb.

All I could think about were my family. My mom and dad… they ran a tortilla stand in town. My best friends, N.P. Harris, Ditzy Florist, Renise Dichardson… thankfully they had enrolled in the military too so weren’t there when home was hit. N.P ended up in the PsiCorps if I remember right, Ditzy in the Hypermobile Infantry, and Renise got a flight officer job on one of our Cruisers, the Rodgering Old.

Anyway, I’m digressing. We readied for war.

That’s when plans were drawn up to invade Dlenkathu?

Yes. Our new regiment was up and running. Commonwealth Command ordered each regiment to hit Dlenkathu, the bug homeworld.

We departed Unity in the millions. 45 troop transport ships in all. Entire cities were emptied to serve in the army.

Fleet took up position over Dlenkathu. We bundled ourselves into our drop pods.

What was the drop like?

We were so certain of victory we even brought along a team from Commonwealth Public Radio (CPR) - they were going to record our campaign of shock and awe against the bugs.

Our transport burnt through the atmosphere and hit the ground with a bang. We quickly undid our straps and grabbed our guns. When that ramp hit the rocky surface of Dleklendathu, we surged out like a tide… [pause]

… And then?

Then we saw them. One of the arthropods. Its shining black carapace and razor sharp claws glinted in the moonlight. The funny thing was… it ran away from us.

We hip fired kinetic weapons - we all saw the movies, why couldn't we be heroes? We pursued it. Most shots went astray.

Suddenly, the ground gave way. I tumbled downwards. Do you know what was under our very feet?

The bug caverns?

Bug caverns indeed. Hollowed out tunnels, containing thousands of bugs. These were not like the bugs that we were chasing, these ones had body armour, helmets and sharper claws. We were chasing a civilian!

I was lucky not to fall down any of the bug holes now emerging all around me. I scrambled back and ran for my life.

As I was running, Commonwealth soldiers were falling all around me. One of the commanders was yelling something about combat width. I didn’t understand. I saw the CPR broadcasting team getting torn limb from limb.

And then one got me.

One of the bugs?

Right in the leg. I thought I was a goner. I passed out there and then. The last thing I remember was trying to think of happier times in Buenos Nachos.

The tortillas?

Yes. The tortillas.

How did you survive such an injury?

Well, the next thing I remember was waking up in a Gene Clinic goop vat. You know those ones that heal every injury, but you have to float there for a few days in a big glass tube that everyone can tap on and see into? It was quite degrading really. But anyway, it patched me up. Someone had pulled me off Dlenkathu, and got me back on to a fleet ship.

Who was it?

I still find this hard to believe. My science teacher, Mr. Ironside! His Roughheads had come across me. These people are the real deal! They were veterans, the first army the Commonwealth ever recruited. These people where the old guard, but they were deadly and efficient.

Anyway, he must have seen something in me, as he invited me into his Roughheads. I was so proud, although somewhat worried he was going to spring a science question on me.

Your first mission with the Roughheads took you to Snango Snurilla, correct?

Yes. We had a new directive from the Grand Sky Marshall’s office. We were taking out outlying planets one by one.

Snango Snurilla was our first victory. Fleet glassed the planet from orbit, and we mopped up the remains. Probably what we should have done on Dlenkathu in retrospect.

I actually made Corporal after taking out this massive bug that shot flames. It was insane, would have made for a great movie scene.

Your second mission was less successful?

Ah yes, Planet Q. Why they called it Q, I have no idea. That’s were things went a bit wrong again. We picked up a distress call from a forward base there. We were on for search and rescue.

It was a grim planet. Arid, canyons. Would have served well as a penal colony. Ironside was leading again, and I was second in command.

After an arduous trek we came across the abandoned outpost… it was in bad shape. Dead soldiers everywhere. We found the communications officer who had presumably sent the distress call… he had a massive hole in his head. It looked like his brain had been sucked out!

We wondered… did the bugs do this? And if they’d stuck something in his head, could they have made him send the distress signal? Was this a trap?

Sadly, at that moment our questions were answered. The very ground trembled at our feet, collapsing from under us. It was an ambush!

We fired our guns. It didn't do a damn thing, our bullets pinged off of their black hides, our body armor proved useless in close quarters… the bugs had Very Strong traits.

In the melee, Ironside was picked up. I fired at the offending bug, but it was too late - he was chopped in half by a huge serrated bug proboscis. It was a shocking scene. I can still remember his last words to me, blood pouring out of his mouth - he said, “bleurglgglgl.”

All around, bugs started pouring out, literally eating their way through the remaining Roughheads.

We managed to get a distress signal in just in time. It seemed like forever for a rescue boat to come. When it did, we’d lost most of our unit. Morale was low. Very low.

What happened next?

We regrouped on fleet. From Ironside’s death, I had assumed command of the Roughheads.

We got word from Command about the next operation - “Enduring End.” PsiCorps had apparently located a ‘Brain Bug’ on Q, a bug leader so to speak.

The whole unit was exhausted. We had fought on many worlds, Dlenkathu, Snago Snurilla, Q, Tau Ceti Prime.

Tau Ceti Prime?

Oh… yes we accidentally invaded a primitive world when we were travelling to Q… it’s a whole other story.

Anyway. I was tired. I had lost my Eager trait. But I was still Talented, and goddamn it the Commonwealth needed me.

So you went back to Q?

We did. And we learnt from our previous engagements.

We blasted apart ambushes with practiced ease, we collapsed their tunnels with nukes and filled them with flames.

While the bulk of the assault armies moved in to distract the bugs, myself and a small squad moved to get the brain bug out. We moved through hollow, cramped tunnels. We killed our way through bugs. That’s when we finally found it.

The brain bug?

The brain bug. It was a strange sight. It kinda looked like a bloated caterpillar. God, it was so ugly. It definitely had a Repugnant trait or two.

We tied it up and dragged it back up to the surface.

One of the PsiCorp officers went up to the bug, placing his hands on it and apparently reading its thoughts. He shouted - “it’s afraid!”

A primal cheer roared up inside of us, finally, a solid victory!

What happened next?

What do you mean?

What happened after you captured the brain bug?

Well…. uh…. that’s it.

But… what?

I don’t have anything more to tell you…. We won.

Wait, you won?

Yes. We won.

But… how? You just caught one brain bug?

Yes.

You won because it was afraid? What about all the other bug planets? What about Dlenkathu? This just seems like a very premature end.

I… uh. Hmm. Well… Give me a second. [produces psiPhone]

General Reko… what’s that in your hand?

It's uh, nothing, nothing, give me a moment please. Sometimes my memory doesn’t work so great and I need to jog it.

General Reko, are you reading the plot to the film Spacecraft Servicemen on your psiPhone?

I… what?

The popular 20th century United Nations of Earth sci-fi film about human soldiers facing off against an existential alien threat?

Um.

General Reko.

I… uh. You know, I’m running late for my next press appointment, I probably should get going .

General Reko is everything you’ve been telling us based off the hit film Spacecraft Servicemen? Is that why all information relating to the conflict regulated by the Commonwealth, and there’s no actual existing physical evidence relating to what’s happened? Is that why the bug species don’t have a name or record in the Galactic UN registry? Is that why Xenonion’s SpaceWeather Sentry Array didn’t detect an asteroid in the vicinity of Deneb? Is Buenos Nachos even a real city district?

This is outrageous! Outrageous! Fake news media coming here and concocting wild conspiracy theories.

General, are you even who you say you are? Have you ever even served with the Commonwealth military?

This is ridiculous. This interview is over.


General Reko left the interview before any further questions could be asked.

An enhanced background check was undertaken of Commonwealth personnel. It was discovered there is no personnel by the name of General Reko, or indeed any of the pops named in the above interview.

DNA analysis of sweat left by General Reko has identified him as Jack Doe, a struggling actor from Unity who currently pays his rent by participating in low-budget propaganda films and press junkets for the Commonwealth of Man.

The above account was cross-referenced with the 1997 UNE film Spacecraft Serviceman and found to be a 96% match.

It appears the Commonwealth has long been peddling a fabricated version of history based on the above film in order to project an appearance of military superiority to its human counterparts.

The Commonwealth of Man declined to comment to the above, and has denounced Xenonion News as ‘fake news’ and closed their borders to us.

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Commonwealth of Man insults ‘repugnant xeno’ United Nations of Earth

Image: File picture of Executor Beauclair in the Commonwealth Palace.

Image: File picture of Executor Beauclair in the Commonwealth Palace.

Unity, Deneb System, Commonwealth of Man

The Commonwealth of Man (CoM) today launched a volley of scathing insults aimed at the United Nations of Earth (UNE).

In a statement broadcast to state-owned media, CoM leader Executor Sidney Beauclair announced:

"The United Nations of Earth's repeated cursed acts of treachery against humanity are in betrayal of such profound trust and warm love shown by the Commonwealth of Man. Their political tricksters and military imbeciles are at the centre of a plot aimed to fraud and swindle our glorious Commonweath, which has been bared for all to admire, but never touch. Their citizens are repugnant xenos, cowering under their layers of clothes, hiding their sad frames from us. Their leader, so-called president Jeffrey Rossario, is a mentally deranged individual steeped in the inveterate enmity towards the Commonwealth. Like a rabid dog, the UNE tries to bite us. We will bite back."

While it is not clear what has prompted this statement, relations between the neighbouring spacenations have been increasingly frosty in recent months, most notably after the CoM test fired long-range fusion missiles near to the UNE system of Procyon.

Political analysts on Earth suspect the insult may be in response to the UNE’s plans to build a series of frontier outposts in mineral-rich territory the CoM has been planning on expanding towards. Intergalactic relations expert Professor Charles Charlemagne XXI of Earth's University of Ulm added:

"This is simple sabre rattling on the Commonweath's part. We've seen this pattern of behaviour before when things haven't been going well in their internal affairs - a food or energy crisis for example. Suddenly the UNE gets labelled as some external aggressor, the people have an existential crisis and fall in line behind Beauclair. The UNE has done nothing to warrant this - aside from destroying several dozen Commonweath ships, and implanting a network of spies on Unity to rile up discontent - the whole thing is totally unjustified."

The CoM, a UNE breakaway state, was formed in 2150 after Sidney Beauclair’s grandfather, Magnus Beauclair, overthrew the crew of the USS Ulysses, a colony ship, and settled the planet of Unity in the Deneb system, shaping political affairs in his own image.

For decades the one-planet Commonwealth has been one of the galaxy’s most secretive societies, a nominal democracy ruled in reality under a fanatic militarist and xenophobic hereditary dictatorship. Almost of a century of rigid state control have led to a stagnant economy and limited space expansion. The government’s permissive attitude towards slavery and purging political opponents has left it being accused of systematic xeno rights abuses by the Galactic UN.

> More accurate reporting from Ashley Easterbrook could not be possible.