Jade Imperium - Afghanistan, Pt. 1

punkey 2014-07-22 03:31:54
The Graveyard of Empires
punkey 2014-07-22 03:32:02
Hug’sh comes to during another nice Whiirr morning at the orphanage, woken up by the sound of his own rumbling breath - or was it Rhea’s? Whatever it was, there comes the first crucial step of getting up before his family: locating Torega. Once, he made the mistake of getting up when she was still clinging to his back, and his attempts to gently dislodge her woke her up, and that woke up Rhea, and then - well then Hug’sh didn’t get a lot of work done that morning. Lucky for his allotment of red tape, Torega’s cuddled in with Rhea, buried muzzle-first in her adoptive mother’s fur. Hug’sh smiles and leans over to give Rhea a soft lick, producing a smile from her without quite waking her up, then he gently shifts his weight to the other side of the bed and very, very slowly rolls onto his feet, sneaking around the bed toward his desk. Thank God that Imperial habs don’t have wooden flooring - Hug’sh can just imagine the creaking that would make in his parents’ house, which would wake up the whole orphanage.

He settles down at his desk, then taps his waiting vox. Immediately, the chrome-and-bronze puck on his desk comes to life, building a holographic screen that hovers over the desk’s surface, subtly adjusting its viewing angle as Hug’sh leans back in his chair. Training reports, memos, draft orders - all in all about three dozen “immediate action” items beamed in during the gate transfers to Narsai and Atea when Hug’sh was sleeping. Groggily, he taps the first training report and skims it - with the last software update (or was it the one before?), the comm suite has finally gained a setting for Wherren runes, and though both Rodirr and Hug’sh are still not super-fluent in it, they both make the effort to stick with it, though it really doesn’t help Hug’sh skim the report very quickly. ”New recruits are learning well, good progress on infiltration tactics and Imperial weapons,” Hug’sh mumbles to himself as he sounds out some of the trickier arrangements of sharp, angular lines.

Hug'sh doesn't make it past the first report before he hears some shuffling from behind him. "Hug'sh..." Rhea says from behind him, sounding far more surprised than the groggy he'd have expected. "Can you come here? Please?"


There are some events in this world that happen with extreme infrequency - the emergence of the cicadas in the Northeast, the alignment of the planets. But on this day, something even more unusual has occurred - Garrett Davis is in his office at GRHDI headquarters, and actually has been there for the past week. With the village up and running, and Brinai making it clear that the team has no excuse not to live there (and therefore is half-expected to make the move), Garrett no longer has the excuse of distance to work with, especially with the top floor of the parking structure for the federal office building given over to skimmer parking. Sarah, Garrett’s assistant, is more than a little frazzled after having gone from functioning as a collator and call-forward service for months on end and now having to deal with deflecting and addressing the dozens of items competing for his time as Garrett coordinates the forces from four different star systems as they converge on Mesas Negras, the muster point for this interplanetary strike mission. If it’s not the Wherren needing adjustments to their Narsai’i-made equipment, it’s the Bashakra’i having yet another issue bringing the Narsai’i up to speed on their equipment (which will be the foundation for the C3 suite) or the Sheen needing even more bandwidth for their operations. Bello and Onas are both inbound the day after tomorrow to meet with their Narsai’i counterparts in leading this operation, the Sheen known as “Gunny” already has shells present in the GRHDI office and at Mesas Negras, and Garrett prefers not to think about the nervous silence he’s heard from the Wherren as to who should represent their people on the leadership team.

Still, throughout all of this chaos, there’s one very important issue that Garrett has yet to hear back on. Taking a break, Garrett stands up, stretches and walks over to the table in his office, currently serving as Special Operations Coordinator Ngawai Holoni’s office and the GRHDI nursery. “Hey, how’s it going?” he asks, putting his hands on Ngawai’s shoulders.
“Bello’s people want an extra day cross-training with the Narsai’i, trying to find the time,” Ngawai replies, not taking her eyes off her holodisplay. “And Naloni will wake up in a few minutes, so be ready to take her for a walk.”
Garrett sinks into the chair next to her, leaving a hand on her shoulder. “All right.” He smiles at Ngawai. “You’re amazing, you know. Have I told you that?”
“Third time today,” Ngawai replies, then looks at Garrett with a smile of her own. “Not that I mind.”

Garrett’s holodisplay chimes, and Director Barnes comes on the display. “Garrett, Ngawai, I’ve got news on your request. Can you come here, please?”


With Garrett occupied putting together the operation in Afghanistan, his normal duties of middleman between the alliance factions and smoothing over relations has fallen to the only other qualified individual in the GRHDI - Hunter. He hasn’t been given an office yet, or even a title as he’s still technically a contractor - but his life has suddenly been filled with a lot more high-powered DC meetings, secretive meetings in isolated areas of Atea, conferencing with AIs and tribal council meetings on Whiirr than he might have been expecting. For the time being, his home base is the third conference room in the GRHDI offices and his holodisplay. He’d moved into the Bashakra’i village in Virginia from his DC apartment weeks ago, which suited both of his commutes just fine - by public skimmer to the GRHDI offices, and by Gateway to Atea, and Honima, on weekends. With the training over, she’d gone back to her quad and their six months on/one year out rotation for Imperial-side infiltration duty. She’s got five months left until she ships again, and things between them could best be described as trending away from “comfortably distant” and towards “close enough to be complicated”.

Still, it’s an image of her that his eyes drift to as he waits with the conference room phone on speaker, on hold with yet another federal office.
Two knocks sound at the door, and it opens to reveal Jon Billot, one of the GRHDI liaisons with Narsai’i military, and a Marine captain. “Hunter, we’ve got a request from the Marines. Can you come with us, please?”


After his little demonstration to his “partners” in his Narsai’i development efforts, things have settled down somewhat for Angel. The day-to-day of guiding the opening stages of bringing Narsai into a forward technological leap of thousands of years is exhausting, but with his corporate partners no longer stonewalling him and the good fortune of Kesh Holdings working with one of the few parts of every government that desperately wants what the rest of the galaxy has to offer, things are moving along quite nicely. There’s plenty left to prepare for when he goes off back to the Middle East with a rifle in his hand and armor on his back, but it’s all well in hand.

At least, that’s what Angel would have assumed before a minute ago, when an Army Colonel and a Captain showed up on his vox feed to the front desk. “Colonel Cawsworth, here for Specialist Angel Riviera. He needs to come with us.”


Finally, Luis has reached the point where he can stand (mostly) on his own two feet after disconnecting from his Interceptor. The shock and...sensation of being weak and puny hasn’t gotten any less, but it’s manageable, and having the chance to be an Interceptor four days a week is still more than worth it. As he steadies himself against his ship - his skinsuit now bearing the stripes of a Samal - still dripping with crasher goop, he can see Arketta smiling at him from the ready room. She waves at him, but then points to her side and Onas, standing next to her with his arms crossed, surveying the disaster that is the Interceptor wing’s living quarters. Yisai briefly pauses by his side, but then sees her superior officer watching, then simply nods her approval at Luis’ performance and bows a salute to Onas, who returns it through the blast shielding.

“Luis, we need to talk,” Onas says in Luis’ ear. “Can you come with me, please?”


”I think that this is your problem,” Swims-the-Black grunts as he lays underneath the back of the Challenger. ”This vehicle seems to have been designed by an idiot.”
“Hey, that’s a classic piece of Detroit iron you’re insulting,” Kitty replies in mock-insult from her side of the car.
”It is a classic piece of something,” Swims replies, and grunts as Zaef and Kitty lower the rear axle into his hands. Swims-the-Black had finagled his way into helping on the Challenger rebuild project a couple of weeks ago - having someone of not only his mechanical prowess but brute strength isn’t such a bad idea - and has not had a single complementary word for the Challenger the whole time. From the metal (too flimsy, too prone to corrosion) to the design (both too heavy and too weak) to the engine (not enough power, too much weight, and internal combustion?), there’s very little that Swims hasn’t found at fault - besides how it looks (a thing of beauty, even taken apart) to the sound (Swims only purred loudly as he saw a video of one running at full chat) to the idea of restoring a classic vehicle to its former glory.

The big Wherren scoots out from under the car on the trolley, the whole rear end of the car balanced on his chest. He lifts the rear axle assembly up and over his head, and onto the jack stands placed on the floor behind him before he speaks again. ”This rear drive assembly is stupid,” he grunts. ”With the motion of one wheel tied to the other, any sort of unevenness would cause the wheels to lose some of their contact with the road, and therefore lose traction.”
“But it’s the most robust way to make it if you want to put a ton of power to the road,” Kitty counters. “Back then, independent rear suspension was too delicate or too expensive for the kind of power this baby could put out.” She slaps the rear quarter panel a couple times for emphasis.
”Yes, well, that is something that we can remedy,” Swims replies, his fur turning a contemplative green and orange.

There’s a knock at the garage door and it cracks open, letting some of the blinding midday Mesas Negras sun and heat in, but also admitting Brinai. “Zaef, we need to talk,” she says. “Can you come with me, please?”
threadbare 2014-07-23 14:32:26
Hunter thinks for a moment checks his calendar, and responds. "Yeah, let me get off this line, and I'll be right with you. What's it about?" He's curious what occasioned sending an actual human being, and still a little worried about ambushes, but sets that aside as he completes the necessary unpleasantries and gets a staffer to reschedule the call.
Gatac 2014-07-23 14:54:53
Hug’sh sighs - work postponed again. ”Of course,” he says, locking the terminal before getting up from his chair. He walks over to the bed, still treading softly in the hopes of keeping Torega asleep. However, she’s already stirring - in Rhea’s lap - who’s sitting upright, and currently very, very yellow, which quickly bleeds into Hug’sh’s fur, too. ”Rhea?” he asks. ”What’s going on?”
"You can't..." Rhea stammers, her whirring catching in her throat. "Smell me, bondmate."
Hug’sh walks up to her and runs his muzzle along the top of her head, down her back to her hump, taking in the musk, which is...warm, and savory, and even though Hug’sh has never smelled it before, that smell has been poked deep into his memories as part of his socialisation programming.
”You’re pregnant,” Hug’sh says, the yellow taking him over before he bursts out in green. ”You’re pregnant, Rhea!” he yelps, jumping to embrace her and groom the top of her head.
"Careful, careful," Rhea admonishes, her hand pushing against Hug'sh to stop him from leaning against Torega, who now starts to cry and squeak a bit as Hug'sh has well and truly woken her up.
Hug’sh doesn’t reply with words, preferring a deep, rumbling sound - though he is more careful with his distance as he keeps grooming Rhea, who carefully lifts Torega up against her shoulder as she leans back.
"I...I..." Rhea grunts, before a keening whine rises from her throat and she starts to sob, holding Torega with one arm and the other on Hug'sh's shoulder.
Hug’sh carefully maneuvers himself to sit beside her, then leans in to groom the side of her face a little more. ”It’s okay,” Hug’sh says. ”We’re here. Just...let it out.”
"No, it's just that -" Rhea sucks in another breath, her purring fighting with her sobbing. "It's just that I was so afraid I would never have a chance to have cubs of my own again, and now here we are, here you are, and I remember falling in love with small, soft human Hug'sh, and now..." She stops herself with a long, loving groom up Hug'sh's fur. "I was willing to make the orphans my cubs, but then you came to me, and then the real you came to me, the Wherren. And...I thank you, bondmate." She grooms Hug'sh again, her tongue running up and over his chin.
Hug’sh returns the favor. ”I’m so glad we found each other, bondmate,” he purrs.
Torega stirs as Rhea holds her. "Put me down," she whines.
"Sorry, sorry," Rhea whines back, but Torega simply pushes her muzzle into Rhea's fur and grooms her as well once she's down on the bed.
"I'm going to have brothers and sisters," Torega says groggily. "I can smell them." Rhea loses it again at that, and goes back to being unable to either sob or purr as she gives Torega a big lick of her own.
Hug’sh reaches around Rhea to pat Torega on the head. ”Torega, please go wash yourself. Rhea and I need a few minutes.”
"But it's early," Torega whines.
Rhea looks back to Hug'sh after she calms down again. "Obey your father, Torega, and I'll make you an extra spink egg for breakfast," she grunts, her face turning green and yellow.
"Okay..." Torega groans, and rolls off the bed to pad down the hall to the upstairs bathroom.

Hug’sh grooms Rhea again. ”She’s right, it’s early,” he says softly. ”We can stay here as long as we need to. There’s no rush for anything, so we’ll take the time we need. Okay?”
Rhea starts to groom the top of Hug'sh's head. "We only have a few days together before you leave, bondmate. We will have to make them count."
”And we will,” Hug’sh rumbles. ”But that doesn’t mean we have to rush anything.” He gives her another lick along her chest. ”Do you want to stay here now, or do you want to get up?”
Rhea's sudden inability to speak past her purring and her fully fluffed-up fur provides most of the answer, and the rest of her reply comes when she leans back down onto the bed. Hug’sh gently helps her back into bed, pulling the covers over her as he grooms her. ”One chance to send me to get you something, then I’m climbing back in, too,” Hug’sh purrs.
"You can't tell?" Rhea mutters over her purring, her claws scratching the back of Hug'sh's head as he continues to groom her. "That's two things you have problems smelling, are you sure you're really all Wherren?"
”That does give me pause," Hug’sh replies with a smirk. ”I think we need to run a quick test…”
punkey 2014-07-24 02:05:32
"There have been some...complications with the defectors that Task Force 815 brought back from Whirr," the officer says.
"The complication being the military doesn't want to place them in units," Billot says, giving the officer the side-eye. "Most of them have taken positions as GRHDI agents, but one of them insists on a military role. So, in a compromise, he has agreed to be attached to Task Force 815, and you were the one the Marine Corps thought would be the best."
"If you would come with us, Major," the officer says.

The twosome leads Hunter back down the hall and into the lobby, where a bald Imperial man with a pointed nose and chin in a carapace skinsuit under an Imperial tunic and pants is sitting in one of the chairs. He stands up and bows a Turai salute to Hunter. "Rav-Turai - well, former Rav-Turai Sexton Hale, Mr. Brand," he says in Imperial. "It is good to meet you."
e of pi 2014-07-24 19:40:27
Luis frowns at Onas--your superior officer where they're not usually is rarely good news. "Sure," he says. "What's up?"
"Is there somewhere private we can talk nearby?" Onas asks as he gives the other Interceptors around him a slightly wary look.
Luis looks around at the rest of the squadron. "Does it need the secrecy? Nothing said here will get back to the Imperium, and probably not to Narsai, either."
Onas pauses while Arketta nods supportively. "I...suppose that would be all right," Onas says. "I will wait here until you have showered off."
"If it's important, I can hear before I need to shower," Luis says. "What's going on?"
"It is more of a question," Onas says, and shifts uncomfortably. "For the both of you. I have time, Samal. I will wait."
Luis shakes his head, and heads off to the showers, where he washes down in a hurry.

Onas is sitting on one of the benches in the ready room/Interceptor living quarters, with Arketta sitting on a crate across from him. She smiles and pats the spot next to her as he comes through the door.
"I apologize for the secrecy before, Samal, it was for your own privacy," Onas says. "But if you and your wife are fine with speaking like this, then I will get to the point. You and your wife have both status as Narsai'i officials, and as Bashakra'i Turai. We have been asked for a complete account of all of our Turai that will be going, and we have to know if you will be going as Narsai'i, or Bashakra'i."
"I'm going as 815. Does that detail matter?" Luis asks.
"To some," Onas says, running a finger along the edge of the benchtop. "It is a question your wife needs to answer as well. Do you want a moment to discuss it?"
Luis looks to Arketta, who nods. "Just give us a minute, Onas."

Arketta leads Luis off to the side. "I am...not sure what we should do," she says. "My gut says that we should go as we are, as Bashakra'i. But my head..."
"It'd be more troublesome with some of the Narsai'i, for sure," Luis says. "But it's not like many of those wouldn't be troublesome anyway."
"That's true," Arketta says. She sighs, and leans her head over to rest on top of Luis', but still smiles all the same. "I think we both know the answer, then."
"Yeah," Luis says, and leads the way back to Onas. "If it matters so much to them, tell them we're going as Baskaskra'i."
"Both of you?" Onas asks, eyebrow raised as he stands up. Luis is struck by how much the leader looks like a certain professional wrestler in the moment.
"Yes, both of us," Arketta nods.
A smile breaks out across Onas' face, and he steps forwards for a bow - no, a handshake - no, an embrace. He hugs Luis and then Arketta, still smiling. "Then we shall add you to our roster right away," Onas says. "Banner brother and banner sister."

edited by punkey on 2014-07-25 00:07:29
skullandscythe 2014-07-25 21:11:20
Zaef frowns, but tells Kitty and Swims that he'll be back soon.

He walks next to Brinai as they shuffle off, and it's not thirty seconds after he shuts the door before he asks briskly. "What is it?"
punkey 2014-07-25 21:34:46
"I am concerned about this expedition with the Narsai'i," Brinai replies just as quickly. "So many of my people will be in the hands of Narsai'i commanders, standing next to armed Narsai'i...I am concerned about what might happen if the same people that attacked you in their capital manage to infiltrate their ranks or worse, have positions of command in this operation, despite Samantha's best efforts." She pauses, and squeezes Zaef's hand. "I am worried about the Narsai'i shooting us in the back."
skullandscythe 2014-07-25 22:24:27
Zaef lets out a dreary sigh. "We're doing everything we can, Brinai," he intones almost mechanically. He's done this before.
punkey 2014-07-25 22:58:09
"Yes, I know," Brinai sighs, "I did the briefing myself, told everyone to treat the Narsai'i like they would our own leaders - but to be careful around those they did not know. Bello and Onas are more than capable of holding their own against any Narsai'i assassin. And I have read Garrett's report on this 'Afghanistan' place - this should be about as safe as any Turai deployment could be." She sighs, and shakes Zaef's hand as she holds it. "And yet I worry, like an old grandmother over her children riding their first push skimmer. I am worried for all of them, but especially you, my son."
skullandscythe 2014-07-25 23:05:20
Zaef is quiet, for a time.

"I don't know if everything will be all right, Brinai. All I know is I'm going to fight like the tarantek. I don't want to die, and I've got people who don't want that either. That's it."
punkey 2014-07-25 23:20:33
Brinai laughs. "I suppose that's all I can ask of you, then." She puts her other hand on his shoulder. "I suppose that's all I can ask of any of them. Thank you, Zaef."

The two walk around for a few more minutes, and eventually return to the garage. When the door opens, it reveals Swims helping Kitty hold cold packs onto her arms as she winces in pain, her muscles taut, flexed and twitching. "Just...just overdid a go with a wrench," she says with an expression that's half a grimace and half an attempt at a reassuring smile. This isn't the first time Zaef has seen her like this in the last two weeks since she started her "fitness regimen"; a couple days ago Zaef came to pick her up from dinner in her lab to find her laid out on the floor, legs and back stiff as stone. She's already showing some improvement, gaining weight both on the scale and on the bar with the vestiges of tone appearing on her soft and slender form, but what they agreed on before should be keeping this from happening - which means Kitty turned things up without him knowing. Not a lot, otherwise she'd be much worse, but still.
skullandscythe 2014-07-25 23:48:55
Zaef's panicked expression subsides at Kitty's attempt at reassurance, but he still decides they've worked on the car enough for today, and asks Swims to help Brinai find some grub. It's just him with Kitty, keeping the packs pressed against her, for a few minutes before he breaks the silence.

"How many extra muscle stimulants did you use earlier?" The tone of his voice is not angry...and a little softer than usual.
punkey 2014-07-26 00:03:41
Kitty smiles at him - a real one, as her arms have calmed back down. "Just a half-dose," she says, then launches into one of her trademark verbal rushes. "I'm sorry, I just saw that I wasn't fully optimizing my work cycles on my stim load, and I figured that I had a bit more margin in my diet and exhaustion load, and I do, I've only had to up my diet just a little, but obviously running right at the edge of what my exhaustion metrics have is a bit too tiring, which makes sense, I suppose, but, you know, I had to try, nothing lost nothing gained and all that. I feel fine, I feel great, actually, but..." She blushes - and winces a bit when Zaef sees one more rogue twitch shoot up her tricep. "But obviously, I'm a bit too close to what I can do at the moment."
threadbare 2014-07-26 04:39:41
punkey wrote:

The twosome leads Hunter back down the hall and into the lobby, where a bald Imperial man with a pointed nose and chin in a carapace skinsuit under an Imperial tunic and pants is sitting in one of the chairs. He stands up and bows a Turai salute to Hunter. "Rav-Turai - well, former Rav-Turai Sexton Hale, Mr. Brand," he says in Imperial. "It is good to meet you."

"And you as well, sir. Has a title been sorted out? Maybe attaché will do for now."
skullandscythe 2014-07-26 10:20:14
Zaef moves the pack over to her tricep. He...actually looks a little hurt.

"Kitty," he says much more tenderly...hesitantly now. "You're going to need to re-define what optimization means, for this. You might not feel pain, but these spasms are signs that you've crossed a threshold, where the cons outweigh the pros. The exercise and treatments cannot go any further without also causing damage to your body. Theoretically, you could get stronger, much stronger...but believe me, these little charlie horses are nothing compared to what happens when you push towards those limits, where your body starts tearing up whole sets of large muscles all at once, just to stop you from abusing them any more."

Zaef pauses, focusing on letting the ice pack do it's thing.

"The treatment levels we agreed upon seem to push your towards the limits of what's safe for you, so I think it's best if we stick to that for this stage...but let's cut back a little this week. We need to give your body time to recover and heal, and going close to your old limits again might compound the damage."
punkey 2014-07-26 11:09:04
Hale returns to the straight-backed posture of a career soldier. "I'd prefer to be called 'soldier'," he replies. "Garrett Davis offered me a position in your Turai and a chance to decide for myself how good for the galaxy you Narsai'i really are, and I'm not going to be given the five lat tour in your 'GRHDI'." He pronounces the abbreviation as one word. "I want to see what you people are really like - although, given that your own people have already tried to murder you for trying to warn your planet of how incredibly overpowered you are, I have to say, I'm not impressed."


Kitty's smile persists through the pain. "I'm pretty sure I'm feeling pain, Zaef," she replies softly. "But you're right. I...I just wanted to see what happened when I pushed it a bit more. I looked at the tables and did the math, but...I guess I forgot that I wasn't just dealing with some abstract system." She gives Zaef a peck on the cheek. "I'm sorry."
skullandscythe 2014-07-26 22:09:02
Zaef leans up against her, keeping gentle pressure on the ice pack. "It's alright, Kitty."
CrazyIvan 2014-07-27 05:49:55
Never just easy, is it?

Angel sends a mental message to allow the two officers up, and is waiting for them in his office, giving both a well practiced salute.

"Colonel Cawsworth, Captain...what can I do for you Sirs?"
punkey 2014-07-27 15:23:37
"We're here to assess your fitness to deploy, Specialist," Cawsworth says, a smirk on his face. "Where's your PT uniform, soldier?" He turns to the Captain next to him. "Out of uniform, that's one demerit already."
punkey 2014-07-27 15:58:01
Garrett picks Naloni up out of her crib and slots her into her sling before she starts fussing too loudly, and both he and Ngawai walk over to Barnes' office.
"Close the door, please," Barnes says, and Ngawai reaches behind her to shut the door with a click. "I have to say, I was surprised at your request, Garrett."
"Not just mine, Ngawai's as well," Garrett says.
"If the leadership areas in Afghanistan are as secure as you are making them out to be, then this should be no more dangerous than living here," Ngawai adds pointedly.
"Yes, but..." Barnes shakes her head. "There's more than a few people asking questions about this."
"And unless they are in charge of quartering us, it is none of their business," Garrett replies. "This is our family, and this is a GRHDI matter."
"On a base where the Marines will be providing security," Barnes counters. "And they are uncomfortable with the idea -"
"With the idea of providing security for a three month old infant?" Ngawai scoffs.
"With the idea of having an infant there at all," Barnes replies. "They believe it's no place for a child."
"And what does that say about what they think of the locals?" Garrett says, shaking his head. "We are not leaving our daughter here, Samantha, unless you order us to. Are you going to order us to?"
Barnes sighs. "No."
"Then there, it's settled," Garrett says. "Thank you, Samantha."
Ngawai bows to Barnes. "Yes, thank you."
"You're welcome, both of you," Barnes says. "And I hope this turns out well in the end."
"Oh, I have no doubt," Ngawai replies. "If there is nothing else?"
"No, you are both dismissed," Barnes says with a tired wave.

Garrett and Ngawai both bow to Barnes one more time, and step out of her office.
"You hear that? You're going to Afghanistan with mommy and daddy," Garrett whispers to Naloni, who happily gurgles in response.
"It's going to be a memorable trip," Ngawai says. "And hopefully I can taste some better versions of your home cooking."
"Hey, be nice," Garrett replies with a smile.