The Lutetium Effect (2807)

The first major outing for the Syntha’s new automated armies came in 2807. In the intervening years, the Junkers had grown their empire considerably, embarking on an unprecedented wave of colonisation. There was nothing illegal in it of course, but the other powers were becoming decidedly uneasy at the sheer size of the empire. In mid 2807 on the desert world of Caduceus, Junker sand processing facilities uncovered traces of a new transuranic element, previously unknown to science. Junker engineers were entirely ignorant of what they had found, but covert Syntha quantum relay probes fed the news back to Prime. Prime had no commercial interest in this element, but it was valuable to the Collective from a research point of view.

In response, Prime implemented a strategy it had been sitting on for a while, waiting for the right opportunity to arise. Patience was one of the great machine virtues. Prime launched a series of propaganda bulletins across Sec-Net, criticising the Junkers’ expansion on the backs of convict labour. Prime asserted that it was barbaric in the modern era to use human labour for such dangerous and degrading tasks as sand and topsoil processing on desert planets, when AI workers could do the job just as well. In a gesture of goodwill, lathered in publicity, Prime sent autofactory kits and androsynth labourers to Caduceus. The Senate was incandescent with rage at this insult and ordered the materials broken up and put to use in repairs and jury rigging of their current equipment. The Enforcers of Caduceus moved to comply, but the workers had been stirred up into a mutinous fugue by the Syntha propaganda and trouble broke out. Summary neural spike executions failed to prevent the colony being overrun by the workforce, so the Senate dispatched the army to sort out the trouble. When they arrived, they found a Syntha army deployed in battle formation, ready to defend the rebels. Apparently the Syntha cargo crates had contained more than just industrial equipment. The leader of the rebels was a middle-aged woman called Lutetia Severina, and she declared herself Imperatrix Caduceus. To the further bemusement of all she claimed to have command of the machine army (not so). Severina demanded secession terms from Ironglass and the withdrawal of all Legion units. The Junkers treated these demands with contempt and laid siege to Caduceus’s capital city, Bellion. The siege lasted for eight months and the Junkers paid a high price in Legionaries and materiel, but ultimately it was a price the Senate had no qualms about paying. In the end Severina was starved out and had to come to terms with Ironglass. The Syntha withdrew their army, the convicts went back to work, and Severina’s head ended up on a spike on Bellion’s gates.

Prime cited diplomatic and humanitarian reasons for their climbdown, stating the galaxy could not afford open war between the Collective and the Senate, and the people of Caduceus must not be allowed to perish on account of an ideological tussle between Ironglass and Prime. The reality of the situation was that Prime had tested out its autonomous SPOMM battle group in a real war situation, with impressive results. Furthermore, during the occupation of the planet the Syntha army collected enough samples of the rare element, dubbed Lutetium, to conduct meaningful research back on Prime.