Rather than two armies converging at a rally point, the first sign of action on the front line was the arrival of refugees on the Southern side of the chasm. Zonal commanders were reporting stories of whole buildings being eaten and that the residents in the zones affected by the Von Neumann machines had fled because they feared the machines would do the same to them. I instructed them not to tell the refugees that they were safe from them. This could be used to our advantage.
“Keep them where they are for now,” I told one zonal commander, “for all we know, there are potential infiltrators in there. I’m reluctant to let them into our territory. I advise caution. Zone off some of the area for them, but make sure no one breaches that.”
My first meaningful wartime command. My first of many. The Tech team had been successful in creating a training patch, so new recruits were in and out in a matter of minutes now. I’d pushed for a huge recruitment drive in the West, and the zonal commanders there had clearly been hard at work. At the last crossover opening in the West there had been nearly 1,500 new recruits compared to around 500 each from the other areas. Our forces had almost doubled in the last day.
Now that the training was automated, I could redeploy Michael, Emile and the Farm Crew to lead from the front lines. I assigned them areas on the front line to command and delegated all authority and decision making to them, whilst retaining command of the resistance in those areas.
I retained a constant army of 5,000 in and around blue rather than the half of all forces that I had originally planned. Blue was reasonably safe as the barrier that Eric had put up to hold off the sentient programming was still intact and I had asked the Tech team to bolster it with another internal layer. They were currently working on this and assured me that it would be ready in under two days.
By then, I was hoping that Eric will have returned and completely unlocked me. It was getting to the stage where I would need to be able to utilise the skills that I had picked up from observing the others these last few months.
Two hours later, it began. An estimated 20,000 troops had been sighted by an air patrol coming in from the North. It was time.